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Chat: Michael Baumann

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday March 21, 2016 1:00 PM ET chat session with Michael Baumann.

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Michael Baumann: Hello, everyone. My name is Michael Baumann and I am here to be questioned.

Truganini (Co): What's the impact of Peralta's injury on Kolten Wong's value? There was talk this spring that Wong was headed to a platoon with Jedd Gyorko, but maybe Gyotko will be needed more at SS now with Peralta out. Thoughts?

Michael Baumann: I don't know why you'd take at-bats away from Wong--who's better both offensively and defensively--and give them to Gyorko. Maybe Gyorko spells Wong specifically against lefties or something.
And I'm in no hurry to see Gyorko play shortstop either. I think Ruben Tejada was a very savvy pickup and can at least be better than replacement-level, which might not literally be Pete Kozma anymore, but still feels like Pete Kozma.

Alex (Orlando): What kind of stat line do you think Corey Ray puts up as a big leaguer?

Michael Baumann: I love Corey Ray. I'd knit a sweater for Corey Ray if I knew how to knit. There are still quite a few questions about him--does he swing and miss too much? Can he legitimately play center?--but I see a 20-20 player with good secondary skills if everything goes the way it's supposed to.

Eric (Redding): What does a Re-Draft of the 2014 MLB draft look like? (top 5)

Michael Baumann: Probably not that different--so many of those high school guys are still years away from the big leagues. Knowing what we know now about Brady Aiken's elbow, though, it'd probably shake up a little. I think Rodon would go first (which is what I said all along) and Conforto doesn't make it out of the top 5. The biggest breakout player since that draft, Schwarber, was a shock at No. 4 at the time anyway.

Lieutenant Kaffee (Court house): You say you're here to be questioned: If you gave the order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago need to be transferred off the base?

Michael Baumann: I have neither the time nor inclination to explain myself to a man who lives under the very blanket or protection I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd rather you just said, "Thank You" and went on your way.

Mo (Ann Arbor): Your thoughts on Michigan baseball this year, or on the Big Ten in general?

Michael Baumann: They let me down bigtime last weekend in the D1 pick 'em pool, that's for sure. I've been a little disappointed with the conference as a whole in nonconference play, but it's still early and we saw a bunch of those teams play themselves into the postseason with late runs last year, Michigan in particular. I'd generally that I was a little too aggressive on Indiana, and a little light on Michigan and Michigan State.
If you live in the Great Lakes area, btw, Big Ten baseball is a riot. Not a day goes by without me wishing I still had that beat.

Brian (Atlanta): If the Braves took Kyle Lewis at 3, would that be a reach?

Michael Baumann: Got a couple Kyle Lewis questions already, so I'll just say yes, absent some sort of under-slot deal, Lewis at No. 3 would be a reach. I'm not an enormous believer in Cape breakouts to start with, and in a draft class that's a little light on college bats, I'd rather have Ray than Lewis. Some say the same about Florida's Buddy Reed, though people I've talked to who know more than I do don't like his swing mechanics. I'll be seeing Reed in person in a couple weeks, which will add nothing to my analysis, but at least I'll be more confident in my ignorance.

John (Chicago): Do you think Gausman or Taijuan Walker take big steps forward this year?

Michael Baumann: I think we, as baseball fans collectively, should be able to sue the Orioles for damages in light of their complete inability to develop some pretty exciting pitching prospects over the past few years. The Orioles need Gausman, but I've got way more faith in Walker.

Tim (South Carolina): What path will the Giants take to win the World Series this year?

Michael Baumann: I don't know, but I am 100 percent sure it will happen. Should I be required to give official predictions for this coming season, I'm picking San Francisco to win it all purely on the basis of Even Year...I'm not sure if I'm allowed to curse on this chat, but y'all know how that sentence ends.

Peter (Houston): What do you think of Bill James' idea of eliminating the balk rule to increase the level of action in the game? I'd love to see an independent league try it out.

Michael Baumann: I think James has had a lot of great ideas over the years involving pace of play or manipulating the manner in which the game is played, and I'm on board with a lot of them, including reducing pickoff attempts and mid-inning pitching changes, but it seems to me that all eliminating the balk rule would do is reduce the number of stolen base attempts, which is the opposite of what I'd want to see as a fan.
That said, should an indy league try it? Absolutely. We're way too uptight about letting the game evolve on its own. All leagues--MLB included--should be more willing to experiment.

lfkjr1 (Greater New Orleans): Have you seen much of LSU's big 2 pitchers, Jared Poche (Jr.), and Alex Lange (So.)? If so, do you see either as a high draft pick?

Michael Baumann: Only on TV, though I caught a bit of Lange's start on Friday and what struck me above all else was how quickly he worked. I love pitchers who work quickly--it telegraphs confidence and takes the game to the hitter, in addition to just watching a guy hold the ball for 40 seconds at a time just being unbearably dull.

Tommy (Gary, Indiana): How confident are you that Cobb and Wheeler will return from TJ successfully?

Michael Baumann: I don't see why they wouldn't. TJ's not perfect, even now, but the success rate is extremely high

Nate (Indiana): What kind of ceiling do you see for Aaron Nola?

Michael Baumann: Nola's an interesting case, because he's got the command and the breaking ball already, so either he's going to miss bats (in which case he could be a No. 2) or not (in which case he'd still probably be a back-end starter). I think he's sort of in Chris Sale territory with the delivery at this point, where it's still scary-looking, but he's got the flexibility and athleticism to pull it off, so if he hasn't gotten hurt yet, I guess we're going to stop being scared.

Brian (St. P): Is Byron Buxton going to be a better baseball player than fanasy baseball player?

Michael Baumann: I think that's a good way of putting it. Good defensive center fielders are always better in real life than fantasy because defense doesn't matter and unlike the infield, the corner guys don't have to take any sort of positional hit. Plus a standard league rewards batting average over secondary skills, which hurts Buxton too.
That said, he still ought to be a really good fantasy player if his power develops and he steals 30 bases a year, so everything's relative.

nschaef (Animal Kingdom): When will you concede that the bison isn't even a Top 10 land animal?

Michael Baumann: This is a ridiculous question. Bison are noble, majestic creatures whose dominion over the Great Plains is one of the iconic American images. The bald eagle is the symbol of the United States only by decree--on merit alone it would be the bison: Strong, social and wholly American. I will tolerate no slander of bison in this chat.

Sam (Clifton): I thought I read somewhere that some teams have worries about Delvin Perez's work ethic. Is this true? Have you heard similar rumors?

Michael Baumann: Hearsay about a teenaged boy's personality flaws is always a subject I'm loath to Delvin to.
(soaks up applause, bows)
But seriously, there's a thin line among teenagers from Competitive to Arrogant to Total Prick to Legitimate Bad Person, and as much effort as scouts put into a kid like Perez, they don't always have all the information, and judgments about others' personalities are entirely subjective. What one organization might view as Total Prick another might view as competitive fire, while the same organization might write off as passive a player who just feels a little uncomfortable or is softspoken. So short of any real evidence that a teenager is a Legitimately Bad Guy, I try not to worry about stuff like that.

dianagram (VORGVILLE): Odds of Maikel Franco sticking at 3B once Ryan Howard goes away next year?

Michael Baumann: Not as good as I'd like, which is a shame, because the arm's great and the hands are plenty good, but holy God is he slow. You can be slow and play third base, but Franco's at least testing the limits of how slow you can be.

DJ (Dallas ): Thanks for the chat, Michael. What are the breakout (or breakdown!!) chances for pitchers such as Martin Perez, Kevin Gausman, Daniel Norris, James Paxton, Michael Pineda, Joe Kelly, Kyle Gibson, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Michael Baumann: Already talked about Gausman. I think Paxton might get squeezed out of a surprisingly deep Mariners rotation. Pineda's already good, Gibson kind of is what he is at this point, as is Kelly, who in a just world would've moved to the bullpen full-time two years ago.
That leaves Perez, whom I've always been down on compared to what appears to be the consensus, and Norris, whom I like to bounce back if only because he's got an open rotation spot in Detroit, to say nothing of it being unlikely that he receives a surprise cancer diagnosis this year.

Michael Roth (South Carolina): I never loved you.

Michael Baumann: There was a fraction of a second between my reading this question and processing it as a joke, and in that fraction of a second I experienced a deep and total emotional despair that I hope none of you ever have to suffer.

Hal (Charlotte): Do you like Tyler White to be productive if he gets the 1B/DH job?

Michael Baumann: I think that's ultimately A.J. Reed's job, but I'll say this for White: I like any right-handed hitter with even a little power who plays in Houston. Juice Box Stadium is where righties with power go if Santa Claus says they've been good boys.

JM (CT): Can the Orioles succeed this year by outscoring the opposition and turning the ball over to Britton?

Michael Baumann: If they do succeed, that's probably how it'll happen. Though if I were a gambling man, I'd at least kick the tires on a Manny Machado-for-MVP prop bet. The line on Mini-Keg has always been that the doubles power is great, but watch out if some of those doubles turn into home runs. Well they're starting to.

Tony Rich (The Projects): Over or under 17 HR for Matt Duffy this year? Are you a believer in the power he flashed last year?

Michael Baumann: I'd take the under, though again, it's an even year so the rules don't really apply.

Howard (NewCastle): Jeremy Kendall....seems like a beast. Is he ahead of Corey Ray, development-wise?

Michael Baumann: I presume you mean Vanderbilt OF Jeren Kendall. I would say no, if only because he's a year younger than Ray. Though I love Kendall's game--he almost exudes a special energy when he's on the field. I think he'll be a quality big leaguer, and if that's what he ends up being, he'll be a fan favorite.

DavidMGibson (BC Manatees County): I read a lot about prospect Nick Williams (I figured you were a Philly-knowledgable guy :-). They say he's a near-future stud, but they say he needs to work on his plate discipline. How do they know he'll attain that? It seems like a foregone conclusion that he will.

Michael Baumann: Where you come down on Williams pretty much depends on what you think of his plate discipline. I'm usually a skeptic on approach changes, but Kate Morrison wrote about Williams' improvements in this area pre-Hamels trade (http://legacy.wfaa.com/story/sports/mlb/rangers/2015/07/20/breakout-nick-williams-frisco-roughriders/30407907/) and I trust her opinion. But the jump from the high minors to the big leagues is a huge gulf, so call me cautiously optimistic at this point.

Howard (Freeport, ME): How do the Mets not have their own dedicated BP when the Jays, Royals, Brewers and White Sox do?

Michael Baumann: Wilpons won't spring for it.

Peter (Houston): Kill the current schedule. Go to six-game series every week, with Mondays off. Alternate home/road weekly. Less travel time, more stability. I really think it could work——tell me why I'm wrong.

Michael Baumann: Yeah but then there's no baseball on Mondays, which would suck. I think an arduous travel schedule is sort of a necessary evil for big league teams right now--the players don't love it, but they can live with it. It's certainly not as bad as the NBA.

Truganini (CO): In an 5x5 OBP league, help me rank these 2B: Pedroia, Zobrist, LeMahieu, Wong. I don't understand why people aren't higher on LeMahieu.

Michael Baumann: The bat, I guess? LeMahieu's glove doesn't show up in fantasy stats, though his high batting average does...I guess I'd go Zobrist, Wong, LeMahieu, Pedroia? Though LeMahieu steals a lot of bases too...I dunno, man, maybe you should've kept this to yourself and drafted LeMahieu five rounds later than he deserved. You just blew your cover.

Myles (Pluto): Which hitter do you think has the highest upside in this year's draft? How high of a ceiling is it exactly for said player?

Michael Baumann: On potential alone, probably some high schooler I've never heard of. Among the top 50 or so...maybe Perez. He won't be the *best* hitter but legit shortstops who can hit at all are very rare nowadays.

Wilson (Ocean): Do you like prospect Derek Fisher?

Michael Baumann: Not really, though my last live look at him was in Omaha in 2014. Fisher was supposed to be the best prospect on a loaded team, but nothing really jumped out at me. His teammate, Brandon Downes, however, gave me the vapors, and Downes is still in A-ball, waiting for the hit tool to show up, so really I only answered this question to talk about Brandon Downes I guess.

Peter (Houston): Congress should declare MLB opening day a federal holiday. Defend or refute.

Michael Baumann: Yes. If I still had an office job I'd seriously consider using all of my vacation time on great sports-watching days: Opening Day, first weekend of March Madness, World Cup group stage days...Vote for me for President and I promise you will have Opening Day off.

batts40 (il): NL-only OBP league 5x5, which side to you prefer: Cueto/Kang or Carpenter/Roark?

Michael Baumann: Cueto/Kang. Even if you think Carpenter's better than Kang, Cueto's way better than Roark

Drew (Mpls): Will Max Kepler push Eddie Rosario to the bench this summer? Will that be a bad thing, good thing, great thing or just a thing?

Michael Baumann: If he does, that's a great thing, not only for Twins fans, but for baseball in general, which is looking for its first European-trained star. Rosario apparently led the league in triples last year, which is interesting. You could've given me 50 guesses and I wouldn't have picked him.

Corey (Alabama ): What do you think of Dilson Herrera?

Michael Baumann: I think he'll benefit from the Mets having stolen Neil Walker from Pittsburgh. That extra year to either develop in the minors or ease his way into the lineup will do him good.

Donald (NYC): Loser.

Michael Baumann: I think this is an extreme reaction to a perfectly reasonable take about the greatness of the bison. You should come back after you've seen the light.

RH (East Coast Bias): What's the over/under for Steve Pearce at bats in TB? He should play every game against lefties, but with so many left handed bats on the roster, will he get any starts against righties?

Michael Baumann: 300? Short-side 1B platoon, plus some utility work? I never got why the Rays devoted so much money (comparatively speaking) to Pearce and LoMo. Just give Richie Shaffer the ball already.

Eddie (Macon): When the Braves are back competing for the NL East, who will be their best player?

Michael Baumann: Swanson, I guess? If you're really feeling yourself and you think the rebuild's going to take a while, you could go with Kolby Allard but I think they'll be back to .500 before he's fully developed.

Rick (Atlanta): What do you think about Atlanta's approach to this rebuild? As a Braves fan, I'm still skeptical. I don't know that I love the idea of rebuilding with pitching. It just feels like hitters are so much more predictable and generally more healthy. There's still very limited power in the system, too. Am I crazy?

Michael Baumann: I think, from a pure baseball perspective, it's going quite well. They had a great draft last year and just being able to take Arizona's lunch money at will is a great asset.
That said, I don't think they needed to tear it down, and the rebuild is part and parcel with their new taxpayer-funded traffic jam out in Cobb County, which is one of the most despicable pieces of work perpetrated by a sports franchise in recent memory.

Truganini (CO): Who does Raimel Tapia remind you of?

Michael Baumann: He reminds me of the sound of Eric Longenhagen bashing his head against his desk as Tapia changes his stance with two strikes.

Bradley (MD): Do you have an outside the top 100 prospect that you'll be rooting for this year to make big progress?

Michael Baumann: I can't believe Tyler Jay didn't make the top 100 this year. I think a lefty with his velocity, command and multi-pitch mix, who was just drafted in the top 10, is an automatic top-100 guy if not for two things beyond his control: 1) His height and 2) the fact that he was in the bullpen last year, and his athleticism will allow him to overcome both of those things.

John (CA): In a 12 team 5X5 I have to keep 2 of the following...C Gomez $16, G Polanco $8, Odor $5 and Giolito $5. Any Thoughts? I already have Rizzo, Bryant, Kluber, and Syndergaard.

Michael Baumann: Obviously all of this depends on your team's needs and whether you expect to win now or later, but I think Gomez--whom I love--is on the downslide and Odor's going to be a stud. So will Giolito, obviously, but he's still at least a year away.

Jill (SF): Michael I enjoyed your early August Grantland (RIP) article about Kang-mania. It was such a bummer to see his season end last year. What are your expectation for him this season upon his return?

Michael Baumann: I expect more of the same. One thing I love about the Pirates is that they've got a bunch of guys with positional flexibility, including Kang, which allows them to find creative ways around injuries and bad matchups. This was a huge advantage for Houston last year, for what it's worth.

nschaef (NYC): If you were put in charge of the home run derby and knew that 100% of players would accept and participate, what format would you use to maximize its entertainment value?

Michael Baumann: I actually really liked the bracket format from last year. Maybe I'd add a minor league wild card to get someone like Sano or Gallo (or whoever the 80-power freak is in a given year) some swings against The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton. That'd be fun to watch.

cracker73 (Florida): Which under the radar pitchers in the minor leagues do you think might break out this year?

Michael Baumann: This is a name, but not really a prospect: Preston Morrison. He's a low-slot righty with mid-80s velo, but he rolled through a really tough college league for four years without a hiccup. I don't think he translates to the big leagues, and I don't really think he'll break out, but I need to see him get lit up before I'll be completely convinced that it'll happen.

Vernon (Jamestown): Have you any opinion on prospect Jorge Ona?

Michael Baumann: Only that fans of Ona need to be really careful about what they call themselves.

JG (Stockton): Given your interest in labor relations on the player side have you ever wanted to join an agency/the players association?

Michael Baumann: I'll give you the same answer I used to give when people asked if I wanted to work in a front office. I'm a writer first and a baseball person second, and an agency/the MLBPA wouldn't have a job to offer me that I'd enjoy as much as the one I'm doing now. And if I couldn't write about baseball, I'd write about something else instead of finding another way to stay in the game.

Ants (Oklahoma): I give you tickets to all the home games you want in any one division this year. Which division do you choose?

Michael Baumann: Let's assume that travel's free and I'm just looking for the best/most entertaining teams, and I guess, best ballparks.
I'm all-in on the AL West from an entertainment perspective, and though living in Houston is only a marginal upgrade on being dead, the Astros' ballpark is among my favorites. The AL Central should be fun as well, with at least three competitive teams, plus Target Field is an incredible park in what is probably my favorite MLB city, and Kauffman Stadium gets extremely rowdy nowadays.
I'd also take a long look at the NL Central, but while the Cubs-Pirates-Cardinals three-way showdown would be amazing, the division's extremely top-heavy.
So I guess I'd go with the AL West, though that's largely a matter of personal preference.

Silverback38 (VA): Any concern with Nelson Cruz this year? Many have put him on their Bust lists.

Michael Baumann: I mean, he's only getting older, and his profile doesn't give him much room to decline before he stops producing at an all-star level. That said, I feel like I've put Nelson Cruz on at least a mental bust list every year since 2010 and he hasn't worn out yet, so your guess is as good as mine.

kgodd74 (SF bay): does Mikey Mahtook have starter potential eventually?

Michael Baumann: I'd take the under on that, even though he hit well in a cameo in Tampa last year.

Neil Prasad (San Fransisco): Do you think yankees lineup is good enough for playoff push? Is shelby miller even good? Can cano bounce back/ why are the mariners so wack?

Michael Baumann: 1) The lineup won't have to be that good if the rotation reaches its full potential. I still haven't sold all my "Nathan Eovaldi will one day finish in the top 5 in Cy Young Voting" stock options yet.
2) Yes.
3) Yes, and the Mariners will probably finish at least at .500, and in a division that didn't have two, maybe three other good teams, depending on how you feel about the Angels, they'd be a dark horse Wild Card candidate.

Craig (NYC): Who are your current top 5 (in order) overall draft prospects for this upcoming draft?

Michael Baumann: I'd go 1) Groome 2) Puk 3) Ray...and now I feel a lot less good about it. I guess 4) Hansen 5) Riley Pint?

John (OB): If you were in charge of the Angels, would you trade Trout and start over? It doesnt appear they have the pieces to compete, and the farm system is lousy.

Michael Baumann: This feels like a good question to end on.
I wouldn't, for a few reasons. First, I don't think any team has enough young talent/would be willing to part with enough talent to give you full value for Trout, let alone be able to pull off a clear win in a Trout trade. Second, with Trout, Calhoun, Simmons, Pujols and Richards, even a marginally competent scouting/player dev system would be able to fill in enough pieces to compete. If I'm Billy Eppler, I want to give my guys a couple years to try, and Trout's signed through 2020, so Eppler can afford to be patient.
Third--and maybe this shouldn't be an issue, but it is--I sure as hell don't want to be the guy who traded Mike Trout unless I absolutely have to. How many times--not even in baseball, but in all sports--does a team trade away its generational superstar only to spend years in the wilderness trying to cobble together a competitive team? They made a 30 for 30 about the tragedy of the Gretzky trade, for God's sake, and the Oilers won another cup almost immediately. Ask me again in three years, but right now, there's no way I'd trade Trout.

Michael Baumann: That'll do it for this edition of BP Chat. Thanks for tuning in and submitting questions--if I didn't get to yours, rest assured it's only because I couldn't give an interesting answer. I'll see you next time.


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