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Chat: Nick Schaefer

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday April 11, 2017 7:00 PM ET chat session with Nick Schaefer.

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Nick Schaefer is co-Editor-in-Chief of BP South Side, but thankfully he will answer non White Sox questions.

Nick Schaefer: I'll stop the world and chat with you.

Hello (Here): Sam Travis seems like a legitimate person of interest. I would like for you to tell me how he will fare next year as the Red Sox starting 1b. Thanks for your time.

Nick Schaefer: Hello!

Two caveats that apply to this question and prospect questions generally:
1. I am not on the prospect team; and
2. As a White Sox fan/writer, my perspective has become skewed over the years. Given their organizational strengths with pitchers (and unusual pitchers at that) and crushing weakness at developing hitters (I think Aaron Rowand is the last plus position player the White Sox have drafted and graduated to the majors), I tend to err positive on arms and negative on bats--although...with a much lower bar for what I deem to be a success.

All of that said, I find it hard to imagine that the Red Sox would enter 2018 with Travis as their starting first baseman. Given the presence of both Hanley and Sandoval (and potentially Swihart?), as well as their general aspirations for excellence, a fringe-power profile like Travis seems like a Plan B or C for the position rather than Plan A.

Dan (Atlanta): Ronald Acuna the next big prospect?

Nick Schaefer: I suspect we'll have lots of next big prospects rather than just one. Also, Acuna already weighed in at #31 on BP's global list, so it seems like he's already there.

And (see my response to the last question) there is always going to be fear about a player's ability to make contact as he moves up the latter until he dispels them. Even an uber prospect like Byron Buxton is having a brutal time making contact in the majors, and Acuna is already showing the need to adjust in his first year at High A.

Loonies (Tampa): Seems the theme of every chat is about how good Ronald Acuna will be. Can we give it up for some closer to the bigs players that no one is talking about?

Nick Schaefer: Oh. Look at that.

A few different ways to interpret your question. There are guys like Yohander Mendez who look awfully close to the bigs, and so despite their lack of flashiness still gets them in the Top 50. Amir Garrett is another who is breaking into the majors and looks like he may be a solid mid-rotation arm. Kind of hard to look like you're going to be a regular and not get some sort of attention.

Perhaps Kyle Higashioka is the answer here? Now I've talked about him. Hmm.

Ben (LA): Where would Luis Robert rank if eligible for the prospect rankings?

Nick Schaefer: Couple questions about Luis Robert in the queue. I've seen those who know more than I say that he would likely go in the top half of the draft, and I believe he profiles as a corner outfielder. Not as a comp in terms of who they are as players, but perhaps prospect rankings-wise that would put him somewhere in the Kyle Lewis-Alex Kiriloff realm from last year's draft?

Definitely a Top 100 guy, but likely in the back half? Certainly hoping the White Sox grab him, as their position prospects are looking awfully thin after Moncada and Collins.

cracker73 (Florida): What do you see as the timeline for Kopech and Lopez to be pitching for the Chisox, and do you think it will be as starter or reliever?

Nick Schaefer: Lots of potential variables here. White Sox rotation features a lot of trade candidates of varying quality (Quintana, Holland, Gonzalez), a dude on the DL (Rodon), and a guy who is off to a good start this year but could collapse at any time (Shields). Then there's service time and whether the White Sox are satisfied that Lopez is ready.

I'm bullish on him, based on his repertoire and the White Sox' dev track record. Let's say June and in the rotation?

Kopech currently has a K/9 over 20 in AA, but an ERA above 4.00. He'll get every chance to succeed as a starter before he's moved to the bullpen, but I have to imagine he doesn't start in the majors until the back half of 2018. I suppose he could wind up in the bullpen in September of this year.

Tom (CT): What do you know about Seth Beer? Future star in the making?

Nick Schaefer: Sounds like he's limited to first base, which means he has to rake an absurd level to be a star, but we've also seen the best college bats look like bargains in recent years, thinking of Conforto at 10 and Schwarber at 4, so maybe!

Eric (Colorado): Is Raimel Tapia an impact prospect once called up?

Nick Schaefer: In terms of how he adjusts immediately, I'm not sure, but I like Tapia. I understand why scouts/evaluators get uneasy about guys who just...look weird out there, and Tapia seems like one of those guys. But sometimes that just means the player winds up really underrated. Hunter Pence comes to mind.

Ditto the fact that Tapia looks like a tweener where he doesn't have the power of a traditional corner OF and probably can't hang in center. I think in this era of "everybody strikes out all the time like crazy" there could be something that much nicer about a guy whose bat-to-ball skills you don't worry about as much.

So he winds up a...high floor low ceiling guy who is wonky as he does it?

Craig (DC): Is Juan Soto about to jump up the prospect rankings?

Nick Schaefer: He has less than 50 at bats above rookie ball, and he was ranked as the 57th best prospect in baseball coming into this year by our guys. He could very easily mash and wind up jumping 20-30 spots, but given how far away he is and the fact that he won't play a premium defensive position he could backslide pretty far too.

Not sure if that's helpful, but now you have me pulling up Courtney Hawkins and getting all sad.

Buddy (Peoria, IL): Bradley Zimmer has to get the call in Cleveland before summer, right?

Nick Schaefer: Like, for his sake?

Dude struck out like crazy last year and slugged .305 in AAA. I wouldn't rule out that he comes up before September. There are reasons to like him, and it's not like Cleveland's outfield is the strongest part of their roster. But unless you think Minnesota's start is real, Cleveland should walk away with the Central without breaking a sweat. No real reason to call Zimmer up before you're sure he's absolutely 100% ready.

bemused (connecticut): Are players who are not super stars being rushed by skipping triple A? Or even super talents? Buxton of the Twins? Rodon of the White Sox?

Nick Schaefer: Distinctly possible, although I'm much more suspicious of jumping bats than arms. Maybe that's White Sox Syndrome again, but given that hitting is reactive, it stands to reason that hitters need to be exposed to repetition and variety in order to be ready. Broadly speaking, a pitcher has his arsenal, and if he understands how to attack hitters and locate his stuff, you may just be expending however many bullets he has in the chamber in the minors.

Buxton is odd in that the Twins jerked him around and messed with his swing. I wonder if Rodon had anything left learn in the minors. I think his stuff was good enough that he could bully minor league hitters without getting much out of it, although I suppose you could insist he try to turn a lineup over 2-3 times without using his slider at all?

lipitorkid (Costa Mesa, CA): How are you feeling about Tim Anderson this season?

Nick Schaefer: I stuck my neck out there and put Anderson #1 on the White Sox U25 talent list, ahead of Moncada. His bat certainly hasn't gotten off to a great start, but his improvement at short over the last few years--and how he's looked out there so far this season--is the crux of why I ranked him like I did. If he's a plus glove at short it takes a ton of pressure off his bat.

With the Correas and Lindors and Seagers of the world, Anderson may not seem quite as impressive, but I'm bullish based on what I've seen of his glove.

jfegan (Progressive Field pressbox): How long would you wait to freak out about a player's performance this season if they're just confirming troubling trends already in place (Shields walking people, Frazier popping pitches up, Giants bullpen being dead, just to throw some examples out)

Nick Schaefer: Happy you jim-jammed this question into the chat queue!

I run the risk of running afoul of all of those studies evaluating how many PAs/IPs it takes before a given stat stabilizes by offering my own opinion. It's super context-specific, though. With regard to the Giants bullpen, I'm not worried at all if Mark Melancon gets off to a bad start. I suspect he'll be his usual, effective self. But the rest of the bullpen is a lot of the same guys as last year, no?

Frazier is doomed to crater, as he's a power bat the White Sox acquired from outside the organization.

That said, I guess freaking out is context dependent, too! How many disasters would have to befall the Cubs before you would reasonably start to worry about their ability to cruise into the playoffs? But if you're the aforementioned Giants you have a much smaller margin for error.

Then again if you're a Giants fan maybe you should wait a decade or two before you freak out about anything.

Kevin (Chicago): With the White Sox basically rebuilding Lucas Giolito what are your expectations for his 2017?

Nick Schaefer: Hahn certainly made it sound like they were overhauling him from the ground up. If he doesn't make the rotation in September, I suspect something has gone horribly wrong, but there's reason to let him dominate AAA for a while even if it goes well, and there are potentially several dudes ahead of him in line in the AAA rotation.

a concerned parent (the internet): any news on Cubs mystery man Jose albertos?

Nick Schaefer: I have been sworn to secrecy. Please do not interpret this as ignorance.

jfegan (Chicago): Which organizations, individuals and players in baseball have earned your raw, naked contempt forever and ever?

Nick Schaefer: For real reasons or silly reasons?

I've raged pretty impotently at the Royals' success at the White Sox' expense in recent years. Absolutely despised the Twins with all of my heart for a long time, although it has faded as they have collapsed and the Metrodome was destroyed.

It's also always funny whenever the Red Sox fail, even though as a White Sox fan it shouldn't matter to me at all.

For Real Reasons, I would say [insert domestic violence guy here].

bemused (connecticut): Why did the White Sox get off to that crazy good start last year? Are there any lessons from the rise and then crash landing?

Nick Schaefer: They started 17-8 and were below .500 every month after that until September. Looks like a lot of that good start was individual herculean pitching efforts, which seems easy to explain given their personnel. David Robertson was probably healthy in the first few months, as opposed to pitching through a knee injury in the second half. Austin Jackson was roughly replacement level instead of Shuck who was below, luck, variance.

In terms of collapsing in the second half, the team had already traded away what little depth they had in previous years (Trayce Thompson, Chris Bassitt, Marcus Semien, etc.) so any time anything went wrong there was no fallback option.

The White Sox did aggressively attempt to fix their rotation. Miguel Gonzalez worked out, James Shields didn't.

But they did basically nothing to help what already looked like a horrible offense as the season went on. Jerry Sands, Jimmy Rollins, and blitzing Tim Anderson through the minors at a blinding pace were basically their only efforts to upgrade from some really, really miserable options.

Skuggs (BROOKLYN): How many players are you taking over Mookie ROS?

Nick Schaefer: I think he gets pushed to the bench in favor of Rusney Castillo.

Beeps Lover (Manhattan): Who will be the White Sox All-Star rep in 2017 and why will it be Leury Garcia?

Nick Schaefer: The White Sox are the weirdest rebuilding team ever because they haven't finished selling and they're still littered with All Star-type guys. Given that a ton of pitchers initially selected back out and need replacement due to injury or timing of the game, pretty much any plus pitcher on the team is a candidate to go--Nate Jones, David Robertson, Jose Quintana if he's still on the team. Rodon starting on the DL probably rules him out.

Position player wise, 1B is stacked, but Jose Abreu should be a worthy candidate. Anderson could break out, Frazier has done it before...

So what I'm trying to say is Avisail Garcia.

Jim (Minn): At what point is Byron Buxtons swing and approach beyond repair?

Nick Schaefer: It's really something. 0/3 with 3 more Ks today and he was lifted for a pinch hitter. One hopes that with the offseason changes to the front office that it sort of counts as a change of scenery in and of itself, but I'm struggling to think of a similar situation.

He's such a monster in center and on the basepaths he really shouldn't have to do much to stay in the majors and keep learning, but a >50% K rate is...majestic.

But given how he was promoted/demoted last year, I think you give him another month in the majors before you make any major changes. Maybe he scales back to the 30-35 K% range and it's no longer an emergent crisis?

Nick Schaefer: I think that should do it for me! Had a lot of fun and thanks for all your questions--feel free to ask more @Nick_BPSS on Twitter. Eric Roseberry will be chatting next on Thursday at 1:00pm.


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