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Chat: David Cameron

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday December 10, 2003 12:00 PM ET chat session with David Cameron.

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This chat is associated with roundtable Test Event. Answers to questions submitted here will appear on the roundtable.

David Cameron is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

David Cameron: Hey gang. Lets get this party started.

Dave Laster (Winston-Salem): Hey, Dave! How ready are Adam LaRoche and Andy Marte to produce for the Braves next season?

David Cameron: LaRoche should be given a chance to platoon with the ageless wonder Julio Franco in spring training. His defense is already major league caliber, and I think he can be a league average 1B next year. Marte needs at least 4 months in Double-A, and should probably spend all of 2004 in the minors.

danny (long island): Pirates 2B: Sanchez or Hill?

David Cameron: Probably Freddy Sanchez. Bobby Hill's stock has fallen, but I think he can make a Todd Walker-esque comeback in a few years. He'll just have to impress his coaches a bit more to earn a shot.

Chris Hastings (Cleveland): Does Cleveland's still rock (from your mid-summer 2003 assessment of their system)?

David Cameron: Any time you promote as many kids to the show as the Indians did in 2003, your system will take a bit of a hit. However, the Indians farm system is still among the top five in the game, and they have enough pitching prospects to fill a division. The higher levels aren't as well stocked as they were last year, but the system is still in great shape.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So is Adam Johnson ever going to grow up and become useful to the Twins? His trial as a reliever seemde to go well last summer.

David Cameron: The move to the bullpen should help him, and it is too early to give up on Johnson yet. However, he's pretty much working on his last hope this year, and he's going to have to show something soon. With his arm, teams will give him a lot of leeway, but they are expecting results eventually.

seahero (Norwalk, CT): Do you forsee Zach Greinke making the Kansas City rotation this spring?

David Cameron: I think the Royals will probably give him an opportunity to win a job in spring training, but I don't see it happening. He still needs some experience against more advanced hitting. His command is impeccable, though, and he will likely spend the summer in the big leagues.

Jamey Newberg (Dallas): Got a bead on the top Rule 5 candidates yet?

David Cameron: There are some big name guys available this year, as more teams were willing to gamble on leaving high draft picks exposed, but the Rule 5 draft will be filled with its usual selection of relievers and middle infielders. The most interesting selection will be Chris Shelton from Pittsburgh, who could land with any of the statistically oriented clubs.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Position players seem to arrive in bunches (the SS trinity, the herd of quality 3b a few years back, etc) so where are all the 2B? If not them, then what's the next great cycle we should expect? I'm looking at C and seeing a lot of horses.

David Cameron: The catcher crop, led by Mauer, Mathis, Quiroz, and Shoppach, has certainly gathered their fair share of ink to date. I think the hype might be surpassing reality, however. Its a good crop, but if more than one of those becomes an all-star, it will be an upset. I really like the first base field we have now. Kotchman, Loney, and Fielder have tremendous talent, and Adrian Gonzalez isn't far behind.

Damian (Bellevue, WA): David: It's obvious that a lot of your opinions and assessments of prospects run contrary to those of your colleagues at BP. Why is that?

David Cameron: I have a lot of respect for the work that Clay Davenport and Rany Jazayerli have put in, and they contribute heavily to BP's success. I think we all have different perspectives and areas that we can focus on, but the key is to see the big picture. Because of my location, I'm able to see a lot more players than most people during the season, and I feel that adding those insights compliments the work Clay and Rany have already done.

Amos (Madison): Hi, Mr. Cameron. I've been struggling to sort through all the Brewers' infield prospects. Could you give me a rough breakdown? Thanks for all the great work.

David Cameron: Picking between future all-stars can be hard work. Weeks is my favorite of the group, as he has ridiculous abilities with the bat and should be able to handle second base. Fielder and Hardy are close, with a slight edge to Prince's bat over Hardy's glove. I think Corey Hart ends up in right field eventually, and they have already moved Brad Nelson to left. Serious hitting talent coming up through the Milwaukee system, though.

Paul Mocker (seattle): Biggest problem for the Mariners? Lack of power. How do they get sluggers? Did they ever try to deal for Beltran.

David Cameron: The front office. Lack of power is an issue, but is an offshoot of the organizational philosophies that are currently in place. The Royals asking price for Beltran is pretty high, but I would be surprised if the Mariners haven't at least inquired.

David (Vancouver BC): As a Canadian living on the West Coast I have the luxury of riding in either the Mariners or Jays bandwagon. I had my mind made up which way to go this year until I read BPs Farm Reports (Can of Corn). Seattle is listed as having the #3 farm system (way ahead of Toronto). Can this be true?

David Cameron: Well, I don't recommend choosing team loyalty on the strength of a team's current farm system, but its an interesting question. Dayn's work is certainly intriguing, but I like Toronto's group of talent, probably more than the Mariners. I'm interested in seeing more work from Dayn on the issue, though.

M's Fan (Bellingham, WA): Now that the Mariners have decided not to keep Mike Cameron, what kind of deal do you see him signing elsewhere? Also, can the Mariners expect to get a player of Cameron's ability (offense and defense) for similar money?

David Cameron: He reportedly has a 3 year offer from the Mets and a 4 year offer from the A's, and I'd toss San Diego and the Chicago Whit Sox in as possibilities as well. Also, I'd like to clarify that there aren't any players of Cameron's defensive ability available, and there might not be any period. He's the most underrated defensive player in the game, and Ryan Franklin is losing sleep over the thought of Randy Winn patrolling center field at Safeco.

Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): Clint Nageotte's likely future: starter or setup/closer?

David Cameron: The Mariners would like him to stay in the rotation, and he'll be given every opportunity to do so. However, his unwilingness to develop a change-up as a third pitch hasn't earned him points, and his command is still questionable. Unless his change-up comes on next year, I think he'll end up as a Brad Lidge style reliever without the health issues.

D Byers (Seattle): Three quick questions: Justin Leone -- Was 2002 a fluke, or can he play, and can he play 3b for the M's in 2004? Wladimir Balentien -- How good is this guy?

David Cameron: 2002 wasn't a fluke, but 26-year-olds should put up big numbers in the Texas League, and he won't have the same impact in the majors. He has legitimate power, will take a walk, and can play a solid third base. Expect a lot of strikeouts and a lower batting average, though. Balentien has power, but his age is a real question.

Conor Glassey (Redmond, WA): Who do you feel are the top 3 organizations with the best minor league offensive prospects and the top three organizations with the best pitching prospects?

David Cameron: I'll interpret offensive prospects to be position players, since defense is certainly an important part of the game as well. Milwaukee has the best crop of hitters right now, Toronto isn't far behind, and I like Anaheim's trio of Kotchman, Mathis, and McPherson. Albert Callaspo is an intriguing second basemne for them as well.

Pitching wise, the Cubs, Indians, and Mariners have hoarded pitching, and their depth is a big asset.

Max (Hoboken): Can you name a few prospects with "star" power? Guys that will put fannies in the seats, wether by swatting 50, tossing no-no's, speaking Mandarin or dating Lil Kim?

David Cameron: Prince Fielder should be an attraction based on his enormous power. Bobby Jenks has amazing stuff, but he's got a ways to go. Joey Gathright might be one of the fastest ballplayers in recent memory, despite the fact that he has less power than Jason Tyner.

joshuadrake (Seattle): True or False: Rafael Soriano was the best reliever in MLB last year not named Gange?

David Cameron: On a per inning basis, thats true. He's almost certainly going to get a shot at a starting job in spring training, and he may be the key to the 2004 Mariners.

Sean (Toronto, ON): Hi David, what roles do you think Julio Mateo in Seattle and Grant Balfour in Minnesota will have in 2004?

David Cameron: Mateo will likely absorb the 6th and 7th inning role, tossing non-critical innings and pitching effectively for the league minimum. Balfour's role is still to be determined, based on how Minnesota fills out their roster.

Rudy (Decatur, Il.): Was Cody Ross' big finish in '03 (.352/.417/.698 in his final 150 or so AAA at-bats) a fluke, or could he be a star hitter in the Bigs? I know his glove & arm are highly-regarded.

David Cameron: Ross is a nice player with a decent all-around game, but he's not that type of hitter. He projects as a solid 4th outfielder right now.

Brent S. Gambill (Fayetteville, AR): Mike Cameron? What's the fascination with him by Billy Beane and others? Am I the only one noticing his .239, .253 averages and and his average of 149.2 strike-outs per year over the last five seasons? As well as his decline in RBI's (110, 80, 76) and home runs (25, 18).

David Cameron: Billy Beane and the others understand that Cameron's on base percentage and slugging percentage are far more important indicators than his batting average, strikeouts, and RBI's. Safeco Field hurt his career immeasurably, and it is a shame that people do not realize how valuable a player Cameron was to the Mariners the past 4 years.

Kered (Seattle): Who was the last prospect that really made your eyes pop out, and who do think is the prospect who most looks like but won't be a major league ballplayer?

David Cameron: Probably Andy Marte, when I saw him for the first time in the spring of 2002. I had never heard of the kid, but was amazed by his abilities. No one had the same effect this year.

When you watch Dan Denham pitch, you expect more, but I'm not sure he's going to be much of an impact major league pitcher.

ChrisHam (LA): In your opinion, will Edwin Jackson start in LA next year or does he need some time in AAA?

David Cameron: I think Jackson could use some time in AAA, but his impressive late season performances will likely earn him a shot to start the year with the Dodgers. Jackson has very limited pitching experience and still needs to learn the nuances of pitching. He also needs to control his pitch counts better, or he's a 5 to 6 inning pitcher in 2004.

Rudy (Decatur, Il.): Hey, David. What do all the prospect analysts have against Josh Kroeger? He murdered the horsehide at age 20 in high A-ball and he reportedly plays good outfield defense (can even play OK in CF), so what am I missing? Thanks!

David Cameron: No one has anything against Kroeger personally, but hitting in Lancaster is like facing Mark Watson in Coors Field everyday. Giant park adjustments make Kroeger's performance less impressive.

Rudy (Decatur, Il.): Another publicaton very recently named Alexis Rios the #1 outfield prospect in all the minors. I like Rios a lot, but since he's older than Jeremy Reed, and didn't hit--or run--as well as Reed at the same classification level (in fact, Reed was playing in a pitcher's park in a pitcher's league to boot), do you know why Rios might possibly be considered Reed's better? Thanks much.

David Cameron: Rios gets a pretty significant edge on Reed defensively. As much as I like Jeremy Reed, he's not a center fielder, and that hurts him. Rios is a different type of player, but the fact that he could handle CF on a regular basis gives him an edge. Which one I would rather have would be based on my organizational context, but both are good prospects.

Paul Covert (Lynnwood, WA): What are you expectations for last year's top Cleveland prospects: B. Phillips, V. Martinez, Hafner?

David Cameron: Brandon Phillips is going to have to prove himself to the Indians again. While he still has tremendous physical skills, his work ethic didn't impress anyone this eyar. Victor Martinez shold be a solid average catcher offensively and a nice part of a good team. Hafner is a good player to have while he's cheap, but his potential is as a league average first baseman.

Pat (North Bend, WA): Will the Mariners see the light and actually go for productive hitting this off-season? Is the Tejada pursuit real, or just PR fluff?

David Cameron: What, you don't consider Raul Ibanez to be a productive hitter?

The Tejada pursuit is real, but they won't get him for 3 years and $24 million. He's going to test their resolve on long term contracts, and I'd say the odds are 50-50 he ends up in Seattle. If they end up falling short, this could be a really poor offseason for the Mariners.

Hokie (Howard Oh): Assuming you still like Arnold in the pen...How do rate the rest of Toronto's guys as starters? Bush, McGowan etc

David Cameron: Arnold still projects as a middle reliever. McGowan is the best of the starting prospects, and he could come quickly. He has made giant strides the past year. Bush's conversion to the rotation surpassed all expectations, and the Blue Jays are looking good with that selection. Don't forget Francisco Rosario, either.

Tim (Washington, DC): Please tell me that the Giants are not considering Neifi Perez as their full-time shortstop next season. And if they aren't, would a trade for Eckstein be feasible, assuming that the Angels acquire Nomar? Tim

David Cameron: Okay. The Giants are not considering Neifi Perez as their full-time shortstop next season. Now, I'm lying, but don't you feel better?

Eckstein isn't the answer, either. The Giants still have the talent to win the National League, and they have to do better than either of those two.

Hokie (Howard OH): Another Toronto? How about the Low A pitchers which ones if any should we be really watching for?

David Cameron: Sandy Nin opened a lot of eyes in Charleston this year, despite a low strikeout rate. He is one to watch. D.J. Hanson's performance is finally catching up to his stuff as well.

dan (Davis): While caution is key in evaluating young pitchers, there's a remarkable group of teen pitching prospects in the minors, right now. How do you sort out Greinke, Hamels, Kazmir, Miller, and Jackson?

David Cameron: The easiest way is to wait two years and see which ones still have their shoulders in tact. That doesn't do us much good now, though, does it? Its an interesting group, but I'm partial to Hamels and Greinke because of their advanced change-ups. Hamels change was the best pitch I saw all year.

Bay Area M's Fan (Cupertino, CA): Will the M's look to Madritsch to be the second lefty out of the pen this year? And what is the story with Thornton's health?

David Cameron: Madritsch, along with George Sherrill, will probably get a look in spring training, but I don't expect either to start 2004 with the big club. If they pitch well in Tacoma and the team has a need, they'll get a look. Call it the Julio Mateo career path.

Rudy (Decatur, Il.): Thanks for doing the chat, David. I read somewhere recently that *none* of the top 75-80 current M.L. hitters struck out more than 25% of the time when they were in AAA ball. As a Blue Jay fan, should I be extremely alarmed about Gabe Gross' .31 K/AB rate last year, or only mildly concerned?

David Cameron: The effectiveness of minor league strikeout rates are something I've investigated, but I haven't found nearly as strong of a correlation as that would suggest. Gross' strikeout rate is a concern, but not a real problem. I still expect him to be a good hitter in the big leagues.

Wake Lubking (Phoenix): Why don't we see teams trading their elite pitching prospects for top position prospects, or vice versa? Its seems like there would be plenty win-win trades for MLB teams looking to balance the overall potential of their minor league operations.

David Cameron: It isn't just pitching for position prospects. You rarely see trades of prospects for prospects of any position because teams have more information on the players they would be giving up than receiving. Teams are inherantly more comfortable with players they have signed, developed, and been around. They would be trading a more known commodity for an even bigger crapshoot, and few teams are in the business of increasing their risk.

ChrisHam (LA): What are the Dodgers going to do with Joel Guzman? They keep advancing him levels even though he doesn't seem to improve much. Will they keep him on the fast track or will he spend the entire year in the FSL?

David Cameron: At this rate, he'll likely be hitting cleanup in LA on opening day. I think sanity will set in, though, and he'll get a years worth of learning in the Florida State League. Interesting talent, but certainly wasn't ready for the track the Dodgers put him on.

Seattle Refugee (Baltimore, MD): ...from Ballard. Truly. Will Ainsworth be a quality starter for the Orioles in 2004?

David Cameron: Lots of Kurt Ainsworth questions today. Who knew he was this popular?

Ainsworth's future is really clouded by the injuries he has sustained, and he's a tough call right now. I wouldn't count on him to be an effective pitcher again until 2005, and that is assuming he can stay healthy for all of 2004.

Thaskins (CT): Thinking ahead to who can replace Sheffield in the OF for the Braves. What do you think of an OF prospect by the name of Bill McCarthy? His average was a little low but he walked a ton more and K'd a ton less this year. He had a wrist injury which limited his PT but he still did hit a lot of doubles. Won't hit 40 HR's but could do a job with 20-25.

David Cameron: McCarthy is a backup outfielder in the big leagues. Doesn't have any standout abilities that will convince an organization to give him a shot. The most interesting possibility for short-term outfield help might be Kelly Johnson, who has a really nice swing and no chance at playing shortstop in the major leagues.

Chris (Bay Area): The M's spent $3m on Ibanez and offered $8m to Tejada. Any idea as to why didn't they offer $11m to Vlad instead?

David Cameron: I'd be stunned if Vlad signed for $11 million, but the organizational philosophy that two players are better than one still stands despite the new regime. Don't look for the Mariners to start pursuing superstar talents anytime soon.

Scott (Oly, WA): David, The M's fans are rocking this chat today!! Moving elsewhere in the AL West though...Ervin "don't call me Johan" Santana...is he the real deal? Gammons seems to think so. And how about your thoughts on Kurt Ainsworth? Does he still have a future?

David Cameron: Ervin's got two major league pitches and good command, and he's definitely the best arm the Angels have, even ahead of the more-hyped Bobby Jenks. I wouldn't count on him contributing next year, but if his arm stays healthy, look for him in the spring of 2005.

Greg (Boston, MA): David, any insight on Joe Blanton? Can we expect to see him in Oakland this year?

David Cameron: Blanton's performances have been terrific, without a doubt, and he could get a look in Oakland this summer. He's winning with average stuff and great command, so I want to see a bit more against advanced hitting before I get too excited, but there's no arguing with his 2003 performance.

John (Chicago): I know the Cubs' farm system is loaded with pitching talent, but do you see any of their current minor league position players (kelton? harris? jackson?) making an impact in the majors in the next couple of years?

David Cameron: If Hee Choi can't break into Dusty Baker's line-up, Kelton and Harris don't have a prayer.

ChrisHam (LA): What kind of ceiling do you see for Franklin Gutierrez? He hit well in the FSL, but the BB and K are troubling.

David Cameron: Gutierrez's power was certainly impressive, as the Florida State League reduces the average hitter into something resembling the love child of Neifi Perez and Rey Ordonez. His plate discipline is certainly an issue, and don't expect the Dodgers to teach him patience, but he has a similar skill set, though less flashy, to Raul Mondesi

David Cameron: Thanks for all the questions guys. Time is up for me, but we'll do this again.


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