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Chat: Tommy Bennett

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday February 17, 2010 4:00 PM ET chat session with Tommy Bennett.

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Expand your baseball horizons by seeking answers from BP's Tommy Bennett.

Tommy Bennett: Let's get the chat started. I am taking questions about arbitration, pitchers and catchers reporting, fantasy baseball, or whatever else might strike your fancy.

caseyj15 (Medford, Oregon): What's your long range outlook for Randy Wells RHP for the Chicago Cubs?

Tommy Bennett: I think he's a useful pitcher, but not the 3.05 run pitcher you saw last year. SIERA had him at 4.33, which is still valuable. His ability to generate ground balls is probably his biggest asset. If he can take a step forward there, he goes from being average to being above average.

strupp (Madison): Why is Jay Jaffe's Twitter Trivia so hard?

Tommy Bennett: Good trivia should make you think and it should be hard to make up. His most recent trivia was a great example of that. Besides, who likes easy trivia?

chawson (Portland, Maine): Who will be the Yankees 5th starter? And what happens if AJ goes down and/or Andy combusts and/or CC eats too much and/or Javier reverts to his 2004 Yankee form? Basically, is it likely that both Phil and Joba will be Yankees starters in 2010?

Tommy Bennett: I don't know who will be in the rotation on Opening Day. I don't think the Yankees will need a fifth starter in the first few weeks (though somebody check that, I don't know the schedule off the top of my head EDIT: Feb. 17th). My guess is that Joba starts in the rotation but that Hughes ends up pitching at least 50 innings as a starter at the major league level. The reason he won't go much higher than that is that the Yankees are imposing an innings limit on him but not on Joba.

Tom Haberstroh (CT): Hey fellow Twit. Why do you think fewer MLB players, percentage wise, use Twitter than those in the NBA? Are there general inherent personality differences between sports that would lend itself to social media?

Tommy Bennett: I think at both levels what you see is a certain degree of reluctance from the league's stars to participate in social media. You don't see LeBron James on Twitter, and you don't see Albert Pujols on Twitter. I think more role players are getting involved in both sports, but to the degree there is a difference I think it's just because any new service will break in by social group, and it just hasn't reached critical mass among baseball players.

(I'll just add that Tom is from HoopData and will be chatting tomorrow over at Basketball Prospectus starting at 3pm 11am, and I recommend you all join him for that)

dandaman (Sea Cliff): Tommy, Who are some players that you hope to add to all your fantasy teams this year (mid to late round)? Thanks, Dan

Tommy Bennett: I got a couple questions to this effect. I think Cody Ross remains underrated, especially if you play in a league with individual outfield positions. I think Rafael Soriano is a great closer for where he is going in drafts. I'm big on a bounce back from Jay Bruce as well.

HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): It seems clear from most of the Nationals blogs that The Constituency is no longer patient, and Mike Rizzo's honeymoon is already over. I have been pretty happy with the moves the Nats made this off-season, but I have to agree that too much depends on the health of folks like Chien-Ming Wang, Scott Olsen and even Chris Duncan. The Nats will be better this year, because they can't help but be. However, is the view of the Nats' offseason more charitable at BP or anywhere else outside of Nats fans' disgruntled little world?

Tommy Bennett: The kinds of things the Nationals need to do to improve their team just can't be done in a single offseason. To evaluate them on that basis almost isn't fair. I feel the same way about Rizzo. I have a hard time identifying actual things he's done that are that bad. I don't love the Pudge signing and Wang is probably done (but it's a nice gamble). They have to focus on the draft and on international scouting. There's no other path to .500. (I'll hold off on a discussion of Adam Dunn for the next question.)

Mike Rizzo (DC): What should I do with Adam Dunn? What type of prospect could he return at the deadline? If he stays could we risk offering him arbitration in an effort to get draft picks? Dunn is making 12M this year and I'm penciling him him for his annual 40HR. 100BB, and 170K.

Tommy Bennett: You should trade him. Last year, AL DHs collectively hit .255/.337/.443. That's pretty bad, especially considering Dunn hit .267/.398/.529 last year. I don't know what AL team wouldn't want that. Why Dunn remains in the American League is a total mystery to me.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Which fantasy school do you belong to: Would you draft King Felix and Verlander early or build your lineup in early rounds and find pitching later? Thanks.

Tommy Bennett: It's all about price. My guess is that in a snake draft those guys are going to get drafted sooner than I might like, although I have already ended up with Verlander in one mock draft this season (at 46th overall). I tend to like to take hitters in the first four rounds, though.

jlarsen (Chicago): I don't get it, Tommy. I just don't get it. I can't wrap my head around how bloggers, writers and everybody deems that the Rays are the best 3rd place team in baseball and have to have luck, rather than just the talent on roster, to break the grasps of Boston/New York for the #1 or #2 spot in the division. Rays biggest downfall in 2009 was the lack of a "true closer" when Troy Percival went down and Jason Isringhausen forgot his arm wasn't what it used to be. JP Howell was serviceable but a sudden over-use seen him getting knocked around and getting shut-down by season's end. Even with a 11-game losing streak, which is a season-killer for any team, the team won 84 games. If the Rays won 6 or 7 of those games, they would've been a 90-win team. So what do the Rays do this offseason? They use the money that trading Kazmir and Iwamura netted them and dealt the prospect received in Iwamura's trade for a "true closer" in Rafael Soriano. That trade/signing moves every Rays reliever into the spot that they should be filling and would be most u

Tommy Bennett: Soriano probably adds a net of two wins or so. Assuming for sake of argument that the Rays were a 90 win (true talent) team last year, I think you can justify a 92 win estimate for them this year. But 92 wins doesn't win the AL East 99 times out of 100.

Beyond that, they just don't have the starting pitching of the Red Sox or Yankees. At every slot in the rotation they lose to both those teams. Maybe Hellickson can start consistently this year, maybe Davis is great right away. But for my money, I think those things aren't all likely to happen. In any other division in baseball, the Rays are the prohibitive favorites.

strupp (Madison): When is it ok to have money left over in an auction draft?

Tommy Bennett: In keeper leagues I think it's more acceptable, since instead of splurging at the end, you tried to get reasonable contracts that you might want to carry over. Otherwise, I think it means you probably could have upgraded at some position somewhere along the lines. That doesn't mean you won't win the league, it just means you could have improved.

Jimmy (NJ): Hey Tommy, How close do you think Adam Jones is to becoming the best fantasy CFer in the AL? If he can build on last season, I don't think he's all that far off from Curtis Granderson, or even Grady Sizemore maybe in a year or two.

Tommy Bennett: I think Adam Jones is going to be an absolute fantasy stud in no more than two years. The thing that keeps him from being an A+ centerfielder is that he is limited on the base paths to about 10-15 steals. The home runs should keep growing and could reach 30+. I wouldn't bet against this guy. A healthy Sizemore could reclaim the AL CF title, but Jones will at least make it interesting.

Hom Taberstroh (CT): I thought the Basketball Prospectus chat started at 11am EST?

Tommy Bennett: Funny...that name sounds familiar. But YES! THe Basketball Prospectus chat DOES start at 11AM EST. You can read about Mr. Haberstroh's chat with Kevin Pelton here.

MarinerDan (SF): What prospect are you aiming to take in your fantasy drafts this year?

Tommy Bennett: For non-keeper leagues, I like Neftali Feliz, Jason Heyward, Buster Posey, Wade Davis, and Brian Matusz. Almost all of those guys will get good playing time. One deep sleeper I like okay is Mark Hamilton of the Cardinals.

strupp (Madison): You're very high on Adam Jones I see. Fantasy wise, which player would you rather have for the next 3-5 years, Jones or The Cutch?

Tommy Bennett: I guess I'd say Jones, because he's the more established player. I'm pretty high on McCutchen too, though.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): If the Tigers secure Johnny Damon, and perhaps even Felipe Lopez on the cheap, would your opinion on them contending in the AL Central improve "considerably" or just "incrementally"?

Tommy Bennett: It seems like Scott Sizemore is going to be ready sooner rather than later, so I'm not sure Lopez would help. I think adding Damon might help a little, but Ryan Raburn is a pretty good player in his own right. I'm just not sure where Damon would be that big of an upgrade. I think the Tigers have a pretty good shot already, however.

MarinerDan (SF): Where do you put Cliff Lee in the fantasy SP rankings? Will his move to Safeco and the best defense in MLB materially improve his performance?

Tommy Bennett: You really couldn't ask for a better setup, could you? Death to Flying Things patrolling a massive outfield. Especially if Michael Saunders gets a lot of innings in right, Lee is going to be very, very successful. If you play in a league that uses K/BB or something along those lines, he's especially useful. The only thing that holds him back is the relatively modest K rate (compared with his overall skill set). I also think he'll be drafted too high in a lot of leagues because of people jumping on the park effect.

jlarsen (Chicago): Are you kidding me? Every spot? #5 spot is Wakefield Vs. Hughes Vs. Davis.. Hughes and Wakefield are better relievers than starters. Hughes sucked when he was last a SP and Wakefield is old and hittable. Gimme a break...

Tommy Bennett: I think it'll be Buchholz and Chamberlain, and both of those guys have Davis beat (although I'm actually a big Davis fan).

Scott (Chicago): Did you see Antichrist? Thoughts?

Tommy Bennett: That was a really hard movie to watch. I guess I just couldn't get past that--I felt like I was being taunted a little bit.

Bob (Seattle): I'll go negative and ask which is the one guy that you'll want to avoid?

Tommy Bennett: Now there's an interesting question. Someone is going to draft Strasburg, and unless you're in a keeper league and you get him for cheap, I think it's a mistake. I just don't think he'll get the innings this year to justify where he's being rated.

strupp (Madison): Understanding that we're not operating in a vacuum, BUT, amongst the Pirates, Brewers & Nationals, which is most likely to make a playoff appearance in the next 5 years?

Tommy Bennett: The Brewers simply have the most talent, so I'll pick them pretty easily. As between the other two, I think the advantage goes to the Pirates. They have problems, but I think Huntington knows what he is doing.

DennisDubay (Decatur): Will Dontrelle Willis make it through spring training for Detroit? Seems there might be a difference in opinions on his "anxiety" issues. Detroit doesn't need this in a "young" locker room.

Tommy Bennett: What's with the quotes? I think Dontrelle has long odds to make the roster, but who isn't rooting for him?

MarinerDan (SF): Milton Bradley: fantasy buy or bust?

Tommy Bennett: I still don't 100% understand how he fits in Seattle. If they mostly DH him (which I think they probably should), he could be useful in deeper leagues. Beyond that I am not buying.

southsidepride (IL): What do you expect from Yunel Escobar this year for fantasy? I have a hole at SS in my keeper league and I picked him up on the last day of last season to hold for a possible starter role for this season.

Tommy Bennett: I think he's solid but unspectacular. I like the Braves to score a decent number of runs, so his counting stats should be respectable.

jlarsen (Chicago): Last one for my great debate, but saying that the Rays have no chance because their rotation is nowhere near Boston's or New York's. However, I can say I wouldn't be the only one who'd pick the Rays' bullpen as a whole and defensive team put on the field over both the Yankees and Red Sox. Even with the addition of Beltre and Scutaro, Rays IF Fielding still looks to be better overall than Boston. Doubt Boston's OF can beat the talent in Crawford/Upton/Joyce(who was one of the best OFers defensively las year).

Tommy Bennett: I don't think the Rays have no chance. I think you're right about defense, particularly in the infield (both Yankees and Red Sox look to have good defensive outfields also). The bullpen debate is closer, but this is probably the best bullpen the Rays have ever had. I thought the Joaquin Benoit pickup was neat. I'll give the Rays a 15% chance of winning the division.

Scott (Chicago): What was your favorite movie that came out in 2009? Or at least December '08-Dec '09...

Tommy Bennett: I'm bad at narrowing. I'll say "In The Loop." That movie is extraordinarily funny.

colavito (Memphis, TN): What do you expect from Drew Stubbs in 2010?

Tommy Bennett: I think he'll be below average offensively, but great defensively. Overall, he should be worth a couple wins.

Scott (NJ): Which Chris Young do you draft first this year?

Tommy Bennett: If you're not in a deep league, this question should be purely academic. I guess you can always bench the center fielder and roster him if he gets hot. The pitcher's shoulder injury just scares me a great deal. If you have DL slots, the pitcher is probably the better pick.

Scott (Chicago): What are you overall thoughts on the White Sox? Assume, for the moment, that they get Johnny Damon. Keep in mind their long-standing success in keeping pitchers healthy, as well as Ozzie's ability to manage a pitching staff. Can't Beckham only get better? Shouldn't Rios not be a total bust? If Quentin puts together 550 healthy ABs, should we expect anything but mashing?

Tommy Bennett: This reminds me of an old joke...

These are all independent events, and I learned from smarter people than I am that to get the probability of each thing happening, you have to multiply all the independent probabilities together. You're assuming quite a bit. But for me, flip a coin between the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins in that division.

Lopecci (Cubicle City): Fantasy Keeper question: Which six do you like the best for this coming year? Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Yovanni Gallardo, Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hanson, and Clay Buchholz. Right now, I would say Howard, Utley, Tulo, Felix, Hanson, and Gallardo. But I am having a tough time deciding and was wondering if you could throw in your two cents. Have a great day Tommy !!

Tommy Bennett: Assuming traditional 5x5, I'd say Howard, Utley, Tulo, Felix, Cruz, Kershaw. But at the end there it's pretty close. Oh, and you too!

MarinerDan (SF): Is Grady Sizemore a good value pick this year given his problems last year? Is he someone you are targeting?

Tommy Bennett: It's tricky, because I think enough people will think that way that he'll probably be priced correctly. If he drops to, say, late second round--go nuts.

jlarsen (Chicago): To switch things up, is Yu Darvish going to change the luck of Japanese pitchers in MLB? It seems that Hideo Nomo and Seattle's duo were the last good japanese pitchers in the majors. Dice-K has been good, at times, but his shape(round is a shape) and ailments have made him shadow of pitcher that he was in the NPB. Has he even lived up to the 100 or so MIL that Boston spent in posting fees and his contract?

Tommy Bennett: I'm not a Japanese league expert. I think Dice-K's big problem has been health and part of that is probably tied to conditioning. Health is the biggest risk with any pitcher signing; it's not limited to Japanese pitchers. My understanding is that Darvish is basically done developing (and still just 23), so he might have the best chance of any Japanese pitcher so far. Whether he WANTS to play in the U.S. is a separate question.

Scott (Chicago): Hope springs eternal... Above all, I have faith in their medical staff. Seems like at the end of every year, Will Carroll is showing they have the least amount of days/money lost to players on the DL. I'm not a doctor (or a mathematician), but that seems relatively quantifiable and leads me to believe Peavy will be healthy and successful in 2010.

Tommy Bennett: Yep, I know Will has spoken very highly of the White Sox medical staff in the past. It's a good hole card!

Okay, last call for questions before we wrap this chat up!

TGisriel (Baltimore): This year will Wieters play like he did in the last month of 2009 (which was excellent) or like he did when he first came up (which was disappointing)?

Tommy Bennett: Boring answers aren't sexy, but they're often right. His .333/.395/.486 Sept/Oct is probably better than his true talent, but he's also better than he looked in the first half. I would expect him to improve on where he was last year.

Dave (NY): How good will Gordon Beckham be? Long term, Felix or Greinke?

Tommy Bennett: Gordon Beckham will be a league average third basemen, I think. He would've been a lot better if he could have played short.

The second question is completely about health (where Greinke has the edge), but on stuff alone I think I'd say Felix.

raygu1 (Burlington, NJ): who gets better end of deal: Kershaw at $15 or Blanks at $5?

Tommy Bennett: Blanks.

TGisriel (Baltimore): If you were the Orioles, would you be shopping Felix Pie, or would you hold onto him as a fourth outfielder?

Tommy Bennett: It can't hurt to shop him, but it might be better to get him some PAs as a fourth outfielder first to build his value a little more.

Scott (Chicago): FYI, Beckham is being moved to 2B this year...which should increase his value substantially.

Tommy Bennett: No question that would boost his value. I'm not totally convinced he won't be moved back to third when Teahen doesn't work out, though.

RBrad (New York): How high is too high for Mauer? Is he worth a top five pick in a 5X5 league?

Tommy Bennett: I don't think so, if only because of the number of games he can be expected to play.

MarinerDan (SF): Who is the first closer to lose his job that people might not expect?

Tommy Bennett: Does Frank Francisco count as one people might not expect? Going higher, maybe Francisco Cordero? That last one is just a hunch.

MarinerDan (SF): Who wins the AL West and why?

Tommy Bennett: It's going to be a really fun race to watch, I think. My gut says it's a two-team race between the Rangers and Mariners. I like the Rangers young pitching and their ability to score runs. I think both teams might be hampered by their relatively weak bullpens. Of course, the Mariners have the best rotation in the division, and play great defense. When push comes to shove, I'll usually take a great offense over a great rotation, so I'll say Rangers.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Will the anticipated improvement of the Orioles reduce the number of wins by the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays?

Tommy Bennett: Maybe a little, but the opposite effect is MUCH stronger.

Arnold (California): Let off some steam bennett! Is there a decent chance we are going to play 6 months of baseball to get back to a Phillies/Yankees repeat showdown?

Tommy Bennett: Here I am, letting off some steam!

Wait, maybe that's not what you meant...It's among the most likely outcomes, but it's still a pretty small probability. It made for good baseball, though.

Stephanie (DC): If you're Andrew Friedman, do you sign Branyan, and if so, how do you make it work on the roster?

Tommy Bennett: Yeah, I think signing Branyan would be a great idea. He bats lefty and they've already got flexibility with Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist on the roster. Clearly he isn't commanding a massive salary, so I don't really see the downside. Plus, the value of a marginal win to the Rays is very high.

tommybones (brooklyn): Beckham? League average? Really?

Tommy Bennett: Okay, maybe league average was an exaggeration.

MarinerDan (SF): The Mariners? A weak bullpen? Let me introduce you to Mr. Aardsma, Mr. League, Mr. Lowe, Mr. White, etc. Lord, that is not a weak bullpen!

Tommy Bennett: I think Aardsma, at this point, is good but overrated (the walks are still really scary). Other than League, the rest of those guys are going to regress from their 2009 performances.

Stevealicious (Guelph, ONT): What do you think of Aaron Hill this season - will the offensive surge continue?

Tommy Bennett: I don't think there's any way he hits 36 home runs again, but I think if he retains even 75% of that power, he's a good player.

tommybones (brooklyn): LOL. Seriously, though... not optimistic as to Beckham's ceiling?

Tommy Bennett: I think other people are more optimistic than I am. He seems like a second tier 2B/3B guy--still valuable for the White Sox, but not a franchise player.

raygu1 (Burlington, NJ): OK, which would you take: Kershaw at $15 for Prado ($2) + Gamels ($5) or Kershaw ($15) for Blanks($5)

Tommy Bennett: I'd take Blanks.

Jimmy (NJ): Kind of a random question, but what excites you the most about BP's or your plans for this season on the site? Anything you're particularly enthused about?

Tommy Bennett: This seems like a good place to wrap things up.

Before long, you'll see the blog layer added to the site (KG mentioned this in the State of Prospectus). This is one of the main reasons I came on board with BP, and I'm really excited about it. It should really add to the kind of content we're able to provide, since in addition to the regular article flow, you'll see instantaneous bits (like transactions, injuries, prospect reports), but also much more dialogue-style content. I'll be posting links from around the web and interacting with other writers and commenters in a more fluid way than we are able to right now.

One of the things I love especially about the statistical analysis of baseball is how open the process can be. If you're not pulling up your sleeves and working with your own spreadsheet, I think you're missing out on some of the fun. So when you combine that interactive, community aspect with really bright numbers minds like Seidman, Swartz, Carleton, and Wyers, I think you've got a really great thing going.

Tommy Bennett: Thanks to everyone for the great questions. Remember, you can always send me an e-mail or find me on Twitter (@tommy_bennett).


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