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Chat: Tommy Bennett

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday March 24, 2010 11:00 AM ET chat session with Tommy Bennett.

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There may be no pepper, but there's plenty of flavor in to be found in your own Q&A with Tommy Bennett.

Tommy Bennett: Let's get it underway, folks. It's a lovely Wednesday here in New York City, and baseball is just around the corner.

Neil (Nj): A little birdie (KG) told me you look like Tim Harrington, albeit 60 lbs lighter. Comments?

Tommy Bennett: I saw Tim Harrington last week at SXSW and he's one of the few people who has me solidly licked in the beard department. He's also balder, has lighter colored hair, and rocks significantly harder than I do. But we and my beard brothers, we gotta stick together against the mustache menace. (Jaffe, I'm looking at you.)

strupp (Madison): Was really hoping for an 11pm chat. Think of the insomniacs! Does Mauer move to the OF in 4 years?

Tommy Bennett: I think an 11pm chat could be cool sometime, but this time around it was an innocent typo. I'm not sure I'd put Mauer in the outfield if I were going to move him, since knee and back problems aren't much more help in the outfield than they are catching. I really don't know, but I would think he'd be better suited to an infield corner.

jlarsen (Chicago): I find it almost shocking that the Rays may indeed find a way to fit Hank Blalock onto the Opening Day line-up. Does it mean that Wily Aybar is on the "outs" or the last days of Gabe Kapler are among us, with Zobrist, Rodriguez and Joyce alternating spots?

Tommy Bennett: It's weird that Hank Blalock is probably going to find a roster spot with the Rays. If they have one thing in spades I would have said it was roster flexibility. Why you need a first baseman likely to OBP around .300 is a mystery to me.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): How optimistic are you still about the Diamondbacks?

Tommy Bennett: More optimistic than most people, I think. Mostly it's because I don't think any one team is going to run away with that division and the possibility always exists for the Wild Card. Between the Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks, I think it could be an interesting race. I wouldn't be surprised if two of those teams were battling the Braves for the Wild Card come September, either.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): Follow up on the NL West, why do you think the Giants won't be in the mix?

Tommy Bennett: They could be, but that offense is just plain, old-fashioned, bad. It's Pablo Sandoval and ... who's the next best hitter? Shierholtz? I mean seriously, that's bad.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Could the Indians give the Twins a run for the money in the Central if their rotation is league average? Given the offense stays healthy? Or will they need a near 2007 Carmona for that to be achievable?

Tommy Bennett: You know, I thought Carmona looked pretty sharp in his last spring outing. Who knows how good he'll be, but yeah, they need him to be good. Production from a LaPorta/Branyan duo at 1B would be helpful. One guy I'm pretty optimistic about is Justin Masterson. I'd put the Indians behind the Tigers and White Sox as well at the moment.

EStanislawski (New York, NY): It seems that the Mariners have been hyped up as playoff contenders every preseason lately, and never meet expectations. What's to say this year any different?

Tommy Bennett: Well, the difference in part is who is saying it. In years past it was sort of a silly prediction, I think, since the Angels were much better and the M's were much worse.

But with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, they have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. They play stupid, out-of-their-minds defense (you all saw that Ichiro catch yesterday, right?). They will really struggle to score runs, but they could easily play hot for a week or two and end up at about 85 wins. The AL West might be the most competitive division in baseball at the moment, though.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): How important is it not to rush Jose Reyes back for Opening Day, and why would any team want Gary Matthews Jr?

Tommy Bennett: The first one is a hard question to answer, because it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to have a competitive season this year (and there's some nonzero chance the Mets can do that), you need Reyes back as soon as possible. The Alex Cora productivity sink is pretty deep, and Reyes is a fine hitter. Word is Reyes has been cleared for baseball activities, so it's possible he'll be back relatively soon.

I don't know why a team would want GMJ, but then again I don't know why the Mets went out to get him in the first place.

Aaron (YYZ): Is it just me or is Chris Tillman or the Orioles something of a forgotten man the young pitcher discussions this year?

Tommy Bennett: "The Forgotten Man" struck me as superficial, but Chris Tillman's future does not. I think he'll be a solid middle of the rotation guy. I don't think his ceiling is quite what Matusz' is, but it's very nice for the Orioles to have that young talent. As for right now, he's gonna struggle a little bit.

jlarsen (Chicago): First it was Zach Grienke, who decided to wal away from the KC Royals and baseball altogether. Now, Royals prospect Danny Duffy has decided to do the same. No offense to the Royals, but has the long-time stigma of being a long-time loser, started getting to its players and prospects? Alex Gordon once was considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he now looks like a fringe major leaguer who needs a "change of scenery". Do the Royals need a complete overhaul of the organization?

Tommy Bennett: My understanding of the situation with Duffy is that he is sidelined by elbow injury. Prospects are difficult to pick, and I can't say with any confidence that Alex Gordon's failure is the Royals' fault. Nevertheless, i's awfully suspicious just how consistently bad they've been. If I were running things, heads would have rolled quite a while ago.

tommybones (brooklyn): Care to enter your submission to the Strasburg MLB debut date prediction contest?

Tommy Bennett: Oh, let's say May 31st.

Frank Sobotka (Baltimore): Better overall player now and in 5 years: Adam Jones or Colby Rasmus?

Tommy Bennett: I'd take Jones if only for the track record.

Re-elect Frank Sobotka for Secretary-Treasurer, I.B.S. Local 1514. Sorry about what happened to you, man.

tommybones (brooklyn): Long term, which player would you rather have patrolling centerfield, Andrew McCutchen or Desmond Jennings?

Tommy Bennett: We're playing center field pick 'em, huh? Okay with me. I'll go McCutchen again, and again on track record. Jennings doesn't quite have the power profile that McCutchen does either.

either.or (pa): if you run past noon you can chat against bill conlin, and maybe I'll accidentally ask him a question I meant ask you...

Tommy Bennett: You know what? I learned a lot from Bill Conlin reading him as a kid.

tommybones (brooklyn): Will we ever see a player steal over 100 bags in a season again?

Tommy Bennett: I wouldn't bet against it. I'm not sure it'll happen any time soon, but there are definitely players with the ability. It's more a question of philosophy and approach.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): How about catcher pick em? Montero or Santana?

Tommy Bennett: Trick question, because Montero's not really a catcher. But his bat is better than Santana's. Montero's a weird case, though, because if you think about the great first basemen in baseball right now, they weren't top prospects yet at his age (or at least one doesn't come to mind off the top of my head). I just have no idea what to expect from him.

jlarsen (Chicago): What happens first, JJ Ruiz signs with a team or Leslie Anderson reporting to Rays camp/Extended Spring Training from Mexico? Also, I know Clay Davenport's translations of Anderson's stats don't spell for a successful career, however everybody that I've talked to that know about Latin American Int'l baseball say that Anderson has more clear-cut future than Ruiz and feel he will be more successful than him.

Tommy Bennett: Ok, I know this is not your question this time around, but I just heard confirmation for your point that Danny Duffy is taking a leave from baseball. That is pretty surprising.

As for those two guys, I really don't have the kind of knowledge of Cuban baseball to say for sure. There are just so many variables and so much of the information is unknown, I would trust the scouts who have seen the players more than the translations.

Connor (Chicago, IL): For fatnasy purposes, who would you rather have: Domonic Brown or Michael Taylor?

Tommy Bennett: Michael Taylor, definitely, because his path to the majors is much easier. I think Taylor is going to be at least an average hitter, like, next year.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): OK let me try again. Will Santana be worth more as a Catcher than Montero as a first baseman?

Tommy Bennett: My gut says no, because Santana seems like a more common quantity than Montero, and I'd rather have the lottery ticket.

tommybones (brooklyn): Lets' speculate for a moment. Let's say Jesus Montero doesn't improve enough defensively to remain at catcher, do the Yanks deal him or do they pencil him in as a full time DH and call it a day in 2011?

Tommy Bennett: I think the latter, if he proves himself in Triple-A this year. I really don't think they'll deal him.

Tom (Chicago): You like Justin Masterson or Colby Lewis this season?

Tommy Bennett: Masterson. This goes back to translations, but it's just very odd to me how dominant Colby Lewis was in Japan. He lead the Central League in strikeouts the last two years with basically the same stuff he had when he was pitching (and not especially well) in the U.S. Maybe he's turned it all around, but it seems like the Japanese variable is doing more of the work.

Hammer (Pumps & A Bump): What should be the terms of the Cardinals' opening contract salvo to the agent representing Albert Pujols? Would you front-load/back-load it?

Tommy Bennett: I'd probably try to front-load it, but the best you're going to get is a straight pro rata deal (a la Mauer). He's going to get at least $200 million, but I'd probably start below there because the Cardinals don't have quite that much money.

tommybones (brooklyn): The Twins closer on April 4th will be ______________ .

Tommy Bennett: I think Rauch probably. He's got the helicopter skiing of downhill deliveries, and he's fun to watch.

Sky (The Roc, NY): Any guesses what non-linearities exist in the Japan to MLB transition? How is it same/different than AAA to MLB transition.

Tommy Bennett: I think you're absolutely right that it's not exactly linear, in that you multiply a single factor by a guy's numbers. I think you have to be much more skeptical of the extreme high-end performers, because the slope from very good to great seems to be easier to traverse than it is in, say, the Pacific Coast League. I also think it's more important (as with the Cuban case) to understand why a guy has had success. With pitching, you need to know about the quality of his pitches, and Lewis is not overwhelming.

tommybones (brooklyn): No Heath Bell? After the Mauer signing, I thought we were gonna see a new dawn for the formerly stingy Twins.

Tommy Bennett: Why trade for Bell now? Why not wait until the trade deadline when you know much more about the competitive dynamics of the division?

tommybones (brooklyn): "Why not wait until the trade deadline when you know much more about the competitive dynamics of the division?" Well, maybe because the division is extremely tight from the outset and a few months of blown saves could be the difference between the post and a long winter?

Tommy Bennett: Good answer, but my guess is they called up Jed Hoyer to ask about Heath Bell and didn't like what they heard.

tommybones (brooklyn): Another point about Bell. Let's say you wait until the trade deadline. If the bullpen is holding together, then you don't need to make the deal, but if it's not holding together and the Twins are in a desperate position, then wouldn't the Pads have them over a barrel?

Tommy Bennett: Only if you think Bell is the only available and acceptable alternative. Put it this way: what's the difference, in wins, between Rauch and Bell? Not more than one or two. What if they could pick up a third baseman instead? I think that might be just as good if not better than getting another closer.

Sky (The Roc, NY): So if the qualities of Colby Lewis' pitches are nothing special, what's made him able to dominate hitters in Japan? Presumably that's a skill hitters aren't used to seeing over there, but isn't special in MLB. Identifying those specific factors could be valuable to both MLB teams and Japanese teams. Heck, maybe Matsuzaka's struggled with the same thing -- he can throw many decent pitches but without any one that's great.

Tommy Bennett: One way to look at it is by analogy to pinpoint control guys who struggle when they hit the majors. Lewis had a (filthy) 369/49 K/BB ratio in two season in Japan. He walked 19 guys last year. That just isn't realistic in the major leagues, because if you left that many low-90s fastballs in the zone, American League hitters would eat your lunch. *Unless you're Greg Maddux, and he isn't.

John (NU): How many of the people in this chat are your friends? Who is tommy bones?

Tommy Bennett: Not many yet, or least if they are friends of mine they're using aliases. But you can all be my friends!

Aaron (YYZ): What are your expectations of Ervin Santana this year? 2008, 2009, or grievious injury?

Tommy Bennett: Is it a cop out to say somewhere in the middle? That's usually the right answer, at least when it comes to expectations. Low 4s ERA seems right to me.

Cpt. Clarence Oveur (Do you like movies about gladiators?): Will the Brewers lock up Prince Fielder to a long-term extension? Should they? "Old player skills" or not, I think the guy can destroy NL Central pitching for another good 5-6 years...

Tommy Bennett: I'd be worried about his body type more than his skills, since the typical formulation of old player skills requires a low batting average. The answer ALWAYS depends on the price. If the price is right, go nuts. If not, I'd pass. That's another cop out, isn't it? If they could get something along the lines of Ryan Howard's deal (3/$54), it'd be a great deal.

Cpt. Clarence Oveur (Do you like movies about gladiators?): Will the Brewers lock up Prince Fielder to a long-term extension? Should they? "Old player skills" or not, I think the guy can destroy NL Central pitching for another good 5-6 years...

Tommy Bennett: I'd be worried about his body type more than his skills, since the typical formulation of old player skills requires a low batting average. The answer ALWAYS depends on the price. If the price is right, go nuts. If not, I'd pass. That's another cop out, isn't it? If they could get something along the lines of Ryan Howard's deal (3/$54), it'd be a great deal.

The real question is whether Fielder has ever seen the inside of a Turkish prison.

Victor (Borge): What triple slash could Bonds put up this year if a ML team signed him today?

Tommy Bennett: um... .200/.320/.410

andrew (Toronto): With Jacob Turner turning heads in Detroit, any idea what's happening with fellow 2009 draftee Tyler Matzek?

Tommy Bennett: Tools whore Kevin Goldstein loves Matzek, but there is a really big gap between what he's done and where he could end up. I don't know how Turner is doing what he's doing--he just looks SO young on the mound. Most high school arms don't come along that fast, and I wouldn't expect Matzek to.

ziti (sarasota): I thought it was weak that in the latest SI article about Kendry Morales they quoted Baseball Prospectus as saying something along the lines that Morales will only be a bench player. I don't have the magizine in front of me so I don't know who wrote it but in last years edition of BP it clearly stated Morales will be a good sleeper. When something like this happens do you guys shoot off an email to the writer and straighten him out? Maybe I was reading too much into it.

Tommy Bennett: I think it was an older quote, which is a different sort of thing ("the breakout was unexpected"). The work that Nate and Christina did on Cuban translations suggested caution about Morales, which turned out to be warranted for quite some time. That he broke out last year is a testament to his pure skills and dedication, I think, rather than his projection at the time he signed.

raygu1 (Burlington, NJ): NL-only Keeper league. I have been offered at $19 Ryan Zimmerman and an $8 Chase Headley for a $23 Tim Lincecum. I have Nolasco and Billingsley on my list of keeps. Do I make that deal?

Tommy Bennett: You have a $23 Lincecum in an NL-only league? Keep him.

Tex Premium Lager (NJ): In a world where the Rule 4 draft doesn't exist, what would you have offered Strasburg on the open market?

Tommy Bennett: Oh, good question. Assuming I had the money, I'd go with five years, $50 million. But I'd have to bite down hard before doing it.

Matt (Chicago): Reasonable comeback for A. Soriano or do injuries and a declining skill set continue to erode his game?

Tommy Bennett: He's not going to be as bad as he was last year, and some people will say that's a comeback. But he won't be good, he won't walk enough, and he won't hit for the kind of average he once did. I'm not optimistic.

jlarsen (Chicago): I know there's just a limited amount of players who have gone to "Swing Doctor" Jamie Cevallos, it seems that he knows what he's doing and should be given a consultant job for some team(possibly for the Rays). Is it just a matter of time or are the Reds/Rays waiting to see if the results continue with Sutton, Ruggiano, Ashley and Zobrist?

Tommy Bennett: I'm surprised he hasn't been hired in some capacity by a team. He might simply prefer to work independently, because of personality or whatever.

Slightly relatedly, it's very hard to separate the causes for coaches like this. It's true the sample is still pretty small, but even when we have bigger samples (say like we did with Leo Mazzone or Dave Duncan), it remains hard to identify exactly the coach's contribution.

tommybones (brooklyn): Good point in regard to the Twins 3B needs. On that note, doesn't it make sense for the Twins to take Lowell off the Sox hands for a McDonald's Happy Meal?

Tommy Bennett: Mm...old Happy Meal. And yes.

Tommy Bennett: Okay, thanks for the good chat everyone. See you next time, and in the meantime you can ask lingering questions on Twitter.


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