Interview with Kevin Goldstein

After seeing the lengthy discussion on this diary and the fanboy fawning of this post, Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus graciously offered to answer any additional questions about San Francisco prospects. I e-mailed some of the prospect mavens here for help with the questions, and Steve S. and Brute Sentiment contributed some great questions. Thanks to everyone for their help, and thanks to Kevin for taking time out of his hectic schedule to do this.

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McCovey Chronicles:When ranking prospects, how do you balance the five-tool, high-ceiling types with the one- or two-tool types who are already close to impacting a major-league roster at something less than an All-Star level?

Kevin Goldstein: That's kind of the secret sauce in many ways. Ranking prospect combines two things - predicting a player's ultimate ceiling and crossing that with a players chances of actually reaching that ceiling. It's really different for every guy and you have to develop a feel for it really. That said, scouting a player development is really not in any way about creating replacement-level players. Those types of talents are still pretty affordable on the open market. It's about finding impact talent that can make that impact on the big league level before being arbitration/free agent eligible.

McC: I kind of skimmed that answer looking for Kevin Frandsen's name. Even if his ceiling is somewhere between Ron Belliard and Mike Lansing, wouldn't that still be a valuable player to have for the MLB minimum? How close was he to the list?

KG: He was as close as one could get. If I Spinal Tapped the list and went to 11, Frandsen would be there.  He's a nice lilttle hitter, and his makeup is off the charts, but at the same time, he really has no secondary skills at all, so he needs to hit .300 to be an everyday player, and I don't see it. I think he'll have a career as a bench player/occasional starter - which goes back to my last answer.

McC: Was Billy Sadler's AFL performance what put him above Brian Wilson?

KG: Well, It certainly helped, but it's not the sole reason. I really like his stuff, because when I talk to scouts, they tend to really like his stuff. I just see him becoming a late-inning reliever more than I see Wilson there.

McC: The Sharlon Schoop ranking was probably the most surprising to me. Was it personal observation or a particular opinion among those you talked to that put him so high?

KG: Personal observation is difficult - I'm really not capable of seeing everyone, obviously. For the most part I'm trying to talk to scouts and people within the game nearly every day. One person saw Schoop in the AFL and another saw him in instructs and both walked away very impressed.

McC: How much emphasis do you put on a prospect repeating a level?

KG: Usually quite a bit - that's USUALLY a bad thing unless there's some obvious mitigating factor revolving around injury or age.

McC: The "Big Picture"-feature at the end of your list helped make a distinction between lackluster farm systems and farm systems that were hurt because top prospects graduated. If the list were extended to 27-year-olds, where would players like Noah Lowry, Todd Linden, Brad Hennessey, and Kevin Correia rank in the big picture for the Giants?

KG: That is a very good question, and my honest answer is I DON'T KNOW. I haven't done enough research or talking to people about them to accurately ranking them. Interestingly enough, I was personally surprised when I talked to other people about the Giants system and found that there are some people out there who still have hope for Todd Linden.

McC: The success story is Miguel Cabrera; the horror story is Jackson Melian. How does Angel Villalona stack up with other international bonus babies at the same age?

KG Um, right there with both? That's the good and bad news, obviously. It seems pretty clear that Villalona was the best of the international free agents this year, but yes, he's 16, so there's obvious risk involved.  

McC: With Schoop and Emmanuel Burriss, the Giants have some interesting and athletic middle infield prospects. But one year's athletic middle infield prospect can be next year's Marcus Sanders, who had one of the most disappointing seasons in the organization. What kind of season would it take for him to reappear on the top-ten list?

KG: A very big one.  I was personally never THAT high on him in the first place.   If I had did a SF top 10 last year, he would have been on it, but towards the bottom.  It's pretty clear at this point that he can't play on the left side of the infield, so right now he's a guy who can draw walks and run, and that's it.  

McC: What put Fred Lewis over Nate Schierholtz in the rankings?

KG: Versatility and the fact that while he doesn't have any overwhelming strengths in his game, he really has no weaknesses either. We're back to that balance thing. I think Schierholtz has a bit of a better chance at being a star, while Lewis has a much better chance at having a lengthy career - if that makes sense.

McC: I'm fascinated with the non-prospects who put up good numbers; call it Robbie Crabtree Sickness. So is there any room for growth for Brian Horwitz or Adam Cowart? Is there any hope for Horwitz to add some doubles power, or for Cowart to find a few feet on his fastball?

KG: Horwitz is a guy with some nice hitting skills, but he really doesn't have anything close to the power to be a corner outfielder in the big leagues. Cowart had such a great debut, but that's all about command and control, which Cowart has in bunches. He really doesn't have projection, and I wouldn't think of him as one of the top 25 prospects in the system. 82-85 mph fastballs don't get anyone into the big leagues.

McC: What do you know about Nick Pereria? He seemed to be on the Kevin Correia fast track for some reason, but was slapped around in AAA.

KG: He's very much like Cowart, at least in the sense that his success at San Jose was more about outstanding location than anything else. He does has a good slider, but his fastball is below average, which hurts his projection, as is the reason AAA hitters feasted on him. With some adjustments, he could become a reliever.

McC: It has been written in some McCovey Chronicles prospect threads that there really isn't much of a difference between the #4 prospect in the system and #34. How close is that tongue-in-cheek assessment?

KG: It's obviously aggrandizing reality a bit, but there's always some truth in something like that. I think there's more separation at the top, but there's probably six or seven guys you could make a perfectly good argument for being ranked in the 8-10 range, and probably 10-15 guys who I wouldn't put in their top 20, but others would. There's a bell curve from Excellent to Very Good, to Good to Average for sure.

McC: Tim Lincecum: Great prospect, or the greatest prospect? What are the odds he remains a starter?

KG: The fact that the Giants decided to leave him in the minors last year when he could have helped them out of the bullpen tells you they want to keep him as a starter. Great prospect, not the greatest, but when our book comes out, he'll rank VERY high in my Top 100.

Thanks again to Kevin. The stupid questions were the ones I came up with; the good ones were given to me. Keep that in mind.
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