Tuesday, April 05, 2005

PRD interviews Baseball America's Kevin Goldstein

Padres RunDown: Only Josh Barfield (#1) made Baseball America's top 100 list. How close were Freddy Guzman (#2) & George Kottaras (#3)?

Kevin Goldstein: I think they both would have made the top 150 if we went that deep, and I think Chick and Stauffer would have had a chance to make that group too.

PRD: Have people stopped saying that Barfield will eventually have to move to the OF? Or, looking at it another way, if we had another second baseman, does Barfield have the wheels to play CF or the bat to play a corner?

KG: He has the potential for enough bat to play a corner -- but he has nowhere near the speed or athleticism to play center. That said, he really improved last year defensively to the point where the Padres are convinced he can stay at second, and become adequate there.

PRD: Speaking of Josh's bat, was '03 a fluke year, or was Barfield's '04 numerical decent more a function of moving to pitching-favorable league (and out of a hitter-favorable one) and minor nagging injuries?

KG: I think there were a lot of factors and you smartly just named two of the bigger ones. I do think there are some positives to find in his '04 season as well. He went to a much tougher league for HRs and hit a career high 18, and continued to be just unconscious in the clutch. He did get frustrated at times during the year and pressed and got pull happy, but all the raw skills are still there. I think he'll have a big year now that he's finally healthy.

PRD: One last Barfield question, not a second baseman, but when I see Barfield, I think of former-Padre Jay Payton. Not the shell of Jay that was often injured, but the star he was supposed to become. Am I onto something or on something?

KG: …A little of both maybe. Barfield is bigger physically, and has more natural power (and also strikes out much more). Payton was/is more athletic and made/makes much more consistent contact.

PRD: I know you're a big Freddy Guzman fan, are you at all put-off by his poor showing in San Diego last summer? Should Padre fans still be high on him?

KG: I think so. He was overmatched in the majors during his first go around. His biggest weakness is trying to do too much at times offensively instead of just trying to get on base to use his speed. When he [tries to do too much], he really expands his strike zone, and that's what happened. He has special speed and when he's playing within himself, he knows how to take a walk -- and that's more rare than one might think.

PRD: Speaking of Guzman, Juan Pierre?

KG: I'm just not a big comp fan, but it a perfect world -- if everything works out. Yes. But Pierre has just such fantastic baseball instincts; it's hard to compare them.

PRD: I can appreciate that, but lacking a scouting background, its often the easiest way for me to think about them…

In an organization that rates as poorly as San Diego's, your comment about Towers' heist of Travis Chick (#4) from Florida suggest he could be better than our #4. Talk about Chick; what should Padres fan expect from him?

KG: He could be better than four -- but we just don't have a long track record for him. He started the year coming out of the pen for Greensboro, so all we really have is one half of a season where he was legitimately lights-out. I wouldn't be surprised to see him at 1 or 2 next year, but we gotta play it safe a little because it was so out of nowhere.

PRD: I'm surprised that a Triple-A pitcher and Futures Game participant would be rated as lowly as Tim Stauffer was (#5). Has his stuff fallen off? I know he's not pitching at 90+ but he didn't look overmatched in the Futures Game and he's getting it done at every level.

KG: A common question. I just have yet to talk to a scout who really likes the guy as more than a grinder/innings-eater. His stuff is not what it was at Richmond. He has great makeup, excellent command and knows how to pitch and that should take him pretty far. You say he's getting in done at every level, and I say he gave up a hit per innings while striking about six per nine innings. When I'm ranking pitchers, I want to see dominance.

PRD: That’s a fair critique. Changing gears… I admitted earlier that San Diego doesn't have the best Minor League system. How did Christopher Kolkhorst miss the top 30?

KG: Well, first of all, we don't do these rankings in a vacuum. I talked to probably eight people with the Padres and another eight or so outside the organization when doing this, and the Gritman just didn't get a lot of support. It's very easy to see his OBP and get excited. That's a mistake. He does have wonderful plate discipline -- no doubt about it. But he's small, has no single plus tool, and is relegated to a corner. There's just no projection there at all. And I love the guy -- he has as much heart as anyone around, but just not enough tools. In 2003, the Rangers took a gutsy, gritty Rice outfielder named Dane Bubela. In his debut, he hit .323/.436/.498 and we got all sorts of email about not putting him in the Rangers top 30 (or even the top 10!). We said we didn't think he'd hit at the upper levels. Last year Bubela hit .251 in A-ball and hung them up. Kolkhorst is a better player than Dane Bubela, but I don't think he deserved to be in their top 30. I guess I'd ask you whom I should take out?

PRD: Um, well… uh… we could go with… no… how about… Next subject: Jared Wells (#15) is one of the harder throwers in the organization. How realistic is it to hope that he'll learn how to pitch? Or do we have another Dennis Tankersley (all raw talent no refined skill) on our hands?

KG: There's certainly hope. He's still raw, and has only 40 pro starts under his belt. And in a system with very few power arms, he's going to get every chance he needs. He's frustrating because his numbers just don't match his stuff. The Padres think there's a good chance that things could just 'click' for him and he'll take off.

PRD: You and I have previously talked about Grady Fuson. How much will he help the Padres (and in what capacity)? And should Chief Gayton be looking over his shoulder?

KG: don't think Chief should worry too much about Fuson, and I'm sure he'll embrace the assistance from one of the best scouting minds around. San Diego was a perfect fit for Fuson and he'll be able to just be a consultant really -- working with the scouting department leading up to the June draft and with the Player Development folks afterwards to assess the minor league system. I think it's a holding spot for him until he gets a (I think well-deserved) shot at a GM job somewhere.

PRD: Matt Bush (#5) now seems to be flying under the radar. You and I talked around draft time last year that he was a deserving top 10 pick, but not worthy of being #1 overall. With that said, is his prospect status hurt by prejudice that the Padres picked poorly? He still seems to have a ton of tools. You know me, I'm more of a stat-guy that a scout every day of the week and twice on Sundays. But I can't help but think of Orlando Cabrera (forgive me for another comp).

KG: Well first off, you can't judge/rank/assess minor league talent solely on stats - if you do that, you'll get burned every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

PRD: Touché!

KG: You really need to balance scouting and performance. Everyone has their own scale for how they balance them, but you can't just ignore one or the other. That said, when we rank prospects, we rank them based solely on what we think their ceiling is, combined with what we think their chance of reaching that ceiling is. So his being over-drafted played no role whatsoever in his ranking. I also think it's far too early to pop a comp on him. I think he has a chance to be a special defensive player who hits 6th or 7th in the lineup.

PRD: Sean Thompson doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar.

KG: He isn't? We've ranked him in our Padres top 10 for two years running.

PRD: True enough, but you don’t hear anyone talking about him when they discuss prospects. You indicated in your top-30 report on him that he doesn't have Major League velocity (86-89mph) and that he is prone to bouts of wildness. His walk rate is a dangerous 4.25/9 IP but his K rate is an impressive 10.24/9 IP. Do we have another Yusmeiro Petit on our hands?

KG: No you don't. You have a lefty with a great breaking ball. And now we're back to the scouting vs. stats argument.

PRD: Which is exactly why we bring a guy like you to come in. Any stathead with a slide-ruler can notice Thompson’s low-level dominance. We need scouts to tell us if it is for real.

KG: The first think I look at with a minor league pitcher is IP, BB, K. If the numbers are impressive, my next question is scouting based: "Ok, those numbers are good, how is he doing it?" Lefties with very good breaking balls (which Thompson's undoubtedly is) can pile up pretty hefty K rates in the low minors and even in AA/AAA. But it's hard to get by as a starter in the majors without at least an average fastball unless you are pretty special control/location/speed change wise.

PRD: Brad Baker (#9) has come a long way since his move to the pen. How close is he to San Diego? He is oft compared to Trevor Hoffman because of his home organization and his change-up. Is that a valid comparison? Does he have Trevor's upside?

KG: I think he's very close to pitching at the big league level, but if he had Trevor Hoffman's upside, he'd rank WAY higher. I think he's a setup guy. His changeup is fantastic, but the rest of his repertoire is not in Hoffman's league.

PRD: Paul McAnulty (#10) = Dan Johnson?

KG: The comp I used (maybe I like comps better than I think) in the book was Matt Stairs -- I'll stick with that.

PRD: It seems forever ago that Towers traded for Ben Johnson (#16). He has since fallen off most people radars, until this spring. Every time I hear about Ben I think about Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi. What are your thoughts?

KG: I think those are two guys who have both been all-stars, so that's awfully optimistic. That said, he took a major step forward, but will need to prove it's for real this year at Triple-A.

PRD: Fair enough, I guess I was thinking “Poor man’s Raul or Brian” I should have made that clearer…

Kevin, I was looking through the lower levels of the top 30 for a particular type of pitcher (a young one, frankly) who might have a chance of blossoming. Depressingly, I only came up with one name belonging to someone less than 20 years old, Fabian Jiminez (#19). Tell us about Fabian.

KG: Well, obviously, he's WAY under the radar. Looking purely at the numbers, one would see the 6.95 ERA in the AZL and write him off, but he was just 17 and adjusting to being in the states. When he was pitching in '03 in Venezuela, he caught more than one team's eye, and has already been asked about in trade talks. He's still VERY young, and he's all projection, but he's tall, long and already throws in the low 90s and generates a good amount of tilt on his breaking ball.

PRD: Any other young pitchers we should keep our eyes on (my readers specifically brought up David O’Hagan & Ben Krosschall)?

KG: Krosschell is an astute guess -- and the name I'd pick. He’s very raw, but already in the low 90s and plenty of room for projection. 2004 8th round pick Vern Sterry has good command and an excellent change and would be a safer pick if you're looking for the more polished type.

PRD: Again Kevin, thanks so much for taking the time to do this!

KG: Anytime.


Kevin has long been a great help to me as I have attempted to cover the Padres organization. Thanks again, Kev!