Kevin has the seamless ability to blend scouting reports, statistics and humor into an interesting and informative read. No true baseball fan should enter the season without reading Kevin’s musings.
As we have done in the past, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Kevin to register a behind the scenes look at what went into his analysis on the San Diego Padres prospects.
I haven’t had the chance yet to read your write-ups, but what made you rate Adys Portillo so high and where do you see him in the San Diego system in 2009?
Kevin Goldstein: I think next year you aren’t gong to see him in the box scores except maybe in the Arizona League for a few innings. He’s kind of the definition of a kid; he was born in 1991, which really makes me feel very old. His ranking is a reflection of two things; one it says as much about his talent as it does for what is in the system.
I spent a lot of time following the Michel Inoa story [the 16-year-old pitcher signed by the Oakland A’s for $4.25 million]. A lot of people talked about him being the second best arm in the Dominican, and in a year without Inoa, he would be considered the best arm there. He was a pitcher a lot of teams wanted very much. He has the projection you look for and was much better than the usual arm you would find for that age in the market. He made my top 100 as well, although around the bottom of the list. He was a really nice talent and the ceiling is through the roof, but the key is you really have to exercise patience. He’s not going to be in San Diego in a few years. The Padres need to get him used to being a professional, on an exercise regimen and schedule and to learn what it takes to be a professional player.
The biggest shock to most followers of the Padres’ system was the drop off of Matt Antonelli this year. What has your research found was the reasons behind it?
Kevin Goldstein: I just finished doing the Cardinals list with Colby Rasmus, who was the number one prospect but had a disappointing season. There were so many opinions on why he struggled and it just never stopped. In reality, no one really knows, but the talent is still there. With Antonelli, I don’t think anyone has a great reason why he had a tough time, but he still has a chance to become a pretty good player. One scout told me he thought that Antonelli had a different swing and stance than the year before. He saw a guy with a different swing and was tinkering too much.
Another player that you rated high is James Darnell, who signed late with the organization. He put up some numbers in Eugene in a short time do you see him being able to stay at third base?
Kevin Goldstein: I think it’s 50-50, but I really believe in his bat, as do most of the scouts I’ve spoken with who have seen him in college and in the Northwest League. When he was at South Carolina everyone got to look at him and the bat is something that everyone liked. There was an outside chance he could have gone higher in the draft, I thought he would. He could end up in the outfield, but his bat will still play there with its combination of average and power.
Both of us rated Jeremy McBryde fairly high, a guy who had some unusual stats – allowed quite a few hits, but had some unreal ratios, K/BB and K/IP. What did you like about him?
Kevin Goldstein: Two things starting off, one the Padres in general do not have a whole lot of live arms, and Jeremy has a live arm. It’s a really hard thing to find both velocity and command, and he has it. It’s one of the reasons that I rated (Mat) Latos so high; he can command his fastball with velocity. In a system like this, McBryde stands out. I know it sounds strange, but he sometimes be guilty of throwing too many strikes, but that can be taken care of with more experience and coaching, especially as he finds more confidence in his secondary pitches.
Kellen Kulbacki has put up some amazing numbers; he’s also had some bad months because of long layoffs and leg injuries. What type of numbers do you think he will put up in Double-A next year and if he succeeds do you see him starting in the outfield for San Diego in 2010?
Kevin Goldstein: It’s an outside possibility, but the odds are stacked against him doing it. I think he will put up some big numbers in Double-A, and every single scout that I have spoken with believes in his bat. He is not some sort of tools maven, he’s not even a big guy, but he can hit. He got very high grades for what he did with the bat, and he’s in my top 100 prospects. He really could hit .300 with 25 bombs in the majors some day.
For an organization that has drafted heavily in college players, how do you explain that seven out of your Top 11 are either high school players, draft-and-follows or Latin American signings?
Kevin Goldstein: It’s my theory that no one should draft all college players and fewer teams still do. In general, unless you are talking about elite college players, many have a lot of polish but they also have a tools weakness, which limits their ceiling. I use the Blue Jays as an example, a team that used to just draft college guys, where you end up with a lot of players like Aaron Hill and Russ Adams. They are fundamentally sound but are they going to make a huge difference? No.
The Padres do go college heavy but this year you are beginning to see a new era with them. In Latin America, they spent some money on players that are young and with high ceilings. College players are like savings bonds, pretty secure investment, but you are not going to be able to go out and buy the Mercedes with that investment either. Latin American and high school players are like Tech stocks. Often you lose, but when you hit, it’s really sweet.
Nearly two-thirds of all teams in baseball could be categorized as small to medium market teams, including the Padres. Most are considered to have better farm systems than San Diego. What are some of the mistakes that the Padres have made over the past five years that you can see?
Kevin Goldstein: Bad drafts. I think they have gotten better, but the ones in 2003 and 2004 were pretty bad. Bad drafts happen to everyone, but when you start to string a couple together that is how you end up where you are. I think they have yet to really hit a home run, although they have gotten better since 2005.
I’ll throw one in your wheelhouse. In 200,7 San Diego was one of 26 other teams that passed on taking prep pitcher Rick Porcello because of a price tag that was believed to be $7 million dollar bonus and a MLB contract. Wouldn’t you argue that a mid to small market team has to take those types of gambles in the draft in order to compete?
Kevin Goldstein: Yes, especially if they are not picking at the top. If you are going to claim small market and that you can’t play with the big boys in the free agent market then you need to develop your own superstars. If you are not going to get them in Latin America then you need to pay over slot in the draft and more and more teams are doing this regardless of what the MLB tells them. There are a lot of factors, it’s a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that much money, especially when you look at a major league payroll. A million dollars is not that much money because you are going to be paying that for your fifth relief pitcher. Even the so called “Moneyball” A’s gave quite a few dollars to many guys in this year’s draft.
In a similar situation the year before, the Padres drafted Grant Green in the 14th-round but supposedly balked at giving him first-round money, which was thought to be $1.4 million. Now I’m aware that hindsight is always 20-20, but this was one of the top shortstop prospects coming out of high school is this the type of player that San Diego has to be more aggressive on in the future?
Kevin Goldstein: Well hindsight is 20-20 and it’s a real interesting line that you have to cross, but three years ago you would have been hard pressed to find anyone that would have given him that kind of money. Obviously, he is worth more than that now, but I don’t think anyone foresaw him becoming the player that he is now. As I said, it’s a tech stock, everyone has that guy that they wished they had paid. Boston just missed on Mark Teixeira and Pedro Alveraz. At the time were they worth it? It’s really hard to say.
When looking at the total market that the Padres spent on the draft and in Latin America this year they were among the leaders. I know everything depends on which player you are talking about and for how much money, but in general what is the better gamble for the team; to overpay for high school talent or in the foreign market?
Kevin Goldstein: That is a good question and I don’t have a good answer because it changes so much. In the past, it would have been the foreign market, but there was significant inflation this year simply because of supply and demand. I probably would have said Latin America even twelve months ago, but there are so many teams out there now. Right now, there is a huge inflationary impact on Latin America and we need to see where it lands in the end. Specifically we need to know if it’s a one-year blip or if it will rise again before we can answer that question.
In my opinion, the team has some very intelligent executives in their front office in Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta and Grady Fuson. The minor league system has improved since they generally came on board around 2005. What do they need to do to take the next step?
Kevin Goldstein: The biggest issue I see are players in their system that could be considered impact players. They have a big shortage of those. There are two ways to address this as we have discussed, one is with Latin American players and two by paying over slot for high school talent. They have made significant progress in Latin America, and when talking to them, I don’t see it as being a one-year deal, especially with the investment that the team has in the new Dominican facility. In my opinion, they need to become a little more tools conscious in the draft and not play it as safe in the past drafts. Teams that play it safe in the draft are the ones that are built to win 80 games.
You can read the full text of Kevin’s Top 11 Padres Prospects at Baseball Prospectus.
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