5.10.2005

Future Forty Interview

Steve Shelby published on April 21 at his website his Future Forty list of Giants prospects. He was kind enough to allow me to interview him last week about his list and his methodology of putting it together. Following is the interview:

-------------------Start of Interview-------------------
BGF: Thanks for agreeing to discuss your Future Forties list with me and to go over your thought process in making this list. First off, great list, any general thoughts you want to start out with?

SS: Nothing in particular. I would add the normal caveat about taking rankings too literally. I mainly mean my ranking as a way to help fans follow the trends in the Giants' farm system over the course of the season. I view this first list (dated April 21st) as a belated pre-season list where I try to synthesize information gathered from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and the John Sickels Prospect Book. I also want to take into account to what full-season affiliate the prospect was assigned.

BGF: The first thing that caught my eye was why EME over Lewis? What effect, if any, is there from EME's lack of a defensive position? Do you think he will ever be a Giant?

SS: When I was making my top five and top ten, I wondered what was the point if I just copied the BA list. I find myself skeptical about Lewis, so that skepticism and EME's hot start were enough for me to edge him above Lewis. I really respect BA's John Manuel, but I don't find myself quite convinced by his enthusiasm for how he believes Lewis projects to become an everyday centerfielder.

BGF: Yes, EME's hot start has been a real eye-opener. I thought he was suppose to be recovering from surgery but he started hitting, and for power, from the get-go. I was also wondering what in particular in Whitaker's and Bowker's stats caused you to rank them so high off of their low level, short season results?

SS: I am not sure that I rank them so highly, at least in comparison to others. I was surprised Whitaker was only #8 on the BA list, but I can understand that given that John Manuel places a lot of emphasis on fastball command. John Sickels ranked John Bowker at #10, and I have him a bit lower than that. So far, his XBH/H and BB/AB stats have possibly been a bit below what I would like to see from a power prospect. We often talk about a hitter's age, and I would point out that Bowker is less than three months older than Travis Ishikawa.

BGF: I guess what I meant to say was what do you need to see to rank someone with limited professional experience as a top 20 prospect.

SS: I am not too hesitant to rank a 1st, 2nd or 3rd round draft pick among the Giants top 20 prospects. High draft picks have impact potential. I may be more hesitant to rank them among the top five, though, until they have more of a professional track record.

BGF: Keeping in the theme of seeing the good beyond the stats, why is Alfredo Simon ranked so high after doing poorly in the Giants farm system so far, including this year?

SS: Quite honestly, I am not sure what to make of Alfredo Simon. His stats just do not seem to match up to the scouting reports. The Giants reportedly overhauled his off-speed pitches, and the adjustments he is currently making may make him more hittable in the short-run. He has definitely allowed a lot of baserunners since joining the Giants organization. A pitcher with a smooth delivery of a 90-95 mph fastball has potential. Will Simon allow fewer baserunners as the season progresses?

BGF: The Giants have been trying to add off-speed pitches to Aardsma's and Valdez's repertoire as well. Where do you think Aardsma's and Valdez's eventual regular position will be, starter or reliever?

SS: Based upon what I have read, I feel pretty confident that Aardsma will be a reliever. I think the chances are good that Valdez will also end up as a reliever. I hope the changeup develops enough for him to remain a starter, but I am not optimistic.

BGF: I think that's what's going to happen too, especially since we have a large number of prospects who are starting pitchers, some will get moved into relief. Gratuitous Travis Ishikawa question: what are some positives about him and what do you think he needs to do in order to make it to the majors?

SS: The main positives are his youth and left-handed power potential. He also is a good defensive player. I like his patience at the plate, but he has been patient to a fault. Reportedly, he began to turn his season around last year as he became more aggressive, looking to drive more pitches. When I saw him several times in 2003, pitch recognition was a problem, but reportedly that facet of his game is improving. Can he cut down on the strikeouts? Since his promotion to San Jose, he has had more strikeouts than hits. He needs to make contact more often.

BGF: Agreed, after starting the season well he has regressed greatly in terms of striking out, with 28 K's in only 85 AB and versus 11 wallks and 23 hits. But he has 4 homers in those 85 AB, so that's about a 25-30 homer pace for a 21 year old and, like you said, that's why he will get some notice.

In our previous conversations, you've been much more positive on Niekro than I and so far he's delivered as a major leaguer, much more than I would have ever envisioned, and particularly in the homerun department. What about him got you think that he could be a productive major leaguer?

SS: I suspect that the reason I have been more positive about Niekro is because I thought due to his lack of playing time with various injuries that we still did not know very much about him as a hitter. Apparently, I was not as ready as others to write him off as someone who would never develop any power. That said, I was surprised last year by his progress. In his previous three minor league seasons, he had 60 XBH in 841 AB, or about 7%. Last year he had 46 XBH in 302 AB, or about 15%. That is quite an increase.

BGF: Very good points about injuries costing him playing time, I forgot about that. And yes, I was pretty shocked too last season as he had 13 homers in total (in 302 AB) versus a total of only 16 homers in four previous seasons (in 1043 AB). And he has been Bondsian this year in the majors with 4 homers in 46 AB. Plus, despite seemingly being in our system for a long time, he is still only 26 years old for this season. Good lesson to learn and remember about player development, thanks. Lastly, which Giants prospects do you think are most likely to contribute most significantly to the Giants over the next five seasons?

SS: That's hard to say. I really like Matt Cain. I don't feel nearly as confident about anyone else after that. I feel optimistic about EME, but I am fairly restrained with my enthusiasm until we see how he handles the upper minors. Even before his nice start last Sunday, I would have said that I liked Brad Hennessey, although I am not sure he will be an impact pitcher. On a five-year time horizon, Marcus Sanders might have a couple productive years in the major leagues by then. Scott Munter as a 47th round draft pick would be a great story. I really want to like Dan Ortmeier. Up until a week ago, his very slow start was making that tough to say.

I also like Brian Buscher more than most, but he is also off to a slow start. I don't think he is an impact player, but he could be a solid everyday major leaguer. His power started coming around at the end of last year, and the question now is whether he can continue that trend. Unfortunately, the bats of Fred Lewis, Dan Ortmeier and Brian Buscher are off to slow starts in Norwich, so maybe we should cast our gaze to the pitchers there. Erick Threets and Jeremy Accardo have pitched rather well so far, and Accardo even earned himself a major league callup. All that said, I think one of the fun things about following the minor leagues is that you find a lot of surprises each season. A year from now, I will probably feel very differently about the identities of the prospects most likely to contribute most significantly over the next four seasons

BGF: Yes, surprises are the spice of life and baseball prospects! And unfortunately, top prospects dying on the vine regularly is part of that, unfortunately. Thanks for the great discussion and keep up the good work with your website, it is a great resource for Giants fans!

Take care and Go Giants!

2 Comments:

Blogger Butta said...

Great interview, really appreciate this website

Wed May 11, 10:33:00 AM PDT  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Thank you for your compliment, I appreciate it. Take care and I hope you have a nice day.

Wed May 11, 10:58:00 AM PDT  

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