As part of his promotion for the Baseball Prospectus 2012, the annual book featuring essays on every team as well as blurbs and PECOTA projections for over 1600 players, Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein offered to do an interview with us. We talked a little about PECOTA's projections, and a lot about the Brewers minor league talent. What follows is part one of the transcript. A huge thank you to Kevin Goldstein for taking the time to do an interview with us. You can find the Baseball Prospectus 2012 for sale right here. Check it out--I've got a copy and it is pretty awesome.
Noah: I’d like to start out and ask you about Mat Gamel, who is of course being given an opportunity to start for the first time. In the Baseball Prospectus book, PECOTA has him projected for a .254/.320/.433 line. Do you think there is a good chance that he outperforms that projection?
Kevin Goldstein: I think so. But I don’t think he has a good chance at exceeding it by much, if that makes sense. You have to remember that this is still, he’s not technically a rookie obviously, but he’s still a young and improving player. And few young and improving players who are rookies have big years. It’s actually really quite rare. So I think he should be a little better than that. Mat Gamel is going to start for them and be given a chance this year and I think he’ll be a second division starting first baseman.
NJ: Taylor Green and Mat Gamel have very similar PECOTA projections. Do you think they would end up with similar lines if both were starting?
KG: Not necessarily. I think they could get to where they get in a different way if that makes sense. The end result might be the same, but how they get there is a little bit different. Obviously Green offers a little more positional flexibility, of course. A first baseman who hits the exact same as a guy who can play second or third is far less valuable. That’s why Green could end up being more valuable than Gamel.
NJ: Obviously the Brewers farm system has been ranked very low the past few years. Last year, you had Mark Rogers, Cody Scarpetta, and Kyle Heckathorn as your top three Brewers prospects. This year, you’re top three are Wily Peralta, Jed Bradley, and Taylor Jungmann. In fact, the only person from your top three last year that is still in the top ten is Scarpetta. Is this indicative of a large improvement in the Brewers system or is it just new players taking over the place of old players that have gotten worse?
KG: To be fair, it’s both. Last year it was obviously a pretty horrible system, but it was for the right reasons. It’s not like they were a horrible system because they didn’t bring in any talent. They were a horrible system because they called up a lot of guys. They were a horrible system because they traded a truckload of guys for Zack Greinke. They were a horrible system when they traded even more for Shaun Marcum. So there was just nothing left. It wasn’t necessarily an indictment of the Brewers. But there was simply no way to go but up. Last year you were kind of grasping at straws. I think anyone be realistic about it knew that there was a chance that Mark Rogers would turn it all around and of course, because he’s Mark Rogers, there was a good chance he was going to get hurt again. And now, of course, you get two guys who weren’t in the system last year, who they drafted. You got the two first round picks, a few pretty good arms, so that changes things. Scarpetta was kind of a guy who was getting mixed reviews. Not necessarily because he got worse, but because he didn’t get better. You expect your prospects to make consistent improvements and he kind of stagnated a bit. So that hurt him, along with other players getting better. But they kind of started in a spot last year where [the Brewers system] was pretty flat. So it has gotten better. It’s not way better, but it’s a little better.
NJ: Last year, you had Kyle Heckathorn in your top three Brewers prospects, as I metioned before. This year, he’s not even in your top 20. How are you feeling about him right now?
KG: (Laughs) Well, obviously not very good. He almost made the 20, he was kind of one of the last cuts. It’s really interesting you asked me this question because I almost forgot that I put him that high. It makes me wonder what I was hearing then. At that time, he was one of those guys where we don’t really have enough information to know they can’t do, though you can see what they can do. He had a bad year, and scouting reports weren’t good and there are a lot of guys you like better. A guy really can just kind of disappear.
NJ: Do you prefer one of the Brewers two 2011 first round picks, Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradly, over the other?
KG: That’s a fun thing to think about. I’ve thought about those two guys a lot because they are kind of different. Taylor Jungmann is the more likely player to just flat out get to the big leagues. Taylor Jungmann will, even if they develop as expected, get to the big leagues first. So that’s a reason to favor Jungmann. I think that Jungmann just gets promoted first, he’ll get to the big leagues first. But at the same time, Bradley can be the better pitcher in the end. Bradley has the higher ceiling, though he comes with more risk. Bradley has a much higher potential payoff. There were plenty of weekends last year where Bradley was not the best pitcher on that team, where he got outpitched by Mark Pope, while Jungmann was always the best pitcher on his team. Bradley has this really big body and really good stuff, he’s just inconsistent with it. Jungmann has stuff that’s not as good as Bradley, but he really knows how to pitch.
NJ: The Brewers might possibly have three starting pitchers leaving after the 2012 season. Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum are slated to become free agents, while the Brewers hold a team option on Randy Wolf. Do you think the Brewers will try to fast track one or both of Bradley and Jungmann?
KG: I don’t think they are going to fast track anyone. I don’t know if anyone fast tracks anyone—players fast track themselves. You let players kind of dictate their own time table. Just get them pitching well and if they get a few AA innings this year, it’s because they earned that. Neither one will probably be ready next year. You don’t necessarily want to force a square peg into a round hole. I don’t think [the Brewers] will lose all three. If they keep one of those guys, then Peralta’s going to be ready, and they’ll have just one hole to fill in the rotation.
Part 2 will be up Friday. Thanks again to Kevin Goldstein for taking the time to do this interview.