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Chat: Zachary Levine

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday March 26, 2013 1:00 PM ET chat session with Zachary Levine.


Zachary Levine takes your questions as Opening Day approaches.

Zachary Levine: Live from the 518 - home of Tim Stauffer, Casper Wells and Brendan Harris - let's chat. Anything goes, but I'd advise saving your fantasy questions for the fantasy experts and the prospect questions for the prospect experts.

yletuchy (Illinois): Expectations for tommy Hanson....in light of spring struggles

Zachary Levine: I don't have high expectations of Hanson, but it has little to do with this spring. I had low expectations coming into this spring. According to Brooks Baseball's data, his fastball velocity has dropped from 93.5 to 89.2 in three years. That's not a good sign, and the performance has followed that.

Paul (DC): Christian Yelich is having a fabulous Spring Training with the Marlins. For contract reasons we all know he won't make the team come Opening Day. But after Stanton, he's the best position player anywhere in the entire organization, isn't he? Though that might not be saying more about the Marlins than it is about Yelich.

Zachary Levine: Stanton is definitely No. 1, and I guess you could make an argument for Yelich as No. 2 right now. PECOTA says Justin Ruggiano should be a 2+ win player this year, which is a nice development for them. But I wouldn't be stunned if Yelich could come up now and outplay that.

By the way, Placido Polanco is third on that list. So yeah, that says something about the Marlins.

D (New York): With Adam Eaton and Martin Perez injured, can the D-backs and Rangers send them down and place them on a minor league DL (while preventing service time), or because they were injured with the major league teams do they need to remain on the MLB DL?

Zachary Levine: Major League DL, I believe. The example I have from covering the Astros is that when Sergio Escalona got injured in spring training last year and had to have Tommy John surgery, he ended up with a full year of service time and big league pay.

Sweet Lou (Pittsburgh): Is it completely unrealistic to expect a decent season out of Jonathan Sanchez (say +1.5 WAR?), or will Bucco fans be chuckling "remember the Jon Sanchez experiment" by this year's all-star break?

Zachary Levine: I don't want to say COMPLETELY unrealistic because I don't like 0/100% proclamations in baseball. I don't see any signs of it, though. He can't without a big-time decrease in walk rate. I guess his shot is just if the Pirates don't have their prospects ready and none of their AAAA guys are doing much to warrant a call-up, and he compiles and survives his way above 1.0 WAR. I'd still bet against it.

Jeff (Boston): Thanks for the chat! I was wondering how so many scouts can be so high on a player, even if he has great tools, when he is unable to draw walks. One such player who comes to mind is Albert Almora.

Zachary Levine: The rest of the tools just have to be really, really good. Walks are just part of a formula (lowercase f, not an actual formula) of how good a player is going to be. They really help, but I guess you can get around it if you have great other skills.

Paul (DC): NL East, what do you predict the order of finish being come October 1st(ish)?

Zachary Levine: Washington
New York

That odor you smell is the chalk dust.

Fred L (Houston): Thanks for the chat Zach. PECOTA is pretty down on Matt Dominguez for this season. I thought he showed some nice pop in his time with the big club last year to go with the slick fielding. Do you see him developing into at least a league average 3rd sacker or is he just an all-glove fill in?

Zachary Levine: He could be league average for sure. You'd consider the glove in calling him league average, so he can get there with only slightly below average offense.

Eric (Costa Rica): Is there any reason for me to expect that the Rays offense will outperform the production levels from 2012? Follow up, do you shorten your name to Zach, or Zak?

Zachary Levine: I can certainly give you some reasons, starting with the fact that Evan Longoria only played in 74 games last year. Also, they got very poor production at first base anyway, so James Loney can't be much of a downgrade.

If you're shortening the name, it's just Z.

chicksdigthelongball (CT): Co-workers of mine seem to think John Lackey will have a bounceback year and be in consideration for the Cy Young Award. Given that Lackey missed the 2012 season with Tommy Johns, do you see much improvement for Lackey?

Zachary Levine: Whoa... the second part seems a little ambitious. I'll wade in ankle deep on the first part of that, but Cy Young consideration usually comes down to a few guys, and I can't put him above Dickey and Kuroda in the category of old AL East pitchers let alone when you start tossing around the guys in other divisions and in their primes. I'd pick Lester before I'd pick Lackey, but I wouldn't bet on either for a standout year.

Paul (DC): Will this year be the rookie season of the greatest Cuban born player of all time? Is that too high of a mountain to climb? Or only a mountain too high to accurately see over?

Zachary Levine: Out of curiosity, I used the Baseball-Reference Play Index to find the top 5 Cuban-born players by WAR.

1. Rafael Palmeiro 66.1
2. Luis Tiant 61.8
3. Tony Perez 50.1
4. Bert Campaneris 49.2
5. Minnie Minoso 47.5

That seems really ambitious for Gerardo Concepcion.

Unless you meant Puig. Then it's still really ambitious.

KevinBassStache (TX): Two parter, Z. 1) What are the best and worst case scenarios for Astros this year? 2) What's the most you've ever spent on any article of leather clothing?

Zachary Levine: Best case: Beat the Rangers opening night and get a TV deal done that week, then Norris pitches well enough to net a lot in a trade since he's only making $3 million. You hover slightly under .500 for long enough to become a good story, enjoy another good draft, keep Singleton away from the good stuff and finish 70-92.

Worst case: 51-111.

2. $50 on a pair of shoes.

Steve (IL): Has Chris Young done anything positive in A's camp this year? Do you see him being a contributor to that team?

Zachary Levine: He hasn't done much in the Cactus League at .231/.310/.385, but I don't really care about that. He's a really weird fit on the A's, who have Coco Crisp and perhaps Yoenis Cespedes who can play center field. So he's probably not worth as much to them as he might be elsewhere.

I wouldn't be stunned to see a trade from that outfield sometime this season if they develop a need in the rotation or elsewhere.

Paul (DC): Chris Young (the very tall, but doesn't throw so hard one) yesterday opted out of his minor league deal with the Nats in order to search for a "certain" rotation spot at the MLB level. Who will he find this with?

Zachary Levine: That's tough. KC and Milwaukee both made moves that take away a spot. The Mets would come to mind had he not just been there. Twins?

This concludes the Chris Young portion of the game. There are no more Chris Youngs.

Jay (Madison): Expectations for G. Parra this year. More of the same or does he step up?

Zachary Levine: He's been a little too inconsistent already to say more of the same because there really isn't a same. He was a 3-win player in 2011 thanks to some good but unsustainable corner outfield defense, but took a hit on offense and defense last year.

He's had a high BABIP for his career, and his true talent is probably somewhere in the middle, but I still like it better than Cody Ross given the price.

Kyle P (FL): Who has a bigger impact this season, Dan Straily or Trevor Bauer? Do you see Bauer sticking with one team for a few seasons or is he going to be frequently traded as teams get tired of him?

Zachary Levine: I'm still a Bauer fan, so I'll say him in a vacuum, Straily if you want me to factor in the likelihood that their games matter in races. (I think Detroit runs away with the Central.)

As to your second part, I predict he'll stay with Cleveland for a while. They wanted him when the mishegas was already out there in the press and certainly in the internal baseball community, so I believe they knew what they were getting into.

Manny (NY): Tillman, Bedard, or Kazmir for a backend starter in fantasy?

Zachary Levine: I don't know much about how fantasy stats work, but if it's not Chris Tillman, then I don't think I want to play.

Eric (Costa Rica): Z-Man, Which Honkbaler will be more valuable to his team this year, Profar or Simmons?

Zachary Levine: Simmons, just because of opportunity. Profar may eventually be the better big leaguer, but Simmons could get 700 plate appearances or close to it and combine that with really good defense, while we have no idea how many Profar will get.

Jon KK (Elkhart, IN): Z, thanks for the chat. From what players are you expecting nice breakouts in 2013?

Zachary Levine: I picked Salvador Perez in our Lineup Card on breakout players, but this list should give you a pretty good idea of some of the candidates.


I also like Matt Harvey very much unless you count last year as a breakout or think top prospects can't "break out."

Felipe (Bronx): Thanks for the chat. When are the final 25 man rosters due by?

Zachary Levine: Active rosters must be set by Sunday, which is opening day for Texas and Houston and opening day eve for most teams.

Jim (Seattle): It looks like Brandon Maurer is going to win a rotation spot with the Mariners. What are your expectations for him this year and beyond?

Zachary Levine: I've never seen him live, but I'd rather him than Jon Garland given where in the "cycle" that team is right now. I'm not sure his spot will survive when the big horses come charging from the minors with Walker, Paxton et al, but give him a shot this year.

Greg (Atlanta): Can W. Peralta hold on to his rotation spot now that Lohse is signed?

Zachary Levine: So it's either he or Narveson who goes, right? I think ultimately that will be Peralta's spot and by ultimately, I mean this year. If it's not April, it will be soon enough.

Alex (Anaheim): Do you think Oakland is a playoff team?

Zachary Levine: I think they just miss.

swim (dc): What do you consider to be your expertise/ forte and what aspect of baseball are you most excited to delve in to?

Zachary Levine: Answering the last part first, I'd love to get better at understanding the use of technology in baseball. I realize that so much of that is proprietary with HITf/x and FIELDf/x and the various projection systems that teams are using. But if I have a goal for this year to improve as a writer it's to really understand PITCHf/x and talk with teams - even if they're not revealing secrets they glean from the technology - at least about how they're using it.

And I guess my expertise/forte as a writer is quoting the movie Airplane! at opportune times.

Pluto ((WI)): Zach Britton: temporary setback, or permanent bummer? Also, will the O's trade some of that pitching depth?

Zachary Levine: I assume we're talking about the one bad start, so I'd certainly say temporary setback. But I'm not convinced there was all that much there to begin with, so it's not like it's a setback from All-Star.

Also, it's going to be tough to trade the pitching depth because so rarely have they all be at relative peaks at the same time. Maybe when Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy arrive then you start making trades by necessity because you start having guys out of options, but it's hard to trade a Tillman when he's peaking when you don't trust a lot of the other guys yet.

Tito (Bo Sox Nation): Does J.Bradley start with the Red Sox & stick all year seeing regular ab's?

Zachary Levine: Even if Part 1 is true, and I'm on #TeamServiceTime on that one, sticking all year is tough for a guy who's never played Triple-A. The urge is always there if he has a 1-for-15, which every player has, to say he's not ready.

Paul (DC): The Mariners scored 513 runs in 2010, 556 runs in 2011, and 619 runs in 2012. With off season roster turnover (improvement?) and changing the dimensions at Safeco, does Seattle have a chance at cracking 700 runs this year?

Zachary Levine: Yes, they have a chance. League average was 721 and only four teams were below 700 in the AL, but I think there are two more things to add beyond turnover and dimensions.

The smaller factor is adding the Astros to the division. That weakens the competition, at least for this year, and should help both offenses and pitching staffs in the West.

Also, I'd put more of the onus to improve the offense on the current players rather than the newcomers. If they're going to make up 81 runs, or whatever it needs to be after the ballpark and the Astros addition are figured in, I put that just as much on Montero, Smoak and Ackley than I do on Morales and Morse.

Todd (Dallas): Do you see Gerardo Parra having a breakout year now that we know he will finally be playing everyday because of the injuries?

Zachary Levine: I am not at all convinced he will be playing every day once Adam Eaton gets healthy.

Eric (Costa Rica): What is your favorite Trevor Bauer rap song to date, and what should his next album be called?

Zachary Levine: The next one should be called "Jesus Walks (5 batters per 9)"

Heinrich (San Diego): If you had to predict Nolan Arenado's fantasy value next year, whose would it be comparable to?

Zachary Levine: Oh man, you'd really have to know how much he's going to be up. He could get service timed or could just be deemed unready. It sounds from what I've been reading that he won't start the season in the majors, so would his comps be Olt and A-Rod in that regard?

Next year should be much easier to predict with him.

Sean (New Jersey): What exactly is Starling Marte? He could be anywhere from Stubbs to Fowler to Ellsbury, IMO. Thoughts? Thanks for taking my question!

Zachary Levine: I don't expect he'll strike out as much as Stubbs. Fowler is a really interesting one. My first thought was speed won't be much a part of his game, but Fowler's speed stats seem really Coors-driven with the triples but lack of steals in a good hitting park. Put them in the same environment and I guess you could see some similar things.

Jim (Seattle): Zachary, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

Zachary Levine: Do you like movies about gladiators?

Derek (Kansas City): Thanks for the chat! Could you rank these following players on chances of a breakout season: Kyle Seager, Brandon Belt, Todd Frazier, Ben Revere, Matt Harvey, and Mike Moustakas?

Zachary Levine: Harvey

Cole L (Kansas City): What are your thoughts on Lonnie Chisenhall this year? Good breakout choice?

Zachary Levine: If I can be convinced that he's learned to draw a walk against big league pitching, then I'd say maybe. Until then, there just isn't enough of a skill set evident yet to compensate for that.

Fred (My room): Can Jordany Valdespin surprise people this year? 20/20 season best case?

Zachary Levine: If you extrapolate his stats to 600 PAs last year, he gets 20-20, but yeah, I think even with the chance to improve, that's still a best case. He was never much of a power hitter in the minors. I think the second 20 will be easier than the first 20.

Zachary Levine: Thanks very much for chatting. Sorry I didn't get to all the questions. Hope to do this again soon, though.

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