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Chat: Trevor Strunk

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday August 28, 2017 1:00 PM ET chat session with Trevor Strunk.


Trevor is a writer at Baseball Prospectus and contributor to Short Relief.

Trevor Strunk: Hey all, looking forward to chatting about prospects, philosophy, Phillies, baseball, whatever! I uh may or may not be able to answer everything well, but I will try.

JG (Sacramento ): I'm thinking of reading The Stranger by Camus-did you enjoy that book and what are your favourite non-essay works by philosophers?

Trevor Strunk: Oh sweet, I love The Stranger. It might be the best success of the philosopher-cum-novelist, but if you count pseudo-philosophers like Umberto Eco or Italo Cavino, you can probably do a bit better.

I think ultimately for me, the best philosopher of money in America was William Gaddis and the best piece was his novel JR; that might be a cop out, but I'll stand by it. The worst is Flight to Lucifer by Harold Bloom.

Paul (DC): Has the Marlins swap this season of Yelich and Ozuna between CF and LF been a net positive, net negative, or value neutral proposition from both an offensive and defensive prospective?

Trevor Strunk: I think it's probably been value neutral, as I think the idea of offense following defensive comfort has some merit. If Ozuna feels like he's a more natural left fielder -- even if he isn't -- then he doesn't have that doubt about defense lurking in the back of his mind and he can focus on hitting. It's one of the squishier things about baseball analysis, but I think it's also true

Paul (DC): Who in your humble opinion is the greatest 3 True Outcomes player of all time? And who is the greatest playing today?

Trevor Strunk: I always always always want to say Jack Cust here. And I'm sure there are purer versions out there -- Wily Mo Pena maybe? Wladimir Balentein? -- but Cust's 2007,where he walked over 20 percent of the time, struck out over 30, and had about a quarter of his hits as home runs is pretty remarkable. He should've never declined, in a just world.

The best today? That's kind of tough -- I would've said Nick Williams, but he doesn't walk enough and his major league output has been kind of different. Joey Gallo is tempting, but he also isn't a big, big walker. Probably, it's Aaron Judge, who's flirting with Cust's 20/30 bb/k rate and has about 25 percent of his hits as HR.

easterbrook (ontario canada): hello.... what would you expect nick senzels numbers when he arrives in the majors as his doubles start going yard?

Trevor Strunk: Good question. I find these kinds of players -- Bryants and Brendan Rodgers -- totally fascinating and fun to project. Big guys who are already strong and only project to get stronger. But I'm also not especially good at guessing.

My guess is that Senzel will always give away some power due to his solid-maybe-elite hit tool that'll help him settle for some singles and doubles situationally. Call it 280/350/500 as a ceiling with some freakish power years here and there.

Dusty (Colorado): Is Wander Javier for real?

Trevor Strunk: Hard to say. You immediately want to say "ah, but the BABIP" but in the minors, high BABIPs can be indicative of a player just murdering the competition. That might be what's happening with Javier. But betting on power growth is always kind of dicey -- he might end up being impressive if he develops along the lines we're expecting. But he could also mature into a fairly standard AAAA/utility guy if he just maintains his solid hitting without power behind it.

Hamklep (Hell ): Now that fascism's victory is almost totally complete, what will baseball look like under the United States of Kekistan in 10 years

Trevor Strunk: Hitting a homerun will be known as a Golden Pepe, and getting the first out at home or the last out at third will be called a Feels Bad Man. Also all of the teams will be paramilitary squads that execute fans with dangerous politics at the 7th inning stretch (this will just be Initial D music now).

Vivek (Baltimore, MD): In the updated prospect rankings after this year ends where would you have Austin Hays in a Top 100?

Trevor Strunk: My guess, since prospecting is traditionally conservative in ranking (not anything specific about Jeff or Jarrett, who are aces), you won't see him in the top 20 or anything crazy. But I would expect that this season has put him easily within the top 50. My guess is that he slots in around 40.

Paddy (Ireland ): I know relief pitchers don't get a lot of attention, but can you name the 5 best future closers in the minors?

Trevor Strunk: Man, I can't honestly give a good answer for this one. I think there are a number of MLB guys who are likely to be tried in the bullpen for health or performance reasons -- Vince Velasquez jumps to mind thanks to fandom; maybe someone tries taking a talented but mercurial starter like Eduardo Rodriguez or Carson Fulmer and transitioning them to a closing role. It's long held that failed starters are relievers, but I think more and more, it's just mediocre starters that become elite closers (Andrew Miller bias much???).

Anyway, that said, I know teams draft closers to be fast rising bullpen lynchpins, but I never trust front offices to stick to that plan. Brandon Finnegan, exhibit A. And assuming closers are going to be as good in the majors as the minors -- say, Heath Hembree -- is almost never workable. It's so hard to pin this down!

Paddy (Ireland ): Can you name some of the big names you expect to be called up when rosters expand? Anybody you're looking forward to seeing?

Trevor Strunk: As a Phillies fan, I'm kind of excited to see what JP Crawford can do, if anything at all. Brent Honeywell, for the Rays, is going to be interesting too (if they decide to pull the trigger, and that's no sure thing in Tampa Bay). A lot of my favorite guys -- Moncada, Giolito, Rhys Hoskins, et al -- have already been called up before rosters expand, so this is a tough one for me.

I hope some team does a hyper-aggressive promotion, like Nick Gordon or Brendan Rodgers or something.

Erin (WA): Do you ever see the MLB expanding again in the future? And do you think the minor leagues is a better model for player development in terms of working conditions than the NFL/NBA college model

Trevor Strunk: Definitely the MLB will expand. Even if MLB as a brand is in decline (debatable), individual teams themselves are like tiny money machines. Just bid up for TV contracts until that bubble bursts, and even when (if) that happens, there's going to be a lot of competition for distribution rights for each team's games. Basically it's a gamble to start a team, of course, but it's a pretty easy way to make a couple billion dollars, so why not?

In terms of working conditions, the minor leagues might be among the worst in all of sports. Players make not-even-living-wage for most of their minor league careers, they have to be on busses for months at a time, they mostly act as weird pseudo-employees who bunk with local families and have jobs selling furniture on the offseason. MILB has already said they're "apprentices" as opposed to employees -- there's for sure potential there, and if the teams would allow individual franchises to operate as free agents, you might end up seeing a much better labor scenario. But for the moment, it's arguable more grim than college, which at least tosses you a degree as opposed to (at times) 15k and a bus ticket.

Leo (SF): How concerned are you with Leody Taveras's recent struggles at the plate?

Trevor Strunk: Taveras is the exact reason I hate projecting 18 year olds. He did have that one great run in rookie ball! But other than that his line has looked...fine but not telling in any way. Which is why the scouting, the history, etc are meaningful.

This is a long way of saying that his struggles probably matter, but not within the context of his stat line. If scouts are saying he looks markedly worse than he did when he was a top 50 prospect, then you start worrying. Until then, assume he's just getting bigger and better.

Cris (NY): What am I missing with Jesus Sanchez? Why is he not considered a top 30 prospect?

Trevor Strunk: I don't think you're missing anything -- I'll go back to what I said about prospect ranking being a naturally conservative process. You have guys at the top who are mashing or pitching lights out in AA or AAA, you have high pedigree guys maybe a bit lower, but you try to privilege scouting of elite tools or elite performance high up on the list. Sanchez 100 percent has the latter, as he's been an incredible hitter thus far. But he's 19 and in Low A -- that's age appropriate, but a lot can happen between now and when he heads to MLB.

In other words, it's tempting to see him as what he is now, but it's the job of rankers to balance their enthusiasm (which Sanchez produces) with their cautious natures so the prospects don't break their heart and their reputation.

wileecoyote121 (Mamaroneck, NY): If you are a Mets fan, is it time to sacrifice a chicken to Jobu to avoid more medical misfortune?

Trevor Strunk: God, something has to work. Conforto is absolutely brutal, but with Yo getting hurt now too, it's feeling like there's not too much of a team left. The good news is that this rarely haunts one team forever, but it's certainly a source of trouble (and, of course, Pagan Prayer).

wileecoyote121 (Mamaroneck, NY): Thanks for the chat. With all the promotions (Rosario/Smith) and the regression of other candidates (Szapucki), are there any viable Mets candidates for the Top 101 prospects list in '18?

Trevor Strunk: Good question! The Mets are in that most disappointing but desired place as a team where all your guys are coming to fruition and the farm suddenly looks bare. Rosario's been fun, and I guess Smith is as much as project as you might expect, but it's cool that everyone's heading to Queens as expected.

As for future Mets? I'm a big Desmond Lindsay fan, but his hurt/ineffective 2017 is kind of a bummer. And yeah, Dunn and Szapucki have regressed in frustrating ways. I'd say Szapucki's history and Lindsay's potential might land them on a top 100, but I'm not sure who else would show up.

Steve (Tamofister, WA): Wes Rogers is putting up big numbers in Lancaster, but he does not seem to be getting much attention. Is he a future MLB starting CF? Thanks!

Trevor Strunk: He looks good! Still, he's knocking at a crowded door in Colorado, with Blackmon and Raimel Tapia hanging around above him; and since he needs to play a solid defensive position for his bat to play (I'd expect), he's a little blocked.

That said, he totally seems like he'll start somewhere and at some point. He might have to be traded to find the opportunity or get Rule 5'd or something, but I don't see anything in him as a player that's a huge red flag. He seems serviceable and solid, which is what you're hoping for in a CF prospect.

a.j. (las vegas): don't see any pitching in the high minors for the Phillies to compete in the next couple of years. Do you expect them to be big free agent buyers of pitching until the sixto's and kilome's are ready?

Trevor Strunk: Yeah, I think it's definitely something where they're gonna buy some pitching if it's available. They have a lot of cash to throw around, and they're willing to take risks -- see Bucholz, Clay and Hellickson, Jeremy -- to find controllable talent. I think they're hoping that an ace or ace-lite level talent finds its way to the open market, though these days I'm not sure that's realistic.

My guess? They trade for someone and give up some of those future assets for a shot to be a bit more competitive. Philly is getting a bit tired of process thinking, especially as the Sixers start to turn the corner.

Matzabal (Co): Who would you take, fantasy wise, next season: Roughed Odor or Yoan Monaca?

Trevor Strunk: As a starting 2B? Hmmm...in an OBP/advanced stats league, Moncada. I think Odor is probably going to outpace Moncada pretty easily next year in HR/R/RBI, but I would bet on Moncada having a stronger performance overall by the second half of next year if not earlier.

Also if you're taking a shot late in the draft, definitely Moncada for a bench piece over Odor.

Dave (Williamsburg): How impressed have you been with Victor Robles in AA?

Trevor Strunk: Impressed! The trick with any toolsy prospect like Robles is hoping that the shine and magic don't wear off at a higher level. That he's hit the ground running in AA is super reassuring, and he's really looking like the real deal. As if the Nationals needed more elite outfielders.

Bob (Bobathonia): 30 team fantasy league where all minor leaguers are owned. Would you trade Dakota Hudson and TJ Zeuch for Keibert Ruiz? Thinking being the pitchers upside are moderate and keibert could one day be a top 5 catcher if everything breaks right

Trevor Strunk: Yeah I think I'd do that. I'm the kind of fantasy player who'll always trade minor league pitchers. When they hit it can be a little embarrassing, but more often than not they kind of flame out or don't live up to their potential. Now, admittedly, catchers can be even worse. However, if you're patient and willing to wait, a project catcher can be a wonderful little asset to let mature on yr bench.

Worst case scenario, you have someone who you can flip down the line on potential. I like it.

Matzabal (Co): Thoughts on Brady Aiken? what do you think he ends up as?

Trevor Strunk: Poor Brady Aiken. I think the TJ really did a number on him. My best guess is that the Indians try him as a starter again for at least another half year, but my guess is that he ends up transitioning to the bullpen. You'd hope his stuff plays up there.

Matzabal (Co): How do Minor league contacts work once a player is drafted? I see a lot of guys get released 5 years after their draft. Is that due to how they are structured?

Trevor Strunk: Yeah, usually minor leaguers are on five or six year contracts -- I'd have to check the number to know for sure. But yeah, there's a limit, which is why sometimes high potential prospects switch teams later on in their career for a weird "where are they now" kind of moment.

By and large, though, players get released for three reasons: 1) in order to pursue free agency, 2) because the team has a player they actually want to develop at that player's position, or 3) they're retiring. Some players are just kept on the team to make up a full, say, AA roster. That gets old after a while.

kjesanis (RI): What prospect(s) would you be targeting in a fantasy league? Whether its buy high or buy low, who are your guys?

Trevor Strunk: Hmmm, I always look top 20 if it's a full redraft. If you fall in love with someone down the list, that's fine, but try not to pay out for anything that isn't highly ranked. Prospects in fantasy are basically good for two things: one, sometimes they hit and become productive players; and two, more often than not, they never turn out but they serve as good trade pieces for late season runs. Top 20 guys are likely to do both.

The other piece of advice I have is don't buy high, especially on pitchers. Prospects have incredible variance, and owners value them extremely. I'd rather trade for an Aaron Judge type than a Victor Robles type, since the actual price you pay is gonna be less for the latter, but not usually by much.

If you're buying low, buy at positions of need that are high on the defensive spectrum. And keep an eye on home runs, on base, and hit tools. It might seem obvious, but you can lose the forest for the trees and forget that fantasy doesn't need well rounded players, but good fantasy players

Trevor Strunk: All right all, that was a blast, thank you! I'll definitely be back again, and apologies if I totally mangled your prospect's future.

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