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Chat: Rob Mains

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday April 19, 2018 1:00 PM ET chat session with Rob Mains.


Rob is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Rob Mains: Hey. Let's get this going. Rare pleasure to do a chat while listening to actual baseball! (Yes, O's-Tigers is actual baseball.) Quick favor first: If you haven't voted yet in our Seventh Inning Stretch Song Poll, please do so now, will be closing it soon: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/38846/flu-like-symptoms-songs-seventh-inning-stretch/

James (California ): If Mitch Keller were in another organization would he be up already?

Rob Mains: Oh good golly no. He barely pitched professionally in 2014 and 2015. 130 innings in 2016, 116 in 2017, at age 21. He entered the season with less than 35 IP above High-A. Trust me, he's not being blocked by Steven Brault. Management is running this fine.

Ner (Ner): How much Vlad Guerrero do you see in Eloy Jimenez?

Rob Mains: Well, not in the swing-at-a-pitch-in-the-other-batters-box-and-hitting-a-double sense. But he could be a lot of fun--high batting average, power, strong OF arm. I'd never project of HOF talent onto a minor leaguer, but this guy's one of the more intriguing bats in the game from my perspective.

Dilson (Grimes): Is Gregory Polonco ready to be a consistent, perennial all- star that rakes or is this a flash in the pan?

Rob Mains: I guess I've been burned too many times, getting excited by Polanco hot streaks. I don't think he's going to be the star we were hoping to see. That being said, if he's a steady 3-WARP player like ws until last year, I don't think that's a bad bargain. But I'd view anything more as gravy.

Spuds McGnty (Dublin): Nomar Mazarro the best player for the rangers by the end of 2018?

Rob Mains: Depends on your definition. Beltre looks to have another good season and my gosh is he good. But he might not still be a Ranger. Andrus was off to a hot start but I'm not super high on him and of course he's hurt. Willie Calhoun, though...I could see Mazara getting more WARP this year, depending on when Calhoun starts playing regularly, but I think Calhoun's bat really plays well for the team, and will hold more future value. Yes, I know, no glove.

And Gallo could be a star if he could add a fourth outcome. Or bunt all the time, as Russell suggested!

Tom (My moms basement): Hi Rob, As a huge fan of the history of the business side of the game, exactly how much ground has been lost by the MLBPA in the ongoing labor ‘situation’ they find themselves in, and, what is your outlook on if they can ever get back what they have lost/self-inflicted?

Rob Mains: Good question, Tom. I think the most egregious losses are on behalf of players who aren't MLBPA members: amateur and foreign draftees. There are effective caps on June draftees, and Ohtani's getting, what, maybe 1/20th of what he's worth? The Save America's Pastime legislation is BS but can't be blamed on the union in any way.

But the MLBPA made two miscalculations. First, it failed to envision how the Competitive Balance/luxury tax would become a virtual salary cap. I don't know that we can completely blame the union for that; I don't think anybody saw it coming. But for the life of me, I don't understand why they didn't negotiate MUCH larger minimum salaries for pre-arb players. Like 2x or 3x larger. The game has been trending younger, and the failure to secure more comp for younger players, who are generating a growing proportion of overall value, is a massive fail IMO.

Outlook: I think there is potential to negotiate significantly higher luxury tax limits; everybody's making a lot of money. A million dollar minimum salary though...that isn't going to come easily. Historically, the MLBPA's won every labor dispute, but I think Manfred is much, much cagier than his predecessors, and the owners have a huge war chest and can play a waiting game. I'm not optimistic.

Jeb (Iowa): What are your thoughts on Mitch Keller? What is his upside?

Rob Mains: As you know, Jeb, I'm not a prospects guy, but I am a Buccos guy, so I'll take a stab at it. My buddy Bryan Grosnick, with whom I did the Pirates preview, is really high on him. I'll temper that a little, only because he's a pitcher and I never really believe in pitchers. But he could be really, really good. Like what-we-expected-Cole-to-be (and appears to have become with the Astros, sigh), good. A clear no. 1. Not in the Kershaw/Kluber/Scherzer/prime Verlander class, but one of the top pitchers in the NL.

But he's a pitcher. Don't get your hopes up too high.

Jake (Seattle): What is Shane Baz's upside? Could he be another Mitch Keller in a few years?

Rob Mains: I live in Saratoga Springs. There's a thoroughbred race track here--effectively, Belmont moves up here for the month of August. I don't go anymore, but I used to try to handicap the races. You can infer from the fact that I don't go anymore how well I did. I could read the Racing Form and make some inferences, but I never bet on juvenile races. Two-year-olds have basically no track record, other than bloodline and trainer and jockey, and I wouldn't pretend to know anything about that.

Shane Baz is, basically, a two-year-old. I mean, he's 18, not two, and he's a person, not a horse. But I'm not going to pretend to infer anything from < 25 innings of rookie ball. Our prospects guys like him, not as much as Keller. But I'd totally defer to them about everything Baz-related.

MikePemulis (Santiago, Chile): Can we start talking about Hutton Moyer yet? I haven't found much in the way of excited scouting about him but he's embarrassing the Southern League this year.

Rob Mains: Not with me! Not a prospects guy. But Mike: Ask Jeffrey Paternostro this question tomorrow! He's great! (Jeffrey, that is. I have no opinion about Moyer.) or if you miss him tomorrow, he'll be chatting next Friday, the 27th, as well. He'll know.

Kevin (Minnesota): What are your thoughts on Ke'Bryan Hayes? What is his upside?

Rob Mains: I am more high on Hayes than I probably should be, largely because I liked his dad. The knock on him is that the power hasn't really developed. That's legitimate, but I think it's important to remember that even though it seems like he's been a Pirates prospect since 2010 or something, he's only 21. If the pop develops, he could be a long-term solution at third. The flip side would be that if the power doesn't develop we're looking more at Moran's understudy.

rrydelek (Moon): When do you think Eloy Jiminez will be brought up to join the White Sox? Is this year realistic?

Rob Mains: Again, not a prospects guy, but I could see them holding off for economic reasons. It's not like they'll need him for the pennant drive, and calling him up this year will start his service time clock ticking, potentially delaying his for-real callup in 2019. If the question is, will he hit enough to warrant a callup, very possibly. That doesn't mean we'll see him.

DeSorgher (Falmouth): Rob- Have you ever read Shut Out by Howard Bryant? It’s a really well written look at Race in Boston and baseball. The story of Robinson’s tryout with the Six in ‘45 is pretty fascinating. That aside, what are a few of your favorite baseball books, any category?

Rob Mains: I haven't read it. Do any of you find it harder and harder to read books? I mean, there's the BP Annual and the Hardball Times annual every season. They're really good! And there is *so* much good writing on the web, here and elsewhere. I have a hard time keeping up with my favorite bloggers, let alone reading actual books. Seriously, it's become hard to carve out time to read books. I used to listen to a lot of books on tape, but there are a lot of good podcasts! Too much good stuff.

Books I've liked: The last one I finished was "The Only Rule Is It Has to Work." It was great. I'm currently enjoying "Summer of 68" a lot, and I'm plucking stuff from it for the series I'm doing on the 1968 season. Two books I liked a lot that I felt were overlooked: "1954" by Bill Madden and "Baseball's Great Experiment" by Julius Tygiel, an academic study of baseball's color line.

Jimbo (Utah): What are Cole Tucker and Lolo Sanchez's upside?

Rob Mains: I think Tucker's a good fit for the Pirates. Mercer's going to walk. Tucker, I think, will provide more bat and less glove than Mercer. But given the way the game's evolving--more balls in the air, more shifting of infielders (or at least not *less* shifting), the importance of a really strong glove at short is diminishing. Think Seager and Correa--not that they're slouches, but they're not phenomenal with the glove. They don't have to be! I think Tucker will be a net upgrade.

Sanchez is 18, so my Shane Baz racehorse analogy applies. He's only 18, but so far he's shown good speed and a good glove but nothing exceptional with the bat. Upside would be Starling Marte but I'm guessing he falls short offensively, which will limit him. But he's only 18! He can change!

steelydanu (Los Angeles): Do I need to be concerned with the Dodgers slow start. Should we be shopping for another pitcher?

Rob Mains: Dodgers were 10-12 the morning of April 27 last year. They won almost 2/3 of their games after that. No, I wouldn't be concerned.

Re Dodger pitchers, my concern would be Jansen. Velocity is worryingly down. He's had only one outing in which he hasn't allowed a baserunner. I think something's wrong there.

Tim Riggins (Texas): Who are some Pirate prospects who could shoot up the rankings over the course of the next year?

Rob Mains: Well, implicit in that question is guys who are generally overlooked, and hell, I dunno. I know the top prospects but the lower ones? Not my exact expertise. Of the folks we've discussed, as I mentioned, I hold out hope that Ke'Bryan Hayes' power emerges. He's not exactly an unknown, but he's stalled out, prospects-wise.

steelydanu (Los Angeels): Where do you think Harper ends up by end of year...Traded for much prospects or resigns with WAS?

Rob Mains: Nats are kinda screwed, aren't they? I mean, if they stay around .500, sure they'll trade him. But that's pretty unlikely, right? So they can't trade him going into the postseason. So I'm afraid the answer to the question could be "neither"--doesn't get traded, doesn't re-sign with the Nats. I think there's a *small* chance the Nats extend him but the likeliest case, it seems to me, is that he rejects a QO, gets paid a ton to go to LA or Philadelphia or San Francisco or Boston or something, and the Nats have just a draft pick to show for it.

Mark (Florida): Who should the Pirates target with the #10 pick?

Rob Mains: Somebody good? Look, I barely know prospects. I absolutely don't know amateur players. Another good question for Jeffrey on the 20th or 27th.

alcrisafulli (Washington, DC): Two-part question. I enjoy a glass of red each evening (typically Chianti or Sangiovese, but really anything will do), but my wife doesn't drink and often I find myself pouring out at least 1/4-1/3 of the bottle when, for whatever reason, I don't drink it in time. So, 1) any tips to avoid this (besides drinking more in one sitting); and 2) from what I described above, and understanding my wine palate is not ultra-sophisticated, what do you recommend in the $12-$15 range?

Rob Mains: Good god man don't throw out good wine. Oxygen is your enemy. If you're just keeping the wine for a day, stick a cork in the bottle and put it in the fridge. It'll be fine. Longer than that, the simplest solution is to buy a six-pack of those little seltzer bottles and pour the extra wine in one of those, up to the top, and screw to top on tightly. (Note: Drink the seltzer first.) I'm in favor of storing opened wine in the fridge; just take it out before you want to drink it: 20 minutes for white wine, a couple hours or so for reds. (Red wine's served too warm, usually.)

Re what to drink, I always am in favor of drinking what you like. If you've got something that works for you, stick with it. But based on what you've said, I'm guessing you don't care for the big, high-fruit, high-alcohol stuff like California Cab Sauv or Zinfandel. A few suggestions: Merlot or Syrah from Washington (state, not DC), Pinot Noir from Oregon, Chianti Classico from Spain (make sure it's Classico or Classico Riserva; I don't recommend plain Chianti), and Merlot from New York. Merlot got a bad rep from "Sideways" but I think a lot of it's really nice, with cherry and cocoa notes.

Tom (Iowa): Am I wrong to think that if the Pirates are in playoff contention come August-September, that Mitch Keller could come up and help?

Rob Mains: No, you're not. I think we've learned, Tom, that if the Pirates are in contention we can't count on ownership to spend money to make the team better. No trade deadline deals for Machado or Donaldson. But calling up a blue-chipper costs nothing but the service time clock, and with the Pirates, who knows what they'll be by the time someone like Keller is arb-eligible. I was DM'ing Matthew Trueblood about the Pirates pitching staff and he suggested, and I didn't disagree, that they have only three reliable starters: Taillon, Williams, and Nova. If Keller tears up AA and AAA and the Pirates are in contention, I think we'll see him.

steelydanu (Los Angeels): Any concerns with Acuna's slow start in AAA?

Rob Mains: Nah, I don't think so. Timing sucks for him, but it's not like the Braves are a postseason contender (YES I KNOW THEY'RE 10-7.) But you don't destroy pitching at every minor league level AND in spring training and turn into a pumpkin. He'll be good, and I'm not saying that just because he was my NL ROY pick. This is just a slump. Everybody has them.

BC (Ankeny): What do you think of this preseason write up I did for my fantasy baseball league? 2018 Pre Season Power Rankings 10. Team Randy: Legitimate ace in the rotation and that's about where it ends for team Randy in 2018. Most of his best talent are past their primes. Look for team Randy to struggle most of the season. 9. I Own Yu: Questionable first round pick will cost them this season. Lot of potential on this team but most of the roster is either unproven or inconsistent. Lot of swing and miss. Would take a miracle for a playoff birth. 8. Moneyball: Pitching is a glaring issue for team moneyball. 3 relievers was a questionable move. Not enough guys take walks and get on base, contradictory to the name of this team. SMH. Maybe next year. 7. Team Darland: The entire starting lineup is basically boom or bust. Hard team to predict. Rotation drops off quite a bit after the top 2. Below .500 team, but better than what most will think. 6. Team Marek: A couple legitimate stars and good balance in the rotation will let team Marek squeak by all year and make the last (new) playoff spot. Good, not great roster. Will never "wow" you. 5. Team Blackburn: Having 2 MVP candidates automatically gets you into the top 5. Lineup is so balanced. Great combo of speed and power and the coming out party of El Café could shadow some of the holes in the rotation. 4. Team Ross: Really safe team. Probably the highest floor in the league. Team Ross has veterans at seemingly every position with just enough pitching to stay competitive all season. 3. Team Stapes: Life is good when you have the best player on the planet. Off to a hot start as team stapes looks to ward off the injury bug. Lots of power on the bench and may have the best player no one knows about in Ozzie Albies. 2. Team Seger: A bevvy of supplementary starting pitchers compliment this teams 2 legit aces. A good blend of youth and experience make up this teams starting lineup. May need to add an outfielder and/ or a bench piece at the deadline if Seger wants to compete for a championship. 1. The Jetsons. With this team having technically 4 "aces" and an abundance of depth on their pitching staff, its hard to see anyone taking the Jetsons down this season. So many guys play multiple positions which allows for enormous flexibility. No real weaknesses. Look for the Jetsons to lead the pack for most of the season.

Rob Mains: BC, I saved this for last. I don't know your league, so I can't speak to your analytical acumen. But I like that your writing is concise; too many people go on and on and on and on. You don't, and that's good. My only two nits--I held a license as a financial writing editor, though I barely ever used it--are (1) Spell out numbers 1-12, and (2) follow the SABR Style Guide when writing about baseball. We do here, and I think most other sites do as well. For example, it's Preseason, not Pre Season, per SABR: https://sabr.org/about/sabr-style-guide

General comment for anybody who wants to write about baseball: This is a Dave Cameron suggestion, and I think it's gold: Start your own blog and aim to write 1,000 words per day four-five days per week. It's like going to the gym; you'll get better, and you'll find out whether you really like it.

Rob Mains: Well, I'm going to see whether either pitching staff in the O's-Tigers game can hold the other team to single-digit runs. Thanks for hanging out with me, and again, please vote in the Seventh Inning Stretch Music Poll. See you next time. https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/38846/flu-like-symptoms-songs-seventh-inning-stretch/

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