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Chat: Derek Jacques

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday February 05, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Derek Jacques.


"Prospectus Toolbox" writer Derek Jacques chats today from the Caribbean World Series.

Derek Jacques: Hi, everybody. The 90 minute drive from my hotel to the ballpark took a little longer than usual, so forgive me if I'm a little slow getting started here, since I'm just getting settled in. Still, we have about two hours 'til game time, so fire away.

larry (Chicago): you mentioned in your day 1 column that miguel cabrera was having some leg problems. what is the nature of the problem and is it something that will affect him during the major league season? thanks.

Derek Jacques: I don't have any details on that, yet. I'll see if I can talk with Aragua's medical staff before the series is over.

ndubby (sfo): Why did the Pirates give Sanchez this new deal? He's already 30 and overrated in my opinion.

Derek Jacques: It's not a huge investment in terms of money or years, so it's not a brutal deal. Overrated or not, he's theirs--I haven't covered the Pittsburgh beat in a while, so I don't have a good feel for whether he's a fan favorite, but it's probably one of those mixes of easy signability and the ability to show fans you're willing to invest in the franchise.

doncorrado (San Juan PR): Please comment on Luis Polonia's performance thus far in the Caribbean Series. Does the Atomic Ant seem past his prime as an outfielder?

Derek Jacques: La Hormiga Atomica had a hard time in the field last night, misplaying Matt Tupman's double and not looking very good on a few other plays. His arm, even when he was at his best, was never very good. But if you watched the Dominican finals, he's actually done a better job in left than he did last year, when he was DHed in the CAribbean Series.

So long as he can hit, the Aguilas will find a place for him.

R.J. (Beyond the Boxscore): Willy Aybar went from decent prospect to missing a year and now to jail (did not pass go either), is he the next in a long line of players who let alcohol ruin their career?

Derek Jacques: A couple of questions on this, so I'll answer them together...

jlarsen (DRays Bay): Any new info on the Wily Aybar/Domestic Abuse thing? Last I heard, his wife may drop the charges?? If she drops the charges, does it mean that he's good to go, Spring Training-wise?

Derek Jacques: The Dominican legal system is a complicated beast that operates on a version of the Napoleonic code. It's fairly standard for people who are criminal suspects to be held without bail. I haven't heard anything about his wife dropping the charges, but if he's let go by the authorities in Bani without charges, it shouldn't affect his prospect status or his ability to get a work visa for Spring Training (assuming he needs one, and doesn't have citizenship or permanent residency independent of baseball).

MLB and its fans are pretty tolerant of off-field legal issues, and spousal abuse in particular. It's a stark difference to the moralizing we do about PEDs.

Tommy (TheStatPack): With Aybar detained & it looking like Longoria might start the season in Durham, is this Joel Guzman's last chance to prove to be the stud everyone thought he was and not just a fringe MLB player?

Derek Jacques: Guzman's been a good body with middling-to-poor results for too long--if the Rays stop looking at him as a thirdbaseman, he doesn't get on base enough to even merit consideration anywhere else. Between Longoria and Iwamura, the Rays are stacked at the hot corner.

elgringo (santo domingo ): Have you heard any scuttlebut on Puerto Rico and next year's Serie del Caribe?

Derek Jacques: We've been long on talk about PR getting its league back in operation, but short on details. I'm starting to worry that Nicaragua and Colombia--more potential competition in an already-crowded winter league market--will get their act together before Puerto Rico does.

tycobb (ga): what are the chances Norichika Aoki posts and plays for a mlb team next year?

Derek Jacques: This is more of a question for Mike Plugh, who does a great job with our Japanese League coverage. From what I understand, Aoki's like Yu Darvish, in the sense of being a top talent who's still a long way from free agency in Japan. Much like in majors, there's low incentive for a team to ship off a player in Japan when they still control his rights for a number of years. So the chances don't look good for the immediate future.

I'm fascinated by the posting system, however. It's reminiscent of the system before teams had farm systems, and prospects would be purchased by major league clubs from the minor league clubs that had them under contract; with a blind-bid aspect that makes things particularly dangerous. I'm not sure what lessons the MLB teams learned from the last round of posting, where the Rays stole Iwamura, the Yankees got rooked on Kei Igawa, and the Red Sox got exactly what they paid for in Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Ben F (California): Anyone down there that you have been impressed or surprised by that you'd like to tell us about?

Derek Jacques: I was surprised by Rolando Valdez, who pitched in relief for Mexico yesterday. One of the big problems with this series is that teams tend to bring their extremely veteran players--shades of Dusty Baker in the Caribbean. Valdez's stuff looked good, he's still young (21) and while his numbers in the minors aren't that impressive, he was only signed in 2005. So he's someone I'd be interested to see more of.

Another reliever that's impressed is Jailen Peguero, who's performed admirably in some tight spots. PECOTA isn't a big fan of his, and you'd probably be better off talking to Kevin about whether his stuff is major-league caliber, but I'm still impressed.

Tyler (Calgary): Random question: should Jeter be criticized as selfish for not being willing to move off of shortstop when A-Rod arrived given that A-Rod was inarguably better defensively then (and I would argue even now)?

Derek Jacques: It shouldn't be Jeter's job to decide who the better defender is. It's obvious to people using objective metrics, but you'd have to excuse Jeter for being biased in his own favor.

I don't think that you can really put a lot of stake in a player's self-evaluation of his abilities. All players have to think they're good at the things they do--they couldn't go out there every day if they didn't have that confidence. Dealing with a player's limitations, and convincing them to play the roles you have in mind for them, WITHOUT tearing them down and busting that confidence is management's job. The big question is: did the organization ask Jeter to move? Did they try to convince him that it was what was best for the team?

Boss (Puerto Rico): The criminal code of DR was changed recently, as required by the US prior to implementation of DR-CAFTA. I'm not a lawyer, but I understand it (the new Dominican criminal code) now follows a US criminal code pattern. The civil code in contrast remains Napoleonic. Go figure.

Derek Jacques: I have absolutely no problem admitting that, as a group, my readers are much wiser than I am.

Brian Gallagher (Evanston, Illinois): Why is it so difficult to find box scores of Caribbean games? Any site you would recommend? I'm particularly interested in how Pie has fared. Glowing anecdotes would be appreciated.

Derek Jacques: Another compound question, so let's go to Part II...

Brian Gallagher (Evanston, Illinois): Ah, I see the Worldwide Leader in Sports has box scores. I completely missed those before. Quick perusal shows no Pie though. Is he out? Struggling mightily?

Derek Jacques: First on Pie: he was on the Dominican Winter League playoff roster, but was seldom in evidence; he's not on the Caribbean Series, by choice or lack of invitation, it's not clear. I don't know why he got buried, but it happened prior to Hector de la Cruz taking over as manager (which happened in the middle of the Dominican League finals). Another guy who was in a similar situation was Anderson Hernandez, who's been pressed into service by Erick Aybar's absence, and has been sterling.

Rich (Columbus, OH): After reading many of your "Stupid Lawyer Tricks" articles, I was curious to know if you are a lawyer (like how Rany is a doctor), or if law is just a field you know a lot about. If you are a lawyer, I assume that you're no longer practicing, considering your covering the Caribbean World Series (unless of course, you're Willy Aybar's lawyer).

Derek Jacques: I think we've already covered the fact that I'm not Wily Aybar's lawyer, but yes, I am a lawyer. I used to be in private practice but quit when I figured out that working as a writer and editor actually paid better, and would give me the liberty to do cool stuff like this.

Tommy (TheStatPack): What's for Dinner? Sancocho?

Derek Jacques: One downside to covering a doubleheader each day is that it's a really long day--particularly when you're spending three hours a day in transit. It's been so busy around here that eating is mostly a matter of someone reminding me I have to eat, or unsuspecting food meandering into my path.

I'm hoping that sancocho is lunch tomorrow.

jlarsen (DRays Bay): I've never understood how a player gets to play in Winter Leagues. Do you have to be a resident of a certain country to play? I remember seeing Eric Byrnes playing in Winter Leagues, so it's always been confusing for me.

Derek Jacques: Most of the Latin American winter leagues have limits on the number of foreigners who can be on a roster at one time, but the roster situation is so fluid that the biggest limitation is the willingness of players to go south to play. Players get involved with winter league teams in a number of different ways--some MLB teams have relationships with a Caribbean league team, and their players get channeled there (the Mariners and the Lara Cardinals in Venezuela seem to have that kind of arrangement). Otherwise, I think getting players winter league spots are one of those mysterious things that agents do.

As far as playing in the Caribbean Series, foreign players can play on a national team, so long as it's with the country they first signed with. So Nelson Figueroa plays with Mexico, even though he is Puerto Rican, and played with the Dominican champs in the Dominican League finals.

JD (Law School): Derek, since you're a lawyer, please explain the law against perpetuities . . .

Derek Jacques: Why not? I can't be sued for malpractice if I get it wrong...

BH (Los Angeles): It appears from reports that Rafael Furcal is playing well however he has been playing second, any reason for that?

Derek Jacques: Furcal's at second because the Dominican League teams are stocked with shortstops, so he's been willing to move to the other side of the keystone. Question is, is that the strongest arm that's ever played at second? It's like bringing an MX missile to a paintgun fight.

BL (Bozeman): Is there any talk about MLB capturing some of the passion of baseball where you're watching it this week?

Derek Jacques: The biggest thing baseball can do is work on its marketing in Hispanic markets, which is an area where they've made giant strides in the last 20 years.

BL (Bozeman): How is Alberto Callaspo doing in CF, and does the possibility exist he will add that to his arsenal moving to KC this year?

Derek Jacques: The Royals' outfield is pretty crowded as-is, isn't it? He's looked good enough to be better than an emergency backup, but he's been nowhere near as impressive there as he was at short.

rodg12 (IA): Derek, will you have a breakdown of yesterday's action going up on the site today?

Derek Jacques: Should be going up soon. One of the things about being in the press box is the stunning speed with which the beat guys work; as a writer, it leaves me in awe. I'm much slower, and I'm also trying to do a slightly different type of coverage, this means I file criminally late. So if you need to blame someone for the late articles, it's me.

Jules (TheStatPack): Are there any advantages/disadvantages of playing in the Caribbean Series?

Derek Jacques: On the previous question: Uh, and that was a yes, there will be Day Three coverage up today. Tomorrow, we won't have a column, but I'll likely make some sort of update on Unfiltered.

As for the advantages of playing in the Caribbean Series--it's likely a conditioning advantage for players, who come into Spring Training in playing shape--but I've never seen that studied. It's also a great showcase for obscure players, which is one reason why it's disappointing when prospects beg off of playing. But most of all, for the Latino players, it's an opportunity to be a local hero. Some guys who are practically forgotten for their major league careers are still going strong the Caribbean, and that matters.

Disadvantages? Some people aren't cut out for living and working in a different culture with a different language, so that might be difficult. Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are very American-friendly, but it's still a different culture, and some folks might not be able to deal.

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): I was wondering if you've been at all impressed with Francisco Cruceta thus far?

Derek Jacques: Cruceta's radar gun readings were probably the highest I've seen so far. He's someone who's seemed on the brink of breaking out for a while, but just hasn't gotten there.

carlosrubi (Mexico): So the Angels limited K-Rod to four innings -- but exactly how stressful are those innings, when you factor in his delivery and the ultra pressure of throwing at home?

Derek Jacques: I think that the extra stress is something that's baked into the calculations with relievers usage restrictions. I'm curious to see how this area develops in the next few years, since so many teams seem interested in finding an approach that's systematic rather than the ad hoc guidelines of yesteryear.

carlosrubi (Mexico): "Cruceta's radar gun readings were probably the highest I've seen so far." Jesus Colome hit 98mph last night.

Derek Jacques: Was that on the ESPN Deportes gun? The TV in the press center shows a local broadcast that doesn't have gun readings. I've been going off the scoreboard gun readings, which are sometimes wonky--a guy will throw a pitch that's obviously high-80s or more, and it'll read 45 MPH, if anything at all.

The one cool thing about the scoreboard gun is that they keep it on between innings, so you get the speed of the warm-ups. Really gives you an idea of the level of effort that each guy puts into warming up.

rodg12 (IA): How hard would it be for an American coming down to see the Series to get tickets? Is it even possible?

Derek Jacques: I've mentioned this in the reports, but there are scalpers all over the place here. On my way into the stadium today, a guy was offering $60 (and yes, the scalpers ask for money in US dollars rather than Dominican pesos) for field-level. Don't know if it was legit--I was running late for the chat--but you could definitely get in.

rodg12 (IA): Derek, have you read the steroid report on http://steroids-and-baseball.com/? If so, as a Lawyer and a baseball/stats man, how do you think the arguments in it are presented?

Derek Jacques: Some of it's great, but it seems to be doing too many things at once. One of the big problems with the discussion on steroids is that there's a legalization question that overshadows the issue. To have a decent debate, you have to have a common frame of reference--if you can't agree that steroids should be illegal and/or banned, you're not going to get anywhere discussing whether or not they actually make a difference, to health or baseball performance.

rodg12 (IA): Who's been the most impressive position player so far during the series? If it's Tejada, who's second?

Derek Jacques: It's such a small sample, that it's hardly fair to say. Callaspo's been awesome, hitting while playing whatever position they need.

jlarsen (DRays Bay): Is Joel Guzman even playing this Winter? His size, 6'6" 250 lbs, makes him sound like a hulk in just about any league. Is he the hardest player to break up a double-play with sliding into?

Derek Jacques: Guzman played in the Dominican Winter League, on one of the teams that didn't advance. He slugged pretty well, but also hit .215.

With him sliding? I can't see him getting there at any speed you couldn't avoid, but if the hit and run were on, he'd likely knock your secondbaseman into next month.

Tommy (TheStatPack): Do you see anybody currently unemployed playing in the CWS getting an invite to ST?

Derek Jacques: I don't know if anyone has Ramon Ortiz yet, but he might have bought himself an invite with last night's performance (which I shamefully didn't give sufficient props to in my column). It was a gutsy performance.

tycobb (ga): do you think Elijah Dukes can get his head screwed on strait and have a breakout season in 08?

Derek Jacques: Here's another one I'll double up on. We're soon entering the lightning round...

jlarsen (DRays Bay): "MLB and its fans are pretty tolerant of off-field legal issues, and spousal abuse in particular. It's a stark difference to the moralizing we do about PEDs." Not so much, some Rays fans are already comparing Aybar to Elijah Dukes. Guess the "good character" players code allegedly set by the Rays FO is thrown out the window, huh?

Derek Jacques: Dukes played for Licey early in their winter league season, and his temper issues seem to still be in full effect, so I'm not sure if he can get his head screwed on straight. So long as you can hit, you get lots of chances to show that you can get your stuff together in the majors--but you have to make some effort to reform. Dunno that Dukes has it in him.

The Rays need to weigh their good character code against the fact that players with problems are often available at a discount--like dinged-up soup cans in a supermarket. It'll be interesting to see what they do when (and if) Aybar gets past his legal troubles.

Al (Not Cibao): I'd love to go to the DR to see some winter games in a future year but my friends think it's nuts to go anywhere outside a resort compound. I say it's probably fine if you're not a moron and can speak a little Spanish. Any insight?

Derek Jacques: It depends on how adventurous and adaptable you are. I've had lots of friends just stay in hotels in the capital and really have a good time. On the other hand, the neighborhoods around the the stadia can sometimes be a bit creepy. If you'd be willing to walk in a run-down urban area in the states, you likely won't have trouble.

macman (dc): I caught some of last night's game on TV and was struck by how pedestrian the crowd seemed. It looked like there were a lot of empty seats and there wasn't near the festival like atmosphere I was expecting. I thought there'd be a bit of a Latin/South American soccer type of thing going on.

Derek Jacques: It's something I discuss in today's column. Mainly, the empty seats are scalpers pricing out the local fans. They've also chosen to limit some of the fun things you see elsewhere in the winter leagues, like the bands roaming through the crowd.

jgalt73 (Portland, OR): Derek, Do the Caribbean fans have more affection for the MLB stars, or do local heros command the attention?

Derek Jacques: It's strange. MLB achievement is highly favored and respected, but there's a level of love that the guys who play well in winter ball get that someone who only plies his trade in the majors would be hard-pressed to reach. I remember seeing a game in Santo Domingo a few years back, and watching in amazement as Neifi Perez got a far greater intensity of applause than Vlad Guerrero. Vlad was the defending AL MVP at the time, but Neifi's a two-time Caribbean Series MVP.

Tommy (TheStatPack): What do you think Juan Gonzalez chances of a Sammy Sosa like comeback are?

Derek Jacques: Slim. We're starting the national anthems here, so I'm wrapping up.

Derek Jacques: I'm sorry for all the questions I didn't get to--I'll be wrapping up with mailbags later in the week so I'll keep these questions in mind, as well as any others you might come up with and mail to me. Thanks.

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