Get your Funck on with Ken in an afternoon chat about all the events of April and what's in store for the rest of the season.
Ken Funck: Happy May Day! If anyone needs a toe, I can get you one; otherwise, let's just talk some baseball.
Oliver (Boston, MA): Oscar Taveras is showing the bat already, even tacking on a few walks the last couple games. Any reviews about how he's handling the switch to center field?
Ken Funck: I don't have any scouting reports you haven't already read elsewhere, but the consensus of opinion always seemed to be he isn't a major league centerfielder. If he keeps swinging a big stick, it won't matter--he'll be an asset in a corner, especially if he continues to improve his approach.
Pablo (NJ): hey Ken-
any idea when we might see Trevor Bauer?
Ken Funck: Close your inner eyes, start chanting a relaxing mantra, and in the process of visualizing prospect nirvana, you might just see Trevor Bauer. Let's hope it isn't on a major league mound just yet, since we might just want to give him a little more time to improve his walk rate before handing him the ROY award. Patience, my son. Honestly, I'm going to guess we'll see him after the all-star break.
Oliver (Boston, MA): Seems to be a shortage of questions.
While everyone was keeping their eyes on Bauer and Skaggs, the D-Backs had Miley and Corbin ranked just behind them. I figure these guys have back-of-the-rotation upsides, but they get the first crack and might be good enough. In the best-case-scenario for Arizona, is there really a need to bring up Bauer or Skaggs this year?
Ken Funck: The best case scenario would to emulate what the Rays have done with Matt Moore and David Price, with the team charging into the playoff hunt without the need for Bauer or Skaggs, letting them get in a full developmental year, before tossing them in the pen for the stretch run and playoffs. If they don't have anything left to prove in the minors you don't want them wasting time there -- but they both still have plenty to prove.
Oliver (Boston, MA): Is Henry Rodriguez's stuff nasty enough to usurp the closer role even when Storen is healthy?
Ken Funck: A guy with triple-digit heat certainly has the stuff to close, the question is, should he? Me, I'd rather have him work with a clean slate opening the ninth; with his walk rate, he's not a guy I'd like to see come in with men on base in the seventh or eighth. Storen setting up and Rodriguez closing works for me, especially since I think the set-up role (if used properly) is more valuable anyway.
Bob (Seattle): What's wrong with Jose Bautista, besides his low BABIP?
Ken Funck: The trite answer is that the alien that had been inhabiting his body finally went home. But I don't want to be trite -- you deserve better than that, Bob. The BABIP is going to improve, and more flyballs are going to find the seats. It's only May 1st, after all. He may never be JOEY FRIGGIN' BATS again, but it's way too early to write him off.
Karl (Chicago): Now that you can cheat and have a slow April behind you, what is your line on Stanton home runs in 2012? (Last year he had 2 in April).
Ken Funck: Dude, how do you know I cheat? And that I've been lazy and unmotivated this April? Have you been talking to my parole officer?
Oh, wait, I see what you're asking. The tricky part is trying to untangle what effect his sore knee has on his power. I'm guessing some, so I'll set the line at 25 bombs this year. What do you guys think?
Silv (NY, NY): Whither Nolan Arenado? Chris Nelson has a .607 OPS and three errors already. What the heck are the Rockies waiting for?
Ken Funck: One possible guess, of course, is that they're waiting long enough to ensure an extra year of team control. More likely, it's because he's barely reached drinking age, and barely seen advanced pitching. Sure, he might be ready, but I'd like to see him succeed in more than 100 or so PAs in Double-A before throwing him to the wolves. There's a big risk-reward question here--does the reward of him (possibly) improving the big league lineup a little bit this year outweight the risk that he's not ready, and forcing him to fail in his first trip to the majors stunts his development? I totally understand them playing it safe at this point.
Alex (Anaheim): As a Yankee fan, am I going to be shaking my head about the Montero/Pineda trade for a decade?
Ken Funck: As Jay Jaffe wrote last week, labrum tears aren't exactly a death sentence, but history is not on Pineda's side. On the other hand, I don't think Montero is really a catcher, so it's not like the Yankees traded away Johnny Bench. Pitchers are inherently more risky than hitters, but I liked the trade when Cashman made it, so it would be wrong of me to criticize it today. Sometimes fate intervenes. Personally, I expect Pineda will come back and be effective--he has youth and stuff on his side, after all.
Oliver (Boston, MA): Exaggerated infield shifts seem to be more in vogue than ever. Is there a difference between the two leagues in that regard?
Ken Funck: Great question, and honestly, I don't know the answer -- although the fact Joe Maddon works in only one of those leagues might skew the results a certain way. Anybody out there want to throw some data our way?
Bill (New Mexico): Obligatory Pujols question: are there any indications that he might not be completely healthy? I've seen photos where he didn't look himself -- sunken eyes, maybe loss of muscle mass, etc.
Ken Funck: There are always whispers whenever a veteran underperforms, but anything I might add would be purely speculative. My personal theory is that knowing he doesn't have Cubs pitching to push around any more has interfered with his chi.
Of course, he's Albert Pujuols, so it's not like he's going to have an Adam Dunn death spiral season. But the signs of a slow decline have been there for a few years, if you were willing to look for them. That's probably what we're seeing, and that's why I hated his contract the moment it was signed.
Jeff (Springfield): Too early to give up on Mark Reynolds? He's just looked absolutely awful all around...
Ken Funck: When I hear the name Mark Reynolds, I picture a windmill standing at the plate. Sometimes the ball hits a tine and it flies a long way. Much more frequently, it misses all the tines and the windmill walks slowly back to the dugout. It's possible the windmill has just stopped turning, making it easy for pitchers to throw pitches past it. More likely, though, we've merely seen a long run of random misses, so a bunch of random hits are likely just around the corner.
GR Grasshoppers (Michigan): The Grand Rapids Grasshoppers ask that you peek into the future to tell us what will become of Michael Pineda. Should we just release him now, avoiding the frustration of another injury-riddled pitcher? Also, what would you do with a pitching coach who has worked with the likes of Pineda, Joakim Soria, Rich Harden, Joey Devine, Francisco Liriano, Shaun Marcum, Adam Miller, et al? lol
Ken Funck: Always good to hear from my favorite ex-36er. Being a Cubs fan, I'd send that pitching coach to St. Louis, of course.
You of all people I don't need to tell about the inherent riskiness of pitchers, but as I said before I think Pineda will come back strong. If I were in, say, a Strat league, I'd hang onto him. Unless you'd rather trade him for, oh, I dunno, Matt Capps.
Alex (Anaheim): What's your take on Harper's promotion? I read a couple of columns saying Washington is rushing him, and even though he's 19 I didn't expect that reaction.
Ken Funck: The Nats' development staff know a lot more than you or I or the media do about what motivates Bryce Harper and how he's likely to respond. If they felt this would retard his development, they wouldn't have done it. I like what KG usually says about this, i.e., promotions tend to occur due to reasons that are beyond both the player's and team's control, mainly injury. The Nats didn't choose the time; the time chose them. But obviously they think he (a) makes the team better right now; and (b) won't lose any sleep or get down on himself if he struggles. I'd be very surprised if they're wrong about that.
Oliver (Boston, MA): Matusz got burned by a poor last inning in his previous two starts before an effective outing the last time around. You think he shows us something in his next three starts against NY, Texas and Tampa Bay?
Ken Funck: Wow, that's a tough assignment. If he can pitch into the sixth in each of those outings, I'll be impressed. I don't expect to be impressed, though. I've been a big Matusz backer in the past, but I'm not hopping back on that bandwagon any time soon--the ride's been terrible for my middle-aged joints.
Billy Blanks (Doin' Tae Bo): Rest of the season: Bautista or Pujols?
Ken Funck: When asked those questions, the smart answer is usually to select the better player. I flatter myself to think I'm smart, so I'm going with Pujols. It'll be fascinating to see what the new normal is for those two.
Mike (Chi-town): As long as Bryce competes, doesn't look completely overmatched - I see no reason for him not to remain with the Nats - agree/disagree? And how does a crowd boo a 19-yr old player making his debut? Let him give you a reason. Or is it because he hustles?
Ken Funck: Agree.
I'm not going to try and channel the thought process of chuckleheads who boo teenagers on the most exciting day of their (and their family's) lives. It makes me nauseous, and I fear the possibility of residual effects. My only comment is that we live an a fantastical time where information and opinions about anything in the world can be found for free. The downside of this is people know and have opinions about more things than ever before, including teenage baseball players. Thirty years ago the casual fan wouldn't have known enough about Bryce Harper to even think about booing him. I guess that's the price we have to pay -- that, and political talk radio.
Silv (NY, NY): Ken, can you explain the support (lukewarm as it may be) of Harper's age-19 promotion to the first place big league club that didn't seem to have a *pressing* need vs. the Rockies, who do need the extra bat and glove, not promoting Arenado (two years older and having an extra two years of professional experience)? This seems inconsistent.
Ken Funck: Sure. I think the overriding concern of the team should be whether the promotion is best for the player in the long run, or at least isn't damaging to them in the long run. The Nats are seemingly convinced Harper is ready; the Rox seemingly don't have the same conviction about Arenado. I don't claim to know more about the player development process than the professionals who are paid to mold clay into major league ballplayers, so I don't feel comfortable questioning either of them at this point. If Harper bombs, sulks, and doesn't recover (which I strongly doubt), I'll be happy to roast them over a spit.
Oh, and Harper is a freak.
Oliver (Boston, MA): A question which will be totally irrelevant to fantasy players:
The strength of the Cardinals bench got some notice last postseason. The versatility and pinch-hitting options that gave them was pretty significant in close games. Which teams do you think stack up with the most impressive benches in 2012?
Ken Funck: Good -- I'm not the fantasy expert around here, though I'll gladly talk your ear off about Strat.
I don't have a quick answer for you, Oliver, and I don't want to do research on your dime. So I'll say the Cardinals bench still impresses me -- or will, if everyone gets healthy. A few weeks ago we were asked to pick a bench player who might be big down the stretch, and I went with my favorite overlooked prospect, Matt Carpenter. I stand by that.
Pablo (NJ): what are your expectations for Matt Gamel and Zack Cozart ROS?
Ken Funck: They'll earn far more money than me while traveling around the country to play a game most play for free. Also, Mat Gamel will eventually hit more like Triple-A Mat Gamel (winding up at 267/341/434), and Cosart will finish up at 275/338/415. How's that for false precision?
Oliver (Boston, MA): You might also note that Arenado has cooled off considerably. Pretty sure his OPS that last couple weeks is roughly the same as Nelson's.
Ken Funck: You may be right, but even if he were hitting 600/750/1145 in 100 PAs, I wouldn't let that sway me if my gut told me he wasn't ready.
Steve N (Delaware): Josh Thole is off to a blistering start. Is there any chance that he will add power to his game?
Ken Funck: No, I don't see it. Power is reputed to be the last tool to develop (though I tend to vote for either "wisdom" or "perspicacity"), but Thole's already 25 and nobody has ever projected him to hit for power. If he goes deep ten times this year, drop me a line and I'll send you a prize, so long as I can find a shipping box that can hold perspicacity.
Brian (Florida): What's your concern level for Mat Latos?
Ken Funck: Not high. He had a bad April last year as well, and bounced back. His stuff doesn't seem to be particularly deficient. More likely just a bad run of starts that he'll soon put behind him.
Alex (Anaheim): Matt Kemp got a lot of money this offseason, but did he deserve more?
Ken Funck: The compensation section of his player card says this: "At signing, largest-ever deal for National League player and tied for seventh-largest ever." That seems about right, unless he slugs .800 over the next three seasons. Then he deserves more.
ralph (copenhagen): What percentage of outfielders who throw left-handed could have been SS/2B/3B if only they could throw right-handed?
Ken Funck: 17.8%
Seriously, though, that's a great question, and I don't have a good answer. I'd love to hear what the podcast guys think about this, so I'll ask them.
Eric (Minneapolis, MN): Just wondering about Martin Perez and where you think his ceiling might be given the contrast between his tools and that the numbers never seem to back them up. Seems to be turning into Casey Kelly.
Ken Funck: Well, he just turned 21 and is at least holding his own at AAA. I still trust the scouting reports more than the numbers in his case. With his stuff, his ceiling is still sky-high.
Tim (Seattle): Is it possible that people place too high an expectation on prospects to produce at difficult positions? Its like some people are satisfied with a first baseman that posts a .750 OPS who wasn't a highly touted prospect and act like a prospect has no value at all unless he posts a .800 OPS at catcher. Nobody cares if Wilson Betemit puts up .775 OPS at DH. On the flip side, it would be a catastrophe for Jesus Montero to do so because he has no value unless he is catching.
Ken Funck: Sure. It's human nature to grade against expectations rather than an objective standard, and it's a hard habit to break. There are mediocre movies I've enjoyed far more than good movies, because I had expected the good movies to be great ones. I like to call this the "Matt Wieters Conundrum".
Ken Funck: Okay folks, I have to sign out. Thanks for the great questions, and thanks for spending part of your day with us here at Baseball Prospectus.