For the second consecutive year, this weekend the fine gentleman from Baseball Prospectus stormed Washington DC with their Stadium Tour. This weekend included appearances from such luminaries as Joe Hamrahi, Jason Parks, Ben Lindbergh, Harry Pavlidis, the men of Cespedes Family BBQ, along with numerous members of the BP Fantasy and Prospect Team.
Like Rickey Henderson in his prime, Baseball Prospectus lead off this DC Stadium Tour weekend in style Friday evening, hosting an informal meet-and-greet at Jake’s American Grille. The bar was tremendously accommodating, and there must have been 15+ members of BP, along with Mike Ferrin from SiriusXM, socializing with fans like myself while downing a few adult beverages.
My personal highlight of the evening was being asked multiple times for my autograph, including one lady who wanted me to sign a copy of the BP Annual. I acted modestly and did not sign, but now in hindsight I wish I had signed and started a new trend “autograph-bombing”.
This casual atmosphere allowed me the opportunity to spend considerable time discussing prospects with Jordan Gorosh and CJ Wittman of the BP prospect team. Both guys are extremely knowledgeable and will no doubt work for an organization in the future; in fact, I hope to book them as guests on THE NatsGM Show before they are called up to the majors.
Saturday afternoon I was fortunate enough to meet up with Jason “Professor” Parks and his new wife for lunch and an exclusive combination interview with them. I hope to have our interview, also known as Episode #4 of THE NatsGM Show, available later this week, but just a few of the many highlights from our conversation include:
– Jason making a passionate and interesting case that the season Michael Jordan spent at Double-A batting .202 is the single most impressive feat in sports. MJ was 31-years-old, had not played baseball in 10+ years, and consistently hit in the high minors, making it not a fluke but a truly remarkable accomplishment. I am not sure I agree, but it was a fascinating bar discussion.
– In addition Jason and I spent a considerable time discussing Nationals top prospect Lucas Giolito, who he revealed to me will be BP’s top pitching prospect in the minor leagues when their revised top prospect list is unveiled next month. There are some present weaknesses in Giolito’s game but Jason legitimately was grinning when talking about his ceiling and what he could develop into in a few years.
– Finally I received confirmation from both Jason and Jackie that #BathNight, is indeed a weekly thing.
Later Saturday evening was the main event of the BP Stadium Tour, a star-studded question-and-answer session with members of the Nationals front office and Baseball Prospectus, and the game afterwards. The format of the evening involved two panels, divided into a 20+ minute session with Nationals personal and a 30-minute discussion with the members of BP.
The first panel, consisting of Nationals baseball operations staff including Mark Scialabba – Director, Player Development, Bryan Minniti – Assistant General Manager, Adam Cromie – Director, Baseball Operations, Samuel Mondry-Cohen – Baseball Analytics Manager and Michael DeBartelo – Baseball Operations Analytics were forthcoming answering questions from the audience. A few of the highlights from the discussion include:
– The panel answered my question about the Nationals approach toward the draft, including my observation that the team has found a market inefficiency when selecting injured prospects. The men responded they did not feel like they were exploiting a “market inefficiency” but rather that now that the team is good, they are able to take greater risks in the draft. They probably would not have chosen a supposed riskier selection like Lucas Giolito or Anthony Rendon a few years ago.
– Another individual asked the panel about the organization’s use of public data verses proprietary information, with the theme being how much of the data could be seen publicly on the internet to the average fan. The panel answered the question honestly and made a fascinating distinction, noting that the team’s goals in terms of analytics are primarily focused on predicting future results, in stark contrast to the information on websites which tends to emphasize analyzing past performance.
Immediately afterward the members of Baseball Prospectus overwhelmed the relatively small dais with more than a dozen people. The audience peppered the Prospect Team with questions about several prominent minor leaguers and Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark.
– Jason was asked about Nationals prospect AJ Cole and to the satisfaction of much of the audience, he spoke glowingly about him, highlighting his powerful mid-90s fastball and solid changeup. He said Cole has a floor as a late-inning reliever but Jason thinks he eventually settles in as a #3 or #4 starter.
– As mentioned a question was asked about Tanner Roark and his sustainability as a successful major league pitcher. Jason honestly stated he labeled Roark an “NP” when he was in the Texas minor leagues, as he was not a very good pitcher while in their organization. Both Jason and Harry Pavlidis stated that he is not a #1, #2, or #3 and questioned this success in the future, but he continues to let the hitters put the ball in play and prove the doubters wrong.
After watching Doug Fister lead the Nationals to a 3-0 victory over Atlanta, most of the BP staff ventured over to Bluejacket for an after party, hosted by yours truly and NatsGM.com. The BP guys and I enjoyed their fine selection of craft beers and were treated to an appearance from Twitter legend, #Mort, Zach Mortimer. It was an overwhelming turnout, and I spent much of the time talking baseball with Tucker Blair from BP and Orioles Nation and Charlie from Nationals Review. I also want to thank the Doorman at Bluejacket, who specifically made sure I secured a ride home at the end of the night.
In conclusion I want to thank the members of Baseball Prospectus, specifically Joe Hamrahi and Jason Parks, for being so generous with their time this weekend and for collaborating to create one of the best weekends in recent memory. We demand you return for an encore performance before the end of 2014.