Scouting The MLB Draft – Interview with Christopher Crawford

IMG_1528With the 2016 MLB Draft now less than 2 weeks away, I reached out to Baseball Prospectus writer and noted draft guru Christopher Crawford to ask him a few questions about this year’s prospect crop.  Even this close to draft day, Christopher was kind enough to spare some time to answer a few questions.

NatsGM – “So Chris, the place to start is your “big-picture” thoughts on this year’s draft crop – How is this class talent wise and what are the strengths and weaknesses of the class overall?”

C. Crawford – “It’s a frustrating class. One week you’ll look at this group and think it’s one of the best of the decade, the next you’ll compare it to some of the dreadful classes of the previous. The strength to me is in the outfield, there’s a couple of handfuls full of guys who can make an impact both at the prep and collegiate level. The weakness is pitching, particularly in college. This is the worst collegiate pitching class that I can remember in quite some time.”

NatsGM – “There are two high school arms getting plenty of attention this year, Jason Groome and Riley Pint – Thoughts on these two and whom do you prefer?”

C. Crawford – “Groome is the top player on my board. He’s a southpaw who has shown two 70 pitches in his fastball and a disgusting curveball, and he’ll complement them with a pretty solid change as well. He’s had some command issues and that whole suspension thing, but he’s still the guy I’d take 1.1. 

Pint has the best fastball of any pitcher — college or prep — eligible this year, and if you gear for that as a hitter, he can make you feel silly with a plus change. The issue is the delivery; there’s some effort, and I’m not sure it’s conducive to having starter command long-term. The upside is huge, but the floor is reliever, unfortunately.

NatsGM – “If you were the GM of each team inside the top-5, who would you take (not who do you think they will take) and why?”

C. Crawford – “I believe in taking the best player available approach, so if I’m Philly, I’m taking Jason Groome, if I’m Cincinnati I am taking Corey Ray, If I’m Atlanta I’m taking Delvin Perez, if I’m Colorado I’m taking Blake Rutherford and if I’m Milwaukee I’m taking Braxton Garrett. That will almost assuredly not be what happens, but that’s how I’d do it if someone were foolish enough to let me try.

NatsGM – “Let’s do some Rapid Fire Question –  Who is your favorite Day 2 prospect(s) and/or your personal cheeseball in this class?”

C. Crawford – “Really tough to say, but a guy I really like who will likely go on day 2 is Bo Bichette, a infielder who can really hit and gets rave reviews about his instincts. My favorite cheeseball is the kind with the nuts.

NatsGM – “Who is your favorite HS bat, Rutherford, Moniak or someone else?”

C. Crawford – “Delvin Perez. I get the immaturity questions, but in terms of just pure upside, he’s the best player in the class.

NatsGM – “Best catching prospect (long-term) in this crop?

C. Crawford – “It’s close, but I would have to say Matt Thaiss. He’s not a lock to stick behind the plate, but he can really swing the bat, so he doesn’t have to be an elite defender.”

Thank you so much Christopher.  I want to encourage everyone to buy his 2016 MLB Draft Guide available here -> https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/baseball-prospectus-mlb-draft/id1090576351?mt=11

THE NatsGM Show Episode #69 – Guest Sam Miller From Baseball Prospectus

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THE NatsGM Show Episode #69 is now available and we are proud to welcome Editor at Baseball Prospectus, Co-Host of Effectively Wild  and the Co-Author of Best Selling Book “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work“, Sam Miller!

On this episode I interview Sam in-depth about his experience working for the Sonoma Stompers last summer and his experience writing his recent book.  We start by discussing how everything came about, the writing process and deciding on writing alternative chapters with Ben Lindbergh.  Then Sam talks about hiring and subsequently firing the manager, working with Ben each day and key character Sean Conroy.  Finally, he shares his thoughts on team chemistry, the validity of Gonny Jomes and how close he was to returning as manager of the Stompers this summer.

Thanks to Sam for joining us and to our sponsor, No Halftime!  Please Rate, Review & Subscribe to the show on iTunes as this helps us grow our audience.

THE NatsGM Show Episode #68 – Guest Larry Dallas

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THE NatsGM Show Episode #68 has arrived like an Uber and we are proud to welcome New York Mets enthusiast, Co-Host of SiriusXM’s Busted Open Radio and Independent Wrestling Superstar, Larry Dallas!

On this episode Larry and I begin by discussing the current state of the Mets, the hitting prowess of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, plus the questions surrounding their starting rotation.  Then we discuss the upcoming Mets vs. Nationals Home & Home series the next 10 days,  the importance of these 6 games for each team and Larry gives a strong opinion on interleague play.

Then at the 34 minute mark, the interview transitions into wrestling talk, where Larry shares his big-picture thoughts on the state of professional wrestling, Evolve and Independent Wrestling, plus we play a round of Rapid Fire.

Thank you to Larry for joining me and to our sponsor, No Halftime!.  Please Rate, Review & Subscribe to the show on iTunes and Follow us on Twitter, @Nats_GM!

Armchair Evaluation – University of Florida LHP A.J. Puk

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Saturday afternoon I took advantage of the rainy weather outside to watch the visiting Vanderbilt Commodores play the host University of Florida Gators.  Considering the 2016 MLB Draft is less than a month away, I wanted to seize this opportunity to watch two top-10 teams loaded with potential early round draft prospects.  In particular, I wanted to perform an Armchair Evaluation of Florida’s Saturday starter, and projected top draft choice, LHP A.J. Puk.

Facing a difficult and talented Vanderbilt lineup, Puk pitched 6 impressive innings, allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits and 2 walks against 11 strikeouts.  Puk threw 110 pitches against the 23 batters he faced, (64 strikes / 46 balls), inducing 3 ground outs and 4 fly outs.  Essentially Puk made one mistake, allowing only a solo home run in the 2nd inning to talented freshman Julian Infante.

The monstrous 6-7 230lbs. Puk utilizes a semi-windup, with a simple side step that leads into his high leg kick and delivery toward home.  Puk throws from a three-quarter to high three-quarter arm slot and has a noticeably fast arm.  His immense size, along with a reasonable amount of excess movement in his motion, causes him to struggle repeating his delivery.  Puk has a lengthy arm stroke with a mild arm-wrap, which further limits his ability to command the strike zone.

On this afternoon Puk featured a quality 3-pitch repertoire, including a fastball, slider and changeup.  His fastball consistently sat 92-97mph on the television radar gun with excellent life and the occasional movement to his arm-side.  The slider was 80-85mph with good two-plane movement and 2-to-8 action, which he could throw for strikes or in the dirt to induce whiffs.  Additionally Puk threw a handful of inconsistent upper-80s changeups, some with some movement away from righties and others resembling batting practice fastballs.  As mentioned above, Puk struggles with below-average command and control of the strike zone due to his inconsistent mechanics, which limits the overall quality of his stuff.  Currently Puk possesses an easy “60/65” fastball, a “55/60” slider and perhaps a “30/35” changeup.

This outing gave a terrific synopsis of Puk as a prospect, as his strengths and weaknesses were fully exposed by Vanderbilt.  The “starter kit” with Puk is quite impressive as a lefty with legitimate mid-to-high 90s velocity, a mountainous frame ideal for a starting pitcher and the potential for two plus or better pitches.  Unfortunately his size works against him a bit, as he presently struggles to repeat his motion and arm slot.  In addition, his lack of confidence and the development of his changeup could hinder his ability to get professional right-handed hitters out.  However, his mechanical issues and changeup both should improve with professional coaching and repetitions.

His present velocity, frame and potential for two dominant pitches give him a floor of an impact late-inning reliever.  If he can improve his command of the strike zone and his changeup, the ceiling exists for Puk to develop into a #2 or #3 starter in the major leagues.  Puk should be an easy top-15 pick in next month’s draft, with a chance he goes inside the top-3.

NatsGM Draft Projection ->        Top 5-10 Overall