Yesterday, Dustin and I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at Safeco Field. There we got admittance to a meet and greet with Baseball Prospectus members Jason Parks, Harry Pavlidis, Matthew Kory, Joe Hamrahi, and Geoff Young. After about an hour of talking and listening to them, we got a Q&A session with members of the Seattle Mariners front office. Before we got there, I thought the Mariners would send a bunch of scrubs, but they actually sent about half of the people that mattered in the overall process of decisions, sans Jack Z. The highest ranked guy was the assistant GM. Tom McNamara, Director of Amateur Scouting, also was in attendance. We wouldn’t have ever known he was there until he somewhat facetiously asked one of the front office members a question.
Although it was quite a bitch to get in, it was a pretty awesome event to go to at a great price. It was well worth walking back and forth from will call to customer service. Now I’ll get to what came out of the whole event.
Baseball Prospectus members
They bounced around some cool ideas for things for their site that probably won’t appear for at least another year or two. Joe Hamrahi said he realizes that the site is ugly, and that there will be a redesign around 2016. He mentioned that he wanted to add things so BP subscribers could interact with it at games. (Such as look up videos of a pitcher warming up in the ‘pen, or look at catcher pitch framing data from your smartphone.)
Although they’re not MLB scouts, they’re great with analytics and their eyes are probably better trained than mine or yours. It sounds like they’re not too hot to trot on Garreth Morgan and are much higher on our first pick, Alex Jackson. When talking about Morgan they mentioned the term “5 o’clock hitter” multiple times and brought up a bunch of times of guys who had tons of athletic tools and raw power but never materialized. They essentially thought we were “taking a flyer” (their words) on him in hopes of him turning into a big bat. Quite the expensive flyer, considering we gave him $2M which was ~$1.2M over his slot. Ridiculous money, so the Mariners must like him a lot.
The BP members said they’ve seen Alex Jackson play before and they think he’s a very, very safe bet. Not that we’re unfamiliar with safe bets. A name brought up his Dustin Ackley, who a couple of guys they would have bet anything that the kid was going to be a perennial .300 hitter. Jackson could realistically play C, 3B, or RF but he’s likely to end up in RF.
Mariners front office members
To no one’s surprise, the M’s Assistant GM Jeff Kingston handled most of the questions. Surprisingly, he didn’t dance around questions and limited the red herrings.
In regards to future qualifying offers, Kingston said he expects players to start accepting them because of how things have played out for players over the past couple seasons. It typically hasn’t gone their way. In effect, he also expects there to be less qualifying offers extended.
They said they sent a ton of guys to watch Jesus Montero and help him work on the problems he has had hitting. They said they feel he’s ready to go.
Jeff Kingston said it’s really up to Taijuan Walker when he gets called up. He’s fresh off of a win yesterday in which he put up 6.2 innings, giving up only one hit, one earned run, three walks, while striking out seven. He had 94 pitches, 57 of them being strikes. The biggest thing, Kingston said, is that he just needs to shake off the rust and get back to mid-season form. According to Mike Curto, his stuff was spectacular. To use his words, he threw strikes, got ahead in the count, and had dominant stuff. Since it was a lefty-heavy lineup, he utilized and relied on his change more so than his curve. He took a no hitter into the seventh. Kingston noted that since Taijuan has missed a good chunk of time that he wouldn’t be on an innings cap this year. Significant news for our playoff hopes. He could be a realistic option to start in place of Erasmo on Thursday.
On Cano, Kingston said talks started really gaining traction about a week after the Winter Meetings. When they contacted Cano they realized that the numbers being tossed around were reasonable given the M’s projected value for him. He said he thinks a lot of teams counted themselves out of Cano talks right away. Kingston mentioned that while they realize they probably had to overpay to get him that the value he brings in this next couple years outweighs his play in the last three or so years. Cano wasn’t a guy that they said they really needed to go out and acquire from the get go, but things just panned out that way. They would have loved to keep it to 7-8 years, Kingston said, but the extra two years was important for Cano. An interesting thing that Kingston acknowledged was that the window of contention, in a way, was in the next 3-4 years. He says he felt it was very realistic that they could contend this year. It sounded like the Mariners weren’t too hot on Jacoby Ellsbury, and they specifically brought up that he’s always banged up and they didn’t think he would age well.
Austin Cousino was brought up as a potential everyday center fielder.
There’s 2-3 Mariners that they’re looking into extending. Off the top of my head that could only be Kyle Seager and… well, I have no f’ing clue. James Paxton? Whatever. Kingston said they’ve reached out to a couple players. Talks probably weren’t too serious.
McNamara said Alex Jackson was taken for bat potential (obviously). Said he has a very good arm behind the plate and that will translate well to right field. He’s seen him at third base, and he thinks he’s more advanced than Morgan.
On Morgan, McNamara said they had been watching him for three years. They’ve see him with a wood bat, which is pretty unique. Morgan made adjustments “neck up” that they didn’t expect him to make. It could be that it’s just the front office fluffing up their own prospects, but they sounded a lot higher on Morgan than the BP guys, Not surprising, since they overpaid him on his slot by over a million.
Overall, quite a productive and useful experience. I would recommend it to anyone that has any interest in baseball. $48 for main level seats, a meet and greet, and a Q&A session is a steal. Although for about twenty minutes it felt like we weren’t going to get inside the fuckin’ stadium. On one hand, seeing the guys in charge of Baseball Operations was cool. but on the other hand, we traded John Jaso for Michael Morse.