Jim Callis of Baseball America Talks Yankees Prospects

Jim Callis, Executive Editor of Baseball America, recently agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions about Yankee prospects.  He provides a lot of great insight on what we can expect out of our some top prospects, up-and-comers, and those who have fallen from grace.  Check out his responses below.

Chip Buck:  While Michael Pineda‘s no longer a prospect, can you give us a preview for what we might be able to expect out of him playing in New York this year?

Jim Callis:  Safeco Field is much more forgiving than Yankee Stadium, but that said, I think Pineda is going to win 15 games, strike out 200-plus batters and be New York’s second-best starter, behind only C.C. Sabathia.

CB:  Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are two of the brightest and most highly sought after pitching prospects in the Yankee system.  While they each miss a lot of bats and generate big strikeout numbers; both have exhibited difficulties in limiting walks.  After watching each struggle with their command in 2011, are you still projecting both pitchers to be top of the rotation starters?

JC:  I don’t think I’ve ever projected Betances as a frontline starter. That may be his ceiling, but given his slow development path and still less-than-stellar command, I’ve suspected for a while that he’s going to end up as a reliever. I still see Banuelos as a starter, however, but again, I don’t think I’ve ever called him a No. 1 starter. He’s a No. 2 or 3 if everything comes together.

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Putting Together My Hall of Fame Ballot

With the flurry of the Winter Meetings feeling like a distant memory, many baseball writers have shifted their attention away from the hot stove league (albeit temporarily) to writing articles about the upcoming Hall of Fame vote.  As with nearly every election, there always seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding certain candidates.  Several BBWAA members will steadfastly throw their support behind a specific candidate, while the sabermetric community will write numerous articles providing myriad reasons why said candidate should not be elected and vice-versa.

While this back and forth exchange of rhetoric can sometimes be a little overwhelming, the overall net gain is positive.  Even though their performance doesn’t change during their period of eligibility, the candidates are re-examined and re-evaluated; minds are changed; and cases become more clear.  In a way, it’s somewhat of a learning process.  Mistakes are certainly made along the way with certain players getting elected that probably shouldn’t have (Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Tony Perez), and others have been criminally left out in the cold despite carrying credentials that are more than adequate (Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, Dick Allen).  For the most part tough, the electorate has done a good job in selecting their inductees; albeit occasionally tardy with some.

To kick off the Hall of Fame season, I thought I’d share my theoretical Hall of Fame ballot.  I will follow the BBWAA’s criteria to the letter with the exception of the character clause.  I’ll be ignoring that one entirely.  With the number of unsavory characters already in the Hall of Fame, it seems incredibly silly to invoke it now for the purposes of passing moral judgment on known and especially suspected (but not proven) steroid users.  Since I can’t state with any certainty the degree to which steroids enhanced a player’s production, it’s difficult to penalize them accordingly.  Furthermore, there isn’t a great way to determine who did and did not do steroids without test results.  As a result, I won’t be making any assumptions.

After much consideration, I’ve decided on “voting” for six candidates from the current pool of 27 eligible players.  No one of the incoming class was selected from my ballot.

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Valuing the 2011 Free Agent Class

As I was reading Jim Bowden’s “Pricing the Free Agents” piece on ESPN last Friday afternoon, I could hear the rising and crashing waves of criticism coming from the Sabermetric/blogging community from over yonder…and by yonder, I mean Twitter.  I know this because I was one of the people dropping snide, snarky remarks about several of his choices.  And though it’s easy to criticize the man who worships at the alter of OPSBI, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he held down the role of General Manager for 15 years with two teams.  As shocking (or even disturbing) as that may be to some of us, he didn’t ascend to that job by accident.  He worked hard to not only reach that status, but also retain it.  Did he make his share of baffling mistakes?  Absolutely.  But he also made some really smart moves that benefitted the ball clubs for which he worked.  While that doesn’t absolve him of criticism, he deserves some respect.*

He has a pretty great sense of humor.  Julian Levine of Giants Nirvana and I made a couple of jokes at his expense on Twitter a few weeks back, and he responded with a light hearted, friendly direct message thanking us for the “shout out.”  Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that was really cool of him.  Also, it allowed me to coin the term “OPSBI’d.”

The reason I’m semi-defending him is not because I want to praise him for being a smart guy or a good writer.  I’m not going to pass judgment on him on either case.  Instead, I find it to be a little cowardly to openly criticize someone else’s work without providing an alternative analysis explaining my position.  To remedy this, I’m going to analyze his list of top 20 free agents, and provide my own analysis.  Please keep in mind that I’m not only far more conservative than the free-wheeling Bowden, but also use a far different methodology.  While I do use fWAR to guide me in helping me determine my valuations, I know and understand it’s inherent limitations.  To help limit fWAR’s biases, I consulted rWAR, WARP, and its components as a check and balance.

1. Albert Pujols, 1B

3 Year fWAR Trend – 9.0, 7.5, 5.1

Bowden’s Projection – 9/$273M

Chip’s Projection – 8/$210M

Projected Value – $191M

The Pujols camp is reportedly looking for A-Rod (10/$275M) money, but I can’t envision a single scenario where he receives anything near that offer.  The Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies currently have power hitting first basmen locked up indefinitely; the Mets and Dodgers are stuck in financial hell; and the Angels and Giants don’t seem interested in raising their payroll considerably.  That leaves the Cubs and Cardinals as his most likely destinations.  Given the relatively narrow market for Pujols’s services; his “down” 2011 season; and A-Rod’s post signing performance, we won’t likely see a new record set this time around.  It’s too risky.  That said, Pujols is still the greatest hitter in the game.  He should receive a deal that makes him only the second $200M contract player in history.  It’s probably an overpay by $20M overall, but I think the Cardinals pay the premium to keep him in a Cards uniform.

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Setting the record straight on Wilson

Oh, how I love the Post. Anytime I’m in the mood to read an article full of ill-advised, poorly constructed arguments filled with pretention and hyperbole, I can always count on them to fill that need. Today, Mike Vaccaro decided to take aim at Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson’s postseason performance, and its potential impact on his stock in free agency.

“It was the latest slippage in an October career that has thus far been scattered with banana peels over these last two seasons. Wilson is now 1-5 the last two years, and also now owns the decidedly dubious distinction of having lost the All-Star Game, an ALDS game, an ALCS game and now a World Series game in the same year, a Pick Four from hell any time, especially in a walk year.

Such is the plight for a guy like Wilson, who has played much of his baseball in benign anonymity, whose pretty regular-season numbers can inspire thoughts that he would be an ideal addition to the Yankees this offseason. But there is a difference between the figures that dance on a computer screen and the performance you see on a baseball field.

And the harsh truth is this: in October, with eyes at last lasered on him, Wilson has looked ordinary, if you wish to be kind. If you wish to be harsh, there are other adjectives that’ll work just as well.”

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Live Game Chat Tonight!

I just wanted to let everyone know that we’re doing a three way live game chat with our friends at Fire Brand of the American League and The Ray Area tonight at 7:00 p.m.  In order to lighten what’s sure to be an incredibly tense mood (at least for the Red Sox and Rays fans in attendance), we’ll try to spice it up with off-field fodder as well.  So come one, come all to cheer on your (not mine) beloved Yankees as they take on the Rays…or you can cheer on the Rays in hopes they take out the Red Sox.  The choice is yours really.  Either way, we make sure you have a great time. Continue reading Live Game Chat Tonight!

Practicing Tolerance During the Award Season

(originally published at the ESPN Sweet Spot on 8/31/2011)

Every year, it seems a controversy accompanies the end-of-year awards process. This year won’t be any different. On Monday afternoon, Sports Illustrated reporter and sabermetric lightning rod Jon Heyman released an early version of his ballot for the year-end season awards. Sure enough, his article set Twitter and the blogosphere afire with his position on the MVP selection process:

“But since the award is for most valuable player, and not most outstanding, the effect a player had on the pennant race should be vital. If someone else wants to interpret most valuable as synonymous to best, they can. And if someone else wants to interpret it as being valuable to a particular team, they can, too. But there is plenty of precedent to suggest it means valuable in the league.

Of course, some will argue that precedent shouldn’t count, and past mistakes should not be repeated. But I say the players understand going into a season that the criteria counted by most voters includes the team’s standing to some degree. Players also know that winning is the goal. And I have yet to see a player on a non-contender publicly claim to be MVP.”

The root problem behind the controversy plaguing the Most Valuable Player Award voting process is the word “valuable.” What does it mean? How should we define it? It’s pretty vague, and the rules provided by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) do a poor job clearing up the confusion. Not surprisingly, the lack of clarity about the rules leads each writer to create his own subjective interpretation of what the word means. When these interpretations don’t jive with our own expectations, we tend to react emotionally, often with anger and disdain.

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Live Game Chat Tonight at 7:00

Attention all Yankee fans! We will be doing yet another live game chat tomorrow night with our friends from Fire Brand of the American League. The chat will start at precicely 7:00 p.m.  Help Jason, Brien, and the gang reverse the live game chat hex I’ve put on the Yankees by participating tonight!

Continue reading Live Game Chat Tonight at 7:00

Live Game Chat Wednesday @ 7:00

Attention all Yankee fans! We will be doing yet another live game chat tomorrow night with our friends from Fire Brand of the American League. The chat will start at precicely 7:00 p.m., and we’ll cover such topics as:

  • The battle for the AL East crown
  • Which team has the stronger rotation?
  • Biggest concerns as we head into the postseason
  • Is A-Rod sharing his lip gloss with Mark Teixeira?
  • Cake vs. Pie (and the many reasons Mark and Scott are wrong for liking pie)
  • Plus many others!

Considering the hex Tamar claims I put on the Yankees, you guys will need all of the support they can get! Please join us as the Red Sox duke out with the Yankees for AL East supremacy!  On behalf of Jason, Brien, Larry, Josh, Anna, and Will; go Yankees! Continue reading Live Game Chat Wednesday @ 7:00

Would Cashman Bolt for the Cubs?

Last Friday, when the Cubs announced they’d mercifully released Jim Hendry from his duties as General Manager, it set off a whirl wind of speculation regarding the newly created, high profile vacancy.  In a pair of articles this weekend, ESPN’s Buster Olney and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Whitmyer mentioned Rays GM Andrew Freidman as a potential candidate.  Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star Telegrampointed to Rangers Assistant GM Thad Levine as Hendry’s possible successor.  Given the rocky nature of Brian Cashman’s relationship with Yankee leadership, it was only a matter of time before someone figuratively threw his hat into the ring.  His sponsor?  ESPN New York’s Bruce Levine.

“Although New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says he’s content with his job, speculation is that he could be a primary candidate for the Cubs’ vacancy when his contract expires Sept. 30.

‘I’m not looking to go anywhere,’ Cashman told The New York Post on Saturday.

The Cubs, of course, are looking for a new general manager after the team announced Jim Hendry’s firing on Friday.”

While it’s doubtful Cashman leaves the Yankees, the idea of him jumping ship to run the Cubs is certainly a plausible idea.  Having won six American League pennants and four World Series titles since assuming control in 1998, one might say he’s done all there is to do in his current position.  There’s some truth to that, but those paying attention know better.

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