It's not everyday that we present the thoughts and opinions of someone who's actually worth listening to. Today is one such occasion. In the first installment of our "Hard Nine" interview series, Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein takes some time to give back to the community of baseball geeks for which he is at least partially responsible.
We humbly thank him for everything.
1. Obligatory fantasy dork question: Which prospect who currently is in the minors has the best shot of making a major-league impact this season?
Chase Headley of the Padres. Outfielder who will hit for average, hit for power and draw walks. (Editor's note: This interview was conducted just before Headley's callup.)
2. With prospects, sometimes it's hard to know how to pronounce their names. It's kind of the same with you. Are you a Gold-steen or a Gold-stine?
"Steen." I used to be hung up on it as a kid, but not anymore. Now I'm just stuck with everyone assuming I'm Jewish (I'm not). That list includes my father, who kind of rediscovered his Jewish side in his middle-age years and now assumes for some reason I have as well. He'll do things like ask me what I'm doing for Yom Kippur even though I've never celebrated it once in my life. It's weird.
3. Do you watch much major league action in your free time? Or are you more interested in the South Atlantic League pennant race?
I certainly watch quite a bit of it, just because it's what's on baseball-wise. I go to far more minor league games than major league ones, and I always joke that by June or so, I know far more about the Reading Phillies than I do the Philadelphia Phillies.
4. Why do scouts grade everything on a 20-80 scale? Is it safe to say that all my tools grade out in the mid-teens?
Ask Branch Rickey, it's his scale and everyone uses it on some level. Some teams go 2-8, some teams allow half scores (like 45), some don't. I know of one team that allows for half/half scores (like 43 or 47) as well. I've had some of our readers who work in the sciences (we have a lot of readers who are way smarter than us) tell me that the 20-80 scale is used in some sciences -- the three scores above and below 50 represent one, two, and three standard deviations from the norm, and anything more/less than that doesn't work. I don't really get it necessarily, but I don't try to either.
I have good news for you on the second part of your question. You can't go lower than 20, so you're 20 across the board. I have no idea how athletic you are, but hell, you might be a 25 runner – maybe you could beat Billy Butler in a foot race. (Editor's note: Hell yeah I could!)
5. Who is one player that you were sure was a lock to be an MLB stud who just fizzled out? What did that experience teach you?
There's certainly a few. Ben Grieve and Corey Patterson come to mind as two guys I thought would be perennial All-Star types. I can't really say I learned anything in particular from either. The most important thing to know in prospecting is that there is no such thing as an absolute.
6. Some of my best friends are stat geeks. What is one thing they would be wise to learn from scouts?
To get out of the house more, and to kiss a girl. Seriously though, SOME (not everyone is anti-scout) need to realize that tools and skills are important, especially in the minor leagues and the value of statistics one finds in the minors can range greatly from really telling to totally irrelevant. There are certain types of players that can put up great numbers in the minors but because of the type of player they are, it's just not going to work in the big leagues. I used to be a number geek myself, and then I learned that scouts do a better job of projecting prospects than the numbers do.
I'll share with you a story that I always do with questions like this. In 2001, I was at a Kane County Cougars game. They had a good team that year, with Adrian Gonzalez, a No. 1 overall pick, at first base, Josh Willingham in the outfield, and some others. After the game, a scout told me that the best player on the field was the shortstop, who hit .268/.327/.382 that year. Not only was he the best player for the scout, but the best hitter he'd seen in the league for years. It made no sense to me at all, as the guy didn't hit for average, didn't hit for much power, and didn't walk much. That player was Miguel Cabrera. That's why you listen to scouts.
7. It's generally accepted that a player's late 20s are his peak years. I'm 28. Is writing for a fourth-rate blog the best I can hope for, or do I have a breakout season in me?
I didn't get into baseball writing until my 30s. You have plenty of time. I still haven't peaked.
8. Reading your chats, it's apparent that you are a fan of the adult beverages and questionable cuisine (e.g., White Castle). Regale us with a tale of a particularly noteworthy feast.
I'm a big fan of food in general, and I'm a good cook, but I'm not a snob about it. As much as I can appreciate a fantastic, expensive meal, I also see lots of good things in a sack of sliders. I think the craziest meal I ever had was at Perlan, a restaurant in Reykjavik that rotates above a geothermal power processing plant. I ate both blackbird and puffin there.
9. If you were a player, what kind of player would you be? In addition to your position/batting prowess, please indicate whether you'd be scrappy, sullen, Manny-ishly aloof, etc.
I'd probably be a fringy left-handed reliever who throws curveballs, hopes for grounders, and only gets used if the team is up or down by at least ten runs. I also throw left and bat right, but the resemblances to Rickey Henderson end there. I'd probably be a lot like Milton Bradley – he's a great teammate, but he doesn't deal with failure well, and he's got quite the temper. That, for good or bad, sounds about right to me.