RAB Exclusive: Interview with Keith LawBy
I have to admit, I’m extremely exciting about our latest draft coverage pinch hitter: Keith Law,Â Senior Baseball Writer for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. One of the best talent evaluators around, Law and his army of freelance scouts travel this great land to bring you firsthand information on the nation’s top amateur players, unlike many other scouting publications which provide hand-me-down info.
Prior to his gig at the Worldwide Leader, Law spent 4+ years in the Jays’ front office, serving asÂ a Special Assistant to the General Manager. He’s also written at Baseball Prospectus. So yeah, not only are we honored to have him, I think it’s safe to say that he’s most qualified person to ever talk baseballÂ here at RAB.
You can check out Keith’s baseball thoughts in a variety of ways at ESPN, including his blog, chats, and frequent television spots. You can also head over toÂ his personal siteÂ to find his non-baseball musings.
I…ahem…sat down with Keith and asked him some questions about the upcoming First Year Player Draft, which is now barely a week away.
Who has been the most impressive draft-eligible player you’ve seen this spring? Why?
Jarrod Parker was the guy who really made me say “wow.”Â I had heard he was throwing hard, but what I hadn’t heard was how good his delivery was, or how advanced his slider is. If he can keep the ball down – or if he’s drafted by a team in a big park – he should be excellent.
Conversely, who’s been the least impressive big name player you’ve seen?
Matt Harvey wasn’t bad, but he was a lot less than advertised.
It’s probably worth mentioning that when I go to the ballpark, I *want* to be impressed. I like good players, and I like seeing kids who show ability. It’s exciting to stand behind the plate at a game and think, “I’m watching a future big leaguer.” But there is a lot of hype and hyperbole in amateur scouting, which leads to situations like my look at Harvey – he’s a talented kid, but he didn’t live up to the billing.
In one of your recent columns you mentioned prep catcher Devin Mesoraco; could you tell us a little more about him? How is his game compared to those of Yasmani Grandal and Travis d’Arnaud? Do any of them have a chance to stay behind the plate in the bigs? Would any be an overdraft for the Yanks at #30?Â
I think Mesoraco is the top prep catcher in the country, and he wouldn’t be an overdraft at #30. The thing about Mesoraco is that he’s far less polished than Grandal (who can really catch and throw, but some teams don’t think he’ll hit – I do) or d’Arnaud. Mesoraco is a good athlete who has some natural feel for the game, but who’s cut his teeth playing Little Sisters of the Poor and Back Country Prep. One name to remember also is Mike Moustakas, a California shortstop/pitcher whom a lot of folks (myself included) think is an ideal guy to convert to catcher. He shouldn’t be there at 30, but he’s a Boras client and may fall on signability.Â
What do you think of Jack McGeary? Will he be worth the huge bonus that’ll be needed to buy him out of his Stanford commitment?
I just wrote him up, so I’ll just refer you to the blog. I know the rumored bonus demands, but I would love to verify it with the kid or his advisor.
There doesn’t seem to be much consensus on Kellen Kulbacki – he’s putting up monster numbers for the second straight year (.398-.538-.785, 19 HR, 49 RBI, 56 BB, 29 K, 9 for 11 in SB attempts this year), but scouts are quick to discredit his performance because of Madison’s ballpark. What are you’re thoughts on him and where do you see him being drafted?
It’s not just his park – he’s a bat-only guy who doesn’t have great bat speed and who struggles against breaking stuff. He didn’t hit well on the Cape at all, which I think is a huge test for guys who put up huge numbers with a metal bat in a bad conference. I think in all likelihood, he’s a bench guy in the big leagues, or maybe an up-and-down guy. In an ordinary college draft, he’d be a 5th- or 6th-rounder, but he could go in the 3rd/4th because of the lack of college bats.
Mike Moustakas is really picking up some helium of late, how does he compare to Josh Vitters? Is there much of a difference between the two?
Very different guys. Vitters is the one high school bat in this class whom I think could move very, very quickly, and he doesn’t need a position switch. Moustakas isn’t a shortstop, and I don’t know that he has the HR power of Vitters – he’s more of a line-drive guy.
Justin Jackson and JP Arencibia went from possible top 15 picks to sandwich round hopefuls this spring. Have you seen either, and what did they do to hurt their stock?
Arencibia was hurt, and a few people I know said he hasn’t played with much energy since returning, even defensively, which means he’s probably not 100% physically. That said, I wasn’t blown away by him last summer when he mostly played 1b/dh for Team USA (at least during the week I saw them) – he’s got to catch and throw to be worth a top 30 pick.
I think Jackson ended up a little overhyped after the showcases last summer. He’s a good defensive shortstop who can run, but he doesn’t have a first-round bat. I had him WAY too high on early rankings, but that was before my scout in the Carolinas had seen him.
Given Jorge Posada‘s age, many of my fellow Yankee fans are holding out hope that OSU’s Mitch Canham is still available when they pick at #30 – is he worthy of a first round pick, or is he just riding the wave of position scarcity?
He’s an offensive catcher who has had some “minor” shoulder issues. #30 wouldn’t be an overdraft, but the Yankees should be aiming higher than Canham – he’s not a star-caliber player, and they should be using their financial resources to go after star-caliber guys, in my opinion.
Have you picked up on any sleepers during your travels? Went to go see Player A, but it ended up being Player B that grabbed your attention, etc?
That really doesn’t happen at the amateur level, at least not for the type of players we’re covering at ESPN (top 5 rounds/top 150-200 players). When you go to see a high school game, you’re almost always going to see one player, and often, everyone else on the field is overshadowed.
The one guy this spring whom I put a good number on even though I hadn’t had his name going in was Arizona State 2b Eric Sogard. That kid is a ballplayer – he can hit, can really play his position, has surprising pop, and has a great feel for the game. He reminds me of Aaron Hill in a lot of ways, not quite the hitter for average that I think Hill could be, but otherwise very similar.