Posted By Jeff Fletcher on January 30, 2009 11:30 pm
A’s assistant GM David Forst, fresh off a trip to the Dominican Republic, answers questions you emailed to me. Enjoy…
Would the A’s consider moving Jack Cust for a young infielder on another club (he could replace Bobby Crosby)? (John)
Unfortunately you aren’t going to get me to comment on specific players or specific trade proposals. As always we are open to listening to any possibilities that improve our club, but we see Jack as an important part of the team in 2009.
Do you think Travis Buck/Jason Giambi is a better defensive combination than Jack Cust/Daric Barton? How do you think the lineup will work at those spots? (Mark)
I think its a very interesting question. It’s one of the things we’ll look closely at during February and March. Ultimately it’s up to Bob (Geren) and his staff what combination of players he thinks works best. We believe Jason and Jack are better defensively than the common perception, but it will also come down to Daric and Travis and who is performing better at the time and who fits our lineup that day, depending who we are facing. It’s going to be a fluid situation with Bob.
How is Fautino De Los Santos doing? Is he on schedule? (Jacob)
I actually saw him. He’s great shape. Physically, he looks good. He’s on the mound throwing bullpens. He’s nine months off (Tommy John) surgery. While we don’t necessarily expect him to be ready for opening day in the minor leagues, it shouldn’t be much later than that that he’s ready to report to a full season club. He also had quadruplets a few weeks ago. He also had twins before that.
Jack Cust in the outfield? He appeared to improve last year and took better routes to the ball. Is management pleased with his work during the off-season? Did he go ahead with the eye exercise sessions that he planned to improve his very good eye at the plate and to help him handle the off speed pitches? (Ed, Philadelphia)
I think after the first six weeks of the season Jack was much improved in the outfield. He had a couple high profile drops in the outfield, the one in Anaheim comes to mind and he had one up here. Unfortunately those are the things everyone remembers, but he did much better after that, in routes, range, his throwing was better. We’re optimistic about him coming in and carrying some of the defensive load. I know he went through the eye exercise program. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him to know how it went, but I know a lot of guys swear by it and feel it improved their performance at the plate.
Jack Hannahan or Jeff Baisley as the backup to Eric Chavez at third base? Can Jeff play the position as well as Jack? Is Jeff a better hitter and more valuable off the bench? (Ed, Philadelphia)
There is a competition we will have to have in the spring. I think you also throw Cliff Pennington in the mix as well. Penny has the advantage he plays all three. We are aware Chavvy will need some time off particularly early in the season. Jeff did a nice job in Triple A, came up and got his feet wet. Jack knows he’s better than what he posted last year. I think all three of those guys will get time in the spring. We have to pick the right guy because Eric will need days off to rest early in the season.
I’d like to know a little more about the kids from AAA (Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Brett Anderson). What type of pitchers are they? Who would they be compared to? I know they’re there I just don’t know much about them. (Pat)
They’re each unique. It’s nice that potentially down the road we can have three different looks from such talented guys. Anderson is a lefty with outstanding fastball command and a changeup. He’s fearless. Doesn’t mind pitching in. He’s a competitor. He’s one of the best pitching prospects in the game, as a lefty. Trevor’s ball is as heavy as any minor leaguer’s we’ve seen. He gets a ton of sink on the fastball, gets a lot of ground balls. He has a hard slider, and he’s working on his changeup, but his go-to pitch is his sinker. He’s going to break a lot of bats. Vinny is similar to Trevor, with more velocity, pitching 92-93. He has hard breaking stuff, a bigger breaking ball than Trevor. Vinny is the quietest of the three, but he probably had as good a year as the other guys, just didn’t get the recognition. It will be exciting to see them all in spring training and the possibility of three kids giving you all different looks is something we’re looking forward to.
Which of the A’s top young pitchers in the minors is going to make their big league debut first? Do you think any will be promoted in 2009? (Mickey, Novato)
I hate to put a timetable on any of those guys and particularly to pit them against one another. Trevor and Brett had great experiences last year in both the Futures game as well as pitching for Team USA. I think those two experiences will go a long way toward getting them ready for the big leagues, but Vinny was Pitcher of the Year in the Texas League and performed well for Sacramento, including the Triple A playoffs. At the end of the day the guy who performs will get here first. Realistically we think all three guys could be here sometime in ’09.
The Matt Holliday deal notwithstanding (he seems a likely candidate for free agency or mid-season trade), is it true that the A’s as a matter of policy don’t get involved with players represented by Scott Boras (or any other particular agent)? If so, do you think other clubs have the same policy? (Ed)
That is absolutely not true. We have not had a lot of Boras clients on the major league club in recent years, but it’s not because of a club policy or philosophy. We have a few guys in the minor leagues and a couple on our 40-man roster, Gregorio Petit and Javier Herrera, who are represented by the Boras Corporation. We have spoken with Scott about a handful of free agents this offseason. It’s by coincidence rather than by design that we haven’t had a lot of Boras clients.
Is there an overriding team philosophy regarding calling up the team’s best young prospects to the majors? I know the easy answer is to say, “we call them up when we think they’re ready,” but I don’t believe that is always true. The A’s most talked about prospects last year (Gio & Carlos Gonzalez) were rushed to the majors before they were ready, and the results weren’t very good. Given the economic realities of being the Oakland A’s, doesn’t it make financial and competitive sense to hold your best prospects in the minors until they are absolutely ready to go? If the peak of an average player’s production is during the 25–30 year-old range, why not make sure you have them under contractual control during that entire window? Why start the free agent clock running early on kids you believe can be special? Isn’t the organization better off letting them thoroughly learn their craft in Sacramento before bringing them to Oakland? (Kelvin, Morgan Hill)
In an absolutely perfect world what we want to do is keep these guys in the minor leagues until we know they are ready for the big leagues, but we don’t live in a perfect world and our 25-man roster does not live in that world either. I’ll admit that Carlos came up before we wanted him to, but we had injuries on the big league club. We were still competitive with the Angels, and at that point our ultimate job was to win as many games as possible, and at the time we felt Carlos was best to do that. Was it best for his development? That’s debatable, but it was best for the Oakland A’s at the time. You have to balance those two things every day here. Take a guy like Daric Barton who spent almost two full years at Triple A, came up and dominated (in September ’07). Then he struggled in his first full year in the big leagues. It’s not an exact science. We do our best to keep the player’s interest and the organization in mind, but we are not dealing with widgets, we are dealing with people.
Can you tell us a bit more about Arnold Leon? Specifically, what pitches does he throw (and is he learning any new ones)? If you can speak to this issue, how good do you think those pitches can become? Does the organization see him as a starter or a reliever long-term. And if he’s a starter, are you looking at a multi-year adjustment to build his arm up to throw a full season’s worth of innings? (Paul, San Francisco)
We’re excited about the progress Arnold made last year in his first season in the States. He’s still very young. He’s going to pitch at 20 years old. We think over the long haul he’s a starter, but we are debating the best way to prepare for that role. He’s pitched as reliever the last two years. He’s also pitched as reliever in winter ball, so he’s never had an offseason to prepare as a starter. We think he has the talent to start. We’re still figuring the best way to prepare him for that role. He may be in the ‘pen in Stockton or Midland to start the season, but it’s with the ultimate goal of making him a starting pitcher.
Over the last year or so the A’s farm system has seen a dramatic influx of talent, can you name a player or two who maybe get overlooked due to the quantity of good prospects that could be candidates to break out this year that us fans should keep an eye on? (Jay, San Francisco)
Sean Doolittle is not a sleeper by any stretch, but he hasn’t been listed in the organization’s top 10 by a number of publications. As an organization we really think Sean has a chance to break out this year. He could start in Double-A or Triple-A and be a factor on the big league club by the end of the year. I’m not sure he’s a sleeper, but he’s maybe been underrated. I’ll also throw out (RHP) Dan Thomas, who we drafted last year out of Southern Florida. He’s a guy we took the second day of the draft. He started in college. We put him in the bullpen and he immediately started throwing 96-97 mph. Based on his instructional league performance, he has a chance to move quickly.
I’m 18 years old and it’s my dream to one day become a major league baseball executive for any team, let alone general manager. I have recently started my own blog and I frequently surf the internet studying statistics, scouting reports and everything in between. My questions are how did you get to where you are today? (i.e. classes, contacts, etc.) Do you have any tips for someone such as myself to one day get to the position you have? (Henry)
I think you are doing all the right things now, studying the game and talking about it and writing about it. They are the best things you can do to learn about the game at this level. As you get into college there are a lot of internships available out there. Any opportunity you get to be in a front office, whether in baseball operations or another department, is a chance to learn what the day-to-day operation looks like. I played in college and a little afterward, but until I got into the A’s front office I had no idea what went into putting those 25 guys on the field. The best experience you can get is to be an intern and soak up all information that is there.
Recently Bob Geren mentioned that the starting rotation would likely include Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher and Dallas Braden. Assuming that the fifth starter is either Gio Gonzalez or Josh Outman, would the loser of that fifth starter competition most likely end up in the bullpen as a long reliever or at AAA in order to get regular innings? (Sean)
Both are possibilities. It depends on the individual and the makeup of the bullpen as we break camp. We’ve discussed a seven-man bullpen that does include the so-called sixth starter and we’ve also discussed scenarios in which it’s better for that guy to be in Triple A, stretched out and ready to come up and start when it’s inevitably needed.
Last year, the A’s were aggressive in both the international market and over-slot draft signings. Is that an approach that will continue this year? (Sean)
Absolutely. I just got back from a trip to the Dominican where I saw a number of the top players that will be available July 2. We expect to compete in that market again. In the amateur draft we expect to compete for top players regardless of what round they are in. (The A’s pick 13th overall.) We started in October ’07 redirecting a lot of resources we have with ownership’s blessing. We got back to the philosophy of building from within, developing our own players and spending money in the amateur free agent market, domestically or internationally.
Do you expect Eric Chavez to be healthy and in the starting lineup on opening day? Will any of his prior health issues limit his playing time this season? (Steve, Beaverton, Ore.)
I do expect he’ll be in the opening day lineup. He feels great. He’s motivated. He wants to be in there opening day. We expect early on in the season he may need more days off than usual, but I spoke with (strength and conditioning coach) Bob Alejo about him recently and Bob said if we get him rest in April and May, he sees no reason he could not play just about every day in the second half.
With the very public attempts this off season to replace Bobby Crosby at short, do you anticipate any issues between him and the club if he ends up being the starting shortstop once again this coming season? Would Bobby still have a chance to compete for a starting job at short even if you were able to acquire another shortstop between now and spring training? (Patrick, Campbell)
I don’t expect any issues at all. This is a business and Bobby is a professional. He’s on record as saying he understands it’s a part of the game and he has something to prove to us and everybody. You don’t win rookie of the year as a fluke. There are other times he’s put up good numbers. He hasn’t performed up to his or our expectations the last two years, but we all know Bobby has all the talent in the world. Bobby is a total professional and there will be no issues once we get to spring training.
I have heard many great things about the bat of Landon Powell, but his knees seem to be another story. With all the problems he has had with his knees, catching does not seem to be in his future. What does his future look like with the A’s? Where is there a spot for him? (Grant, Corte Madera)
I think we do still see him as a catcher. He’s had a few surgeries and his knees have been a setback, but he has skills defensively and offensively. He’ll come to spring training with a chance to compete for big league playing time. He wants to prove he’s healthy, so that’s our plan until said otherwise.