A Q&A with Project Prospect’s Adam W. Foster

Adam W. Foster is the fanatic’s scout.  He has a good eye and often replies to open questions asked on Twitter. He has catalogued videos of nearly every prospect in each organization. His opinions are respected within the community, but mention his name to the casual baseball fan–or even an avid baseball fan–and you’ll likely get a “who?”

Foster, who runs Project Prospect with Lincoln Hamilton, took time out of his pre-draft schedule to talk about the 2010 Rule IV draft and the current state of the Dodgers’ minor league system.  Questions are in italics.

(Before you continue reading, remember that Foster is a Giants fan and is Grade A evil for what he says about the Dodgers’ minor league system).

For the upcoming 2010 Rule IV draft, what’s the first thing that stands out to you? What should the casual fan know about the talent that’s coming out of this draft?

There aren’t many attractive college bats coming out of major conferences. …

I think the 2010 class will end up being one where a good amount of talent emerges from outside of the first round. In large, the depth of this class stands out better than the potential stars.

After Bryce Harper, PP’s Lincoln Hamilton and several others seem to agree prep pitcher Jameson Taillon is No. 2. But the Pirates, who have the No. 2 pick, are looking at Manny Machado and seem to be stepping away from prep pitchers with their first round pick. Why is this? And why do some organizations avoid certain players like this?

I generally try to avoid labeling teams, especially when we’re largely dealing with rumors. A player may be linked to a team because one person talked to one scout on that team who really liked a guy. And I don’t know what incentive teams have to show their hand to the media anyway.

Prep pitchers are risky because they come with a lot of uncertainty. There’s an incomplete picture with almost every high school pitcher when it comes to durability and it’s almost unheard of for one to already have plus command of multiple offerings.

In the top 15, who has the highest ceiling? If your answer is Bryce Harper, then who is second? Who is the closest to their ceiling? (no tall jokes allowed)

Harper and high school righthander Jamison Taillon stand out in this class in terms of ceiling. Both could go on to become elite big leaguers.

Do you think it’s worthwhile for the Pirates to dodge Taillon and go for Machado?

Most elite high school hitters are pitched around, making it difficult to judge how patient they are. And it’s difficult to guess how a guy’s body will mature. Taillon has shown a plus fastball and curveball. I think he’s better than any of the prep arms from the 2009 class. I’d rather have Taillon over Machado by a decent margin right now.

Keith Law said that picks 15-60 were about even and teams with a higher number of draft picks in the first 60 (Angels, Astros, Blue Jays) will make out like bandits. Your thoughts?

Few players in this class have really stepped up and separated themselves from the pack. So you end up with a couple dozen guys who stood out at one point or another but it’s difficult to say which ones will translate their abilities well to pro ball. There’s a chance for a great draft any time you get a team with a lot of early picks. So long as the team is willing to spend, opposed to wasting picks on guys like Jackson Williams — yes, I’m still bitter about that pick.

So is there anyone in those 15-60 picks you would be gunning for if you had a huge number of those picks, or is it really that much of a mixed bag?

If Matt Harvey doesn’t go top 14, I’d love to get him in the 15-60 range. I see him as a great bet to pitch in the big leagues.

In the ProjectProspect mock draft, you selected Brett Eibner (Univ. of Arkansas RHP) for the Dodgers with the 28th pick. Your reasoning? Who, if the Dodgers don’t pick Eibner, will they choose with their only top-75 pick?

I saw Eibner pitch at the begining of the college season. He’s a very impressive athlete with a live arm. And then you can put as much — or as little — weight into the fact that he’s a two-way player who may make a big jump upon taking to pitching full-time.

I’ve never been a big fan of predicting which teams will pick which player. I guess it’s a good way to get fans excited, but half the fun of the draft is not knowing for sure who your team will take. Mock drafts can be fun, I’d just rather rank guys than guess who may select them.

Moving now to the Dodgers, who do you like most in the Dodgers’ minor league system?

That’s a tough question. It’s a pretty dry system. I still think Ivan De Jesus could turn into a decent regular. Kenley Jansen could make a quick rise through the system as a reliever. But there aren’t many prospects who I’m excited about in the Dodgers’ organization right now.

The Dodgers have had some varying results in the minors to start the year. Dee Gordon suddenly can’t take a walk to save is life while Chris Withrow and Ethan Martin aren’t looking too good. Are these struggles temporary or something to get worried about?

The hype Dee Gordon received entering 2010 continues to baffle me. He’s an impatient hitter with well-below-average power who makes a lot of contact — though mainly ground balls. That’s who he was last year and that’s who he continues to be this year. If he can turn into a good defensive shortstop, I think he may become a bench player on a playoff team.

Withrow now has over 100 minor league innings with poor ground-ball rates. He’s also shown below-average command. And it’s concerning that his strikeout rate continues to drop. He has time on his side, but I wonder if he’s on his way toward being switched to the bullpen.

Martin’s walk rate is also something to be worried about.

All of these guys have time to figure things out a little, but it isn’t looking good for any of them right now. I think a lot of MLB fans generally don’t get too excited about prospects because they realize how many of them fail. But people who mainly follow the draft and the minors can lose track of what it takes to become an impact big leaguer. I think a lot people who focus on prospects could do a better job being realistic with their comparisons, hype machines and expectations.

Yeah, it seems like Gordon is still WAY far away from any potential he may have. And that’s what exactly, Juan Pierre at short?

Gordon isn’t as good of a contact hitter as Pierre. I think Pierre is too lofty of an offensive comparison for Gordon. I’ll be shocked if he turns into near the offensive talent that Pierre was.

The hottest area in the organization right now is outfield bats. Jerry Sands, Kyle Russell, Andrew Lambo and Blake Smith have all put up great seasons so far this year. With the possibility of Manny leaving after next season, should the Dodgers FO look inwardly for a replacement? Will they?

Lambo looked solid when I saw him in the AFL. He’s been promoted aggressively and the power he showed last April promising. It’s too bad that he’s going to miss a good chunk of time with his drug of abuse 50-game suspension.

I don’t think the other three guys you mentioned are very impressive when you put their numbers into context: questionable contact hitters who don’t provide much defensive value, are in the low minors, and aren’t young for their level.

So if you were running the Dodgers organization, would you be willing to ditch Withrow/Martin and Gordon for Roy Oswalt/Cliff Lee? Or would you take this time with a completely affirmed major league roster to rebuild your minors?

I’d happily give all three of those guys up for a season of Oswalt or Lee.

Aaron Miller is doing OK in A+, should we be expecting more from him at age 22?

He was off to a promising start. Any time you’re striking out a quarter of the batters you face, you’re doing something right, though the command was looking to be below-average. Hopefully his neck injury doesn’t linger and he can continue to make progress.

Thanks so much.

Gladly, Seth.

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Filed under Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB, MLB draft, prospects

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