Travis Sawchik FanGraphs Chat

12:01
Travis Sawchik: Welcome, everyone. Let’s talk …

12:02
Erik: Do you think the Golden Age of Shortstops could force a rethink of what it means to be a good shortstop? Currently, a glove-first shortstop with a chance to slap his way to a decent but completely empty batting average is considered a shortstop prospect. Could the current crop redefine the position to the extent that that’s no longer the case?

12:04
Travis Sawchik: I think there is the potential, yes. This current crop of shortstops is amazing … and the prospect lists are loaded with impressive shortstop potential, too. I don’t think we know much about what the 21st century athlete is going to do going forward but there’s a chance it redefines what we expect from the position (Shameless plug … I wrote about this Golden Age of shortstops on the Site today)

12:05
Rb: Quintana for meadows Keller and Newman. Who says no white Sox or pirates?

12:05
Travis Sawchik: I doubt the Pirates would part with both

12:06
GERB: What does a ceiling for Jose Ramirez look like? 2016 with a few more walks?

12:07
Travis Sawchik: 2016 with a double-digit walk rate is perhaps 5.5-win player … If that’s the ceiling it’s considerable

12:07
Goose: Which New York team has the better shortstop in 3 years?

12:08
Travis Sawchik: I like the vibe around Gleyber Torres

12:08
acj: The Cubs have some extra position players who are blocked right now (Candelario/Happ)…could you see a match-up with the Braves for some of their pitching prospects?

12:09
Travis Sawchik: If the Cubs suffer some significant pitching injuries – given how little depth they have in the upper minors – then I could see them going to their position player surplus to fill a need in 2017

12:10
Kevin: What does Chris Carter end up signing for? How many teams still in the mix?

12:11
Travis Sawchik: Heyman reported the Rays are among the teams in the mix and I think he makes sense there to fill some of the run production void created with the Forsythe trade

12:11
Erik: How do positional adjustments factor in talent fluctuation at a given position? Currently, for an example, it may look as though a higher level of offense is required to play shortstop, because the position is performing at historic highs at the plate. But that may just be because an abnormally high amount of the best baseball players in the world happen to play there. How would a good WAR metric tell the difference between changing norms and a fluky spike in talent?

12:12
Travis Sawchik: Good question. This group of SS could just be a historical outlier. I’m not sure how a WAR metric could capture that. I think we simply need a larger sample of time to see if there are real changes to positional production

12:13
Snarfle: Who is the second best position player right now?

12:15
Travis Sawchik: You could argue for a number of different guys like Betts, Machado, Bryant …. so much young position player talent. But I haven’t forgotten about Harper’s 2015. So if Harpers healthy then I vote for Harper

12:16
Dominik: Should there be a punishment of teams who have a guy caught for steroids? Like having to bat Carson cistulli cleanup the rest of the season?

12:16
Travis Sawchik: It’s impossible to place a value on the intangibles Carson would add to a clubhouse

12:16
JJ: What type of package could CJ Cron fetch? Perhaps to the Rays they could slide Brad Miller to 2B and seem to have a surplus of starters.

12:18
Travis Sawchik: Not sure about Cron but the Rays have a number of internal options to fill second base void ….. Miller, Franklin, Beckham and later Adames. I think the Rays would do well to fill 2b internally and then go get one of the 1B/DH bats that are still available

12:18
CamdenWarehouse: 2:13
Dan Szymborski: All Markakis questions are to be forwarded to Travis Sawchik.

12:18
Travis Sawchik: I know Dan is trying to find a creative solution but this is not the answer

12:19
Hank: I went all in on Alex Bregman in my keeper league. Is he going to be a star?

12:20
Travis Sawchik: I’m a believer

12:20
Mike: How much of Andrew McCutchen’s disastrous defensive season had to do with playing shallow? I remember seeing him have a lot of trouble going back.

12:22
Travis Sawchik: I think it played a role. While playing shallower made sense in theory, McCutchen is not as comfortable going back on balls and the Pirates’ staff failed to execute like it had from 2013-15 off the mound (Fewer ground balls and short flies … more balls to the track and gaps, etc). I think we will see McCutchen positioned differently in 2017. That said, he’s in a four-year defensive decline according to DRS and other metrics

12:23
Joe: So Bryce Harper had 1 really good year where he won the MVP, and he’s better than players like Bryant, Machado, Betts, Arenado who have been more consistent?

12:24
Travis Sawchik: They’re all great. But Harper had a 10-win season at Age 22. Who does that? Harper has to stay healthy. Another year like 2016 and I would agree with you

12:25
Weezy: In your eyes, which team improved their 2017 team the most this offseason?

12:26
Travis Sawchik: I love the Edwin Encarnacion fit in Cleveland … and I like the surplus value and talent added by the Rays in the Smyly and Forysthe deals

12:26
CamdenWarehouse: So you’re firmly in the camp that Harper’s 2017 will be closer to his 15 than his 16?

12:27
Travis Sawchik: I understand Harper had some luck on fly balls results in 2015…and I don’t expect 10-win seasons from any player ….but I think 2015 is closer to his true talent level than 2016

12:28
Pearced: Will the Seagers end up being the best Brother combo in MLB history?

12:31
Travis Sawchik: Fun question. I need some WAR totals. Looks like the Waner bros accounted for about 100 WAR. Seagers have a long way to go … off to a good start, though

12:32
Jason Hammel: Why am I unsigned?

12:32
Travis Sawchik: Great questions. How healthy are you?

12:33
Phil: Seems like the only way the Reds are going to realistically compete for their division in the next 5 years is luck. Cubs are loaded for next 3-4 years and MIL and PIT have better farm systems. The only way the Reds are going to compete is for them to get more lucky than normal on the farm that is deeper than most OR beef up the top of the system by signing Robert, Otani or J. Rodriquez. Am I wrong?

12:34
Travis Sawchik: Reds are in a pretty tough spot. Have to acquire as much surplus value in trades as possible – will Votto be moved eventually? – and there are no shortcuts around draft and development. I don’t see a quick turnaround

12:37
Tim Whatley, DDS: On the other side of the coin, are we experience a decline in 1B quality? Since 2010, only two 1B have exceeded 7.0 fWAR in a season. Do you think this has more to do with the pool of 1B, the positional adjustment, or something else?

12:39
Travis Sawchik: Interesting question…zero sum game in regard to WAR. Probably much of it is tied to variance

12:40
Travis Sawchik: Maybe premium athletes are doing a better job of sticking at more demanding defensive positions? And we’ve seen the lack of interest teams have in paying bat-first players so there is less incentive to want to play those positions

12:40
Dan: Is Gary Sanchez the 2nd best catcher in baseball?

12:41
Travis Sawchik: I’m not ready to say that. I want to get a better read on the defense and the bat in 2017

12:42
Craig: Does Aaron Judge get his strikeouts below 30%? How valuable do you think he can be if it gets around 27%?

12:43
Travis Sawchik: If he can make a Kris Bryant-like improvement there’s probably a ton of value there …. Some long-limbed guys have success reducing Ks others do not. I suspect there will be some reduction

12:43
IsIt2015Yet?: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/pittsburgh-poison Best brothers in MLB history.

12:44
Travis Sawchik: The Seagers have a long way to go

12:44
Kenny Omega: How much of a bounceback, if any, can we expect from King Felix assuming full health? Are his 2015 numbers attainable?

12:46
Travis Sawchik: I’m really concerned about what I saw from Felix last year. If that velocity is gone, or continues to decline, the old Felix probably isn’t coming back

12:47
Drew : If the Yankees hit big with their prospects, they will have a bunch of wins coming from pre/early arb guys. This puts them in a position to spend huge in FA (which will be loaded). How dangerous can you see them being in a few years?

12:48
Travis Sawchik: The Yankees are in a great spot. I like how they have positioned themselves for the 2018-19 offseason

12:48
Matt: Gonna be hard to surpass Hank and Tommie Aaron for most WAR by two brothers…and that’s with Tommie being at -1.7 for his career

12:48
Mike: DiMaggios don’t get a spot on top brother combos?

12:49
Best Bros: Actual best WARBros….Gaylord & Jim Perry, 137.6 WAR

12:49
Travis Sawchik: Seagers have a long way to go!

12:49
Ian Connor: Apparently the Dodgers were considering trading Alex Wood to Seattle for prospects(most likely Gohara+), then flipping them with De Leon for Dozier. Would you have done this or the 1 for 1 Forsythe deal?

12:49
Travis Sawchik: I’d rather have Dozier

12:51
MO: It seems like the scouting report on every pitching prospect is that changeup development is needed. Is that maybe why someone like Jose De Leon had success in the minors? He’s basically the only one in the league who can throw that pitch, so hitters there haven’t seen many?

12:52
Travis Sawchik: The Rays seem to teach changeups so well…That’s the secondary pitch I would always want to focus on as an org

12:53
RJS: I’ve seen 1 WAR = $8mn a few times but that’s a linear approximation. Shouldn’t the marginal win be higher since there are a lot more 2 WAR players than 6 WAR player and a WAR curve look more logarithmic?

12:53
Travis Sawchik: I like the thought. Pass it along to Harper’s agent!

12:53
baby bull : you think Mccutchen plays CF all year?

12:54
Travis Sawchik: I don’t … I could see Marte opening in CF. I’d love to see a full season of Marte in CF

12:54
Nick: Do the Yankees still have their facial hair policy? Would that actually stop Harper from signing with them?

12:54
Travis Sawchik: I’m not sure … but I think players would adhere if they were pleased with the contract terms

12:56
v2micca: Suppose there was a play-off team that was the ultimate Stars and Scrubs roster with 4 players accounting for 26 WAR and the rest of the team contributing about 8 WAR. Ideally, what positions would you want your Stars to fill?

12:56
Travis Sawchik: Two SPs, a SS , and a C

12:57
Erik: Anecdotally, it seems as though players who reach the top early are more likely to become injury prone–thinking specifically of Harper and Griffey here. Any idea if that’s actually true?

12:58
Travis Sawchik: I think if you’re specializing in a sport since your youth – like Harper – then all those reps come attached with injury risk (though, Harper’s injuries don’t seem to be chronic or reps-oriented, I could be wrong on that). I think we’re seeing it show up with the TJS spike

12:59
Maxwell: Where do you see the twins in the next 5 years?

1:00
Travis Sawchik: Are Sano and Buxton stars? It starts there for me. Would have loved De Leon there. Who is going to pitch? Lot of uncertainty

1:01
Ricky of Sunnyvale: The Dodgers’ 6-10 starters are currently Wood, McCarthy, Ryu, Stewart and Stripling. With reasonable health (big if, I know), isn’t this better than like 5-10 current MLB rotations?

1:01
Travis Sawchik: It’s certainly not the worst! Not many teams have that kind of SP depth, even considering the health risk

1:02
LogicLiker: Harper is the 2014, 2015, & 2016 version of himself … all added up his last 3 year track record is good for .284/.400/.515 through the ages 21-23 .. he also plays in a pitchers park and has a very OBP driven line (he’s clearly #2 behind Trout)

1:02
Travis Sawchik: What is Harper going to do in Yankee Stadium in 2019?

1:03
Sal: Should the Astros move Correa to 3B and Bregman to SS? I’m not saying do it right now, but if Correa struggles a little this season, could you see them doing this next offseason?

1:03
Travis Sawchik: Nice problem to have. No reason to move Correa … yet

1:04
Ricky of Sunnyvale: Two years, 8 mil. Blanton or Romo?

1:04
Travis Sawchik: I love both at that rate. Depends on staff construction

1:05
Mike: Springer, Sano or Bregman. Who should be my last of 5 keepers? I really wanna keep Bregman but I should keep Springer and redraft Bregman right?

1:05
Travis Sawchik: I think you have it right … not sure about your league format though. I like all three to be productive and for Sano to be better in 2017

1:06
Dbagks: Whose career is more impressive so far: Kershaw or Trout? Both are clearly generational talents, so who is more dominant in their respective fields?

1:07
Travis Sawchik: Trout

1:07
Erik: Supposedly the Pirates analytics department concluded from their data that they should position outfielders shallower, while everyone else’s decided to position deeper. Were the Pirates provably wrong and should think about hiring new analysts? Or was a it a good decision that just happened to not work out?

1:08
Travis Sawchik: The Pirates also had an extreme GB staff from 2013-15 that played into that decision … But I think we’ll see their positioning adjusted in 2017

1:08
Nats Fan: Since Harper seems to be a topic of discussion today … if you are the Nats, do you try and sign him long-term to some huge contract, try and trade him before 2018, or hope you get two good seasons from him before he walks?

1:10
Travis Sawchik: I try to sign him … but that’s probably unlikely. If they can’t, I suppose Nats evaluate their situation after 2017. I would have tried to sign Harper to a Longoria-style deal (only much more lucrative) before he took a MLB at bat, but that was probably unlikely, too

1:10
v2micca: How much regression to you see for Freddie Freeman in 2017? How much do you believe in his new launch angle sustaining his power surge?

1:10
Travis Sawchik: I think the underlying skill measurements suggest Freeman is for real

1:11
Andrew : Any mid relievers you really like. I’m looking for guys who could be able to go multiple innings and or post good ratios but not big names (closers/holds guys excluded)

1:11
Travis Sawchik: David Phelps?

1:11
Drew: Any chance for Starlin Castro to improve? Is he what he is at this point?

1:11
Travis Sawchik: Probably is what he is … unusual career arc

1:12
Brandon: Are you excited for the WBC? Any non-MLBer’s worth paying attention to besides Otani?

1:13
Travis Sawchik: I love the event. I’m curious to see overall level of play from S.Korea

1:13
Mike: Joe Maddon has floated the idea of Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff in 2017. Thoughts?

1:14
Travis Sawchik: I missed that but why not? I think you generally want your best three offensive player at 2-4-1. Cleveland used Carlos Santana out of lead-off spot, and Cubs have plenty of power deeper in the lineup

1:14
John Middleton: Is the SABER community working on a WAR rating for MLB owners? I’d like to see how high my score is.

1:15
Travis Sawchik: Didn’t Scott Boras mention something about an ownership scoreboard? There probably should be some sort of public metric

1:15
Andrew: Is it worth using my lone keeper on Corey Seager with all of the SS talent in the league now?

1:15
Travis Sawchik: Yes!

1:15
Brandon: Do you project any sophomore regression for Seager or Story this year?

1:16
Travis Sawchik: Always smart to build in some for players coming off really good years, right? Seager is great. He should be fine. I’d be more worried about Story since he came out of nowhere

1:17
Andrew : What are some mid relievers that are going to post awesome ratios? I’m in a deep H2H league that counts IP and have a max 10 starts from out starters and looking to stockpile some middle relievers to pound IP and pad my ratios. Any ideas/targets are very much appreciated!

1:17
Travis Sawchik: Phelps? And if Andrew Miller isn’t closing regularly in Cleveland it would be interesting to see what his value is. Joe Blanton for a $1?

1:18
Sasha: What would you say are the odds that a Mets pitcher finishes top 3 in Cy Young voting?

1:19
Travis Sawchik: Kershaw is still pitching so it’s really about two available spots … Syndergaard has as much talent as any pitcher in the NL

1:20
TTF: What are your thoughts on the Rockies this year? ZiPS projection just went up, and Dan actually has them right on the heels of the Cardinals…

1:21
Travis Sawchik: ZiPS seemed to really like the Rockies, in particular the rotation, projecting 12 WAR combined from the starters … The improved pitch framing is going to help as Jeff Sullivan wrote. The Rockies have had a weird offseaosn but they are an interesting sleeper choice

1:22
Weston: Better future outlook- Mets or Yankees? I’m pretty torn because obviously, Yankees have a lot more money, but the Mets ML talent is much much better. Yankees farm system is also terrific, but the Mets farm is pretty great too. What do you think?

1:23
Travis Sawchik: Beyond 2018, I like the Yankees. Love the young positional player talent they’re acquiring and developing, and so much risk with young pitching where much of the Mets’ value rests

1:23
biffyclyro: I would like Aldi to become an area of your chat expertise. Have you tried their protein powder? The price seems too good to be true.

1:24
Travis Sawchik: I like this idea. I love Aldi, mostly for produce.

1:24
Mike M: I imagine that exit velocity is hard for a player to really change, but what about launch angle? You look at a guy like Ryan Zimmerman with fantastic exit velo and a terrible angle, how can he change his swing to get the ball up more?

1:25
Travis Sawchik: Good question. Since the tools are now available to show players their launch angles, it will be interesting to see how many more adjustments are made

1:26
Snarfle: Which teams do you see as being in a window which will shut in the foreseeable future. I know the Royals are about to all become FAs, Tigers are about to go Phillies of a few years ago, but I’m also wondering if the Nats can retool after 2018, and the Giants seem like they could slow down a bunch.

1:26
Travis Sawchik: You touched on some of the main ones … Yankees’ impending rise is going to make life difficult on Blue Jays and Orioles

1:26
Ryan: Better chance of being a top 15sp: Duffy or CMartinez

1:27
Travis Sawchik: I’m buying in on Duffy’s 2016. I love the three-pitch mix

1:27
harmony: Over the past three seasons Boston’s Hanley Ramirez has an OPS+ of 117 in 380 games (including an OPS+ of 89 in 2015) while Seattle’s Danny Valencia has an OPS+ of 116 in 393 games over the same period (including an OPS+ of 87 in 2014). As defensively challenged righthanded hitters born nine months apart, how different are Ramirez and Valencia?

1:28
Travis Sawchik: Apparently there isn’t much difference outside of name value! …. I still like a healthy and motivated Hanley (when he’s batting)

1:30
Quincy: Michael Conforto or Aaron Judge and why?

1:31
Travis Sawchik: Conforto. There’s not the same contract concerns … and he’s still developing pull power as Eno wrote about

1:31
Ryan: Is Jameson Taillon a top 30 SP this year?

1:32
Travis Sawchik: Jameson is a great kid and talent. That’s not impossible but I’m not sure he’s there yet.

1:32
Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: Shouldn’t small market teams be jumping on corner sluggers if they’re truly undervalued?

1:32
Travis Sawchik: Yes, including Tampa!

1:33
Will: Adam Eaton is an exceptional right fielder but his results in center are mixed. If you are the Nats, do you keep him in right, pushing Harper to center? Or do you move Eaton to center until Harper leaves and he can return to right?

1:33
Travis Sawchik: I want Harper to avoid as many potential injuries as possible so I think he’s better in a corner

1:34
IsIt2015Yet?: Do you hope to/plan on trying to maintain your relationships with the Pirates fo and staff as you transition into your role at FG?

1:34
Travis Sawchik: I do hope and plan to

1:34
Hank: Which OF for the Pirates finishes 2017 with the highest WAR: Polanco, Marte or McCutcheon?

1:34
Travis Sawchik: Marte

1:35
El Duderino: If a random 30 year old guy held a showcase and threw 105+ MPH with a fluid motion and existing command. How much do you think he could sign for? (assuming he’s 6’5 and athletic).

1:36
Travis Sawchik: The original Chapman contract, minus a year, plus inflation

1:36
Sal: Giancarlo Stantons career high in HR is 37, which he has done twice. Do you think he sets a new career high this season, and if so, how many do you think he ends up with?

1:36
Travis Sawchik: He’s gotta eventually stay healthy a full year, right?

1:37
aspergilius fumigatus: Is there a stat that takes into account quality of opponent each at bat? For instance, is there a metric that will reward John Doe for getting a single off Clayton Kershaw more than for doing the same against James Shields? I would imagine that this would even out over time and not make any significant differences, but there’s got to be some players (or probably more likely whole teams) that are getting lucky in who they face (eg. Giants faced Kershaw 5 times in 2016, while the Dbacks faced him once).

1:37
Travis Sawchik: I don’t believe there is a public tool available. Let’s open- crowd-source this

1:38
Sal: Addison Russell quietly raised his OBP from .306 to .321 and his slugging from .390 to .417 in his first full season at SS. I continue to think Russell is wildly underrated on the national scene. If he can raise that OBP to the .340-.350 range(which won’t be easy), he’s an absolute superstar. Is he underrated, or am I a homer?

1:38
Travis Sawchik: Russell is going to be a star

1:38
soaktherich: In a blockbuster like the Sale trade, assuming Sale continues to be Sale on a bargain contract for 3 more years, how good do the traded prospects have to become before the Red Sox clearly “gave up too much?”

1:40
Travis Sawchik: The prospects have to pretty darn good. And I’m not sure we properly value the worth of a Sale-like pitcher in the postseason, when the game warps more in his favor (in terms of accounting for a larger share of inning, etc)

1:40
soaktherich: How many WAR has Ray Searage been worth in Pittsburgh and why isn’t he making $7-8M/WAR?

1:40
Travis Sawchik: A great assistant coach is probably very undervalued. Tough to quantify, though

1:41
Towel: Eno sarris wrote a whole article on Ryon Healy re: changing launch angle

1:41
Travis Sawchik: I will check that out

1:42
Sim: You get 20 pitches to get 1 hit off Kershaw. If you do you win $5 million. If you don’t you go to jail for 5 years. Do you take the chance?

1:42
Travis Sawchik: I wouldn’t take that bet for 2,000 pitches

1:42
dominik: Re launch angle increase: that is basically what murphy and altuve did. Probably a combination of pitch selection and swing plane ( more uppercut). Not easy to do though.

1:43
Travis Sawchik: Donaldsomn, JD Martinez, and Joyce, too. That philosophy seems to be more popular now and now we can measure launch angle. Curious players have an advantage

1:43
Uno Mas Keeper..: Story or Sanchez.

1:43
Travis Sawchik: Sanchez

1:44
Sonny: I believe we’ve just seen the future of Buster Posey and it looks a lot more like Joe Mauer’s age curve than I’d like to admit. Please give me reasons this won’t be true

1:44
Travis Sawchik: Nah. Posey has a much different body and the glove is still elite … Mauer was not an elite receiver

1:45
Sonny: Boston has moved a ton of future assets for a 3-5 year window, how many teams, specifically teams with that much $$$ would do the same?

1:45
Travis Sawchik: Most smaller- and mid-markets probably would not

1:46
Travis Sawchik: Thanks for all of the outstanding questions. We will do this again next week.

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A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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