Twitter Mailbag: Overrated GM Interview Edition

Little light on twitter questions this week, so we grabbed an email sent in from my alter ego.

Was the Darren Smith interview with Angels GM Billy Eppler from a couple of weeks back the most overrated GM interview of all time?
Safety Squeeze Dustin, San Diego, California

Yes. There are at least two or three glowing reviews of this interview out there, but I just don’t see it. I’ve listened to it three times, searching for whatever it is that everyone else is fawning over. I got nothin’. Here are the points against it.

  • I’m not/wasn’t a Chargers fan, really, but Eppler’s comments on that football team were annoying at best, and probably much closer to fingernails on a chalkboard if you’re from San Diego.
  • Half the interview was about football.
  • Eppler hardly said a meaningful thing about evaluating baseball players or running a big-league team outside of your typical cliches.
  • He said “procurement” three or four times.

Eppler is a fine talker, but this is an average interview. More so, there’s nothing in it to indicate that Eppler was the right choice over A.J. Preller for the Padres GM jobthat is, unless you rate radio interview skills high on the list of what you want in a general manager. The Angels are having a nice little season, but they’re two games over .500 with the best baseball player of all time, Mike Trout, having his best season yet (yes, I know he missed time with an injury). They’re still just a one-in-five shot to make the playoffs, their farm system stinks, and most of their key players, save for Andrelton Simmons (nice move, Billy), were already on the team when Eppler was hired.

I’m not critiquing the job he’s done in Los Angeles or even his interviewing chops, but c’mon, let’s chill out a little bit about Billy Eppler, the one that got away. This interview gets a four on the 1-to-10 scale of baseball executive radio interviews, and I’ll take Preller over Eppler as a general manager.

Hmm, give me Carlos Asuaje, but it’s close.

A true core piece might be stretching it with any of those three players—as solid as they’ve been this year—but I could see Asuaje, at peak, as a sort of left-handed version of Placido Polanco. Think good bat-to-ball skills, tough, grinding at-bats, and steady glovework at second. The only part of Asuaje’s game that’s been disappointing this season is the strikeouts. He’s k’ed in 23.1 percent of his plate appearances at the big-league level in 2017 after whiffing just 13.2 percent of the time in a season and a half at Triple-A. That’s concerning, sure, but it also provides an area of potential improvement to balance out a sure-to-drop .372 BABiP. Asuaje’s most likely roll remains a good bench player on a good team—a rich man’s Alexi Amarista—but there’s a shot he’s something more if given everyday reps.

I think so, yeah. Even if he’s only there for the rest of this season, he’s there. He’s at Double-A. That’s really close to the majors. Now I’m not necessarily saying that Fernando Tatis Jr. is really close to the majors, but . . . I’m not saying he isn’t either. It all depends on his performance, of course, but this is the organization basically telling us—and, more importantly, Tatis—that it’s in his hands. The Padres have been aggressive overall in promoting players who’ve performed well. In fact, at times, they’ve probably been a little too aggressive (I’m thinking Jacob Nix and Javier Guerra, among others). Tatis has earned it, though, and his play from here out will determine how quickly he continues to advance.

Conservatively, I’d guess that his ETA is still mid-to-late 2019. In this scenario, Tatis would get all of 2018 to split between High-A and Double-A, and then start off 2019 at Triple-A and go from there. There’s a quicker timeline here, of course, one where Tatis sticks at Double-A to start next season, continues to roll, and reaches the majors as a 2018 September call-up. It may not be likely, but shoot, who knows. I’ll stick with 2019 as the safer bet.

When MacKenzie Gore is 30, the year will be 2029. I do not want to speculate on anything that will be happening in 2029. It should stick around for a while, though. I’m not sure there’s that much actual added value to that high a leg kick, but hey, it works. It’s almost like it’s Gore’s way of showing the other team that he’s just more athletic than they are. Gore’s athleticism, his balance, his command—the boring things, at least when you’re talking about a highly touted prep pitcher—those things may be his most exciting attributes. It’s hard to see him running into any problems with control, and hopefully those qualities are able to help him better fend off the injury bug. Throw in good, easy velocity and plus secondaries, and the ceiling is nearly as high as the leg kick.

Good question, but it feels like this one might be a little easier to dig into in the offseason, when we have a better idea of the 40-man and also what players need to be protected. Just looking at it briefly, not a ton of names jump out as guys who need to be protected.

One interesting example might be Brad Wieck, though. If my Rule 5 rules are correct, he’ll be up for grabs this winter if he’s not added to the 40-man. On the plus side, Wieck’s a 6-foot-9 lefty reliever who’s struck out 12 per nine over his minor-league career, and he’s fanned 50 in 29 2/3 innings at Double-A San Antonio this year. On the downside, he struggled mightily in a brief call-up to Triple-A El Paso in July, and he hasn’t been seen on a mound since August 3.

As you might expect, given his size, sometimes he loses the strike zone. Then again, given his size, his performance record, and his left-handedness, you’d think he’d be a guy the Padres would like to keep around for a while longer.

I wrote about Nix just yesterday, and one of the things that scares me about him—along with the stolen base issues—is his lacking ability to create swings and misses. Since the start of 2016, he’s only coaxed a 10 percent swinging strike rate, and this season he’s reached double digits in swinging strikes in just barely a third of his starts. By comparison, guys like Pedro Avila, Cal Quantrill, and Michel Baez—shoot, even Eric Lauer—are all missing a bunch more bats. Nix still gets good reviews for his frame and strike-throwing ability, but there are obvious areas to work on. Without the development of a good third pitch or better swing-and-miss stuff, the bullpen is a potential eventual landing spot. Nix is still just 21, however, so there’s plenty of time to wait and see.

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  • GT500KR

    Asuaja/Spang/Pirela is indeed a tough question.

    Pirela never had anything like this power before, majors or minors, excepting a 7 game stint with the Yanks in 2014. Huge expectation that he’ll regress, but there are some precedents (Jose Bautista) of guys who tap their power late in their baseball lives.

    Here’s my 2019 pipe dream.

    Urias 2b, 290/375/380, ~3 WAR.
    Spang, 3b, 280/345/440, ~3 WAR.
    Asuaja, UTIF, 280/360/410, ~ 2 WAR.
    Pirela, LF, 290/350/510, ~3.5 WAR.

    Those aren’t elite, but they’re Top 10 in MLB, and in REM-land they’re surrounded by 4 win players at short (Tatis), CF (Hedges), and C (Dreamy McDreamerson). You have to wonder what Myers will be doing (and where he’ll be doing it), and you gotta get something out of RF, but that would be a really, really good lineup. 2019 is probably too soon to expect those numbers out of Urias….and yet the idea makes me too happy not to post it.