Recently I had the chance to throw a few quick questions the way of the expert minds of Baseball Prospectus, and prospect authority Kevin Goldstein was kind enough to give us a few answers about Brandon Erbe and Billy Rowell (our top two prospects by almost all accounts), Chris Ray, and Daniel Cabrera, and an opinion on our current and moderately ridiculous fifth starter debate. Only in baseball can people have such determined opinions about the level of players we're discussing.
I can't recommend enough that you pick up your copy of the 2007 Baseball Prospectus. (And if you want to be nice, use that Amazon link over on the left sidebar and grab it from there.)
Q: BP has great words to say about both Billy Rowell and Brandon Erbe. Given their extreme youth, should we as Orioles fans let ourselves get excited by their potential, or should we quell our expectations some? What are the chances for a flameout in either case?
KG: Get excited. They're the two top prospects in the system, both have enormous potential, but yes, both have a very wide gap between what they are and what they can be because of their youth. Rowell needs to translate his raw power to in-game power, and Erbe has concerns about his mechanics and lack of a third pitch - but no prospect is perfect. Not a one. That doesn't mean you can't get excited about them.
Q: Chris Ray performed well in his raw numbers last year, but many have cited his big-time luck as a reason for this, and thus forecast a downturn for him in 2007. How likely is it that Ray simply continues to become a better pitcher, and thus puts up similar numbers to his 2006 totals from here on out? After all, he's only 25.
KG: I think the fact that he'll get better and the fact that he was a little bit over his head really should balance themselves out this year. He's not the perfect closer by any means. He needs to miss more bats and throw more strikes, but he's still pretty good.
Q: Who would really be the best major league starter in 2007: Steve Trachsel, Jeremy Guthrie, or Hayden Penn?
KG: For me, it would have to be Penn. Guthrie has made it pretty clear already that he's not going to work out, while Trachsel is 36 and three years removed from effectiveness. Give the kid a chance.
Q: What are the odds that Daniel Cabrera winds up being a good-to-great major league starter? His K rate is fascinating, of course, but, sadly, so is his walk rate.
KG: I'd say pretty low. He's turning 26 this year, and if anything, his control is going backward. Expect a Bobby Witt-esque career.