Frankie Piliere is a former MLB scout (Rangers), one time author of SaberScouting, and currently a writer for AOL Fanhouse.
He saw a lot of the Yankees' farm system over the last year while scouting for the Rangers, and he let me pepper him with questions.
Q: Yankee fans have heard so much about Austin Jackson, but we've been excited and disappointed by a long line of "the next great player" (Eric Duncan, Ruben Rivera, etc.). You wrote about Jackson's line drive ability, and we've heard about his plus tools since he was drafted.
What do you seen about AJax that you don't like?
The only thing about Jackson to have any concerns about, and this is true for most young players so it's difficult to call it a concern, is consistency. And, that's what Brian Cashman has to weight. Can he play his game consistently. I thought he was pretty consistent in 2009 in terms of making solid contact. I know people probably want to know about the power. The power is there if you see him in batting practice, and I think we'll see it in due time. Young players have to learn the difference between here's a pitch I can hit and here's a pitch I can drive. I really believe that will come through the natural maturation process with Jackson. There's a reason he's gone from a guy people called a raw athlete and had their doubts about coming out of the draft to a guy that has really developed pretty quickly. He makes adjustments very well.
Q: When you were at SaberScouting you did some interesting work regarding Pitches Toward Outs as a way to measure a pitcher's dominance of the opposition. Have you done (or plan to do) any more work in that vein?
Hey, someone remembers my little study I guess. I have toyed with it now and then but it got put on the back burner a little bit in the last year. I still think it's a pretty good overall measure of a pitcher's efficiency. It tells us things we couldn't tell without actually watching the pitcher on a day to day basis. If a guy is striking out hitters at a high rate and not using a lot of pitches that pretty much tells us all we could want to know about how dominant he's been. I'm hoping to maybe explore it further. I haven't had much demand for it but who knows I guess.
Q: What do you think of Pat Venditte?
A: If nothing else, it was a pretty cool experience getting to scout him. I mean, where else are you going to see something like that? But at the same time, he's difficult to scout because there's nothing to compare him against. So, I tried to evaluate him as two different pitchers basically. Right-handed he's 87-91, bumping 92 with a fringy breaking ball at 72-75. He's pretty straight forward from the right side. From the left he's more of a trick pitcher. 81-85 with the fastball with a big, sweeping breaking ball with some pretty good action. He's much more funky from the left and made some guys look pretty bad. He's got a real feel for pitching but still he's going to need to be pretty perfect from both sides to be a factor. I'm not sure his stuff translates. There's not really a standout pitch in there but he does command his pitches. I wouldn't look at him with much else besides curiousity, because if he was just a lefty or just a righty with that stuff you probably wouldn't know his name. But I must say he was better than I expected and he at least has a shot.
Q: Will we ever see Alan Horne in the show?
A: I hope so, he's an easy guy to root for. Of course this is kind of obvious but if he can ever stay healthy I still think so. I've always loved his stuff but it's just hard to bank on his health.
Q: Am I buying too much of the hype on Zach McAllister, or am I right to think that he can be a piece of the major league puzzle in 2010?
A: He has the sink and command to make a charge so I wouldn't rule it out. At the same time I don't think there will be a need to rush him. I guess you can never tell how things will shake out if he is dominating to start the year and even if the Yankees need some quick bullpen help. It would have to be intriguing to see how his already good stuff translated to short relief. I'm a big fan of breaking these guys in in the pen. I have no idea if it would even be discussed but I could see it if he is pitching great ball at AAA and they need another arm.
Q: The Yankees have a slew of prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Who do you think the Yankees should protect?
A: Besides the no brainers like Jackson and probably Eduardo Nunez, Nova definitely needs to be added I think. Whelan has some big stuff too so I could easily see someone trying to snatch him. I can say this, I wouldn't want to be the one having to decide this because there's a lot of guys you could say may be picked up.
Q: Any guess on where Joba Chamberlain's missing velocity went?
A: I thought it was pretty clear this year with Joba. I just don't think his delivery was as explosive. It was getting back to that in the playoffs, which was promising. Whether he was just too reigned in as a starter or was too conscious of his mechanics I'm not sure. But even when he first returned to the pen the velocity wasn't the same. I think it comes down to aggression. When he's right Joba is exploding at the hitter.
Q: Compare/ contrast Mike Dunn and Wilkin de la Rosa. Is either guy someone to be excited for, and which would you rather have in your system?
A: That's a very good question. I have seen more of Dunn over the past couple of years but I think I'd take Dunn by a hair. That could change as I see what De La Rosa can do as he moves up but they are very similar in stuff. People should sleep on Dunn despite his less than dominant cup of coffee. I'll take Dunn by the slighest of margins. I think he has a tick more fastball and maybe a little better feel for pitching. But, I'll stress again it's very very close.
Q: You're Alex Anthopoulos, what pieces are you looking for out of the Yankees' system? Can you get a deal done without AJax and Montero? Where do you think the strongest final bid will be?
A: Honestly I don't think the deal is acceptable for the Jays unless Montero is in it. And it's also why I don't do it if I'm Cashman. It's a failure on the Jays part if they can't net the team they're trading with's top chip. Montero is the top chip the Yankees have. But, of course that's me. Maybe they will settle for a deal without him if they get desperate. A lot of deals with prospects hinge on the faith the team has in their scouts. The Twins trusted their scouts and went for some lower level talent in the Santana trade. Perhaps Toronto settles for the same thing. In which case, the Yankees have lots of other pieces to offer.
Q: You're Commissioner for the day. How would you revise the drafting/ international signing system?
A: I'd have to go for the international draft. And I think this has been discussed but for the draft order I think the playoff results should be considered. For the Yankees that would be moot this year since they had the best record and the World Series. But, how about other years where you had the team that won the World Series drafting before the Yankees. There's something wrong with that if you ask me. I'd probably want to change many things but those are two things that come to mind.
A huge thank you to Frankie for taking the time to talk baseball with us, and be sure to check out his columns.