Stick to baseball, 10/21/17.

I wrote two scouting posts for Insiders from my week in the Arizona Fall League, which you can read here and here. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

I reviewed the card/dice game Valeria and its new expansion here on Friday; my next boardgame review for Paste will go up in early November. I also posted about a big boardgame app sale going on right now from Asmodee Digital.

The schedule for PAX Unplugged, a new boardgaming con to be held in Philadelphia in November, is now up. I’ll be signing copies of Smart Baseball there on November 18th and plan to attend the entire event.

And now, the links…

Valeria: Card Kingdoms.

Valeria: Card Kingdoms came out in 2015 from Daily Magic Games and has been steadily expanded ever since, including the latest release, this summer’s Flames & Frost, which is also the largest Valeria expansion to date. The game combines some great elements of other games, including the extensibility of Dominion, but more than anything else it takes the core mechanic of Machi Koro and improves on it dramatically. The theme is different, and there are other major variations, but this really is Better Machi Koro, to the point that I can’t imagine pulling MK out again now that we have Valeria on the shelves.

Valeria will at least start out as familiar to Machi Koro players: Each player starts with two cards, a Peasant (with the number 5 on it) and a Knight (number 6), and on every turn, the active player rolls the two dice to ‘activate’ certain cards. In Valeria, three cards are typically activated with each dice roll – the number on each individual die and the total of the two. (If they’re equal, some cards will thus be activated twice.) If you are the active player and you have any cards with those numbers on them, you get a specific reward in gold, magic, or strength tokens; if you’re not the active player, you also get a reward, but it’s usually smaller than what the active player gets.

On each turn, you get two actions, and can do one of four things. One is to just take a single gold, magic, or strength token, which is especially useful at the beginning of the game, but isn’t exactly why you’re here. The second action is to buy a Citizen card from the table. Citizens are numbered from 1 through 8, plus a 9/10 card and an 11/12 card. Citizens with higher-probability dice rolls on their cards cost more to buy, and, unlike in Machi Koro, you pay more to buy multiple copies of the same card – face value plus one more gold coin for each copy of the card you already have.

The third action is to buy a Domain card, which range from 5 coins to at least 12 coins, and give you end-game victory points as well as some recurring extra abilities or bonuses during the remainder of the game, such as reducing some card costs or allowing you to steal tokens from other players every turn. The fourth is to ‘defeat’ a Monster card on the table; there are five stacks of Monsters, sorted by type (a symbol in the upper left), and they get increasingly difficult to defeat as you move down the stack. You defeat Monsters with strength tokens and sometimes with magic tokens as well, earning an immediate reward (usually gold and/or other tokens, sometimes a free Citizen card instead) and end-game victory points.

There’s one other avenue to points that is unique to each player. At the start of the game, you’re dealt two Duke cards that detail specific game-end bonuses that are tied to the symbols found in the upper right of all cards (Domains, Monsters, and Citizens, especially the first two), or just to the number of Domains you bought or Monsters you defeated, and something for the leftover tokens you have. Add the points from your Duke to the points on your Domains and Monsters and any extra points you picked up during the game (some Citizens let you take a victory point rather than, say, two gold) and you get your total. The game begins with twenty card stacks in total, and when the number of Exhausted (depleted) stacks reaches twice the number of players, the game ends.

Here Be Monsters.
Here be Monsters.

The expansions mostly add twists with new Citizens, Monsters, Domains, and Dukes, varying the possible ways to score and altering how you might combine cards, while also giving the game the Dominion-like aspect of allowing you to mix and match cards so the game has functionally infinite replayability. The Flames and Frost expansion is larger than the previous ones, large enough that you can play a complete game using only cards from the new box other than the starter Knight and Peasant cards and the Exhausted cards from the base game. Several expansions introduce Event cards as well, which are shuffled into the Exhaustion deck; if you draw an Event card when a pile is exhausted, something happens to all players, usually something not good.

Game play takes about 30 minutes for 2 to 4 players – we haven’t tried it with five – not including setup time, which can get longer if you want to craft your own custom set of Citizens for that particular game. My daughter and her friend, both 11, had no trouble understanding the rules, and my daughter even tied me in our first two-player match. The iconography within the game, which limits its reliance on English (for the global market), can be a little confusing at first, but we kept the rules handy as a reference to walk us through it. If you liked the main idea of Machi Koro but found the game somewhat broken, especially given the way players could monopolize certain dice rolls, then I give Valeria my very strong recommendation.

Asmodee Digital app sale.

A bunch of the best boardgame apps out there are on sale right now courtesy of publisher Asmodee Digital, and since there are too many to squeeze into a tweet or FB post, I’m going to list my favorites among them (they have over 20 titles on sale) here with links to my reviews and to the iOS/Android stores.

Ticket to Ride ($1.99): Review, iTunes Store, Android version

Splendor ($1.99): Review, iTunes store, Android version

Pandemic ($1.99): Review, iTunes store, Android version

Small World 2 ($1.99): Review, iTunes Store, Android version

Jaipur ($0.99): Review, iTunes store, Android version

Ticket to Ride First Journey ($1.99): Review, iTunes store, Android version

Also, I have only played Twilight Struggle ($1.99) on Steam and haven’t reviewed it, but it’s also on sale for iPads and Android tablets. It’s a two-player game that I think requires a lot of playing experience to play it well because you must be familiar with the cards in your deck.

The New York Trilogy.

Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy is a collection of three novellas that are just barely connected enough that I would call this one novel, although it certainly bends the boundaries of the form. Each part starts out as a detective story, but turns into something else entirely, exploring questions of identity and meaning, with the three protagonists devolving into madness as their “cases” go awry. The work appears on the Guardian‘s 2003 list of the hundred greatest novels ever written, which is the only reason I even knew of its existence.

The first novella, City of Glass, covers a writer named Daniel Quinn who works under a pseudonym, William Wilson, about a detective named Max Work. Quinn gets a strange call one night asking for the detective Paul Auster, and after dismissing the first call, receives another one a few nights later and decides to play along, pretending to be Auster and taking on the case, which involves protecting a young man, Peter Stillman, from his abusive father as the latter is about to be released from prison. Peter speaks in a unique, stilted fashion, the result of the abuse his father, who was gripped by a sort of religious mania, put him through. Quinn decides to take the job, following the father, also named Peter Stillman, from Grand Central Station on the day of his release to the flophouse where he settles, eventually forcing a meeting with the older man, while also tracking down Paul Auster, the writer (not a detective), who is working himself on an article on the narrator character of Don Quixote. Quinn assumes the identity of the Auster-detective and goes undercover to an absurd extent, such that the case gets away from him and he begins to lose his own sense of self.

Ghosts, the shortest of the three acts, covers a detective named Blue, who is hired by the unseen White to stake out a target named Black. Every character has a color for his/her name – sometimes just part of the name, sometimes that’s all we get – but Blue, like Quinn in the first story, veers off the path, as he finds that watching Black day in and day out seems increasingly pointless, and eventually he decides to try to stalk White and find out what the purpose of the assignment is. It doesn’t go well, as you might imagine.

The Locked Room has the most conventional narrative of the three stories, and works less like a detective story and more like a psychological study. The unnamed narrator finds out that his childhood friend Fanshawe, with whom he’s had no contact for a decade, has disappeared, asking his wife to contact the narrator if he doesn’t reappear within a certain length of time and to have the narrator look through his collected writings. Fanshawe’s unpublished works turn out to be critical masterpieces and become commercially successful enough to allow the narrator, who quickly falls for and marries Fanshawe’s wife, to walk away from his own life and become Fanshawe’s agent, of a sort, as the steward of his friend’s various works. Of course, Fanshawe isn’t dead, and the narrator can’t leave well enough alone, especially once rumors start that Fanshawe is just a fabrication, so he tries to track his friend down despite explicit instructions not to do so. The resolution of this ties the three stories together in an unexpected and (by design) incomplete fashion, which I would argue makes the three novellas together a single work of narrative fiction despite the incongruities between stories.

Postmodern with metafictional elements, The New York Trilogy plays with layers of reality to push the three protagonists through varying levels of internal and external rebellion, against their senses of self and against the perception that they lack free will in a universe that is forcing action upon them. Blue and the nameless narrator both try to find the scriptwriters directing their lives. Quinn, himself an author, is presented with an entirely new script, but becomes obsessed with its narrative to the point that he completely loses himself, as if he’s playing a role that consumes him. In all three stories, Auster gives us less-than-reliable narrators and causes to doubt whether the antagonists or their backstories are real. Even when he unites the three narratives in the last few pages of The Locked Room (with a few scattered hints before that), the truth remains ambiguous – it’s possible that the stories all share a character, or that a character from one story created one of the others. It’s a work that asks questions without answering them, but still manages to grab the reader with the detective-novel paradigm and determination (if not entirely hinged) of its lead characters. I’m a devoted fan of noir detective fiction; this might be more gris than noir, but it works well with its foundation.

Next up: I’m reviewing out of order, but I’m currently on Frederik Pohl’s Hugo & Nebula Award-winning novel Gateway.

Klawchat 10/19/17.

My two Arizona Fall League roundup posts are both up for Insiders – part one and part two.

Keith Law: Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids. Klawchat.

Tom Flannery: What every day position players do you see the Cubs possibly shopping this offseason for a pitcher to replace Arrieta, assuming they definitely do not re-sign him? Also, are there any free agent bullpen arms you can see them going after?
Keith Law: I feel like they already did that with the trade for Quintana. He’s the Arrieta replacement. The FA class is fairly weak overall but I will have full rankings as usual after the World Series.

Tanaka: If Tanaka opts out (which he probably will $67 mil shouldn’t be hard to beat) what would you be willing to offer him?
Keith Law: I don’t know if he’ll opt out given the known issue with his elbow. The weak class works in his favor, but I’m not sure about teams offering him much more given that he’s seen as more of a risk for a season-ending injury than your average starter.

Greg: A couple Alex Jackson questions: 1) are the issues you saw fixable ones behind the plate? 2) if he has to move back to the outfield, what were the reports on his defense in a corner when he was with Seattle? 3) is the bat enough to profile as a corner OF in the big leagues? Thanks for the chat.
Keith Law: I don’t think they are fixable, he’s playable in the outfield but not average, the bat may still profile.

Brian: I’ve become frustrated with the Cubs starting Jon Jay in now 7 straight playoff games. Jon Jay is fine, but I refuse to beleieve Jon Jay should be starting 7 straight playoff games. Am I right to be frustrated…or is it just that Heyward has lost himself and Schwarber can’t hit lefties, etc.?
Keith Law: I don’t see the great alternative here, especially with Schwarber essentially a platoon guy at the moment.

Chris : Marcos Molina and Peter Alonso for Dee Gordon with Mets taking on all of his solid contract, who says no? (I think Marlins would probably want more but asking as a delusional Mets fan)
Keith Law: Delusional indeed.

Peter: Assuming Cora gets hired by the Red Sox, do you have any views on the managerial qualities of any of the remaining candidates for the Mets already interviewed (Callaway, Long, Acta and McEwing)?
Keith Law: I know Acta, having worked with him a few years at ESPN, and think he brings a strong mix of analytical and traditional thinking to the table, and the ability to work with a lot of different sorts of players. Also bilingual, which I think is a huge advantage. I’d absolutely recommend him. I don’t know the others personally, but have heard nothing but praise for Callaway as a pitching coach (which is a very different role than manager).

Frank: North Korea’s rhetoric is really beginning to scare me. Will we still be around in a year’s time?
Keith Law: I’m more scared of our guy than their guy. They have everything to lose by launching a real attack – their economy is only propped up by imports and foreign aid, or else there’d be famine.

Bob: I think you have mentioned it somewhere in a chat before, but do you have any book recommendations for a first time expecting father?
Keith Law: The Happiest Baby on the Block.

Jay: If you could pick one show that’s been cancelled to come back for one more season, what would it be?
Keith Law: I’d take as much Broadchurch as I could get. Others: Pushing Daisies, Atlantis, Firefly.

Rahn: How does Shane Baz slot in the Pirates’ rankings for you? Does he have Mitch Keller kind of upside? And how do you feel about Ke’Bryan Hayes with his stops and starts due to injury?
Keith Law: I haven’t even looked at org top 10s or 20s yet. I think Baz has a bigger arm than Keller, but is a different kind of pitcher, more power, less command/breaking ball.

Ryan: Has Corey Ray’s swing changed dramatically from when you saw him in the spring of 2016 and if so, is it fixable?
Keith Law: I detailed the changes in his setup in my first AFL post (linked above). Fixable, but why hasn’t anyone done it yet?

Eddy: Learned about a couple of power bats in the twins system, Brent Rooker and Lewin Diaz. Anything of note with them?
Keith Law: Couple of power bats. Rooker has been old for almost everywhere he’s played, and you’re hoping he can work in left field. Diaz is younger, maybe more hit tool right now, but also might not have a position.

Matt: Last night Tim Kurkjian said the Yankees best hitter was Sanchez and not Judge. Do you agree?
Keith Law: I do not. I think it’s Judge.

Mac: Do you think an amateur pitcher can learn to throw strikes or is strike throwing an innate skill?
Keith Law: I think pitchers can improve control and command, but there are other variables that make it easier or harder, like athleticism or repeatability of a delivery.

EricVA: Greg Bird has looked great…when healthy. Do you think his true level is what we saw in 2015 or is that too optimistic?
Keith Law: Probably a little below 2015, but more than good enough to write him into the 2017 Opening Day lineup. This is part of why I’ve never bought them as a Hosmer destination – they have Bird, and they love him as a player. If they believe he’s healthy, going outside for a 1b makes little sense.

David: If you were named GM of the Braves, what moves would you look to make for this upcoming season? Would you just go with the kids, or try and acquire a guy like Stanton?
Keith Law: Would explore the market for hitters, especially at spots where the farm is weaker (3b comes to mind), and see if some of the upper level pitching depth could be packaged in such a deal.

Jshep12: Most interesting Arizona Fall League team??
Keith Law: Eh, they’re all interesting, but I wish I’d seen Peoria another time or two.

Cora: So from what it sounds like right now Alex Cora is going to have his pick of managerial openings which opening would you say is most attractive?
Keith Law: Depends on what he wants. Boston is a win-now situation with a tremendous and talented young core, but comes with high expectations and a couple of strong personalities to deal with. Philadelphia might be more interesting to someone who’s focused on development, given the wave of young hitters who’ve already arrived or are on their way.

Dana: Putting career length aside for the moment, is Didi Gregorious a better player than Derek Jeter? More power, better defense for sure.
Keith Law: Does he have more power, or is he playing with a juiced ball?

RSO: Is Gleyber Torres better suited to play 2nd base or 3rd base?
Keith Law: He’s best suited to play shortstop.

Dr. Bob: Though the paradigm established by the use of Andrew Miller and others last postseason did not really carry into the regular season, it has broken out in a huge and unexpected way this postseason. Few starters going beyond the 4th inning, 4-6 relief pitchers most nights and 4 -hour games. Is this an anomaly or a trend?
Keith Law: I think it’s a trend, but as others have pointed out, it might be a bit overused too. The rational argument behind it is largely the “times through the order” issue. That doesn’t necessarily support the “let’s empty the bullpen” strategy we seem to see.

RSO: After his performance so far in the playoffs would you resign Masahiro Tanaka if he opts out if you were the Yankees?
Keith Law: Yes, in that they know more about his health than any other team. If they’re not interested, that would be a tremendous negative signal.

Angel: What you think the Yankees should do with Torres/Andújar situation? It seem like one of the two don’t have a spot on the team for next year.. same goes for Clint Frazier if they can’t get rid of ellsbury
Keith Law: Does Andujar have to make the team next year? Seems like both guys would benefit from starting in AAA again, Torres to make up for lost reps, Andujar to continue to work on recognition and defense.

Moe Mentum: If I get accepted at an Ivy League college, should I go? There’s a “next-tier” school that I might like a little better, but that’s a pretty big opportunity I’d be declining.
Keith Law: I think going to an Ivy confers two tangible benefits: the value of the name on your resume, and the value of the alumni network. They’re not all equal in those regards, though. On the other hand, they can be prohibitively expensive, and I wouldn’t advocate them if you have a much more affordable “next-tier” option available, especially if the latter school is strong in your desired area of study.

Daniel: You think Fried’s most realistic outcome is an underachieving 3/4?
Keith Law: No, I think his most realistic outcome is a solid 3 with a chance of a 2-plus. Will probably need to work more with his offspeed and less with his four-seamer.

Daniel: Tapia should take over for CarGo, right?
Keith Law: Yes. CarGo very quietly had an atrocious season this year – under replacement level by FG.

Gene Mullett: Thanks for heads up on Twitter. Are you a fan of that site? I find it a necessary evil. Hate going there, but it’s where all my favorite baseball & hockey writers are now.
Keith Law: Yep. There’s value there, but they remain underequipped (or insufficiently motivated) to deal with the real problems of harassment, hate speech, and fake accounts. Oh, by the way, I just got a notification on my phone suggesting I watch the Periscope feed of a neo-Nazi speaking at some school in Florida. Not helping, Twitter.

Daniel: Tanner Scott the best RP prospect in the minors?
Keith Law: No.

Daniel: Julian Merryweather seems to have a 4/5 profile to me. That sound right to you? Or is he more of a long-man?
Keith Law: Sounds right to me.

DH: How much do you suppose Austin Hays will hit? is he a .280 hitter with 29 hr’s at his peak?
Keith Law: The HR projections all depend on what the baseball is like, no? Just about every regular hit 5+ homers more than I would have projected or, I think, most projection systems would have had for them a few years back. I think he can hit for average and power, yes, with moderate to low OBPs.

Christian: Hello, big fan of you work and thank you for all of the quality content. I was wondering if you can explain why minor league teams are not in Canada anymore? I remember minor league teams in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, etc. Now if I do not believe any minor league team plays in Canada, just wanted to know if this was an MLB decision or individual teams? Thank you in advance.
Keith Law: I believe low attendance & expense of travel to/from those places (Edmonton is just this side of Yellowknife) were the two drivers.
Keith Law: Vancouver has a short-season team, BTW.

Danny: Do you know why Dillon Tate wasn’t sent to the AFL? Concerned about another injury?
Keith Law: Don’t know, players are pulled all the time for trivial reasons, and he pitched quite a bit down the stretch as Trenton made the playoffs.

addoeh: Why would Houston fire all of its scouts?
Keith Law: They believe pro scouting is becoming obsolete thanks to trackman data becoming available at nearly every minor league park and the prevalence of minor league video. I don’t agree, but it’s a take.

Mike: Do teams get access to prospects’ medical reports prior to the draft ? Didn’t Brady Singer go unsigned as a 2nd round pick out of HS after Toronto found something iffy on an MRI ? How will that affect his 2018 draft status ?
Keith Law: Teams only get the medical reports players submit, and if a player hasn’t had an MRI before the draft, there’s nothing for him to send to teams. I won’t comment on an amateur player’s medicals unless they’re already public.

Adam D.: Do you think Duggar can take over as the starting CF in San Francisco by June?
Keith Law: He looked off his game last week; I think the lost season has really held him back.

Gary: The Stanton to the Giants rumor persists….would simply taking on his contract while adding a low grade prospect or two be enough? Because, the Giants really have nothing but lower grade prospects to offer.
Keith Law: Who’s pushing that rumor? It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Adam D.: If the Giants are intent on getting Chris Shaw on the field, would you have him try to fake LF or send Belt out there?
Keith Law: Shaw can’t play LF. That’s not an option.

EricVA: Is the characterization of Tanaka being more injury-prone a fair one? I hear this a lot, but it’s been years and he hasn’t had an issue.
Keith Law: He’s not injury-prone. He has a known issue, but he’s pitched with it for years.

RSO: What’s your take on Jordan Montgomery going forward? What is his upside?
Keith Law: This is it, or perhaps less. He already did more than I expected given his stuff, but was worse in the second half as teams saw him more.

James: Bo Bichette, smoke and mirrors or the real deal?
Keith Law: He was on my midseason top 50 prospects update.

Hinkie: Cesar Hernandez for Tyler Skaggs and Brandon Marsh. Who says “no” ?
Keith Law: Angels would say no, with obscenities.

Tom: While watching Granderson strike out twice in the same at bat, I couldn’t help but notice that if he had just bunted against the shift, he could have downed an Old Style before trotting to first base. Why don’t more players take advantage of this?
Keith Law: Pride? Discomfort? Lack of experience bunting? I don’t know, since it’s an easy hit if it’s executed right, and you don’t have to execute it every time for it to be a net positive for the team.

Patty O’Furniture: Will the Braves lose draft picks in addition to IFA fines (and possible, but less likely, loss of prospects)?
Keith Law: It’s possible but unknown. From reading some of the media coverage around it, there’s a lot of covering of asses going on right now.

Dennis: Have you read any of Knausgaard’s “My Struggle” books? Any interest if you haven’t?
Keith Law: No interest.

Andy: Is there an org with a bleaker future than the Royals’? Bad contracts, no help coming, Twins rising, Indians dominant, White Sox to emerge.
Keith Law: Their near-term could be ugly, but if they stockpile draft picks from the impending FA losses – and then draft well – they could get back on track pretty quickly.

Dennis: Have you read Proust? If so, would you recommend?
Keith Law: I read Swann’s Way and the first part of book two. It’s a grind. The man couldn’t complete a sentence to save his life. It’s pathological.

Andrew: I’m growing increasingly frustrated with my psychiatrist because I feel he feels I’m too stable which is a good thing but deep down, I struggle to finish my own sentences and I’m still depressed. I suffer from bipolar disorder and I’ve brought up things like Wellbutrin/Adderall and he tells me that he feels the medication I”m on is ok and there’s no need to switch out of fear that I may end up back at the hospital with a manic episode. This guy’s such a nice man but Is it best I find a new psychiatrist? Man that’ll be one tough conversation.
Keith Law: If you’re not getting the results you want, then you should find a new doctor. There are so many medication options, individually and in combination, and the results seem to be so personal that I think it’s foolish to advise a patient to just accept the status quo even when he’s not satisfied with it. Good luck.

Carl: The O’s tossed out the idea of putting Hunter Harvey in the ML bullpen in 2018. Am I right in thinking that’s nuts?
Keith Law: Bonkers.

Dennis: If Justin Upton opts out, should the Angels try to bring him back? Would a 5 year, $110 million deal be reasonable or potentially another Hamiltonian disaster?
Keith Law: I think he’s in line for a big deal like that if he opts out; Hamilton was such an exception AND was seen as a bad deal at the time, whereas Upton lacks his off-field or physical problems.

Jason: If expansion happened (big if, I know), would the introduction of 25 or additional bullpen slots and diffusion of talent reduce the number of strikeouts, or are there more guys available who can throw hard and get Ks in short stints?
Keith Law: I think we’d see the shortage of starters exacerbated, at least in the short term. If MLB ever expands, which I do believe will happen eventually (just not imminently), I would hope it would come along with increased investment by the league in developing talent outside of the U.S.

Sven: Do you give any credence to the Hillary/Russia/Uranium story that appears to be gaining legitimacy? If it actually happened, she and everyone who knew about the deals being cut should all be in jail, or worse.
Keith Law: Please take your fake-news bullshit back to Stormfront. Thanks.

Eric: Keith did you ever listen to any Tragically Hip stuff, either during your time with the Jays or otherwise? We’re hurting up here.
Keith Law: I did, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Josef: Any reason why a pro pitcher can’t throw a strike on 3-0 when they know the hitter is taking and they throw a fastball? I’d think that location wouldn’t be that hard.
Keith Law: Two things. One, you don’t want to throw a perfect, down-the-middle strike 100% of the time on 3-0, because the batter might swing. Two, pitching is hard.

Chris: Who do you see being the more impact starter for the Tigers, Burrows or Faedo?
Keith Law: Burrows is much more likely to be a starter; I think the odds on Faedo are more likely that he’s a reliever.

TJ: Do you buy this idea that the Yankees are going to sell low on Betances this offseason? They don’t need the money so it doesn’t make sense. Addition by subtraction makes no sense either as they are still rolling right now even with him sour
Keith Law: I don’t think it makes sense, not given his struggles of late and low salary. He’s superfluous to that loaded bullpen, but they’d be selling for maybe 85 cents on the dollar.

Marcus Wilson: When will I get some recognition?
Keith Law: Define recognition. You had a great season, but it was your fourth year in pro ball.

Alex: Have you heard anything from Braves instructs? Eric Longenhagen was saying the big names have disappointed and I could only assume that means Maitan.
Keith Law: I did, and of course I spent a lot of time with Eric last week too. I saw some video of Maitan (did I say this last week?) and his swing was ugly, esp from the L side.

Ken: Would this hypothetical MLB expansion be the nightmare it seems to be on paper?
Keith Law: I think so, especially if, as the unsourced speculation says, they expand to two cities that will likely end up revenue-sharing recipients in the long term. It makes no sense to move to small markets. If you believe Montreal will support a team with a different stadium, which I think is unclear, then that is the largest market in US/Canada without a team. I have argued for a while that Austin and San Antonio would be one market for MLB purposes (they are two MSAs, and two markets in radio’s definition), which would encompass nearly 4.5 million people currently served only by triple-A teams.

Eric Rodriguez: What is the ceiling of Heliot Ramos?
Keith Law: Above-average everyday RF.

Erwin: Edmonton is 900 miles south of Yellowknife! And has a great ball park and had a terrific run in PCL for 24 years.
Keith Law: It’s really far from other PCL teams, and the weather isn’t great for baseball.

Worldwide Leader: Any changes on the horizon for you professionally? Seems like you’re one of the few ESPN Insiders still publishing…
Keith Law: Insider decisions are made above my paygrade. I’m still under contract for a while.

Drew: Any thoughts on the Nationals’ complete lack of post-season success? Bad luck? Poor managing? All of the above?
Keith Law: Bad luck more than anything. Dusty didn’t help this year, what with batting a sub-replacement level player 2nd in the lineup, but I can’t pin the loss on him.

Elton: Did you ever read “The Magicians” trilogy? I have been enjoying it immensely as a send-up of Potter/Narnia but also as a really enjoyable fantasy story in its own right.
Keith Law: Yep, loved it, reviews here on the site (books one, two, and three).

TJ: Fair to assume that the Marlins will be filled with known Jeter loyalists like Posada and Pettite in key roles?
Keith Law: Doesn’t it seem that way? It’s not as if he did an exhaustive search before hiring Denbo.

Colin : If a player is diagnosed with ADHD and is prescribed adderall are they allowed to take it or will they get suspended for banned substances.
Keith Law: They can apply for a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption). Something like 1 in 7 MLB players has a TUE for an ADHD drug, which means that more than 10% of the league is using speed, legally.

JR: Half way through book 12 of A Dance to the Music of Time and it’s been an enjoyable journey. Did you read all 12 books straight through or break it up by reading other books in between? I had to break it up to make the length not feel so overwhelming.
Keith Law: I broke it up, reading about one a month.

Justin Y: Super impressed by Albies down the stretch. Does he have 20 hr a season power in his prime?
Keith Law: With this ball, absolutely. With a regular ball, I might have said 15.

Terry: Have you seen the story about the Long Beach restaurant serving reheated Popeyes?
Keith Law: No, but that is fantastic.

Ozzie: Anything new on the situation in Atlanta? Do you think they lose players (Maitan) or receive significant penalties?
Keith Law: I haven’t heard anything I think I could print. There is a lot of unsourced speculation out there, including claims of criminal activity (which I believe team execs denied when they forced Coppolella and Blakely out), and I’m inclined to doubt everything until MLB weighs in.

Ed: Your liberal social stance sucks
Keith Law: Yes, I’m truly a terrible person for believing in science and supporting equal rights for everyone.

yo knows: Is there enough of a track record for the type of injury Urias had to have an idea of whether he’s going to be back where he was?
Keith Law: The limited number of players who’ve had that surgery should make you very pessimistic. He may be done. In fact, I think it’s at least even money that he is. And that, Ed, is something that actually sucks.

Moltar: There was a Fangraphs Community article recently that said a pitch at the corners was %25 more likely to be called a strike in a 3-0 count than an 0-2 count. That’s infuriating! Pace of play is a huge issue, why are we needlessly extending at bats? Robot umpires now!
Keith Law: That was in the book Scorecasting, published maybe five years ago. And yes, it’s ridiculous.

Blue Jay Way: Ryan Borucki good enough to make Toronto rotation next year? Top 100 consideration?
Keith Law: He is a prospect, but I don’t think he’s ready and he’s not a top 100 guy now.

Gene Mullett: Cleveland has drafted a lot better over the past few seasons, but the results they’ve had in trades (Santana, Kluber, Carrasco, & Bauer for example) are pretty remarkable. Is there an org that you think excels in asset management?
Keith Law: I think the Astros have done a remarkable job both in the draft and in finding low-level talent in trades, although the scout responsible for several of those finds (including Martes) just left for the Diamondbacks.

Luke: Best Dominion expansion outside of Intrigue?
Keith Law: Seaside really changes the game for the better, IMO.

Dischord40: Hi Keith, Are you planning on playing Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 and what is your opinion of legacy games in general?
Keith Law: My daughter and I are still on April of season one. It’s just hard for me, since I have to play so many new games to review, to play one game 12+ times, but the concept is great – really, anything that gets more people into the hobby is fine with me.

Matt: Keith, playing devil’s advocate here, I know you’ve advocated the Yankees trading Didi away to make room for Torres, but wouldn’t that be insanely risky for a contender to do? Didi’s not a star, but he’s a 3-4 win SS, and as good as Torres might look, he’s played just 55 games above High A. It seems like, at best, there’s a decent chance he never becomes the player Didi is right now, and that move would certainly make the Yankees worse-off in the short run (depending on the return for Didi, I guess).
Keith Law: I disagree that “there’s a decent chance he never becomes” a 3-4 WAR player. Very few shortstop prospects his age with his track record and favorable scouting reports have whiffed entirely like that. How often has the industry completely missed on a player who was a top prospect at 15 and then performed right out of the chute?

Moltar: Re: expansion, I have always been confused at how Atlanta is the only team in the South (excluding Florida). North Carolina, New Orleans and Tennessee support other big-4 franchises, yet never seem to be considered for Major League expansion.
Keith Law: Other sports don’t require the attendance or local population (for TV revenues) MLB does. I believe New Orleans’ MSA would be the smallest in MLB. Nashville’s would be in the bottom five.

Jim: And again, why are so many high on the Braves when their 2016 J2 class has underwhelmed and they have no other bats aside from Acuna and Pache.
Keith Law: Answered last week. They have a tremendous amount of pitching, and there are other J2 guys from 2016 beyond Maitan who have promise.

Bruce: Jorge Alfaro had some success in limited playing time this season though his walk rate continues to be horrendous. What are your expectations for him going forward offensively and defensively?
Keith Law: Can’t forecast him ever posting acceptable OBPs given his allergy to walks. He can really throw, he has 80 raw power, and I think he can put the bat on the ball enough to be a regular. The one deficit he can improve upon is his receiving – that can improve with work, and he has to commit to that to be their everyday guy next year.

Xandyfixit?: MrKeithLaw, what’s the future for Bogaerts? In the first half, before injuries, he seemed to be focusing on contact and not power. That’s great if he’s getting on base a substantial clip, but it wasn’t happening. Then the hits to the hands/injuries derailed everything and he seemed lost. Should he just sell out for power (as if that’s easy to do)?
Keith Law: Nice pull there. I think there’s more than average power there if he’s healthy, but couldn’t make hard enough contact once the hand injuries came. I’m still all in, and I wouldn’t advise him to change his approach at all.

Andrew: Was Keon Barnum much of a prospect coming out of high school?
Keith Law: I did not think so.

Chris: Did you see Calgary re-elected their mayor after the NHL essentially tried to interfere to get someone that would give more public money to the Flames? This is a small victory against giving public money to make rich people richer.
Keith Law: Let’s hope the people of Columbus, Ohio, do the same thing as their soccer team tries to extort money from the town.

Chris: Your liberal social stance doesn’t suck. Politics should be about arguing what to do with taxes…not fighting over equality and equity for all.
Keith Law: Agreed. And I don’t think my views on taxation would be characterized as “liberal.” (Probably not truly conservative either.)

Biscuit: Where are we at with Isan Diaz? Is the swing and miss too much to overcome, or does he end up having a few big power years in the majors?
Keith Law: Hamate injury this year. Check back in after a few months of 2018.

Marshall MN: What are your thoughts on Akil Baddoo as a prospect for the Twins, he broke out big time this year but its was low level A ball and its hard to know if those numbers will translate to anything.
Keith Law: Cautiously optimistic. Did get some very good reports on him this summer too.

Biscuit: Recently read Lonesome Dove. Loved every minute of it, and (unexpectedly) found myself laughing out loud at some of the verbal exchanges between McRea and Call. Having not seen the TV Series (which everyone seems to agree is legendary), I of course was excited to see this excellent book brought to life. Watched the first two episodes and….it’s garbage? I mean, books are generally better than movies but- man these two are not even close. No real question here, but thanks for yet another great book recommendation.
Keith Law: I never bothered with the series, given its length and age, but I’m glad to hear I made the right call.

Tex: What happens to the league when the tv bubble inevitably bursts?
Keith Law: I think MLB is already repositioning itself to sell more directly to consumers – which, by the way, could help smooth out revenue gaps between teams.

Dennis: Do you underline or write margin notes when you read fiction?
Keith Law: No, that’s heresy. But I’ll highlight on the Kindle when I read there.

Greyson: Is there any evidence of pitchers newer to pitching having a lower injury risk because they have more “tread on the tires?” When I hear that I always think of Hunter Harvey.
Keith Law: No, I think conversion guys get hurt at at least the same rate if not higher.

Science is Faith in NASA: Did you know that there are 0 pictures of earth? Even NASA’s Robert Simmon says that everything is photoshopped. Is that because the earth is geocentric and the sun and moon rotate around the earth like hands on a clock? Why does NASA need green screens and VR for live broadcasts?
Keith Law: I assume this is a joke, but there are pictures of earth (the last full photo of earth from above low orbit was taken in 1972) and Simmon (the “Blue Marble” image guy) said no such thing.

Matt: Apparently a school in Mississippi is changing it’s name from Jefferson Davis to Obama. Oh the racists are gonna be mad!
Keith Law: My wife and I enjoyed envisioning that reaction.

Andrew: Man, I know it’s early but the Brewers appear to have had a monster 2017 draft! Thoughts?
Keith Law: I think Ray Montgomery has drafted very well for years, going back to his time with Arizona, but I don’t think their 2017 class is a “monster.” They did well, and if Hiura never has to have surgery (as many teams believed predraft that he would) then so much the better.

Corey: Could Michael Chavis do a Devers and be ready for some MLB at-bats late next season ?
Keith Law: Could be ready, but not over Devers.

jp: Favorite Carcassone expansion/edition?
Keith Law: Traders and Builders is still the best, IMO. I haven’t played some of the latest ones – I feel like every game reaches a saturation point with expansions after maybe three or four.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week – thanks as always for all of the questions and for reading. Free agent rankings will be my next big Insider project, appearing whenever the World Series ends. I’ll be back some time next week for another chat.

Our Souls at Night.

The new film Our Souls at Night, now available on Netflix, reunites Robert Redford and Jane Fonda for the first time since 1979’s The Electric Horseman in an adaptation of Kent Haruf’s final novel, published shortly after his death in 2015. It’s a slow, sentimental story of two neighbors, both widowed, who end up in an unlikely romance that brings each of them out of their long, dark nights of mourning while exposing the past wounds that haunt them both … but really, it’s about watching Redford and Fonda remind everyone why they were iconic actors of their generation.

Addie (Fonda) knocks on Louis’s (Redford) door one evening with a proposal: That he come to her place some night to sleep with her, literally, rather than in the Biblical sense. They’re both alone, she says, and she’s finding the nights particularly troublesome. It’s a cute conceit, but of course, the more they spend time together, the more they both open up, and we learn that each has a major, life-altering event in the past that remains unresolved – a death for one, an affair for the other – only to have their pasts sneak up on them as their romance blossoms. When Addie’s son asks her to watch her grandson for an indefinite period, the boy bonds with Louis, Louis himself opens up further to Addie, and Addie’s own mistakes come full circle and threaten to derail their newfound happiness.

The story is bookended by two less-than-credible events – Addie’s proposition to Louis that sets the story in motion, and her decision near the very end of the film that at least temporarily splits them up. The first is a necessary plot device, and it’s at least played out well by Fonda (nervous, but determined) and Redford (reticent and befuddled). The second is a bit harder to accept, because the plot gives Addie a false choice – she could have both, and for reasons that aren’t fully justified in the script, chooses to sacrifice her relationship with Louis. That leads to a very cute and somewhat more credible conclusion, but I could never quite buy into how we got there. It is primarily to the credit of the two actors and the familiar, comfortable chemistry between them that any part of this story plays out seriously, and that the audience can be absorbed in the minutiae of their relationship – the small-town gossip, the first-date hesitancy, the reactions of their adult children. (Judy Greer appears in one scene as Louis’s daughter, playing the character type at which she excels – off-kilter, goofy, effusive, and seeming younger than her actual age.)

The details are what really sell Our Souls at Night, as the plot itself is limited; the script just sort of throws these two characters together and sees what will happen. It avoids the worst cliches, like a forced conflict between the two where they fight and “break up,” and instead gives us two kind but hurting people who choose to be kind to each other. The deaths of secondary characters underline the idea that this is a last shot at happiness for Addie and Louis, rather than saddle the two of them with morbid dialogue, which further allows the script to focus on the organic evolution of the two characters’ relationship and their discussions, largely prompted by Addie, of the old wounds they each suffered that never fully healed.

Our Souls at Night played briefly in a few theaters in September, which should make it eligible for awards, which may really matter for the two lead actors, both of whom are previous winners and, at 79 (Fonda, who’ll turn 80 in December) and 81 (Redford) may not have many more leading roles in their careers. Fonda has won Best Actress twice, with five other nominations, and has three more Golden Globe wins for the same. Redford, to my surprise, has never won a Best Actor Oscar, earning just one nomination in the category (The Sting), with a win for Best Director (Ordinary People) his only regular Oscar, along with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. The Best Actor category is so competitive that I wouldn’t predict a nod for Redford here, even given the natural boost he’ll get from his reputation and age, but Fonda, who carries a little more weight with her role in this movie, has a fair shot at some nominations for playing Addie. It’s more than a mere nostalgia play, though; Our Souls at Night showcases two great actors in a movie unadorned by anything but dialogue and some beautiful panoramas of the Colorado landscape, with performances that elevate the simplistic plot into something memorable.

Baby Driver.

Baby Driver (available to rent now on amazon and iTunes) was among the most anticipated films of the summer, and was released to solid reviews and an enthusiastic box office, clearing $100 million domestically and over $200 million worldwide. It very much looks like a movie, with actors, dialogue, set pieces, and something like a story. But it’s really an extended series of music videos, loosely stitched together by some semblance of a plot, and if you took the music out you’d just have Bad Boys 6 featuring Jon Hamm.

The main character is a driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort), and he can really drive. When he was still little, he was in the back seat of his parents’ car when they were arguing and ended up slamming into the truck in front of them, killing his parents and somehow leading him to a life of boosting cars and driving them like a champion stunt driver – but he can only drive while listening to music, and he has an iPod and a playlist for each day of the week (or something like that). He stole the Wrong Guy’s car one day, and ended up driving for that guy, Doc (Kevin Spacey), to repay his debt. The movie lets us know after the first heist that Baby just has to do One More Job and he’s “square” with Doc, after which he intends to do something not illegal. He also meets a waitress, Debra (Lily James, looking adorable), and they improbably fall in love despite spending almost no time together, but of course Doc isn’t willing to just let his best driver go – and the next caper is the one that goes wrong.

The movie is bookended by three chase scenes – two at the start, one at the end – that, if you like a good car chase, are tremendously fun to watch. They’re well choreographed and well shot, and Elgort is more than up to the task of showing steel-faced resolve behind the wheel while everyone else in the car is generally freaking out. But everything else about this movie is some exponential power of dumb. Baby records conversations he has with others and remixes them into amateurish home electronica, a habit that is both inexplicable and incredibly stupid, since he’s recording conversations he has with known criminals. With the exception of Hamm’s Buddy, the criminals themselves are caricatures, none more so than Bats (Jamie Foxx), who seems to be going out of his way at all times to let us know how crazy and unpredictable he is (which, in its own way, makes him utterly predictable). The scene with the arms dealer called The Butcher – a welcome cameo by songwriter/actor Paul Williams, playing thoroughly against type – is a complete mess, hinging on Doc failing to tell his crew a rather pertinent detail about the transaction. And throughout the movie, people get shot without any apparent pain or difficulty getting back up and returning fire.

That’s not to say that Baby Driver isn’t fun, because at many points, it is a blast. The car chases are fantastic. The script has some great lines and sight gags, often silly but frequently funny. The visual style throughout the film is arresting, no pun intended, especially during the first heist when Buddy, his wife Darling (Eiza González, wearing skintight clothes and not doing much else), and Griff move in tandem as they exit the car and approach the bank they’re about to rob. The scene opens the film and gives that music-video vibe that director/writer Edgar Wright just can’t maintain through the rest of the movie.

And boy is the rest of the movie a mess. The story is a lot of nothing, with plot conveniences strewn everywhere to keep it moving. The characters are mostly nothing; only Buddy has a hint of an interesting back story, and Hamm manages to turn the character into a credible antagonist. Elgort is solid as Baby, but not given a ton to do; the only scenes where the character shows a little depth are with his deaf, wheelchair-bound foster father, who unfortunately is more prop than anything else in the film. Doc is a parody of a caricature of a crime boss; Spacey’s performance here is indistinguishable from his work in those e-Trade commercials. The film really sputters out at the end, as if Wright couldn’t figure out how to end the story without killing everyone off, giving us a closing sequence that feels tacked on, incongruent, and very much like the end of some epic music video. Wright can certainly put together a good driving playlist, but he might have done better to ask someone else to help him write the story.

The Uplift War.

I have a bit of a strange history with David Brin’s The Uplift War, the second of his two novels in this series to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel; I first got it late in 2015 as an ebook when it was on sale for $2, but when I tried to read it in January of 2016, I found I couldn’t get into it at all and bailed after about 35 pages. What I didn’t quite realize at the time was that I was horrendously sick – regular readers will remember that I had to push the top 100 prospects package back by a week that year, as I ran a fever of up to 103 for six days and ended up needing a powerful and risky antibiotic to knock out the infection. I read a few other books in that span, including The Caine Mutiny (never reviewed, but I did love it) and The Vorrh (which I later reviewed in tandem with its sequel), so I figured Brin’s book maybe just wasn’t for me.

I gave it another shot on my AFL trip this year and ended up flying through it, so clearly the problem was me (or my illness), not the book. It’s long and the story is somewhat involved, but despite Brin’s background as an astrophysicist and heavy use of his own jargon, the prose is surprisingly readable, with some help from an average chapter length of about six pages. There are certainly aspects of old-school sci-fi here that make the book feel dated, including an overreliance on things like intergalactic travel and a universe full of advanced races, but at its heart, The Uplift War is a clever and often exciting war story that works in an anti-war message by having the underdogs’ intelligence and flexible thinking carry the day.

Uplift is a core concept in this book and in the other five novels in the series (Startide Rising, the preceding novel, also won the Hugo), where various races in the Five Galaxies are allowed to raise lower, “pre-sentient” species to a higher level of sapience and consciousness. In the chronology of the stories, humans have already done this with dolphins and chimpanzees, with the latter, dubbed “neo-chims,” playing a significant role in this novel. For advanced species, becoming patrons to client species is apparently a very big deal, although I didn’t quite grasp what tangible benefits accrue to the patrons.

The Uplift War takes place entirely on a remote planet, Garth, controlled by humans and neo-chims, which is then invaded by birdlike creatures called Gudru who act and speak in triplets, with control of the planet somehow very important to their long-term plans for galactic dominance or something like that. (It gets a little too Amazing Stories for my tastes with this stuff and the various alien races.) This leads to a complex web of subplots involving human, neo-chim, and Tymbrimi (another alien race) characters who have variously woven traps and schemes to trick the invaders into, among other things, hunting for a pre-sentient species known as Garthlings hiding in the hills of the planet. The Tymbrimi are apparently big practical jokers, and the long con forms a large part of two of the subplots in the novel, which generally follows the resisting forces with occasional diversions to the three Suzerains from the Gudru who are leading the effort to control the invaded planet.

The setup is long and assumes some foreknowledge of the Uplift universe, which probably didn’t help my fever-addled brain on my first attempt to read the book, but once the narrative shifts focuses to individual characters, who end up working mostly in pairs, the pace picks up substantially and the work itself starts to look more like a classic war novel. It’s not War and Peace, but you can see the influence that work had on Brin with the multi-threaded narrative, emphasis on political and psychological aspects to the fight, and the panoply of side characters who dart in and out of the text. I found much of the race-specific material on aliens and neo-chims to be tiresome and reminiscent of pulpy sci-fi from the 1950s and 1960s, and could have done without Brin’s use of some florid vocabulary (I would say I looked up at least fifty words here that either weren’t in the Kindle dictionary or showed up as “poetic/literary” or “archaic”), but got caught up in two of the stories in particular because he created interesting, three-dimensional characters and managed to build plenty of tension even when it was clear the characters would have survive at least until the end of the book.

Brin, as an astrophysicist, had to be aware of the absurdity of his intergalactic setting, but fares better with some of the futuristic technologies he puts on the ground in the book, especially in terms of sensors and “globes” that resemble RFID devices. He actually does much better in exploring the psychologies of his different races, especially where the Gudru’s lack of a sense of humor ends up costing them in the fight against resisting primates. If you can get past some of the silly trappings around the aliens and neo-chims – fortunately, we don’t get any neo-dolphin characters – there’s a surprisingly good story underneath.

Next up: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a data scientist who worked at Google in that role for several years.

Stick to baseball, 10/13/17.

For Insiders this week, I posted my first batch of scouting notes from the Arizona Fall League, covering prospects from the Cardinals, Yankees, Brewers, Orioles, Padres, Cubs, Rockies, and Twins. I also held a Klawchat on Friday.

Later today (Saturday) I will be at Changing Hands in Phoenix, at 2 pm, to talk about and sign copies of Smart Baseball. I’ll also be signing books at PAX Unplugged, a new boardgaming convention that takes place in Philadelphia the weekend before Thanksgiving.

And now, the links…

Klawchat 10/13/17.

My first AFL roundup post is now up for Insiders, with notes on Yankees, Cards, Cubs, Twins, Brewers, Orioles, Rockies, and Padres prospects.

Paul: Have you had a chance to see Alex Jackson catch in Arizona? Or heard from anyone who did?
Keith Law: I saw him. It’s not good. I do like his swing more, but the catching has been bad.

Patty O’Furniture: Can you please provide a ray of hope about these “unprecedented” rule violations by the Braves? Still think Maitan gets to stay in the system?
Keith Law: MLB declined to comment at all, so I don’t know where these rumors are coming from. I do know that there’s no way there were “unprecedented rule violations” without the knowledge of Hart, Schuerholz, and McGuirk. I’m not sure any GM in baseball has that kind of power.

Guest: thoughts on replay/sliding decisions? acceptable unintended consequences, or something that needs to be changed
Keith Law: The call was correct, but I think we’re totally changing the intent of the game here. Are we really trying to determine if, what, a few molecules of air were between the base and some part of the player’s body?

Smikey Pineder: any thoughts on albert abreu of the yankees, #2 upside?
Keith Law: He’s in the Insider post that went up today. I’d probably go below #2.

Greg: What’s your view on Austin Riley?
Keith Law: Same problem as before – doesn’t have the bat speed to get around on good velocity. Homered on a breaking ball yesterday, was behind two fastballs he put in play.

DMan: Florial at double-A next year? How long do you should it take for his pitch recognition to improve?
Keith Law: There’s no way I’d send him to double-A given where his pitch recognition is. He’d get eaten alive.

John: What is Soroka’s ceiling/floor? Although it seems like you aren’t as high on his ceiling as you are the other Braves prospects, do you think he has a higher floor than most if not all of them?
Keith Law: I do not; I think his floor is the bullpen.

Stinkbug Jones: There seems to be a lot of buzz about Hans Crouse, the Rangers’ 2nd rounder from this year — do you think he’s getting overhyped right now, or did the Rangers potentially get a steal at the end of the second round?
Keith Law: They got him in the right spot. Good arm with some delivery and starter/reliever questions.

B: Could we see Nick Gordon in Minnesota EARLY next season, or is he more a September call up candidate?
Keith Law: They’re probably going to play service-time games with him, but I think he’ll be ready sooner rather than later in 2018.

Jon Orr: How would you handle Alex Reyes when he’s healthy next year?
Keith Law: Probably ease him into the rotation in June/July after some rehab outings. Goal should be to get him back to regular work by year-end, which may mean soft-pedaling his workload early in the season.

Joe: Given the Giants’ unconventional approach to previous drafts (picking players who fit their preferred skill sets), do you think they’ll have a similar Big Board compared to the rest of the league now that they have a top pick?
Keith Law: I do. When they’ve picked high, they’ve taken guys in that range. They’ve picked in the top ten four times since I came to ESPN. They took Lincecum in 2006, and he was a stud with stuff and performance but durability concerns. They took Bumgarner in 2007, high-ceiling HS arm with velocity. They took Posey at 5 in 2008, and he was #2 on my board that year. And they took Wheeler at 6 in 2009, which is around where I ranked him too.

Seth: Shouldn’t it be a prerequisite that you must know to bat Anthony Rendon higher than sixth to be qualified to manage in the big leagues?
Keith Law: There’s so much talk about Baker’s handling of the pitching staff, but I don’t think he really did anything wrong on that front. I argued that he should have had a quicker hook with Gio yesterday, but he did eventually get to Scherzer and then someone fired up the improbability drive on him. That wasn’t on Dusty. His biggest mistake to me, and one that may have swung the series (given how close the whole thing was), was hitting Werth 2nd and Rendon 6th. Werth probably belonged on the bench, period, but if you must play him, you can’t bat him before Harper AND rob Rendon of probably 2-3 PA over the course of the series.

Tyler: Just read round up post. Mechanically anything change with Sheffield or just new team new environment? Is he up next year?
Keith Law: It looks like the Yanks have had him ditch the curveball to go to the slider full time. He should be up next year if healthy.

Mike-OB: Do you agree with Kurkjan that the replay overturn on the pick off last night is not in the spirit of the replay rule (I agree with him)?
Keith Law: I agree too, but this is the rule right now. If we don’t like it, we need to change the rule.

RSO: Who wins the ALCS?
Keith Law: I will guess Houston in 6 and the Dodgers in 6.

AES: Klaw–thoughts on Farrell’s dismissal and the allegations of bad clubhouse culture? Leaving starters in far too long/misunderstanding the impact of 3rd+ time through the order is bad. The rest seems like post-facto poppycock.
Keith Law: Baseball as an industry has an unfortunate habit of smearing people as they walk out the door. Boston has done it to Theo, Francona, and now Farrell. Yeah, Farrell was not a great tactical manager, but maybe bad clubhouse culture is on the players?

Peter: He’s older/facing younger competition in the AFL, but did you get a chance to see Eric Filia and did he make an impression?
Keith Law: Saw one game. Can swing it a little. Probably not much ceiling but can at least hit a good fastball.

Jim: Some good reports on Jo Adell. Your thoughts based on what you’re hearing?
Keith Law: Hearing that he’s a good athlete and still can’t throw. Nothing we didn’t know in the spring.

Ben: It looked like Josh Naylor gained some significant weight throughout the season. Does he look bigger now than he did during spring training?
Keith Law: He’s very big, yes.

B: I don’t think Eric Hosmer is very good, but I’m convinced that Dave Dombrowski is going to sign Eric Hosmer to a terrible contract to play 1B for the Red Sox.
Keith Law: I think he goes back to KC for way too much money. The market for him is really limited – very few teams with money need a 1b – and his huge 2017 season is out of line with his career. He’d produced 10 WAR (B-R) over 6 seasons, then 4 WAR this year. There is a small chance this is really who he is going forward, but you can’t pay a player based on his platform year while ignoring what came before. That’s how Garry Matthews Jr. got overpaid.

Ford : Heard Acuña took a fastball of his wrist yesterday anything to worry about?
Keith Law: I tweeted about it. He left the game, probably won’t play today.

Scott: Thoughts on Brandon Waddell? Seems to keep flying under the radar anything there for the Pirates?
Keith Law: Lefty with deception but fringy stuff. I wrote about him in late August, might sneak in as a back-end starter.

Josh: Keith, I know you expressed support for Jemele Hill in a previous chat. Now she is suspended. I am not well versed in the nuances of ESPN’s social media guidelines for employees, I am just saying as a business decision, it makes sense that they would do this. She loosely implied that people should harm ESPN business partners, right?
Keith Law: I still support Jemele. I also don’t know what went on between my employer and her (and her agent) after the initial brouhaha, so I can’t offer any informed opinion on the latest issue, even if I felt like I could.

Marc: Does Alec Hansen stick as a starter? #2 ceiling?
Keith Law: Starter, yes. Ceiling might be a 2 or even a tick higher, but low probability given past control and delivery issues.

Jerry: Let’s say a guy like Franklin Perez becomes a true #4 SP and the other prospects in that deal fail. Is that a win for Detroit considering the money owed to Verlander?
Keith Law: I think it is, given what a starter is worth and what Perez would be paid early in his career.

jeff: What would be the purpose of offering contracts to any of the Royals FA? They are a .500 team with these players. Would the best course of action be just to tag them and fire sell everyone else?
Keith Law: I think the Royals should make QOs to try to collect a bunch of picks, and if someone accepts, it’s a one-year deal and you trade the guy as soon as the rules permit. Re-signing any of them to be expensive players on sub-.500 teams isn’t smart. And they don’t have the pitching, now or in the high minors, to make this team a contender in 2018-19.

BOOKS: I am reading the Master and Margarita for the first time and so far I am really enjoying it. Anything else in this vein you would recommend?
Keith Law: I read that book in college in a class called Comedy & the Novel. The reading list was M&M, Don Quixote, Joseph Andrews, The Charterhouse of Parma, Jacques the Fatalist, If on a winter’s night a traveler, Dead Souls, and Huckleberry Finn. The professor said he would have included At Swim-Two-Birds if he’d been able to squeeze in one more book. Of those, I recommend M&M, If on a winter’s night, and At Swim-Two-Birds the most.

Josh: The Reds outfield seems a little crowded with Schebler, Duvall, Winker, and Hamilton, so what will they do next year? Also, do you think the Reds try to resign Cozart? Finally, do you think Senzel will get a shot to start the year in the majors out of Spring Training?
Keith Law: Senzel probably makes it up in June or so – service time stuff. Really don’t think Schebler is someone you plan around – he’s a fourth outfielder, tops – and Duvall is only marginally better. They need guys who get on base, and neither of those two does that well at all.

Britt: Your thoughts on Adbert Alzolay? Seems to have some helium. Is he a starter long term?
Keith Law: Starter if there’s a third pitch I didn’t see in his relief outing.

Dan: Were there any particularly egrigous (cough Hendricks batting in the 4th cough cough) that happened last night that were not talked about enough, if at all?
Keith Law: Going to Albers in the fourth would qualify. And also the Werth batting order thing I mentioned above.

John : Is Max Fried a potential 2/3 still?
Keith Law: Stuff is there. That stuff should miss more bats than it has, and I think command is one big reason.

Evan: So why are you so high on the Braves system? Seems like a lot of pitching and Acuna. What other position player prospects are even worth paying attention to?
Keith Law: I think Pache is going to be an above-average regular, possibly a star. But you are correct that it is mostly pitching.

Chris: With Austin Barnes proving his worth and some solid catching prospects in the minors, should the Dodgers trade Yasmani Grandal this offseason?
Keith Law: I think so. I was too light on Barnes when he was a prospect – he’s an above-average regular back there.

Justin R: You’ve mentioned Alex Cora as a strong candidate for any head coaching job. What specifically makes him such a strong candidate?
Keith Law: Intelligent, critical thinker, likes to work with analytics department, strong player development mindset, bilingual, has coaching and managerial experience already.

TestaDuda: Did you get a look at Chavis? Is that swing set-up and execution really fixed? Still only 21 years old, I think.
Keith Law: “Fixed” is too strong a word. His hand is healthy, which helped. And the contact he’s making is hard. He can still get pretty uphill and he’s not that disciplined a hitter.

Derek: Jorge Mateo profile better at SS or CF for you? First division starter upside at either position?
Keith Law: Never seen him in CF. Think he’s fine at short.

John: If you were running the Phillies, how would you approach this winter? They have an obvious need for starting pitching and too many middle infielders. Would you go with Hoskins/Kingery/Crawford/Franco in the INF and trade Hernandez/Galvis? Would you try and acquire one of the big ticket FA starters (Arrieta) or go for the next tier down?
Keith Law: I’d explore trades for Hernandez and especially Galvis, as JPC has to play short. As much money as they have to spend, I don’t know that I’d blow it out on this year’s FA starters, who all have real question marks as long-term assets.

Steve: Cole Ragans struck a ton of people out this year, could he be a 2?
Keith Law: I have yet to see him, but I get glowing reports across the board. Sounds like a guy with mid-rotation stuff who pitches above that.

Jay: Terry Francona seems to be receiving a lot of criticism over Cleveland’s loss. They were up 2-0 despite a ton of issues. The only thing I can find fault in is having Michael Brantley playing what was basically spring training for him again and then maybe thinking Corey Kluber’s back problem was better than it was? Am I crazy to think he’s getting too much heat?
Keith Law: They didn’t hit and Kluber struggled in two starts. How can you pin that on the manager? If Brantley didn’t belong on the roster, that’s an organizational decision, not the manager’s. The one mistake I saw from Tito, which Joe Sheehan has pointed out a few times, was putting Kipnis in center, which he just cannot play.

Greg: Compared to the other long list of SP prospects in Atlanta’s system, Joey Wentz is _________?
Keith Law: One of them?

Thomas: It feels like the Tigers farm system is finally starting to trend up (albeit, simultaneous to the team collapsing). Once they add the #1 pick in next year’s draft to the fold, could they finally crack the teens in your rankings?
Keith Law: Going to take more than that. A good draft class plus a few more trades.

Justin R: I’m so confused how the same people irate that Weinstein was a big Democrat donor also voted for Trump, who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.
Keith Law: As am I. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are not partisan issues. We should be as irate over the President doing these things as we are over Weinstein, and as we should be over anyone else of any profession or party who does it. My hope here is that more women come forward to call out other rapists and harassers, because you know these men are everywhere in every business.

M: Is there a better pitching prospect mix than the Padres? The depth is quite impressive. Gore, Quantrill, Nix, Baez, Morejon, Lucchesi, Lauer, Allen, Lawson all seem to have big league starter potential. Maybe not a No. 1 in the mix, but an impressive group.
Keith Law: Atlanta can match that.

Gene Mullett: Since you’ve been scouting & tracking players as a trade, who’s the worst/most underachieving top 3 pick you can remember?
Keith Law: Probably Tim Beckham, given industry consensus, predraft tools, and of course where he was taken.

Mickey: What happened to Manny Banuelos?
Keith Law: Multiple arm problems. Came back with reduced stuff.

Bored Lawyer, Esq. : I saw a couple Mitch Keller starts. I know it’s hard to tell from box scores, but he has command and control, right? I don’t recall seeing a young AA pitcher withcthst ability in some time.
Keith Law: Control more than command to me. Also needs to refine the changeup, which is really a BP fastball right now.

Bananas: Touki have a shot at your top 100?
Keith Law: He’s been on it at least once before.

Dan: Does the proliferation of scout lingo among in-group fans irk you at all? If you could remove one or two terms from the baseball commentariat lexicon, what would they be?
Keith Law: It’s not going to make me take you more seriously if you try to use jargon. I find fans in general tend to push toward extreme judgments – your system is not full of guys with 70 and 80 tools.

Moltar: The Mets have to make a roster spot for Guillorme, no? He’d most certainly make another team happy as a rule 5 selection if not.
Keith Law: On the 40-man yes. Not sure there’s enough bat there to make him a good ML bench guy even as a 70 or better defender.

Dylan: Do managers need to stop throwing starters out of the bullpen on short rest in the playoffs? It seems like it doesn’t work much more often than it does work.
Keith Law: I feel like it’s become a crutch of sorts without regard to whether such starters are actually the best options to get the next 1 or 3 or 6 outs. We just assume they’re better than any relievers, and over the course of a season that would be true, but in one shot, working on irregular rest, out of their routines, that may not be the case.

B: Do the Astros have anything with Arementeros? Is he just a 4/5 innings eater guy or is there more there?
Keith Law: A 4/5 innings eater guy for what they gave him ($30K, I think?) would be an outright steal. And I think he’s that.

HH: I know you hate comps but Tristan MacKenzie reminds me very much of Carl Edwards Jr. How likely is it that T-Mac can stick as a starter, given his body type?
Keith Law: Taller, longer release, better spin on his FB than Edwards.

Average Joe: regarding replay: I’ve seen several cases this year where there was less than perfect evidence a players foot/hand came off the bag and yet replay overturned a call, does NY see more than they show on TV?
Keith Law: Yes.

Dylan: Going back to the call on the slide at first base last night – science tells us we’re truly never touching anything. This could be a gamechanger for baseball. Everyone is out, all the time.
Keith Law: Exactly. Also, the universe is just a hologram and matter is
not real.

Scott: Yordan Alvarez’s ceiling is a .300 hitter with 20-25 bombs? Or too optimistic?
Keith Law: Probably right. I feel like, despite his size, he’s more of a hitter for average than big power. It’s not a lofty swing. And yes, I know everyone hits 20 HR right now.

Moltar: Should the Mets plan for 2018 be Smith as the full time 1B? Should the be looking for a higher-end backup/platoon partner?
Keith Law: Need to let him play full time, even if that means living through adjustments or struggles. Platooning young players is generally the worst thing for their development.

Greg: What are the chances that Lourdes Gurriel hits enough to be a regular player in the bigs? If he doesn’t, will he still likely profile as a big league utility player?
Keith Law: I don’t see it. Hasn’t looked good at the plate any time I’ve seen him – really slow actions everywhere.

Brent: Keith, is there a group of draft prospects that have separated from the pack to be considered 1-1 candidates? I realize games haven’t been played yet, but do you have a ballpark figure on who the likely top draft pick would be?
Keith Law: There’s a group of 1-1 guys but nobody who’s clearly above the rest. I hear Turang’s name a bit, but nobody is sold (yet) on the bat. Rocker and Hankins are the best HS arms, but no prep RHP has ever gone first overall. I don’t know if there’s a college guy even likely to get into that tier. It seems like a good college crop for the 11-30 range, but not for the top ten.

88 Keys: Are you surprised by the amount of traction Democratic Socialism appears to be getting among millennials? I’ve wondered if it isn’t just a small, loud online group, but there appears to be a decent sized faction out there who seem truly committed to the notion that centrism and neoliberalism are pejorative terms.
Keith Law: I’ve assumed some of what I’ve seen is an echo chamber effect – I know a few people into that movement, and thus I see/hear more about it. Socialism has been such an abject failure around the world that I can’t support any movement that even leans in that direction.

Gene Mullett: Did you ever see any of this coming out of Jose Rameriez? Sure, he had a lousy ALDS, but he’s been an absolute monster the last 2 seasons.

Also, how many questions are in your queue or scolling by?
Keith Law: Thought he had a chance to be a good player, never forecasted top 10 in the league, not even as a best case scenario ceiling. He was nearly always young for his levels, too, so he never performed up to his raw ability (but was always solid in context of his age).

Keith: What is your POV on how teams should best use the AFL? Some teams have sent top guys there; others (like White Sox) sent none of their top guys. How do the developmental pro/cons break out in your mind?
Keith Law: Send guys who need to face better pitching to develop. Send anyone who missed time during the year due to injury and needs to make up the AB/IP they lost. Send borderline 40-man candidates so you can evaluate them – and so can other teams, so maybe you can trade them in November.

Joe: Gary Denbo a good hire for the Marlins?
Keith Law: I don’t have an opinion on him specifically for that role, but overseeing player development AND the amateur draft is ridiculous – and worse when the person has no experience on the amateur side. Those are both departments that require one full-time head.

Dan: Sadly, there are still probably plenty of other “Harvey Weinsteins” in Hollywood and many other industries that have acted similarly. Hopefully, all these monsters can be rooted out.
Keith Law: I bet they’re all over sports too. I would imagine a woman working for a professional sports team would feel the same way many of these young actresses say they felt when Weinstein attacked them – no one will believe them, it’s a male-dominated industry, they’re alone/without support. If you’re a woman in MLB and have been harassed in any way by a male supervisor or co-worker, I’d love to hear your story.

JP: Over/Under 3 years, $30 million for Cozart?
Keith Law: I think well over on the dollars.

Tracy: Hi Keith, I’m a book imbiber just like you, but more so on the non-fiction side, particularly presidential bios, so I am looking forward to reading the new Ron Chernow book on Grant. Do you have any interest in this subject?
Keith Law: Never been huge on American history as a book topic. I go more for history of science books when I go non-fiction.

Marc: White Sox still have to go BPA at 4 even if it’s another SP right? People already seem to be itchy to start ‘filling holes’ 12 months into a rebuild.
Keith Law: Always go BPA.

Nick: Think Almora is a can be an average everyday hitter? And how good can “elite” defense really be in center field when speed is average at best?
Keith Law: Andruw was still an elite defender even when he was no longer any kind of runner. Vernon Wells never ran average but had a few years of great defense in center. I think Almora’s an elite defender and doesn’t have to hit much to be an average regular.

David Dahl: Do you think I’ll ever stay healthy enough to be an All-Star caliber player? Or just a “nice” #3 OF?
Keith Law: All-Star if healthy. Health is a big unknown here. He had a serious injury that can alter a career, but I don’t know any specifics about his case.

Mike: But I am in the camp that believes starting Bauer in game 1 was just an excuse to give Kluber’s back an extra day to recover.
Keith Law: We just don’t know, right? Maybe Kluber still wasn’t 100%. Maybe Scherzer could have started games 1 and then 4 and been fine, but the Nats didn’t want to risk it. I don’t always succeed but I try to limit criticisms of managers to stuff we know – like, hey, Jayson Werth, not so good with the bat now.

Grant: What purpose does exit velocity serve?
Keith Law: Harder contact is good, no? Increases likelihood of hits, likelihood of extra bases. No power without hard contact either.

Nick: Have you read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? I really enjoyed it as a quick one with excellent, funny dialogue.
Keith Law: Yep, enjoyed it, read the first sequel, thought it was repetitive.

Mickey: Hammett or Chandler?
Keith Law: Hammett

CL: Hypothetically Hart is forced to resign. Who would be a good replacement for him? Who would be a good replacement for Coppy?
Keith Law: I think it depends on who’s actually calling the shots there. You can’t bring in someone who won’t be able to work with Schuerholz, for example. If you need a president and a GM, do you hire someone who’s had success as a GM elsewhere and promote him to the President role that Hart currently fills? I threw some names out last week, but it really depends on who’s still there in Atlanta when the dust settles on the investigation.

Adam: In the Nationals situation, down two games in a five game series, was there a strategic advantage for Strasburg pitching game 4 instead of game 5? I was having trouble following what the problem would be moving him back a day if he were sick.
Keith Law: The idea of losing the series without Strasburg pitching again.

Jim: Braves J2 prospects from 2016 were high profile guys with big dollars – Maitan, Gutierrez, Severino – wouldn’t that open up the flood gates for other J2 prospects to leak tampering?
Keith Law: Every J2 player who signs on July 2nd had an illegal predraft deal in place. Could any of them come forward and demand free agency because the signing team broke the rules? Does MLB want to open that door, and thus find itself lying on the ground with a giant door on top of it? This metaphor isn’t quite working out for me, but yes, when the whole system is corrupt, then it could all collapse given the incentive the players have to take the money and then cry foul.

Clark: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you post anything about soccer, but do you have an opinion on the humiliating loss this week that saw the USMNT miss the World Cup? It’s not like American soccer was every going to challenge baseball or the other top sports, but it still has to be a huge blow to the sport’s rise here, right?
Keith Law: I assume so, but I really don’t know or follow soccer. I’ll typically watch a little World Cup, but that’s it.

Bobby: You said in your post you saw Albert Abreu ” turn the changeup over at release”. For we noobs that are just getting into this stuff, what exactly is “turning over a changeup” and how did you, as the evaluator, recognize it.
Keith Law: It’s a literal description of how the pitcher’s hand moves at release. I can see him turn it over – rotating his wrist at release. When a pitcher does it on one pitch but not the others, it’s a signal to an observant hitter what the pitch is.

Jay: Tommy Pham one year wonder or sustained success for next few years?
Keith Law: Skills are there, has to stay healthy. He really had no track record of health coming into the year.

Ted: So you’re saying the White Sox should have sent Robert to the AFL. He seems to fit the “should face better pitching to help with further development” bucket.
Keith Law: I don’t think he has a work visa yet. I was told he’s not in instructs either.

B: I like Xander Bogaerts, but where the hell is the power?
Keith Law: Played with two hand injuries this year. Can’t hit for power if you can’t grip the bat.

Corey: Speaking of the AFL, did you see Henry Owens’ start ? 5 BBs, 2 hits, 4 runs, 1 IP. Is he ever going to be anything beyond a AAA walk machine ? Seems like his height is in the way of his mechanics and nobody can figure out how to fix it
Keith Law: I was there and tweeted about it. He’s a sidearmer now and it’s ugly.

Billy: Why is young pitching in the draft still seemingly valued higher than young hitting? We’ve seen countless high profile pitchers flame out or get injured constantly whereas proven college bats seem to have a higher rate of success. For example (not necessarily the best one) the in 2015 MLB draft, top 10 picks Benintendi and Bregman are starting everyday for playoff teams whereas Dillon Tate is in AA and has been already dealt for a veteran bat rental
Keith Law: Because you might get a Clayton Kershaw (#7 overall in 2006) or a Jose Fernandez (#14 overall in 2011), and no one wants to miss on a guy like that.

Rich: A very bright friend of mine is, for some reason, a chronic conspiracy theorist. Days after the Vegas incident, he was predictably sending me all of the damning evidence that this was a false flag operation. Do you have any theories why otherwise intelligent people are so gullible when it comes to these events?
Keith Law: I would truly un-friend this person, forever. You can’t talk to someone like that.

Raphael: Is Teoscar a future regular?
Keith Law: I think so.

Sam: Should Braves fans want Dayton Moore? Seems like the “he won a WS” argument is nice, but I’m not sure I’m excited about him as an option. Their farm is a wasteland.
Keith Law: He built a good system, won two pennants and a WS, and would leave the farm in pretty bad shape. Is that an acceptable outcome for most teams? I think it is. Most fans would take one WS win and a second flag even if it means a rebuild afterwards.

Dennis: Who do you enjoy more, Henry Green or Anthony Powell? I haven’t read either, thinking of starting with Green….
Keith Law: Powell. I loved A Dance to the Music of Time.

Sam: Based on what is public knowledge or whatever is private knowledge, what do you think actually happens to the Braves through this MLB investigation?
Keith Law: Definitely big fines coming. If they find evidence the team did something wrong in the draft beyond the usual (everyone strikes predraft deals – the system more or less forces you to do so), they could strip picks. Beyond that, I truly don’t know.

Chris: I know its a few months late, but are you going to do your re-draft article 10 years after the 2007 draft? I’m sure it’s because you were finishing your book, but I always enjoyed those ones.
Keith Law: No, my editors didn’t want it this year.

Mark: Was wondering if you have ever read Dune by Frank Herbert and if so what you thought of it ?
Keith Law: Dune is great, but do not read any sequels.

Stan: Lots of talk about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers being the greatest American band in history. Does employing a British drummer for 23 of the bands 40 tears disqualify them for the title?
Keith Law: I liked Petty’s work – although it irked me that their first “greatest hits” record omitted “Woman in Love” – but yeah, greatest American band is probably a stretch, regardless of where the drummer was born.

Dennis: Tristram Shandy worth reading?
Keith Law: It’s funny but the language is so different that I found it slow going.

Dave: Lots of great new albums out today…have you had a chance to listen? ST. Vincent, Beck, Wu-Tang, Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile
Keith Law: Wu-Tang is surprisingly good – in the sense that it sounds a lot like vintage WTC. Hated the Barnett/Vile singles (mostly because I can’t stand how he sings) and have never liked St. Vincent at all.

Dave: What was the last concert you went to?
Keith Law: Saw Less Art in Philly a month ago.

Dave: Do you think Girardi will be back?
Keith Law: Definitely.

Ben: With the way Gregorious played this year, do you start Torres at 2b or 3b to begin his career or do you explore moving Didi while his value is at its peak?
Keith Law: My argument has been to move Didi while his value is high – once Torres is back and healthy – because I think you could get a king’s ransom for him, perhaps filling two roles with such a deal, while moving either him or Torres to another position wastes someone’s defensive value, as both can really play short.

James: Does Victor Robles open 2018 with a full time job or does he need more seasoning?
Keith Law: He really hasn’t played much above A-ball. I expect him to spend most of the year in the minors.
Keith Law: OK, I’m off to a game shortly here – thanks for joining me for the impromptu chat today. I should be back on schedule next week. Also, I will be at Changing Hands here in Phoenix at 2 pm on Saturday (tomorrow) to discuss and sign copies of my book, Smart Baseball. Hope to see some of you there!