Klawchat 6/9/17.

I ranked all the main Leda clones on Orphan Black for BBC America ahead of the season premiere tomorrow night. Last call for Clone Club!

Keith Law: I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert. It’s Klawchat.

Ken: Please explain why Austin Beck is seen as the superior prospect to Jaren Kendall? They appear to have similar general strengths and weaknesses, but Kendall has 3 years in the SEC and Beck has missed a summer and reportedly has minimal experience of competing against elite competition in his age group. Is it simply because Beck’s ceiling is considerably higher?
Keith Law: There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll give it a shot. One, they don’t have similar strengths and weaknesses to begin with, but let’s assume they did. Two, Kendall has 3 years in the SEC … of huge strikeout rates and lack of adjustments. It’s often easier to dream on the kid who hasn’t been challenged than the one who has and has struggled. Three, scouts have major concerns about the mechanics of Kendall’s swing, but not Beck’s. I do have questions about Beck – you named some; I think there’s effort to his game, even the ++ bat speed – but how can we overlook how often Kendall strikes out, and specifically swings and misses, against decent competition?

cj: if the braves draft McKay, they wouldn’t put him in RF, and Acuna in LF would they? Shouldn’t that be flipped the other way?
Keith Law: McKay is a first baseman, and I think there’s maybe a 2% chance he gets to Atlanta (pick 5) anyway. BTW, I should have said this up front, but I’m going to focus on draft questions today.

Erix: Hey Keith!

Everyone preaches taking best player available, but one often hears that a team is focused on college bats, or prep righties, or some other subset. Does this fly in the face of BPA or does it just suggest that’s where they think the best players are?
Keith Law: The latter. Hey, we’d like to get a college bat, but if the best player available isn’t one, then we won’t force it.

Sean: Grabs popcorn, waits for the deluge of questions about Jordan Adell. Should be fun.
Keith Law: I see one. I don’t really understand this comment.

Kyle: Is your ranking of Adell based more heavily on your own scouting? Just trying to reconcile seeing him at 50 while showing up at 9 on the mock. Are the Brewers outliers in their evaluation of him? Thanks!
Keith Law: Based more than anything on comments from scouts and crosscheckers who were off him early this spring – and who say his big HR total is a reflection of a tiny home park. But bear in mind my rankings and my mocks are not connected in any way.

Jim: What’s your take on the Oregon State – Heimlich situation? How will MLB offices deal with it?
Keith Law: A few teams have already told me they took his magnet off their draft boards. My guess is someone takes him on day three, then decides whether to sign him after seeing what PR backlash there is and what the kid says to them in person afterwards. He hasn’t commented publicly; I don’t know if he’s spoken to any scouts or teams since the news broke. And I’m loath to say too much because of how sensitive the subject is, but I wouldn’t draft him, period.

Mike: This might sound like a dumb question but humor me. Can you explain to me why left on left/right on right is a good pitching matchup?
Keith Law: Hitters fare better against pitchers from the other side because they can see the ball earlier out of the pitcher’s hand.

Jake: Odds that Estevan Florial is a top 100 prospect next March?
Keith Law: Low.

Lilith: Do you have any idea who the Reds might have interest in at 32 or 38?
Keith Law: Not really. It’s like every year – they want some HS overslot candidate to fall.

Mac: Do you think players should have to declare for the draft? That would seem to clear up all the signability issues that makes a complicate decision even more complicated.
Keith Law: No, because the NCAA would find a way to use that to fuck players over.

David: I know it varies from team to team. So on average how many amateur scouts, crosscheckers, and the like do teams generally employ?
Keith Law: 12-14 area guys, 3-6 crosscheckers (can include regional or just national), a director, maybe a few others like an assistant director or a special assignment scout who reports to the GM but sees amateurs in the spring.

Andy: Did McIlwain cost the SC coach his job? He was fired for not making the NCAA tourney. Scouting the stat line only, it looks like the weakest position was CF. The coach probably would have spent more time recruiting or stabilizing that position if he didn’t have a QB penciled in there.
Keith Law: That was one of many problems with Holbrook – working Clarke Schmidt as hard as he did, followed by a Schmidt TJ, couldn’t have helped matters on or off the field.

Andy: Would you prefer that we take finished copies of your book to a local library for donation, or to an independent bookseller to resell?
Keith Law: The library. I don’t like the idea that there’s a financial threshold for readers – not everyone can spend liberally on books. Thank you for asking, BTW.

ILLINIcheid: What do you think is causing the increase in home runs? It can’t possibly be primarily due to launch angle.

If the ball has been juiced, how is that possible? Isn’t there a specific compression the balls have to adhere to? I’m sure pitchers who have been hit in the head by line drives would be unhappy to learn about a juiced ball.
Keith Law: Why can’t it be due primarily to launch angle, or just generally to attempts to swing for the fences more?

Mike: Does Andruw Jones ever get elected to the HoF? Baseball-Reference has a top 4 similarity score to Dale Murphy, Jose Canseco, Joe Carter and Jim Edmonds.
Keith Law: Don’t think so but he will get some support, more than Edmonds (one and done) did.

Michael: Can the Twins really pass on Hunter Greene? As a fan, I’m not as excited about the other options.
Keith Law: Can and I think will.

Corbett: How do negotiations happen after a player is picked? Do agents let teams know if they’re seeking an over slot deal before the draft?
Keith Law: Yeah, there’s a lot of discussion before the draft, and a lot of players have already agreed to terms when they’re picked. It’s not permitted, but everyone does it, so MLB can’t enforce the rules. It’s why I advocate allowing teams to negotiate with players or agents beforehand – they’re doing it anyway, you’ll never stop it, so force it out from the shadows.

Dave: Have you heard about the Kooks Burrito uproar in Portland? Is cultural appropriation of food a real thing? I had never heard of this before.
Keith Law: Talk about political correctness run amok. It’s about as stupid a food non-troversy as I can remember seeing. Unless those two women were doing something really insensitive in their marketing or branding, I don’t understand this at all. Rick Bayliss is one of the most important chefs of Mexican cuisine in the world, and he’s not Mexican. (He’s Skip’s brother.) He’s done as much to popularize regional Mexican cooking and educate American palates on it as anybody. The idea that this would somehow be ‘appropriation’ is absurd. It’s like saying American authors can’t write fiction because Japanese and British authors did it first.

Tom L: Also, any chance you’ll be making a visit to Powell’s here in Portland?
Keith Law: Nope. Wonderful store, but they never asked.

Michael: This may be a question with an obvious answer, but what do teams do with the 40+ new players they acquire every year (40 round draft and intn’l signings)? If they stick them on a rookie league team (how many of those does each team have anyway) – then the guys from the prior year have to move up to A, AA, etc. right? Do they release 40-ish players each year who are not even org guys?
Keith Law: They release a bunch of guys when extended spring ends, on top of releases at the end of March.

Ray Grace: I know it’s a small sample size but where in the hell did Chris Taylor come from? Did his scouting report when drafted give any hit that he could turn into this type of hitter?
Keith Law: Small sample size. I don’t think he’s turned into anything.

PhillyJake: In your last mock you had the Pirates taking J.B. Bukauskas. I don’t see it. They usually go for the six and a half foot (give or take an inch) pitchers, Bukauskas is only 6’0″. What’s different about this guy?
Keith Law: “I don’t see it” doesn’t work as an argument unless you’ve been talking to sources about the draft.

Mike M: Did you think Devers would be this good in AA right away?
Keith Law: I’ve ranked him very highly for two-plus years, putting him over Moncada both years they’ve been on the the top 100.
Keith Law: So, yes, I would say I expected him to be good fast. (Sorry for the lag there – my PC blue-screened.)

Jim: Do you think the Mets would take Jake Burger at 20? And do you think he’s too fat for third?
Keith Law: I think he’d be on their list, but not necessarily their first choice, and he’s not fat, but he’s going to end up at 1b.

Sterling Mallory Chris Archer: Is there any way to see past newsletters? I wanted to read the anxiety one you wrote three weeks ago but for some reason I wasn’t getting the emails.
Keith Law: yes, on the signup page you can see some past newsletter, including the one you want.

JP: Based solely on climate, culture, and politics, where would you choose to live (domestically and internationally)?
Keith Law: Italy. Good weather. Great people. Amazing food. Government too unstable and incompetent to do much harm.

Len: So let’s assume the top 4 is Wright, Greene, Gore, McKay like most expect. Atlanta would take Lewis, right? I hope they don’t get cute again and try to float someone when it would be really tough to do for them this year.
Keith Law: That is my current top 5. Beck 6, then I think Haseley or Smith 7.

Matt : From what you’ve heard, are Seth Romero’s issues related more to immaturity or is he, for lack of a better phrase, a bad guy.
Keith Law: More than immaturity. Also, that’s not a great delivery.

Brett: If someone asked you to do a commencement speech, would you? Are you afraid of public speaking, or has your time on TV mitigated that?
Keith Law: Done plenty of public speaking – including another one at Pitch Talks in Toronto on 6/26, tix still available! – and have never been “afraid” of it. I’ll be more anxious right before I start, and then once it begins, I get extremely focused and will always lose track of time. I did this once in Boston to a CMU alumni group, thought I had talked for about 20 minutes, and was told over an hour had gone by.

Brad: Any chance of you coming to the Tattered Cover out here in Denver for a book signing? It was a great read, by the way – I gave it to my dad when he was recuperating from back surgery.
Keith Law: Glad you enjoyed it. All scheduled book signings have come from stores or venues contacting HarperCollins to invite me. If that happens, I can try to work it into my schedule (usually tied into a trip I’m taking for another reason). I’ll be at Books & Books in Miami the day before the Futures Game, for example.

Marshall MN: Despite wanting Greene to the Twins, I have come to accept taking Wright #1 overall. What level do you seem him starting out at after signing, High-A ball?
Keith Law: I would expect him to start 2018 in high-A. He probably won’t pitch much this summer.

Macabe : Where do you think Stanford SS Nico Hoerner gets drafted next year? Looks like he has had success but I don’t really know what evaluators think of him at the next level
Keith Law: I can’t think about next year’s draft until I’ve survived this one.

Hey J.P.: Lamonte Wade, Brandon Lowe, or Mike Shawryn on your next top 100 list?
Keith Law: No.

Bret: How much does Nick Allen’s height concern you? It may be recency bias, but my instinct is that worrying about a player’s height tends to be a bit overblown?
Keith Law: It doesn’t. Dude can hit and can play short. He’s fine.

j : Thoughts on Jordan Montgomery? He’s looked pretty solid here early on
Keith Law: It’s extremely average stuff. I expect the K rate to decline with more looks. He’ll have to cut the walk rate to compensate.

Phils Guy: When my twin sons were in middle school, I had to verbally twist my pediatrician’s to get the Gardasil regimen started. Parents of boys, please insist that your pre-teen sons get vaccinated for HSV, It may not happen if you don’t force the issue.
Keith Law: Our daughter’s doctors – PCP and metabolic specialist – both encouraged us to get her the HPV vaccine when she turned 11 (which she *just* did so we haven’t gone yet). It’s really weird that they do so for girls but not boys.

Andy: It seems like Kendall has a really high ceiling, and a seemingly more possible floor of never making the majors. Does he have like a Cameron Maybin middle, ending up as a good fielder with huge Ks, but still a serviceable player?
Keith Law: That’s a reasonable point of view.

cj: Can you tell me about Bubba Thomson? Is he a potential top 10 so a team can go overslot later?
Keith Law: Not a potential top 10. I have him ranked right around where I think he’ll go (coincidence), in the 20s.

FG: how many of the top 50 draft prospects do you get to scout in person?
Keith Law: In a typical year, maybe 30-35. This year, half that, because my book came out during draft season.

PhillyJake: I realize I don’t see it doesn’t work as an argument. Which is why I asked what different about this guy? Or, what is it they like about him to break their pattern in terms of pitchers they draft?
Keith Law: I don’t know their specific thinking, but he’s a three-year performer who will show three above average pitches.

Len: Can you give us an update on your mock schedule between now and the draft?
Keith Law: Next one posts Sunday morning and we will keep that file ‘live’ till the draft, editing that rather than rewriting the whole thing.

Sam: Still thinking Nick Allen for the Cubs? Would they save any money for high-ceiling options at #30?
Keith Law: I didn’t have them with Allen in my last mock. I have heard they would like to pair up those picks (27 and 29), go over slot with one and under with the other, to try to nab a top 15 talent who fell due to bonus demands/college commitment.

Chris: Why is a quiche not a pie?
Keith Law: It’s a pie. A custard pie.

Ed: Non Draft Question – Eddie Butler has looked decent with the Cubs, albeit a SSS and not pitching a mile above sea level. Have you seen anything different in his delivery that might help him have more success going forward?
Keith Law: I think it’s more that his shoulder is finally healthy again and he’s not pitching in Denver.

Marshall MN: At what spot in this draft does a team stop scouting Wright/Greene/McKay? It seems like by pick 6 or 7 that there isn
Keith Law: Yes, teams in that 6-10 range have told me they expect those three guys to be gone.

Mike: Jack Flaherty, who you call a possible #2 starter, has opened his time in AAA with two solid starts. How far is he from being ready for a ML rotation?
Keith Law: He could get a cup of coffee in September but it’s more realistic to think he’ll be up nextx spring.

Hey J.P.: Otani a two way player in the majors? And either way, how would he fare if he was draft eligible?
Keith Law: No, pitcher only.

Ed: Are the Cubs still on Luis Gonzalez? Seems like a lot of risk – HS guy playing in altitude with limited upside. Any chance they look at pitching or do they continue to do what they’ve been good at – picking bats? Thanks!
Keith Law: Luis Gonzalez is at UNM. You’re (possibly) confusing him with Jacob Gonzalez, whose father Luis played for the Dbacks, who is an Arizona HS kid.

Mike: Is it possible the Addison Russell accusations are completely false?
Keith Law: Possible, sure. Likely, no. False accusation rates for domestic and sexual assault are in the single digits.

Dan: Like many others, you had Smoak as a top prospect. Then he spent the next seven years looking like a bust. Now he’s suddenly become one of the top 1B in the AL. What’s happened?
Keith Law: I told him he was making me look bad, and he apologized and said he’d take care of it.

preston: non draft question. Newcomb starts tomorrow. if you are Atl, do you release Bartolo and go with Newcomb the remainder of the year?
Keith Law: I don’t see why we should expect Newcomb to succeed given his chronically high walk rates throughout the minors, including AAA.

Andy: Honestly, the second worst part of the OSU pitcher’s story (behind the actions) is that most of the family took his side. How does someone do that? It isn’t like it’s a he said-she said, like sexual assault. He pleaded guilty. Grade 20 family he’s from.
Keith Law: You mean like the Duggar family. And Mike Huckabee, the soi-disant “christian” who defended the molester.

Josh: You had positive things to say about Yordan Alvarez before the season. Have you gotten any scouting reports since he started tearing up Low A?
Keith Law: Just that he’s overmatching the league. I wish he were in high-A because Buies Creek is in town this weekend. (Also, I’m calling them “Boo-Ya’s Creek” until someone corrects me.)

Brian: What do you think about Louisville taking the result of the play ( ground ball out to ss) and the run instead of the catcher’s interference vs UK today? If they took the interference it would’ve been bases loaded, 1 out (U of L up 1-0) instead it was runner on 3rd, 2 outs (2-0). Good Strategy or No?
Keith Law: Would depend on who was up next. You pretty much always trade an out for a run on offense unless you’re trailing by a lot, right?

Ethan: Any idea what time the signing in Harrisburg next week is?
Keith Law: It’s next month, not next week.

Nick: This may be a dumb question, but do you find joy/happiness from your job? I know many people feel they would, but I’m curious if it plays out that way. While scouting and writing about baseball seems to be many peoples’ dream, I am wondering if you still view it in such a positive light. Thanks for all the work you do.
Keith Law: I do, definitely, but it is also very much a job. And there are times when I am doing something (sitting or standing at a HS game, watching a kid who’s not as good as advertised, in cold or wet weather) that I wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t an obligation.

Brett: Have you ever scouted internationally? If so, what countries have you been to?
Keith Law: I’ve been to the DR and Taiwan, once each, and would barely call it scouting. I’ve got no interest in that lifestyle – your trips are long and grueling.

Drew Dog: With the “Trea Turner rule” now changed, what is stopping a team from asking a top 3 picking team to draft a guy, then trading them minor or MLB talent immediately after?
Keith Law: It’s not immediate – it’s five months – and a lot can happen in the interim.

Drew Dog: Why do so many UVA pitchers appear to bust? Tyler Wilson, D Hultzen, Nick Howard, Branden Kline…
Keith Law: Because they push everyone to have the same delivery, and that doesn’t work. I believe Javier Lopez is still their all-time leader in pitching WAR.

Dustin: Keith, who are you hearing connected to Houston at #15? So far I’ve seen Hiura, Baz, and Peterson
Keith Law: I believe I’ve mentioned all three of them with Houston in past mocks.

Fonz: What are your thoughts on Tarik Skubal? And will he be offered enough to forgo another year in school to rebuild his stock?
Keith Law: He’s throwing bullpens for teams now, but no one ever scouted him in a game (he had TJ on 4/20/16) so unless he’s willing to take a deep discount he may be better off either 1) heading to school or 2) trying to pitch somewhere like the Cape this summer to see if a team drafts him late and will go over slot for him.

Oren: Revisiting last year’s draft, what have you heard about Cal Quantrill? His numbers look okay, but I know he’s in a bit of a hitter’s league. What are the scouting reports saying? Does he look anything close to the guy he was when he was seen as a 1-1 candidate?
Keith Law: I’ve heard yes, he has, but he’s also barely two years off TJ and has outings where he doesn’t have his command.

Matt: I don’t think it applies here to the Addison Russell case because they are married, but it appears the rates of false accusations amongst professional athletes in SA/DV cases is higher than the general population given their income levels (and therefore monetary value to gain). Isnt it best to wait for the facts (when possible) before permanently changing opinions on players?
Keith Law: I’d like to see proof of that claim about such false accusations. You mention the monetary gain to claimants, but ignore the vitriol they face from mouthbreathing fans who will call them sluts or golddiggers, who’ll dox them, who’ll go after their jobs, and so on. Just look at what Patrick Kane’s victim went through.

Brett: Kind of piggy backing off of Nick’s question, do you ever sit back at night and watch a baseball game for pure enjoyment?
Keith Law: Never. Baseball is work. If I do something that isn’t work, it won’t be baseball.

Wrong Verb: Speaking of trading newly drafted players, what is the reason why MLB won’t allow draft picks to be traded?
Keith Law: The fear that small market teams would choose to trade picks rather than pay high bonuses – and that agents would use that as leverage. I think those are overblown; small market teams have the most to gain from gathering picks and paying to add amateur talent at the draft’s discounted prices.

Ed: Is Pearson’s stock getting too high for him to fall to the Cubs?
Keith Law: I have heard Nate Pearson has a deal in the 21-26 range.

Greg: Keith, how much did injuries impact your Tristian Beck ranking? I’ve read others say he’s a first-round talent, do you agree?
Keith Law: He was on my list as a potential first-round talent coming into the spring, but never pitched. I don’t see how you can handwave away a back injury for a pitcher.

Matt: You don’t watch the World Series unless you get paid?
Keith Law: You think I’m paid by the game?

Greg: Signability issues with Brady McConnell?
Keith Law: He won’t come cheap. Kind of kid who could end up a first rounder in 3 years if he goes to school and performs at the plate, but hasn’t performed enough this year and of course there’s the risk he goes to school and flops.

Hank: Hey Keith, can you clarify this for me — Your Shane Baz write up mentions three plus pitches but not much deception. Does the lack of deception not have an impact on the grade of the pitches?
Keith Law: Not to be flippant, but if it impacted the pitch grades, I would have said so. You can throw 98, and that’s a plus fastball, but if hitters square it up (Mark Appel comes to mind), then there’s a reason – lack of movement, lack of deception, lack of command – and that’s a separate line item.

Rick C: So I take it Tristan Beck is a lesser pitcher than Kolby Allard? And/or is his back injury more serious?
Keith Law: Allard pitched that spring; I saw him.

Brett: I’m assuming, assuming, that you have your work emails on your phone. Assuming you do, how do you balance that with your home life. Do you find it hard, when spending time with your wife and daughter, to not peak at your emails? I struggle with that as a professional and as a Father.
Keith Law: Absolutely. Especially this time of year. There’s always another person looking for me. I get so many inbound messages through various platforms that I have stopped responding to most of them because I just don’t have the time.

Hank: Geez man, just asking a question. Not really sure why you need the tough guy mantra when people are asking questions.
Keith Law: Yes, that’s how people describe me, a real “tough guy.”

Jason: Had he been stateside and eligible, where would Vlad Jr. fall?
Keith Law: Top ten guy, don’t think he would have been 1-1 (as some others have asked in the queue) because of body type and positional question. Very, very hard to compare Latin American kids to US kids because of different ages (sign at 16 internationally, usually 18 here) and levels of competition.

Nick: Keith, halfway through your book and enjoying it thoroughly. The amount of historical baseball queries is pretty impressive; do you pull each of those points as you write, or can you outsource that part to someone else?
Keith Law: I did most of them myself, while writing, but Meredith Wills helped quite a bit too.

satya: who are some of the high school kids who teams could try to push down?
Keith Law: Carlson, Enlow, Baz, Jennings (heard maybe 30 to Texas), Hurt, Heatherly, Corry.

Kevin: Loved your Orphan Black list. I would probably argue that Allison is underrated because she’s a great character. Her storylines over the last year hurt her, though. She’s every bit the survivor that Sarah is.
Keith Law: They all are, I think, but her storylines have always been the worst IMO. It’s a great performance by Maslany – Alison is like this strange mix of Leah Remini and young Valerie Bertinelli – but the writers too often put her into ridiculous situations.

Brad: It would seem to me Gore has just as much upside as Lewis and possibly even Green. Is he under serious consideration at 1-1?
Keith Law: He doesn’t have as much upside as Greene, at all, and I have heard he’s on the Twins’ longlist at 1 but not short list.

Michael: Why did you decide to inject race into that Hunter Greene article?
Keith Law: If you know Greene at all, you know this is an issue that’s extremely important to him. You don’t know Greene, obviously, but you just wanted to say something really stupid.

Randy: With the two extra picks (and therefore more money) from the Cardinals, if Baz is available at 15 do you see the Astros drafting him, giving him over slot money, and then drafting easy to sign college seniors with the Cardinals picks?
Keith Law: There’s a rumor that Baz has a big deal in place somewhere, and what you described was my guess. It’s just speculation, though.

Joe: Have you had many women scoping you out on the book tour?
Keith Law: Depends on whether you’re telling my wife.

Bob: Vin Scully never watched a game he wasn’t broadcasting, in person or on TV. No one ever accused him of not liking baseball. You’re in good company.
Keith Law: I’ll take that, even if I can’t hold a candle to Vin.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week. I plan to chat on Monday afternoon predraft and then some time on Tuesday once we’re through round 5 or so to recap. I’m home Monday night, so I’ll react to each pick via ESPN’s Shortstop app (which kicks to Twitter too) and may do a Google Hangout with Eric Longenhagen if we can make the tech work and I don’t bluescreen again. Thank you as always for all of your questions.

Music update, May 2017.

My ranking of the top 100 prospects for Monday’s MLB Rule 4 draft is now up for Insiders.

If I don’t hurry up and post this, it’ll be a two-month update that has about 50 songs on it, so rather than wait for the time I’d need to do a full writeup, here’s my latest playlist of new music.


  1. alt-J – Adeline.
  2. Arcade Fire – Everything Now.
  3. The Afghan Whigs – Toy Automatic.
  4. Royal Blood – Hook, Line & Sinker.
  5. Portugal. The Man – So Young.
  6. Wavves – No Shade.
  7. The New Pornographers – Darling Shade.
  8. Japanese Breakfast – Machinist.
  9. machineheart – Shelter.
  10. Hoops – On Letting Go.
  11. Sløtface – Magazine.
  12. Sheer Mag – Just Can’t Get Enough.
  13. Fictionist – Lazarus.
  14. MisterWives – Coloring Outside The Lines.
  15. Are We Static – Heartbreaker.
  16. The Chain Gang Of 1974 – Looking For Love.
  17. WATERS – Something More.
  18. Cloves – California Numb.
  19. Courtney Barnett – How to Boil an Egg.
  20. Sundara Karma – Explore.
  21. Swet Shop Boys – Zombie.
  22. Danger Mouse, Run The Jewels, Big Boi – Chase Me.

Some quick thoughts: I didn’t love alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, as they’ve continued to move away from the minimalist approach of their debut album, but thought the new WAVVES record was strong, and liked the new records from Afghan Whigs (more than their comeback LP) and WATERS. I’ve listed to the New Pornographers’ Whiteout Conditions, released in April a few times; I think it’s solid but not as good throughout as Brill Bruisers. I’m looking forward to the upcoming releases from Royal Blood, Arcade Fire, and Cloves. The Courtney Barnett song is a one-off single, a song she said she wrote when she was much younger but had never recorded. I’ve ended with two hip-hop songs – the Swet Shop Boys (Riz Ahmed & Heems) returned with a six-track EP, while the last song is from the 30-song soundtrack to the upcoming film Baby Driver.

Louisville eats.

I spent three nights in Louisville late last month for the ACC tournament, which was (mostly) held at the Bats’ AAA stadium right downtown, and I ate like a king for nearly the entire trip – to say nothing of the coffee.

Garage Bar had been on my to-do list for years, since Food and Wine posted a list of the best 48 pizzerias in the United States. (I’ve now been to 29, and one of the others closed shortly after the list was posted.) Garage Bar is, indeed, in a converted garage, and the space is very Brooklyn-hipster, but damn, that’s good pizza. The style is Neapolitan-ish, with a spongy, soft dough, but not the wet centers of true Neapolitan pizzas, although they use the classic ingredients (type 00 flour, San Marzano tomatoes) of that style and cook in a brick, wood-fired oven that hits 850 degrees. I tried the Local Mushroom pizza, a tomato-less pie that delivered just what I’d want in a mushroom pizza – big mushroom flavors complemented but not overwhelmed by the flavor of the cheese, here fromage blanc, a soft, fresh cow’s milk cheese where the fermentation is stopped fairly early in the process. I also recommend the Caesar salad, which is lightly dressed, not overly garlicky, topped with fried kale strips and two stripes of white anchovy (the good stuff).

After the last game ended on Friday, I walked over to Milkwood in downtown Louisville, mostly because I just wanted to try one of Edward Lee’s restaurants even though I wasn’t that hungry. The menu is a sort of Korean-southern fusion, but I went traditional with the vegetarian bibimbap, a Korean rice dish served in a smokin’ hot bowl that continues to cook the food at the table. Granted, I could eat plain white rice till the cows come home (and it’s a good thing I don’t because white rice is nutritionally worthless), but I killed this dish despite, as I said, not being very hungry. I even got dessert because the bartender told me the peanut butter ice cream that comes with the chess pie can’t be missed, and he was right – you can keep the pie, just give me the ice cream. (Chess pie is an acquired taste; it’s a southern custard pie that typically contains cornmeal and vinegar in the filling.)

Royals Hot Chicken has only been open for about a year and a half, offering what they call Nashville hot chicken, although their version is a little different – it’s all white meat “jumbo tenders” (each of which is a half breast halved again the long way), available at any spice level you like. I’m generally not a fan of chicken breast meat because it’s so lean and, in most cases, flavorless, but the crust at Royals’ has plenty of flavor, even on the mild setting (I like capsaicin more than it likes me). They have a long list of southern comfort-food sides, but I went with the roasted sweet potato with sorghum butter (the cashier’s rec) and the cucumber salad, both of which were excellent and didn’t make the entire meal into a heavy soporific. Speaking of which, I was surprised how little oil I had on my hands after eating the chicken, which is how it should be but rarely is.

Also in New Lou is Mayan Cafe, and I’m going to tell you up front, get the lima beans. It’s a signature item for them, and they’re damn good, and so popular that the restaurant posted the recipe. I ordered the salbutes, a regional Mexican preparation of a fried (flour) tortilla that puffs up and is topped like a cracker, with toppings that change daily; the chilaquiles; and the “chocolate on chocolate” dessert, which I was told was vegan and still can’t believe given how rich the cake was. I’d probably do something different for an entree, as the chilaquiles, while vegetarian (my goal), weren’t remarkable, but everything else I ate was.

Gralehaus was a recommendation from Stella Parks, aka BraveTart, whose first cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, comes out on August 15th; she lives in Lexington but gave me a short to-do food and coffee list for my trip that also included Quills (see below). Gralehaus is a bed & breakfast with a restaurant and bar that’s open to the public for all three meals, and the menu is influenced by southern comfort food but hardly limited to it (there’s a tofu banh mi on the lunch menu, for crying out loud). I couldn’t pass on the black pepper biscuit with duck sausage gravy, served with a sunny egg and and some duck cracklins; it was … decadent isn’t quite the word, but certainly rich and hearty, although the biscuit itself was on the dry side. They have an excellent coffee program, with beans from several artisanal roasters including Intelligentsia and one from right near me, La Maquina, of West Chester, PA.

Against the Grain is a brewpub attached to the Bats’ stadium, with the brewery on-site, but since it was midday I didn’t drink anything, I just ate, and the food was fine – better than ballpark food, certainly, but not on par with the other meals I ate around Louisville. I had the BBQ pork belly, which was served just as a giant slab of what was essentially bacon, and it was fine, nothing special, probably in need of a first step to tenderize the meat a little more before hitting the smoke. Get the Brussels sprouts side if you do go.

The one bad meal I had was at a place called Toast, which is just a mediocre diner that doesn’t execute particularly well and doesn’t list major ingredients in some dishes on its menu. If there’s cheese on a dish, that has to be listed, as you’d list something like nuts or shellfish. That aside, the food just wasn’t good and the service was indifferent.

Louisville has quite a thriving coffee scene, including Sunergos, a local roaster whose blend won a “best espresso in America” competition in 2014 – and it’s damn good, top five for me easily (Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, Cartel, Four Barrel), so good I went back and bought a half-pound before leaving for the airport. Their blend is mostly Central and South American beans along with some Indonesian beans as well, and the result is noticeably sweet on its own, and there’s a cocoa undertone that I adore in coffee.

Quills was Stella Parks’ suggestion and they also do a solid espresso, not as bold or sweet as Sunergos’ but creditable, and I loved their space over in the Highlands, within walking distance of Gralehaus and Carmichael’s Bookstore; it was big, bright, and full of people working, chatting, just hanging out, the way a neighborhood coffee house should be. I also tried Press on Market, where I had a light-roast Sumatran bean as a pour-over – notable in and of itself because Indonesian beans are typically roasted until dark – and was surprised to find that the beans had some character beyond the roast. It’s a stone’s throw from the Bats’ stadium if you’re downtown.

Stick to baseball, 6/3/17.

My second first-round projection (mock draft) went up on Tuesday, and I held a Klawchat, in which some guy got mad at me for answering a question about my first-round projections by including that link, on Friday. It’s bad enough civility is dead, but must we continue to mutiliate its corpse?

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the light detective/puzzle game Watson & Holmes, yet another game that uses those public-domain characters strictly for marketing purposes. It’s not a bad game, though, just a little too simple.

I’m told that Smart Baseball continues to sell well, although the sales figures I get mean nothing to me (since it’s my first book), but it wouldn’t hurt if you bought a dozen more copies to give out for Father’s Day to … um … your twelve fathers. Feel free to sign up for my email newsletter as well.

And now, the links…

Klawchat, 6/2/17.

New game review over at Paste of the light detective/puzzle game Watson and Holmes.

Keith Law: I’m riding high upon a deep depression. It’s Klawchat.

Greg: What’s the latest draft buzz in the top 5?
Keith Law: I just posted a mock 3 days ago: http://klaw.me/2rfDkiH

Steeeve: How is it possible to have a lower OBP than average?
Keith Law: No walks, 1 sacrifice fly. This is something I decided not to rant about in Smart Baseball because it seemed too wonky/math-nerdy (although I am not ashamed of being a math nerd), but it’s a really obvious flaw in the system. Also, true story, i had a long argument with some Blue Jays front office members in 2002 or 2003 about this … and they all defended making the sac fly a non-at bat, and even argued that a run-scoring groundout deserved the same treatment!

Patty O’Furniture: So…Ronald Acuna is kind of crushing everything right now. Thoughts?
Keith Law: Nothing new, really. I ranked him high this winter, because I loved the bat speed and feel for contact. But a .520 BABIP or whatever he has? There’s no way to interpret that without assuming a huge portion of it is noise – again, even if you really like the player, which I do.

Brian: Devers in Boston by August?
Keith Law: Possible. I’d like to see them bump him up to AAA soon if they’re thinking about that. BTW, I saw Buster tweeted a note from another evaluator saying Devers is too big for 3b; I couldn’t disagree more. Not only is he physically able to stay there, he’s got great hands and a plus arm.

John: Is the Nate Pearson Mets buzz legitimate?
Keith Law: I don’t believe they’d take him unless their board absolutely fell apart. Even then I’m not sure; you’re talking about a guy with an 80 fastball, but questionable secondary stuff and a screw in his elbow. Pretty big risk for top 20 … which isn’t to say it won’t happen, just that I think it’s unlikely to happen.

Jake: Which prospects in the Phillies system are actually worth getting excited about at this point?
Keith Law: Lots? I still think Crawford’s going to be fine. Hoskins is good. Kingery is good, maybe really good. Brito is good. Moniak is good. They have some power arms, although none is really close to ready. It’s a solid system.

Greg: How was Garage Bar?
Keith Law: Excellent. I ate really well in Louisville – there, Gralehaus, Milkwood, Royal Chicken, Mayan Cafe, Sunergos, Quills, Press on Market.

Greg: Sorry, I didn’t realize the teams in the top 5 all were thinking exactly the same way they were 3 days ago.
Keith Law: Wow, that was wildly unnecessary. This isn’t Twitter.

JDB: Are you hearing a lot of talk about the Red Sox and Hiura or just a predictable landing spot in your eyes?
Keith Law: No, they’re linked. But I don’t think it’s better than 50/50 that he’s there; a lot will depend on how teams view his medical and if they’re willing to take that risk to get a bat who projects to plus hit (or better) with at least 55 power. Could go as high as 12, I think.

Sam: What is up with Max Fried? Dude was dominant in A ball and really good in spring training, but his peripherals have not been good this year.
Keith Law: His peripherals are fine, but his ERA isn’t, because he’s been atrocious from the stretch. He’s had a mild split (bases empty/runners on) before, but this year it’s out of control. Too small a sample to say it’s conclusive, but that’s how you post a near-6 ERA with those secondary numbers.

Marc: What albums on the horizon do you have your eye on?
Keith Law: alt-J came out today; I thought it was just so-so. WAVVES new album is great. Less Art’s debut is very good but not out till July (I got a copy because I know two of the members quite well). I think that’s all I know about, but I tend to just take new music as it comes rather than mapping out future releases like I would with movies.

Paul: Mets going for college or highschool with 20th pick. I am hoping for Logan Warmoth. Thoughts?
Keith Law: That’s who I gave them in my mock, so we appear to be on the same page. Kid can really hit.

Ken from AZ: I’m going to reply to your question by quoting it, and you’re not allowed to make any reference to it. So there.
Keith Law: Dammit, Ken, you got me again.

Fred: How good is Derek Fisher? Hitting over .340 in AAA, 4 straight games with a HR.
Keith Law: He’s good, but remember it’s the PCL, and those 4 straight games include 3 against Albuquerque’s atrocious pitching staff.

Dan: With all these rookies coming up and being hot right away (eventually leveling out), is it weird that Mike Trout had his worst half season ever when he came up?
Keith Law: He was only 19, though. Not that weird.

Jack: If the Giants looked to deal Cueto, could Eloy Jimenez be had?
Keith Law: For a half-season rental, I doubt it. Eloy is pretty special.

Jack: Is Pavin Smith to the Phillies just smoke? Have you heard anything else in regards to Austin Beck?
Keith Law: The Phillies were very heavy at the ACC tournament too, but if those games hold any weight, I don’t see how they’d take Smith at 8; in two games he didn’t hit a single ball hard. Haseley did, though. If I revised that mock from the other day right now, I’d have Beck 6 to Oakland instead of Smith.

Nate: who do you see falling in the draft and taking an over slot sandwich round deal?
Keith Law: Pick a dozen high school arms after the group of Greene, Gore, Hall. Half of them will do what you said. Enlow seems likely to do that. Carlson too.

Jack: What position do you think Hiura ends up at post-elbow surgery? Also any other names the Red Sox might be considering at 24?
Keith Law: Batters’ box? No one seems to know if he can really play second base post-surgery. It wasn’t a very good arm before he got hurt. Best college bat there is the most likely pick, although the only thing I think they probably won’t do is a HS arm, not after taking Groome last year.

Chris: Obviously the real Michael Chavis is somewhere between this year and last year, but what is your current assessment of him?
Keith Law: He played hurt last year and didn’t tell the Red Sox. I’m inclined to throw 2016 out the window for him.

Jack: Has there been enough of a sample to be cautiously optimistic that Avisail Garcia may turn into a useful player?
Keith Law: He’s been useful this year, even with the big dropoff in May from April. Do we think he can be a high-BABIP guy, enough to overcome the lack of walks, speed, or big power? I’d buy that. He had a .350 BABIP in May and hit .301/.345/.485; that’s enough to make him a regular in a corner.

Jeff: Love the Garbage reference. What would you say is Cody Bellinger’s ceiling?
Keith Law: Superstar, MVP type of player. He was originally #2 on my top 100 in January, only behind Benintendi, but everyone I sent the rough list out to said I had him too high. I should have bet on myself for a change.

Gary: What are your thoughts on Kevin Kramer? Can he be a starter?
Keith Law: More inclined to say utility guy, since his roll this year is entirely BABIP-fueled … but a shortstop who never strikes out is a beautiful thing, right? Plenty of guys have started out like that and developed into regulars in their late 20s.

DJB: Robbie Ray?!?!! Is this real or just SSS
Keith Law: I think it’s real. Huge K numbers last year, prone to the big inning and bad luck (or bad performance) with sequencing. I had him and Aaron Hicks on my 2016 breakouts list. Guess I should just go back and edit that file…

JDB: If you were a college AD who would your top choices be for manager if you had an opening? The Chad Holbrook experiment looks to be ending. It’s like he spent to much time on Twitter.
Keith Law: Remember how Holbrook came after me when I pointed out the futility of Brandon McIlwain matriculating early, thus removing any chance some MLB team would shove seven figures at him on draft day? Derailed the kid’s career, at least for now, although I’m hopeful he’ll get back on track at Cal next spring. Between that and overworking some arms, including Clarke Schmidt (who may have been destined to break anyway with that arm action), I can’t say it was a great run for Holbrook there. As for candidates, I’ll demur because I don’t think I know enough people to give a good opinion.

Tim: Question regarding McKay/Greene – assuming they don’t take the mound after the draft – are they likely to try their hand at both pitching and hitting next year or will they likely be headed straight to the mound w/o concern for how well they hit this year?
Keith Law: McKay will almost certainly do both. Greene’s future is on the mound, IMO.

Aaron: If I recall this correctly, Kingery was one of your top three 2b prospects this (or was it last) year, but outside of the top 100. Does his sudden power boom (SSS) change your perception at all?
Keith Law: It’s Reading, and lots of guys see power spikes in Reading, but graduations from the top 100 would have likely put him on the list anyway.

John: Can you elaborate on why you think Jack Flaherty (just promoted to AAA) could be a #2? I’ve read others say he’s more of a pitchability 4th starter type.
Keith Law: I’d ask them why they think he’s a “pitchability” type with that stuff. The only knock I’ve ever heard on him is that his delivery is so easy it might not provide enough deception. Hochevar and Appel come to mind with this.

HH: Have you heard anything about Brady Aiken’s progress? I’m trying to resist scouting the stat line as someone taught me.
Keith Law: Throwing upper 80s. So in this case the stat line isn’t lying to you. He hasn’t gotten back to where he was.

Well Played Mauer: How much should one look into the Hunter Greene workout with the Twins 3 days before the draft?
Keith Law: That’s normal stuff. Teams will work out anyone who’ll agree to come work out for them.

Logan: I asked you about a month ago about Beck to the Braves, and we both agreed that would be a stretch.. I’m hoping for for Gore/Lewis, but just wondering who you think has the higher upside between the two?
Keith Law: Gore. People I trust talk about Gore in terms that they’re not even using for Greene.

Ted: As someone who has scouted McKay, can you explain the top 5 interest to me? He’s 1B only with the bat and that profile isn’t great. On the mound, hasn’t he been 89-92? Is that profile really worthy of first-round consideration?
Keith Law: You skipped over the kind of hitter he’s become this year – plus hit with power, good plate discipline, super quiet approach. He hit 95 for me in February with a plus change, but last week he looked gassed and was more 89-92, yes.

DJB: Would Mickey Moniak be 1.1 in this years draft?
Keith Law: I doubt it, given the presence of two college guys who are 1-1 worthy, but I didn’t think he was the #1 guy in last year’s draft class either.

Steve: If you’re a team trying to trade with the Astros, would you rather have Martes or Tucker?
Keith Law: Tucker.

Rich: Will you be at a Regional this weekend? Super Regional next? Hope to see you in Baton Rouge
Keith Law: Nope, I don’t cover college baseball games, just the prospects, so unless something were easy for me to get to where I could see a handful of first rounders, you’ll probably never see me at a regional or super.

Johnny : do you think any of Jermiah Estrada, Garrett Mitchell, or Danner go to UCLA?
Keith Law: Probably, almost definitely, and 50/50.

Chris: Concerns about the hitch in Zack Collins swing? I feel like no one really talked about it leading up to the draft last year…
Keith Law: Yes, I think I wrote about that in March? definitely a concern.

Guest: No question just thanks for writing Smart Baseball. Just finished the audiobook. We read to be informed and entertained, and you managed both. Well done!
Keith Law: Thank you! Glad you found it entertaining – I really wanted to get that material across without making it dry.

Tim: Hi Keith. T. Trammell seems to be handling low-A ball pretty well as a 19 year old. Does he have some serious helium right now or more “we knew he was good”?
Keith Law: We knew he was good, yes, but also, it’s 46 games – you don’t see players’ values within the industry change that fast unless there’s a big underlying skill change or physical change.

Charles Bronson: Hi Keith, big fan of your writing, but whats an easy entry-level pie to start baking?
Keith Law: Blueberry is the easiest I’ve ever made. Skip the quiche, though. It’s not pie.

Evan: What’s your best estimate for when the Super Two deadline will pass? Do you think the Mets would call Amed Rosario up before it passes?
Keith Law: I wish Super Two would die, really, because it does nothing but confuse fans. And it’s not fans’ fault – it’s just a bad system. We don’t know the actual date, and we won’t know the actual date for this year until after 2020. So teams guess, based on past history. Once we get to June 15th or so, we’re almost certainly past it given previous years’ cutoffs.

Rob: Any concerns with Gleyber’s slow start in AAA?
Keith Law: He’s been there a week.

Cole: Is Chris Seise a first rounder? Seems like one of the best prep SS. Major upside in all 5 tools
Keith Law: No. Nor does he have “major upside in all 5 tools.” He can stay at short, which makes him a top 100 guy, but that’s it.

Lukas: So, publications around Atlanta have thrown the idea of trading Kemp at the deadline. With his atrocious defense, high BABIP and extremely high salary, I don’t think this is realistic. Do you have any insight on this?
Keith Law: Probably unrealistic.

Nate: What are your thoughts on small ball in youth and high school leagues?
Keith Law: Depends. Is the goal to win games? Then it might make sense, given the presence of players on those teams who just aren’t very good hitters or fielders (bunt to make the other team make an error!). Is the goal to develop players? If so, then swing the fucking bat.

Tim: “Too big for 3B” – did that scout ever watch Scott Rolen in his prime?
Keith Law: I met Scott Rolen in or near his prime. Dude could carry an 18-wheeler on his back.

ScottyD in Downingtown: Kyle Tucker just got elevated to AA and is continuing to hit well. Is it possible to see a mid-2018 arrival in Houston or would that be overly aggressive?
Keith Law: Yeah, I was pissed about that because Buies Creek comes here next weekend. He’s good, mid-2018 is not insane.

John: I wonder if you could give some advice. My adult sister was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor is optimistic that it can go into remission with a powerful drug, methotrexate. I want her to do that, because I’ve seen how much pain she’s been in and they say it’s important to catch it early. She’s reluctant because it’s such a powerful drug, apparently the same thing used for some chemo. But I think she’s also being influenced by her husband, who is a bit of a conspiracy theorist and is always talking about the drug companies influencing the medical studies. Any thoughts, including on how I can help her steer clear of her husband’s loony ideas?
Keith Law: Get her to some other doctors (real doctors, not “alternative” anything) for further opinions. I know nothing about that drug other than, as you said, it’s used for chemo. But maybe hearing it face to face from more qualified experts will help?

Jack: For a guy like Brendan McKay, how many years would he have to spend focused on pitching to lose his status as a top first baseman prospect? Does the skill go pretty quickly?
Keith Law: I would bet good money on him staying at first base for a while, rather than pitching and giving up hitting. He could do both, but if he does one thing, given how he’s worn down on the mound, I think it’ll be hitting.

Matt: What’s up w/ the Paris Accord? Why would Trump withdraw the US if it doesn’t take effect until after the 2020 election? Something about the entire thing smells fishy to me.
Keith Law: Sop to his base? Have you seen his supporters and cheerleaders celebrating this? I’d say it’s bizarre, but with an entire wing of one of our major parties demonizing science, it’s kind of par for the course.

Keith: Hi fellow Keith. I’m staying in Scottsdale in July for one night for my 17th anniversary at the end of a 5000 mile road trip . Recommendation for a restaurant pleas ?
Keith Law: I have a whole guide to Phoenix area eats right here http://klaw.me/21e74em

Rod: Where do you see Mark Vientos getting drafted? He was allegedly working out for the Braves yesterday but I don’t know if he lasts until 41
Keith Law: He might, although I think he probably goes in the 30s to a team with multiple picks.

Carlin: Read Tough Guys Don’t Dance last week and was blown away. Thanks for the suggestion, are you aware of any good noir in the same vein, beyond the obvious Chandler, Hammett, etc?
Keith Law: The Killer Inside Me, The Grifters, pop. 1280, all Jim Thompson. Double Indemnity & The Postman Always Rings Twice, both James Cain. Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is in a similar vein too. While not noir, I love the Nero Wolfe novels from Rex Stout, because they have such great characters.

Ben: NLE – moving forward, who would you have more confidence in, Vince Velasquez or Robert Gsellman?
Keith Law: Gsellman. Velasquez might be made of glass.

Tim: First to majors – Tyler Mahle or Luis Castillo? Both possible #3 starters?
Keith Law: Mahle more likely to start. Castillo better fastball, needs a breaking ball.

Jacque Jones: What are your thoughts on Nick Gordon after some time in the minors, compared to at draft time, etc? Should Twins fans be excited?
Keith Law: Yes. He’s a damn good player. He’ll produce, and he’ll be one of those players you want to argue is worth even more than the stats say.

John: Thoughts on Giolito this year?
Keith Law: Still undoing the delivery damage done to him last year. His stuff has ticked back up and he’s had outings where he looked more like his pre-2015 self.

James: Hey Keith. Thoroughly enjoying Smart Baseball. Mets question for you. Rosario has tore it up since being promoted to AA last year. Does he eventually entrench himself with the Lindors and Correas? Or fall short (no pun intended)?
Keith Law: I think he’s that kind of talent. His bat speed is ridiculous.

Harry: Could the Nats take Hiura, given their penchant for guys with TJ on their plates?
Keith Law: Don’t think he gets there, but along those lines, I could see them taking Schmidt or Drew Rasmussen.

Dan: It seems that the Cubs are connected to Nick Allen. What are your thoughts on that match?
Keith Law: Not at 27.

Dan: Have you seen any of Severino’s starts this year? Has he changes his mechanics at all that you think might lead to sustained success as a starter?
Keith Law: I have seen him, but can’t tell from the CF camera if the delivery is different. He did bulk up a ton, though. I saw him once on a TV screen at an airport and thought at first that was Pineda.

MikeM: Rumors are that the Yankees want Gleyber Torres to take over at 3B this year. Do you think the jump from AA to MLB will be too much for him?
Keith Law: I don’t, but what a waste of a glove to move him off short.

TD: I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to reading mystery books and looking to include some in my summer reading. Any recommendations?
Keith Law: I think Agatha Christie is considered the best for good reason: her prose is smart but very readable, her two detective characters are wonderful, and her mysteries are well-crafted. I have grown to enjoy Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels too, although the first one (Whose Body?) is the worst.

ScottyD in Downingtown: The Philadelphia sports pundits continue to defend the lackluster play of Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph. They say that both will be solid major leaguers and Hoskins & Alfaro just aren’t ready yet. Do you concur?
Keith Law: I would give Hoskins a chance. Alfaro is more of a black box in that his game-calling and receiving needed work, which isn’t going to be evidence unless you go watch him a lot, but that job should be his by the summer too.

Cardinals: How would you approach the draft if you ran the Cardinals? One or two high profile talents and then go underslot with all the 5-10 round guys, or go for depth throughout 3-10?
Keith Law: They don’t have the money to do that. Just take best players available.

Chris: Doesn’t the white sox Jaren Kendall pick just scream Jared Mitchell?
Keith Law: Not in the least. Is that a racial comp I’m not getting? They are totally dissimilar players.

Chris: Speaking of Twitter, I’m surprised you kept at it that long with lawn guy, his “logic” was making my head hurt.
Keith Law: I was truly enjoying myself. I don’t normally take any pleasure in deliberately annoying people, but that was fun.

Bosa: Do you think Paul DeJong could be above average second baseman at ML level
Keith Law: I’d say average, but what I saw of his defense on the left side in the fall didn’t match reports I had from the summer.

Zihuatenejo: In this era of instant analysis how many years should a fair-minded person wait to judge a draft? Relatedly, if the 2013 draft were re-held today, how many players other than Bryant and Crawford would be taken before Aaron Judge?
Keith Law: Too soon, because the high school guys are just reaching the majors now. I don’t like even discussing a draft inside of five years, or truly evaluating one until about ten. But I will pat myself on the back for ranking Judge well above where he was drafted!

addoeh: Please rank the four main regional styles of BBQ; Carolinas, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas.
Keith Law: Texas, KC, Memphis. We won’t even discuss that vinegary shit.

Mike: Are you still watching Orphan Black?
Keith Law: Yep, returns June 10th. I have to finish S4 though.

Amru: Were Braves doing due diligence by hosting Austin Beck for a private workout, or is there a better than average chance they take him at 5?
Keith Law: When you hear about these workouts, again, bear in mind they are totally normal. We had lots of players at workouts in Toronto – including, in 2002, a Canadian kid named Joey Votto – but it never even meant they were on our shortlists.

Papi: At the beginning of the year i traded Buxton for Dansby and Trent Clark in my dynasty league… who would have thought Clark would be the most successful piece to date
Keith Law: Buxton hit .254/.321/.380 in May. If he just does that, with his defense and speed, he’ll be a hell of a player. And I think that he’s going to be more than that.

George: How do you find all of the news stories that you post every week?
Keith Law: I read a lot. I also see lots of stuff on Twitter – I try to follow a broad mix of people from outside of baseball. I follow a few people just for science. I follow way more women on Twitter than a baseball-only feed would have. And I get some email digests from aggregators that help.

Mattey: The Mackanin extension seemed odd at the time, and looks worse now, only a month outDo you have insight on why the Phillies extended him when they did, and do think they’re regretting it by now?
Keith Law: They love him as a person, but to be honest I am not sure I’d say this year makes it look any better or worse. The team isn’t good and that’s not his fault. My issue is this: You’re hired as CEO. You walk into the office building. Sitting in the CFO’s chair is a guy in a suit. You don’t simply assume that, because he’s in that seat, that he’s the best guy for the job – or even qualified for it.

Tim From Philly: Desperate and way too early question but…any favorites yet to be 1/1 in 2018 draft? Only name that seems to get attention besides Seth Beer is Kumar Rocker. Hoping you have heard more than a future 1B and high school right-hander.
Keith Law: I saw Beer last week. That’s not what 1-1 looks like. I haven’t seen Rocker or done any work on 2018 really.

Pramit Bose: Do you think Vlad Guerrero and Bo Bichette will get promoted if they keep performing as they have? Or are there flaws in their game that don’t show up in their stat lines that need correcting before going to high A or double A?
Keith Law: I think it’s more age – they’re so young that there’s no rush, and I would probably at least let them face some opponents twice to see if anyone makes adjustments. But I’m very high on both guys.

Travis: What is it about the Shane Baz delivery that concerns you?
Keith Law: It’s that he lacks deception and I’ve had scouts say they have seen hitters square him up in the mid 90s. But I had another scout say the other day it’s a 7 fastball, 6 curve, 6 slider, and how do you say no to that? (He makes a valid point.)

Joe: What is your take on Mr. Met flipping a fan off?
Keith Law: Non-troversy. As opposed to, say, Kathy Griffin’s act, which I thought was tasteless and way out of line.

Travis: What grade would you put on Mackenzie Gore’s fastball?
Keith Law: He sits 90-93. That’s a 50, maybe 55 for a lefty.

Mickey: I just realized what a good retort to rudeness “This isn’t Twitter” is. I may have to employ that on the subway.
Keith Law: Good luck. Don’t get shiv’d.

Jake: Are you as impatient as I am for the new Arcade Fire album?
Keith Law: No. I didn’t love Reflector.

Lyle: Anthony Jimenez was not on any Mariners top prospect lists that I recall but he’s at 307/376/518 after two months in the Midwest League. Rising prospect? Anything interesting to hope for?
Keith Law: He’s 21 and striking out about 30% of the time. Old for his level with that K rate = no.

Brian: What is your opinion on AJ Preller? Being in San Diego, most national media coverage doesnt talk about the Padres much except bringing up the hiding injury issue. How has he done so far in your opinion? How long should an owner give a GM who’s doing a mass rebuild like Preller is doing before they look at a new GM?
Keith Law: Rebuild has been great so far. Ridiculous quantity of talent in that system.

Amru: Pardon my ignorance, but has Royce Lewis had any substantial time in CF? Or is it an assumption that his athleticism will make up for inexperience?
Keith Law: Don’t think he’s ever played it. He’s a bad shortstop who’s a plus runner and has shown great instincts as a baserunner, so the assumption is he’ll be able to play CF.

Dave: Hi Klaw, thanks for the chats. Guess what, the head of the EPA has admitted that global warming is due to human activities. He can’t say how much of the planet’s warming is due to humans, that’s too difficult. He also can’t say if POTUS believes what all but flat earthers believe. But progress is progress, although there’s no word on whether the administration has any plans whatsoever to try to fix or even slow global warming. I’m thinking of investing in some ocean front property in Iowa
Keith Law: Meanwhile, teachers in Florida aren’t even allowed to tell their kids about climate change, so we’re trying to raise a generation of dummies … at least down there.

Isaac: Could Ronald Acuna be a top 5 prospect by seasons end? The reports are glowing, have you had a chance to see him this season?
Keith Law: I saw him in March and wrote about him then.

Potato: Julian Merryweather has looked good and ive read that his stuff has improved. Heard much about him?
Keith Law: His stuff hasn’t changed but he’s having more success than before and doing it at higher levels – up to 95, power curveball, good change, it’s 3 at least major league average pitches, definitely a starter, not sure if that CB is the swing and miss pitch he needs.

Aaron: Does Brendan Rodgers have anything left to prove in HiA?
Keith Law: The problem is playing in Lancaster is like playing on one of Jupiter’s moons. Get him to AA where he’ll play in a real environment, even if it means he’s going to start 2018 back there. I like him quite a bit as a prospect and have always ranked him high – #1 in his draft class – but hitting stats in Lancaster are a joke.

Robert: At the time of the Luis Robert signing, you wrote that there was a consensus among your scouting sources about concerns related to his hit tool. Have you heard from any sources since then that disagree?
Keith Law: Not a one.

J.O.: Grilling chicken breasts tonight from a homemade balsamic marinade…..any side suggestions? (we are having grilled corn on the cob as well.)
Keith Law: Just stay at the grill and don’t cook them past about 155. The only thing easier to overcook on a grill than chicken breasts is fish.

Isaac: I know you haven’t been to high on Jesus Sanchez, but he seems to be showing more power. Is he a rising prospect or more hype than anything else?
Keith Law: That’s inaccurate; I’ve ranked him where he belonged. He’s more hit than power, though.

Nick: Thoughts on Lamet?
Keith Law: Discussed on San Diego radio – he has a below average changeup, and lefties have killed him everywhere he’s pitched, including so far in the majors (where they’re on his fastball because his change is ineffective).

Jay: Lots of chat about Bo Bichette lately – do you think his ‘violent swing’ will play at higher levels, or will he need to calm down a bit?
Keith Law: Not a violent swing. That’s out of date.

Tyler: Does Sheffield belong in the HOF? If so, what is keeping him out? Link to steroids, lack of 150+ game seasons, way he treated the media?
Keith Law: No defensive value. His WAR total gets wrecked by below average defense.

Matt R: Sorry if you’ve answered this question but are you planning a Cape trip this year? Less than 2 weeks til the season starts!
Keith Law: Don’t know. ESPN wants me more focused on pro stuff over the summer than amateur, which makes the Cape tough.
Keith Law: (They’re not wrong, BTW. More people are interested in pro content than draft.)

Greg: Rule 5 draft seems to be a dumpster dive, unless of course you’re talking about the Padres grabbing prospects from the Cardinals. Córdoba & Perdomo represent a nice haul–did Mozeilak make a mistake not protecting either on the 40 man roster?
Keith Law: Perdomo surprised me. Cordoba was in the freaking Appy League. It’s crazy that they even took him.

Greg: Keith- help a brother out… Is there any way to engage with or at least quickly end an argument with a close friend who is increasingly buying into climate-change denying claims? Besides ending the friendship? It’s drives me mad that the think they’re thinking critically by not accepting what they’re told and questioning everything, but in reality they’re just ignoring the vast majority of scientists.
Keith Law: I’ve had friends try anti- or pseudoscience bullshit on me. I give them facts. If they don’t want to be friends after that, it’s fine with me. I had someone recently try to tell me that celiac is the result of how we breed wheat in this country and that people with celiac can eat bread in Europe, which is … just very, very wrong. And I said so. I don’t think it went over well.

Sam: What did you think of Jose Ramirez when he was younger? I previously hadn’t thought too much of him, but his run of success is getting to be too long for it to be a fluke.
Keith Law: He’s legit. I had him just off the top 100 one year, highest I ever put him, and then I think he was ineligible the following year because of at bats. I’m fully on board. He was on my top 25 under 25 last month.

Bruce: Jake Gatewood has had a nice season so far making a bit more contact and walking more. What are your thoughts on his future?
Keith Law: Sounds like he’s seeing the ball for the first time in a while thanks to eye (LASIK?) surgery. That’s a good explanation for a massive stat change like that. I’m buying.

Jake: Just ate at Snooze in San Diego. Now I’m taking a nap
Keith Law: Very solid 55 for me. Mission is better, but Snooze is acceptable.

Steve: I know he’s not tooled up, but Austin Slater just keeps hitting. Think he’s a long term solution for SF?
Keith Law: More a short-term solution than long-term. But I like him a little as a plug for their leaking LF situation.

Ross: I know the bigger story on Jake Gatewood was finding out he needed contacts, but there was also talk he made some swing changes. Have you heard anything about them?
Keith Law: I guess it was contacts, not LASIK. Don’t think he’s made swing changes.

Elton: Did you like the new season of Master of None?
Keith Law: Haven’t watched any of it. Sort of got some other stuff going on right now…

Matty D – SF: 1st KLaw thanks for doing the chats they’re amazing. 2nd Does Puig need the proverbial change of scenery? And when are you coming to the Bay for a book signing? Smart Baseball (I’m finally getting to it) is phenomenal.
Keith Law: You’re welcome. Berkeley 7/19 at Books Inc.

Cal: What would Vlad jr have to do over the next year or so to get called up by the Jays in 2018?
Keith Law: He’s 18 in low-A. How about 2019?

Brian: Hunter Renfroe had 15 BBs in May and his OPS was .868. How long before it is safe to say he has made an adjustment that has legs?
Keith Law: About 300 more PA, roughly. Also struck out 30 times in ~100 PA.

Peeeeete: We don’t have a lot of hot seasons here in Iowa, but we’re all excited about Jake Adams. What’s the scouting report on Adams?
Keith Law: Wouldn’t get too excited. Not a top 100 guy; 6′ 250 pound 1b/dh with some power but no wood bat experience.

CharleyT648: SP Jordan Humpreys
Keith Law: Samoans! Do the Humprey Hump.

Jim: Have you seen Gore in person this year? Any chance he could go at 1?
Keith Law: No. That’s my big miss on seeing guys this spring (of those I could reasonably have seen). Book release & personal issues kept me home more. He is in the mix at 1.

Denny Hocking: Anything interesting rumor-wise around the Twins since you blessed us with your last mock?
Keith Law: Same names. I don’t expect much to change until teams get in their draft rooms this weekend.

Dallas: Could Royce Lewis slip out of the top 10 ? Let’s say Wright/Greene/Gore/Mckay go 1st 4 picks; Atl goes pitching again; Oak/Ari go college; Boras scares Phi/Mil/LAA/CWS/Pit/Mia; could he fall to Houston at 15 and get top draft money there?
Keith Law: This is very, very silly.

Erich: whos hot start do you believe is more sustainable? Justin Smoak or Yonder Alonso? Both look like like completely different players this year.
Keith Law: Alonso. But you’re damn right I’m enjoying Smoak’s season.

Arch Stanton: Project Schwarber’s career: better or worse than Matt Stairs?
Keith Law: Better. Kid can hit. Just be patient. They can’t all be Michael Conforto.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week – thank you all for your questions, for buying Smart Baseball, and for quote-tweeting me while letting me respond to you. I will chat again late next week, and my next mock will be June 11th, the day before the draft. I’ll also have a top 100 ranking up on Wednesday. Enjoy your weekends!


My second first-round projection (“mock”) for this year’s draft is up for Insiders.

Samuel Delany wrote his short novel Babel-17, a smart, profound philosophical work, when he was just 23 years old, an astounding achievement for a work that would be impressive for an author of any age. The prose is a bit abstruse and the story a little meandering, but this is a novel of ideas, or rather one very big idea, that the language we speak can ultimately shape the way we think, a concept known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. (If any of this sounds familiar, it’s also the core idea behind the 2016 movie Arrival.)

According to The Linguist List, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis states that “an individual’s thoughts and actions are determined by the language or languages that individual speaks.” The words and concepts of a language thus define not just what you say, but what you think and do. That simple version of the hypothesis, also called “linguistic relativism,” is generally accepted to be true, although there’s naturally disagreement on its extent, and there are stronger variations of the theorem (found in that link above) that are more controversial.

Delany builds an entire story around Sapir-Whorf, using an alien language called Babel-17 that humans and their allies have tried for years but failed to fully decipher, but that the other side in an ongoing, intergalactic war have weaponized to create turncoats within the allies’ forces. The protagonist, the poet and starship captain Rydra Wong, finds herself recruited by the Allies to crack what they suspect to be a code, only for her to discover that it’s an actual language that can re-program someone’s brain. This leads her on a series of missions into the war zone while coping with the likelihood that one of her own crew members is trying to sabotage the ship and potentially kill her.

For a novel that’s ostensibly set in a war, there’s very little fighting in Babel-17, which spends more time describing the consequences of war (like mass starvation) than the details of battle. Delany was enamored with his ideas about language, and managed to combine those with a compelling, three-dimensional protagonist – perhaps a too perfect one, as Rydra is brilliant, empathetic, and apparently beautiful, although the last point is only mentioned but never a factor in the story. The plot itself is a little muddled, and Delany’s prose struck me as Joyceian in spots, so for a book of under 200 pages it took me more time than I’d expect to get through it … which isn’t a criticism per se, more an observation given how quickly I read in general, and a reflection of how philosophical this novel is.

Delany does struggle to get the story to a reasonable, fulfilling conclusion, but I think that’s more feature than bug because the open question of the book, can language determine who we are and how we act, is not conducive to a plot deep enough for a novel. (Arrival got away with it, I think, because it was based on a short story, and a movie can work with a much shorter or thinner plot than a full-length novel can.) I never found myself wrapped up in the war plot. Delany gets more mileage out of the saboteur thread, although that conclusion wasn’t terribly satisfying on its own, only in the context of the broader question about language and thought. While I imagine linguists might object to his metaphor here, using Babel-17 as a brainwashing tool (and thus weaponizing Sapir-Whord), it takes a difficult and I think controversial topic in linguistics and puts it into a story in a way that an adept reader would understand the hypothesis and be left with plenty to chew on after finishing. That’s the great achievement of this book.

Jo Walton, whose book Among Others is one of my favorite novels of any genre, also weighed in on the wonders of Babel-17.

Next up: Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool. It’s good to see Sully again.

Minneapolis eats, 2017.

Minneapolis-St. Paul is a tremendous food town (or two towns, technically), thanks to its proximity to great farms, the efforts of a few high-profile chefs there (notably Andrew Zimmern), and an increasingly diverse population that’s supporting all of these new restaurants. I was only there for about 30 hours around my book signing at Moon Palace Books, but managed to squeeze in a few good meals and some great coffee.

The big meal was after my book signing at Revival, which several readers recommended and my friend Evon, who lives in Minneapolis and took me to nearly all of these spots, loves. It’s unabashed Southern cuisine, just done really well. The fried chicken is outstanding, with a crust that shatters with each bite; it comes in three varieties, plain, Tennessee hot, or “poultrygeist,” a sauce with ghost peppers. They will offer you that ghost pepper sauce on the side; don’t do this. I tasted a single drop, and I could feel the lining of my mouth and esophagus melting everywhere it made contact with the capsaicin. The sides are what you’d expect to find at a good southern restaurant; I’d recommend the mashed potatoes + gravy as well as the collard greens, the latter made with apple cider vinegar and cooked well without being cooked like a British vegetable. The biscuits were a little dense (but perfect for soaking up the ‘liquor’ in the greens); they’re served with sorghum butter, which you could really put on anything. Come to think of it, that would have been great on the fried chicken. Also, don’t miss the banana cream pie for dessert. Revival is so popular they’ve just opened a second location in St. Paul.

Zen Box Izakaya is a new Japanese sake house and ramen shop in the Gateway District in what appears to be a converted industrial or warehouse space, offering some pretty impressive ramen that I would say compares well to what I’ve had on the coasts. The pork ramen’s broth was the standout element, as it should be, but I wish they used better-quality noodles in the dish – these tasted fresh from the box. I also tried the server’s suggestion for a starter, the takoyaki, breaded and fried octopus with Japanese mayo, tonkotsu sauce, and bonito flakes; the flavors worked, but there’s definitely more flour than fish in these bites.

Patisserie 46 is a bakery and coffee shop whose chef was nominated for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker in 2015, and while I only had one thing, it was outstanding – a strawberry-rhubarb croissant, which was a classic croissant with layers like mica and a filling like you’d find in a fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie. They use Intelligentsia coffee for their espresso. They do some light breakfast and lunch fare and sell whole bread loaves as well.

A couple of quick hits – I found The Humble Cup just because I was staying at the Courtyard across the street (one of the nicest Courtyards I’ve ever stayed in, BTW) and was pleased to find they offered pour-overs using beans from local roaster True Stone Coffee. I’d skip the baked stuff but this is good coffee done correctly … I’ve mentioned George & the Dragon here before, but ate lunch there before heading to the airport; the food has always been excellent, and the pork banh mi I had this time was no exception, mostly because the pork, from local purveyors Compart Duroc, was so flavorful thanks to the five-spice seasoning. If you go and see the owner, Fred, tell him I sent you (he’s a fan too).

Finally, I ended up eating lunch at an unexpected spot: the boardgame cafe at Fantasy Flight Studios in St. Paul. FFG, now part of the Asmodee group (which also includes Days of Wonder, Z-Man, and Plaid Hat), operates a huge gaming space that has a real restaurant in it preparing most dishes from scratch and offering local craft beers on tap. Kyle Dekker, who runs the space and has been a longtime reader of my baseball work, gave me the tour; among other touches, they operate one fryer just for French fries, ensuring no cross-contamination with gluten or other allergens/problem foods. There’s a boardgame store in front and a huge library in back for folks to hang out and borrow a game (or three) and play while they eat, and both sections include games from other publishers. It’s an incredibly impressive undertaking and Kyle said they can be packed on weekends when the weather isn’t great. I’d be there all the time if I lived in the Twin Cities (which I might if it wasn’t located inside the Arctic Circle).

Stick to baseball, 5/27/17.

My one Insider piece this week was on Luis Robert, his deal with the White Sox, and the poor history of Cuban position player free agents. I did not hold a Klawchat, and will have another mock draft up on Tuesday.

Smart Baseball continues to sell well and I am very grateful to all of you who purchased it. I have about 100 signed bookplates that I can send out to readers who’ve bought the book, and I’ll get that info to everyone soon – probably in my next email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Dragon’s Teeth.

Upton Sinclair is best remembered today for two of his early novels, the expose The Jungle and the novel Oil!, the latter of which was the basis for the movie There Will Be Blood. (Little-known fact: when Sinclair was on his deathbed, he had a clause put in his will that the movie version had to star Daniel Day-Lewis, who was just 11 years old at the time.) Sinclair later penned a series of eleven novels starring the charismatic socialist Lanny Budd, and the third one, Dragon’s Teeth, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943. It was out of print for years before the entire Budd series reappeared last year in ebook form, which is how I picked up Dragon’s Teeth (on sale one day for $2).

The novel is very much a product of its time, a blend of wartime patriotism and unrealistic action, with Lanny almost too good to be real and yet surrounded by many flawed characters, including his shallow socialite wife. (There isn’t a female character worth a damn in the book.) The story is the real driver here, as Budd, who’s living abroad in Europe for most of the novel, becomes an early prophet of doom as Hitler begins his rise to power in the late 1920s, even as those around him continue to try to do business with the German government or claim that the worst won’t come to pass. The novel’s second half becomes more action-oriented, where Budd has to rescue two Jewish friends, first a father then the son, from imprisonment by the Nazis, where Sinclair also provides a window into what’s really happening in Nazi Germany – perhaps a bit late by the time it was published, but certainly a reaction to the belief by some Americans that stories of Nazi atrocities were exaggerated or false.

There’s a lot more story than I just gave you – in 600+ pages, there had better be – but much of it is window dressing, or weak criticism. Sinclair appeared to have little or no use for the idle rich, and his depictions of their total indifference to the suffering of the poor and of the Jews in Germany are hard to take – although I concede they may have been very real. (We’re certainly seeing lots of indifference to the poor in our country today.) Sinclair ratchets up the tempo by raising the stakes – there’s really no reason to believe either or both of the Jews Lanny is trying to rescue will be found alive, or come out of the camps intact. But he doesn’t give a ton of depth to most of his characters; it’s a serious novel, but breezes along in parts like a comedy of manners.

What did surprise me, however, was Sinclair’s treatment of the two Jews at the heart of the story. American authors prior to 1950 or so tended to depict Jewish characters using hackneyed stereotypes, if they depicted them at all. Sinclair has Lanny related to the family by marriage, which I imagine would have been scandalous in polite society of the time, and his desire to rescue his friends/relatives is both philosophical and personal. The father Johannas is a businessman, but the Germans are the ones obsessed with money here – the price of freedom in both cases is money, everything Johannas has in the first case, then another exorbitant sum to free his son.

Throughout the Lanny Budd series, Sinclair puts the protagonist into major world events, here having Lanny meet with Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler multiple times, putting Lanny right in the middle of The Night of Long Knives, and sending Johannas’ son (and thus Lanny) to Dachau. Other real-world events appear via news reports so that Lanny can react to them (or expound his socialist views) and scold the Pollyannas who take Hitler at his word or try to continue to do business with Germany after the Nazis took over. In the moment, it probably felt like an important book that captured a time that was eight years in the past but also relevant to ongoing current events. Today, though, it seems heavy and dated, saved by brisk writing and plenty of action in the book’s second half, but not enough to make it stand up like Sinclair’s better-known works.

Next up: I’ve been reading Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear diptych, winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel, and have about 350 pages to go in the second book.


Lion (now out on amazon and iTunes) was the last of the 2016 Best Picture nominees I needed to see (I’ve said before I’m skipping the anti-Semite’s film) and just never got around to it while it was in theaters because I saw a bunch of other movies I thought would be more interesting and then hit draft season. It turns out that I’d shortchanged the movie, which is based on a true story, largely because the commercials and trailer made it look like a much more sentimental, cloying film than it actually was. It’s still driven more by great performances – Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman both earned well-deserved Oscar nominations – than by a great script, but Lion still delivers a compelling story without resorting to too much claptrap.

The movie follows Saroo from age four to adulthood on a story that would be hard to believe if it wasn’t true. Saroo becomes separated from his brother in a train station in northern India while they’re begging for money, falls asleep on a train, and ends up over a thousand miles away, in Kolkata, where he doesn’t speak the language (Bengali) and can’t help anyone find his family because he mispronounces the name of his village and doesn’t know his mother’s name (he tells a police officer her name is “Mum”). He’s then adopted by an Australian family and seems to assimilate well into the new culture, but as a young adult, is spurred by a handful of fairly minor events and a diverse circle of friends to try to find out where he came from, a quest that relies heavily on Google Earth and eventually gets him back to the village of his birth.

What truly surprised me about Lion was how thoroughly it affected me. I’m used to mainstream films (and TV) trying to manipulate my emotions, and I’m largely immune to it at this point, because I see it coming and often find it hackneyed. Lion certainly cranks up the intensity of some of its emotional payoffs, but they’re grounded in reality, and many of those moments rely on universal sentiments – especially the scene where Saroo returns to the village of his birth for a reunion with his family that comes with a heartbreaking corollary. There’s a bit of that scene that feels very Hollywoodized, where the women of the village come around a corner, almost marching, in a stunning array of colors (thanks to their saris, which can really put Western fashions to shame), to come meet Saroo … but it’s trivial, and it’s over in a flash, after which you get the moment you’ve waited 100 minutes to see.

That’s not to excuse the numerous tweaks to the true story that did detract from the film’s impact. Saroo has another (biological) sibling who’s simply erased from the film. The beautiful woman who seems to be trying to kidnap or sell the young Saroo was a man in reality. And Saroo’s girlfriend is a total cipher of a character – I forgot her name (Lucy) because the character was so utterly bereft of any defining qualities, and is played by Rooney Mara, who has always struck me as a fairly bland actress, which compounds the problem. Lucy is a plot device, not a character, and it’s hard to understand why Saroo, depicted here as a sensitive adult who starts to lash out at loved ones because he’s struggling with his identity, would be attracted to her in the first place.

The critical consensus around Lion seemed to be that it was a good film kept from being great by slow pacing, especially in the second half, where Saroo distances himself from family and friends while immersing himself in the needle-in-a-haystack quest on Google Earth to find his village. I actually appreciated the reduced pace, in part because so much is thrown at the viewer in the first 45 minutes, but also because … that’s how it would have been, right? This had to have taken hundreds of hours over a period of weeks or months, with lots of dead ends and a sense of futility. It’s the one big element in this film that felt anti-commercial, and I think it ended up a strength rather than a weakness.