Stick to baseball, 7/15/17.

For Insiders, I’ve got my midyear top 50 prospects update, a breakdown of the Jose Quintana trade, and a recap of Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, followed by a Klawchat Thursday afternoon where I focused on questions about the top 50.

MEL magazine’s Tim Grierson, whom you might know from his film reviews or his indispensable podcast with Will Leitch, interviewed me in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Smart Baseball, pop culture, social media, and other non-baseball topics too.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th (today!) at 3 pm
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th, 7 pm
* Chicago, Standard Club, July 28th, 11:30 am – this is a ticketed luncheon event
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

And now, the links…

Klawchat, 7/13/17.

Starting at 1 pm ET. Questions go in the frame below, not in the comments.

My updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minors is now up for Insiders, as is my analysis of the Cubs-White Sox trade.

Keith Law: Klawchat. A cry for help in a world gone mad.

Matt: I’m surprised Alex Reyes didn’t make the list at all. Tommy John is pretty common now a days. His arm that big of a concern going forward?
Keith Law: TJ surgery is common, but not routine or something to handwave away. The success rate is still only around 85%, maybe a tick lower, and that’s without considering whether pitchers who have one are at greater risk of having another. So, since he’s not even back throwing yet, I don’t think he’s a top 50 prospect right now.

Bryan Daniel Carter: Was Derek Fisher in consideration? What are your thoughts on his breakout this year?
Keith Law: In consideration, not top 50.

Pops: Sixto Sanchez deserves a place at the table. Have you seen his electric arm?
Keith Law: Saw him last night and tweeted about him several times. Not top 50, somewhere in the next tier.

Brendan: What separates Vladdy from Bo Bichette, considering performances so far? Is it age, mechanics, something else?
Keith Law: Yes, all of that, but especially age. Doing what Vlad and Tatis are doing at age 18 in full-season ball is ridiculous.

Andrew: Before the last two were promoted, Lakewood had an all time grade 80 pitching staff of names: Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, Ranger Suarez, JoJo Romero
Keith Law: I hadn’t realized that but yes, that’s a murderer’s row of great names.

Bob: Within the Padres organization, Lauer and Lucchesi have been phenomenal, but are never cited as having the upside that Quantrill does. Granted that their time in the minors has been pretty short, but what is it that’s seen as the limiting factor that they have relative to Quantrill?
Keith Law: Nowhere close to the same stuff.

Ben: How far off your list was Maitan? About how many years away is he?
Keith Law: He’s 17 with a handful of GCL at bats, not really enough to justify running him up the list. He’d be in the next group as well.

Mike F: Just finished Smart Baseball and loved it! I was a little surprised to see Kingery on the list at 31 but Hoskins not make it. Is it mostly because of defense? Thanks for all the writing and the chats!
Keith Law: Hoskins is 1b only and there’s still a lot of doubt about whether it’s going to be more than just average power in the majors. I think he’s at least an everyday player, but I think Kingery is at least an above-average everyday player.

Jake: Thoughts on Acuna’s bump to Gwinnett? Do the Braves see Andruw 2.0 in him?
Keith Law: I think they’re rushing him. He’s a hell of a prospect, but I don’t get the urgency here, and I’d like to see him struggle at a level and then have to stay there long enough to make adjustments at the plate, since he’s not very patient or selective.

addoeh: No Luis Robert?! Don’t you know an anonymous, and perhaps non-existent, director of international scouting claimed he was the best player on the planet, without exaggeration?
Keith Law: I had heard about that, yes, and share your skepticism that the source even exists.

Randy Burgess: Do you think Flaherty (50), Tyler Mahle, and Chance Adams have similar ceilings?
Keith Law: I do not. Flaherty’s is higher. Adams is the most ready of those three. All are big-league starters.

Joel Embiid: What are your thoughts on J.P. Crawford since he’s fallen out of your top-50? Should Phillies fans be alarmed?
Keith Law: I got nothing but negative reports on him from scouts and execs this month. I heard unanimous downgrades on his defense at short, and multiple scouts say he’s swinging for the fences too much and becoming much less disciplined at the plate. I’m alarmed, and I’ve been a big fan of his since high school. I don’t know if he’s sulking, or if he thinks hitting bombs will get him promoted, or maybe I was just wrong about his ability, but this doesn’t sound like the guy I’ve seen every year for the past four or five years.

Dario Saric: Why didn’t Sixto Sanchez crack the top-50?
Keith Law: The simple answer is that I think there are fifty prospects who are currently more valuable (or valued, by the industry and me) than he is.

Ryan: had a very impressive article about Sixto Sanchez’s start last night, quoting four scouts in attendance. I believe you were also in attendance from your Twitter account. Thoughts and would that have changed today list at all? Thanks!
Keith Law: I finished this list after I got home from Lakewood; if I thought I had to change the list based on one 62-pitch outing, I would have, but didn’t. It’s an 80 fastball and it’s very easy. The rest is a work in progress.

Chris: Keith, any real concerns with Delvin Perez yet? Only a couple weeks worth of games but he’s been demoted and there seem to be serious concerns with his work ethic? If his name was Chase Peters (wink, wink) would people still be as concerned?
Keith Law: He had off-field/behavior questions in HS, some tied to actual incidents, so I don’t think this is racial issue. He needs to grow the heck up. No one suggested him for my top 50 either.

@richfreed: Cleveland media says Mejia is vastly improved defensively. He has worked on his English and communicates better with pitchers. Truth or local media pumping a prospect?
Keith Law: I saw him once in AA plus the Futures Game, and he threw great but received just fine. Couple of scouts I asked who’ve seen that club more were more bearish on his glove. I think he’ll be fine in time, but isn’t major-league ready defensively.

Jake: Where would Luis Robert have ranked? I’m assuming he didn’t qualify.
Keith Law: He qualified. Not top 50.

Randy Burgess: Do you think Alderson is preventing Rosario from getting the Conforto-treatment by a lame duck Collins?
Keith Law: That’s possible. Until Collins is gone, I can’t be terribly optimistic about short-term development of prospects (Rosario, Smith, anyone else they call up).

Ethan: No Tigers arms in your top 50?! How would you rank Burrows-Manning-Faedo-Funkhouser?
Keith Law: Burrows, Funkhouser, Faedo, Manning. Manning was having trouble throwing strikes this spring, and his stuff has been down in the NYPL.

Nate: Two questions. Was Espinoza left off because of concerns he can stay healthy or diminished stuff? Raul Mondesi make the list if he were prospect eligible?
Keith Law: He’s been hurt all year and might not pitch in games at all until instructs. That’s kind of a problem. Mondesi was not eligible.

Kevin: Michel Baez has been dominant but it sounds like it’s been primarily his fastball. How’s his secondary stuff?
Keith Law: Saw him in March, it was mostly FB and sheer size. Big dude, gets on top of the ball well.

Kevin S.: Hey Keith. Any idea what happened to Blake Rutherford? A quick look at his stat line is showing a power drop-off. Do you think that’s something structural there, or is it just adjustment to a more challenging level?
Keith Law: Hoping to see him in Lakewood this weekend. Two scouts I asked said he’s just not making hard contact at all. That’s shocking given what I saw from him in HS (and what I think everyone else saw too).

kur: Seems like with all the mediocre-to-bad reports on Yadi Alvarez (flat FB, zero command of anything) other publications have zero problem moving him down, but he actually jumped almost 20 spots for you. Any particular reason?
Keith Law: We had a lot of graduations and guys dropping due to injury; inertia moved a lot of guys up. I could not care less about other publications’ rankings.

John: What does Martes, Perez, and Alvarez get the Astros in trade? Cole? Quintana? Gray?
Keith Law: I can tell you this: It won’t get them Quintana!

boston: any particular reason you do a top 50 and not a top 100?
Keith Law: The amount of work required and the desire not to give anyone a false sense of precision.

Raylan: Can Ian Happ play CF on an everyday basis?
Keith Law: No.

Robbie: If you were GM of the Orioles, what would be your plan for Machado?
Keith Law: Have to trade him. Now or winter, but there’s really no other option.

Jesse: Austin Meadows has dropped from #9 in your preseason ranks to outside the top 50. Is the upside still there if he ever manages to stay healthy? Or have the skills eroded as well?
Keith Law: Trouble staying healthy and hasn’t performed at all in AAA.

Erik: Taking T.J. into consideration, what range did Braxton Garrett fall into?
Keith Law: Like Reyes, somewhere in the top 100, Garrett lower since he never even got to pitch.

Jason: What is Kingery’s ceiling?
Keith Law: All-Star ceiling. 70 glove, 70 run, at least 55 power now. Wish he’d show more patience – he is up there to hit, and if he gets a pitch, especially a fastball in the zone, he thinks he can drive, he’s after it, which is fine until he faces pitchers who can avoid those areas in the strike zone. But I’m buying.

Dusty: Do you agree with the aggressive promotion of Acuna to AAA? Think he sees the majors in 2017?
Keith Law: I assume this is the plan for them – probably was all along. It’s not like he dominated high-A to justify the first promotion, so this must be a “get him to the majors” agenda.

Gene Mullett: Thanks for the chat. Multiple, but quick ones…

1)Is Mejia’s bat ready for the show? Is he mostly in the minors to work on receiving skills? I love Gomes, but I am not sure I can stand to watch another AB.

2)Is a signed copy of the book available or should I suck it up, buy one, & then just hope to run into you at a Carolina League park?
Keith Law: Some bookstores I visit will have me sign extra copies for them to sell. Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, has (had) at least ten when I left on Saturday.

jay_B: Cubs (and former Cubs) have a couple of high spots on the updated list, but after that, not much. Any Cubs prospects that are close to the list, or who have the potential to make the list next year?
Keith Law: And they lost one since you submitted this. Alzolay would be their next guy outside the 50. De la Cruz might be next, if he comes back and can stay healthy the rest of the year.

Nate: Keith, were there any considerations for Dunning or Hansen of the White Sox?
Keith Law: No – good prospects, not top 50.

JK: If you were ranking those same 50 prospects for fantasy players, who would rise and drop the most? Many of us reference your list but it’s somewhat difficult without knowing how much of their talent is glove vs bat. Thanks for any insight.
Keith Law: Hard to say. I haven’t played fantasy baseball in any form in 15 years, and I don’t really keep track of the counting stats that matter in fantasy.

The Bilmo: Why does everyone have to get in the game? Isn’t the important thing being named to the team?
Keith Law: I don’t know when this became a Thing, but it is definitely one now, and I agree that it makes the game worse to watch.

NYTT: How difficult is it to avoid prospect fatigue in evaluations/rankings? Do you try and be cognizant of prospect fatigue and minimize it or not worry about it because you know it will be there regardless?
Keith Law: I am not sure what you mean.

Matt: Hi Keith, love your work. Has the opinion on Tyler O’neil shifted some given his recent hot streak? Seems to have adjusted after a pretty crummy start.
Keith Law: He wasn’t on my top 100 before the season and he wouldn’t be on it now.

Josh C: What are your thoughts on Francis Martes? Would he have made the top 50 if he wasn’t in the majors right now? How do you compare him to Whitley, Perez, etc?
Keith Law: I think he was in my preseason top 50. Beyond that, it’s hard to say – he’s now pitched against major-league hitters for several weeks, and I can’t pretend that didn’t happen. Whitley is the one who seems to be emerging as the best of the group, although that’s no slight on the other two.

Matt: Are your rankings based on your own scouting or are they based on your impressions of industry consensus?
Keith Law: I see as many players as I can, but I can’t see everyone, and I don’t get long looks at guys, so I talk to lots of scouts and execs. I circulated several versions of the top 50 starting about a week ago and asked folks (all with teams) for feedback. The final list reflects much of what they gave back to me.

NYTT: How did Cristian Pache look last night?
Keith Law: Great in center, overwhelmed at the plate by the dude throwing 100.

Marc : Any consideration for Woodruff in top 50?
Keith Law: Players in the majors right now are not eligible for my midyear lists. He’s actually on the major-league DL, so he’s out.

NYTT: I know Joey Wentz didn’t make the top 50, but everything I’ve read about him has been very positive. What does he need to show next year to be put on that level with the elite left handed starters in the minors, aside from durability?
Keith Law: Would like to see better pure stuff. I think he has modest projection, not huge but enough that another half-grade of everything ought to be in there.

Jason: Any chance Alex Jackson can play himself back into being considered a legitimate prospect?
Keith Law: He’s a prospect, just no longer an elite one. I think he’ll get to the majors.

Marc : What’s your take on Hoskins? Some Phillies fans think Tommy Joseph is “too good” to trade away…
Keith Law: I would have Hoskins up in the majors already.

Alec Asher Wojciechowski: Do you think Kyle Tucker will ultimately be traded this deadline?
Keith Law: I don’t. I think they’d trade Fisher first.

Nick: Didn’t expect him to be in the top 50 but what are your thoughts on Jesus Sanchez? Can he be top 50 by the January top 100?
Keith Law: Could be top 100 in January, but I didn’t rank more than about 60 guys in this exercise.

Rick: With Corey Ray, is the talent out of line with results? Thanks a lot for the list and chat.
Keith Law: He, Clark, and Erceg have all been various shades of disappointing in high-A. Ray perhaps the most – just swinging and missing too much at pitching of a caliber he should hit.

Nick: Franklin Perez… what do you think his ETA is? Pitching well at AA but so young why rush, right? Or does he still have a lot of arm strength and durability build (total assumption based on age)?
Keith Law: After Julio Urias’ injury, why NOT rush? Perez isn’t a projection guy – he’s pretty filled out already – but needs to work on command and learning to pitch more off the FB, based especially on what I saw from him last month.

Jason: Was Luis Urias close at all to making your top 50?
Keith Law: He was not.

Tim: Do you think Bo Bichette will be a guy who has trouble in more advanced levels because of his unusual swing/approach?
Keith Law: I think his hand-eye coordination is so good and his hands so quick that he won’t.

Dallas: Hunter Greene has the exact same size (6-3, 195) as Michael Kopech when Kopech was drafted. Judging by their draft slots it’s obvious Greene was a far better draft prospect but is Kopech in 2017 someone who Greene could be in 2019 (earlier because hopefully no injury or suspension)?
Keith Law: That’s a reasonable forecast, but I will say I hope that Greene in two years has a more consistent slider than Kopech has now. Kopech’s will show plus, and then he’ll throw one that’s a 45. He’s missed so much time and his arm has gotten so fast that I think he’s still figuring out how to use it, but the fact that he can show a plus slider and can show an above-average changeup is all positive.

Lee D, LA: Keith, if you were Dodgers GM, would you trade a top prospect (e.g. Verdugo) to upgrade left field from Chris Taylor (.285/.365/.480)?
Keith Law: I would promote Verdugo to upgrade left field from Chris Taylor.

J.P.: Thoughts on the Q for Eloy/Cease/etc trade? We gotta know!
Keith Law: Already filed to ESPN an hour-plus ago. Waiting for them to post.

Nick: Do you think Lucius Fox can hit enough to be a major league starter one day?
Keith Law: He needs to get a LOT stronger. But he’s also the age of a HS senior.

TJ: In terms of prospects, how much would Brad Hand or another good reliever fetch in trade? Two top 100s?
Keith Law: Any GM who gives up two top 100s for Brad Hand should be fired.

Jake: Now that Quintana is off the board, who do you think is the best starter available for trade?
Keith Law: Probably Gray.

Frank: Keith thanks again for doing these chats. There were no Giants on the list. Were Beede, Reynolds or Suarez close to cracking the top 50?
Keith Law: Not really, no. Been a tough year on the farm for them.

Mo: The Yankees had 5 top 50 guys preseason. One graduated, one got hurt (Kaprelian), and two (Rutherford and Frazier) seem to have dropped off. Two questions — (1) it seems like the farm overall has had a good year, with something like 6-9 top 100 or near top 100 caliber prospects even after the graduations and injuries, but that there’s been a move from those guys being concentrated at the top of the list to the bottom. Is that fair? (2) Why in particular did Frazier and Rutherford drop as much as they did. Frazier has a 122 wRC+ in AAA and success in his tiny sample in the majors. Curious what you’re seeing on him that isn’t necessarily reflected by the stats.
Keith Law: Frazier is in the majors and ineligible.

KG: Hi Keith – in the Quintana trade to the Cubs, did the White Sox get more from the Cubs than they were being offered by other teams in the offseason? The Sox weren’t going to contend so not trading him before the season seemed to introduce risk from subpar performance or injury to Quintana. And if the Sox were waiting for a bidding war between multiple teams still in contention at the trade deadline, did they trade Quintana too soon now? Thanks.
Keith Law: I know Hahn said it was the best offer they’d gotten on Quintana. I don’t have any information to the contrary – I’ve said before that the rumored Astros offer was bogus.

Marcus: Holy crap, the White Sox will be amazing in 2020
Keith Law: It sure as heck looks like it.

Theo: Am I going to regret letting go of Eloy?
Keith Law: I think Eloy is going to be a star. Whether you regret it depends on what Q does for you in the next three years.

Darren: Who was the toughest omission? the number 51 guy you couldn’t fit on the list but wanted to?
Keith Law: There wasn’t just one guy, but others I considered at least: Morejon, Conner Greene, Ronald Guzman, Kevin Maitan (just too little info), Sheffield, Fernando Romero, Sixto, Alzolay.

Evan: I was a bit surprised to see Yordan Alvarez in your top 50 as you tend to be generally averse to 1B-only prospects. Is this a reflection of how monstrous his bat could be, or do you buy into reports stating the Astros believe he could play LF?
Keith Law: Dude can hit.

KPB: What do you like about Logan Warmouth that makes you rank him higher than others ?
Keith Law: Again, don’t know or care where “others” rank him. I like his swing, his defense at short, and his makeup.

Dave53: The last fourteen outs recorded by Dillon Maples for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies have all been by strikeout. (Three hits, Three walks, and no runs over the five outings.) Can Maples contribute at the MLB level this year?
Keith Law: Heard he’s been up to 99 with a +++ slider. His K% in AA is 45% (27/60). Yeah, I think he can. They should nickname him “the Revenant” because his prospect status was deader than dead.

Darren: Have you read the reports on the recent differences in the making of MLB baseballs? How do changes get made to the specific size and make up of an MLB baseball and not get reported? This is critical information that should be made public, but yet it takes investigative reporting to discover. IMHO it seems like MLB management is trying to sneak moreoffense into the game artificially without telling the fans? Would like to hear your thoughts.
Keith Law: As Rob Arthur wrote in that great 538 piece I keep citing, the specifications for regulation baseballs are flexible enough that the ball can differ in tangible ways and still be considered okay.

addoeh: What time will you be on Waddle and Silvy this afternoon to talk about Quintana for Jimenez/Cease?
Keith Law: Good guess. 4:30 CT.

Norman: How far has Corey Ray fallen in your eyes, and with the good news on his arm and the incredible start to his pro career (albeit in rookie league) was Keston Hiura anywhere close to your top 50?
Keith Law: Ray is well out of the top 50, and Hiura was not close. He doesn’t really have a position right now.

TP: Do off the field issues involving a prospect’s family members impact his draft status or standing with an organization?
Keith Law: It may have hurt Groome in the draft last year; there were a lot of rumors about bad makeup, and I think most folks knew there was at least one family member involved with drugs, but I don’t know how much that drove Groome down to pick 12 – or if it was just general concern about a HS pitcher. I know a lot of false stories were out there about him last spring and even after he signed.

Beau Burrows: Coming into the year Florial was all tools. Has his performance this year put him in the conversation for your top 50?
Keith Law: It’s a long path from setup to contact, and it shows in the 30%+ strikeout rate. I think he’s still intriguing, but he wasn’t a consideration at all for the 50.

Greg P: What’s the outlook for Kyle Zimmer? I know he is pitching again, but will his health ever let him get to the majors and will it be as a reliever if he does?
Keith Law: They’re giving him so many days off between outings that I’m not sure how he could pitch as a major-league reliever.

Formica: Do what extent do you care about this juiced ball stuff?
Keith Law: I care if it’s affecting player outcomes. If certain pitchers are struggling with the transition because the ball is different, that’s a real issue, not just for my work but for the work done by the people I know in front offices and scouting departments too.

Chris A: Do you see any reasonable, wholesale changes that can be made to the minor league system to make it better for players? Apart from just increasing salaries, is there something grander that could be done?
Keith Law: Pay them a fair wage (and comply with minimum wage laws). Restore the old rule 5 rules. Tie minor league free agency to age rather than service time, so college players don’t have to wait till they’re 27 or 28 to get there.

EC: Thanks for the top 50 list and all the content you produce. My question is about that content, which appears here, on Paste, on BBC America, and other places outside of ESPN. Is this something that you had to negotiate for? Or are you allowed to do your own thing as long as it isn’t directly competing with other ESPN content?
Keith Law: Short answer is that my contract allows me to write non-sports content for other outlets. I couldn’t write about sports for anyone else without ESPN’s express permission, and in that case, they would be within their rights to withhold it.

Anthony: Years back I was leaning into the anti vax movement but eventually settled into the “spread them out” camp. Looking at the article you post was one of the biggest reasons I came to my senses and moved on from any anti vax sentiments. I truly believe conversation is the key to changing minds, as headstrong as some are. Thanks
Keith Law: I don’t think I’ll ever change the minds of the delusional lunatics in the anti-vax camp. I want there to be plenty of pro-science, pro-vaccination information and commentary out there for anyone who comes into the fray with questions. Otherwise they’ll just hear the idiots.

Matt: If Judge and Stanton can’t hit a baseball 565 feet, can we stop pretending that Mickey Mantle did it?
Keith Law: I said this on Twitter the other day and it applies to Josh Gibson too. Unless the winds were 40 mph blowing out or the ball wasn’t actually a baseball, then no, it didn’t happen.

Nolan: Here’s something that’s been gnawing at me: as good of a job as the White Sox seem to be doing of facilitating their rebuild, how in the holy hell did the Shields/Tatis swap happen? Reports on Tatis seemed positive almost immediately after they traded him, and now he seems to be a budding star. Shouldn’t the Sox have had the best read on him? It’s not like they were going after a huge trade target, and had to include him. They gave him up for a starter who is essentially cooked now and was essentially cooked at the time.
Keith Law: I think that if Tatis had just started playing anywhere before the deal they wouldn’t have done it. He slipped through the internal cracks, which isn’t an excuse, but it’s a reason.

Chris: Now that the Chicago teams set a price, is Gray for Fisher, Perez/Whitley, plus a low end lottery ticket too heavy, too light, or juuuuuuuust right?
Keith Law: That’s an awful lot.

Brian: Now that’s he’s healthy, what kind of player can chavis end up being? what does he need to continue to work on?
Keith Law: Defense is still a big question for me. Also not sold on the approach vs better pitching, but we’ll get a better read on that now that he’s in AA.

Joe: Keith, how concerned are you about the underwhelming seasons of Moniak and Rutherford?
Keith Law: quite concerned, for different reasons – Rutherford because he’s already 20, Moniak because he really doesn’t like left-handed pitching at all.

Little Jerry Seinfeld: What are the Braves doing with these aggressive promotions? Austin Riley to AA?? He’s struggling at high A. Why move up Acuna so quickly ? There’s not even a spot for him on the ML outfield.
Keith Law: Riley to AA makes absolutely no sense. That’s like the Yanks promoting Mateo after a .290 OBP in high-A. I know it’s not just about statistical benchmarks, but don’t you want to reward good performance and avoid rewarding bad performance?

Grant: Keith – How much is proximity to majors factored into these new ranks? I ask because Hunter Greene over Brent Honeywell provides an interesting debate!
Keith Law: Does it? Greene has way more upside than almost any pitcher in the minors. Honeywell is closer to major-league value.

Nate: Quintana get about what you thought or more than you expected?
Keith Law: Given how much I believe in Eloy, I’d say it’s about what I thought.

Dave: Love what you do for the fan’s Klaw!Now that Jimenez and Cease have moved south, does that impact their ranking in any way? Is organization a factor in your ranking?
Keith Law: It is not. Jimenez was #5 this morning, and he’s still #5 now (but we’ve updated the article and logo).

Dougie Jones: Do the White Sox now have the #1 system?
Keith Law: I don’t think I’d put them over Atlanta, which has so much more depth (7 guys on my top 50, and the list keeps on going). But they might be #2. I haven’t done a ton of work on that.

Cam: What are your biggest concerns with Triston McKenzie? Could he potentially be an ace?
Keith Law: That he has to walk around the storm grate or he’ll slip through the bars.

Joe: Yankees only had 1 Top 50 prospect, which isn’t the worst thing since a lot of their top talent has lost eligibility, but is it a concern to you that they don’t have enough top end talent? I assume that they have at least 3 back end Top 100 between Rutherford, Frazier, and Sheffield.
Keith Law: Frazier isn’t eligible, as I said above, but Kaprielian would be somewhere there, and I think Adams would be too. Florial I discussed above, but I think the jury is still out on him.

Andrew: Yordan Alvarez sure shot up quick. He says he models his swing after Hosmer. Do you see any similarity in that comp? More power potential (I hope)?
Keith Law: Looked like it (more power, now and future) to me.

John: I realize its sss but Royce Lewis is posting huge numbers in rookie ball, any reason not to move him to Cedar Rapids (low-A)?
Keith Law: You’re proposing a two-level jump for an 18-yo after 13 games. I don’t agree with that.

Chris: I am guessing Royce Lewis is SSS but I am guessing he is top 75? Could you see him top 50 at years end?
Keith Law: Probably top 75, based on draft ranking. Still playing short, and I don’t believe he can stay there. (If I thought he had even a 50/50 shot at staying at short, he’d have been a top 50 prospect.)

Andy: Why is there no baseball today? This would be a great day to do make up games or even schedule games to allow an off day later this season.
Keith Law: Union wanted the extra off day. I can’t blame them.

Grant: Walker Buehler and Mitch Keller close by on the list – Seems like Buehler’s stuff is more impressive, what does Keller do well?
Keith Law: Keller has been up to 99 before, so I dispute the premise of your question. He’s also got a better build/frame.

Paddy: Why is Robles ranked higher than Acuna? Acuna seems to be a better hitter and has played at higher levels?
Keith Law: I dispute that he’s a better hitter, and he’s played at higher levels because they’re rushing him up the ladder. I think Robles has a better approach and is presently a better defensive CF.

Chris: Hot take on the trade?
Keith Law: I don’t do hot takes.

Neema: Do you think there’s >20% chance that AJ Puk makes the necessary improvement to become a Top-10 prospect?
Keith Law: I’d probably take the under on that. I rarely have more than 3 pitchers in my top 10, and I don’t feel like i could see him as a top 3 pitching prospect.

Jack: Was Alec Hansen close to making it ? If not on the list, has he surpassed Lopez and Fulmer in the system?
Keith Law: I have had Hansen over those two (who project as relievers for me) all along.

Paddy: Why aren’t you high on Jon Duplantier? You can’t argue with his numbers!
Keith Law: I can indeed: He’s a 22-yo college product in low-A. And it’s not huge stuff.

Amy: I was a little surprised to see Groome ahead of Greene. What was the (small) separator and who is more likely to reach a no 2ish?
Keith Law: Groome has the out-pitch curveball. I think they’re both likely to get to #2 or better status.

Chris: Were any July 2 guys in contention this year?
Keith Law: No. I think I’ve ranked exactly one July 2nd 16-year-old on my top 100s in the last five years, Maitan, who by all accounts was an exceptional prospect.

PJ: When Bour has a breakout year you indicate it’s a fluke. When Kingery has a huge power spike is it a fluke or him getting stronger, older, etc. When’s the cutoff on determining that?
Keith Law: Bour is 29. And I don’t believe I ever called it a “fluke.”

Salty: Missed you at Lakewood by a day a couple weeks ago – wanted to check out Sixto live. Would you rank the following based on pure stuff alone Groome/Keller/Sixto? Of the three, does Keller have the more likely chance to become a #1/#2, or is Groome on the same level?
Keith Law: Sixto probably has a top three fastball in all of the minors. He hit 100 six times in 46 or 47 fastballs last night, and it’s got a little life to it. Groome and Keller have way better breaking stuff.

Tracy: Book question: you mentioned Andersonville in a previous post. Is that on your reading docket or not?
Keith Law: Eventually. I have seven Pulitzer winners left, and that’s one of them. It looks like a beast, though, so I’m procrastinating.

Tim: Saw you at Lakewood last night, and noticed you did not stand for God Bless America. I think the requirement of one, let alone two patriotic songs is ridiculous, but do you ever get criticized by fans for doing so or worry about it impacting your employment?
Keith Law: That’s correct. I don’t care if folks don’t like it. You stand if you want to. I’ll refrain from standing if I want to.

Matt: Did Christin Stewart get any consideration? The power seems to be legit, and after a slow start, he’s up to .268/.346/.533 in Erie.
Keith Law: Power is legit but I think he’s a 45 glove in left.

JR: You called it on the podcast yesterday – the Cubs would look to trade for a young, controllable starter. I’m assuming we will get a write up from you on the trade at some point?
Keith Law: I’m still waiting for a link over here.
Keith Law: Whoop, they never sent it to me, but it’s up.

Dom: How do you rate players who will obviously make the majors at some point, i.e. someone like Kyle Holder who fields well enough to at least be a UTIL, versus objectively higher ceiling guys who may never make it?
Keith Law: Huge tilt in favor of the latter. I think the Holders of the world are relatively easy to find. Not value-less, but low value.

Aubrey: Considering the wide variability apparently in what Derek Fisher could be, is it safe to say some organizations might consider him a future star, and value him accordingly? Or his potential floor would temper that for pretty much any team?
Keith Law: Probably fair. I think questions about his defense and how much contact he’ll make in the majors will ding his trade value, but he’d still be a major piece in a larger trade.

Jake : Brewers prospect most likely to crack your next rankings update?
Keith Law: The next update will be 100 names in January. I imagine there will be a half-dozen or so Brewers on there.
Keith Law: OK, I need to wrap this up and get some other work done. Thank you as always for reading and for all of your questions – I had hundreds more than I could answer this week. I should be back next Thursday or Friday, depending on travel, for another chat. Come see me in Harrisburg at Midtown Scholar at 3 pm on Saturday, and at Books Inc in Berkeley CA on Wednesday at 7:30 pm!

The Vorrh & the Erstwhile.

The British author-painter B. Catling’s dark, surrealist novels The Vorrh and its sequel, The Erstwhile, reflect his background as an artist while also drawing on the traditions of magical realism from postcolonial literary lights like Gabriel García Márquez. Set in in a fictional German colony in central Africa between the two world wars, where the forest known as the Vorrh functions as a Gaia-like sentient entity, the novels explore an expansive tapestry of characters and settings that Catling manages to weave together in totally unexpected ways.

I read The Vorrh, the first book in the trilogy (with book three, The Cloven, due out next May), back in January of 2016, while I was out with a respiratory infection that nearly put me in the hospital, with fevers of 102-103 every day for almost a full week, so I never reviewed the book here and probably don’t remember it as well as I think I do … although if ever there was a novel to be read while feverish and slightly delusional, The Vorrh is it. Catling spends a lot of that book building his world, including the mythology of the forest, which can cause people to lose their memories after just a few hours inside its boundaries, and the real/unreal city of Essenwald located at its edge, where German authorities and businessmen live and attempt to exploit the area’s natural resources, a city relocated brick-by-brick from the homeland. The novel introduces many major characters who’ll appear again in The Erstwhile, including Ishmael, the cyclops-man of uncertain origin; Ghertrude and Cyrena, two sheltered women of Essenwald; and the Mutter family, who maintain a house with mysterious denizens in its basement. The first novel also introduces Williams, the explorer who seeks to traverse the Vorrh but loses much in the process, and Tsungali, the native who seeks to kill Williams for his own murky reasons. Little is clear, by design, including the ways in which these characters’ stories will meet, recombine, and separate over the course of the trilogy.

The Erstwhile starts to elucidate some of what’s happening in the Vorrh and what the Vorrh itself seems to be doing outside of the city, including the beings of the book’s title, fallen angels in semi-human form who have been forgotten by God and live bizarre, parallel existences around the forest, with several of them now residing in European hospitals where they’re studied by researchers. Sidrus, a secondary character in book one where he tries to protect Williams from Tsungali, takes on a larger role here as he seeks to avenge himself against his enemies, including Ishmael. William Blake, himself a painter and poet, appears briefly on its pages, as his painting Nebuchadnezzar adorns the book’s cover and, it turns out, is a painting of one of the Erstwhile. Ghertrude gives birth, only to find that the basement-dwelling Kin have other plans for the child. Ishmael finds himself called upon by the city’s business leaders to try to find the Limboia, native timber workers whose minds have been erased by years of working in the Vorrh, but who disappeared without a trace some years earlier, because Ishmael is the only man known to have spent significant time in the forest without losing his mind. We also meet the aged German theology professor Hector Schumann, who becomes a central character as he meets the various Erstwhile living in facilities in Germany and England, and whose connection to these beings and the Vorrh itself remains a mystery even at the end of book two.

Catling has woven himself quite a story through two-thirds of the series, one that I’m still not entirely convinced he can complete in satisfying fashion in the third book given how involved and strange the various threads have been so far. The first book could stand on its own because he’d created a new world that was credible and yet impossible, with richly drawn characters and evocative prose that gave depth and color to his otherworldly setting. Crafting a coherent story with this many characters across multiple locales is another matter, however, and The Erstwhile moves everything forward without much resolution – which may come in The Cloven, although the ending of The Erstwhile was a particularly unsatisfying given how the characters got to that point (including a needlessly graphic torture-murder). That specific event at the book’s conclusion needs further elucidation in book three, as does Schumann’s role in all of this, and where the child Rowena fits in, and what exactly the Vorrh is trying to achieve for itself. Catling has certainly set up a difficult task for the third book, but so much of these first two books compelled me to keep reading that I’m going to continue to see just how he manages to resolve all of these plots.

Next up: I just finished Barry Estabrook’s expose of the modern pork industry, Pig Tales, and have begun my friend Jay Jaffe’s upcoming The Cooperstown Casebook, due out July 25th.

Miami eats.

My recap of the 2017 Futures Game is now up for Insiders.

Downtown Miami itself is … not that great, really. The city was badly overmatched by the traffic and crowds in town for the weekend, with cops stationed at many corners but not doing anything to direct traffic or stop the many drivers doing illegal things (right turn from the left lane, blowing through red lights). I ended up spending most of my free time in the artsy Wynwood area, which seems to be the booming neighborhood for food, bars, and culture.

Lung Yai Thai Tapas is not really a tapas place, but it does indeed appear to be a Thai place, and I’d read several glowing reviews before my trip. I also rarely eat Thai food at or near home, since my wife is allergic to shellfish and Thai cuisine has a lot of hidden shellfish (oyster sauce, shrimp paste) in its recipes. Lung Yai’s lunch menu had mostly familiar dishes, so I went with the green papaya salad and with the first dish in the ‘chef’s recommendations’ section, khao soi gai, a northern Thai noodle dish served like a soup, with a coconut milk-curry sauce over boiled egg noodles and chicken, with crispy fried noodles on top. My experience with northern Thai dishes is pretty limited, but the khao soi had a huge umami base with the natural sweetness of the coconut and the flavors of yellow curry without any heat. It’s a tiny spot, with maybe 15 seats around a long counter, in a rundown neighborhood, but the food justified the trip out of my way. I’ve seen comments online that there’s a soup-Nazi atmosphere here, with rules you have to follow, but service was friendly and attentive, and if there were unwritten rules I guess I didn’t break any.

Kyu is an uber-trendy see-and-be-seen sort of restaurant that happens to serve great food, although it certainly wasn’t my sort of scene, and the front of house staff had a little bit of that “we’re doing you a favor by letting you eat here” vibe that drives me up a wall. But the food itself was worth the wait. Their duck breast “burnt ends” is really just a slow-smoked duck breast that develops a bbq char on the outside of the skin and the texture of a high-quality pork chop in the center despite being cooked through (which would ordinarily dry a duck breast out). I think there was five-spice in the rub and/or the sauce it’s served on, which, by the way, is all it’s served on: you get a large duck breast cut into slices and that’s it. I had ordered one side, the grilled baby bok choy with crispy garlic and chiles, which is the best bok choy dish I’ve ever had – garlic and chile are the two main flavor affinities for bok choy anyway, but this version had multiple textures and really crushed the salt-spice component. The garlic was there but didn’t overpower the dish, which I think is often a copout for dark green vegetable preparations. Kyu is particularly well known for their coconut cake, with what I think is a cream cheese-based icing (it was sweet and a little tangy, not just straight sweet), served with a scoop of coconut ice cream, and I can vouch that 1) it was amazing in every aspect and 2) when it showed up there was suddenly a lot of attention from the folks sitting and standing around me.

Panther Coffee is the best-known third-wave roaster in south Florida, maybe in all of Florida, and they do both outstanding espresso and some unique varietals for pour-over preparations. The espresso was bright and balancced with a ton of body, just lacking that sweetness that some of my favorite espressos (Blue Bottle in particular) offer. For a pour-over, I tried a Tanzanian that had a lot of berry and stone fruit notes but not the citrus of a lot of East African beans. Panther also has a big selection of high-quality pastries – I had a croissant, because coffee on an empty stomach is not a pleasant experience for me – from area bakeries, including some donuts that looked like little works of art.

I had drinks on Sunday night with longtime friend Will Leitch, which we realized is probably the longest conversation we’ve ever had in person despite knowing each other for a really long time. (I first met him when he did a reading for his book God Save the Fan in LA, so that had to be the spring of 2008.) We met up at the bar portion of Edge Steak & Bar inside the Four Seasons, which is actually not priced like a Four Seasons hotel restaurant might be and has a great bar menu of small plates as well as an enormous whiskey selection if you’re inclined to that sort of spirit. I tried two dishes – the bay scallop crudo with grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, and cucumbers, which had the perfect acid/sweet ratio; and the tostones with an avocado spread that was kind of a mild guacamole, also very good but on the heavy side. I can also verify that two of their Boulevardier cocktails, in essence a negroni with rye, were enough that I was glad I hadn’t driven to the hotel.

I left first thing Monday morning, but if I’d had one more dinner in Miami I would have tried to get to Niu Kitchen, a tapas place specializing in regional Spanish dishes, with jamón iberico and boquerones on the menu. That’ll have to wait for a scouting trip down there next year.

The Beguiled.

Sofia Coppola won the Best Director prize at this year’s Cannes festival for The Beguiled, making her just the second woman ever to win that honor (which is sort of an ‘honorable mention’ next to the Palme d’Or, which has only gone to a woman once in 70 years) and I would expect making her a very likely nominee for the same Oscar category. The film didn’t quite live up to that kind of billing for me, but is still very good, a thought-provoking, moody, well-shot and extremely well-acted movie that suffers just slightly from a thin and not entirely credible plot.

The story takes place in 1863 at a Virginia ‘seminary’ for girls, really more of a boarding and finishing school, run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) with help from teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst), with five pupils remaining after others’ parents have pulled them out. The girls are also the school’s staff, as the slaves also fled the fighting in the area, with troops passing by the large estate that houses the school regularly over the course of the film’s 94 minutes. As the story opens, one of the youngest students finds Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier unable to walk, and brings him back to the house, where Martha decides to take him in and help him recover from a bullet wound to his leg before turning him over to Confederate troops or even passing Union soldiers. The introduction of a male contaminant into the all-female household has some predictable results, as sexual tensions and internecine rivalries spring up between the women, with the younger girls all flirting or just plain acting silly while the oldest three – Martha, Edwina, and Alicia – show signs of real attraction to the convalescent, who, by the way, isn’t real keen to get back to the front himself. Of course, this can’t abide, and eventually the pot simmers over and someone gets hurt, which turns the movie from a genteel and often funny look at gender dynamics into a dark, psychological thriller that pits the Corporal against the women and flips the power balance back and forth in the last half-hour of the film.

The performances sell this movie more than the story does; I am no expert at spotting movie twists, but the moment the key element in the story’s resolution appeared on screen, I knew what Coppola was showing us. But the three main women and Farrell all deliver right-tail level performances in their roles, especially Kidman and Dunst, whose characters have more nuance than Fanning, who is just frighteningly seductive despite rarely doing anything beyond looking at McBurney or the camera. (It kills me that the voice of Mei from My Neighbor Totoro is now making sexy eyes in grown-up movies.) Martha is the head of the school and the house, a woman in control who confesses to the corporal how exhausted she is by the role and, I presume, by the lack of anyone else in whom she might confide. Her attraction to the patient is slower to build and more reluctant, while Edwina exposes herself as the more miserable character, one whose romantic innocence doesn’t line up with her worldly upbringing. Both Kidman and Dunst fill out the corners of these characters with little aspects like Kidman’s clipped speech or Dunst’s mournful, almost haggard expressions, communicating their attractions to McBurney almost entirely through non-verbal and still era-appropriate body language and gestures.

Farrell’s character is less nuanced – it becomes clear after a bit that he’s playing the women individually, altering his language and tone to flatter each of them, even the children who are just mesmerized by the presence of a man, but it’s only after the major plot event around the two-thirds mark that Farrell gets to do something more than turning on the charm. This character has been deeply affected by what he’s seen and suffered at the front, but none of that surfaces until it’s provoked. Between In Bruges, The Lobster, and now The Beguiled, Farrell’s certainly shown remarkable acting prowess along with a willingness to take on some unconventional roles.

The Beguiled is also remarkable to look at, with lush sets and hazy, dark lighting that accentuates the moody nature of the script and its characters. The house is dim in the daytime and forbidding at night, while the characters are often surrounded by a slight fog or smoke that might be coming from nearby battles (we frequently hear gun and cannon fire in the distance). There are some exceptional close shots showing detail in the dresses and jewelry worn by the women, as well as some tremendous shots outside the house in the garden and the nearby forest. The two large scenes at the dinner table are incredibly evocative between the candlelight, the details of the table itself – even something as simple as one of the girls pouring wine from a decanter – and the visual transformation of the girls as they all get dressed up to impress their guest.

The story itself is based on a novel (originally titled A Painted Devil) by Thomas Cullinan and was previously filmed in 1971, and while Coppola has made a film that puts the women more at the center of the story, the plot remains a little thin. I mentioned the predictable ending above, and there’s also a gun that disappears and suddenly reappears as needed in a different character’s possession later in the film, with no explanation of how that happened other than that it was necessary for the plot. Edwina’s actions in the final third of the film also seem to come out of nowhere, or at least to be incongruous with what happened before in a way that I don’t think gives her character enough emotional consistency to seem real.

The Beguiled works because of the performances and the visual style, enough that I’d recommend it if you can enjoy a movie that brings you something beyond plot. If your tastes in movies are story-driven, this one just didn’t hold me; it feels like a short story stretched into 94 minutes rather than a novel condensed into that window. It lurches too much from A to B to C for me to give it a full recommendation, perhaps a result of my own obsession with plot constructions in literature, so that I left feeling like I would praise the actors involved for weeks but could give the entire plot with spoilers on one side of a 3×5 index card.

Stick to baseball, 7/8/17.

For Insiders this week, I previewed the Futures Game and broke down some of the worst omissions from the All-Star rosters. I held a Klawchat on Friday.

On the non-baseball front, I reviewed the high-strategy boardgame Great Western Trail for Paste this week. I also have a new piece up at Vulture looking at how the TV show Orphan Black has used boardgames as an integral part of several episodes.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball; sales spiked this month between Father’s Day and the positive review in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Miami, Books and Books, today at 3 pm
* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

If you’re with an independent bookstore and would like to host a signing, please contact Danielle Bartlett at HarperCollins; we’re trying to accommodate everyone we can within my work schedule. I’m talking to one store about a signing/talk in Brooklyn (along with another author) in August or early September.

And now, the links…

Klawchat, 7/7/17.

New content: I reviewed the boardgame Great Western Trail for Paste this week, and previewed the Futures Game for Insiders. I also have a new piece up at Vulture looking at how the TV show Orphan Black has used boardgames as an integral part of several episodes.

I’ll be at Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, on Saturday at 3 pm to discuss my new book Smart Baseball and sign copies for readers.

Keith Law: Klawchat: One man on a lonely platform.

Eddy: If we want to say hi during futures game, when would be the best time? And where?
Keith Law: After BP is done, which is usually about an hour before game time, I’ll find a spot on the concourse to meet folks. If anyone has a suggestion for a good location – I’ve never set foot in Loria’s Boondoggle before – I’m all ears.

Jack: Who among the A’s young position players is likely to see success in the big leagues? Other than Barreto and Chapman, are any of Pinder/Healy/Olson/Brugman/Maxwell likely to be MLB regulars or better?
Keith Law: I would not bet on any of those five guys, individually, becoming average big leaguers.

Philip: What have you heard about Logan Allen’s stuff this year? Could he merit offseason top 100 consideration?
Keith Law: I’ve heard it’s been good like it was last year, but if I say he’ll get consideration for the top 100, that’s kind of a non-answer because I consider hundreds of players.

Jim: Is there a way to read your work without receiving gay porn in the mail?
Keith Law: I don’t care for or about the body issue, but characterizing non-explicit photos as “gay porn” is a little dramatic.

Shawn: Does Forrest Whitley have ace potential? Ken Rosenthal said he’s hearing that Whitley is basically untouchable in trade with the Astros.
Keith Law: He’s got pretty high upside, clearly a top 50 guy at this point. Hard to call any teenaged pitcher “untouchable” given how fragile arms are.

Greg: As a fan following GCL/AZL leagues, I know there’s not a ton of value in the stats — if any at all. Is there anything of value in the numbers of a player in those leagues?
Keith Law: The problem is the wide variance in levels of competition makes the stats almost impossible to interpret without scouting context. Look at Dante Bichette Jr’s GCL line from 2011: he was 18, hit .342/.446/.505 with a strikeout rate around 16%, and has been awful ever since. In 900 PA in AA he’s got a .233/.310/.343 line.

Hank: Max Fried has been horrible this year, and there are reports of the stuff not being as good this season. Have you heard anything?
Keith Law: I have heard multiple reports that the stuff is every bit as good as it was last year. I have no idea where you’re getting that info.

Coolguy: Thought’s on Austin Hays?
Keith Law: I think average regular, trending upwards as he continues to hit better pitching.

Fred: Bellinger’s HR production has dropped significantly the last couple of weeks. Realistically, the previous pace was not sustainable, and I assume the league has made adjustments, and now its his turn to do same. Given that the overall AB quality looks good, he should start hitting them out again in time, agree? Also, what kind of ceiling for him is realistic?
Keith Law: I think he’s a regular 30-HR guy who’ll have a few 40+ seasons, with strong OBPs and ridiculous defense at first. MVP type of player.

Jshep12: Yankee brass anonymously criticizing Bird for being hurt. Warranted or are they jerks?
Keith Law: Jerks. Even if it’s true, don’t slag your players to the press. And put your fucking name on it if you do it, you cowards.

Bill: Do you believe Maikel Franco will ever be good enough to start on a good team?
Keith Law: I think he still has the potential but he’s shown no adjustments in almost two years now.

Coolguy: If Carter Kieboom comes back soon and continues to hit could he still make to p100 lists, or has he missed too much time?
Keith Law: There are a lot of ifs in there that make it hard to answer. Even if he misses the rest of the season, it might be difficult to justify putting him on my top 100, but lack of information isn’t the same as negative information. He would still be a good prospect, but I would be working with less evidence (stats and scouting) to justify a high ranking.

Matt: Does Joe Gray have 1-1 potential
Keith Law: Yes, from what I’ve seen/heard.

Esteban: Is Daniel Brito a riser for you? Is he someone you’ve gotten any eyes on?
Keith Law: Yes, I saw him last week. Completely overmatched. Very interesting projection, but he looked like a kid playing grown-ups.

Stomper: Austin Beck is off to a putrid start in Rookie ball – be concerned? SSS? Other factors like an 18 y/o living on his own? All of the above?
Keith Law: Just the contact rate – he never faced good pitching as an amateur, missing the 2016 summer due to injury and playing weak competition this spring (I saw his school win a 15-0 game via mercy rule in 3 innings, and he got 4 PA). But he could whiff 40% of the time this summer and still end up a good player – it depends on whether he can make any adjustments to his approach now that he’s 1) swinging a wood bat and 2) facing guys with better stuff on a semi-regular basis.

Rob: Favorite QOTSA album? Era Vulgaris is last, but I can see an argument for every other album of theirs being best.
Keith Law: I don’t know that I’ve ever loved any of their albums start to finish; I tend to like 3-5 tracks from every record. Era Vulgaris had the most songs that I liked, but I don’t know if any song from that record makes my QotSA top five.

AlmostSmartBaseball: Eloy Jimenez untouchable for you?
Keith Law: No. If you can get a young, high-end starter with some years of control left, you trade him. And I think Eloy is a future superstar, too.

Mike: What’s been your assessment of Alex Wood? Is he this good or is this not sustainable?
Keith Law: He’s got very little history of health, and is now throwing harder than before, so I think he’ll continue to dominate as long as he can stay on the mound but am skeptical that he can do that all year.

Benjamin: What would you say is Royce Lewis’ ceiling?
Keith Law: A 60 overall player as a CF – a sometime All-Star who adds value on defense, with his bat, and especially on the bases.

James Williams: Any suggestions you could give to a 23 year old trying to figure out what they want to do in life?
Keith Law: Find something you love to do and see if there’s any potential for a career in it. Many people don’t get that opportunity at all, but you’re young enough to give it one shot.

Jerry: I got rid of my cable specifically because of ESPN. Chord cutting and ESPN’s general crapiness are not independent of one another. What’s it like to work for a failing company?
Keith Law: You seem to have some issues, not the least of which is your atrocious command of the language. ESPN isn’t failing and Disney, which is my actual employer (my paychecks say Disney, my benefits are Disney), is thriving.

Benjamin: What is Brent Rooker’s potential?
Keith Law: I think there’s a low probability of him hitting enough high-level pitching to be a regular, but that potential is there – he could be a regular at 1b/dh. The swing itself is fine and he’s strong as heck.

Nick: Bobby Bradley seems to be getting better as the year goes on, any chance he makes enough contact in the majors to be a starting 1B?
Keith Law: Any chance, yes, but a low one. Didn’t look good when I saw him last month, especially in terms of picking up pitches.

James: Do you think players like Fulmer and Aaron Nola will be available at the deadline for huge returns?
Keith Law: I would be surprised if either was traded.

Nate : Keith, Chicago media is pumping Collins defensive improvement. Have you heard anything to validate this?
Keith Law: Not at all.

Kris: What are the chances of Aaron Blair and Jake Thompson regaining their footing on possible MLB careers?
Keith Law: I’d give Blair more of a chance than Thompson, but both have lost stuff, not just results, and I don’t know why or when to forecast a pitcher recovering lost velocity.

John: I have read several articles about the ball 100% being juiced this year. What say you?
Keith Law: I interviewed Rob Arthur (538) on the BBTN pod yesterday, and he mentioned the Ringer article on the same topic. The evidence is quite clear. The ball is different, enough to explain more than half of the rise in HR.

Todd Boss: How is Seth Romero getting an overslot deal? He has no college team to return to and all these well-known character issues. What leverage does he have?
Keith Law: I think some teams told players pre-draft, “we’ll give you $x if you get to our pick, so tell teams above us you won’t sign.” That’s not legal, of course, but everyone does it and I don’t see any harm at all in it. However, if you picked above Washington and liked Romero, wouldn’t you just take him and dare him to turn you down? Maybe give him Matt Harrington’s phone number? Or Karsten Whitson’s?

Jon: Any concerns over Austin Meadows’ injury history?
Keith Law: Yes, very much so.

Jon Orr: What’s Jack Flaherity’s upside and when can Cards fans expect to see him up?
Keith Law: It’s mid-rotation/average starter sort of stuff, with plus command. I would like to see him Sunday vs the good World bats to see how guys who haven’t seen him before seem to pick up the ball out of his hand; he’s always had a very clean delivery, but I don’t know how much deception is there. I do like him quite a bit, just not sure how high the upside is.

Brian: Bashing JP Crawford and downgrading his potential has become a common media theme in recent weeks. But does his performance since a week on the DL indicate that he’s a young guy who was pressing and just needed a break and is now reverting to the mean for someone with his natural talent?
Keith Law: I can’t and won’t speak to what anyone else might have said about him. I can tell you I am getting consistent, negative feedback from scouts who’ve seen him, saying he’s swinging too far uphill and isn’t playing the same caliber of defense as in the past.

Jon V : What are your early thoughts on Zimmer at the major league level?
Keith Law: I think he’s been as expected – solid vs RHP, atrocious vs LHP.

fortekay: Klaw! Thomas Nido made the futures game and Pat Mazeika is having a big offensive year (even if he’s a bit older for the league). Either long term options at Catcher?
Keith Law: Nido at least as a backup. Mazeika less. Hasn’t held up since the hot start and he’s too old for A-ball.

Jake: Buxton seems to have figured some things out. Swing looks shorter, eliminating some holes. Have you seen the changes and do you think they are sustainable?
Keith Law: I do think so – better swing decisions, better contact in the zone.

John: Hey Keith. Anything new to report on Alec Hansen. Was looking at his numbers and he is just dominating guys. But that is reading the stat line. Do you think he has legit #1 upside or more like 2 or 3?
Keith Law: He dominated guys in low-A, where he was last year, and has been fair in 3 high-A starts. Stuff is huge, command not there yet.

Evan: Is it time to start worrying about Thomas Szapucki with his injuries?
Keith Law: No.

Mike Mitchell: Is there an argument for the Astros to do nothing? They have 5 of the top 57 in Baseball America’s update. The playoffs are a crapshoot. Long window. Why shorten it?
Keith Law: I think the argument for pushing now is that they may never be this good again in the window, even if they have other good years. It’s rare to be in this comfortable a position in July, so Luhnow can patch around the edges and focus on acquisitions likely to improve their October odds.

Your fan: Healy not likely to be an average MLB regular? that’s a bit of a surprise……
Keith Law: It’s a surprise that a bad defensive 3b with a .304 OBP isn’t an average regular?

Matthew: Can we talk about Jose Ramirez? You seemed to be higher on him than most (IIRC, he was on a “just missed” top 100 list), but I don’t think anyone saw this coming, right? Last 365 days, 144 wRC+???
Keith Law: He was on a just missed list, then wasn’t eligible the next year when he might have made the list, but no, I would never have forecasted this kind of star-level offense from him. Thought he’d be a good player, but if I thought he’d be this, I would have been way more aggressive.

Paul: I’ve been really excited reading the box scores for Gohara this year. I watched him for the first time last night, and I’d read that he was large, but he’s even bigger than I thought. Can that body work and hold up as a big league starter?
Keith Law: I’m not concerned about the body as much as the fact that he’s been throwing so hard at such a young age. I guess eventually he could have knee and back issues from his size – he looks like CC Sabathia already – but for now it’s just arm health and command that I’d focus on .

Derek: Brian Goodwin has been playing well at the MLB level recently. Has the former top-75 prospect regained some of his luster? What do you expect going forward? Related, who do you like more for the Nats in 2018 – Goodwin or Michael A. Taylor (who also has been hitting well, though may be coasting on some BABIP fuel). MAT can clearly stick in CF. Can Goodwin? So far the arm looks plus but what about Goodwin’s range?
Keith Law: I think there’s some SSS going on with Goodwin, but at least he’s turning on good fastballs again. I’d like to know where his speed went – dude was a plus runner as an amateur. Would probably bet on Taylor over Goodwin going forward.

Derek: The Nats aren’t foolish enough to give up Robles for a reliever, are they? Soto, too, has to be untouchable in a reliever trade, right?
Keith Law: Don’t think Robles is going anywhere. Soto’s intriguing but the guy has barely played this year and is still on the DL (now rehabbing in the GCL). If he’s untouchable too, what do they have left to make a big move? I think that’s tantamount to saying you’re not going to swing a Miller/Chapman type of trade.

Evan: What are you thoughts on Mets first rounder David Peterson?
Keith Law: Mid-rotation starter type. Big groundball guy, deception, average fastball, can really pitch – feel, command, control. Thought he was a little light for a first-round pick but I think the industry as a whole valued him in the top 20.

Joe: I’m assuming Ryan Mountcastle ends up in the OF but how good of a prospect would he be if he hypothetically played just average defense at SS?
Keith Law: If he were capable of playing average D at short he probably wouldn’t hit like he does.

Mike M: Is J.B. Bukauskas a top 100 guy? The Astros sure love drafting electric two-pitch guys and insisting on starting them.
Keith Law: He’ll probably be on the back of the list; anyone I’ve ranked in the top 10 in a draft class who has signed right away has made a subsequent top 100 barring something catastrophic (like surgery).

Ryan: I keep hearing Cards draft pick Fuller being referred to as “intriguing.” Do you have any additional insight on him?
Keith Law: I wrote him up in the Cards draft report. There’s some Larry Green comparisons there.

Jay: Planning a board game night with my 6 year old son and some of his friends. Some suggestions?
Keith Law: Ticket to Ride would be appropriate for that age. Mole Rats in Space is a great coop game that you could probably play with them, just giving them a little guidance.

BobbyL: Can Juan Soto make a jump into top 20 range by the end of the season
Keith Law: I said this last week too – people in general want their own prospects to be too high. Look at the typical top 20: it’s guys who are performing at a huge level for their ages, guys who were very high picks/big bonus kids, or otherwise guys with plus tools.

Logan: If you’re the Jays, 4.5 back in the WC, do you sell or buy at the deadline?
Keith Law: Probably sell.

Isaac: Have you had a chance to see Maitan yet, any initial reactions other than his original write ups. Obviously he just got in games, but hadn’t heard anything from extended
Keith Law: I haven’t. I think he’s played 2-3 games.

Al : Really enjoyed the podcast yesterday. You’re truly great in that format. What can your readers do to get you a regular podcast?
Keith Law: Thank you – it was great to be at the helm and to get back together with Eric. ESPN doesn’t run many podcasts, however; they’ve decided at a corporate level that it’s not an area for investment.

Matt: The Orioles appear to not be signing Conlon. How does that happen? Don’t they agree to a number prior to the selection?
Keith Law: Sometimes one side or the other changes their minds post-draft. Also, it sounds like they’re going to go way over for Cameron Bishop, a UC-Irvine starter who missed the whole spring with a strained oblique* but has been dealing on the Cape with an average fastball and two plus secondary pitches. (*Bishop strains his oblique and doesn’t pitch for four months. Clarke Schmidt at South Carolina strains his oblique, misses one start, comes back to throw 100+ pitches a few times and then blows out his elbow. Weird.)

Jason: Fair to say that the whole “voter fraud” phenomenon is the Rs way of trying to insulate against the coming demographic wave that (if they don’t change their message) is going to wash over them?
Keith Law: I interpret it as “we’re going to purge voter rolls of people who aren’t likely to vote for us.”

fortekay: Best Futures Game prospect no one has really heard of?
Keith Law: Yordan Alvarez.

Dave: How is Greene not signed yet? Chances he doesn’t sign?
Keith Law: Doesn’t matter until the deadline. I believe he’ll sign.

Larry: As a University of Florida baseball fan, I’m curious your thoughts on Brady McConnell. I know he was a top-100 draft prospect, but what kind of player is he?
Keith Law: More tools/athleticism than performance. Could develop into a first-rounder if he hits, but I saw a guy who couldn’t wait to swing at the first strike he saw.

John: There’s been plenty of talk about Rosario; but, how far away is Dom Smith? September? 2018? Thanks!
Keith Law: Ready this fall, but I’m sure the Mets will wait a good three or four more years just to be on the safe side.

AJ: Have you heard anything about Jesus Luzardo recently? Eric Longenhagen said he was throwing in the mid 90s.
Keith Law: I believe it. He was doing that pre-injury too.

Mark: Hi Keith – my sister is moving to Milan and I’m looking to get her some (translated) Italian novels as a parting gift. So far my ideas are The Betrothed (Manzoni), The Leopard (Tomasi), and Christ Stopped at Eboli (Levi). Do you have any (other) recommendations that give nice background/introduction on Italian/Milanese culture? Thanks!
Keith Law: Perhaps the Elena Ferrante novels? I also liked Alessandro Piperno’s books, but they are weird and in some ways a little testosterone-fueled like Portnoy’s Complaint (Roth is a clear influence).

Tye: Would someone like Stroman, Gray, or Archer be a reasonable get for the Twins?
Keith Law: It makes absolutely no sense for the Twins to trade prospects for major-league help right now.

Your fan: One thing that surprised me about your book is that you didn’t discuss the value of traditional scouting more as online you’re a big advocate for those skills.
Keith Law: I gave scouting a whole chapter in a book about analytics.

Will: Lucas Sims still a reliever for you?
Keith Law: Yes, more likely than starter.

Tye: Has Zack Granite changed his prospect status from fringe prospect to an actual one with his play this season?
Keith Law: No.

Mike M: K. Tucker, Franklin Perez and Martes for Gerrit Cole. Who says no?
Keith Law: Doubt the Astros would consider that. Tucker is ridiculously good for his age. Actually, so is Perez.

romorr: Cedric Mullins a future regular, or 4th OFer?
Keith Law: Probably a fourth OF but a real (nonzero) chance he’s a regular. Kind of undersized but strong for his build.

Morris: We all got a chuckle out of bookcase-gate. But it wasn’t really funny at all – the guy got on your case because he’s an Oregon State fan that didn’t like what you said about Luke Heimlich. That seems incredibly dangerous to me – the rush to defend someone who molested a girl aged 4-6 because he’s good at baseball.
Keith Law: I saw some of his other tweets about Heimlich and he was kind of a truther – not denying the crime, but handwaving it away as something that’s over, that no one should be concerned about going forward, which at the very least is a naive interpretation of events about which none of us knows very much at all.

Steve: How concerned are you over Anderson Espinoza’s lingering injury? How much of it is legitimate worry about a smaller pitcher who throws that hard, albeit with an easy delivery? How much might be the Padres just trying to manage his innings?
Keith Law: He’s not small, but I wonder if they’re delaying the inevitable here. He’s going to miss the entire summer anyway.

Scott: What should oakland do with Alonso? Is he an ok guy to offer something like 3/36 to?
Keith Law: Age 30, so no, I wouldn’t.

Steve: What do you think of the O’s strategy to sell off all of their international signing pool money?
Keith Law: I think it’s awful but it’s par for the course for that org. You can’t ignore an entire swath of the player pool and suffer no consequences.

Jason: Talk dirty to me about Fernando Tatis. Star or Superstar?
Keith Law: I would say ‘likely’ to star with a chance to be a superstar. Scouts are all in. I saw him in March and physically he reminds me a lot of Machado at that age.

Greg: Is it time for the Pirates to move Chad Kuhl to the bullpen?
Keith Law: If they have a better option for the spot, yes. I don’t think Kuhl can start, never did.

Johnny O: Chance Adams? I can only scout the stat line but he’s been promoted to AAA and jumped into BA’s midseason top 100. What have you seen/heard about him?
Keith Law: Performer, not big ceiling, get very mixed opinions from scouts, definitely a big league starter.

Nick: Thanks for the continued hard work, Keith. Have you hard anything more about Lucas Giolito’s mechanics and delivery?
Keith Law: Mechanics largely back to where they were and his velocity is up again. Just not consistent start to start like he needs to be.

Steve: I once hit a homerun in Little League the day after we got our flu shots. So flu shots must cause power breakouts. I’ll make a YouTube video and soon everyone will agree.
Keith Law: If you ever want to see some of the most facepalm-inducing arguments ever, check out that mammoth vaccine/anti-vax Twitter thread I’m on. The denialists are the best cherrypickers I’ve ever seen, on top of their innumeracy and inability to distinguish correlation from causation.

Devin: What should the Brewers do? Stand pat and see if they can still win the division?Trade a top 100 prospect for Quintana? Weird since they are technically still in a rebuild.
Keith Law: I think so. Can’t sell if you’re in first place, right? What a terrible message to the fans. But I wouldn’t buy, especially not with several major prospects (Ray, Clark, Erceg) having disappointing years.

Tom: So last year it was Brach, this year it’s LeMahieu… actually, my question is, why do you think Andrelton Simmons didn’t get any consideration for the AL team? If nothing else, he’s sporting a 3.4 WAR this year which makes him equal with Trout (shut up).
Keith Law: Simmons should probably be an All-Star regular, but his value is so much on the defensive side that he’s rarely recognized for what he is.

Justin: The cable industry is failing, ESPN is just caught in the tailspin. Eventually the cable industry with have to make adjustments.
Keith Law: I agree with that. Can ESPN sell directly to consumers via an app and streaming package? I don’t know, but I think we need to try that, as do most cable channels.

Guest: Any chance you have gotten to see Domingo Acevedo this year? Do you think he has a future as a starter?
Keith Law: Last year. Not with that delivery he doesn’t.

BEN : Is Yordan Alvarez a top 10 1b prospect, even if that’s not that much
Keith Law: Yes, he’s legit.

Matt: You might not remember this, but last year I asked you about Kingerys potential and you said Altuve with more power. I thought you were crazy because no scouts said Kingery would develop power. I just wanted to say that, you sir, are very good at what you do.
Keith Law: Sometimes I get something right.

Aaron: What does this injury do to Torres? Will he still become a star?
Keith Law: Not worried about it. It sucks for us, and maybe pushes back his arrival by a few months, but he’s still going to be a star.

John: What do you make of the Rays’ failure to sign Rasmussen? Who, pardon the pun, dropped the ball here?
Keith Law: Because the player didn’t participate in the predraft voluntary MRI process, he loses the protection granted by rule 4 if, hypothetically, the Rays found something wrong with his arm in their post-draft physical. (I must be very clear that no one has told me what, if anything, they found.) So the Rays can walk away and still get same-slot compensation, while Rasmussen has to re-enter the draft next year rather than gaining free agency. Do I blame anyone? I think the lesson is that there’s a benefit to submitting an MRI pre-draft if MLB includes you in that program – had he done so, and whatever team took him declined to offer him the minimum for that slot, he would have gained free agency. But Griffin Canning submitted an MRI, and whatever was on it – supposedly he might need TJ surgery – was enough to knock him out of the first round completely.

Joe: Can Rutherford or Frazier play cf or is Fowler the CF of the future for Yankees?
Keith Law: Rutherford and Frazier are corner outfielders only.

Will: Speaking of Karsten Whitson, what do you make of Kyle Serrano’s situation? Talented pitcher turns down $$$ to play for his dad, has an underwhelming college career+TJ, and then leaves the team in his final season for personal reasons but just signed an overslot deal with Houston.
Keith Law: “Overslot” was $200K. He turned down seven figures out of HS. If you’re a pitcher and you get that kind of offer, take the money.

Jake: No chance for R. Lewis to stay at short? Nick Gordon?
Keith Law: Gordon is a true SS. Lewis has no chance IMO.

Reds Fan: Why Herget over Mahle in the Futures game? Please explain this to me.
Keith Law: I think you’re taking that a little too seriously. Herget’s really good as a reliever – and putting one or two good relievers on each roster is a good plan, IMO, given the nature of the game and the fact that every year we get someone who comes in and can’t get an out (or throw a strike).

Nate : Keith, how frequently are you speaking with scouts on players? Daily, Weekly
Keith Law: Daily is about right.

Your fan: do you ever film when scouting? If so, what equipment do you use?
Keith Law: Always, HD-quality sony camera (so we can use the footage on air).

Steve: Since you saw Brito recently, did you get any eyes on Jojo Romero?
Keith Law: No, I saw Medina, great arm, really loose, not very polished but the breaking ball is in there.

Moltar: Who names all three of their kids Wander? Is he lost?
Keith Law: I think this is a custom in some countries/cultures – same first name, differing middle names – although I’m not certain.

Dan: What’s your projection for Derek Fisher? Is he a regular as a corner OF?
Keith Law: Yes, potentially a star.

Ryan: I read Delvij Perez was upset about being sent to a short season team and then he was benched for throwing his helmet after a K or something silly like that. Add on the steroid test, are there real makeup issues at play there?
Keith Law: There were real makeup issues pre-draft too. Lot of reports of immaturity. Got in a yelling match with an opposing coach once before the draft. He needs to grow up.

Greg: Keith, my brother is having a tough time. 25, unemployed, living at home. He never smiles and only responds to our parents with yes/no answers. I think he’s depressed but it’s impossible to talk to him about it. Any advice?
Keith Law: Sounds like it. Any chance you could get him to talk to a doctor? Even his primary care doc might have something to offer.

Dan: Do you do a midseason prospect rankings update?
Keith Law: Yes, it’ll be up on Thursday, and that’s why I’ve avoided some questions about players who’ll be on it.

Paul: Hey Keith – you’ve probably been asked this before, so forgive me if I’ve missed it, but have you ever thought about creating a board game? Or maybe if not creating from scratch, co-creating or consulting on one? Now that you’ve written a book (one that I loved, by the way), it seems like that should be next!
Keith Law: Yes, of course, but I wonder if I know the math/modeling aspects enough to do it well.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week. Thank you for all of the questions, as always, and I hope to see many of you this weekend in Miami. I’ll be back to chat again next week once the midyear top 50 is up.

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters.

Five or six years ago, at least, I was at a game in Lake Elsinore when a reader whose name I unfortunately have forgotten recommended a book to me called King Leopold’s Ghost, a meticulous, infuriating non-fiction work on the colonial history of the country now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which for a few decades was the personal property of that king of Belgium. Leo’s abusive misrule was followed by colonial rule by the Belgian government that was only marginally better, with both regimes characterized by plundering of the massive territory’s natural resources, abuse of its natives, destruction of longstanding social and tribal structures, and the failure to establish any foundation for native rule after independence. It’s a great description of how white Europeans gave Africa’s second-largest country no shot at stability or progress once they left and are largely responsible for the failed state that the D.R. Congo has been for the last twenty to thirty years, including the seemingly neverending civil war(s) that have plagued it since late in the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko.

So at some point in 2016, while sharing a table with a woman in a Starbucks in LA, I started chatting with her about books – she was reading something that related to Africa, so I suggested King Leopold’s Ghost, and she recommended two books to me, one of which was Jason Stearns’ Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa. Stearns’ thorough history provides much of the second half of the history of the failed state, explaining how Mobutu came to power, how his regime fell, how the civil war in the Congo was itself an outgrowth of regional tensions and the Rwandan civil war and genocide, and why the country remains one of that continent’s biggest disasters in every definition – political, economic, and humanitarian. (A Human Rights Watch director just wrote an op ed in the Washington Post last week entitled “The crisis in Congo is spiraling out of control”, as the current dictator, Joseph Kabila, refuses to cede power and is backing increased violence against dissidents, which also includes the murders of two UN observers this spring.)

Stearns’ book focuses primarily on the civil war itself, beginning with a detailed description of the collapse of Rwanda after its President, Juvenal Habyarimana, died in a plane crash in 1994 that his supporters claimed (without evidence) was an assassination, touching off the country’s civil war and humanity’s worst genocide since the Holocaust. The post-genocide government in Rwanda blamed Mobutu Sese Seko, who had a long history of supporting rebel movements and terrorist groups in the region, for supporting the Hutu majority who carried out most of the killings. Rwanda’s new government teamed with other regional leaders to form a coherent rebellion against Mobutu, recruiting a semi-retired Marxist revolutionary named Laurent Kabila to lead a new army called the AFDL to topple the Congolese dictator, who had renamed the country Zaire. Mobutu’s forces crumbled quickly under the advance of better-funded and somewhat more disciplined rebels, although the invaders were guilty of massive war crimes themselves, and the new boss proved to be no better than the old boss – true of Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated himself in 2001, and his son Joseph, who took over and showed authoritarian tendencies of his own. Laurent alienated the foreign leaders who helped him to power, leading to yet another attempt to overthrow him, and the two wars together (called the First and Second Congo Wars, although you could argue it’s all just one long ongoing conflict) have led to over five million deaths and over two million displaced persons along with the continued deterioration of the Congolese state.

This history gives more detail than you could ever want on the atrocities of the two wars and the direct causes of the conflicts – Rwanda’s civil war, the involvement of regional powers, the misrule of Mobutu, Laurent Kabila’s fast alienation of his backers. Stearns spent years on the ground in the D.R. Congo and includes numerous first-person accounts of massacres from survivors. There are no “good guys” here; every group appears to have committed crimes against humanity, including rape, torture, murder, even mutilation of the dead, and while it’s easy to handwave it away as racial animus, even that facile explanation seems to fall short under Stearns’ scrutiny. And the bulk of the deaths came not from violence – horrific as it was – but from starvation, malnutrition, and disease caused by the disruptions of the civil war. The total breakdown of the Congolese state, the displacement of millions of Congolese civilians, the inadequate international response to the humanitarian crisis, and the attacks on refugee camps by rebel and foreign armies all led to these preventable deaths. Stearns gives us plenty of stories of abject violence, which will shock and disgust the reader, but the majority of the deaths from the two wars occurred in more mundane fashion, making them less salacious on the page but no less tragic.

Where Stearns’ book falls short for me, however, is in assigning blame for the ongoing failure to establish a functioning state in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the Belgians, because at least one of the major causes of the catastrophe is that the country itself is a European fabrication. Most African borders today are based on European colonial borders, ignoring tribal or ethnic boundaries that dated back hundreds of years, but few nations are as constructed as the DR Congo’s, which still has the shape of “everything King Leopold could claim” and combines 80 million people from over 200 ethnic groups who speak over 240 languages under one national government. The country is also among the world’s richest in mineral resources, with over 70% of the world’s deposits of coltan (columbite-tantalite), the main source of tantalum for electrolytic capacitors found in many consumer electronic devices, and over 30% of the world’s cobalt and diamond deposits. The role of these “conflict minerals” in fueling the wars is debated and probably unanswerable, but their existence and uneven distribution – the country’s “mining capital” and second largest city, Lubumbashi, is over 2000 km away from the national capital, Kinshasa, and sits on the border with Zambia in the relatively well-off Katanga Province – means dividing the country along ethnic or historical lines would create huge economic disparities among the new nations. (Witness the problems with South Sudan, which was carved out of Sudan six years ago and took most of the country’s oil reserves with it – but not the pipeline to the Red Sea, which goes through Khartoum.) Perhaps the D.R. Congo was doomed to failure from before independence because the country itself is a creation of outside, white forces, and because the successful rebellions have taken over the national government rather than carving out independence for specific regions that might have a chance to function because they’re easier to run and combine fewer ethnic or linguistic groups.

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters covers a tremendous amount of ground, literally and figuratively, even without delving into the question of whether this country can ever function properly given its colonial history; there’s enough detail in here on the two Congolese civil wars to give any reader more than enough insight into what happened, a good shot at understanding why, and plenty of despair over the future of that godforsaken country. The book was published in 2011, and nothing has improved in the D.R. Congo since then. A rebellion in the eastern Kivu region continues to roil, and the political crisis that began in 2015 is worsening as Joseph Kabila refuses to cede power and has been cracking down on opposition, a situation that has only further deteriorated since the main opposition leader, Étienne Tshisekedi, who was supposed to oversee a transitional post-Kabila government, died in February. Stearns tries to end the book with a little optimism, explaining at least what the international community might do to try to stabilize the country, but given everything that has come post-publication, I think the D.R. Congo is more likely to become the new Somalia than to become a functioning state again.

Next up: Louis Bromfield’s 1926 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Early Autumn.

Stick to baseball, 7/1/17.

Couple of Insider posts this week – one with reactions to the initial rosters for the Futures Game and one on top prospects for tomorrow’s international free agent signing period. I also held a Klawchat on Friday afternoon en route to Lakewood from Bristol.

My latest boardgame review for Paste is the two-player game Santorini, which has some light chess/Othello elements to it but is played on a smaller board (5×5) that keeps the games a bit shorter.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball; sales spiked this month between Father’s Day and the positive review in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Miami, Books and Books, July 8th
* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

If you’re with an independent bookstore and would like to host a signing, please contact Danielle Bartlett at HarperCollins; we’re trying to accommodate everyone we can within my work schedule.

I also spoke with Sportsnet about the book, anxiety, and the 2017 Blue Jays.

And now, the links…

  • Russell Carleton looks at the utility of pickoff throws over at Baseball Prospectus.
  • This isn’t surprising if you follow Zack Greinke at all, but the pitcher told’s Steve Gilbert how he used Statcast data to help turn his 2016 season around.
  • “The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians.” Long, and you may have seen it, but it seems like more evidence of wrongdoing from the Trump campaign last summer.
  • VICE details a planned (or, really, hypothetical) pay-for-play college basketball league that would focus on the Historically Black Colleges & Universities that have largely missed out on the financial windfall of modern college basketball.
  • The mother of an immune-compromised daughter who was hospitalized recently because she was exposed to chicken pox lashed out at vaccine deniers for putting her daughter’s life at risk. Your decision not to vaccinate your kids isn’t just about your own neglect, but potentially harms other vulnerable people in your community.
  • If you heard that a European Union court ruled against vaccine safety, well, not really.
  • A research paper in the New England Journal of Medicine looks at benefits of increased health insurance coverage under the ACA, including lower costs of reduction in mortality rates compared to other policies. (One of the authors is Dr. Atul Gawande, the author of Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto.)
  • Eater has a great profile of gelato maker Meredith Kurtzman, who recently retired after two decades in the NYC food scene, working at restaurants (notably at Mario Batali’s Otto) and earning plaudits from chefs and restaurateurs for her work. It’s a wonderful piece because it doesn’t shy away from the fact that Kurtzman isn’t a very engaging or even likable subject.
  • The NY Times is now charging for access to its cooking site, which … is fine, actually. I know there’s always a backlash when sites charge for content, but if you want good content, you’re going to have to start paying for it somewhere. I subscribe to their main site, the Washington Post, and Fine Cooking magazine, among others. However, charging for recipes is tricky because they can’t be copyrighted – you can copyright text, but not the specifics of a recipe – which makes this a little different than most subscriber walls.
  • The great BBC series Broadchurch just returned on Wednesday for its third and final season, and IndieWire ran a Q&A with star David Tennant that’s more insightful than the standard “actor talks about series he didn’t write but explains everything anyway” sort of piece.
  • The Koch Brothers plan to spend $400 million to help elect conservative Republican candidates in 2018. Repealing Obamacare and reducing taxes on the highest earners are two of their main policy priorities.
  • Daniel Vaughn’s latest list of the top 50 BBQ joints in Texas came out a few weeks ago for Texas Monthly, and if you’re visiting that state, it’s a great resource. (If you live there, well, I’m sorry.)
  • The new Presidential commission on so-called “voter fraud” – which does not actually exist on any significant scale – is really just an attack on voting rights. Even some GOP-led states are declining the requests for state voter information. Delaware hasn’t made any statement yet, but I have reached to the Secretary of State, asking them to refuse to comply.
  • Sen. Al Franken very calmly de-pantsed Energy Secretary Rick Perry on climate change, helped by Perry’s apparent lack of any knowledge on the subject whatsoever.
  • Whole Foods had long contributed to local farmers both in access to markets and in providing low-interest loans to help farmers ramp up operations to serve the chain. Now the farmers worry these programs will end after amazon’s purchase of the retailer.

Klawchat, 6/30/17.

My Insider post looking at the top free agents in the international class is now up. Also, did you know I wrote a book, called Smart Baseball? I did. I hear it might even be good.

Keith Law: Let’s shock the world with what we know. Klawchat.

Adam: What is a realistic ceiling for Juan Soto?
Keith Law: Funny you ask. I’ll be seeing him tonight at 7 pm at Lakewood.

Billy Beane: Who was more upside, Anderson Espinoza or Sixto Sanchez?
Keith Law: If healthy, Espinoza, by quite a bit. But he’s not healthy and Sixto is.

Adam: Chris Rodriguez seems to be skyrocketing up prospect lists. What about him stands out and just how high do you see him rising?
Keith Law: He isn’t “skyrocketing” up any of my lists. I heard he looked good in extended, but those are glorified practice games. He’s gotten bombed in two actual starts this year. He was a pop-up kid in Florida in last year’s draft, very projectable, started to show more velocity this spring, still a work in progress.

Mason: Will Gregory Polanco ever figure it out?
Keith Law: I think he figured a lot out last year. I don’t think he’s a .264 BABIP guy (his figure this year).

CJ: How many career games will it take for Nick Williams to earn his first walk?
Keith Law: I’ll answer this: I think it’ll take at least 50 games for him to draw his 10th walk (unless they bat him right before the pitcher, that’s cheating).

Sloth: Higher ceiling – Barreto or Chapman?
Keith Law: Barreto, with Chapman, a 70 defender at third right now, having the higher floor than Barreto, who still may end up at another position.

Bob: Luis Castillo was very impressive against Milwaukee this week. Specifically, that looked like a plus changeup and he sat 97-99 all game. Future two perhaps?
Keith Law: Not without a better breaking ball, which is going to be hard for him given his arm action/slot.

Jennifer: Do the Braves have a solid argument/reason to make a move now for a front-line, cost-controlled starter that will help next year and the year after or are they still better off waiting?
Keith Law: If the right one is available, sure, but I have a feeling if they call on someone like Sonny Gray the price is going to be exorbitant because wouldn’t you ask Atlanta for the moon?
Keith Law: I guess that’s me saying I doubt they end up doing that.

G: It seemed like Calvin Mitchell’s stock dropped a good amount in the past 10 months or so. Were his problems mechanical? His swing looked nice in the HR in his first GCL game.
Keith Law: He didn’t hit well all spring, and when your only tool is your bat, and scouts come see you not hit, it’s kind of a problem.

Anthony: There are myriad teams in the AL technically “in the race.” Who of KC, SEA, TEX, ANA, TOR, BAL should be selling?
Keith Law: I can’t see the Angels selling, and unless the Orioles are willing to sell Machado I don’t know that it makes a ton of sense for them. The Royals and Mariners should probably sell. The others probably should wait another 2-3 weeks before deciding. A 2-10 or 10-2 fortnight can change your strategy.

Adam: Is there anything left for Vlad Jr and Bichette to prove offensively in Low-A? Their numbers are ridiculous even when comparing them to a similarly vaunted prospect like Tatis Jr.
Keith Law: I would move Bichette before Vlad, since Bo’s a year older. I don’t think it’s imperative that Vlad move right away.

Bertil: Do you think Astros should switch positions for Correa and Bergman? And if so, when?
Keith Law: I do, now, but I don’t think it happens.

Jay: Just got back from Phoenix. Thanks for all the food and drink recommendations. They were all incredible. Blue Hound especially!
Keith Law: It’s a better food town than its reputation would indicate.

Raphael: How outlandish is it to believe that Vladdy Jr is the #1 prospect in baseball?
Keith Law: It’s 80 on the 20-80 outlandish scale. You must be a Jays fan.

Chad: Has Jorge Ona been dissapointing, or is he doing fine (despite being 20 yrs old in A-ball)
Keith Law: He’s doing fine.

nb: Keith – Been a horrible season here in Philly. I need some good news. What have you seen or heard about Sixto Sanchez? Thanks!
Keith Law: Throwing very hard (regularly topping out at 99) with plus control but fringy to below average secondary stuff.

Adam D.: Should I be excited about what Brian Reynolds is doing at High-A, or skeptical because he is a college guy playing in an offense-friendly league against young(ish) competition?
Keith Law: I’d like to see more power and walks, really. San Jose hasn’t historically been good for home runs, but I’m surprised he isn’t walking more.

Pat: Mitch K. or Walker B. ?
Keith Law: It helps if you give me the last names. If that’s Mitch Keller, I have him ranked well above Walker Buehler.

Casey: Rockies have lost 8 straight… do you think they have the pitching to make the playoffs?
Keith Law: The odds of them missing the playoffs are pretty low, given how far ahead they are in the standings. I don’t think they have the pitching to do much in the playoffs, but that’s another question.

Jeff: Bellinger’ future average will look like? Sub .280 due to aggressive nature of swing?
Keith Law: I don’t know what you’re referring to about his swing, but I think his feel for the zone is so advanced that he’ll gradually get up to high batting averages and OBPs.

Josh in DC: What are you feelings about Red Sox’ trade for Tyler Thornburg? With full hindsight, it’s as bad a trade as one can imagine. But it still made sense (to me, anyway) at the time. How do you evaluate something like this?
Keith Law: I agree, it made sense on the day they made it. And really, Shaw’s having a great season, but he’s still a platoon player (.293 OBP vs lefties) and is already 27. It’s not like they gave up a top prospect.

Emily: Hi Keith,

I don’t have a question, but as someone who has suffered with depression, I was just hoping you could share this link with your readers. I came across an article today about someone sharing the story of their own battles with depression and how baseball has helped them through it.…
Keith Law: Thank you. The more we talk about mental illness, the more we reduce the stigma around it.

Sam: Yandy Diaz…Where do you see him long term?
Keith Law: Think he ends up a regular at 3b.

Casey: Ever had any roommate conflicts?
Keith Law: I’ve been married for 22 years, so, yeah, a few.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Soto is on the DL, dammit.
Keith Law: Dammit is right – I didn’t even check the rosters.

Chris: It doesn’t seem like many people believed Bo Bichette had this in him. Can he keep it up, and where would he fall in your top 100 today?
Keith Law: I’ve always liked him and spoken well of his bat, but really, if anyone thought he’d do this, he would have been a top ten pick last year, and even I didn’t argue for that. I’ll do an updated top 50 after the Futures Game and I assume he’ll be on it – but I haven’t actually sat down to make up the list, so I reserve the right to change my mind.

Joe: What do you think about the Cardinals sending guys down to the minors to work out their swings; such as Grichuk and others? Is this a good thing or a sign that the major league coaching staff isn’t able to help them?
Keith Law: I would think it’s easier to alter a swing in the minors than it is while your MLB club is trying to win. Also, his issue is less his swing and more his chronic problems with recognizing offspeed stuff.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Thoughts on Daniel Johnson? He’ll be at Lakewood too–would love a report!
Keith Law: Watson is pitching too, plus Adonis Medina throwing for Lakewood … should be a productive night anyway.

Levi: What does an Andrew McCutchen trade return look like at this point? Seems like a 4 WAR bat in left field
Keith Law: He didn’t seem like a 4 WAR bat in left field a month ago, so I wouldn’t expect a trade return to value him as such. I think he gets them a couple of mid-level prospects.

Guy Smiley: With Gurriel Jr., the recent draftees, and the on-fire Bichette in the Jays’ system, is Urena the odd SS out? What’s he worth as trade bait?
Keith Law: Bichette isn’t staying at short, and I wouldn’t bank on G(o)urriel just yet.

Casey: Is Anthony Banda in Arizona minors anything special? A 3?
Keith Law: A 4 with a chance to be a 3.

Guest: Why can’t Nats fans have nice things? Is it because of the whole relocation from Montreal? We didn’t actively solicit the team or steal the team like some other cities, release us from this curse fickle Baseball tyrants.
Keith Law: Well Baltimore stole an NFL team from Cleveland, only to have them win two Super Bowls, so I’m going to say that the fates don’t seem to care about morality in sports franchise success.

Iggy: New QOTSA song, yay or nay?
Keith Law: Yay, it’s on my latest new music playlist.

Rob K: Could any Mets with expiring contracts (Bruce, Asdrubal, Grandy, Walker, Addison Reed, Duda, Reyes) bring anything back that could help the team in 2018? Keep in mind the Wilpons will eat zero money.
Keith Law: Bruce might get something now that he’s hitting again. Reed would. Reyes they can fire into the sun for all I care.

Braves Fan: They say you can never have too much pitching but are the Braves getting close? It seems like every level has multiple good prospects
Keith Law: No, because you’re already seeing some of the attrition, like Weigel getting hurt.

Mike: In the end Lindor, Correa, or Seager?
Keith Law: Oooof. Seager’s the best bat, but Lindor is probably the best all-around player including defense and baserunning. Except the bunting. Stop bunting.

Vic: Does Mountcastle stick at short? Enough bat to play left?
Keith Law: Zero chance he sticks at short. Maybe on LF. I was hoping he or Austin Hays (more Hays) would make the Futures Game, rather than Tanner Scott, who throws hard but is just a reliever in the end.

Taylor: Most upside out of Tyler Austin, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, and Dustin Fowler (get well soon)?
Keith Law: Fowler or Andujar. What a horrible, freak injury for the kid.

Matt: Given the trajectory of Cubs’ season, should they be aggressive with their inventory of prospects to acquire a controllable, young SP?
Keith Law: Yes – and I said in April on the BBTN podcast that I believe that’s been their plan all along. Maybe not young, but with years of control.

SJ: Rabbit-cocktail sounding name aside, does Victor Caratini project as a league average catcher or is he destined for another position?
Keith Law: OK, now he’s Victor Carrot-ini forever. I had him as more a multi-position UT who can also be your backup catcher, so maybe a guy who’s more valuable because he essentially frees up a roster spot than his performance might indicate.

Kevin: I know we are less than ecstatic about comps but is Kyle Wright a strong one for Brady Singer? I couldn’t help but conclude that during the CWS. Wright is a tick or two higher with velo and a deeper repertoire while Singer has the better breaking ball. Thoughts? Thoughts on the Florida fireballer?
Keith Law: Don’t think Singer has a better breaking ball, and he has a worse arm action. I saw them pitch against each other in April; Singer was 90-91 all night, Wright 92-96. Singer has thrown harder since then, and I did see him 92-95 in a short start as a freshman, but I don’t think he’s close to Wright as a starter prospect.

Brad: How soon do you think before you think we’ll be seeing Devers man the hot corner in Boston? Just after the ASB, or will he be a September call-up? Thanks!
Keith Law: I think he gets up in September, but why is he still in AA? He should be in Pawtucket to try to get him more ready for a callup.

Pat D: If someone is going to write, “Considering Frazier’s perceived bravado, could Frazier have asked for a Yankees number to be unretired? Yeah, it’s possible.” should I ever read that person’s work again? This is kind of thing that it seems only a sportswriter can get away with, and I find it infuriating.
Keith Law: I would not read that person’s work again, no. That’s basically the “you have to ask the question” backhanded accusation bullshit we’ve seen with bogus PED claims. It makes me insane.

JoeNathan: Hey Keith, I just wanted to say thank you again for signing my book and I enjoyed our chat. I wanted to ask you about what you meant when you said that you would be much further along with your career had you started 5 years earlier? Was that a comment on the landscape of MLB offices at the time or something else?
Keith Law: I was referring to the benefit of experience seeing players to my ability to evaluate players.

Tony: Do you ever read a book where you can definitely see why it’s considered “great,” but it’s not necessarily good? I’m about 2/3 of the way through EAST OF EDEN and struggling. I respect it as a work of literature, but I’m not sure I actually like it.
Keith Law: All the time. I’ve commented on some of the Pulitzer winners I’ve read that I understand why they won but didn’t enjoy them.

nb: Keith – Just bought the book and it’s set to be my beach reading next week. Are you planning on ant Trenton trips soon? Book can use an autograph. Thanks!
Keith Law: I’m sure I’ll be there again soon, but I don’t plan minor league trips more than a few days in advance because of weather and pitching matchups.

Mike Maddux: Over/under 200 Ks for Giolito next year with him discovering his old form after I screwed him up?
Keith Law: I’ll take the under, but I think he’s eventually a 200 K guy.

Rob K: Do teams really avoid trades that otherwise make sense if it’s with a division rival? Is that wise?
Keith Law: I think that is going by the wayside with the changes in front offices around the game.

Arin, D-town: Is Scott Kingery a future starter or utility guy?
Keith Law: Come on, he’s at least an above average everyday 2b. I just wrote and raved about him a week ago.

AJ: Fernando Tatis Jr comp?
Keith Law: I don’t do comps, sorry … but I will say that I think he’s modeling himself a bit after Manny Machado. He does have a similar frame to Manny at 18, and it looked like he’s adopted some of Manny’s actions and mannerisms. That’s a pretty good guy to imitate.

Asdrubal: Think Duplantier could crack the top 100 this year?
Keith Law: He’s just dominating younger competition. I liked the pick a lot and it’s great to see him healthy, but he needs to get to high-A or even AA now that he’s rolling.

Guest: Hi Keith! Any updates on Morejon and Espinoza of the Padres?
Keith Law: Morejon’s been pitching for Tri-City in the Northwest League. Espinoza is just playing catch and I don’t know if we’ll see him at all this summer.

Juwan: To your mind, did Anthony Rendon live up to your pre-draft eval? Some analysts predicted that he’d win a batting title or two, and he hasn’t quite been that level of hitter, but he’s been red hot for 50 games now and he’s stacked together multiple very solid seasons.
Keith Law: Fangraphs has him at 17 career WAR already, so I’d say yes, he’s living up to it, and he’ll end up a great pick at 6th overall.

Eric: Is Luis Urias a top 20 prospect now?
Keith Law: No. I feel like when people ask “is my favorite team’s prospect in the top X now,” the instinct is to make X too low. Top 20 is ridiculously selective.

Gerard: How did Z Collins get in the Futures game this year?
Keith Law: Getting enough catchers is hard.

Chris: Nick Williams from Phils just called up… he anything good?
Keith Law: See above. Has raw power, some tools, chronically undisciplined at the plate.

John S: Any reason to believe that Lamet should stay in the rotation? His numbers against lefties have been… bad. But, four of his six starts have been better than any other padre this season
Keith Law: It won’t hurt his development to get smacked around by lefties as a starter, but he can’t remain one long-term without a viable third pitch.

Dylan: Is there anything preventing Francisco Mejia from being the top prospect in baseball? His bat at catcher just seems so absurdly good, I’m not sure what the comparison is outside of the elite.
Keith Law: He’s not that advanced a defensive catcher.

Arnie: When the Astros picked up Yordan Alvarez for Josh Fields, I assumed he was a marginal or (non-) prospect. Is there real prospect value there beyond his loud stat line?
Keith Law: He’s legit, no question. Dodgers had given him $3 million, I think.

Andy: Urias going out with a shoulder issue like this is really bad right?
Keith Law: With *that* shoulder issue, yes. That’s heavy surgery. Definitely bad.

JC: Is Flaherty for real, or just having a great year? What does he project to be in the majors?
Keith Law: Been on my top 100 the last two winters. Command/control right-hander, durable, maybe more mid-rotation than top two but still very good.

Ed: Can we stop pretending moderate republicans exist? Can we stop pretending they are going to save us?
Keith Law: That’s not fair. They exist. They’re just not anywhere to be found in the federal government right now.

Mark: What % chance would you give to each Acuna, Allard, and Soroka being September call ups?
Keith Law: Zero or effectively zero to all three.

David: Have you read any good nonfiction recently ?
Keith Law: I just finished a great audiobook, Dancing to the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns, right before I pulled into the parking lot here. It’s about the series of wars in the DR of the Congo since 1990, and tries to get at why the country is such a disaster. I also loved Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes, about the microbiome, which I reviewed in March.

Josh: David Lynch fan? If so, wondering your thoughts if you’ve seen the Twin Peaks revival
Keith Law: Not a huge fan. Haven’t seen the revival.

MP, San Jose: Who is the pitcher on the cover of your book, and why that pitcher in particular?
Keith Law: Stock photo.

Vic: Does Franklin Perez make it to Houston by 2020?
Keith Law: I would guess 2019.

Dave: Can Josh Bell be a top 5 first baseman in the game?
Keith Law: Probably not? But I had to think about it. I do think he’s going to be very good, and if he really unlocks all that raw power in games, then he probably could be.

Tom: Tyler Glasgow – starter or reliever?
Keith Law: Ah dinnae ken.

Robert: What happened to AJ Reed? Does he still have a shot to fulfill last year’s promise?
Keith Law: Zero adjustments in big leagues. They throw offspeed stuff for strikes in the majors. He’s going to have to figure out how to adjust to that.

Tom: Kevin Newman going to hit enough to be an everyday player?
Keith Law: He’s been disappointing this year, especially since he was hit in the head by a pitch about 5-6 weeks ago. I would have said yes without hesitation in March, and he’s still making a lot of contact, but scouts have told me it’s just not hard enough contact.

Tim: You’ve been relatively modest about your long time praise of Judge, but even from the get go during your draft review, you were extremely positive about him. What’s more rewarding for you, on guys that you are high on? An immediate breakout like Judge or late bloomers like Hicks and Smoak?
Keith Law: Smoak is beyond “late,” so I can’t take credit for that one, but it is gratifying when a guy like Judge or Hicks becomes the player I thought he could be, especially if I was higher than the industry was (e.g., having Judge ranked higher than where he was drafted – same is true for Kingery, whom I had as a late first round talent).

Brian: Nathan’s hot dogs and bud heavy on the menu for the KLAW July 4th cookout?
Keith Law: I don’t really eat beef any more but I do have a sentimental soft spot for Nathan’s.

Josh in DC: It’s interesting that you’d judge the Thornburg trade by noting Travis Shaw isn’t a “top prospect.” The fact is, the Red Sox need a third baseman for THIS season. The Sox already HAVE a top prospect at third base. Aren’t you undervaluing the importance of the present season in judging this trade?
Keith Law: He’s a below-average defensive third baseman, so, no, I’m not.

Andy: Now that we’re actually in negotiating season, is there any picks that you’re hearing have raised their bonus demands that there is a question about signing before the deadline?
Keith Law: Nope. Assume everyone in the top ten rounds will sign unless someone fails his physical.

Jason: Any concerns about Jahmai Jones’ struggles this year?
Keith Law: He’s 19 in low A, making plenty of contact, don’t think I’d say he’s “struggled,” just hasn’t blown up.

Ed: Tell me that the Cubs aren’t trading Jiminez for any rentals this year.
Keith Law: I think – but have no inside info – that he’ll be the one guy they won’t deal, unless they were getting some star young pitcher with years of control left. I don’t think Stroman is or would be available, but if he were, that’s a guy I’d deal Eloy for.

Damien: In honor of the Buerhle jersey retirement, is he solidly in the “Hall of Very Good”? Could a few more productive years have garnered him serious HOF consideration?
Keith Law: He never had HoF peak for me. Just longevity, which makes him HoVG.

Jason: What percent of the increase in home runs this year do you attribute to changes in the baseball?
Keith Law: I’ll leave that to the experts, like Rob Arthur, who’s done some great work on the topic.

Ryan D: Has your opinion on Jordan Montgomery changed? I know SSS, but he looks like a solid 4 sp this year, or do you still think he ends up in the pen long term?
Keith Law: He might be a back-end starter. It’s still pretty average stuff across the board, but he’s throwing everything for strikes enough that I would revise him up to ‘starter.’

Tony: In your chat last week, you mentioned that a scout said JP Crawford’s swing changed. Is this a case of a launch angle change gone bad?
Keith Law: I don’t think so. I think the kid is overswinging right now to try to hit for power he probably doesn’t have.

Jason: Is Chris shaw starting in San Francisco by the trading deadline?
Keith Law: Meh. Not a big believer in his bat.

Rob K: I know you don’t like talking about Tebow, but: does his promotion High A over AA (where he’d be downright embarrassed by good breaking stuff) mean we’ll see 2 years of this sideshow?
Keith Law: As long as he’s willing to play (and get his cut of jersey sales), we’ll see this sideshow.

hg: how was your trip to Toronto. Get to any restaurants? has the city changed, in your opinion, since your last visit?
Keith Law: Pitch Talks was a lot of fun, but I didn’t get to explore at all due to time constraints. My one good rec was Sorry Coffee on Bloor, which is excellent.

Vic: Odds of Josh Ockimey being a productive 1B?
Keith Law: Low, not zero, maybe 20%.

JC: Thoughts on the Mo/Girsch move today?
Keith Law: These tend to be paper moves, so I wouldn’t think anything of it until we see any real operational changes.

Nate: What would you say the chances are the White Sox trade Q…60/40?
Keith Law: That’s probably about right. I think they should shop him aggressively, but they don’t *have* to trade him.

Mike: With Terry Collins likely retiring after this year, do you have any early favorites as far as who the Mets should interview to replace him?
Keith Law: Judging by his work, I thought he already retired.

Christian: Any update on Willie Calhoun’s defense? Bat is certainly holding up fine
Keith Law: This sounds like wishful thinking. He’s almost certainly a DH.

John: Why would it be that Bogaerts doesn’t hit for power these days?
Keith Law: More generally, why doesn’t he make hard contact? He was a power prospect when he was still a teenager. I don’t understand how or when he made that tradeoff.

Zach : Hey Keith, How quickly so you think Brendan Rodgers moves through the Rockies system? Thanks!
Keith Law: I think he’s going to have a big adjustment to make in AA now to guys with better secondary stuff. I still rate him very highly, but he hasn’t been challenged much yet, playing in two great hitters’ parks.

John K: Is Mookie Betts a good comp for Scott Kingery?
Keith Law: No, Betts is a borderline MVP, Kingery is … not that.

Steve: Travis Blankenhorn a potential everyday guy?
Keith Law: Yes, although I’m not sure where.

Nick: Is expansion to 32 likely in the next decade?
Keith Law: Depends on whether owners decide they want more money.

Jeff b: Thoughts on Sean Newcombe so far? Had little control at AAA.
Keith Law: Very skeptical that this has improved in the majors just via magic.

Patrick: What’s the ceiling for Christin Stewart? And how close is Jairo Labourt?
Keith Law: Solid average regular in LF; close but likely to be wild in the majors.
Keith Law: OK, my battery is dying and I’m not near an outlet, so I’ll wrap this up. Thank you as always for all of the questions and for joining me for this impromptu chat. I’ll be back next week, almost certainly Thursday, for a pre-Futures Game chat.