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Part I: Interview with Alex Eisenberg of Baseball-Intellect

Although this is my first baseball-related article on Fake Teams, here's proof I haven't been drinking Heinekens and watching the NFL all week.

First, I'd like to take a quick pat on the back and make this my first announcement that beginning shortly, I'm also going to be joining another staff in cahoots with Yahoo shortly over at Rivals.com. I'll be working as an intern and partly taking some basketball reins for Michigan Preps, the Michigan division of the network. Anyone who reads the college blogs over here, I look forward to sharing whatever knowledge I acquire over there and make sure everyone's getting some love.

No one can be watching everything at once, which is why we're here; we want a collective set of great eyes to tell us what's going on, particularly in the fantasy community. In trying to answer some of the most pressing fantasy baseball-related questions regarding the 2009 MLB season, I brought in a really good set of eyes. Enter Alex Eisenberg, the man in charge of Baseball-Intellect.com. Alex scouts the guys (mostly prospects) that we eventually bid up in our auction drafts, and breaks them down in a technical aspect. While he also diagnoses guys in the Show, I asked him to sit down and take a deep look into why some guys produced the way they did. Part II of this interview, which focuses more on some prospects and their outlook for next year, will be coming shortly. Enjoy.

 

TROR: B.J. Upton was someone who Tampa Bay counted on a great deal to lead off originally and then struggled even as he was moved down to the bottom of the order. The shoulder injury was the original diagnosis for his struggle, but what do you think plagued him this year?

Alex: I can't put my finger on why Upton struggled so much.  I remember seeing pitches Upton used to drive out of the park in 2007, die at the warning track this year.  I've looked at his swing and there are some changes to the action of his front leg, but I'm not sure how much of an effect it would have on his power output.  That might be an article for the future, but right now it's a bit of a mystery to me. I'll say this: His swing isn't that power-oriented and his 2007 season was largely a flukish sort of year for him.  However, his natural progression should have counteracted a return to the norm in his numbers, but that hasn't happened.

TROR: On the subject of the Rays, David Price struggled when he was called up this year, but settled down and posted respectable numbers, if not what we expected necessarily from him. Do you think the ceiling for him has lowered?

Alex: Price's upside hasn't changed for me.  He improved as the year progressed...his command still needs work as does his change-up, but his peripherals were strong for the most part across the board.  So he's still a potential No. 1 starter though he's more likely to be a No. 2 simply because of the sheer difficulty in becoming a true No. 1 guy...but the potential is there.

(More after The Jump)

TROR: A lot of fantasy owners (myself included) have anticipated that Alex Gordon was going to take the leap and become what the Royals and a lot of scouts predicted. After returning from his extended absence and posting a respectable line in September, where do you see him in terms of his contribution in 2010?

 

Alex: I think I see Gordon as an above average regular.  He's young enough that he's still a potential breakout candidate and he hasn't reached his peak yet...I'm not sure why he's struggled at the MLB level.  Injuries, trouble hitting lefties, trouble with the breaking ball...he's always had a propensity to strike out a lot.  I wish I had a better answer for you. I think it's something we'll just have wait-and-see on.

 

TROR: They're just a month apart in terms of age and on the same team, but Brett Anderson outperformed Trevor Cahill this year. Does Anderson have the better upside both short-term and long-term?

Alex: Brett Anderson for me.  They were neck and neck prior to last season.  But Anderson really set himself apart.  Anderson's velocity increased again (he used to be 87 - 89 in high school, it jumped to around 90 - 94 in the minors and at the start of the year and then he started hitting 92 - 96, even touching 97 at a couple points last year).  There was a subtle change in his mechanics...I haven't put my finger on it yet, but the timing looks better and the arm action looks better; something looked like it just clicked for him.  He has a deep repertoire of pitches and he commands all of them well.  Not to mention Anderson's feel for pitching is excellent.  I think he has a tremendous future.

As for Cahill, we know he has problems with command.  He also had a problem missing bats.  What was strange for me is that in his start for Team USA last year, I saw a four-seamer that the stadium gun clocked at 97 and then at 96.  The action on the pitch was different from his two-seam fastball and I didn't see that pitch much if at all last year.  I'm not sure if he abandoned the pitch or if there was a malfunction with the stadium gun, but it lowered his stock in my eyes.

However, like Anderson, his repertoire of pitches is deep.  When it's on, Cahill's sinker is heavy and difficult to lift...in addition, I've felt that Cahill might have that rare ability to limit contact on batted balls...he showed it last year and he's shown it over the course of his minor league career.  We still need more data to make that case, however.  

Overall, he was rushed to the major league level and still held his own.  Also like Anderson, Cahill's velocity increased as the year went on.  His upside is still considerable, but it's probably a notch below Anderson's.  In addition, he's a higher risk to reach that upside.


TROR: Bronson Arroyo was definitely a Jekyll and Hyde type of pitcher this year. His ERA was the lowest its been in several years and despite a rise in IP, his strikeouts dropped. What's your diagnosis and forecast for him?

Alex: I expect Arroyo to regress next year.  He's a workhorse, but it's taken a toll on his arm.

His K's were way down last year and his overall command was worse.  His .270 BABIP indicates some good luck as does his LOB% of 76.  Hitters made contact at a higher rate than they had in his prior few seasons.  I expect his ERA to be somewhere in the 4's next year.


TROR: One of the biggest discussions this year was David Wright's dramatic shift in numbers, most notably a decrease in power and slight regression in K/BB ratio. How much of this do you believe is mental or related to the new stadium, and how much is mechanical?

Alex:  I think the park certainly had something to do with his down year.  His was better away from Citi Field...not by a huge amount, but by enough where you could consider it a factor.

Not sure if something is up with his mechanics but I'll say that he has changed his mechanics over the years.  However, this year's mechanics are not much different from last year's.

A big part of Wright's declines were related to his head injury I believe.  If you look at his September, post-concussion numbers....624 OPS, BB% of 7, K% of 30...those numbers really brought his overall numbers down and he said he found himself flinching at balls on the inner half of the plate.  Combine that with the extreme pitcher's park he played in, I think that accounts for his down season.

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There you have it. Some great insight, and some more definitive opinions on some key players who didn't quite turn out like they were projected. Again, check out Alex's work over at Baseball-Intellect.com, and look out for Part II of the interview real soon.