Our Spotlight Interview with… MLBBonusBaby’s Andy Seiler

I’m Greg Pappas… welcoming everyone to Draft America’s ‘Spotlight’ on Andy Seiler of MLBBonusBaby.com.
Thanks again for agreeing to do this Andy, it’s an honor to have you.

GP… Can you give us some information regarding your background (how you got into the business, your work experience and progression, etc.) and what your current duties at MLBBB entail?

AS… Like most people, I really started into baseball as a fan and player as a kid. I don’t remember any time in my life where baseball wasn’t a major part of what I did on a daily basis. I was working towards making it as a player when I broke my right leg pretty severely, and that permanently halted any chances for making it down that path. As a result, I really started delving into the baseball operations side of things. I would read anything I could get my hands on about the scouting and player development side of things. Like most people in the baseball blog world, my eyes were opened more deeply into how front offices manage things when I read Moneyball. From then on, I wanted nothing more than to be in a Major League front office anywhere where I could influence how the game was played on the field. For those who love a more scouting-friendly front office book, I recommend John Schuerholz’s Built To Win. Rather than going the traditional route of working for a team, I decided that I would rather write about what I knew best, which was player personnel decisions and scouting. I had become connected to scouts over time through the various failed attempts I made at other blogs and sites, so it was natural that I focused completely on scouting and the draft when I started MLBBonusBaby. After seeing the responses to posts I made at MinorLeagueBall.com, I knew there was an untapped audience there that wanted something for free that couldn’t be offered in the past, and therefore my job at MLBBB is to try and provide that. It has my own twist of course, but I’m trying to put together something that could eventually make Baseball America and PGCrosschecker think twice about charging so much for their products, at least on the drafting side of things.

GP… Very good. In the scouting and evaluation of prospects, what extent does MLBBB rely on outside sources versus your own personal observations?

AS… I run it essentially in the same way that Baseball America runs their draft coverage. I talk to scouts, players, and coaches all the time. On top of that, I rely heavily on both personal experience of seeing players and on video, though video limits what you can see outside of mechanics of both pitching and hitting. It’s really hard to tell true pro athleticism on a video. Once I have the pure info down on a player, then it’s on to the opinion sphere of things. That’s easy to tell in my draft reviews, as it’s usually a small bit of information about a player, followed by my opinion on them. The info is generally easy to get, as scouts are generally happy to give up the raw stuff on prospects when they have down time on the road. Bothering them while they’re doing their job or at home isn’t the way to go, so the trickiest part is getting the info in a way where you don’t get in their way, but are just another baseball guy that is interested in the same things and can talk intelligently with them. I don’t recommend bothering scouts during a game.

GP… Good advice. What are your personal thoughts on the draft, regarding perceived inequities, and what changes would you hope to see, if any, and why?

AS… This is a question I don’t think anyone has the answer to. Any draft system that we were to go to would be inequitable for someone. I don’t think anyone involved with Puerto Rican prep baseball would tell you that their inclusion in the draft is equitable for them compared to their Dominican and Venezuelan counterparts. That’s part of the reason that baseball has generally dried up in Puerto Rico compared to how they were before they were brought into the draft. For that reason, I highly disfavor an international draft, though I favor more direct involvement in the regulation of the international market, especially in Latin American countries. The corruption of the current system there is pretty evident, so I don’t think I’m saying anything new. However, bringing them into the draft doesn’t help anything. On the contrary, it really depresses the value of baseball to those prospects, as they’d have to wait until they were 18, and as Puerto Rican prospects have shown, they won’t generally have a college scholarship as leverage against a team’s bargaining position. As it is now, a drafted Puerto Rican is a signed Puerto Rican, and they almost never get more than slot, which is such a shame, since the natural talent for plenty of players is comparable to their American counterparts.

This is turning into a marathon of an answer, but I also just wanted to touch on slotting. I favor hard slotting as much as the next guy. However, I’m unique in that I want a system similar to either the NFL’s or NBA’s systems for drafting. I want kids to have to go to college, at least for a year. At that point, I want them to have to declare for the draft, attend a combine, and then accept whatever draft position they get, with the corresponding slot bonus. That’s not how the NFL’s system works, but I was thinking more of the declaring and combine parts of that system. I would also allow teams to trade draft picks, though free agent compensation would be effected by that sort of system. There’s a lot to be collectively bargained there, but if there’s a way to make the college game stronger, and to also see which players are clearly better against roughly even competition, that’s the way I’d want to go. The NCAA’s making it hard for me to want to favor a system that throws them more talent, but that’s the best thing to do.
GP… Regarding the upcoming 2010 Draft (and we know it’s early), which five prospects do you feel will stand at the top of the rankings come draft time; being pushed to answer now? If you can, please break down for us your views on their skill-sets, and what sort of projection you see in them.

AS… The top is pretty clear at this point, at least who the top three guys will be. Since Bryce Harper passed his GED test, he’s the clear number one, without a doubt. Two 80 tools don’t grow on trees, and unless he falls completely on his face this coming spring, he’ll go number one. I don’t think he’s going to be the next big thing, and I don’t even expect him to be as good of a prospect as Matt Wieters or as good of a player as Joe Mauer, but the potential’s there. I’d keep him at catcher until he either proves he gets hurt back there or his offense is suffering as a result. You take away a lot of the prospect value if you move him. But he’s my number one.

I’ve got to go with Anthony Ranaudo at number two for now, even with Jameson Taillon’s insane summer. Most people in the blog world only saw Ranaudo at his most tired point in the College World Series, and that’s not the whole package. He’s above-average or better in everything you would want to grade a pitcher on, and he’s still got the size and durability of a number one guy. I see his ceiling more as a solid number two, but he’s got the potential to firm up some things and become a number one. He’s still catching up on development time from when he was a New Jersey prep prospect, and there’s nothing to say that he doesn’t improve as much from 2009 to 2010 as he did from 2008 to 2009.

 Everyone’s prep favorite is now Jameson Taillon, and he’s number three for me. His Rice commitment honestly scares me. Rice commits are just not easy to sign, as most teams have seen in the last decade. He’s got the excellent pro body that teams are always looking for, along with the plus stuff, so even the Rice commitment might not scare away teams in the top five. The projectability is a question mark, as most think he’s maxed out physically, but with a pro regimen for eating and lifting, he might add a tick or two to his already plus fastball. That’s not a promise, but a thought.

Number four and five are much more up in the air. For now, I’ll say Christian Colon is my number four, depending on how his on-field game is after breaking his leg with Team USA. He’s solid across the board in terms of tools, with his hit tool being his best individual tool. He might be a second baseman in the future, but I think he has what it takes to be an above-average shortstop with above-average offense, making him a very valuable prospect. His leg injury was a clean break, and he’s healing up fine according to most people, so I expect he’ll come back strong.

For number five, I’ll go with A.J. Cole. He’s got a special arm, and he’s much more projectable than Taillon. That doesn’t mean he’s a better potential prospect, but that he’s got the natural build and arm to be a true number one starter. He’s got to prove that he can handle a larger load in pro ball, and he’s got to prove he can get hitters out more than once with something other than his fastball. I still think he’s a top five or top ten pick come next spring on his natural talent alone, but there’s more question marks here than with Taillon.

GP… Can you tell us what MLBBB offers it’s readers, as well as where the site got it’s roots, where things are now and what you foresee in the future?

AS… I try to offer the best free baseball draft coverage on the web. That comes out in a few different forms, with the mock drafts, position capsules, draft reviews, the dynasty league and more. It was really started to give people a perspective on draft prospects that was free and as reliable as the experts, and I hope that’s how most people see it. For now, I’m really trying to develop more connections in the scouting world, and I seem to talk to new people in the game on almost a daily basis. The actual site is in a slow cycle right now, as it is December, but my content will be better than ever when games begin at the end of January. For the future, there are plenty of possibilities. I’d be quite happy sticking with only myself as a contributor at my site for years to come. However, there’s great potential in making links between the various free, connected baseball prospect and draft authors on the web. With some help in web design aspects, I could see myself joining with a group of writers in a similar fashion to how Baseball America got its start and continues to function today. However, I would never write for anything that offers its content for a price, as I think we’ve reached a point where information should be free, and opinions will be the things that distinguish one site from another. I understand it takes a huge shift in the frame of mind of the current pay sites out there, but if advertisers understand the huge, untapped potential of free sites and blogs, then there could be a market for a mega-site like Baseball America that operates for free to the fans, but makes as much, if not more money in the long-run than its rivals.

I don’t know, maybe that’s a dream that will never be seen, but it’s a real possibility moving into the next few years.

GP… Very well articulated Andy… we have a lot in common. On behalf of all of us here at Draft America, I’d like to thank Andy for his time, and ask that our readers check out his efforts at MLBBonusBaby.com.

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