June 2, 2010

Q&A: Baseball America editor John Manuel on Anthony Slama

In addition to his duties as Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel also announces games for the Rays' longtime Triple-A affiliate in Durham, North Carolina. With the Rochester Redwings in town for a series this week he got a first-hand look at various Twins prospects, posting tons of interesting notes about them via Twitter. Manuel was also kind enough to answer a few of my questions specifically about Anthony Slama and his amazing minor-league numbers ...

Gleeman: I think a lot of Twins fans assume Slama's raw stuff must be poor because the team is unwilling to call him up despite the great numbers, but my impression from seeing him a few times (on television and online) is that his stuff is probably no worse than average. At the very least, it's not as if he's throwing in the mid-80s. What were your impressions of his raw stuff?

Manuel: He's definitely got average raw stuff. I can't say what the assumptions may be, but we've reported on him in our [team] Top 30 ever since he was signed, he was in instantly, and he's got two average pitches. That's how they looked Saturday. He also does have deception; I thought I caught him doing a couple of different things, such as varying his tempo and even varying what he does with his glove during his delivery, just to create a little deception.

But I'd want to study the video to confirm that. Mostly, he showed command of two average pitches and some moxie; he trusts his stuff, throws pitcher's pitches and attacks hitters with confidence. Seems like his fastball has some life to it [note: Manuel listed his velocity at 89-92 miles per hour] and that his slider's break, while not extraordinary, is late.

Gleeman: Talk of his delivery being atypical seems kind of overblown to me, because while his throwing motion does have some funk to it he's hardly doing anything crazy. Obviously there's something going on that makes it tougher for hitters to pick up the ball coming out of his hand, though. Any thoughts on what it is and whether it'll play in the majors?

Manuel: I agree on the deception but I think it's little things, like you said. It's not a completely different delivery.

Gleeman: Bill Smith and company have repeatedly said that Slama isn't on the 40-man roster because he doesn't need to be added until the offseason, but obviously that doesn't really explain anything. They could add him now if they felt he was ready, but my sense is no one in a decision-making position believes he's for real. What's the general sense on Slama in terms of deserving a shot in the majors given that he's already 26 years old?

Manuel: I think the Twins haven't added him to the 40-man roster because they have other options they want to evaluate first who have to be on the 40-man. Guys like Alex Burnett, Anthony Swarzak, and Glen Perkins, or guys who have to be on the 40-man, like Loek Van Mil, Deolis Guerra, Estarlin del los Santos. I don't see a ton of dead weight on the 40-man roster.

That said, Slama is clearly better than Rob Delaney to me. Going into the 2009 season I think they liked Delaney better and after last season I think they preferred Slama. Slama's in the higher-leverage role at Rochester, but Delaney probably would have been lost in the Rule 5 had he been exposed to it. All that is to say, I understand why he's not on the 40-man yet, I understand why they are being patient.

Is Slama so much better than what they have in the majors that he's worth losing a player to another organization by removing him off the 40-man? I think they consider that answer to be no, and I can see that. Stuff-wise, Slama isn't better than what they have. He's just better in terms of his minor-league dominance, which has gone on for three years.

Gleeman: Shouldn't the success of someone like Pat Neshek show the Twins that, at some point, consistently amazing numbers warrant an opportunity even if there's a lot of skepticism?

Manuel: I see where fans are coming from but I don't think Slama still being in the minors is costing the Twins games. Jesse Crain seems like the guy you'd replace, but I also can see giving Crain more chances to dig out of his funk. One thing to watch is how heavily Slama is being used. He's been used in back-to-back games six times already, and he and Delaney are tied for the International League lead in appearances with 24 through 51 team games.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to John for answering the questions. We occasionally disagree, whether about Slama now or Nick Blackburn a few years ago--we have an over/under bet on Blackburn winning 70 career games--but I'm a huge fan of his work and Baseball America is the only magazine I still subscribe to. Following him on Twitter is also a must for anyone interested in prospects, if only because he writes stuff like: "Slama sporting an 80 porn stache on the 20-80 scale."

13 Comments »

  1. “I don’t see a ton of dead weight on the 40-man roster.”

    let me think:

    Butera
    Mahay
    Tolbert
    Condrey
    Perkins

    and add De Los Santos to the equation: Career .650ish OPS and couldn’t hit his weight in AA at 23.

    Lots of dead weight.

    Comment by thrylos98 — June 2, 2010 @ 12:05 am

  2. fantastic. It’s good to hear this stuff from someone, as the Twins FO and scouts haven’t given us any information on what they think about Slama and all we have to go on is his ridiculous domination of the Minor Leagues. I’m still of the opinion that you can’t ignore his ‘performance’ when evaluating him (especially at age 26), despite the perceived lack of ‘potential’. He deserves a shot.

    Comment by Steve L. — June 2, 2010 @ 12:09 am

  3. and I agree with Thrylos, there is dead weight that I don’t see anybody picking off if they drop them…

    Comment by Steve L. — June 2, 2010 @ 12:10 am

  4. or that would be a devastating blow to the team if they did…

    Comment by Steve L. — June 2, 2010 @ 12:12 am

  5. I love it, Slama is this season’s Nuke Laloosh for our resident Annie Savoy…

    Comment by glarg — June 2, 2010 @ 3:29 am

  6. And I can confirm the spectacular porn mustaches that both Slama and Delaney were sporting this weekend in Durham. I wonder if there’s a bet in play here or show of solidarity for the guys waiting to get a chance to prove themselves in the bigs?

    Comment by Tim G. — June 2, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  7. I think alot of Twins fans don’t realize how good they have it with the quality of the pitching in the whole Twins organization. In Milwaukee, the Brewers have no pitching….none….they have over $20 million a year tied up in Trevor Hoffman (+11 ERA) and Jeff Suppan (.380 average against) because they develop very little pitching in their organization. Their season is lost and because of that Prince Fielder will be gone at the end of the year, if not before. Ryan Braun will be gone in a few more if they can’t find someone who can toss the ball…he wants to win.

    The Twins keep developing guys and finding guys for not a lot of money (or if lots of money, only for one-year contracts). We need to remember how rare this is. I trust that the Twins know what they are doing.

    Comment by Twins Fan in Milwaukee — June 2, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  8. Good interview. Agree with Manuel that it’s a little more complicated than simply calling him up for the purpose of seeing the guy in the bigs. Alex Burnett is sort of like Matt Guerrier from a few years ago, where he was basically considered a “mop up” guy, but you look at his numbers over time and they’re consistently good enough to warrant a better role.

    Yes, Jesse Crain probably needs to go, but the point is well taken that Jesse Crain is not being used in a way that should cost us any games. Even Duensing and Mahay are figuring into more critical situations than Crain is. If the objective is to replace one of the starters, Manship is probably higher on the list than Slama. And Slama’s stuff isn’t dynamic enough that he figures as a candidate for 8th or 9th inning work.

    Comment by Jeff H. — June 2, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  9. Correction on my earlier post, Slama is a reliever…I was thinking of Swarzak. I get all these right-handers with fastballs in the low 90′s confused.

    Comment by Jeff H. — June 2, 2010 @ 9:12 am

  10. “Jesse Crain seems like the guy you’d replace, but I also can see giving Crain more chances to dig out of his funk.”

    They are giving Crain shots at redemption in mostly low leverage spots. Which is ok. He has to prove he belongs or doesn’t beyond a shadow of a doubt before the stretch run.

    The $250,000 question is – since Slama is not going to be thrust into high pressure situations upon reaching the bigs (like Mijares vs Texas on Sat bases loaded 2 out facing a righty) how is it worse for the big league roster that Slama is not up?

    Yes – he could be great, you must also take into consideration that he could stink. More likely he would be near average. We already have a young guy eating the low pressure innings and getting evaluated for long term success. He is actually doing a damn nice job.

    My feeling is they want to see if they can trust Burnett with greater responsibility before they think about scrap heaping Crain and bringing up Slama.

    Comment by Karl — June 2, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  11. “…I agree on the deception but I think it’s little things, like you said. It’s not a completely different delivery…”

    I’m wondering, given that a human head can hold a finite number of things, what someone who makes this statement doesn’t have in his head because he does have that in it.

    Comment by Mick — June 2, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

  12. thrylos, Manuel was taliking about pitching dead weight, not overall dead weight. Are you going to replace Butera with Slama? Of course, we can count on you to be a quibbler.

    I think Karl is on the right track, although my guess is they wanted to see if Mijares was going to come through before jettisoning Mahay in favor of Slama. They may also be hoping to get a prospect at the trade deadline for a surplus pitcher. That is consistent with their longstanding player strategy.

    Comment by birdofprey — June 2, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  13. Thanks Aaron, that was informative. I don’t know what to do with Crain now, but I would not have signed him for this much money to be my 5th or 6th best reliever, which is what he was coming into the year (nathan, guerrier, mijares, rauch, neshek, duensing, were all ahead or equal to him coming into the year). But, now they have. I’d hope that at some point they deal him and another player for a prospect, but I have my doubts……Are there any 3B prospects out there for teams with depth at 3B, bueller, anyone, bueller?

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 2, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

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