Friday, January 19, 2007
Q&A with Josh Taylor
Taylor's Twins Talk
Good morning! Today I am going to continue the 'series' on some other Twins bloggers. I hope that you will check out their sites and even bookmark them.
But first, I have written an article called Powers Leads Division II Charge over at the Twin Cities Dugout on one of the Twins breakout pitching prospects. Please take a couple of minutes to read the short article. By the way... you can order the Scout.com Prospect Guide now!
Today, I am excited and want to thank Josh Taylor for taking the time to answer some questions for us! His site is Taylor's Twins Talk. He also contributes to the Minnesota Sports Zone. You can also see... I mean hear... him occasionally on Jeff Straub's Minnesota Twins Fan Network podcasts and on Marty Andrade's Twins podcasts.
Josh Taylor is a 25 year old law/grad student at the University of Colorado, in Boulder. Although he is a big fan of many sports, the Twins are really the only sports team that he follows with a passion. He is also heavy into politics.
I'm sure that you all will enjoy the Q&A today. If you have any comments for me or Josh Taylor, please e-mail me, and I will try to answer your questions or forward them on to him and see if we can get you an answer. Also, leave Comments below if you would prefer. Maybe Josh Taylor will stop by once or twice and answer any other questions you may have.
Let the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: What is your baseball history and background? Did you play much baseball growing up?
Josh Taylor: I started playing baseball in T-ball back around kindergarten or first grade. I was never that good - on occasion, I'd get a big hit, and I could play decent defense, but it definitely was never going to be something that I could take anywhere. I last played in 11th grade. I was pretty much a corner infielder during my "career."
SethSpeaks: Who were some of your favorite players growing up? Any names that might surprise us?
Josh Taylor: Like most Minnesota kids, I was a big Kirby Puckett fan. I also loved watching Scott Erickson pitch. As for surprising names - I have no reason why, but I always liked Andy Ashby, and also Oil Can Boyd, who is the first pitcher I saw throw a balk, live at the Metrodome when he was with the Rangers. I don't know why that would spark an interest, but it did. His nickname probably didn't hurt.
SethSpeaks: How long have you been writing your blog, and what made you start it?
Josh Taylor: The blog is fairly young - I started in late May 2006. I write primarily for my own interest - it's something that keeps me in touch with the Twins, forces me to think through issues, and provides an interesting forum to put my thoughts online. If people enjoy what I write, that's a bonus for me.
SethSpeaks: What is your process for deciding what you will write about?
Josh Taylor: Some things are pretty easy - I try to cover any Twins news, and I have an obscure fascination with roster moves that pretty much causes me to address anything and everything related to the roster. When there isn't a lot of news being generated, I'll expand to talk about other issues in baseball, or I'll pull together a story that goes more in depth with an analysis of a particular player or issue. A lot of times, that is generated by something I heard on ESPN or read on the Star Tribune or the Twins website.
SethSpeaks: Where do you stand on the SABRmetrics versus "Traditional" way of thinking?
Josh Taylor: There's a place for both in baseball. The OBP revolution was/is an important development in the game, and there are a number of similar stories (the discounting of batting average, wins and losses, and the rise of stats like WHIP and ERA Plus) that I think are positives. The problem with SABR is that a focus on stats misses the point at times - and sometimes, having a "character" guy on the team is important. SABRmatricians also always seem to be climbing over each other to find the next really important new stat. If that's how you connect to the game, that's great - and I'm all for it. But, honestly, I wouldn't want a team to be run totally with one philosophy at the expense of the other.
SethSpeaks: If you can limit yourself somewhat, what are you overall thoughts looking back at the 2006 Minnesota Twins season?
Josh Taylor: I think what the Twins did last season was amazing. Terry Ryan made some horrible decisions in signing Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra, but the Twins did what good baseball teams do and found ways to adjust. The way the team chased down the Tigers and White Sox was unbelievable, and considering that they did it with Santana, an ailing Radke, and a bunch of rookies in the rotation made things even more surreal. The horrid performance in the playoffs obviously put a damper on things, but the Twins really played over their heads for much of the season, and fans should be thankful that they made the playoffs at all, and put on a great show.
SethSpeaks: What do you think that the 2007 Twins will do? About how many wins do you think they will have and how will they finish in the division?
Josh Taylor: The only team in the AL Central that I'm not worried about is the Royals. Any other team in the division could end up winning it. I'd put my early money on the White Sox and Indians - I think the Tigers had the kind of season where everything came together, and their poor play in the second half of the season was an eye-opener. The White Sox aren't noticeably better than they were last year - in fact, an argument could be made that they're worse - but they're good enough that they shouldn't have to worry about that. The Indians, meanwhile, are on the verge of being very good. I think the Twins starting pitching is going to present a problem, but I'll still say that they finish second in the division, behind the White Sox. I think it'll be very close, with the top 4 teams in the division all at or just above .500.
SethSpeaks: Who do you think will comprise the Opening Day starting staff?
Josh Taylor: Santana, Bonser, Silva, Ponson, Garza - with Perkins ready to go if any of the last three names don't deliver. I don't think Scott Baker will pitch as a Twin again.
SethSpeaks: Obviously Johan Santana is the unquestioned Ace. What do you expect from him in 2007?
Josh Taylor: If he stays healthy, there's no reason he can't win another Cy Young. He's not just the unquestioned Ace of the staff; he's the best pitcher in baseball.
SethSpeaks: Which young pitcher or pitchers do you think will have a breakout season?
Josh Taylor: I think Glen Perkins is eventually going to get a shot in the rotation, and I don't think he's going to let that spot go. Kevin Slowey will probably make his debut at some point this season, as well, and who knows how he would do.
SethSpeaks: Is there are pitcher that you fear will flop?
Josh Taylor: Several. Boof Bonser was great down the stretch for the Twins - but is it realistic to expect that out of him again? Silva and Ponson are big question marks. Garza has so much promise, but I'm afraid he still isn't comfortable at the big league level, and just throws waaaay too many pitches. So, yes, pretty much everybody in the rotation worries me at least a little - but I think that's a natural reaction.
SethSpeaks: How comfortable are you when the Twins hand a lead over to their bullpen in the 6th or 7th inning?
Josh Taylor: I love the way the Twins bullpen is constructed, especially with Nathan and Rincon at the end of the line. If Jesse Crain could recover his form from 2005, there would be no questions at all. And, of course, Pat Neshek and Dennys Reyes are capable of getting outs at any point in the game, as well.
SethSpeaks: Hypothetically speaking, if Joe Nathan were to miss some time, who do you think the Twins would put into the closer's role?
Josh Taylor: I think Rincon slots most naturally into that position, with Neshek or Crain becoming the setup man at that point.
SethSpeaks: Joe Mauer, at age 22, and Justin Morneau, at age 24, had monster breakout seasons. Generally speaking, just how good can these guys be? What would a ceiling for each be?
Josh Taylor: Joe Mauer has the potential to be one of the best catchers in the history of the game, but how long he stays behind the plate is an open question. He has the raw ability to be a Hall of Fame caliber player, whether he stays behind the plate (in which case, barring injury, I think he'll be a virtual shoo-in), or moves to 3B (which would be a more difficult journey). I don't think Morneau has as high of a ceiling as Mauer - I think he's capable of putting up some really great seasons, but last year is probably about as good as it will get, although he may be able to add some more homers to his total and keep up the average.
SethSpeaks: Can Michael Cuddyer repeat his '06 performance?
Josh Taylor: He can, but I don't know that he will. The fact that he's comfortable as an outfielder probably makes it more likely - he has the talent to be a significant piece of the Twins offense again in '07.
SethSpeaks: Which hitter do you expect to have a breakout season for the Twins?
Josh Taylor: It's going to sound strange, but Rondell White. Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer had career years last year, and while both could improve on those numbers I don't think it would be seen as a breakout. White should be healthy and comfortable out in left field. I think he'll contribute a lot. If Jason Kubel's knees are healthy and he gets a lot of at-bats as the DH, there's a possibility that he could finally start playing to his potential as well.
SethSpeaks: Is there a hitter that you fear may flop in 2007?
Josh Taylor: Nick Punto. I love the way he plays, but he has to hit .300 to justify having him in the lineup, and I don't know that he'll do that. I also worry that fans could see a regression by Cuddyer, Morneau, or Mauer as a flop - and that wouldn't necessarily be the case.
SethSpeaks: You write a lot about the Twins minor league system. Give me your top 5 Twins pitching prospects?
Josh Taylor: I'm excluding Garza, Perkins, and Baker from this discussion because they are all guys with a legit shot of making the major league roster. That leaves my top five as Kevin Slowey, Oswaldo Sosa, Yohan Pino, J.D. Durbin, Kyle Waldrop. Waldrop is a bit of a surprise on my list, but I've liked him for awhile and I'm sticking with him. I'm also hoping the Twins find a way to keep Durbin around, because before getting hurt last year he was pitching very well.
SethSpeaks: Give me your top 5 Twins hitting prospects?
Josh Taylor: Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, Brock Peterson, Erik Lis, Matt Moses (yes, still, despite last year - and I also seem to have a fascination with 1B)
SethSpeaks: Are there one of two pitchers that you expect to bust out and become a top prospect in 2007?
Josh Taylor: I would like to see Zach Ward have a great year, and I think Brian Duensing is an interesting pitcher who I would like to see do well.
SethSpeaks: Are there a couple of minor league hitters that you think will be a 2007 sleeper?
Josh Taylor: I'm hoping that Trevor Plouffe regains his form as a top prospect, and it would be nice to see David Winfree bust out. Neither are really sleepers, I guess, but that's my answer.
SethSpeaks: Finally, do you have any plans coming up for the year on your website?
Josh Taylor: Nothing outside of what I did last year. I'll have a weekly update on each of the minor league times (so something new every day on that front). I hope to refine the format a little bit, but we'll see - if I don't have time, it could end up being just like it was last year. Basically, nothing much is going to change - I hope to continue to provide (sometimes insightful, sometimes not) commentary on the Twins, and to have a lot of fun doing so.
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Josh Taylor or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a question or comment below.
If you would like to read any previous Q&A's, I have set up a new page that contains the links to all of them. Click here to see who all has done a Q&A with SethSpeaks.
That is it for today and for the week. By the way, if you have any ideas for the site, people to try to get Q&As from, article concepts or more, please leave some Comments or send me an e-mail. I would appreciate your help. Have a terrific day!
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