Tuesday, November 29, 2005
NFL "EXPERT" Picks
Q&A with Chris Brown
Twins First Base Prospect
Good Morning everyone! First, let me encourage everyone that there are still a few days to get your Why Baseball article in for the contest. You have a chance to win a GuardDog Watch for yourself or as a great Christmas gift. For more details, click here.
A couple of quick links:
If you're into Minor League prospects like me, you'll enjoy the following discussion at John Sickel's Minor League site: If you could have a team of minor leaguers, who would they be?
Aaron Gleeman chimes in with his thoughts on the Jim Thome trade.
And today, Aaron has an excellent article. He includes some numbers, some ZIPS predictions on the Twins players for 2006. Although they are just that, predictions, it is an interesting look at what could be. The offense doesn't look great, but I also think that it shows that with a couple of changes, they may not be too bad either. He also discusses Wily Mo Pena and if the Twins should trade for him.
How about you? Do you agree with SBG's thoughts that the Twins defense was not as bad as Terry Ryan is telling us?
What Makes a Game Exciting? Dennis Baznango wrote a great article at The Hardball Times to determine the greatest playoff games of all time. It is interesting, however, any list where Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Twins 1, Braves 0) is barely mentioned can not be considered a perfect formula.
Finally, I need to say thank you and Congratulations to Mark Sheldon. He has been the Twins beat writer for mlb.com for the last five years. Recently, he decided to leave the Twins beat and take the same position with the Cincinnati Reds. It is a good move for he and his family. Yesterday, he wrote a thank you to Twins fans and made the announcement official. Mark has always been excellent with answering questions for me and even did a Q&A with me for this site earlier this offseason. I certainly wish he and his family well!
Now, back to the primary subject of today's posting... I am thrilled to post another Question and Answer session, this one with with Chris Brown. Now, Chris is not one of the household names mentioned when people determine their Top Twins Prospect lists. However, he is one of those guys that has worked very hard. He is one of those guys that put up big numbers in high school, and didn't get drafted. He went to college and had a big junior year, and for some reason didn't get drafted. He went back and improved again in his senior season, and did not get drafted. At that point, he could have given up thoughts of a career in baseball. But he wasn't quite ready to do that, so he went to a Twins tryout camp, not expecting anything, but giving it the time and effort. The Twins gave him a chance last year and he did pretty well for the GCL Twins. Even in 2005, it took an injury to Johnny Woodard at Beloit for Chris to get a shot with the full-season Snappers squad this spring. But I think it is fair to say that he made the most of that opportunity. He got a chance to play and had a came through. In 87 games, the still-22 year old Brown hit .265/.326/.452 with 19 doubles, 5 triples, 11 homers and 39 RBI.
We all know that Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round by the Dodgers in 1988 (there are now just 50 rounds), and he made his Major League debut in 1992 and has since put up Hall of Fame numbers. But I wanted to find out how many undrafted players have made it to the Major Leagues (excluding foreign-born players who are not eligible for the draft). I could not find a current article, so if anyone happens to have a good source for such information, please let me know. But I found this 1987 Baseball America article that listed dozens of players at that time, including six on that Atlanta Braves roster. Those players were Paul Assenmacher, Rick Mahler, Ken Oberkfell, Bruce Sutter, Ed Olwine and... my favorite player (excluding Kirby Puckett) Claudell Washington! There are hundreds of examples of undrafted players making it. I am just as interested, if not moreso, in those stories as the bonus babies that make it!
Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer all of my questions. This is another case where I asked too many questions, yet Chris was kind enough to spend the time out of his hectic schedule to answer them, and answer them very thoroughly and detailed which makes it all the better to read. Again, I think that this is very interesting to read and I hope, and am sure, that you will enjoy it too.
If you have any comments for me or Mr. Brown, 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.
Let the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: Coming from Minnesota, a high school baseball season is usually delayed by snow and then a lot of games are played in about six weeks. What is high school baseball like in Florida? I mean, Baseball America always has six to ten Florida teams in their Top 25 lists.
Chris Brown: High school baseball in Florida is like College baseball most in the northern states. I think that is why the transition to college ball is easier for the high school players from Florida. Baseball is a year round sport down here and it takes a year round commitment to keep up with players your age.
SethSpeaks: Tell us a little about your early baseball days, Little League and other youth teams. What do you remember about those days?
Chris Brown: All I really remember was never really being on that good of a team. I always seemed to end up on the team of leftovers, and I think that made it fun.
SethSpeaks: At what point did you start saying, not only is this fun, but I'm pretty good at this baseball thing?
Chris Brown: I never really thought that too much. Wherever I played there was always someone better. They may not have been a better hitter but all around players, there was always someone better. I mean, Boof (Bonser) played for our rival high school for our 4 years, Casey Kotchman was always the best first baseman, etc.
SethSpeaks: I have plenty of memories from my four years of high school baseball. Do you have a couple that stick out in your mind?
Chris Brown: My first game of my senior year I hit a go ahead 3 run home run off Boof only to have him hit a go ahead 3 run homer an inning later.
SethSpeaks: As your senior season began and progressed, were you recruited by colleges or even pro scouts?
Chris Brown: I never really got recruited at all. The only school that was really interested in me was Duke and I didn’t make it through admissions (they required a 3.3 GPA and a 980 SAT; I had a 3.1 GPA and a 1280 SAT, apparently they can’t bend with the GPA)
SethSpeaks: Your first two years of college, you played at two schools before going to Florida Gulf Coast University for your final two collegiate seasons. Tell us a little bit about your college experiences.
Chris Brown: College baseball was a lot tougher than I had expected. The actual playing baseball was the same, but it was very difficult to balance classes with all the hours of practice, travel and games. Other than that it was the most fun I had playing baseball until signing with the Twins.
SethSpeaks: You had a couple of monster statistical seasons your last two years. Did you think that you might get drafted since your numbers would certainly indicate that someone should draft you?
Chris Brown: Me and my teammates all thought I had a definite chance, but apparently it wasn’t to be. Going to a first year program probably didn’t help, but I had tried the big school and it definitely didn’t fit me. If I had to do it again I would still go to FGCU, but I would have my coaches push a little for me to get drafted.
SethSpeaks: When you weren't drafted, what was going through your mind? Was there any thought of calling your baseball days done?
Chris Brown: I had thoughts of quitting that instant. My dad convinced me otherwise and we went to the tryout in Ft. Myers. I owe a lot of what has happened in the last two years to him.
SethSpeaks: If you weren't playing pro baseball, what would you be doing?
Chris Brown: I would probably still be in school. I have 4 pre pharmacy classes left, then a good 3 years of pharmacy school. If I could make this baseball thing work I wouldn’t mind putting the schooling off for a while.
SethSpeaks: You decided to go to a tryout with the Twins. First, tell us what happens at a tryout? What are the scouts trying to find out?
Chris Brown: The tryouts are really basic. We ran the 60, made some throws, fielded some at our position then took BP. In the afternoon they invited back enough people to field a couple teams and play a game. I figured no one would get taken from that tryout, but Joe Vavra called me that night.
SethSpeaks: They obviously saw something that they liked and signed you. How did it feel to sign that first contract and officially become a pro ball player?
Chris Brown: Until I get married and the birth of a first child that day will stand as the best day of my life (followed closely by the game I hit for the cycle in this year).
SethSpeaks: You went and played in the Gulf Coast League for the rest of the summer of 2004 and did fairly well. Tell us a little about what happens in the GCL. Is it just games, or is it primarily instructional?
Chris Brown: It is a little of both. You always want to win, but the minor leagues, especially the GCL, are to develop players and get them to the bigs. A day down there consisted of fundamentals every morning until noon and a game at 1. A long day down there in that heat.
SethSpeaks: So the Twins gave you an opportunity. What was your first offseason like? Did you go to instructional league? Did you work out like crazy? I imagine the mindset would simply be to prove to the Twins that it was worth it to sign you?
Chris Brown: That offseason was spent trying to prove every scout that ever saw me play wrong. I know I am pretty good at this game and I think I deserved to get drafted. I just want to make sure the Twins have no reason to release me and prove them to be the smartest organization in baseball.
SethSpeaks: What were you thoughts or goals heading into the 2005 season?
Chris Brown: I would like to increase the power a little more, up the average and cut down on my strikeouts. With cutting down on the strikeouts, both of those other things will increase, so that is my main priority.
SethSpeaks: Because of the injury to Johnny Woodard, you got a chance to play for Beloit and certainly made the best of it. Were you surprised to go to Beloit?
Chris Brown: I was hoping to get sent there in the first place, but when I wasn’t I just worked hard to get the chance to go. When Woody got hurt I wanted to prove I belonged there and hopefully I did that.
SethSpeaks: Beloit in April has to be a little different climactically for a guy from Florida. Any thoughts on that, or was it just part of the job?
Chris Brown: No comment. No sport should ever be played in weather like that. You have to take it with a grain of salt though. Everyone has to deal with it and you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You just try to work through it and get to the warmer months with somewhat respectable numbers.
SethSpeaks: You put up really strong power numbers for Beloit (19 doubles, 5 triples, 11 homers, .452 SLG%). Would you say that power, or extra-base hits are your game? How would you describe yourself as a hitter?
Chris Brown: I think I am a gap to gap guy and when you let yourself spray the ball around you can be positioned that well on defense and holes open up. As for the home runs I have been waiting for a year like that for a while. Sometimes you just need a couple and they start coming in bunches.
SethSpeaks: Looking at your numbers, the strikeout rate is really the only thing that I can see that you may want to improve upon as you move up the ladder. Would you agree? And, if so, how can a hitter work on that? Cage time? Or is it just getting more and more at bats?
Chris Brown: It’s a little of everything. I still have somewhere around 500 minor league at-bats. That really isn’t that much time for an adjustment. For many guys that is one season. I think and hope that strikeout total should decrease as I get used to pitching and sequences used by different organizations and different pitchers.
SethSpeaks: So overall, what are the one of two things from the 2005 season that you are most proud of, or happy with?
Chris Brown: The increase in my power number definitely. That is what I worked on in the offseason and the fact that I succeeded is very satisfying.
SethSpeaks: Likewise, are there parts of your game that you're really working on in the offseason?
Chris Brown: Mainly the strikeout numbers. I am also going to work more at 3b and a little in the OF.
SethSpeaks: You've primarily played 1B and done some DHing. Have you ever played other positions?
Chris Brown: I played third whenever Winfree got an off day. I played third my senior year, I just don’t have much time over there and like everything else take a little adjusting.
SethSpeaks: In some of our e-mails, you have mentioned that Joe Vavra has helped you out tremendously. Obviously, the Twins recently rewarded him by making him their new major league hitting coach. So, can you tell us a little bit about Joe Vavra, what he has done for the organization and specifically for you, and what you think he are his strong suits and if he can help the Twins offense.
Chris Brown: The man just loves baseball. He studies every player he watches no matter who they play for. He knows hitting and he learns everyone’s swings and what makes them work. He will not try to change your swing he will just adjust what you have to offer. Some coaches try to make everyone hit the same, but Joe will work with you to find out what works best for you as a hitter.
SethSpeaks: Who are some of the others throughout your baseball-playing life who have really helped you to get to where you are as a player?
Chris Brown: My dad has helped tremendously. He knows my swing inside out, so if something is wrong I can send him a video and he can tell me what is going on. My high school coach was really the first guy to tell me I had what it takes so I owe a lot of my confidence to him.
SethSpeaks: Growing up in Florida, who were your favorite teams and players? I suppose you were just hitting junior high when the Marlins and then the Devil Rays came into existence.
Chris Brown: Growing up I was a Cubs fan. My grandmother is from up there and she and I would watch whatever games we could on WGN. When I figured out Fred McGriff was my favorite player it became whatever team he played for.
SethSpeaks: Did you or your family get to many major league games, or spring training games?
Chris Brown: I only went to a handful of spring training games growing up and really only went to a dozen or so D-Rays games until the past couple years when I started frequenting games.
SethSpeaks: Looking at the 2005 Beloit team, you made the playoffs and nearly advanced to the second round. Kevin Boles was your manager. He was now promoted to Ft. Myers to manage the Miracle. Can you tell us a little about Mr. Boles, his managerial style, etc.?
Chris Brown: Bolesy is a very cerebral manager. He will work matchups and outmanage anyone he faces. He is going to be a very successful manager and I suppose he learned from a pretty good one.
SethSpeaks: Rudy Hernandez was the Snappers' hitting coach. What is his coaching style and how much help can the hitting coach be throughout a game, a series, or over a season?
Chris Brown: Rudy is very hands off and unless you have a problem he won’t change anything. If you need something he is there for you, but unless you are struggling he really has nothing to say. THIS MAKES HIM A VERY GOOD HITTING COACH. Hitting coaches sometimes try to work on things at all times even when things are going good.
SethSpeaks: Can you tell us a little bit about the left-side of the Beloit infield this season. 3B David Winfree was the Twins minor league hitter of the year, and SS Trevor Plouffe, although his numbers won't show it, did seem to progress as the season went along. However, both struggled defensively with more than 30 errors each. As a 1B, I am sure that you have a unique perspective on this.
Chris Brown: Most of those errors were fielding errors. I can’t remember that many throwing errors, especially from Trevor. They are two very talented young ballplayers and will go very far in the organization. The only think I could notice was many of those errors were caused be not being aggressive enough to the ball. Sometimes young players have the tendency to sit back and let the ball play them. As they move up they will become better and better. They will be fine players.
SethSpeaks: Looking at the Beloit roster, there were a number of hitters who, like yourself, were not drafted, or if they were drafted, it was far from the first round. But offensively, you had a very strong team. You, Deacon Burns, Jeremy Pickrel, Dwayne White, Landon Burt and Mark Zamojc all contributed mightily to the offense. Tell us about these guys.
Chris Brown: Deacon is a big hitter in a small package. He has very quick hands and has the ability to hit the ball a long way. Pick is just a great athlete. He can run, throw and hit. He has the ability to use all fields and can make routine ground balls close plays. Oh yeah, he can put on a display in BP. D-White is just a good hitter. He hits the ball where it is pitched and doesn’t try to do too much. He has a little pop that will come around with more at bats. Landon is Tony Gwynn. He is a singles machine and gets on base a ton. Z is just a solid hitter. There really isn’t anything he does great, he just does everything very well and is a very sound hitter.
SethSpeaks: The Twins do a good job of scouting Australia. I also get a number of readers from Down Under. Can you tell us a little bit about Paul Rutgers and Luke Hughes, please?
Chris Brown: Both of these guys are characters. They are just fun to be around. When they step on the field though they are some great competitors. Rutty is a utility guy that can play every position and has some pop in his bat. Hughesy is a very good second baseman and a solid hitter. He can hit for power when you need it and can put down the bun when necessary.
SethSpeaks: Especially as the playoffs neared, your pitching staff really turned it on. Can you tell us a little about the following pitchers:SethSpeaks: Kyle Aselton moved into the rotation and was dominant. What is his pitching style?
Chris Brown: Kyle is a pitcher who is successful by being effectively wild. You are never sure what you are going to get when he goes out there but you know he will find a way to get outs. He has above average stuff with average command. He is a low to mid 90’s guy with a plus slider. When he develops a changeup he will be lights out.
SethSpeaks: Kevin Slowey gave a quality start every time out. What is it like playing behind him, knowing he'll throw strikes and give your team a chance?
Chris Brown: Slowey is a lefty stuck in a righty’s body. He has average velocity with good offspeed stuff, but he will throw it where you tell him every time. As a hitter this is tough because you really cannot sit on one pitch. It is a pleasure to play behind him because he gets the ball and goes, throws strikes, and lets the hitter get himself out.
SethSpeaks: Top pick Matt Garza came up and was up and down, but had some really good starts. Tell us about his "stuff."
Chris Brown: I think he has the 2nd best stuff out of the guys I played with this year (Jose Mijares being the best). He throws a hard fastball, a hard slider, and a hard changeup that acts like a 2 seam fastball. If he is on he is unhittable.
SethSpeaks: Kyle Waldrop struggled throughout the year, throwing a few good starts into the mix, but I would think that the organization should still be high on him especially because of his control. Tell us what he has, but also what you think he would need to do to take the next step?
Chris Brown: He really only had a couple starts that I can remember that he got absolutely lit up. Other than that he was dinked to death. I have never seen someone with bad luck like him. He will be fine. As long as his confidence can stay up he will be a very good pitcher. He has a good fastball with great movement, a good curveball and a very good changeup.
SethSpeaks: Eduardo Morlan came up and was good. I am reading a number of sources saying he could be as good as any of those other 2004 top pitching prospects. What does he throw?
Chris Brown: Right know I think he is a little behind the others. His stuff is there but he is easily shaken. When he gets more innings he could be the best out of those picks. He throws a low 90’s fastball, a very hard, sharp slider and a good changeup.
SethSpeaks: Anthony Swarzak and Jay Rainville both pitched great for Beloit before moving up to Ft. Myers. Can you tell us a little about each of them?
Chris Brown: these two were very similar pitchers last year and two very different pitchers this year. As Swarzak’s fastball goes, he goes. He is easily a consistent 94-95 and has an above average 2 seamer, power curveball, and change up. As Rainville’s velocity dropped he became more reliant on his curveball and that turned out to be a good thing. His 12 to 6 curveball is probably one of the best I have seen. The velocity drop between that and his fastball is so drastic that it is almost impossible to sit on. Right now he may be a little behind Swarzak.
SethSpeaks: Jose Mijares - does he have the stuff to match the numbers that he put up through the season?
Chris Brown: As previously stated I think Jose has the best “stuff” I saw this year. He is a mid to upper 90’s guy with a hard slider, a hard curveball, and he works with Johan In the offseason so you can imagine the changeup he has.
SethSpeaks: Who are some of the guys in the bullpen that did well or have dominating stuff?
Chris Brown: David Schinskie has some of the best stuff on the team. Many compare his stuff to Silva’s but he can throw harder. Everyone in that pen knew their role and understood what they had to do. It wasn’t overpowering stuff, just good pitchers.
SethSpeaks: OK, the Snappers are down by one run with runners on 1st and 2nd and two outs in the 9th inning. Aside from yourself, which teammate would you have wanted at bat, and why?
Chris Brown: Winfree always seemed to be up in those situations this year so I might as well go with him. He was put in those situations and produced all year, as you could tell with his RBI count.
SethSpeaks: Likewise, if you are in a deciding game of a series, which starting pitcher would you want to give the ball to?
Chris Brown: I’d give it to Slowey. You know what you are going to get from him everyday and out of the starters we had, he has the most experience.
SethSpeaks: Alright, so, what is keeping you busy throughout this offseason?
Chris Brown: Working and working out. Just hitting, throwing, lifting, etc. Nothing too hard yet. I will get at it a little harder in the next month or so.
SethSpeaks: Do you already have goals or plans for where you would like to be in 2006?
Chris Brown: I would love to be in Ft. Myers. I think I deserved the chance, but we’ll have to wait and see what everyone else thinks.
SethSpeaks: Have you read the book Moneyball? What do you feel the role of statistics and advanced statistics play in the game?
Chris Brown: Moneyball is the main reason I thought I would get drafted. I wish more teams would take that approach. It is hard to develop a player by trial and error in the minors. Four years of failure can kill a career, while four years of success in college can mature a player and get him ready for that jump. I just think that for many the jump is too much and more careers are killed that way.
SethSpeaks: Finally, I am going to leave the last spot open for you. Are there any other things that you would like Twins fans to know about yourself, or pro ball, or anything? The floor is yours...
Chris Brown: Nope, I think this covered it. I just want to that you for allowing me to do this. Not many people know about us non drafted and late draft picks. Thanks for noticing that we are playing too, it’s not just the high draft picks a bonus babies.
Chris, thank you again very, very much for taking the time to answer all of these questions so thoroughly. I know that you're incredibly busy, so it means a lot that you were able to do this.
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Chris Brown or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me.
If you would like to read any previous Q&A's, here is a checklist:
11/25/05 - Q&A with Seth (your questions for me)
11/23/05 - Q&A with Pat Neshek (Twins Relief Pitching Prospect, just added to 40 man roster)
11/15/05 - Q&A with Jeff Dooley (the voice of the New Britain Rock Cats)
11/8/05 - Q&A with David Dorsey (local writer for The News-Press in Ft. Myers, FL)
11/1/05 - Q&A with Aaron Gleeman (Twins Blogger Extraordinaire)
10/25/05 - Q&A with Mark Sheldon (Twins Beat Reporter for MLB.com)
10/18/05 - Q&A with Kevin Slowey (another top pitching prospect, Twins 2nd round pick in 2005)
10/11/05 - Q&A with Wes Holtsclaw (local writer for the Elizabethton Twins)
10/5/05 - Q&A with Eli Tintor (Minnesota-native, catching prospect who played 2005 in E-Town)
7/28/05 - Q&A with Jim Mandelaro (local writer for the Rochester Red Wings)
2/28/05 - Q&A with Pat Neshek (Minnesota-native, reliever prospect who played 2005 at New Britain)
1/27/05 - Q&A with Stick and Ball Guy (one of the best bloggers out there!)
12/17/04 - Q&A with Alexander Smit (Holland-native, pitching prospect spent 2005 between Beloit and E-Town)
5/28/04 - Q&A with CJ Nitkowski (big league pitcher, spent Spring Training 2005 with the Twins)
04/19/04 - Q&A with Jim Souhan (Star-Tribune Baseball Writer, now a columnist)
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
The Colts and the Steelers provided an excellent Monday Night matchup last night. With Ben Roethlisberger back at the helm for the Steelers, suddenly they had a chance to be the previously unbeaten Colts. Despite the comeback attempt, the Colts remained unbeaten with the win. It also gave me a 15-1 weekend to be proud of! I have to say something about it because it never happens for me. I'm not good at this! But I'm happy! It was a good week for all of our panel. Overall, we went 13-3. check back on Friday for our Week 13 picks.
(For more on our panel or our picks, check out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here.)
Final Standings Total Week 12 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Trevor Born Twins Junkie 14 2 87.5% 125 51 71.0% Cory Hepola KTVH-TV Sports 13 3 81.3% 123 53 69.9% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 15 1 93.8% 122 54 69.3% SethSpeaks Panel 13 3 81.3% 116 53 68.6% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 11 5 68.8% 118 58 67.0% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 12 4 75.0% 118 58 67.0% Will Young Will's Twins Blog 11 5 68.8% 114 62 64.8% Stick & Ball Guy Stick & Ball Guy 13 3 81.3% 114 62 64.8% Brent Hanson BrentNet 13 3 81.3% 112 64 63.6% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 11 5 68.8% 111 65 63.1% Melissa Lien SethSpeaks.net 12 4 75.0% 110 66 62.5% Grant Balfour Twins Relief Pitcher 13 3 81.3% 105 71 59.7% Kevin Slowey Twins Pitching Prospect 10 6 62.5% 98 78 55.7%
And on that note, I will call it a day. Remember, I will be back tomorrow with the first winner of the Why Baseball Contest. I certainly hope that you found the Q&A with Chris Brown as interesting as I did. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
Back to Archives Home