A Winter Meetings walk with Eno Sarris
Time is an asset we all covet. The Winter Meetings only highlight that point. Stealing the time of those tasked with breaking and reacting to the news made between General Managers in hotel rooms a few floors up is a tall task. I managed to find a way to convince Fangraphs and The Athletic Bay Area baseball writer, Eno Sarris, to carve out some time for the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network.
The catch? Instead of a sedentary meeting – like those I scored with Jim Callis and Will Carroll – Eno’s talents were immediately summoned to the media floor after we shook hands, a 10 minute walk from our meeting point.
It added an interesting dynamic to the conversation, giving me just enough time to pick the brain of one of my favorite writers, but keep my inquiries concise. With my iPhone bouncing up and down, we walked past the mass of baseball fans that descended on Orlando, FL, speaking of topics from the Giants to Shohei Ohtani and two-way players.
Lance Brozdowski: In your most recent column for The Athletic, you spoke with the San Francisco Giants General Manager, Bobby Evans. Most of the time I feel like you’re on the player side of things. What was different about your question construction and prep for an individual on the management side of a team? Were you more targeted with your questions?
Eno Sarris: Well it’s funny you’re bringing it up in that context because I do think of myself as pro player, or pro labor, always on the player side, and for that piece, I actually pretended to be a player. All of my questions were phrased like, “I am a free agent power hitter who doesn’t want to hit in AT&T.”
I enjoyed thinking about the game from that perspective. Going into the clubhouse for the first time was a big eye-opener for me, I went from thinking of the game analytically, to having players be like, “No, this is how we think about it on the field.”
Having not been a very good baseball player myself, I find it fascinating. I ended up with 10 at-bats in varsity, and I went 3 for 10 with three drag bunts. So that’s the extent of my baseball career.
LB: Heliot Ramos is a player that Giants fans have become familiar with over the last few months. He has incredible raw power and speed, but from my understanding, some problems with breaking-ball recognition, and anybody can see the really high BABIP. I want to know whether he was actually in any of the Giants’ Stanton offers.
ES: I think there is no way he was in any of those packages. I think they would’ve done anything to hold on to him. They think of him as their number-one prospect, and a guy that could help deal with the power outage [the Giants] have had.
I believe in his power, I think the contact rate and his strikeout rate will matter eventually. But they honestly haven’t had a guy like [Ramos] come through their organization in a long time.
LB: Let’s talk about the development of two-way players in college and the minor leagues. Do you think that if Ohtani is successful, we’ll start to see more two-way guys appreciate up through the minor leagues; into Double-A and Triple-A?
ES: I think we’re a copycat league, so if it does work there will be more people doing it; and there are already people trying to do it – Brendan McKay is a good example…
LB: I was talking to Jim Callis about it and he thinks McKay, more so than Ohtani, is the key to it; he’s the key to more two-way players everywhere.
ES: Yeah, we had Micah Owings and we had a couple other guys, too.
Think of a catcher. They have later debut ages and later peaks, and it’s obvious why: if they want to be a good catcher, they have to spend time on their defense, spend time with pitchers, spend time on their batting; they have to do more than everybody else.
Because of that, sometimes their bat is behind, sometimes they peak later. There are a lot of things that make it difficult to be as good as a guy like Buster Posey.
It’s the same thing that’s going to be in play for a guy that wants to hit and pitch. He’s going to have to come to the park, go to the pitcher’s meeting and the hitter’s meeting… a lot of times those are at the same time.
LB: I posed the question to Will Carroll, the Injury Expert, about if there is a workload that would allow a player to play the field every day at a premium position like shortstop of centerfield, and pitch every week. He said there definitely was. I’m interested in your thoughts on that statement.
ES: I think it’s more about that seventh day than it is about that run up. I think if you talk to a long reliever like [Chris] Devenski who was a long reliever, between being a starter and a traditional reliever, he said if I throw two innings, I know I can lift the next day because I know I’m going to get two days off.
Everything is about recovery. When I was talking to the [Colorado] Rockies about how hard it is to sleep in Colorado, they often said they would save workout for when they would leave Denver.
You could probably play [four] days and pitch that fifth day – as long as you got the sixth and seventh days off to recover.
With Ohtani, you almost have to handle him with baby gloves. That’s what they did in Japan – he never got more than 350 plate appearances, never more than 20-24 starts.
Personally, I think [Ohtani will] be more like James Paxton [on the mound]. He’ll be injured a lot, but he’ll be really good when he is in there. And then at the plate, the comp I found was both [Chris and Khris Davis], but more of a prospect.
That kind of prospect doesn’t always work out. Not great discipline, not great contact, but a lot of power.
LB: I’m expecting Ohtani will have some split issues when he faces lefty-relievers later in games…
ES: But even if you have a guy who is 10% better than league average against righties, that you play in a platoon role, and only plays for 300 at-bats a year, and is a really good pitcher for 20 starts per year, that’s incredibly valuable.
[Madison] Bumgarner and [Zack] Greinke are the greatest hitting pitchers of our time and they’re 40% worse than league average.