Interview with Jim Callis from Baseball America

Two weeks ago, Tim Williams asked the loyal readers of Pirates Prospects for their input on the site and what we can do to improve it.  One of the comments was that readers would like to see a national, objective viewpoint on some Pirate prospects.  This was an excellent idea as there is the danger of being in an “echo chamber” where everyone says the same thing and a hive-mind develops.

To that end, Pirates Prospects went straight to the top and contacted Jim Callis of Baseball America, the respected voice for one of the leading sites for minor league prospecting.  In order to avoid bombarding Jim with questions about every prospect from Indianapolis to the Dominican Summer League, we decided to give our writeup on four prospects that are off the radar for the majority of non-Pirate fans and see what his corresponding opinions of the players were.  We also asked if there was anyone who stood out to him, outside of the top guys that everyone talks about.  A big thanks to Jim for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions and provide the insight below.

Starling Marte

Marte currently leads the Eastern League in hits.

Pirates Prospects View — Starling Marte has some strong tools, with a lot of speed, a great arm, and he’s shown the ability to hit for average. There are some concerns that his low walk totals and lack of power limit his prospect status.  We feel he can play CF and shift McCutchen to LF, starting in mid-2012.

Jim Callis — Marte kind of came out of nowhere, because I don’t think many people knew about him before he got to the SAL in 2009. I certainly didn’t. I think you have him pegged really well. He hits for average, he runs well, he plays a good center field. The question is how much his aggressiveness and his lack of power will hold against him. There might be more power in there, though. He’s a good prospect but not an elite one.

Colton Cain

Pirates Prospects View — Cain is a big-bodied lefty with the ceiling of a #2 or #3 starter. FB sits 90-92 right now, but could add a few mph and be a real commodity.  Right now the curve is his main offspeed pitch.

Jim Callis — When I was writing our Texas draft reports in 2009, some clubs viewed Cain as a possible sandwich pick, and others saw him as more of a first-rounder. Obviously, the Pirates thought highly of him and signed him for $1.15 million in the eighth round. I think the key to Cain is how much better his stuff gets. At this point, it’s more average to solid than plus. Right now, I’d peg his ceiling as that of a No. 3 starter, though I’d like to see him miss a few more bats.

Curry has dropped to a .228/.290/.380 line in 92 at-bats at the AA level.

Matt Curry

Pirates Prospects View — Curry is a pure hitter that seems to have enough power to stick at 1B. May be prone to strikeouts, but should compensate with a good percentage of walks. Is middle of the road defensively at 1B.

Jim Callis — Curry is one of those guys who’s going to have to prove himself every step of the way, as a 16th-round pick who signed as a college senior. He’s an all-bat first baseman, and his bat carried him to Double-A very quickly. At the same time, all-bat first basemen have to hit a lot to make it to the majors and win a regular role there, and there are a lot of all-bat first basemen in the minors. Curry has stumbled since he got to Double-A, though it’s early.

Kyle McPherson

Pirates Prospects View — Perhaps no one has embodied the fastball command stressed by the Pirates more than McPherson. While in High A, he had more HBP than BB allowed. His low-90’s FB is complemented by one of the best changeups in the system. Potential #3 starter, but needs to prove himself against proper competition in AA.

Jim Callis — McPherson has tremendous command of a solid fastball, and he has a good changeup as well. The key for him is going to be how well he can develop his breaking ball. His ceiling is as a No. 3 starter, but he’s probably going to wind up being more of a No. 4 or 5. I don’t think he has the one standout pitch to put him in the front half of a rotation.

Robbie Grossman/Tony Watson

Pirates Prospects — Is there anyone in the system who has stood out to you or surprised you, outside of the top guys that everyone talks about?

Jim Callis — I’ve been pleasantly surprised that Robbie Grossman has been able to get back on track this year. He really hadn’t done much since the Pirates gave him a $1 million bonus in 2008, but he’s doing a much better job of controlling the strike zone and trying to play a tablesetter role. On the pitching side, I always liked Tony Watson in college but he seemed to stagnate in the lower minors. His stuff won’t overwhelm anyone, but he has found a niche as a lefty reliever and is off to a nice start in the major leagues.

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Lee Young

If Cain becomes a solid #3 , does that make up for Bullington?

Lee Young

Wonderful stuff!

I think Hague will make a better major leaguer than Curry, however, I do hope Curry becomes an elite power hitter.

Steve Zielinski

A nice and informative interview. Thanks!

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