clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Baseball Prospectus Interviews David Forst About Spring Training

New, 107 comments
Breaking news: A's trade Gregorio Petit to Texas for Edwar Ramirez. Additional info here, and in the DLD.

I love this interview. It is a paid subscription, but I liked it so much, I wanted to make sure that AN got to see at least part of it. BP's conducts this interview with David Forst, the A's assistant general manager (for the last six years), and I feel that he gives some really interesting, insightful answers, and I think his personality comes through a little as well. I think it's well worth the read.

Kevin Goldstein: The team has been around .500 this spring and, like all teams, you've had some players look good and some players really struggle. How much weight, if any, do you put into spring training on both a team performance level and an individual player level?

David Forst: On a team performance level you try to put almost none, just because on any given day you go out there and see the lineup we're running out there in the seventh, eighth, ninth innings and the guys we are playing. Wins and losses are really the last thing you look at. Ideally you'd like to be at least around .500 so you know your main guys are playing well at some point. If you lose too many games, that becomes an issue where it's a culture/environment thing, but on a team level you put very little stock in it, and on an individual level, it depends on the guy and his standing with the club. There are certainly guys who come in to spring training and need to perform to either make an impression or actually make the club. As much as we tell ourselves that we're better off considering the last year or two or three years, you are always subject to what you see during these four weeks, for better or for worse.

Personally, I think Spring Training W/L records are mostly meaningless; even if a team loses every game (not likely, considering that everyone's 7/8/9 innings are pared down to Single and Double-A players), there isn't a lot to worry about. The sluggers aren't in the game long enough to make up a deficit with a homerun, and the closers have been known to pitch the fourth or fifth innings instead of the ninth. I would never be concerned with the A's Spring Training record. It's a mild embarrassment, but nothing worry about in itself, even if it does bother the players (and I'm sure it does).  

However, I think it's interesting that Forst voices what we all suspect; that even though it is a much better long-term solution to view a player's numbers over the last year or two instead of the four weeks of Spring, even the front office takes a good hard look if a player absolutely rakes in Spring Training. (It goes without saying that this is not the best news for Jake Fox.)

Forst compares Travis Buck's 2007 Spring Training to Taylor and Carter's, and confirms what everyone at AN has said from in-person viewing; that there really hasn't been any indication yet this spring that Taylor or Carter is ready for the big leagues, despite their scorching numbers in Triple-A.

Regarding Buck that year:

Travis just gave us no choice that spring because he hit every ball hard—I think he finished up at .350-something that spring—and just really made the decision for us.

I think Forst left no doubt in the interview that both Michael Taylor and Chris Carter would be starting the season in Triple-A, and I think that's 100% the right call.

Daric Barton; however, is a different story.

I've mentioned it before, so has Nico; as has most of the A's broadcast/sportswriting team, but Daric Barton looks like the best player on the field this spring, and it appears that it hasn't gone unnoticed:

(Forst:) You mentioned Barton, and to his credit, he's played consistently and really performed. He's one of those guys who have come in and basically grabbed a job, so to speak.

I would 100% agree with that as well. I wrote an article at the start of Spring Training questioning whether or not the A's should go with Fox/Chavez/Cust and leave Barton out to start with (since he does have an option), but it didn't take long to answer that question. If the A's keep Fox, it won't be at the expense of Daric Barton.

Forst talks about the pitching staff; that he thinks that Anderson really made his name in the rotation, but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if some of the other young pitchers got some more Triple-A time; hence the need for Sheets. (He doesn't mention the Duchscherer injury(ies), but I'm sure Duke's health questions were also a factor in signing Sheets.)

This was my favorite answer to the usual question about "rebuilding":

KG: That takes us to the roster this year, where there are some other new faces like Kevin Kouzmanoff and Coco Crisp. At the same time, for the last couple of years when you talk about the A's, you talk about all the young talent and all the prospects you got through trades and the draft, and a farm system that has tended to rank at the top. You're seen as a rebuilding team, but then you're acquiring Sheets and Holliday. Can you rebuild and win now?

DF: I think you have to. We have an obligation, to ownership and our fans, to try and win now. There are not many teams in professional sports that can really go out there and credibly say, "You know what, we're going to punt this season." You can't do it, you can't do it in today's environment, so you have to rebuild and still put a credible product on the field at the same time. It's a tough balance, but we feel we've done it. We haven't sacrificed anyone's spot on the major-league roster where it would have hindered the development of a player or our team.

Forst assures us that the A's are taking all precautions with Michael Ynoa; he should pitch between 75-100 innings this year, and even Scott Boras got a shoutout; he is Grant Green's agent, and Green perfectly fit the draft slot for the A's, as did Max Stassi.

 KG: Just on a related note, I have to ask, are you sick of the word "Moneyball"?

DF: [Laughs]. No, I wouldn't say I'm sick of it. I'm just not entirely sure how often it's used correctly. Michael Lewis gets mad at me if I say I'm sick of it, so I don't want that.

KG: So we know the truth here; you're just basically talking around it?


DF: ...Yeah [Laughs].

Forst makes sure to clarify that Moneyball does not automatically discount the scouts, as it may have been portrayed; it is about marrying the two; numbers and scouting.

The last question is from Kevin Goldstein's Twitter and it's one that we've talked about; it is an unusual situation to trade a prospect for a prospect; yet the A's got Taylor for Wallace.


(Forst): ...it was without a doubt because of what we saw in Michael Taylor and not because of what we didn't see in our short time with Brett Wallace.

...

As far as why you don't see those trades; I'm not sure that situations even come up that often where you can part with a guy in your system who you like that much. It's natural to over-value your own guys because you see them so much and you talk about them so much. There are just very few situations where you are going to be comfortable giving up one of those guys. Maybe it just worked out that we hadn't become so emotionally attached to Brett, so we were able to pull the trigger.

Interesting interview, and I think it hints at a lot of answers for this year's 25-man roster. What do you think?

Tonight's game is a night game! 7:35 PM against the Dodgers.