An Interview with Rob Neyer on the Padres

John Conniff had a chance to sit down with <i>ESPN</i> analyst Rob Neyer to talk about his gig with the big boys and his hometown of Portland. Of course the talk got around to the San Diego Padres and the Portland Beavers, including prospect talk regarding the likes of Jon Knott, Freddy Guzman and Xavier Nady to name a few.

First, you have a pretty interesting background according to your web site. How did you get involved with ESPN?

Rob Neyer: Luck, like most the other good things that have ever happened to me. I was working for StatsInc., and ESPN.com, which at the time was ESPN.net, was looking to build up their fantasy content and shortly thereafter they hired me. I started out as an editor, mostly packaging content, which I didn't enjoy a whole lot. One thing I did enjoy was writing a baseball column on the site, which is where I am now.

How does a writer who covers major league baseball end up in Portland?

Rob Neyer: I'm fortunate that these days its easy to follow baseball as long as you have a satellite dish. I don't think I would be able to do without the extra innings package. I do enjoy going to the ball park, and probably see around 20 to 25 games a year, not including the Beavers games. I ended up in Portland because this is where my wife is attending graduate school.

You do some broadcasting for the Portland Beavers, how did that come about?

Rob Neyer: I became friendly with the Beavers regular broadcaster, Rich Burke, who does all of the Beaver games on the radio and television. The Beavers are televising 6 games this year, and I've done 5. I worked on the radio a little bit last year, quite a bit this year already, 3 or 4 radio broadcasts.

The Padres have a pretty good team in the Pacific Coast League, who stands out for you on this years team that you have seen.

Rob Neyer: There are a bunch of guys who have shown stretches that they can play. I've probably seen a dozen games this year, and the guy who has stood out for me is Justin Germano. I'm a big Germano fan, Stauffer is the bigger prospect and has two outstanding pitches, curve and change, with a fastball that is a little better than average, but Germano so far looks every bit as good.

I've seen Germano pitch two outstanding games this year, he doesn't have an outstanding fastball, but his curve ball is very good, especially for someone who is 21. Think about it at 21, most guys are in their junior year in college, while Germano is one step away from the major leagues. So far, he's the one who has really impressed me.

Brian Sweeney has a chance, but he's also 30. I'm impressed as anyone by Dennis Tankersly, a hard fastball, and a wicked slider, but he seems to have a bad inning where he can't get the ball where he wants it. I came to believe the Padres should have made him a relief pitcher and not a starter. They didn't do that this year, and so far he has performed in the starters' role. Tank has been very good in the rotation, and he pitched well for the Padres, but hasn't pitched as well since he was sent back down. He's still good; I'm still not convinced will not eventually wind up in the bullpen. I'm not sold on Chris Oxspring yet, the last time I saw him he pitched poorly. He has a chance, I haven't seen him enough.

One of the bigger prospects in the Padres system is Xavier Nady, how do you project him as a pro?

Rob Neyer: With pitchers I try to look at not only their numbers, but what they look like. What I can project them eventually becoming on the major league level. With hitters, I look at the numbers, if they can do it in the minors, then they can do it the majors. I think Nady is ok, but he's not a young guy. Nady will be 26 in four months. Right now, I don't quite see it. His AAA numbers aren't that impressive, not the mark of a great prospect. He looks like a fourth or fifth outfielder in the major leagues.

A guy who seems to get little attention, but has been very successful in the minors is Jon Knott? Thoughts on him?

Rob Neyer: Jon Knott is a better hitter than Nady, there is really no hole in his minor league resume. He's going to be 26, and that is really the only issue. He's probably not going to get much better than he is, but right now he probably is a major league hitter too. If you look at his age, he should have had good years in the leagues he was in. I think it will be a stretch to think he will be an everyday player. He's a better hitter than Terrence Long, but guys like him always have to do a little better than guys who have experience and the major league contracts. Knott hasn't been in the majors, its going to be tough, but I think he will get a shot to play with someone in the majors.

The real problem with the Padres position player prospects is that they are all between 24 and 26, which is just too old to be a really high end prospect. A lot of these guys got late starts or had injuries. Drafting college hitters is fine, but with these particular guys it's hard to see a lot of upside.

Do you think Freddy Guzman will be the Padres CF in 2005 and are their any other Beavers that stand out for you?

Rob Neyer: I think Guzman will be a major leaguer, but not a star; he doesn't have any power at all. More of a chance to be a Juan Pierre type. Guzman has a decent OBP and can definitely steal a base.

I like Jake Gautreau when he is healthy; he is the real deal power wise. I saw him hit two monster home runs to center field. If he stays healthy, he may be the best prospect. What you do like about Gautreau is the power. I don't think he has a 2b's body; he's more comfortable at 3b. Gautreau gives the Padres some flexibility and I'm not convinced yet that Burroughs is going to be a good mlb player. I haven't seen enough power.

Do you follow the rest of the system and who do you see coming up?

Rob Neyer: Not really, probably the only Padres prospect I could identify is Barfield.

Do the Padres still have to make a trade after missing out on Steve Finley?

Rob Neyer: That is a tough one. I think they have to make some type of move. They certainly can use an outfielder. I don't think the Padres would trade Stauffer, but the rest I could see being moved. Justin Germano is the one that I would want. Do you think (anyone) would really want Nady or Knott, guys who may or may not become everyday players? Right now, the only everyday player I see on the Beavers roster is Guzman.

It seems every time the Padres call up someone from Portland, the Padres manager Bruce Bochy seems to not want to give them an opportunity. Any insight on why this happens?

Rob Neyer: I really wonder why the Padres even bother to call up guys like Knott and Nady. Why do you bring them up and take away ABs in the minor leagues with these players, especially considering when you are putting Terrence Long out there in San Diego?

I am not so sure in some ways about how serious the Padres are about going into the post-season. For example keeping someone like Jeff Cirillo on the roster (this interview was just prior to his release), when you could add a hitter such as Jon Knott or some speed with Freddy Guzman, doesn't seem the most prudent thing to do. I don't think you can afford to waste a spot.

John Conniff can be reached at Conniff@sandiegosports.net

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