Most of you reading know John Sickels from one of three places; his great prospect book, his blog, or from his past ESPN column.
He was nice enough to agree to an interview regarding Rays related tidbits and his thoughts on topics like Delmon Young's Rookie of the Year chances, Mitch Talbot and Andy Sonnanstine's rotation abilities, and how many world titles the Rays will have a decade from now.
RA - Any hints and or insight on the Rays top 20 prospects in your eyes / book?
JS- I haven't done the D-rays yet, so at this point I really can't say. I know that Reid Brignac is one of my favorites . . .more on that below.
RA - Do you consider Delmon Young the odds-on favorite to win the 2007 Rookie of the Year? Do you hold by your crystal ball predications?
JS - Unless something strange happens it will be either Young or Alex Gordon. Both of them have everything you want in a ROY candidate....talent, performance, opportunity.
RA -Where do you rank the Rays farm system (with and / or without Delmon counted as a prospect) amongst the entire league?
JS - This isn't a question I can answer directly until the book is done. They will be in the top half but whether that is top 5 or top 15, I don't know yet.
RA -Two of your well documented favorites in the Rays system are Reid Brignac and Wade Davis, what do you project ceiling wise for these two?
JS - I love both of these guys, yes. Brignac made huge progress this year and looks like a future star to me, at least offensively. His glove still needs some work but he's athletic and should be OK with more experience. And his bat will be excellent. Wade Davis I've had my eye on for a long time. He didn't quite break through last year, but i love his stuff and I am still optimistic. I also love Jacob McGee, who is still under-the-radar on the national level but who looks like a top prospect to me, statistically and scouting-wise.
RA - How would you grade the 2006 Draft?
JS- Again, this is a question I can answer more effectively when the book is done.
RA - Should the Rays regret taking Evan Longoria over Tim Lincecum?
JS - Hmmm....well, I love both of these guys. Personally I think Lincecum has a higher ceiling in what he could turn out to be. But he's also riskier. He'd be the D-Rays top pitching prospect if they had taken him, but Longoria is certainly also an outstanding prospect. Personally I think I would have taken a pitcher if I were the D-rays, since they need pitching more than they need position players. But there's certainly nothing wrong with Longoria.
RA - Most overrated player in the system? Most underrated?
JS - I like Matt Walker, but I think he might be overrated right now. I'm not certain about his command at all. Underrated, I need to study more.
RA - Your thoughts on Jeff Niemann's spring opportunity / chances to make the Rays rotation out of spring training?
JS - Now, I like Niemann, but I am still worried that he will have more health problems. He's a fine pitcher and should be ready sometime this year, but can he stay healthy? His own track record is worrisome, and those Rice guys usually burn out in pro ball. Even if healthy, I'd like to see him get some Triple-A time, but I say that about everyone.
RA - Mitch Talbot and Andrew Sonnanstine : Future top of the line rotation arms, or two lower level starters / relievers?
JS - Both are good prospects, but I see them both as back-end rotation starters or relievers, not staff anchors.
RA - What do you think of the new Rays ownership?
JS - Don't know enough to comment.
RA - Joel Guzman or Wes Bankston : Which one eventually wins the battle?
JS - Eh....Guzman has a higher ceiling.
RA - Am I crazy or could Sergio Pedroza become a poor man's Bobby Abreu?
JS -Pedroza is good but Abreu is a high standard. I'd say you have borderline personality disorder.
RA -In your eyes is Scott Kazmir a future Cy Young winner, or a bridesmaid for his career to guys like Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, ect.?
JS -If he stays healthy, yes, Kazmir can win a CY.
RA - 10 years from now, the Rays have how many, if any, world titles?
JS - Zero. But they will be over .500 and in the playoffs at least twice.
RA - Best part of your job? Worst part?
JS - Best parts are that I can work at home, and that I spend my days thinking and writing about baseball, one of my favorite topics. Worst parts are that I never have enough time to travel and see games as much as I want to, plus deadlines can be a pain. Sometimes the writing seems like a production line that never ends, and it can be difficult to avoid getting stale.
RA -Favorite player of all time?
JS - Kirby Puckett.
RA - Prospect that you absolutely nailed as far as career path? One you missed completely?
JS - Kerry Wood...I predicted his elbow injury 2 years ahead of time. Lots of misses...worst is probably Ruben Rivera.
RA - When does the 2007 book come out? Where can we order it from?
JS - It should ship the last week of January. I sell it myself and you can only order it from me. Check johnsickels.com
I want to thank John for taking the time to reply, and I encourage you to purchase a copy of his book, it should be to great interest to Ray fans.