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TCB Interviews Kevin Goldstein

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For those of you who don’t know him, Kevin Goldstein was hired into the Astros organization away from Baseball Prospectus. At the time CrawfishBoxes was not the only ones writing about the excitement of his addition to the staff, but you can read the community’s excitement (for the most part). Here is a snippet from Brooks in that article:

”Upper tier prospect analyst. Being a Baseball Prospectus guy, he’s definitely a sabermetrics style analyst with use of advanced metrics for evaluating prospects. However, he has done a great job creating a lot of relationships with high end scouts so that he doesn’t overuse advanced metrics. He’s basically the perfect guy for a Luhnow ran organization because he heavily uses advanced metrics but still loves the scouting side. A very good balance between the two sides of the coin, but leans more toward advanced metrics.”

Houston Chronicle posted an article detailing the plans of the Analytics based front office, including a great exert on Kevin’s job description . And many others posted somewhat questioning articles as it was a shift from where Front Offices were traditionally looking for Scouting talent.

The Crawfish Boxes were lucky to steal a few minutes of his time leading up to the craziest time in baseball - The Winter Meetings.

On August 31, 2012 – I remember reading your heartfelt good bye post on Baseball Prospectus, which pulled on the heart strings and highlighted a great career as a writer. Anything in particular you miss from those days? What do you find to be the biggest differences?

I miss the podcast because it was always a lot of laughs and we’d find the most fascinating people to talk to both in and out of baseball. That’s about really the only thing I miss. Not to insult what I used to do as much to express how much I love what I do now. It’s hard to answer the ‘biggest difference’ question because nothing is really the same. I used to write about baseball and now I work in baseball, but the two things are massively different things. I like this side better.

When you were hired, Luhnow did an interview in which he described your role as ““part-scout, part manager of people, part investigative reporter”. That was before your promotion to Director of Professional Scouting/ Special Assistant to the General Manager. Is that description still fairly accurate as your role today?

Not really, but those are all things I’m still involved with on one level or another. We are a constantly, rapidly evolving organization. I’m starting my seventh year with the Astros and the way we do pro scouting has changed dramatically from when I started. So has the way we make our decisions in the draft, the way we evaluate international players, and the way we develop players at our minor league affiliates. My job has evolved into what I always tell others is the best gig in the organization. I’m involved in any sort of roster transaction, be it trades, free agent signings or call ups/send downs, but so are a good number of people in our baseball ops group. Jeff really likes to make his decisions off a large and diverse number of thoughts and opinions. Beyond all of the big league work, I’m running around in the spring seeing potential top draft picks and often travel to the Dominican and other foreign lands to assist our international efforts. Beyond watching and talking about a truckload of baseball, I also conduct some contract negotiations, do minor league affiliate visits to evaluate our own prospects and after that whatever else Jeff needs from me. The title is Special Assistant and I’m just here to assist in a manner that hopefully gets classified as special in the end.

When evaluating prospects, I’ve always heard the saying “Don’t scout the stat-line”. For those of us who don’t have the ability to see players every day – what key items should we look at when evaluating talent?

I think that’s a bit of a simplistic statement, but somewhat applicable. We still care about performance, and performance is often indicative of ability, but not always. Until you are playing major league baseball, you are playing an analogue of major league baseball and there are skills and abilities than might lead to great performances in the minors that won’t translate at the highest level. Scouting and player evaluation is more about analyzing players in search of those specific, translatable skills that tend to lead to big league success. As to exactly what to look for, as much as we love TCB, we can’t go giving away trade secrets!

Since 2012, the Astros have been one of the best teams in regards to drafting. Who has exceeded your expectations the most?

It’s hard to really pick just one player, and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. I do think it’s a great tribute to our scouts, our player development staff and especially the players themselves when you see guys drafted after the 30th round, like Tyler White and Josh James, helping us win games in the big leagues.

Advanced Statistics are a constantly evolving science. While I’m sure that the Astros have their own analytics – which statistics that are publicly available do you find the most value in?

Even some ‘basic’ stats are real important. It might surprise you, but the first thing I’m going to look at on a player is just his page over at Baseball Reference. Just to paint an initial picture. Then the real digging begins. Again, I don’t want to get too much into how the sausage is made, but statistics are a measurement of what HAS happened. We are looking for things in a player that tell us what the player is going to do in the future. Past performance is just a piece of that puzzle.

As a baseball writer – How did you build your network of scouts to discuss and gain intel from?

I went to games and generated relationships with scouts. I picked up my phone and/or hit send in my email client to reach out to front office folks. It’s that simple. I’m surprised more don’t do it. You might be surprised as to who might hit reply or call you back.

With teams consistently recruiting talent out of the Astros front office, do you think the Astros will look to hire from other team’s front offices or continue to look outside the box? (PS - I think you should hire John Sickels)

One of the things I really appreciate about Jeff is how open-minded he is when it comes to any kind of solution. That includes staffing. He took a tremendous chance on me, and as an organization we’ve given a lot of people their first jobs in baseball and watched them grow. Our front office is filled with people from entry level to our Assistant General Manager (Brandon Taubman) who are still with the team than gave them their first shot in this industry, and I think beyond the success of the team overall, it’s something Jeff should be most proud of.

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We want to thank Kevin, not only for the amazing work he does with the Astros, but for taking the time to talk with us. We look forward to talking again!