Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Archive for January, 2006

Forecasting 2006- Upper Minors

Posted by Mike on January 31, 2006

Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted. Today, I figured I’d look at a few players in the Orioles system that are either close to cracking the big leagues or have recently done so.

In this post, I’ll utilize two forecasting programs– Dave Szymborski’s (of Baseball Think Factory) ZiPS and Nate Silver’s (of Baseball Prospectus) weighted mean PECOTAs. I’ve provided the links so that if you really want to know how each of these works, you can check it out yourself. The short version is that they are both intricately developed, well regarded and highly utilized in stathead circles. I’ll add some commentary and we can re-visit this post as the season wears on.

Onto the good stuff…

ZiPS- .266/.333/.398 in 417 ABs

PECOTA- .263/.326/.403 in 539 PAs

Well, that worked out pretty well. Both system’s do not think Markakis is ready yet. Between Gibbons, Millar, Patterson, Matos, and Conine, one would hope that the OF is covered for the majority of 2006- and in this case, that’s a good thing. I suspect that Markakis could exceed these projections, but that isn’t saying much. Most intriguing to me about his development is that his production has increased across the board as he’s moved up to each new level.

Nevertheless, let’s hope that the O’s stick him in AA Bowie or AAA Ottawa (depending on if they decide to actually send prospects to AAA next year) and leave him there until September. He’s not so advanced that he can’t refine his game at those levels and the O’s will keep him on the cheap for another year.

ZiPS- 69 ip/75 K/23 BB/9 HR/3.91 ERA

PECOTA- 53 ip/43 K/ 21 BB/ 6 HR/ 4.12 ERA

PECOTA seems to be weighing Ray’s 2004, when he was used as a starter in the low minors, too heavily. ZiPS comes closer to what I expect his K rate to be, but PECOTA is closer with regards to his BB rate and HR rate. Put it all together, and I am more optimistic than both systems.

Short-term, I think Ray could see a slight rise in his ERA from 2005 (2.66), but it will more likely due to his less-than-perfect control than his HR rate (as ZiPS is implying). He’ll still strike out more than a batter an inning and be a league-average closer in 2006.

ZiPS- .279/.332/.432 in 412 ABs

PECOTA- .277/.327/.460 in 243 PAs

Interestingly, both systems think Majewski is closer to be able to contribute than Markakis. PECOTA certainly penalizes his lost season in terms of plate appearances, but it certainly doesn’t doubt that his power is major league ready. As I noted in a previous post, I like Majewski’s chances to come back- even from a career-threatening injury. He will start the season in Ottawa and probably serve as a full-time DH for a while. His contact and on base skills should be there right away. Watch his power numbers to see how he’s progressing. At this point, it would be a shame if he were promoted to Baltimore only to lose consistent playing time. Let him work out the kinks in AAA.

I’ll predict that he gets a mid-summer call-up and that his power numbers will actually look better in Baltimore than Ottawa, since he’ll be further away from his shoulder injury. He should be ready by 2007.

ZiPS- 143 ip/ 112 K/ 63 BB/ 22 HR/ 5.10 ERA

PECOTA- Strangely missing… (EDIT: my mistake, check comments)

Well, the ZiPS projection looks pretty bad at first glance. Looking closer, however, the 7.1 K/9 are actually pretty intriguing. As I’ve said before, I think if Penn pitched full time in the show in 2006, we should expect slightly below average production with hints of promise that make us look forward to 2007. I think the ZiPS projection is pretty consistent with that. Fortunately, in my opinion, the O’s filled out their five man rotation with the trade for Kris Benson. This should allow Penn some time to develop in Ottawa, at least until any injuries strike.

Left at one level, I’d expect Penn to have an exceptional year. But, I do not think he will respond well to shuttling back and forth between Ottawa and Baltimore. When the O’s do call him up, let’s hope they are willing to let him work out the kinks with consistent starts at the major league level. Otherwise, they’ll only hinder his development. Ideally, that call-up wouldn’t come before August and the O’s brass would be smart enough to shut him down before he reached 170 ip.

 

Well, that’s enough for now. I’ll get to some more on another day. If there’s anyone specific you want to hear about, let me know.

Posted in Minor Leagues | 14 Comments »

Syndication

Posted by Mike on January 27, 2006

I’m quite flattered that a few of you have requested I put Orioles Think Tank into syndication. Apparently this means that those of you with news readers will be able to more easily keep tabs on when I update the site. So, that new orange and white button next to my website counter should take you to where you need to go. I’m still a little confused about the whole atom vs. RSS thing, but FeedBurner has a new service that is supposed to make one link universally accessible to different types of news readers.

A special thanks to reader Zachary, without whom I would have been even more lost in a sea of acronyms. And if any of you are able to utilize this new service, I’d really appreciate hearing whether or not you are having any problems with it (and if you are having problems, I am open to suggestions). As always, I can be reached at Mike@OriolesThinkTank.com

Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

The Jay Gibbons Signing

Posted by Mike on January 25, 2006

The Orioles have reached an agreement with Jay Gibbons for a four year contract extension at $21.1 million. In 2006, he’ll make $4.2 million, 2007- $5 million, 2008- $5.8 million, and 2009- $6.2 million. Let’s try and see if he’ll be worth it.

Background

Jay Gibbons was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 14th round of the 1998 draft. The Orioles acquired him in the Rule V draft in 2000. Since then, he’s posted the following lines:

2001 (Age 24)- .236/.301/.480 in 225 ABs

2002 (Age 25)- .247/.311/.482 in 490 ABs

2003 (Age 26)- .277/.330/.456 in 625 ABs

2004 (Age 27)- .246/.303/.379 in 346 ABs

2005 (Age 28)- .277/.317/.516 in 488 ABs

It should be noted that the apparent outlier in this sample, 2004, can at least partially be attributed to eyesight problems (which have since been corrected) and a back problem he suffered as a result of lifting weights in the pre-season. In addition, Gibbons’ BA/BIP in 2005 was only .268, an indicator that he was a pretty unlucky batter this past season (average is normally in the low .290’s). For comparison’s sake, Gibbons’ BA/BIP in 2004 was .276 and in 2003 it was .292.

Defensively, Gibbons is a converted first baseman– which makes it harder to believe that he looked so silly there in the beginning of 2005. While it may be a little harsh to judge a guy on a 22 game sample, the O’s have apparently made their verdict and it is probably pointless to judge him anywhere but in RF. So anyway, as a RF, Gibbons has made marginal improvements each year and can no longer be considered the liability he once was. Just don’t start handing him any gold gloves yet, those are reserved for below-average fielders like Derek Jeter.

Analysis #1

First, I entered Jay Gibbons’ 2005 stat line into the Sabernomics Salary Estimator. Quickly, this tool incorporates these factors, to varying degrees: OBP, Iso. SLG, Service time, and position. If you want to read about this further, I encourage you to check out the highly informative blog linked above.

Since this tool incorporates whether or not the player is a free agent or merely arbitration-eligible (based on service time), the suggested salaries are going to vary wildly from 2006 to 2007 (when Gibbons would have been a free agent). So, I entered his 2005 stat line and moved his service time up one year for each year the contract extends to. So, these suggested salaries have not accounted for inflation. One other thing, these suggested salaries are based on MLB salaries during 2003. So the fact that contracts like those for Jeromy Burnitz and Jacque Jones have set the market around $5-6 million per year for decent slugging, low OBP corner outfielders is unaccounted for. Yes, I know I’m making lots of qualifications for this analysis but I still think it’s useful (or at least fun).

Here are the suggested salaries for the next four years (followed by his actual salary in parantheses):

2006- $2,174,090 ($4,200,000) – Suggested salary is so low because he is not a free agent yet

2007- $5,103,141 ($5,000,000)

2008- $5,993,017 ($5,800,000)

2009- $6,793,327 ($6,200,000)

To reiterate, keep in mind the following when reading these numbers:

1) They are based on 2003 salaries, which wouldn’t account for recent and future inflation. This would work in J-Gib’s favor.

2) Similar, but older, players like Burnitz and Jones have recently signed similar contracts, which again bears well for Gibbons

3) Quality of defense is not factored in, which would not work in Gibbons’ favor.

Analysis #2

As stated above, players that fit roughly into the Gibbons mold have recently signed lucrative contracts themselves on the free agent market, like Jeromy Burnitz and Jacque Jones. Burnitz has been an all-star caliber player in the past but is entering his age 37 season. Jacque Jones has similarly had two seasons where if you squinted hard enough, he looked like an all-star– just not in the past two years. He will be entering his age 31 season.

Contracts:

Jeromy Burnitz- 1 year/$6.5 million– with a mutual option that could bring the deal to 2 years/$12 million—Ages 37 and maybe 38 seasons

Jacque Jones- 3 years/$16 million—Ages 31, 32, 33 seasons

Jay Gibbons- 3 years/$17 million– I’m throwing out the non-Free Agency year—Ages 30, 31, 32 seasons

2005 lines:

Burnitz- .258/.322/.435 with a .258 EQA

Jones- .249/.319/.438 with a .268 EQA

Gibbons- .277/.317/.516 with a .289 EQA

Defensively, both Burnitz and Jones are well-regarded. However, Burnitz’s defense will do nothing but decline at this stage of his career and Jones’ defense will have a much smaller impact in the cozy confines of the Wrigley corners.

Gibbons seems like the clear winner over this lot but consider the competition. If this is what this type of player is going for these days and the Orioles felt inclined to nab one, Gibbons was the correct choice.

Analysis #3

How will Gibbons age? Traditionally, one dimensional sluggers do not age particularly well. How likely are we to see this play out over the life of this contract?

To determine this, I looked at Baseball Reference’s top comparables for Gibbons. First, I weeded out the players that have yet to reach their age 32 seasons. Then, I looked at the players I assume most of you will be somewhat familiar with. Here are a few synopses:

Brian Daubach– Had his best season at age 29, contributed at age 30, then fell off a cliff during his age 31 and 32 seasons.

Larry Sheets– After showing early glimpses of potential, was utterly useless from ages 29-32.

Jay Buhner– I have to admit my surprise at seeing him listed on Gibbons’ comparables list, but- he was an all-star caliber player through his age 32 season when he began his steady decline phase.

Bo Jackson– Again, I was surprised to see his name, but he did have a similar approach at the plate- he was rendered useless by injuries except for part of his age 31 season and then was out of baseball.

I guess there is some promise in this comparables list. The only thing that it strongly suggests is that Gibbons is not likely to be a useful player in 2009- when he is set to make $6.2 million.

Conclusion

I think I’ve provided a nice set of pros and cons to evaluate in this post. On my end, the fact that free-agents will now be less likely to sign here than ever makes this extension more reasonable (Thanks again Miguel). On the other hand, the one area where the Orioles have some depth in the minor leagues is in the outfield. I’ll leave it up to you to make the final verdict.

Posted in Orioles | 3 Comments »

The Kris Benson Trade

Posted by Mike on January 23, 2006

Saturday, the Orioles traded Jorge Julio and John Maine for Kris Benson. Let’s break this down:

What we gave up

  • Jorge Julio, 26, RHP

Jorge Julio started out his major league career with a promising September call-up in 2001 and an even more promising rookie campaign in 2002. That year, he posted a 1.99 ERA with 25 saves over 68 innings. In 2003 and 2004, he posted similar ERA’s of 4.38 and 4.57, respectively. By the end of 2004, he had forfeited the closer’s role to BJ Ryan. If the wheels were starting to come off in 2004, then there was no doubt about where Julio stood with the organization in 2005. For starters, he reported to camp 20+ lbs overweight. Despite pitching well in April, he ended the year with a career-high 5.90 ERA. His strikeout numbers declined slightly to 7.28 per 9 ip, but so did his walks (a career-low 3.01/9 ip). Looking a little closer at his numbers, it’s easy to see that his decreasing effectiveness was mostly due to an absurdly high HR allowed rate (1.76/9 ip) and a record-high 10 wild pitches in 71.7 innings.

Julio is still young and still has his mid to high 90’s fastball, so he’ll get plenty more chances. Not to mention that teams like the Mets, however unwisely, love the fact that he has “closer experience”. And he did end up faring pretty well in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season, for whatever that’s worth. Personally, I’d be surprised to see Julio approach his 2002 level of effectiveness, which in and of itself was pretty flukey. But if Rick Peterson can get him to stop alternating throwing the ball belt-high and in the dirt, then the Mets will have a reasonable middle-reliever for the tidy sum of $2.5 million. Anyone expecting more than that will likely be disappointed.

  • John Maine, 24, RHP

John Maine was the Orioles 6th round selection in 2002 out of UNC-Charlotte. Though his college career was undistinguished, he quickly flourished in the low minors. After dominating levels all the way up through AA in the early part of 2004, Maine was quickly making a name for himself as a top prospect. Unfortunately, like so many college hurlers before him, Maine’s dominance came to an end when he reached AAA. After his promotion to Ottawa, Maine pitched 119.3 innings that saw his strikeout rate plummet (7.9/9 ip, down from 11.5/9 ip at his previous stops combined) and his walk rate rise (3.91/9 ip, up from 2.15/9 ip at his previous stops combined). In 2005, he posted similar ratios while posting a 4.56 ERA across 128.3 innings in Ottawa before a late promotion to Baltimore. There, he did little to strengthen his case by posing a 24:24 K:BB ratio across 40 innings, with a 6.30 ERA.

As I posted in the comments section of my Impact Rookie Pitchers article, Maine was likely destined to a long-reliever/swingman role to start 2006. Long-term, his ceiling is that of a #4 or #5 pitcher; someone who can eat up innings while posting less than inspiring peripherals and a below-average ERA. Of course, even that is dependent on Maine smoothing out some mechanical inconsistencies and regaining some of the control/confidence that made him so dangerous against younger competition. If things break right, he could end up as the next, let’s say… Kris Benson. Imagine that.

What we got

  • Anna Benson, 29?, pain in the ass

If Anna Benson were a music video, you’d watch her on mute. But you’d still watch. She’s sort of a ridiculously hot Ann Coulter, but with more dignity. I might spend hours at a time thinking about her, but she has no problem reminding us why I should be ashamed to do so.

  • Kris Benson, 31, RHP

After a stellar career at Clemson University, the Pittsburgh Pirates made Kris Benson the first overall pick of the 1996 draft. Despite struggling somewhat in the upper minors, the Pirates scooted him right along and he made his major league debut in 1999. It looked like a good decision in 1999 and 2000, as he posted strong campaigns that had many believing he would live up to his draft hype. Then came the injuries. Despite signs of fatigue at the end of 2000, and with no hope to compete down the stretch, the Pirates overworked a young Benson right into Tommy John Surgery. It was 2002 before he was again pitching in the major leagues. Since then, Benson has been a serviceable back-of-the-rotation type, never again approaching the 7.6 K/9 ip he reached in his sophomore season. Despite this, the Mets traded for him at the 2004 trading deadline and signed him to a 3 yr/$22 million contract that, at the time, seemed wildly out of line. In fact, many cite this contract as the cause of the inflated pitching market we know today.

In 2005, Benson posted a 4.13 ERA over 174.3 innings at a notorious pitcher’s park in the National League. He managed an acceptable walk rate (2.53 BB/9 ip), but his home runs allowed rate (1.24/9 ip) and strikeout rate (4.9 K/9 ip, down from his career level of 6.14 K/9 ip) are less than inspiring.

Conclusion

Well, I guess the Orioles needed another pitcher and they made something happen. All in all, they did manage to get some value for some parts that no longer had a clear role on this team. Benson’s contract, while ridiculous at the time it was signed, is now reasonable. Plus, the Orioles are only on the hook for a two year commitment .

“I’m definitely excited. It’s something I was striving to do years ago,” said Benson, speaking about serving as the staff ace. (source: MLB.com)

I suppose as long as Kris Benson and the fellows who write for MLB.com are the only ones that expect him to serve as our staff ace, then you won’t be too disappointed. In reality, the Orioles traded an increasingly expensive flamethrower with little idea how to pitch and a 24 year old kid who may or may not have a future in the major leagues for a slightly below-average rotation filler with a nice little contract of his own. If there’s anything to be overly excited about, it’s that Hayden Penn might get some extra development time in AAA.

 

  • In news unrelated to Kris Benson, this struck me as a little bit funny:

“There was an assumption we made going into the offseason that he [Kyle Farnsworth] would choose to stay here,” Braves general manager John Schuerholz told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. ”We didn’t have a Plan B, C or D. We went into scramble mode.” (source: Chicago Sun-Times)

Amazing how honest one can be to the press when you’ve orchestrated a decade and a half of dominance.

  • In addition, a Think Tank reader choosing only to be identified as Mojo sent me this link. I certainly like the guy in the #10 spot. And while this writer was clearly going out on a limb for a guy he probably best remembers for his April and May of 2005, Bedard did suffer an usually high BA/BIP last year at .323. Just one more reason why improvement can be expected.

 

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

Snippets

Posted by Mike on January 21, 2006

  • The Orioles and Jay Gibbons are reportedly working on a three year deal worth $15 to $16 million. It certainly makes a lot more sense than Jeromy Burnitz or Jacque Jones. On the other hand, Gibbons will be 29 before the season starts and he’s never gone a season where he made an out less than 68% of the time. Should an extension not be reached, Gibbons will be a free agent at season’s end. When you’re the Orioles, at this point, I think you’re just happy that someone wants to stay in Baltimore.
  • Jorge Julio for Kris Benson talks have again surfaced. Last time this happened, Mets GM Omar Minaya purposely leaked the rumor in order to gauge interest from other ballclubs. This time, it appears the Mets are actually considering the deal. Most accounts are speculating that the Orioles would have to include a prospect in the trade, but I’d be very surprised if it were a top ten caliber player. Depending on who that prospect turns out to be, I definitely think this trade is in the best interests of the O’s. I’ve said before that the best chances of the Orioles having a legitimate ace is continuing to develop their own young pitchers, but it couldn’t hurt to have a little more depth in the middle/back of the rotation. This would allow John Maine to stay in the bullpen and Hayden Penn to stay in Ottawa until he’s ready. Should this deal go down, I promise to do a more in-depth anlaysis of the players involved. (Edit: The deal was consummated. It’s Julio and John Maine for Kris Benson. I’ll break it down further on Monday. For now, I’m brainstorming about a counter for every stupid and oddly conservative rant Anna Benson has while in Baltimore.)
  • Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette reportedly visted Miguel Tejada in the Dominican Republic. If you’re inclined to think that Tejada should stay in Baltimore, than this certainly seems like a necessary step. What I’m more interested in is the fact that they also toured the O’s baseball facility in Santo Domingo and surveyed potential sites for another academy. It is certainly encouraging that the front office is seemingly making this a priority.

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

Player Profile: Val Majewski

Posted by Mike on January 18, 2006

It’s no secret that the Orioles farm system is well stocked in the outfield. One player that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, however, is the 2004 Bowie Baysox MVP– 24 year old OF, Val Majewski.

Background

After a successful college career as Rutger’s first baseman, the Orioles drafted Val Majewski in the third round of the 2002 draft. Apparently seeing a bit more athleticism in Val than his college coaches did, they promptly switched him to the outfield. Since then, he’s played the majority of his games as an above-average defender in RF, with the occasional start in CF. As a pro, he’s posted the following lines:
(AVG/OBP/SLG, SB/CS)

2002 (SS Aberdeen, 110 ABs)- .300/.376/.464, 8/4

2003 (Low A Delmarva, 208 ABs)- .303/.383/.553, 10/1
2003 (High A Frederick, 159 ABs)- .289/.321/.509, 0/0

2004 (AA Bowie, 433 ABs)- .307/.359/.490, 14/4

Defensively, he improved at every stop. He improved his routes on fly balls with every year of experience (which makes sense for a converted first baseman) and by 2004, he had emerged as a potential five tool talent.

Unfortunately, during his September call-up, he tore his left (throwing) labrum. Hoping it would heal without surgery, he reported to spring training in 2005 and could not play through the pain. He ended up needing the surgery anyway and missed the entire season. Majewski was healed enough in time to play in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League as a DH. As could be expected, he started off rusty, but worked his way through to post decent campaigns in both leagues.

2005 (AFL, 73 ABs)- .274/.361/.384, 1/0
2005 (DWL, 58 ABs)- .293 /.406/.379, ?/?

Strengths

Obviously, Majewski has shown good contact skills and power throughout the minors. While he has been stretched to play CF, the very fact that it has been considered an option shows how far he’s come on defense. He is also unanimously praised for his work ethic.

For example, one anecdote I’ve heard about Majewski is that his coaches could not find him anywhere one night on a Bowie road trip. The rest of the players had come back from dinner and cavorting and whatever else it is that kids do these days. They pounded on his door and got no answer. It turns out that Majewski had beaten everyone back to the hotel, even the coaches, to get a head start on a good night’s rest before the next day’s game. He was too sound asleep to hear them knocking.

Devastating setback or not, this is exactly the type of hard-nosed ballplayer that coaches trust to get the most out of his abilities.

Weaknesses

Baseball America recently rated Majewski’s strike-zone discipline as the best in the organization. Consider this a passive-aggressive jab at the statistical analysis community. While he has taken his share of walks in his limited amount of AFL and DWL at bats, his plate discipline has been spotty at times. Long-term, it shouldn’t be a problem, but it could take him a little while to adjust to major league pitching if he’s not seeing enough pitches.

His injury could also cause a host of problems. Formerly thought of as a plus in RF, he could be shifted to LF if his arm strength doesn’t come all the way back. It might even behoove the Orioles to shift him back to 1B. Think about it- it would save his arm, there is nobody blocking him there, and an optimist would tell you it avoids a potential OF logjam in the future. Of course, his bat won’t play nearly as well if he can no longer handle CF or even RF.

Outlook

For 2006, Majewski should start the year in Ottawa. The Orioles will try to keep as many options open as possible, so he should see as much time in RF as his injury allows. If he rakes, he’ll be in the majors with the first injury to Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, Luis Matos, Corey Patterson, Jay Gibbons, Javy Lopez, or Melvin Mora. I could even foresee a scenario where he makes the team out of spring training as a 4-start-a-week 4th OF, if Luis Matos is moved before then.

More likely, it will be 2007 when Majewski finally cracks the starting squad full-time. Be it at 1B, RF, CF, LF, or even DH, the O’s will have to make room for his bat. As disappointing as his injury was, it is still reasonable to think that a player of Majewski’s work ethic can succeed in spite of it. He may not have the ceiling of, say, Jason Kubel, but he is certainly a safer bet.

Ultimately, I see Majewski as a slightly better all-around version of Jay Gibbons. Like Jay, he should be able to slug around .500, but with a better OBP and more athleticism. How he comes back from his torn labrum will dictate whether or not he becomes as much of a liability in the field.

Posted in Minor Leagues | 7 Comments »

Impact Rookie Pitchers

Posted by Mike on January 16, 2006

Well it’s been a couple of weeks since Miguel Tejada last attempted a tearful breakup with Peter Angelos. And, it looks like the front office isn’t going to sign another middle-aged player that is but a shadow of their former self. So, without further ado, I give you the rainy day post on the top of my list: What kind of impact can we expect from the next crop of rookie pitchers in 2006?

Chris Ray, 24, RHP

  • Ray barely sneaks onto this list, coming in 9 innings under the rookie limit of 50. He should easily be the Orioles’ rookie of the year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he posted a campaign worthy of a few league-wide ballots as well. I try to keep a cool head about me, but Chris Ray is a prospect worth being excited about. He was a 3rd round pick out of William and Mary two years ago. A closer in college, the O’s gave him a chance at starting in the low minors. In 2005, Ray was simultaneously promoted to AA Bowie and switched back to relief. No longer having to worry about developing off-speed stuff and solely relying on his mid-90’s heat, hard slider, and plus splitter, Ray took the Eastern League by storm. He posted a 40:7 K:BB ratio in 37 innings, en route to a 0.96 ERA. Promoted to the bigs, Ray again struck out over a batter an inning with a 2.66 ERA. He might not be BJ Ryan in 2006, but he’ll still be a capable closer at the highest level. And don’t forget, it took BJ Ryan until he was 28 to post a season as good as Ray did in 2005.

Hayden Penn, 21, RHP

  • Penn started out the year gangbusters at AA Bowie (ed. note: first time I’ve ever used “gangbusters”), but struggled during an abbreviated promotion to the show. Jim Callis, of Baseball America, recently reported that the major league trial coincided with a “dead arm” period and that Penn should be fine in the long run, so this should be nothing to get worked up about. Not surprisingly, Penn struggled when sent back to Bowie before pitching well again down the stretch. Penn throws a low-90’s fastball that can touch 96, with a plus change-up. His future success will likely hinge on the further development of his curveball. Look for him to get a few starts in AAA during April, when the sparse schedule makes a four-man rotation possible. After that, he would probably have to get injured to not be promoted, especially after the O’s reportedly held onto him over the likes of AJ Burnett, Carlos Delgado, and Josh Beckett. In 2006, look for slightly below-average production with stretches of promise long enough to make you look forward to 2007.

Sendy Rleal, 25, RHP

  • How long does a guy have to dominate AA before he at least gets a shot at AAA? And it’s not like we’re talking about some 18 year old kid that has to be handled with kids gloves either. Probably the most overlooked failings of the 2005 front office was the way so many prospects were mishandled. While Jeff Fiorentino and Penn were rushed along for no particularly good reason, Rleal was actually held back too long. He has the repertoire and track record to be a capable set-up man in the long run. Look for him to compete for a middle relief job out of spring training and thrive if given the chance.

Aaron Rakers, 28, RHP

  • Long considered a AAAA pitcher by the O’s due to his unimpressive repertoire, Rakers finally forced the O’s to give him a September trial last year. If his 2.57 ERA across 294.3 minor league innings doesn’t make you a believer, then his 11:3 K:BB ratio and 3.29 ERA in 13.6 major league innings should do a little to help his cause. Rakers is a good example of why signing players like Todd Jones for seven figure salaries is almost always a bad idea. For the league minimum, Rakers gives you just as good of a chance at 60 serviceable innings.

Others that could surprise: Cory Morris, Chris Britton, David Haehnel, Eddy Rodriguez

 

Think I forgot someone? Let me know and I’ll add them.

Posted in Minor Leagues | 9 Comments »

C-Pat on C-Pat and more

Posted by Mike on January 12, 2006

  • “‘I’m a guy who can get on base, and if I can steal bases and get into scoring position, that would really help the team,’ [Corey] Patterson said.” –Source: Yahoo News

Every time I read that quote, I find something else wrong with it.

“Prospect Debate for this evening and Thursday: Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge vs. Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis. Who would you rather have?
In terms of situation, look at it like an expansion draft thing: you are starting a new franchise and can pick one of these guys, but not both.”

Markakis garnered 36% of the 330 votes cast.

  • Sickels also replied to a question I posed to him about Nolan Reimold. He stated that although Reimold was left off his top 50 hitters list, he would have come in at #51.
  • Apparently, a Bobby Abreu for Erik Bedard swap is all but dead. In terms of value, there are few players as underrated as Bobby Abreu has been in his career (maybe Brian Giles). I still have trouble figuring out where this fits into any plans the O’s brass might have been concocting. Perhaps they realized that trading cheap young pitching for expensive and aging offense is not the best move for a team unlikely to contend in the short-term. Though, Abreu is the type to age well.
  • In other hot stove talk, the Orioles have apparently reached an agreement with Kevin Millar. For $2.1 million plus incentives, they could do a lot worse. Millar should provide a solid OBP off the bench and is still a good platoon option. Think of it this way, he could mean the difference between fourth and fifth place. But this likely means more Ottawa seasoning for everyone’s favorite Mark Henry look-a-like, Walter Young. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Dude,

The DVD with “Behind the scenes footage” and Commentary from the Actors. Now this is Comedy Centrals FIRST DVD with Commentary from the Actors. Will on the market, as Bobcat said, “At The End Of Febuary.”

So that is what I’m looking forward too. The Release of The DVD at the end of Febuary.

Perry”

 

It’s interesting that, in Perry’s mind, Bobcat Goldthwait capitalizes the first letter of every word he says.

 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 4 Comments »

The Corey Patterson Trade

Posted by Mike on January 10, 2006

Yesterday, the Orioles acquired Corey Patterson for Nate Spears and Carlos Perez. Let’s look at this from a few angles.

What we gave up

  • Nate Spears, 20, 2B

Spears was selected in the 5th round of the 2003 draft. His first two years with the organization, Spears showed excellent plate discipline in the GCL and Sally League with a combined 87 BB’s to 95 K’s. Last year, he regressed a bit in the Carolina League– with 36 BB’s to 82 K’s. Not coincidentally, his power numbers spiked a bit and he posted 42 XBH’s in 445 AB’s. At a listed 155 lbs., it’s tough to see his power progressing much further. This has led many to speculate that Spears will end up as a utilityman (often a lazy way of saying he’s just an OK prospect), never hitting for enough authority to be a regular. Unfortunately, he is limited to 2B by his fringy arm, so he is pretty much a regular-or-bust type of prospect. His potential as a regular, then, will likely depend on his ability to get on base. To make that road even tougher, he is now in an organization that does not particularly value that skill. Grade C+ prospect.

  • Carlos Perez, 23, LHP

Perez is reputed to have some pretty decent stuff. He did register 146 K’s in 151.3 IP last year at Delmarva. Yet, his hit rates are consistently higher than one would expect from a 23 year old with good stuff still in low-A ball. This could be because of bad luck or because he has poor control within the strike zone. In this case, I’m inclined to believe the latter, especially considering his other control idicators (61 BB’s). So, when you hear other people calling Perez a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) type, they are likely being as lazy as those that claim Spears is a future utility player. The fact is, the guy is old for his league and has serious control issues. If they don’t get resolved, Perez won’t get out of A-ball. If they do, who knows? But how likely is that to happen? Grade C prospect.

What we got

  • Corey Patterson, 26, OF

Cubs fans are breathing a sigh of relief. No, they’re not pumped up about seeing how Carlos Perez handles Lansing’s opponents next year, they’re happy to have dumped Corey Patterson. And not just for the $2.5 million savings. Corey Patterson was among the worst hitters in the major leagues last year: making an out 75% of the time, slugging .348, and striking out almost once a game (No- that doesn’t make him a worse hitter, it just makes the negative perception more pronounced).

Patterson has all the tools. I don’t need to remind you of this, it has been well documented. He was, in fact, the first cover-boy of the Baseball America Almanac. He was rushed through the minors and after some early struggles, he had successful 2003 and 2004 seasons. On the surface, 2003 looks like his breakout year. However, it was in 2004 that he looked like he might finally be on the path to posting acceptable OBP’s, with 45 BB’s in 631 AB’s. Then, everything went downhill. His .215/.254/.348 line in 2005 is something only Cristian Guzman could be proud of.

Conclusion

I like this deal for the Orioles. It wasn’t bold because we didn’t give up anything- Spears is blocked by B-Rob, and Perez… eh. It isn’t likely to help the Orioles because few people can succeed at the highest level with no concept of a strike zone. But, there is always the small chance that Patterson can build off of what he started in 2004 and live up to his former billing as the King of Prospectdom- even getting halfway there would be a big improvement over Luis Matos. And for that, I applaud the move.

I’d also like to point out that Corey Patterson is still 26. If I may go all apples-to-oranges for a second, remember when Roy Halladay was 23? He completely lost any feel for the strike zone and it shattered his confidence. Corey Patterson was never forced to adequately confront his plate discipline problem because Jim Hendry seemingly never realized it existed. I’m going on record to say that the 2006 Orioles should take a page out of the 2001 Blue Jays’ book. Let’s bump Patterson down to Frederick and demand that he take some walks or else. Every 150 successful AB’s, bump him up a level. An entire year out of the spotlight, working out the kinks at levels he could dominate in his sleep could do wonders for Patterson, just like it did for Halladay. By 2007, I’d wager he’d be better equipped to handle a full-time major league gig than if we just give him some on-the-job training with our own swing at anything guru, Terry Crowley.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 16 Comments »

Miggy Being Miggy

Posted by Mike on January 9, 2006

Yes, I hate the fact that the best player on the Orioles is now directly comparable to that drama queen up north as much as you do. But, Miguel Tejada’s trade demand, and subsequent rescindment, has done more harm to the Baltimore Orioles than anything Manny Ramirez has ever done to the Boston Red Sox. After all, free agents are still going to be willing to play in Beantown.

Jim Duquette is now taking the position that the O’s have no intention of dealing Tejada, even calling the teams with which he has had substantial trade conversations and notifying them. Personally, after the shock and most of the disappointment had worn off, I was excited by the possibility that the Orioles could turn this into a positive situation.

My contention has always been that the O’s are probably two years away from contending and that efforts to compete in 2006 or even 2007 would only serve to push that date back. We are simply too many players away. Now, if the front office shared this view (they don’t), along comes a PR dream– The most valued property on the team demands a trade. Here is a guy that we could probably get three blue chip prospects for. Certainly, by 2008 we would be a better team having gone through with such a trade than not. And now the O’s had the opportunity to do so without a huge media backlash.

Of course the Orioles saw this as an opportunity to look for the best star for star swap they could find, essentially trying to tread water and not significantly change the outlook of the franchise for 2006 or 2008. Now that Miguel Tejada has recanted, it looks like the front office probably won’t deal him at all.

Looking at this with my strategy in mind, recent events may have actually helped the cause. I think it is quite likely that in the middle of July, the O’s will be looking up at at least three teams in their division. If they suddenly get the bright (and right) idea to cut bait on Miguel Tejada at the trading deadline, teams will only be willing to overpay further for his services. Not only that, but no one competing for a playoff spot (and therefore interested in Miguel Tejada at the trading deadline), will be willing to trade their own superstars. So, in a perfect world, I might get exactly what I was looking for all along– Miguel Tejada traded for some blue chip prospects.

I understand how many fans are hesitant to build for the future yet again. The O’s have been fielding terrible teams for the better part of a decade. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it is further away than most want to realize. Riding out the contracts on older players, signing aging free agents (Thank you Jeromy Burnitz’s agent), and trying to force the issue in 2006 will only dim our hopes for 2008.

Posted in Orioles | 2 Comments »