Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Interview: Deric McKamey

Posted by Mike on February 9, 2006

Deric McKamey has been Baseball HQ’s Director of Minor League Analysis for 12 years. Since 2001, he has been a contributor to Street & Smith’s Baseball magazine. He was also part of the 2002 class at the Major League Scouting Bureau’s Scout Development Program and has worked as an advisor to the St. Louis Cardinals since 2004. What brings him here today is that I was fortunate enough to purchase his recently released 2006 Minor League Baseball Analyst; a collection of essays, scouting reports, and prospect lists that has quickly vaulted to the top of my never ending pile of baseball annuals. Graciously, Deric agreed to field the following questions about the Orioles minor league system. If you like what you see here, I’d encourage you to check out some of his other work linked above.

OTT- Can you briefly tell us how you are able to combine statistical analysis and traditional scouting methods and what makes this so important when evaluating minor league talent?

DM- I believe one should use all available information in evaluating prospects, but it’s important to discern what you see on the field and on the stat page. After I’ve evaluated a player in a game, I always scrutinize his statistics to see if things match-up. When they do, you feel pretty confident that your assessment is correct. The problem lies when the tools and stats don’t fit, which at that point, you have to make the call which to rely on more. It isn’t always just the tools or just the stats in those instances, but you have to judge each player individually.

OTT- The crown jewel of the Orioles minor league system is Nick Markakis. What kind of future do you see for him and when do you think he’ll be ready?

DM- I see him being a productive right-fielder who can be a solid run-producer and defensive asset. I don’t see him having an extraordinarily high batting average, but see good power potential (25-30 HR). I think he arrives in the midst of the 2007 season and establishes himself as an everyday player at the end of that year.

OTT- What does the Orioles outfield look like in 2009? Can any one of Markakis, Majewski, Fiorentino, or Reimold handle CF?

DM- I see Markakis (RF) and Reimold (LF) manning the corners, with someone else (Patterson?) in CF. I don’t think any of the four players mentioned can handle CF on a regular basis, though Markakis probably comes the closest. I doubt that Fiorentino and Majewski can out-hit Markakis/Reimold and would be outfield reserves if they were still on the club. Fiorentino and Majewski are on the fringe of being regular outfield corners and most likely settle-in as platoon outfielders.

OTT- One of the more interesting debates in the Orioles system is the merits of Hayden Penn vs. Adam Loewen. Where do you stand on this? What are each pitcher’s flaws and how do you see each progressing in 2006?

DM- I went Penn #2 and Loewen #4 on my organizational list. Penn is a more complete pitcher, though I thought he pitched tentatively with the Orioles. He needs to improve the rotation of his curveball and I’m not quite confident he can carry-over his strikeout rate. If the Orioles are patient with him and let him re-establish some confidence, he’s going to be special. Loewen, potentially, has better stuff, and as we saw in a limited sample (AFL), he can be dominating. Obviously, his command and curveball consistency are holding him back. He has a 50/50 chance of repeating his AFL performance in the minors.

OTT- So far, the 2005 draft class looks to be among the most successful in recent memory. Have you spotted any trends in Joe Jordan’s philosophy that may have inspired such a strong haul?

DM- The class looked good following the 2005 season as many of the top picks were college players. That’s going to happen naturally. I do like the aggressiveness he showed early by nabbing Brandon Snyder and going for unheralded guys (Olson and Reimold) who have excellent upside. I felt the Orioles really went after talent this year, instead of trying to draft for signability.

OTT- Speaking of the 2005 draft, Nolan Reimold instantly became the biggest power threat in the Orioles system. The only statistical flaw seemed to be a high strikeout rate. Do you see his ability to make contact being a problem as he moves into the upper minors?

DM- It is something he will have correct, especially at the upper minors when pitchers will be trying to get him to chase breaking pitches more often. Contact rate is an important hitting skill, but as long as he makes his power game-usable and continues to draw walks, he’s going to have offensive value.

OTT- Does Brandon Snyder have the tools to stick at catcher? How significantly could that impede his offensive development?

DM- His tool package puts him right on the edge, as far as being an everyday catcher. He has the receiving skills and a quick release, which offsets an average throwing arm, and he did nail 29% of attempted runners. Most catchers do stagnate offensively in the minors at some point, so it is likely that he’ll have a year or two where he struggles. I think the Orioles need to gauge what type of bat he has, and adjust his position and timetable accordingly.

OTT- Brandon Erbe dominated rookie ball competition in his age 17 season. What made him so successful? What adjustments does he need to make to carry that success forward? And, being that he’s already a hard-thrower, is there still some projectability left in him?

DM- His ability to add and subtract to his fastball with a cutter and change-up is his bread-and-butter. He pitches comfortably in the low-90’s, but is able to ramp-it-up to 95 MPH when he needs to. Most of the adjustments he has to make are mechanical. His high ¾ slot really isn’t conducive to a slider and he does tend to throw across his body. Correctable in both instances.

OTT- Not surprisingly, Jeff Fiorentino was clearly not ready for major league competition in 2005. He also seemed to struggle for a few weeks after being demoted back to Frederick. Do you see any potential long-term effects from his mishandling? Is he still seen as a potential every-day player?

DM- Not really and it isn’t uncommon for players to struggle after a promotion of this sort. As I mentioned earlier, he has the potential to be an everyday outfielder, but if he’s any more than your third best outfielder, the team isn’t going to be very good.

OTT- The Orioles seem reluctant to send prospects to AAA Ottawa. Is this more a reflection of its distance from the parent club or do the Orioles, perhaps, only see a nominal difference between Eastern League and International League competition?

DM- I would side with the nominal difference between the EL and IL. The EL is one of the better AA leagues from a ballpark-effect standpoint, so I think that allows them get a good handle on their players.

OTT- Was there any justification to leaving Sendy Rleal in AA a second year only to thoroughly dominate his competition yet again?

DM- I didn’t really understand that move, but they must have had their reasons. The only base skill that improved was his HR rate and he still doesn’t spin the ball real well, limiting his usage pattern in a bullpen.

OTT- Radhames Liz: starter or reliever at the highest level?

DM- In the book, I listed his Projected Role as a #4 starter/setup reliever, so you can see that I’m on the fence with this. He just didn’t have a reliable third pitch to go with his fastball and curveball, and that’s why he could go either way. At his age and level, I’m going to side with him being a setup reliever.

OTT- Garrett Olson was another from the draft class of 2005 that had a strong debut. His curve seems to be his highest rated pitch. How do his other pitches rate? Is he a candidate for a September cup of coffee in 2006?

DM- I rated his fastball as an average pitch at 87-92 MPH, though it is more important for him to keep the ball low (which he was highly successful at) rather than trying to overpower hitters. His change-up is a below average pitch and will need that next season as he likely pitches in AA. It’s possible that he becomes a September callup, but I think it will be 2007, at the earliest.

OTT- The Orioles seem to be collecting more relief talent than in years past. Many of these players have not overwhelmed scouts but have had solid track records in the minors. What kind of futures do you see for David Haehnel, Aaron Rakers, Eddy Rodriguez and Scott Rice?

DM- Haehnel- setup reliever, Rakers- short reliever, Rodriguez- short reliever, and Rice- situational reliever. Haehnel is the best of the group, though I’ve been pushing Rakers and his splitter for three years now.

OTT- Is there any hope for former prospects Keith Reed, Ed Rogers and Rich Stahl?

DM- No, no, and unlikely. Reed just doesn’t know how to use his tools, Rogers hasn’t played well, and Stahl may never be healthy for an extended period of time.

OTT- Are there any sleepers in the Orioles system you’d like to identify? Any players you could see taking a large step forward in 2006?

DM- I don’t know if you would call him a sleeper, but I really like Chris Britton and his knee-buckling curveball. He was very dominant at Frederick and I think he can be highly effective as a match-up righty. Scouts don’t seem to be too high on Luis Ramirez, but all he does is miss bats and win despite marginal stuff. I see Adam Loewen opening-up some eyes in 2006.

OTT- And finally, where would you rate the Orioles system compared to others? What about compared to the AL East?

DM- I think the Orioles have improved immensely over the last three years when they were considered one of the worst minor league systems in the game. I would put them somewhere in the lower-middle of all Major League teams. Half of their top ten weren’t in the organization two years ago, so I don’t see much in terms of immediate impact. Within the AL East, I’d have to rank them behind Tampa Bay and Boston, but probably on equal footing with New York and Toronto.

Well, that wraps up the first Q&A session here at Orioles Think Tank. I’d like to thank Deric once again for taking the time to participate. And, if you haven’t yet, go buy his book.

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30 Responses to “Interview: Deric McKamey”

  1. Greg said

    Good stuff Mike. I know all about Baseball HQ, so I enjoyed hearing what Deric had to say.

  2. Anonymous said

    intersting read, thanks deric

  3. Rob said

    First off, this is my first time at your site but I really like it. You should definitely do more Q & A’s. Second off, I still like Loewen more than Penn and I think we have a better system than the Yankees. But I really liked hearing his opinions.

  4. Craig said

    Nicely done. I’d agree with most of what was said, though I think I see a higher upside for Fiorentino and Lowen than was projected by Deric. Time will tell.

    I also think Markakis will make an impact sooner than mid 2007.

    Craig, from Birds in the Belfry

  5. Mike said

    Thanks guys. Deric definitely did a good job. I was most intrigued by the fact that he relies on traditional scouting methods even though he comes from a stat analysis background. I can’t recommend his work more highly.

  6. zachary said

    great stuff. really enjoyed the questions and fascinated by his answers. i’d love to hear more analysis from people about why we’re finally drafting well. is that something we’re going to do more or less regularly now, or did we just get lucky this year?

  7. Mike said

    Good question Zach. Only time will tell, but Joe Jordan’s first draft was certainly encouraging. After the Wade Townsend debacle (for which we ended up netting Olson), we needed a pick-me-up.

  8. Anonymous said

    I think the Os have a better system than Deric thinks but agree that we aren’t better than the BoSox or Rays. BA rated the Os as #13 in overall system. Though it is a good sign that even the low end rankings have the Os in the lower-middle tier of farms. Certainly a great improvement in the last few years. Just for reference, several of the systems who we were competing for last back in ’02 are still there. So there’s much to be enthusiatic about.

    I think our ’05 draft wasn’t overly college heavy like, say, a typical Jays draft might be. That being said, for college players we got some good ones. The old standard goes that college players are closer to being sure things (as much as you can get in drafts) whereas HS players have a higher potential. I am excited to see what Jordan and Stockstill can do with their second draft together. We are moving in the right direction.

  9. Anonymous said

    Mike=Great questions. Derc=Great answers

    Thanks!

  10. Anonymous said

    I dont think it holds true that HS players are more likely to be stars.

  11. Eddie said

    I think he meant HS players have higher potential but are bigger gamble to be busts.

  12. Dave said

    I was anon. before. I just think that teams have a better idea of who they are drafting when they come out of college. So a future star is more likely to go in the top few picks whereas a future star being drafted out of high school might slip into the later rounds. Overall, the same amount of stars come out of HS and college, they are just easier to identify out of college.

  13. Mike said

    “I think I see a higher upside for Fiorentino and Lowen than was projected by Deric”

    – Hey Craig, thanks for stopping in. I think a lot of Orioles fans would be surprised to learn that Deric’s projection for Fiorentino is actually a little more optimistic than most. BA, for instance, seems to have him pegged as a fourth outfielder.

    As for Loewen, I think Deric was pretty optimistic there as well. Sure, he has all the potential in the world, but until his production reflects this, I don’t think it’s fair to put him in the company of the upper echelon of pitching prosepcts. Deric seems to think there’s a decent chance he breaks out in AA this year.

  14. Anonymous said

    Mike,

    Great interview. Thanks for sharing the info.

  15. Anonymous said

    Hey. I’m also new to the site, but it seems quite impressive.

    I didn’t know that Olson’s FB was so, well, mediocre. I’d like to hear what his ceiling is? Is he destined to be another along the lines of Maine or Stephens?

    Also, re: Jordan’s philosphy. Though he has the rep of being a HS guy, his drafts in FLA indicate that he likes HSers in the first round, but primarily collegians in rounds 2 through 10. So, 2005 wasn’t really an outlier. Which is good imho, because I was nervous that we were going to wind up with a bunch of Darnell McDonald’s…

    Anyway, great interview and great site!

  16. Mike said

    Good points about Jordan’s draft philosophy. Concerning Olson, I wouldn’t get worked up about the lack of an overpowering fastball. As a rule, lefties can get away without throwing as hard as righties. Both guys you mentioned throw with the correct arm. Besides, Olson’s bread and butter is his outstanding curveball. I think if you’re looking for an absolute ceiling with that repertoire, then Barry Zito is a name that comes to mind.

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