Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Archive for June, 2006


Posted by Mike on June 28, 2006

  • Devil Rays Continuing Owning Ned Colletti

This is how an organization is supposed to run.  You acquire the pieces of the puzzle missing for a future contending team by trading away any current pieces that will not.  In this case, the Devil Rays swapped a backup-level catcher who was going to be somewhere else next year anyway and a pitcher who may never again approach his current value for a 22 year old potential everyday player and a pitcher who, despite struggling a ton, still has the upside of an innings-eating #4 type. 

I don’t mean to make this sound overly simplistic, but isn’t eating Javy Lopez’s contract and getting something for him better than the alternative?  The money is already spent, folks, and Javy’s presence does nothing to alter the O’s 4th place destiny for 2006.  Ditto Rodrigo.  Ditto Hawkins. 

  • Tejada Trade Talk

Lots of Tejada rumors flying.  Everyone seems to be interested- the Cubs, Tigers, Angels, Phillies, ad infinitum- and it’s fun to dream on what the O’s might get in return.  Personally, I’d love for the O’s to use this opportunity to infuse the farm system with some top talent.  But they won’t.  They just signed an injury-prone 34 year old through 2009.  Believe me when I say that they believe they can be competitive in the very near future.  If I were running an opposing ballclub, I would be lining up a league-average first baseman or outfielder, a solid starter, and a good prospect.  The O’s just might bite.

  • Bedard Fights Back

On June 2nd, I wrote a piece that included a blurd called “Time to Worry About Bedard?”.  Since then, he’s posted the following line across 5 starts:

32.0 ip, 24 H, 8 R, 1 HR, 37 K, 9 BB, 2.25 ERA

Although it took him 110 (72 strikes) pitches to get through 7 innings in game 1 of today’s double-header, it’s tough to argue with the end result. 

Looks like I have 24 more “Time to Worry About ____?” articles to write.

  • Beato In Aberdeen 

Pedro Beato, the O’s supplemental first round pick, is in Aberdeen working with coaches.  He hasn’t been added to the roster yet, but he should make his first professional start sometime around next weekend.  I’ll be there and I’ll make sure to bring back lots of pictures and other goodies.

Posted in Orioles | 4 Comments »

‘Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone?’

Posted by Mike on June 26, 2006

About a week ago, I received a copy of Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? from Sports Publishing.  They've asked me to do my first book review on OTT and I am more than happy to oblige.

Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? is written by long-time area sports journalist John Seidel.  The jacket of the book informs me that he has written for the Sun, MLB.com, NFL.com, ESPN The Magazine and a bunch of other places.  I will readily admit that this isn't the sort of Orioles commentary you will typically find me endorsing:  Seidel utilizes W-L records and ERA instead of WXRL and PERA.  He focuses on personalities and back-stories where I have a tendency to put statistical confirmation of production above all else.  And maybe that's exactly why I liked this book; during a period when it's almost too easy to disparage the organization, Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone?was a much needed reminder of the rich history of the Orioles.

Seidel sections of the book into chapters named after the player's name he is writing about, most of which end up around 5 or 6 pages long.  The basic premise is that Seidel has selected three dozen players (plus umpire attendant extraordinaire Ernie Tyler) and tracked them to see what they've done with their lives since leaving the organization.  Some of the most interesting sections, to me anyways, came from some of the players that have since found roles within the organization.  For instance, Scott McGregor offered some insight into some of his pitching philosophies:

"I think the biggest surprise that I probably found after being out for 14 years was the same things I talked about with [Mike] Flanagan and Jim Palmer is what they're still talking about today," McGregor said.  "The game itself on the field doesn't change.  Kids are quicker, the thing I don't like is they rush them too quickly nowadays."

McGregor said he's seen a lot of things haven't changed.  He said the way pitchers are worked remains the same.  But things have changed in other ways as situational pitching has become the norm rather than the exception.

"You've got a lot more starters who don't have to go nine innings," McGregor said.  "If you've got guys out there who are qualified, they're making too much money nowadays not to use them."

Change "not to use" to "to abuse" and McGregor and I are on the same page.

You'll find some nice interviews and insight about the lives of other Oriole greats like Brooks, Cal and Flanny, but Seidel really gets creative with some of his subject choices. 

For instance, remember Dave Criscione?  Me neither.  He was a catcher in AAA Rochester who got his one and only cup-of-coffee with the 1977 Orioles.  During his brief 9 AB tenure, he hit .333/.333/.667 with a game-winning home run against the Brewers that vaulted the O's into 1st place.  Oh, and he became a father for the first time.

Seidel also manages to slip in this blurb referencing my personal favorite icon:

Interestingly, Criscione heard later that the Orioles planned to send him back after that game, but manager Earl Weaver told general manager Hank Peters something to the effect of the following, "You tell him.  He just hit a home run that won the ballgame and put us in first place."

Criscione… stayed with the team on a long road trip and went back down around August 10.

Nowadays, you can find Criscione working as a supervisor of quality control for an ink company in Dunkirk, New York.  He also coached Fredonia State's baseball team from 1980-2002.  Through it all, he has always held onto his memories with the Orioles. 

He also wrote the Orioles a very nice email thanking them after writing an article on him in a game program.  In addition. he asked if he could get a new hat, because his old one was fading out.  The team was more than happy to help him.

"There was no better place to play than Baltimore," Criscione said.

Click here to check out Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? by John Seidel. 

Posted in Orioles | 2 Comments »

Russ Ortiz Signed

Posted by Mike on June 25, 2006

The Orioles have just signed free agent pitcher Russ Ortiz.  This strikes me as sort of the organizational equivalent of Todd Williams trying to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera.  Sure, they;ve got the right idea, but you need to execute better. 

Ortiz was offered a fat contract (4 years/$33 million) by the Diamondbacks as a member of the infamous free agent pitching class of 2004.  After being outpaced by Jose Lima  and finishing 2005 as the 5th worst pitcher in baseball, Ortiz has walked 22 batters in 22.7 innings en route to a 7.54 ERA.  Oh, and his groundball rate has deteriorated to the point where he now has distinct flyball tendencies.

Even after posting a superficially low 4.13 ERA in 200+ innings with the Braves in 2004, the warning signs were all there.  He walked too many batters, didn't strike out enough and, even at his best, only had a league-average groundball rate.  His only outstanding ability was to throw 200+ innings. 

In short, he's become Sidney Ponson without the groundballs. 

Russ Ortiz can not and will not help this team.  Despite the fact that he is immediately plugged into the rotation, he is the worst pitcher on a decidedly mediocre staff.  The silver lining is that he will only make the prorated league minimum and the Orioles have no sentimental attachments to him.  The over/under on his release sits at 3.5 starts (or as soon as Penn is healthy and throwing well).  Get your bets in now. 

I should also note that this signing does do the very valuable service of getting Adam Loewen to Ottawa.  Despite his glimpses of potential, Loewen was not ready for the major leagues.  Since the O's recognize that the rest of this season is Loewen's final chance to get ready for the major leagues, they did the unthinkable and sent a prospect to AAA.  I expect he'll be successful, if not dominant, and see some more action with the parent club in September. 

My point is just that Ortiz's goose is cooked.  They might as well use this as an opportunity to see what guys on the Ottawa staff can be useful in future seasons.  Winston Abreu can not be worse than Russ Ortiz.  Brian Burres can not be worse than Russ Ortiz.  [Insert name of mid-to-late 20's O's farmhand] can not be worse than Russ Ortiz. 

Brace yourselves, this isn't going to be pretty. 

Posted in Orioles | 41 Comments »

Around the Organization

Posted by Mike on June 21, 2006

  • Garrett Olson Promoted

Garrett Olson received a much deserved promotion to AA Bowie yesterday, while Matt Bruback was sent down to HiA Frederick to make roster room.  I recently saw Bruback start against the Trenton Thunder and he shut them down through 7 innings.  His stats are mixed: 43.0 ip, 49 K, 8 BB, 3 HR, but with 53 H's allowed.  He's started and relieved this year, works in the 88-90 mph range (as a righty), and is 27 years old; so it'll take quite a bit for him to wear off his organizational soldier tag.

Back to Olson; some might be curious as to why he got promoted and not Radhames Liz. For starters, Liz was named to the Carolina League all-star game (along with Nolan Reimold and Paco Figueroa), so any promotion would wait until after he partakes in that. Secondly, Liz has dimmed slightly in recent starts, including giving up 4 runs on 4 BB's and 5 H's in his start last night.  At the same time, Olson has come on very strong: to the point that their ERA's now both start with 2.7_.  Finally, and probably most importantly, you can not overlook the fact that Olson has an astonishing groundball to flyball ratio.  I feel comfortable in saying that I have probably underestimated him in the past (and I never exactly bashed the guy).

As an aside, there are few things cooler than the availability of minor league batted ball data.  It's the reason someone like Chuck James failed to make off-season top 100 prospect lists and why the Adam Loewen bandwagon has gained momentum in stathead circles.

  • Brandon Snyder Demoted

After the draft, each mlb club fields a pair of short-season teams.  For the Orioles, these include the Rookie-level Bluefield Orioles, where all high school and some college draftees head, and the Aberdeen Ironbirds, where many college draftees and some returning players head.  The Delmarva Shorebirds are the Orioles LoA affiliate and are thought of as one peg higher than Aberdeen. 

With Brandon Snyder's struggles in Delmarva so far this year, the Orioles have decided to give him a fresh start with Aberdeen.  I'm actually a big fan of the move.  First off, I can only imagine to mental hurdle that has been cleared for Snyder by his stats being reset.  It's also apparent that he was a bit over his head in Delmarva.  Hopefully, he'll be able to regain some confidence and take the Shorebirds by storm in 2007.  Thus far in the young Aberdeen season, he's hitting .500. 

  • The Wade Townsend Fiasco

I don't know why I have to point to a past failing of the organization in order to point out something positive, but check this out.  I think I have trust issues.

  • Conine on the move?

This article has an interesting snippet:

Conine's biggest problem has been a lack of production. He took a .236 average and .314 on-base percentage into Tuesday's game. His name has been brought up in trade rumors with the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.

Lack of production, eh?  That's his biggest problem?  Well thank you very much, Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  How exactly do fans outside of south Florida get their baseball insight?

Anyways, Conine and Millar have both been mentioned as possible replacements for the injured Albert Pujols.  In completely unrelated news, Juan C. Rodriguez has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Joe Sheehan.

  • Trading Deadline Nears

Here's an article by the Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.  It's a nice, if optimistic, overview of the O's situation as the trading deadline nears.

Here are some snippets of interest:

Though the Orioles say they will be both buyers and sellers, they vow not to be renters. They will not make a trade to bring back a player in the last year of his contract unless they have assurances that the player will sign a long-term deal with them.

Some of the biggest names expected to be available, including Washington outfielder Alfonso Soriano, Oakland pitcher Barry Zito and Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Lee, are all free agents after this season.

Sounds like a good idea to me.  Although, the only player I'd be willing to give up valuable prospects for is Barry Zito.  Zito has unfairly earned a reputation as being somewhat of a disappointment after his 2002 CYA, but that's mostly from people that don't understand how and why ERA fluctuates.  Any player that can routinely give you 200+ innings of above-average pitching is a frontline guy in my book (which will turn into a coffee table and have the standard condescending subtitle).

Florida pitcher Dontrelle Willis and Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford are among the biggest names not facing impending free agency who could be available, and the Orioles, whose biggest need is a top-of-the-rotation starter, would be interested in either.

Bill James once said that a pitcher's strikeout rate is more indicative of the mileage left on his arm than anything else.  Combine Willis' league average K rate with his awkward mechanics and you have one very popular pitcher that I have serious reservations about. As for Crawford: he's fun to watch play and beats any option for LF that the O's currently have, but he is, and will continue to be, among the more overrated players in baseball.  Besides, there is absolutely no chance of that deal getting done. 

Available for a price

Jeff Conine: If his offense improves, versatility and playoff pedigree will attract interest from winning teams. Would likely draw mid-level prospects in return.Luis Matos: Tenure with Orioles could be drawing to an end. As of now, Orioles haven't gotten many calls on out fielder, but that could change with injuries.

Bruce Chen: Free agent next year has attracted some attention despite struggles. Every body wants pitching, but Orioles aren't going to just give him away.

And then…

Biggest trade chips

LaTroy Hawkins: Orioles not looking to move him, but free-agent status next year and league-wide bullpen con cerns certainly create a market.Rodrigo Lopez: Has won 14 games or more in three of past four seasons. There won't be that many pitchers on market with better resumes.

Javy Lopez: The Orioles' biggest trade chip, Lopez brings power and catching depth. He is also due $8.5 million, a price that has already scared teams away.

I would have written this next to Javy Lopez: Lopez brings memories of 2003 and 2004, but not much else.  At this point, he is a below-average DH who is grossly overpaid.  If he ends up catching for you, plan A has gone seriously awry.

Sure, he might fetch a pair of C+ prospects if the O's eat his contract, but that is not going to happen.  Not during this regime. 

Rodrigo should bring a better return if he continues to pitch well.  But if trading him is the difference between Loewen getting some development time in the minors or getting smacked around prematurely in the majors, I'd hold onto him.  Ideally, they'd get something of value for him while plugging some sort of journeyman into the 5th slot in the rotation.  For all intents and purposes, 70 wins are just as good as 75 wins, folks.  Especially when it means a player like Loewen gets the development time he deserves.  After all, he might one day make a difference in the fortunes of this franchise.  It's just not going to be this year.

Hawkins might actually turn out to be the most valuable trading chip of all.  He has a good track record and has done enough this year to, at least, avoid tarnishing his reputation.  Plus, he's affordable.  The O's would be well served to see the big picture on this one and appropriately weaken what is already an underwhelming bullpen. 

  • Minor League A-doings

Here's a nice game report from John Kazlo, of Minor League Watch.  Check it out.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 7 Comments »

Is There Any Hope For Slick Nick?

Posted by Mike on June 19, 2006

During spring training, many fans were excited about the possibility of Nick Markakis breaking camp with the parent club.  I was not, but that had as much to do with financial implications as it did with him getting the proper seasoning in the minor leagues.  The Orioles front office ended up putting more value in Markakis' strong spring, against decidedly weaker than usual competition, than his paltry 33 games experience above A-ball.  Now that we're closing in on the halfway point of the season, it's difficult to overstate exactly how poorly Markakis has played.  Consider the following:

  • He's amassed a -7.4 VORP, tied for 12th worst in the entire league. 
  • His .226 EQA makes him the 8th worst hitter in the AL with 150+ PA's
  • While Markakis looks good in the outfield corners, he has disappointed some that thought he might be able to handle CF (Rate2 of 83).
  • His .665 OPS for the month of June is slightly less horrible than his .627 overall OPS, but hardly suggests a nearing breakout.
  • He's hitting .232/.312/.315 overall.  And he's not a shortstop during the second dead ball era.  
  • By comparison, offensive drains Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar, even while failing to live up to their meager expectations, are each putting up a .700+ OPS.

So what's the problem?  Well, even a casual fan can see Markakis' complete inability to turn on a fastball.  What's especially ironic about this is that, before 2005, a big knock on Markakis was his inability to use the whole field.  In the past, Markakis pulled everything.  Now, he looks like he'd be late on a Mel Clark fastball.

Like many of you, I'm extremely disappointed.  I'll certainly cut him some slack; it's not his fault he's been forced into major league action well before he was ready.  But pretending the problem doesn't exist will only exasperate it. 

While a performance this bad necessarily dims future expectations, he's still capable of turning it around and continuing on the path of becoming an offensive cornerstone.  He's just not going to get there by setting a new standard for offensive futility against pitchers that are clearly out of his league.  The Orioles have little choice but to admit their mistake and send him back to Bowie.  Otherwise, they will continue to cost themselves runs and potentially valuable service time, all while Markakis continues to falter in his development.

Sorry for the negative vibe, folks, but I'd be doing a disservice to pretend the situation is any rosier. 

Commence caustic emails.  Then, check out the new Oriole Report.

Posted in Orioles | 11 Comments »

Corey Patterson Redux

Posted by Mike on June 15, 2006

Every once in a while, I am wrong.  I normally don't make a whole post about it, but I do usually get an email or two. 

About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece on Corey Patterson that concluded, among other things:

If there is ever a player that will be able to have a solid major league career with this degree of strike zone ineptitude, it will be one with Patterson's complementary skillset.  But that is really masking the point that it is unlikely such a player will ever exist.  Put simply, if Patterson wants to come within spitting distance of his potential, then he'll have to learn to take a walk more than once a month.

As if to mock my very existence, Corey Patterson has answered by hitting a respectable .289/.337/.454 through his first 194 at bats.  Moreover, he's leading the league with 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts.  He's second on the team with a 17.8 VORP and fourth on the team with a .287 EQA.  Plus, he's yet to hit into a double play. 

To make my point in my previous article, I displayed his walk and strikeout rates over the past three seasons:

              AB/BB            AB/K

2003-       21.9                4.3

2004-       14.0                3.8

2005-       19.6                3.8

Not inspiring.  But so far this year…

2006-       14.9                5.5

Neither of those figures are anything resembling ideal and he will still be hideously miscast if forced near the top of the order, but both represent improvements on his career established levels.  What seems to be most important is that he's been able to make more consistent contact and make better use of his exceptional speed. 

One statistic that I find particularly interesting is that he's actually decreased the average amount of pitches he's seen per plate appearance.  In the past three years, he's seen 3.5, 3.4, and 3.1 pitches per plate appearance, respectively.  I'd hypothesize that this has as much to do with his proclivity to bunt for a hit as anything else, but that would also have some impact on his personal best AB/K rate. 

Looking at his batted ball data, provided by the Hardball Times, provides some additonal insight:

                 LD%      GB%     IF/F%      HR/F%

2004         19.1        40.0       N/A           12.5

2005         17.7        46.1       24.1          10.7

2006         23.5        36.8       18.5          12.9

The thing that stands out to me is that Patterson has increased the amount of balls he has hit for line drives while decreasing his production of groundballs over previous years.  Unlike with pitchers, batters do have a high correlation of batted ball types, including LD%, so the improvement looks genuine.  Not only is Patterson putting the ball in play more, he is also hitting with more authority than in recent seasons.  This improvement is even more pronounced if you buy into my theory that Patterson's high number of bunt hits may be affecting the data.

So, while I am looking foolish in my pessimism about Patterson's chances to get back on track, improving his contact rate has played a role in his turnaround.  And it certainly doesn't hurt that he is arguably the best athlete in professional baseball, which provides him with a pretty nasty complementary skillset.

Posted in Orioles | 2 Comments »

Some Notes

Posted by Mike on June 10, 2006

Dave Sanford, of Royals Corner, was kind enough to pass along some photos of the O's 6th round pick, Jason Berken.  They are from his start against UVA this year.

Be sure to stop by Royals Corner and say hi.  A good place to start is with RC's interview with #1 overall draft pick, Luke Hochevar

  • Rodrigo Lopez

Lopez threw another quality start tonight (7 ip, 6 K, 3 BB, 7 H, 3 R) and it looks like he's finally back on track.  After not having one all season, Lopez is now 3 for his last 4 in quality starts.  Of course, it's only fitting that Bruce Chen registered the loss by giving up a home run in the 12th inning.  That's 18 home runs in 51 innings if you're keeping track at home.

  • Promotions Ahead? 

While Jeff Fiorentino (.200/.275/.335) and Brandon Snyder (.202/.242/.363 with 47 K's in 32 G's) continue to struggle, a few O's farmhands are clamoring for promotions.   

Nolan Reimold is now hitting .304/.435/.538 for a .973 OPS.  Offense is down throughout the minors (many believe as a result of replacement umpires) and the league OPS is sitting right around .700.  I see no reason that he shouldn't see some time at Bowie shortly, unless, of course, the O's use that as a reason to start him in Baltimore on opening day 2007

Brandon Erbe is also making a name for himself, even outside of the usual O's circles.  After a terrific start earlier this week, his season line looks like this:

  IP     H      ERA       K        BB     HR

  53     37     2.04      65        14       1

It'll be interesting to see where he ranks on MLB-wide prospect lists at season's end, but it will likely be between Erbe and Nick Adenhart  for the title of top pitching prospect yet to reach AA.  Erbe's only in his age 18 season, so I commend the O's for their patience thus far.  But it's unlikely that Erbe will continue to dominate his competition this thoroughly and not see some significant time at Frederick in 2006.

And, of course, there are candidates in Frederick's rotation that would be happy to make room for Erbe.  The top candidate has to be Radhames Liz, but there is also a case to be made for Garrett Olson.  Here are their respective lines thus far:

              IP     H      ERA       K        BB     HR

Liz          64     39     2.53       80       32       6

Olson     70.3   73     3.07       65       18       6

Liz's dominance is easy to see, but he is also still walking a batter every other inning.  Another advantage that Olson has over Liz is his ability to induce a ton of groundballs.  In 2005, over 60% of balls put into play against Olson were on the ground.  That's better than over 99% of major league pitchers.  Liz, on the other hand, will have to succeed by continuing to miss bats.  He's a pronounced flyball pitcher. 

  • Brandon Fahey in LF?

Through 92 AB's, Fahey is batting .272/.309/.348, which is actually exceeding my expectations.  I have no doubt that he has the athleticism to play a good LF, but his bat makes him a marginal backup shortstop.  Although, I will be the first to admit he is phenomenal defensively (at shortstop).

It seems like many GM's are trying to cultivate a Chone Figgins-like utility player of their own without any regard for the players actual ability.  Let me let you in on a secret: Chone Figgins is a great fantasy player, but he is, at his best, an average everyday third baseman or center fielder.  His value is directly linked to his ability to play wherever he is needed, making him a great utility player. 

So what do you get when you take someone who is distinctly below average at the plate and put him at one of the easiest defensive positions on the field?  Brandon Fahey as your starting left fielder. 

I'm not saying the kid has no place on the team.  Most teams carry a backup shortstop (although the O's are one of the few teams that can actually afford not to) and Chris Gomez is hurt.  It just makes no sense to stick him in left field.  Not when Luis Terrero is putting up a .900 OPS in Ottawa. 

Posted in Draft Coverage, Minor Leagues, Orioles | 5 Comments »

Day 1 (Part 2), Plus the Rest of the Draft

Posted by Mike on June 7, 2006

From here on out, I'll forego grading the picks.  After Round 5 or so, the picks are tougher to read and, obviously, are less consequential.  I'll tell you a bit of what I know about the players through the 10th round and then a few others worth tracking.

Round 6 (175)- Jason Berken, RHP (Clemson) 

Berken was highly regarded among Clemson's elite coaching staff, but was forced to have Tommy John surgery in 2005.  In his first year back, he showed 88-92 mph heat and good pitchability.  Concerns about his velocity dipping have to be tempered by the fact that it was his first season back from TJ.

At this point, a few of you may have questions about TJ surgery.  First off, it takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months to recover from.  After that, pitchers generally regain their stuff faster than their command, although a decrease in velocity is not uncommon the first year back.  With advancing medical technology, there have even been cases where a pitcher comes back from TJ and gains a few mph on his fastball.  That shouldn't be counted on, of course, but elbow ligament damage is far from the certain career-ending injury it once was.  Nick Adenhart is a good example of a player that was highly touted before TJ surgery and was able to be had late in the draft (14th rd.).  He came back strong and made the Angels look very smart, indeed.  In fact, his example probably has something to do with the proliferation of the strategy this year. 

Round 7 (205)- Josh Tamba, RHP (JuCo)

This might have been a slight overdraft on the O's part.  After transferring from Long Beach State, Tamba showed a 90 mph fastball and a marginal slider and changeup. 

Round 8 (235)- Jedidiah Stephen, SS (Ohio St.)

Most of the criticism surrounding Stephen centers around his inconsistent play.  For a senior drafted in the 9th round, he actually has an intriguing toolset; combining a strong arm, speed, and even a little power.  He might be a little more of a project than most 22 year olds out of major college programs.

Round 9 (265)- Brett Bordes, LHP (Ariz. St.)

Bordes projects to work in a relief role in the long-term.  He has good sinking action on his fastball, which can reach the low 90's.  He also has a breaking ball, but because of his arm slot, it can get slurvy (that's a bad thing).  All in all, he could end up a decent value for the 9th round.

Round 10 (295)- Emeel Salem, OF (Alabama)

Salem is a plus defender in CF, although he lacks ideal arm strength.  His speed is probably his best tool.  He does not have a very refined approach at the plate and has little power to speak of but he is adept at making consistent contact. 

Round 12 (355)- Brandon Tripp, CF (Cal. St. Fullerton)

Good actions in CF and is very athletic.  He could surprise.

Round 17 (505)- Anthony Watson, LHP (Nebraska)

Watson works with a solid three pitch arsenal (FB, CB, CU).  He led the Cornhuskers rotation in ERA (2.78) over the much-heralded Joba Chamberlain (Round 1S- NYY).  His 69 K's in 100 ip are less inspiring.

Talent-wise, Watson was better than a 17th rounder.  He fell because of his perceived bonus demands.  As a draft-eligible sophomore, Watson has extra leverage in contract negotiations.  He also had labrum surgery in 2004, so it's likely that his arsenal will continue to improve.  That or his arm will fall off.  The Orioles will monitor him this summer to determine if he is worth the price tag.  They have until he re-enrolls in the fall to get a deal worked out. 

Anyone else you'd like to hear about?  Let me know.

By the way, am I missing something or did Jeffrey Mayer not get drafted?  That's a shame. 

Posted in Draft Coverage | 4 Comments »

Day 1 (Part 1)

Posted by Mike on June 7, 2006

Here's a quick rundown of the O's draft so far, with a few tidbits about the players selected:

Grade A= Love the Pick

Grade B= Like the Pick

Grade C= Reasonable Pick, but there were better options available

Grade D= C'mon Joe

Grade F= You draft like my friend Joe rides a bike (that is to say, poorly)

Round 1 (9)- Billy Rowell, 3B (HS)

I covered Rowell in my post a few hours before the draft.  In case you missed it, here is what I had to say:

The second name floating around is that of the top prep position player in the draft (albeit in a depleted field); Billy Rowell.  He's Baseball America's #17 rated draft prospect. 

Rowell certainly fits an organizational need, since he can both hit a baseball and play an infield position.  It's also likely that his bonus demands won't be quite as high as Linecum's.  Right now, he plays a passable shortstop with good hands and a strong arm, but scouts expect his range to limit him to 3B as he fills out.  He has legitimate 70 power (on the 20-80 scale) which would instantly make him as big of a power threat as anyone in the O's system. 

As expected, the Orioles announced their intention of shifting him to 3B immediately.  Like Brandon Snyder in 2005, Rowell may have been selected a few spots ahead of where he would have gone had the O's selected later in the draft, but he was who they were gunning for all along.  And he instantly slots in behind Nolan Reimold as the Orioles' #2 position prospect. 

Pick Grade: B

Round 1S (32)- Pedro Beato, RHP (JC)

Beato is best known as the best draft and follow candidate from the 2005 draft.  He was a top prep pitcher before needing Tommy John surgery in April 2004.  He came back for his senior season and, like many recovering TJ survivors, struggled with both his stiff and his command.  Still, the Mets took a chance with their 17th round selection and offered him $150,000 to sign.  Beato turned them down and attended St. Petersburg Junior College, thus maintaining his eligibility to sign with the Mets.  After a dazzling JuCo season that saw his fastball return to the mid-90's at times and his slider and changeup showing plus potential, Beato knew he had made the right decision.  It was widely anticipated that the Mets would meet his seven figure demands, since they lacked a first round pick this year.  When he turned down their best offer, the 2006 draft gained yet another first round caliber arm. 

Another interesting sidenote is that it was widely speculated that the O's would take Emmanuel Burriss (SS out of Kent St.) with this pick, whom they had worked out several times.  I was never a big fan of Burriss, who looks like a future role player to me, so the Beato pick is doubly sweet for me.  The Giants, however, were happy to take Burriss with the very next pick.  Apparently, they are trying to corner the market on speedy second basemen (Burriss has a fringe arm). 

Back to Beato, there are also several stories floating around about how great his work ethic is.  Here's a link  (if you have a BA subscription).  And personally, I always marvel at guys willing to turn down more money than they've ever seen before because they believe so strongly in themselves.  The work ethic will come in handy because, at this point, Beato's stuff is soundly ahead of his command.  That's not unusual for a 19 year old, nor is it unusual for a guy two years removed from TJ, but Beato is the type of kid who will put the neccessary work in to correct it.

Pick Grade: A

Round 2 (58)- Ryan Adams, SS (HS)

Adams was drafted as a shortstop, but he profiles as an offensive second basemen.  He's also battled with several hamstring injuries.  That, coupled with his increased muscle mass, has cost him a bit in terms of speed.  He has an advanced approach at the plate and should develop above average power for a middle infielder.  The O's will have to keep him close to the trainer's office, but he has loads of potential.

Pick Grade: C+

Round 3 (85)- Zach Britton, LHP (HS)

Here's a pick I really like.  In the past year, Britton's velocity has shot up from 86-87 to 92-93.  And his lanky 6'3'' frame portends to even more gains in velocity, which could make it a consistent plus plus pitch.  There are two major concerns here.  The first is that his velocity dipped as the summer wore on.  Coincidentally, that's probably the biggest reason that Brandon Erbe was available in the 3rd round last year.  The second concern is that, right now, the fastball is all he has.  His curveball needs loads of work, but there's nothing in his mechanics that will prevent it from developing into an average pitch.  He also has little in the ways of a changeup, which will make him vulnerable to righties at higher levels, but that's hardly damning for an 18 year old.  BA notes that his delivery lacks deception and in his videos you can see the ball  pretty easily out of his hand.  A solid changeup would similarly help negate this problem. 

Overall, I think this was a great high upside pick in the third round.  Who knows, maybe this will become a theme in Joe Jordan's drafts.

Pick Grade: A

Round 4 (115)- Blake Davis, SS (Cal St.- Fullerton)

Blake Davis is polished in the field and that alone gives him an edge in reaching the big leagues.  But his offense lags behind.  He can spray the ball to all fields and is athletic, but it's hard to see how any power is going to develop for this 22 year old.  He should put up some decent, if fairly empty, batting averages before he reaches Bowie, but how he does in the high minors will tell us if the O's have anything more than a backup at the highest level.

Pick Grade: C-

Round 5 (145)- Bobby Henson, SS (HS)

Henson is ultra-toolsy, but scouts have trouble projecting him with the bat.  He was a good quarterback and pitcher in high school and, predictably, his arm is one of his best tools.  He's also quite fast and should be able to handle SS with more experience.  At the plate, expect him to look as poorly as Kieron Pope did last year.  Low batting average and lots of strikeouts in Bluefield.  His ability to refine his approach and make adjustments will determine his long-term success.

Pick Grade: C

I'm going to stop here because, hey, these take a lot of time to write.  I'll continue with more pick reviews tomorrow.  MLB.com has some great footage of each of these players that came in handy for these reports.  I'd encourage you to check them out as well. 

While it looks like I am lukewarm at this point, I'm actually quite encouraged with Joe Jordan's second draft.  There are some trends worth noting, or at least worth tracking to see if they continue.  The first is the selection of elite prep hitters with the first pick.  Both Brandon Snyder and Billy Rowell were considered refined at the plate and athletic enough to become solid defenders.  Rowell should make short work of Bluefield, much like Snyder.  Let's just hope he adapts better to full season ball.  Jordan also has a knack for identifying players that might keep a few scouting directors up at night for passing on them.  Like Nolan Reimold before him, I think Pedro Beato has a good shot at quickly gaining top prospect consideration. 

Last year, Jordan's best picks were his 3rd and 4th picks and, this year, I am most impressed by his 2nd and 4th picks.  That's not a knock on Rowell, just recognition that more talent is expected via the 9th overall slot than the 32nd or 85th.  I already pointed out some similarities between Brandon Erbe and Zachary Britton and, while it would be foolish to expect Britton to explode like Erbe has, it's easy to see the possibility that Britton could develop into a very interesting prospect.  The Bobby Henson pick also reminds me of the Kieron Pope selection last year.  Henson should have much more defensive value and Pope has more power potential, but they are similarly raw players that the organization is perfectly willing to be patient with as they turn their tools into skills. 

Rest easy guys and gals, this was a good draft. 

Part 2 tomorrow.

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Draft Day

Posted by Mike on June 6, 2006

The Rule IV Draft is today and the Orioles own the 9th overall selection.  More than any others, I've repeatedly heard two names connected to the Orioles. 

The first is Tim Linecum, who just might have the best overall stuff in the draft: mid-90's heat (touching 98), plus curve, improving slider and changeup. 

The problem is that he's under his listed height of 6 feet and was abused by his college coach (even registering a 146 pitch count on one occasion).  He's earned a reputation as being "rubber-armed", but you don't get that kind of reputation by enduring a reasonable workload as an amateur.  He might even be shut down for the season by whatever team drafts him.  Some believe that his stuff and resiliency would be best deployed in the bullpen. 

He is BA's #2 rated prospect in the draft but it's likely that he will still be on the board when the O's pick because of the way the teams selecting ahead of them match up.

The second name floating around is that of the top prep position player in the draft (albeit in a depleted field); Billy Rowell.  He's Baseball America's #17 rated draft prospect. 

Rowell certainly fits an organizational need, since he can both hit a baseball and play an infield position.  It's also likely that his bonus demands won't be quite as high as Linecum's.  Right now, he plays a passable shortstop with good hands and a strong arm, but scouts expect his range to limit him to 3B as he fills out.  He has legitimate 70 power (on the 20-80 scale) which would instantly make him as big of a power threat as anyone in the O's system. 

In a few short hours, we will find out who the O's first round draft pick is.   They also have a supplemental first round pick for the free agent loss of BJ Ryan (plus Toronto's 2nd round pick, but the O's lost theirs signing Ramon Hernandez).  Later tonight, I'll get another post up analyzing the entire first day.

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