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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.

Posted in Draft Coverage | 2 Comments »

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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