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Snippets

Posted by Mike on July 17, 2006

  • Cabrera, Rleal Optioned; Loewen, Rodriguez Recalled

I have to admit, it never occurred to me that Daniel Cabrera might get sent to Ottawa.  But Adam Loewen has shown that he has little to learn in the minors, even if the results have yet to be there in the majors.  Plus, recalling him will have no substantive effect on his service clock, since he’s up for good next year anyway.  And Cabrera has regressed quite a bit this year.  Rich Lederer wrote a blurb on this topic that prety much sums up how a lot of people feel about Cabrera’s performance this year.   He’s still a big part of what this rotation could be, but there is no masking how disappointing his season has been.  Finally, I have to admit that I am impressed that the organzation followed through with their decision  Whether or not you deem the move necessary or not, it is encouraging to see an Orioles administration with the fortitude to make potentially unpopular decisions because they believe them to be correct.

As for Rleal getting sent down, it’s about time.  He’s a flyball pitcher who walks a lot of batters and doesn’t miss bats.  I’ll admit being a staunch spporter of his in the past but, lets face it, I was wrong.  Eddy Rodriguez, on the other hand, has been lights out in Ottawa this season.  He’s striking out over a man an inning, has a newfound respect for the strike zone, and has yet to allow a home run in over 36 frames.  He’s held righties to a .307 OPS and has excelled in close and late situations.  He finally appears poised to shed his perennial project label.

  • Jim Bowden the Genius

I’m sure you’ve read about how Wayne Krivsky is an idiot and how Jim Bowden actually ripped someone else off for a change, so I won’t bore you with any self-evident analysis.  But my friend text messaged me the other day with Why don’t we have Austin Kearns? and it got me thinking.  Kearns’ value had never been lower than after last season.  He was jerked around from the minors to the majors and back again and ended up posting career lows across the board.  Yet, statheads looked at his excessively low batting average, consistent batted ball data and sustained secondary hitting skills and remained united in their optimistic outlook for his future.  Thus far this season, he’s justified that faith and what happens?  He gets traded for some middle relievers, a good relief prospect, and one present and one future utility player.  Oh, and he was only part of a package that included the 26 year old reigning silver slugger at shortstop and a 23 year old pitcher that took about a week to reach the majors.  Quite simply, a lot of things would have to go wrong for the Nats to not get the best of this deal now and later.

I’m not trying to insinuate that the O’s are any more guilty of any other non-Bowden team, but Kearns would be a pretty tasty fit on a club so devoid of OBP as this generation of birds.  And if seemingly all it would have taken was some combination of LaTroy Hawkins and/or Kurt Birkins… then doesn’t it make you whince just a little bit that someone else beat them to the punch?

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 12 Comments »

One Week Without the Internet

Posted by Mike on July 9, 2006

A week without internet has given me much time for introspection and if I’ve come to any conclusions, none are greater than this:

I hate Millenium Cable. 

They are roughly the Internet Service Provider equivalent of a pitching rotation so bereft of talent that it could employ the likes of Russ Ortiz.  OK, I exaggerate, but they do stink at their job.  And I’m realizing that perhaps the thing I’m looking most forward to in my impending move downtown is reliable internet access.  It’s certainly not waking up to find whatever vagrant that Silent Joe met in a bar the previous night using my Frankie Avalon beach towel or eating my Fruity Pebbles. 

Anyway, the downtime has left us with much to catch up on, so let’s get to the bullet points:

  • Majewski Not Looking So Hot

I was just thinking about how it had been a while since I got a report on Val Majewski when John Kazlo (of Minor League Watch) shot me an email (that I accessed at work):

I watched Ottawa and Richmond last night….Val Majewski looks like he is on a rehab program.  He worked with the trainers for about a hour before the game when the pitchers were on the field and the position players were in the clubhouse.  I watched his swing and it is very weak…..not as good as his swing last fall in AZ. 

He followed it up with this email two days later:

I went back on Monday night and Val played first….did a pretty good job of it I believe, although he did bobble a short hopper in front of him.  He did connect with some pitches and hit them on the left side of the field and CF.  His swing did look smoother on Monday than it did Sunday….but still stiff and slow!

Thanks for the update John, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.

  • Tejada Trade Update

I caught this snippet from an article in the new Baltimore Examiner:

“That’s the goal. We’re not shopping him. I think you’re not doing your job if you don’t listen to potential deals for all players. I don’t think the general public probably has an idea of how frequently we talk about everybody in the game, everbody’s star player,” Flanagan said. “Again, it just shows you their value. It’s a constant weighing of players’ worth to see what the market will give you.”

For those of us in the Trade Tejada camp, it’s encouraging that Flanagan is keeping his options open.  There are very few sluggers on the market as the trading deadline nears and Tejada would be the most coveted of them all.  The Orioles are not going to contend this year.  They are probably not going to contend in 2007 either.  There’s just too many holes on this roster.  So let’s try to fill a few of them with talented youngsters that might contribute to a contending team in 2008.  Frankly, I’m more than a little tired of Tejada’s unwillingness to hustle in any way, shape or form.  A carmudgeon might even worry about the sticky scenarios that Jason Grimsley’s deposition could unearth.  Luckily, I am not a carmudgeon. 

Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to see Brandon Fahey play a position where he actually has some value?

  • Matos DFA’d

The O’s have essentially cut bait on the one time promising young center fielder.  I was listening to Anita Marks on ESPN 1300 the other day and she mentioned that a player on the O’s had remarked to her about how much fatter Matos is than he used to be.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise many of you, since Matos is well known for his lackadaisical approach.  And I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get motivated to play for a franchise that has done little but lose ever since you’ve known it, but for a seven figure salary, I’d give it a shot.

This move will allow for Luis Terrero to get another shot.  Terrero is probably best known for his 0-17 performance in the bigs thus far, but I assure you that he was raking in Ottawa (.321/.373/.594 in 187 AB’s).  The one time prospect is still only 26 and I am genuinely impressed with this free talent find.  If it works out, it’ll sort of be like Flanagan’s Corey Patterson Lite move and it’s possible that he has carved out a little niche.  Most O’s fans would settle for a capable 4th outfielder and, in this case, I’m optimistic.

  • Aberdeen Ironbirds A-Doings

As promised, I did go to the Aberdeen game last Sunday and I paid special attention to two fellas.  The first was Chris Vinyard, the O’s 2005 38th round draft and follow.  This boy can rake.  I didn’t see enough of him at first to effectively determine if he is as, ahem, stiff in the field as some reports, but he worked deep into counts and hit the ball hard.  Through 65 AB’s, he is now hitting .431/.486/.692.

Pedro Beato also made his first professional appearance coming on in relief to pitch a perfect 9th inning with two K’s.  After a second appearance this week, his line sits at:

2.0 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 0 H, 0 R, 0.00 ERA

Unfortunately, I missed seeing him pitch.  I left after the second rain delay when the opposing manager tried to stop the grounds crew from putting out the tarp.  I did, however, get a great picture of Beato swinging a bat in his pre-game warm-up. 

– Brandon Snyder started as the DH and did not look confident at the plate.  He swung big and missed on a breaking ball in one at bat and generally did not hit with any authority.  He’s now hitting .259/.281/.333 in his first 54 AB’s with the Ironbirds.

– Miguel Abreu, the O’s 2005 28th round pick, started at 3B instead of his usual 2B to make room for Todd Davison.  The move paid off as Davison made an incredible diving play to his left and Abreu used the opportunity to show off his surprisingly good arm.  It was pretty clear that Abreu wasn’t used to 3B, however, as he seemed to back up on his heels when the ball was hit hard to him.  No errors, though.

  • Radhames Liz Buzz Index

Liz had a pretty nice article written about him by Chris Kline over at Baseball America.  It covers a lot of ground, but this is one part I found very interesting:

Liz moved to San Pedro de Macoris to live with one of his older brothers when he turned 18, and he started taking the game seriously once he got to the big city. He worked with a group of other players for a year and a half with a part-time scout who had connections with several organizations, including Orioles director of Latin American scouting Carlos Bernhardt. “It’s not like college or high school players here in the United States,” he says. “I needed to learn more about the game because I didn’t really know what baseball was until I was 16, and then later on Carlos heard about me and signed me.”

Prospects are found in all sorts of places.  The O’s were lucky to get in early on this one. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 8 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 »

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 »

Mora Deal Finalized

Posted by Mike on May 23, 2006

I'm a couple days late to the party, but the Melvin Mora deal is now official: 3 years/$25 million.  I'm certainly happy for Melvin and his 26 kids, but the deal is a bit overextended for my tastes. 

In a previous post, I took a look at Mora's top comparables and looked at how they fared in their age 35 to 37 seasons.  The results were a bit mixed, but the final graph looked like this:

I ended up concluding that a two year deal would be defensible, but a three year deal would not.  This is particularly true due to the fact that the money is certain to be backloaded for the 2009 season. 

Let's say that Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn, Brandon Erbe, Nolan Reimold, etc. etc. are all up and contributing to a winning club by 2009.  The Orioles will now have an $8 million sinkhole tied into the diminishing performance/playing time of a 33 year old Ramon Hernandez plus another $9 or $10 million tied up in a player who, according to his comparables list, has a six in ten chance of being an offensive drain or out of baseball.  And what are the O's going to do if the standard Melvin Mora midsummer 20-game vacations turn into 30, 40, or 50-game breaks? 

I don't mean to be overly pessimistic about this- Melvin's contract could certainly work out.  It's just that the odds aren't in his favor.  If the O's are ever going to get this rebuilding thing right, they're going to have to get away from aiming for .500.  Avoiding giving an injury prone 37 year old $10 million would be a good first step.   

As usual, Chris Kahrl had a few pithy comments concerning the signing:

PECOTA's valuation anticipates that Mora will be worth more than $12 million during that three-year stretch, and Mora's still hitting, so signing him to an extension might make all sorts of sense… unless it's for more than twice as much money, and the deal is reported to have enriched Mora to the tune of $25 million. As much self-pity as the Orioles like to indulge themselves in over whether or not free agents won't come to Baltimore unless they overpay–a la Ramon Hernandez and Javy Lopez–this seems more than a little excessive on the self-flagellation scale.

  • Penn DL'ed, Loewen Recalled

I really, really don't like this move.  Really.  But first things first- Hayden Penn will not be making Daniel Cabrera's starts due to the fact that he has appendicitis.  He'll have to be put on the disabled list, but how much time he'll ultimately miss is unclear.  If anyone out there has ever had appendicitis, feel free to let us know how long it was until you were full strength in the comments section.

Hayden Penn being called up makes a bunch of sense.  He's certainly the guy who would give the O's the best chance of winning every fifth day.  It would even have been likely that had he met any success, Chen would have been moved to the pen upon Cabrera's return.  Carmudgeon that I am, I would have rather the O's see if Cory Morris had anything to offer before forcing Penn up, but even I could understand the inclination to go with Penn.  Morris is not exactly tearing things up, after all, and Penn is doing just that.  Still, I speculated earlier that Penn would have to stay in Ottawa until June to avoid Super Two status after the 2008 season.  It would be a shame to waste an entire pre-arbitration season for one start during a season when the O's aren't viewed as serious contenders. 

Unfortunately, Penn got sick and all that reasoning was for naught. 

Now, Adam Loewen has been recalled and, what's more, may not even be starting.  For those of you that are unaware, the Orioles drafted Loewen out of high school with the 4th overall pick in 2002.  After a year at Chipola College, many speculated that he would be the 1st overall pick in 2003, before the O's and Loewen finally came to terms.  Those terms included a major league contract, which will force Loewen to stick in the majors by opening day 2007.  No matter how badly he struggles, he can not be sent back to the minors without being exposed to waivers. 

Fortunately, Loewen's star has grown continuously brighter since his disappointing 2004 season.  He dominated the AFL last off-season and now sports a 2.72 ERA in Bowie with 55 K's and 26 BB's in 49.7 ip.  He very well could be among the O's best five starting pitchers already. 

The problem I have is that the Orioles have dug a pretty deep hole for themselves if he is not.  With only a few months left in which Loewen will be able to polish his game, the Orioles can't afford to sacrifice any of his development time.  Both Hayden Penn and Jeff Fiorentino took several weeks to get back to normal even after they were demoted to the minors last year.  According to Deric McKamey, "…it isn’t uncommon for players to struggle after a promotion of this sort."  If that happens to Loewen, he'll have lost much of his final minor league season and will be that much further pressed to succeed in 2007.  With 49.7 ip above A-ball, how confident can you be that Loewen will succeed against major league hitters?

There are plenty of organizations that get accused of coddling their prospects.  The Orioles sit on the other end of the spectrum.  I see a lot of fans arguing "let's see what the kid's got, etc." and the O's seem to be listening.  Unfortunately, that's an overly simplistic approach that can cut short a lot of promising careers.  It took Brian Giles and Jason Bay until their mid-20's to establish themselves as major league hitters.  It took Melvin Mora until his thrities.  Randy Johnson didn't become The Big Unit until he was almost thirty.  And all of these guys are all-stars. 

Yet, many expect a 22 year old kid to either be ready for the major leagues or they'll consider him worthless to the organization.  Just like people in other facets of life, baseball prospects develop at different paces and follow varying career paths.  The key for the O's organization is to identify each prospect's personal developmental needs and protect them as long as is reasonably possible.  I highly doubt that a promotion to the majors after less than 50 innings above A-ball is what is best for a kid that is still walking a batter every other inning, especially when he will never get another chance to address his command issues in the minors.  Don't get me wrong, the Loewen call-up might very well work out.  But what if it doesn't?  In this case, I think the potential downside far outweighs the potential benefits. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 3 Comments »

Notes

Posted by Mike on May 13, 2006

  • Injuries Abound

Will Carroll had this to say in his latest UTK column:

The Orioles are overworking Richie Bancells and his staff. Melvin Mora is the latest to spend time in the training room with a lower back strain that sources tell me is muscular. “He’s tied up in knots,” the source whispered. Mora’s problem–in combination with other injuries–has the O’s in such despair that Jeff Conine may be forced back to 3B.

It strikes me that during tonight's telecast, MASN's Sights and Sounds of the Ballgame focused on Mora dancing during batting practice along with Rick Dempsey.  Pure speculation, but I'm left wondering if Carroll's source wasn't exaggerating a bit.  If Melvin did go down, I wonder if the O's would make room for Fernando Tatis or Andy Tracy.  Both are bopping a bit in Ottawa and can handle 3B (better than Conine, anyway).

Later in the article, Carroll has this to say:

Brian Roberts was unable to run on Wednesday. His return from the DL is going to be later than expected

  • Not Everyone Likes Me

That headline may seem hard to believe, but it's true.  A new and very well-written O's blog, Roar From 34, dismissed OTT as a member of the "blogosphere's zombie statisticians".  I sense a rivalry brewing. 

  • Minor League Splits

This is one of the coolest things I've come across in some time.  Brew Crew Ball has made available some pretty extensive minor league splits. 

Wondering who could help out the O's in their struggles against lefties? 

                  BA/OBP/SLG vs. LHP

Ed Rogers– .417/.440/.542  Maybe he has more use than I give him credit for.

Fernando Tatis– .310/.429/.379  All the more reason to give him a spin if Mora goes down.

Some more interesting tidbits on select prospects:

Hayden Penn has shut down opposing righthanders to the tune of .053/.053/.053

Jeff Fiorentino has struggled against fellow lefties (.105/.217/.158), but has done better against righties (.220/.315/.520).  Both figures have been held down by a ridiculously low .170 BABIP (ie he's doing better than his batting line suggests).

Marino Salas has the makings of a ROOGY.  Both HR's he's allowed have been to lefties, which explains why LHP have a higher OPS against hime (.741 vs. .493)

Nolan Reimold is a stud, but he still has some work to do against lefties (.231/.375/.385)

Freddy Deza has a pretty strong reverse platoon split, holding lefties to .105/.190/.105

Brandon Snyder has struck out in 10 out of 19 trips to the plate against lefties. 

Brandon Erbe's ERA is at 2.48.  That might come down as his BABIP comes down from .351

Go ahead and take a peek.  There's tons of information in there.  Let me know if you spot anything good.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 7 Comments »

Sample Size Be Damned

Posted by Mike on May 5, 2006

Sam beat me to the punch here, but Bruce Chen looks nothing like the Orioles' most valuable pitcher of 2005.  Through six starts, this is his stat line:

W   L   ERA   IP     H    R  ER   HR   BB   SO

0     4   8.40  30.0  45  31  28    11    10    18

That's right folks, 11 HR's in 30 innings.  That's easy to explain when, on a night like tonight, Chen gets an out via the groundball once and via the flyball eight times. 

But, we all know that Chen gives up tons of homers (32 in 2005, 7 in 47+ ip in 2004).  So what has changed?  Let's take a look at his BABIP's from the last few years:

               BABIP        ERA           PERA

2004-       .232           3.02           4.63

2005-       .262           3.83           5.10

2006-       .309           8.40           7.47

As you can see, much of Chen's value has been wrapped up in the fact that he has allowed fewer hits per ball in play than the league average.  As we know, that is a difficult thing to repeat year in and year out.  It looks like lady luck finally caught up to Chen this year, as his BABIP has skyrocketed to slightly above-average levels.  And while change has been reflected in his PERA (or, what his ERA should be given his peripherals), it's not nearly as dramatic as in his ERA.

While the general perception of Chen has always been as the O's fifth best starter, it looks like the numbers are finally catching up to his reputation (in Baltimore, at least).  There are a few indicators that he may yet turn it around.  For instance, almost 25% of his OF flyballs are going for HR's, which is nearly double the average rate.  Couple that with the fact that his flyball tendencies this year are higher than his career established values, and it's certainly reasonable to expect his HR rate to come back to earth.

Add to the fact that he makes $3.8 million this year and we shouldn't expect him to go anywhere too fast.  But, at this rate, it looks like a return to the bullpen is becoming more and more possible.

Then What'll We Do?

You should know the answer to this question: Hayden Penn.  OTT's #3 prospect has been nothing short of brilliant in his two AAA starts this season, even taking a no-hitter through 7 innings in yesterday's start until he reached his pitch count (93).  Penn, however, already has roughly a month of service time from last year's grasp-at-straws major league stint (May 26th to July 1st).  So, anything the O's do involving Penn should at least let him stay in Ottawa for another month.  The benefits are as follows:

  1. It gives Penn ample time to build up confidence after he was a bit shellshocked last year.
  2. Penn avoids building up service time in excess of a year (or within spitting distance of the top 17% of players that don't reach that threshold).  That way, when the 2008 offseason rolls around, Penn won't be arbitration-eligible.
  3. The O's already screwed up with Markakis.  Screwing up with Penn would shake my faith in humanity.

In the meantime, what should the O's do?  Stick with Chen in the hopes he'll turn it around?  Defy my advice and call up Penn now?  Cory Morris?  Eric DuBose?  John Stephens?

Just don't say Adam Loewen, I'll scream. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 16 Comments »

Players Of The Month

Posted by Mike on May 1, 2006

Now that we're into May, I thought I'd begin what will become a monthly feature– a position player and a pitcher of the month for both the major and minor leagues. 

Before I get into all this, allow me to digress a moment.  As you're all aware, Saturday's game was very, very strange.  Historically, I can not think of a time when I have seen a worse defensive infield assembled.  Ever.  At one point, injuries forced an alignment of Hernandez-Mora-Gomez-Conine.  I'm not out to make any critique or anything- Perlozzo did what had to be done- but if anyone out there is handy with Retrosheet, I implore you to top that infield in all-around out-of-placeness and futility. 

Another quick tidbit– according to this article:

For now, center fielder Corey Patterson will be Baltimore's leadoff hitter.

Patterson is swinging a hot stick and no one would be more pleased than me if my initial impressions were proven wrong, but the man has 1 BB in 50 PA's and is still making an out 70% of the time.  For future reference, here is a list of Orioles that I think would be more miscast as leadoff hitters than Corey Patterson:

  1. Raul Chavez

Speaking of which, the same article I referenced above also had this tidbit:

…That leaves the O's with two healthy bench players — backup catcher Raul Chavez and backup outfielder Luis Terrero.

"We're going to have to battle through it. Some other people are going to have to pick up the slack," Perlozzo said. "The only real problem right now that I would possibly have is Ramon [Hernandez] is going to have to be in there. But he's had some days off. He should be able to handle it."

Javy Lopez is having back spasms and is unable to catch for the time being.  Isn't this exactly why Raul Chavez is on the roster?  I happen to disagree with carrying three catchers (at least with Eli Whiteside still on the 40-man roster), but I can certainly understand why Perlozzo, or anyone else, thinks it's necessary.  What I can not understand is why any team would carry a player on their 25-man roster if they don't find it feasible to give him playing time after injuries have seemingly necessitated it.  And that's where the problem lies, Raul Chavez is one of the very few backstops in the major leagues that is not an upgrade on Geronimo Gil.

More notes:

  • Brandon Fahey looks good.  If Jack Wilson can nab $7M per based on his snazzy defensive work, I see no reason that Fahey can't have a successful major league career- small sample size be damned.
  • Luis Terrero has yet to do anything useful, but I do like the pickup in general.  His recent track record isn't much but, at one time, he was a somewhat coveted prospect.  I certainly see his potential usefulness when the team he's on employs as much health risk in the OF as the O's do. 

Onto the good stuff…

Pitcher of the Month- Major Leagues

Chris Ray

Let me start off by stating that this honor is not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Few O's pitchers have pitched particularly well in the month of April.  However, Ray is a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities and has solidified his role as the Orioles' closer.  Of special note was his performance against the Yankees on April 21.  After getting himself in some trouble by walking the bases loaded, Ray shocked everyone by striking out Hideki Matsui with a 3-2 slider.  It wasn't his best performance statistically, but that may just have been the best pitch of his young career. 

"Well, that's good," said Ray. "Maybe next time they'll look for it and I'll throw a fastball."  

I think he's getting the gist of it.

Player of the Month- Major Leagues

Miguel Tejada

After Brian Roberts stole a bit of his thunder as the O's MVP in 2005, Miguel Tejada has answered back with a .422/.459/.618 April.  In the process, he's put to rest many of the rumors swirling about the B-12 fiasco and his late season swoon.  He's even starting to wear on my reluctance to label him as a team leader after an off-season that saw him throwing his organization, teammates included, under the proverbial bus.  No one doubts his desire to win and a 1.077 OPS is a pretty good start on getting his team in the Win column a little bit more often.

Pitcher of the Month- Minor Leagues

Radhames Liz

Was there ever any doubt?  As good as Brandon Erbe (and even Adam Loewen) have looked this month, Liz is the hottest player in the Orioles organization right now.

20 ip, 39 K, 8 BB, 9 H, 1.35 ERA

Frankly, I'm surprised his ERA is that high- just look at that stat line again.  Liz has been unreal this month and I think it's only a matter of a few starts before he's putting up numbers in an already stacked Bowie rotation.

Player of the Month- Minor Leagues

Nolan Reimold

In an organization thin on positional talent, Reimold is proving a lot of teams wrong for letting him slip into the second round of last year's draft.  So far this season, he has raked to the tune of .329/.434/.600.  Furthermore, reports are that his defense has improved as the O's have confined him to RF. 

His 18 K's in 20 games stand out as the only potential roadblock to further development, but his 1.034 OPS is impossible to ignore.  I expect him to be promoted to Bowie by mid-season, at the latest.  If he hits like this in AA, look for his name near the top of a lot of off-season prospect lists.

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 4 Comments »

Official Top Prospects List Thread

Posted by Mike on April 24, 2006

This is where you can comment on the new Top Prospects page

The rules were simple:

  1. Players were ranked as a reflection of their ceiling and likelihood of reaching it.  In the simplest terms: Who would I rather start an organization with?
  2. Players that have or are about to exhaust their rookie status are not included (ie no Nick Markakis).  This is not a hard and fast rule, so you may find exceptions.  Just so you can sleep at night, Markakis would've ranked #1.
  3. I'll update the list around mid-season and again in the off-season.
  4. This is my list, but I created this thread so that you can feel free to tear into it.  I'll get you started with a few choice topics…

Erbe or Liz?  Penn or Loewen?  Reimold or Snyder?  Who is David Hernandez?  Fiorentino or Majewski?  Any personal favorites?

Posted in Minor Leagues | 11 Comments »

Cabrera Dominates, Frustrates/ Around The Minors

Posted by Mike on April 13, 2006

Once again, Daniel Cabrera failed to throw half his pitches for strikes (57/117). Somehow, though, he still put the birds in a position to win, as he allowed only 1 run on 3 hits.

As if you hadn't noticed, Cabrera just might be the most intriguing talent in the AL East right now. In yesterday's game, he allowed an amazing 9 BB's and 3 wild pitches over 5 ip. Meanwhile, he struck out an equally amazing 10 batters. Daniel Cabrera has officially crossed over into Rick Vaughn territory. Let's just hope that next year he doesn't show up to camp wanting to preserve his arm by throwing off-speed pitches with clever nicknames.  For that matter, let's hope that Luis Matos isn't replaced by Omar Epps

As astounding as Cabrera's performance was, perhaps the most ridiculous item of the day is that he was allowed to throw 117 pitches in April.  Note to Perlozzo: This isn't how you build a staff workhorse.

Now, let's get caught up with some notable performances around the minors:

Ottawa Lynx (AAA)

Eddy Garabito, 2B– .353/.476/.412  Still twice the player than Ed Rogers will ever be

Brandon Fahey, SS– .364/.417/.455  Picking up where he left off after a strong spring

Eli Whiteside, C– .077/.077/.077  Only 13 AB's, but 7 K's and 0 BB's look ugly

Val Majewski, RF– .059/.158/.118  Struggling to regain his form

Cory Morris, SP– 3 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Will fight to get in the mix for a second (legitimate) call-up

Scott Rice, RP– 2 ip, 1 K, 1 BB, 4.50 ERA  May see some time in the bigs later this season

Bowie Baysox (AA)

Ryan Hubele, C– .235/.316/.412  Fighting to pass Whiteside as 'backup of the future'  

Jeff Fiorentino, CF– .231/.364/.500  So far, Bowie's best hitter.  He won't stick in CF long-term

Adam Loewen, SP– 12.3 ip, 17 K, 1 BB, 4.38 ERA  Was stellar in opener, not so much in last start.  Still, 1 BB is a good sign

James Johnson, SP– 11.3 ip, 9 K, 2 BB, 3.18 ERA  Last year's organizational POY looks sharp so far

Brian Finch, SP– 6 ip, 5 K, 4 BB, 0.00 ERA  His ERA looks a lot beter than his peripherals thus far

Rich Stahl, SP– 4 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA  Looking to get back on the radar

Brian Forystek, RP– 3 ip, 3 K, 2 BB, 9.00 ERA  Needs to keep the ball in the park

Marino Salas, RP– 4.7 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Starting to justify place on 40-man roster

Frederick Keys (High A)

Jarod Rine, OF– .444/.524/.833  Toolsy outfielder off to a hot start, but is 24 years old

Nolan Reimold, OF– .333/.429/.389  3 SB's though 5 games, could emerge as a top prospect

Paco Figueroa, 2B– .294/.294/.353  Speedster needs to get on base to to steal bases (1 for 2 so far)

Freddy Deza, RP– 5.3 ip, 7 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Age 23 season will be crucial to fringe prospect

Garrett Olson, SP– 5 ip, 5 K, 0 BB, 3.60 ERA  Polished lefty should move fast

Beau Hale, RP– 5 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Remember him? 

David Haehnel, SP– 4.3 ip, 4 K, 2 BB, 2.08 ERA  Development may be slowed by conversion to starting

Luis Ramirez, SP– 3 ip, 5 K, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA  Stat-head favorite still missing bats

Radhames Liz, SP– 5 ip, 13 K, 3 BB, 0.00 ERA  That line is not a misprint, Liz powered Frederick to a no-no last night.  Check this out.  My favorite part:

Avalanche catcher Neil Sellers fouled out to catcher Michael Russell in the third, and in the fifth catcher Jeffrey Mackor grounded out to short–the only ball hit in fair territory against Liz.

A little more consistency ought to face Liz off against Olson in a race to Bowie.

Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)

Brandon Snyder, C– .320/.346/.520  19 year old is more than holding his own in full season ball

Mark Fleisher, 1B– .167/.231/.250  'The Orioles best 1B prospect' is not exactly a ringing endorsement these days

David Hernandez, SP– 10 ip, 14 K, 2 BB, 1.80 ERA  21 year old sleeper is looking to bust out

Bradley Bergeson, SP/RP– 6 ip, 2 K, 2 BB, 4.50 ERA  Still not showing much

Reid Hamblet, SP– 9 ip, 2 K, 3 B, 2.00 ERA  Last year's 5th Rd. pick has some ugly peripherals

Chorye Spoone, SP– 3.3 ip, 5 K, 3 BB, 2.45 ERA  Local product (Catonsville CC) and 8th Rd. pick is reputed to have good stuff and an attitude problem

Blake Owen, RP– 1.7 ip, 3 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA  2005's 6th Rd. pick off to a good start

Brandon Erbe, SP– 5 ip, 7 K, 1 BB, 3.60 ERA  When you're only 18, in full-season ball, and doing well, your top two PECOTA comparables tend to look like this: 1) Francisco Rodriguez 2) Felix Hernandez

I'm as excited about Erbe's potential as anyone in the Orioles' organization.  Anyone.  The downside of having an 18 year old pitching prospect this good is that he's only 18, and still has to pass through the injury nexus. 

None of the other affiliates have started up yet, but I'll be sure to keep the updates coming. 

Posted in Minor Leagues, Orioles | 15 Comments »