29 June 2007

Breaking Down the Orioles 40 man roster - Catchers

Ramon Hernandez
Paul Bako

Ramon Hernandez - Last year he blew away everyone's expectations with 23 home runs, which was a bit misleading. He had 560 PA, the most in his career. His rate levels were right on mark with his career years the previous three seasons down in PETCO. PETCO is a pitcher's park, so that looks more and more like a downturn than a career year. This year? He has fallen down a notch or two. He averaged around a 110OPS+ the last four years (quite amazing for a catcher), but is sitting in the high 80s now (a shade above average). His OBP is solid though, so maybe it is just a growing period.

6.5MM this year
7.5MM next . . . 8MM in '09 and a 8.6MM club option in '10 or a 1MM buyout.

I think he will probably finish the year around 100 OPS+. '08 and '09 will see him degrade into the low 90s and high 80s. A smart team would then drop him for the 1MM, and we just may be that smart. Weiters should emerge at the tail end of 2009 (hopefully) and then we could easily find some all glove, no bat catcher to back him up and teach him a few things. Hernandez could go off to the Mariners or something like that. So, yeah, I don't see us picking that up.

Paul Bako - He is one of those catcher who sticks on for no apparent reason other than he has caught before. The professional backup catcher is a breed that sees itself employed long after they are useful. They may need to live a vegabond lifestyle, but they get work. It is the most union-like job in the MLBPA. Bako started out in the minors as a rather impressive mix of offensive power and defensive skill . . . until he reached AAA and everyone realized that . . . oh he was old for those other leagues. Well, everyone except the Tigers who handed him the starting job in '98. He had a 73OPS+, the 2nd highest of his career. Joe Oliver served as his personal caddy that year with his shiny epitome of a no hit catcher, lowriding at 56OPS+. Bako peaked the next year at 80OPS+. If he even cared about hitting, he'd give his firstborn to be that offensively dangerous again. The next five years show Paul to be a low 60s OPS+ guy. He barely was in the majors in '05 with the Dodgers. He was downright horrific last year with a 25OPS+. The Royals wasted 167 plate appearances on him that year. It was like they were playing softball with one man short. Buddy Bell, a great comedian, somehow had him hit 7th on 19 occaisions. He must think very little of Joey Gathright. Now, Angel Berroa? Yeah, Bako out hit him. Anyway, we signed him and he has bounced back to his 50-60OPS+ ways. Wow, I sure dedicated a lot of space for this. I guess this whole thing about the backup catcher annoys me. There has to be guys out there better than this.

performance bonus which is is likely to hit will increase it to 0.96MM . . . he has an outside chance of maxing it out to 1.06MM.

He is what he is. He'll probably see about 80 games this year as Ramon is likely to be wearing down. Next year? Mazzone likes having a worthless backup catcher, so Bako might be it or maybe Ramon Castro or Gary Bennett.

Other Options:

JR House - sitting at AAA Norfolk and not on the roster, he is a competent hitter. Not well proven in the majors and prone to injury. He has always had loads of potential, but that injury rate and him basically not playing any position particularly well hurts him. He seems like he can mash the ball and it would be great to see him up with the O's as a backup, but the club seems reluctant. He'll probably be fed up with the organization and look to sign on elsewhere.

Alberto Castilla - Alberto is Paul Bako's older brother. He does the same exact things as well and as not so well. They are quite the pair. He won't be much of a help either.

Eli Whiteside - He is our homegrown version of Bako and Castillo. He was slowly making his way up the minors (we had no one else) with his peak coming in AA at age 24 (older than competition) with 18 homeruns, but a .310 OBP. Eh. He got knocked down to AA to give Castillo and House some time at AAA. I'd prefer him over Bako or Castillo, just for his youth and an extra 0.5MM in the wallet to spend on draft pick bonuses.

Brandon Snyder - He raked it in his first year then got all disheveled and fell apart in '06, coming down with an injury to his shoulder. This year he is playing first base and his batting looks even worse. The thought is that he is still working on his shoulder injury and should recover, but it doesn't look good right now. Anyway, he won't be ready until '10 or later . . . and it won't be as a starting catcher. If he can hit, he'll probably go to the outfield.

Mark Weiters - He looks good to me, but I am not a scout. I see him peaking up in the latter half of '09 and making a claim on the catching spot in '10. The draft guru over at HBT looked at 3 minutes of video and thought he was a huge overdraft at the 5 spot. We'll see, I guess.

We are paying top dollar for a declining catcher who, when healthy, will be at worst a league average hitting catcher. He is a good defensive catcher and that should last longer. Behind him, we have nothing of much use this or next year. Most likely nothing until Weiters pops his head up sometime in late '09 or early '10.

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