26 May 2008

Ready for Prime Time Performance? ... Position Players

The minor leagues are a source of new talent. With the dire states of the Orioles offensive production, it might be useful to evaluate the potential help down at Norfolk. Now, the main thing to remember about Harbor Park is that it is cruel to hitters. I assume much of this is from the shore winds playing havoc with balls hit out to right field and those hugging the line in left. It has always played as a pitcher's park and the pitchers certainly appreciate it as I am sure we will find when we focus on them in a following post.

The Orioles, as mentioned previously, do not have their best hitting catcher in the majors. Matt Wieters is down at Frederick taking his cuts and getting use to the professional game. Probably the best course is just to let him go at his own pace and bring him up next year. That being said, do we have anything at Norfolk.

Chris Heintz.......(61AB, 344/379/426) - MLE: 321/349/397, 102 OPS+
Omir Santos........(87AB, 241/313/287) - MLE: 225/288/267, 76 OPS+
Ben Davis..........(38AB, 211/231/237) - MLE: 197/213/221, 59 OPS+

So, yeah, the answer is probably no. Santos and Davis are having difficulty hitting and have never really shown the ability to do so. Chris Heintz is playing his best ball since his 2002 season as a 27 year old in AA. I feel pretty confidant that his high batting average and his low slugging suggest that he has been benefiting from an unsustainable BABIP (.382). I would not expect him to be an upgrade over anything we have.

We have only gotten major league performance out of Brian Roberts. Millar is slightly rebounding, but he looks to have fallen off a cliff as I thought he was prime for. Mora started out solidly average and has downgraded that to solidly bad. I still think he is capable of horrendously awful. This should be his last year as a starter. Actually, last year should have been. Also mentioned earlier, our shortstop position has been a mess and there is not really any solution, but having a mess at shortstop is not as bad as people seem to think it is on the offensive end of it. So what does Norfolk have to offer:

Oscar Salazar......(192AB, 307/353/490) - MLE: 287/324/456, 107 OPS+
Eider Torres.......(131AB, 305/357/351) - MLE: 285/329/327, 90 OPS+
Brandon Fahey......(70AB, 286/342/343) - MLE: 267/315/319, 87 OPS+
Mike Costanzo......(164AB, 244/317/360) - MLE: 228/292/335, 86 OPS+
Scott Moore........(109AB, 183/270/339) - MLE: 171/249/316, 77 OPS+

Honestly, there isn't much to be excited about here. Torres, Fahey, and Moore have all been up with the big league clud and sent down. Torres is too dependent on hitting singles. That approach is prone to break down. Fahey has the same issue. Both are capable backup middle infielders on a MLB club or, more specifically, a NL club where offensive incompetence is more tolerated. Salazar is also way too dependent on contact, but has power to make up for it somewhat. He probably should be playing a bit in the majors on this club. He would not be good, but he just might be better than Millar. Salazar's inability to walk at the AAA level will probably depress that MLE a bit more as he faces pitchers with better stuff and control. Moore has just looked like a mess, but he hasn't lost the ability to take a walk from time to time and still has power. Costanzo is in the same boat except that some of his hits are falling in. These two guys should be battling for 3B at the MLB level or taking turns between Baltimore and Norfolk. They are just as good as Melvin. Moore has nothing more to learn at AAA. Costanzo could probably use a bit more seasoning, but he seems more in the flow right now. Both of these guys should be on the parent club next year. If the logjam is still there, I expect Moore to make the cut and an option to be used on Costanzo.

The Orioles outfield is actually pretty solid. Markakis is turning in league average LF performance. Scott is about league average LF. Adam Jones is also not too far away from league average and appears to be making adjustments. This is good news for the Orioles who have a cheap and productive group out there. This is not good news for Luis Terrero who is tearing up AAA and may just have learned how to avoid swinging at off speed pitches.

Luis Terrero.......(176AB, 324/396/523) - MLE: 302/364/487, 116 OPS+
Tike Redman........(160AB, 275/343/338) - MLE: 257/316/315, 86 OPS+
Chris Roberson.....(137AB, 248/338/328) - MLE: 232/311/305, 84 OPS+
Adam Stern.........(89AB, 247/289/315) - MLE: 231/266/293, 77 OPS+

Redman and Roberson are fine 4th outfielders on a big league club because of their ability to play center and left (right field in a pinch). Terrero has it a bit more difficult on the defensive end. If he was capable of league average defense in center field, he probably would have been in the majors for the past four years. His mental miscues and a recent loss of a step or two has hurt him. Still, I imagine if Jay Payton wasn't on the major league roster . . . we would have seen Terrero promoted by now. In fact, if we find a home for Payton, it would be Terrero who would be promoted as opposed to Redman, a Trembley favorite. Luis' AAA season has been that good. Again, I think his MLB performance is probably a bit less than the MLE suggests. My reasons for writing that is that Terrero has such a long history of not being able to hit those pitches and his season has been driven by a .397 BABIP. Still, it would be nice to see him spell Jones and Scott from time to time.

Our AAA roster is full of MLB quality backups based on their limited performance at Norfolk in 2008. Eider Torres, Brandon Fahey, Tike Redman, Chris Roberson, and Oscar Salazar are fine backups. None are starting material. Scott Moore and Mike Costanzo are both young and have the potential to be league average third basemen. Luis Terrero also has potential, but his defensive miscues and inability to tell a changeup from a fastball are probably still present. All in all, there really is not anyone who is being mistreated by being kept in the minors.

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