05 January 2010

Interesting Matt Hobgood Interview at Baseball Beginnings

Matt Hobgood discusses, at reasonable length, about the difficulties he faced after being drafted by the Orioles. He has been quite focused at API and has lost 8 pounds and reduced his percent body fat by 3% in a month. He hopes to come into spring training at 240lbs to quiet anyone about his conditioning.

Here is a short response about his troubles at Bluefield:
It took me a little over a month just to get back to feeling where I could actually throw good, and even then, I think I topped the whole year at Bluefield at like 91. I was trying to throw hard, but I wasn’t trying to look like I was throwing hard, if you know what I mean. I talked to (Orioles scouting director) Joe Jordan a little bit. He came down and he said somebody asked him why high school pitchers loose velocity as rookies. Joe said it’s just different. We’re not used to throwing every day.


You can find the full interview here:
Part I
Part II

Collection of John Sickels' 2010 NL Prospect Grades


In this posting I will link to all of John Sickels' 2010 Prospect Grades for every NL team. Click here for the AL links.

NL East
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals

NL Central
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Houston Astros
Milwaukee Brewers
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

04 January 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Introduction

With the Yankees and Red Sox running out front in the AL East for much of the aughts, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays gave baseball a glimpse into the type of team that will ultimately need to be assembled in order to run with the deeper pockets in the division. Acquiring and developing young, inexpensive talent carries two primary benefits for the non-Yanks/Sox of the division:

1. Defends against the "big contract" injury/busts that can potentially tie-up payroll for a year or more. By adding as much talent as possible while keeping the payroll as low as possible, Tampa, Baltimore and Toronto will give themselves the flexibility to address an injury or bust via trade/free agency, rather than being forced to rush a prospect or, worse, do nothing.

2. Keeps payroll available for selectively aggressive moves in the free agent/trade markets/extension of homegrown talent. By assembling as talented a team as possible while leaving as much capital available as possible, the option hopefully exists to make a run at a more expensive free agent when the potential wins added by that free agent/expensive trade target, or locking-up one of the homegrown talents for a period of years, are relevant to making a playoff run (preferably for an extended period of time).

It remains to be seen how effective Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto will be in executing, but this is likely the best approach to competing with Boston and New York in the standings and, in selected situations, in the free agent and trade market.

So where do each of the AL East teams rank in current under-26 year old talent (a quick and dirty cut-off for gauging "young and cheap" talent)? After the jump we'll step through the criteria we've used for our position-by-position nine-part series. In this pivotal cross-section of talent acquisition and development, which AL East team is best situating themselves....

Subject: The goal of the series is two-fold:

1. To find the best young players at each position in the AL East talent structure, and

2. To get an idea of where the AL East teams stack-up, overall, with regards to young talent in the pipeline.

Parameters: In order to qualify, a player must satisfy the following requirements:

1. The player must be 26 or younger during the 2010 season (born October 1, 1983 to present), and

2. The player must currently be under the control of an AL East organization (the player can be at any level in the organization).

Discussion: The bulk of the pieces will be prepared by myself (Stotle) and by MJ. MJ comes to us by way of the New York Yankees fan base and has contributed as a writer for the popular Yankees site www.waswatching.com. As is the case with Crawdaddy and myself, he follows the AL East closely and should provide good balance to the pieces. The two of us, along with Craw, will be selecting the top players for each position. The author of the piece will be responsible for the ultimate ranking of the players. We hope you'll add your thoughts in the comment section of each piece, as well.

We'll keep a running count of the Top Under-26 Team at the conclusion of each piece, and Craw, MJ and I will put together a "wrap-up" piece briefly discussing our findings.

This is quite an exciting endeavor for the three of us. We hope that even if you disagree with our rankings, our series will trigger some discussion amongst the various fan bases. Part 1: Catchers, is being finalized by MJ now and will post on Wednesday. Craw will be putting-up something fun and interesting in the interim.

Happy New Year's; see you soon.
-Stotle

03 January 2010

Joe Sheehan Chat and AL GM Rankings


Weekend editions are usually a good time to look back on the previous week. So, here are some Orioles focused quotes from the most recent Joe Sheehan chat:

[Mike Gonzalez' deal is] a very inexpensive contract, and the Orioles' bullpen has sucked for a while, so I don't hate the deal. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than signing Garret Atkins, who is 1) not very good and 2) redundant even at his potential skill set and role because of Ty Wigginton. Gonzalez can at least do something.


This echoes my sentiment. Gonzalez is a roughly average to below average deal. It is one that does not seem to make most of having the 3rd pick in the second round, but the value lost there is not great. The Garrett Atkins deal is a headscratcher and only makes sense in take the alternative is atrocious and he has some upside. Of course, sending Scott Moore out there and banking Miguel (Angel Sano) Jean with the difference would have been a better move in my opinion.

[Best GMs in the game are] Epstein, Cashman, Beane, [Zduriencik, and] . . . Daniels or Williams . . .


That puts Andy MacPhail at seventh or lower in the AL.

My ranking of GMs in the AL and some other Sheehan quotes after the jump.


Crawdaddy's list of best GMs in baseball:
1. Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox - Best run program in the game. Domestic/International talent acquisition is stellar and free agents pickups are largely successful (outside of SS).
2. Bill Beane, Oakland Athletics - Slightly shaky lately and somewhat overrated . . . still the Gold Standard. Set with a misguided run last season, he was able to turn around and replenish his minors.
3. Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners - Nearly every move he has made has been a steal. He wound up with Cliff Lee for less than the Yanks gave for Vazquez.
4. Andrew Freidman, Tampa Bay Rays - Competing in the AL East with a slim payroll and having arguably the best Minor League talent pool in the game.
5. Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers - Has turned things around greatly in the past couple years. He used to be rather awful. Great minors and solid MLB moves.
6. Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers - Great turnover in the system, but he acquires top amateur talent and has made a few excellent trades (although somewhat blemished--Dontrelle Willis).
7. Brian Cashman, New York Yankees - He is difficult to evaluate, but Cashman's tenure has been much smoother since he was given more of a free reign to go after younger players. Money certainly helps though and they do not seem to embrace progressiveness like the BoSox.
8. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore Orioles - He has shown a lot of patience in getting generally solid returns in trades (Bedard and Sherrill deals) and an emerging proliferation of minor league talent. Free agent acquisitions do not seem incredibly shrewd and the team missed out on trading some of their players at the right time.
9. Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians - This might be too low for Shapiro. Solid assessment of high round minor league talent and young positional players. Poor drafting (to be kind) and a near complete lack of evaluating pitching. Kerry Wood acquisition was expensive for the team and did not address starting pitching.
10. Kenny Williams, Chicago White Sox - Williams is a gambler who seems to make moves using his gut much more than his head. When he had a set of supernaturally healthy and good starters . . . it worked. He has had trouble getting back to that. The Peavy and Rios deals could set this team well. The Teahan deal is perplexing. The outfield is often peculiarly addressed. Has the feeling of a rotisserie team.
11. Bill Smith, Minnesota Twins - This will probably be a rather controversial placement. Smith though has been underachieving for years. His Santana deal paled in comparison to what the Erik Bedard deal was. Solutions to add offense to the squad were met with continual bouts of failure. MLB level moves look quite poor. The team excels with its amateur scouting. I am unsure how much Smith is involved with that.
12. Tony Reagins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - They have not done much to replace the massive amount of talent they had. This includes at an amateur levels and at a pro level. Also seems to have a tendency to hold onto prospects for too long. Not much was gained from Tex's departure.
13. Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto Blue Jays - Not much to grade him on, but the Jays did seem to get value closer to what the O's got for Bedard than what the Twins got for Santana. So he easily rates above the fourteenth selection whom I am at a loss to name a single good move.
14. Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals - Two words: The Process.

[One of the three worst moves of the offseason is the signing of] Garret Atkins, because the Orioles already had a fat, slow, pseudo-corner-guy with a huge platoon split who hits into lots of DPs.


Yeah, Sheehan is not fond of this one. Nor am I.

That is all we have for today.

02 January 2010

Interesting Tidbits From Jim Callis' Chat

Here are just a few interesting comments in Jim Callis' last chat:

When I did my personal list, I rated the Orioles as the eighth-best farm system, which is quite impressive considering that Wieters, Tillman and Reimold graduated to the majors in 2009.

Tillman, easily [has the better career]. And I like Arrieta.

I ranked [the Nationals] 20th, in large part because of Strasburg. If you took him out of the mix, I would have rated their system 27th.

I'd give Pie another shot [at being a starter and have Reimold DH] but I don't have much faith that [Pie starting] will work out.

[Orioles drafted Matt Hobgood because he would sign for slot].


What I found most interesting was that he rated the Rays (2nd) and the BoSox (7th) above the Orioles (8th). That means the AL East has a very talented minor league system. Life will not be easy for the O's.

31 December 2009

Happy New Years Eve

Does Holliday Make Sense for the Orioles?


Tracy Ringolsgy wears a cowbot hat. Rongolsby also writes for Fox Sports. He wrote today that the Baltimore Orioles had extended an 8 year offer to Matt Holliday to the tune of 130MM. That is an annual average of 16.25MM. An eight year deal will also take Holliday through his age 37 season. Andy MacPhail has offered to get together with him and Peter Angelos in Austin where Holliday lives. Roch says MacPhail denied the offer was ever presented.

The alleged offer consists of a rather lengthy contract. Based on his age and position, he projects to roughly 26 wins above replacement over that eight year period. Assuming an increase of 10% increase in the cost per win and that this year's value is 4MM/win, Holliday is worth 137MM over those eight years. More pessimistic projections see his value as closer to 124MM over eight years with those last two seasons rating him as severely below average. In truth, it is difficult to find any projection that is optimistic over years 7 and 8.

Although I am not a great fan of this supposed proposed offer, I can understand why it would make sense. More after the jump.

Some points:

1. We have excess outfielders, why do we need to purchase a left fielder?
By signing Holliday, it leaves a glut of outfielders with Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, and Luke Scott. Such as situation would enable the team to engage in a trade to move talent around. Players like Pie and Reimold (to a lesser extent Scott) present plus value for other teams with payroll restrictions due to their status under the CBA as renewal year players. Signing Holliday could mean a redistribution of talent from Reimold to Blanks at first.

2. Holliday is on the wrong side of 30, how does that fit?
Players with a high contact rate, decent walk rate, some speed, and power age better than others. What is more worrisome is the athlete who relies many on one or two skills. His bat should age rather well and his defense should remain passable in left field for several seasons. He figures to age much better than Jason Bay.

3. What about the Coors split?
Much concern over Holliday is his home/road splits attributed largely to the Coors effect. While this was a concern last off season, it may not be as much of one this off season. He exhibited another extreme home/road split this year with Oakland and St. Louis (OPS; 982 vs 830). This may just be his performance characterization. He hits well at home. With Camden Yards as one of the top three homerun hitting environments in the Majors, he stands to do well with his high contact rate and power. He should hit well as an Oriole.

4. So what do I have against this trade?
This sort of contract ensures a nearly worthless player on the team for two seasons down the road. That restricts a team's roster in sunk cost and potentially a sunk 25 man roster slot. Such a signing also means that about 15% of the team's possible budget will be tied to a left fielder who skills are decreasing each year instead of getting better while all the players around him are excelling. Such a signing means that we are ignoring the plus value available from the left field slot that we currently have and hoping to find that elsewhere in the lineup or needing to overpay more to fill positions. It also means we are paying a premium on a position that is of little consequence this season.

I can understand why a Holliday signing makes sense, but I would not suggest it. I think it would do more to limit roster and payroll flexibility down the line in a way that is not essential for the future success of the team.

29 December 2009

Orioles 40 man roster with options

A short announcement today . . . we have been running the 40 man roster with options denoted by a color code in a running column to the left side of this page. This column runs on every page within this blog. We figured that since we often consult this list we figured out on our own . . . you may wish to do the same. Anyway, feel free to consult it and let me know if there is ever anything I miss.

28 December 2009

Fixing Amateur Talent Acquisition



It seems a major issue Bud Selig wants to address before he retires as the commissioner is to equalize the playing field with respect to amateur acquisitions. Apparently, his concept of fixing disparity between franchises is to fix perhaps the one area where small market teams actually can compete. So lets just go for the ride and find a system that can actually work.

Based on current work of Stark, the New York Times, and the Biz of Baseball . . . I think it is safe to assume revenue sharing in general comes to at least 500MM. With that in mind, I think it would be easy to isolate about 300MM of that to amateur talent acquisition. The main step is to abolish the draft and set up annual salary shares.

I'll explain after the jump.


The draft is largely a tool to force talent to sign with certain teams and restrict their earning potential. These two issues would be a stopping point for many Japanese players looking to play state-side. To resolve this, I propose that the draft be abolished and instead teams are allotted fixed salary points based on the reverse order of their records for the previous season.

For instance (CLICK PICTURE TO MAKE LARGER):



You can see for this plan each team will be able to sign 100 players each season. This is enough to fill two Rookie league teams, a Dominican Summer league team, and provide a few guys for short season ball. It also provides several high paying positions and there are at least two teams who have contract shares of the same amount. Some may argue that the bonuses in question here are on average much greater than what is doled out in the draft and international free agent market. That is true. A rough estimate on what is currently spent on bonuses is around 240MM. This throws in another 55MM, which will help raise domestic player bonuses, which have been unfairly discounted in the current restrictive market. Another plus for players is that this system gives them choices. Even single shares, even the 10MM one, has at least two teams capable of offering it. This enables choices to be made and a better idea of what is available. It should also result in players quickly signing on as neither side has much room to haggle. The prices are effectively set.

How does this benefit the owners? It establishes a system that is ultimately fare for revenue sharing and should not greatly impede the local markets in Latin America. One issue of concern is that an international draft would collapse the baseball talent streams in areas like the Dominican Republic. In these areas, part of the local economy are buscons who develop children at a very young age and move them into position to sign with big league clubs. Finding fees are associated with these dealings. A run of the mill draft with no leveraging between teams would nip that in the bud as there would be less incentive for an MLB team to invest in these regions. Keeping them free agents with set contracts enables this to continue and MLB continues to get their talent pool stream.

But does this system benefit a player like Dice-K or Hideki Matsui? No, not in this form. Under such a plan, these players would wind up receiving a 10MM bonus and then be forced under the renewal/arbitration system. This would need to be adjusted and a potentially easy solution would be to set aside an additional 20MM in revenue sharing. This money would be used for a pay for play system similar to what is instituted in the NFL. Basically, during the renewal years players will receive a certain point total for plate appearances or innings pitches. The quality of those innings or plate appearances are not considered, just how often a person actually player. This results in a final point total. Add up all of the players that fall under this classification of renewal year talent. Divide 20MM, but that number to determine a price per point value. Players then are paid on how many points they have accumulated.

25 December 2009

Happy Holidays



Unless anything really interesting happens, we'll be back on Monday.

24 December 2009

On the Links . . . Chris Lamb, Projected Win Totals

A links post today . . .

Dean Jones relates a scouting report on our new pitcher from Oz.

Chris Lamb (19 years old) was signed a couple weeks ago by the Orioles. He was also being courted by the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. He posted up good numbers in a mid level Australian league, going 2-1 with a 3.03era. He had a K rate of 14.8 per 9 innings, but also walked 10 per 9. The talent level here is more on par with Bluefield. He was promoted to a league that was on par with Delmarva (single A) and appeared to be overmatched. He struck out about one per inning, but walked about 12 per 9. Baseball is somewhat relaxed over in Australia, so hopefully a more regimented scheduled can improves his conditioning.

Jones relates the Aussie team's assistant GM's comments on Lamb:

He's a skinny kid with a live arm and room to add 10-15 pounds of muscle as he fills out. At times he can get erratic and lose the strike zone, but he also has the ability to get hitters to swing and miss. The coaching staff has been working with him on his release point and repeating his delivery. With consistent work in the [United] States he will have a much better opportunity to refine his mechanics. He currently throws his fastball with late sinking action at 88-90 mph and has topped out at 93. His secondary pitches are a real good curveball that drops off the table and a changeup that he is still developing. The coaches have taught him a cutter that he has started to implement into games as well.


As I had mentioned somewhere, he is seen as a potential LOOGY.

Predicted Wins for the 2010 Season Post-Millwood, Atkins, Gonzalez.

The current projected win totals have been posted by Dempsey's Army, Camden Crazies, and us here at Camden Depot. The win totals are as follows:
Dempsey's Army - 83 wins
Camden Crazies - 76 wins
Camden Depot - 77 wins

Mean +/- SD - 78.7 +/- 3.8 wins

23 December 2009

What is Aroldis Chapman Worth?


A week ago Roch Kobatko wrote up his interview with John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of international scouting. He had been present at Aroldis Chapman's workout and communicated that representatives from over 20 teams were present for the workout. It appeared the workout was a sort of resetting the clock with his new agents. The goal being that they wanted to show that Chapman was healthy, in shape, and ready to take his professional career very seriously. At the moment, we are aware that the Red Sox offered 15.5MM several weeks ago and that the Marlins are currently sitting on a 12-13MM bonus offer. Conventional wisdom is that either the Yankees or BoSox will wind up winning his services.

An evaluation of his worth as a prospect and a collection of scouting reports after the jump.

Chapman has played the last four years in Cuba top league. This is a league that has 16 teams while Cuba has a population of roughly 12MM. The competition just is not that strong. I have included in with the stat line an expected MLE that is based on a composite of A ball translations to the pro game. Admittedly, this is a large assumption, but I think it gives a ball park idea about his performance and what level of competition he has faced.

Year G GS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA xFIP xMLE(A)
2006 15 15 54.0 48 33 26 5 54 56 4.52 5.33 9.22
2007 23 12 81.1 59 26 25 4 50 100 2.90 3.22 5.57
2008 16 16 74.0 55 36 32 3 37 79 3.49 3.09 5.35
2009 22 20 118.1 109 56 53 7 62 130 3.19 3.34 5.78


We have Pitch f/x data from his WBC game last spring. It is only one outing, but it does present a decent idea as to where his fastball velocity works. He was able to must pitches at 100 and 102 mph, but his working velocity was 93.5mph. Velocity does not exactly match up with performance, but there does seem to be an indication that increased velocity makes a fastball better (of course). The following charts compares average fastball velocity of the top 33 fastballs in the game from starting pitchers, starting with Ubaldo Jimenez and ending with Luke Hochevar. No attempt was made to look at movement or location, just velocity.



Using the equation presented in the chart from MLB quality pitchers. Chapman's fastball velocity was 93.5mph and his projected runs value would be 0.12 runs saved per 100 fastballs. That means it is an above average pitch is about 10.8% above average for this population of starters. If you prefer BtBS's estimate of 94.6mph after weeding out incorrectly defined pitches, then you are looking at 0.52 runs saved per 100 fastballs or 38% better than the average fastball. A major assumption here (on top of all of the other assumptions) is that pitchers will more of a track record are having their pitches properly identified. Regardless, Chapman throws hard. Throwing hard is good. It remains to be seen if he has or will have Major league quality control. I assume many hard throwers are weeded out.

Here are excerpt from a solid scouting report at Baseball Intellect:

Fastball – Chapman’s fastball is typically clocked in the 93 – 96 range and will occasionally touch 97 – 99. The pitch has tremendous life and carry through the zone with some natural tail. Chapman’s control will vary from start-to-start. On average, his control of the pitch is decent and will often be at least around the strike zone. But commanding the pitch is a different story. Pitching to a right handed hitter, the catcher’s mitt might be positioned on the inside corner and Chapman’s ball will often end up right down the middle.

Curveball – A good change of pace offering with a solid two-plane brake. However, Chapman will sometimes slow his arm down when throwing the pitch. It’s clocked as low as 69 mph, getting as high as 75.

Slider – Chapman’s most effective off-speed offering…I’ve heard the pitch can hit 90, but I’ve only seen it come close to that mark once and I’m still not sure the pitch was a slider. I’ve typically seen his slider in the 79 – 83 range. The pitch has major consistency issues and can rate anywhere from below average to plus.

Change-Up and Cutter – Chapman possesses both a cutter and change-up, neither of which he uses often.

Chapman’s release point is inconsistent and it will vary with each pitch type . . . Chapman has to coordinate a lot of moving parts however, and that will naturally lead to an inability to consistently repeat his mechanics though he has the athleticism to do so.


I think it is a fair assessment that Aroldis Chapman would immediately be a top 50 prospect with his big arm, promising secondary pitches, and for being a southpaw. Using Victor Wang's probability model for assessing prospect worth, he will generate roughly 15-16MM in terms of production. I would argue that having his type of fastball puts him in a higher class and his value should be more around 18-20MM. Velocity transfers better to higher competition than pitchability.

Conclusion
If the Orioles signed Chapman, he would immediately become their second or third best prospect behind Matusz and potentially Arrieta/Britton/Bell depending on your perspective. He would probably start in HiA Frederick though a few games at Delmarva is not entirely out of the question. He will probably be in the majors within 3 years. His upside as a top end starter and low end projection as a middle reliever makes the investment of around 20MM quite fitting.

22 December 2009

GM Family Tree Offseason 2010

Knowing Major League Baseball to be the incestuous place that it is, here is the Family Tree for the GMs. For space considerations, I did kind of eliminate a few brief interactions and maybe accidentally omitted larger ones. Resources included Baseball America and my memory. The former is much stronger of a resource than the latter.

21 December 2009

Could the Rangers Use Luke Scott?


With Mike Lowell's need for surgery, the Rangers' plans on adding a power bat at the DH slot has been reset. Current options in the market would include players like Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye (who they were attached to before the Ramirez-Lowell talks). All three of these players could look to see a one year contract at about 6 to 7MM with potential incentive clauses. None of them are competent in the field any longer and pose health risks.

Here is a tally of their play last year vs what Bill James thinks they are capable of this year:
Guerrero 295/334/460 vs 305/369/508
Dye 250/340/453 vs 261/333/480
Thome 249/366/481 vs 245/374/488

All three look to see around 450 plate appearances. That winds up being production around 1.5 WAR or ~6.5MM, which makes sense as to what they may be able to receive in free agency.

A potential alternative would be a player like Luke Scott. More on Scott being an option after the jump.



Scott is a capable left fielder, he managed to rate as average before being pushed out of the role by the plus defense of Felix Pie and then by the hope attached to Nolan Reimold's ability to learn how to play the outfield. This ability to play in the field gives Scott more flexibility than the other three options and allows for some roster juggling and giving some time off to guys in the field. As a left fielder his worth is around 2 WAR. As a DH, he is worth around 1.5 WAR. So he rates well in comparison to the other hitters.

Last Year vs James' Predictions for this year:
Scott 258/340/488 vs 259/342/486

The benefit of dealing for Scott is that the Rangers would not only own control of him for two more seasons, he will be paid somewhere between 4.5 and 5 MM. This is a savings of 1.5MM. More so if you include his ability to play the field.

What would be fair compensation?

I would imagine what would make most sense to the Rangers and the Orioles would be to deal Scott for Chris Davis. The Rangers are deep in potential 1B players and have a stud in Justin Smoak. Davis has little place on this team. He was having great difficulty swinging the bat last year and strikes out often. He is a high upside prospect who probably will not achieve his potential due to issues with contact rate. The fluctuation in his performance means that a second player should be added to the deal. This would most likely be two grade C+ prospects or three grade C guys.

Proposed trades:
Luke Scott for Chris Davis, Tim Murphy, and Kennil Gomez.

Why would the Orioles want to do this?
Chris Davis provides them with a young, cheap, controlled bat to play first and try to wring long term value there. It enables the Orioles to let Brandon Snyder put more time in at AAA and for the team to use the DH slot to get Pie and Reimold in the same lineup as well as provide a refuge for Matt Wieters to log at bats when he is not catching. Long term, it opens up the possibility for a lefty-righty platoon at first with Snyder and Davis as Snyder pushes his way up.

Tim Murphy adds another polished upper round draft pick arm to the organization. He was a third round pick in 2008 and has struggled in the relatively pitching friendly California league. A switch from the rotation to the pen may show up his ability to be a situational lefty. Kennil Gomez also struggled in the California league, but he shows a much higher potential. He averaged nearly a strikeout an inning, but also exhibited some wildness. Both are long shots at making any significant effect in the Majors.

Why do the Rangers do it?
They are stock with 1B and realy do not need Davis' bat nor are they interested in giving him at bats with the AL West tightening up. The two pitchers mentioned are pretty low in their organization. They have several of more interest to them. This should be a rather easy deal to pull off.

20 December 2009

Way-Too-Early Dream Draft

Like many on the East Coast, my wife and I have been kept from our Sunday errands by the massive amounts of snow covering the ground. So, with some down time this afternoon I was left to daydream on the draft. My thoughts eventually brought me to this -- were the draft tomorrow, how would the first ten rounds ideally go down for Baltimore?

I thought about the likelihood of a general draft budget for Joe Jordan to operate under (I kept coming to around $9million -- note that I don't know he's actually given a specific amount). I considered the fact that Baltimore lost it's second round pick when it inked reliever Mike Gonzalez (potentially more money to spread to fewer picks, but fewer picks to bring in talent). And I thought about the players that are draft eligible for this year's Rule 4 draft (this was the easiest, as I'm working on my pre-season positional rankings over at PnRScouting.com and have these talents on my mind quite a bit already). So where did I arrive? At the end of the day, I think there are currently two elite talents in the draft, and if Baltimore has the opportunnity they are best served paying for those talents.

Quick step through my current "dream draft" for the Orioles as of December 2009 after the jump...




1:3 Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
-- I think it's highly unlikely Washington passes on Bryce Harper, at this point. That leaves one elite talent in my book, as I have Taillon ahead of other stud prep arms like Cole and Whitson, and college arms such as Ranaudo, McGuire and Pomeranz. Pittsburgh went slot in the first last year to allow for more room to spend later, and my "dream draft" would have them doing it again in 2010. Taillon gives BAL a prep talent with a big league body (6-7/235) and big league stuff right now (his mid-90s fastball and 2-plane power curve could get out big league hitters right now). He'll likely get a large bonus, but if he's around Baltimore takes him in my ideal draft. Estimated Bonus, $5.5million; Total Spent, $5.5million.

2:3 No Pick -- To Braves as compensation for signing Mike Gonzalez. Total Spent: $5.5million.

3:3 Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pineview HS (Utah)
-- Littlewood is a switch-hitting prep shortstop with good athleticism and clean actions in the field. He's a good bet to stick at short as one of the steadier fielding shortstops in the prep ranks. He's a strong addition to an organization very weak up-the-middle. Estimated Bonus, $450K (a little over slot); Total Spent, $6.0million.

4:3 Tyler Holt, OF, Florida State Univ. -- Holt has very little in the way of power, but he possesses terrific on-base tools, including an advanced understanding of the strikezone and good speed. There are some questions as to his whether or not his arm and instincts will play in centerfield, but I'm confident they will. He could profile as a top-of-the-order bat with gap power and solid centerfield defense. Estimated Bonus, $375K; Total Spent, $6.38million.

5:3 Nick Pepitone, RHP, Tulane Univ. -- Pepitone is a big-bodied ground ball machine that projects as a bullpen arm. This past summer with Team USA, Pepitone lead the team with an .045 Batting Average Against and a minuscule WHIP of 0.477. He went 14.1 innings pitched over the course of the summer and didn't allow an extra-base hit. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $6.58million.

6:3 AJ Vanegas, RHP, Redwood Christian HS (Calif.) -- Noting I have NO inside knowledge of the matter, Vanegas's commitment to Stanford and strong academic profile could cause him to hold out for top 2-rounds' money in order to convince him to skip his collegiate years. The righty has potential top 60 overall stuff, but the sheer number of talented high school arms in this year's class could cause some teams to shy away from potential tough signs. Ideally, Baltimore finds an arm like this that drops and snatches him up here. Vanegas profiles as a mid-rotation starter with a low-90s fastball and a downer curve effective in and out of the zone. Estimated Bonus, $900K, Total Spent, $7.48million.

7:3 Colin Bates, RHP, Univ. of North Carolina -- Bates spent 2009 in the Tar Heels bullpen but could get a shot at the rotation in 2010 with the loss of Friday starter (Alex White, Indians, 1st Round) and Sunday starter (Adam Warren, Yankees, 4th Round) last June. A 37th-Round selection by Oakland last year, Bates returns as a redshirt junior and will look to potentially raise his value as a starter. He flashes low-90s velocity with some boring action on his fastball and a solid slider. He'll need to show he can maintain his stuff late in a game in order to stick as a starter, but could otherwise be a useful arm in the pen. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $7.68 million.

8:3 Blake Kelso, 2B/SS. Univ. of Houston -- Kelso isn't known for his bat, but he takes to the plate an advanced and controlled approach (walked more than he struck-out last year) and profiles as a solid glove at second base. He has solid speed but needs to improve his reads on the bases to become a threat to steal as a pro. With a couple of over-slot picks earlier, Kelso serves as an inexpensive sign that could add some depth up-the-middle in the minors and potential slot in as a utility guy. Estimated Bonus, $125K, Total Spent, $7.93million.

9:3 Jake Rodriguez, C, Elk Grove HS (CA) -- Rodriguez doesn't profile enough with the bat yet to warrant an early-round selection, though he's one of the better defensive catchers in the prep ranks. He has played on the showcase circuit for some time, and is comfortable handling talented arms -- I grab him here and sell him on the difficulty he faces facilitating his baseball growth at Oregon State with uber-freshman backstop Andrew Susac set to take over as the starting catcher in 2010. Estimated Bonus, $175K, Total Spent, $8.11million.

10:3 Matthew Price, RHP, Virginia Tech (Sophomore) -- Price is a projectable sophomore-eligible righty capable of getting to the low-90s with his fastball and generally sitting upper-70s with his slider. Consistency of stuff will determine how high he's selected in June, but Baltimore should have plenty of coverage with Virginia Tech so close, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Jordan make a selection like this, looking for good value by jumping on a talent before all the pieces have quite clicked. It'll take some extra jingle to sign him away from his last two years at Va. Tech, but there's good upside as Price was roundly considered one of the more intriguing arms on the Cape this summer when throwing his low-90s gas and solid slider out of the pen. As he adds strength, he could gain enough durability to maintain that stuff as a starter. Estimated Cost, $450K; Total Spent, $8.56million.

Summary: If Baltimore were able to sign each of these nine picks, my guess is there is room for at least one significant over-slot signing later on in the draft. As far as the haul described above, Baltimore would have achieved the following:

1. Added a true elite draft talent on par with the likes of Matusz and Wieters (Taillon, 1:3). He's advanced enough to catch-up to the Hobgood/Bundy group likely headed to Delmarva (A) this summer and profiles as a true ace.

2. Added depth up-the-middle with a potential future starter to above-average shortstop in Littlewood (3:3) and a solid second-baseman in Kelso (8:3). It doesn't fix the system, but it chips away at the dearth of middle-infielders. Kelso should sign quickly and could allow Baltimore to take an extra year with Hoes's development at the Delmarva (A)/Frederick (
A-Adv.) levels, if needs-be.

3. Jake Hernandez (9:3) slots in as an experienced d-first catcher to climb the system with the talented group of Taillon, Hobgood, Vanegas (6:3) and Bundy.

4. "Safe"ish picks of Holt (4:3)/Pepitone (5:3) should be good bets to provide Major League value with upside of solid regulars, and perhaps more.

5. Bates (7:3)/Price (10:3) represent high-upside picks with some risks. Both could develop into solid starters or provide potential back-end value in the pen with more consistency in their stuff. Each qualifies as a power arm, which I'm always excited to bring into the system.

So, it's way too early for any of these thoughts to matter too much -- some players will get injured, some will raise their stock and others will fall some. But I think there's always value in taking stock of where a draft class currently sits, as well as strategizing as to how best to tap into the collection of talent. In the end, I've passed a couple of hours putting these thoughts down, stayed warm with the snow swirling outside and given you a glimpse into the types of selections I'd like to see Baltimore make come June.

Stay warm; speak to you again, soon!
-NJ

18 December 2009

Composite Orioles Top 10

I devised a consensus prospect list from five sources: me, Nick James at PNR scouting, Tony Pente at Orioles Hangout, John Sickels at Minor League Ball, and the guys at Baseball Prospectus. It should be noted my top 20 and James' top 20 were constructed after the rule 5 draft, so Steve Johnson is not on ours (in mine, he would have come in around 15 or 16). In weighting the composite rankings (located after the jump), I merely moved anyone below Johnson on the other lists one ranking up. Of course, this ranking system assumes equal difference between one rank and the next. This is a faulty assumption, but one I felt was necessary in order to combine the lists. Be sure to click on the image to make it larger. Here is how the five evaluations differ:



After the jump, the composite top 10.


1. Brian Matusz LHSP A
Four solid above average pitches with great control. After dominating HiA and AA, he pitched 44.2 innings in Baltimore. He continued to show a high k rate, low walks, but was susceptible to the long ball as well as hits in general. With time, these should settle.

2. Jake Arrieta RHSP B+
Opinions on Arrieta have diverged greatly over the past year. Some concerns have been placed about his potential trouble in facing batters two or three times through. He has great upside and bottoms out as a force in the back of a bullpen.

3. Josh Bell 3B B+
Bell made great strides in the past year. His defense has improved remarkably, but needs more refinement to be MLB ready. His bat on the left side of the plate plays against righties at a MLB level. He is incapable of hitting anything against lefties when he gets into the right handed batters' box. Still young, there looks like there is more power potential in his swing.

4. Zach Britton LHSP B/B+
Britton continues to improve at each level. His pitchability is through the roof and he induces an incredible amount of groundballs. As he advances, he will probably face better hitters who are more capable of getting solid contact. Britton could be special.

5. Brandon Erbe RHSP B
Brandon struggled some this year with injuries encouraging some concern about how well his body would be able to hold up as a starting pitcher. High upside, but projecting more toward the pen.

6. Brandon Snyder 1B B-
Snyder has a solid swing and has increasingly gained converts to his ability during the AFL season. I'm still not sure there is enough power in that swing.

7. Matt Hobgood RHSP B-
Hobgood flashes pro quality fastballs and breaking balls. Both will require several years of refinement and he will need to develop a useful splitter or changeup to remain a starter. He arrived in rookie ball slightly out of condition, which hopefully should not be a career long concern.

8. Kam Mickolio RHSP C+/B-
Reliever with a big fastball. His success is dependent upon how consistent his changeup is. He was flashing an adequate one at the end of last season.

9. Brandon Waring 1B/3B C+
Acquired in the Hernadez trade along with Ryan Freel and Justin Turner. He managed to acquire a better contact rate and continued to hit for power. Old for the league last season, he should face a ore demanding test in Bowie this season.

10. Caleb Joseph C C+
Uneven season, particularly toward the end when he appeared to get tired. Good hitter who profiles for above average power from the position.

17 December 2009

Projected Win Total: Post Gonzalez and Atkins Signings


Last night saw a flurry of activity for the Baltimore Orioles with really none of it expected. Press reports had mentioned the Orioles being in the market for a closer and a third baseman. On the closer front, the Orioles were mentioned to being heavily involved in the Matt Capps and Fernando Rodney markets. Meanwhile, with third basemen it appeared that after Pedro Feliz was snatched up that Joe Crede was the target. The idea behind that was a professed desire by MacPhail to sign a defense oriented talent at third base. Atkins is not that. Then again, Atkins may be seeing more time at first base depending on how the rest of the off season goes.

So where are we now using the CHONE projections?
Garrett Atkins - 258/329/410, below average defense
1/4.5MM with 1/8MM opt (0.5MM buyout)
Mike Gonzalez - 3.67 era
2/12MM (up to 4MM in incentives)

Using those numbers . . . we raise our win total from 74.5 to 76.8.

More after the jump.


As was mentioned in our post with Jose Valverde, the likely impact of losing a second round pick is not something that is generally noticeable. The loss of a top second round pick typically generates a prospect with decent projection, but that value is typically about 2.5MM worth of play when you average everything out. It just is not a huge loss. This seems particularly true when our last two second rounds picks were Mychal Givens and Xavier Avery. Both are high potential, low probability type of prospects of the C+ variety. That said, you can also find great talent in the second round. As was mentioned, Chris Tillman was a second round selection. In this light, sacrificing a second round pick should be for a component that whose value dwarfs that of the potential gain of a second round selection. Under that criteria, a relief pitcher (even a closer) just is not valuable enough. The difference between Gonzalez and Rodney is maybe at most 2 or 3 blown saves. That probably is not the difference between watching the playoffs and making the playoffs for the Orioles.

Then again, Gonzalez may not cost the Orioles a second round pick. He may wind up costing them a third round pick. Ken Rosenthal and Fox sports reported that the Orioles have inquired on Matt Holliday. Holliday is also a type A pick and would punt the Braves second round pick to a third round pick as Gonzalez has a lower Elias ranking. In this scenario, Holliday is very much worth giving up a second round pick and Gonzalez is worth a third rounder. Roch Kobatko has mentioned though that such a possibility is unlikely. He has heard very little about the Orioles being interested in Matt Holliday as well as in another rumor involving Adrian Gonzalez. Andy MacPhail runs a pretty tight ship these days, but one would expect Roch would have a good handle on this.

How does the Gonzalez signing make sense for the Orioles?
The Orioles were in "need" of a closer. I think they had internal options that were not incredibly worse than Gonzalez, so I do not think this is entirely true. What the signing does accomplish is via a push down effect. By bringing in a top tier reliever it pushes everyone else down in their role, strengthening the pen in general by casting out the 7th member. This means that although there is minimal improvement from Uehara/Johnson to Gonzalez. There is improvement of about a win from Sarfate/Albers to Gonzalez. Still it is about a win.

I have his next two years at a value of 13.8MM and his baseline is 12MM. Add in the average value of a second round pick and that is essentially a push at a loss of 0.7MM in value. Now, if he hits his incentives, which are probably based on appearances and awards, this might be a worse deal if the Orioles are paying 8MM a year to Gonzalez.

How does Garrett Atkins make sense?
Atkins is both easier and harder to evaluate in terms of worth. First off, he signed a one year deal, which helps keep the roster flexible. Second, he is adequate defensively at both first and third base. The difficulty in evaluating this move is that we do not know what the cost was and we do not really know what Atkins is capable of. Atkins is basically in a four year slide. True, his BABIP was about 70 points lower than it should have been given his hit type peripherals, but he has seen a noticeable decline in his home run per fly rate. That is a rather large red flag. Atkins is supposed to come in as a power oriented right handed bat, but it is difficult to see how that really differs from what we already have in Ty Wigginton.

What does make this move work for the Orioles is that it does two things: 1) it removes Mike Aubrey from the lineup and 2) it moves Ty Wigginton from third base to first base, replacing him with Atkins whose glove is slightly better than Ty's. The difference between Aubrey and Atkins as predicted by CHONE is a difference of about 40ops coming mainly from on base percentage, which is worth slightly more than slugging. About half a win in runs is saved by moving Ty Wigginton off of third base.

Where we stand?

Batting Wins Above Average: 22.0 (20.8)
Pitching Wins Above Average: 11.3 (10.2)

Total Wins Above Average: 33.3 (+2.3 wins from Millwood acquistion)
Predicted Wins: 76.8 (74.5)

AL East Playoff (95 wins): 18.2 wins to go

16 December 2009

Shadow System: Top 20 Prospects (Intro.)

Crawdaddy is out on business, so I'm stepping-in to provide some reading material for this afternoon. As return readers will likely recall, we've run two "shadow" drafts with the Orioles wherein CamdenDepot made selections at each of Baltimore's picks in the past two drafts -- fifteen total (first five in 2008; first ten in 2009). This is a quick reminder as to who we selected -- what follows is our prospect ranking for the Orioles system had these picks been a reality -- or simply, our "2010 Shadow System Top 20"...

Recap of Selections
Year (Round) - Player
2008 (1) - Brian Matusz, LHP, Univ. of San Diego
2008 (2) - Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS (MO)
2008 (3) - Roger Kieschnick, RF, Texas Tech
2008 (4) - Brandon Crawford, SS, UCLA
2008 (5) - Brian Humphries, OF, Granite Hills HS (CA) (ATTENDING PEPPERDINE)
2009 (1) - Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (GA)
2009 (2) - Todd Glaesmann, OF, Midway HS (TX)
2009 (3) - Chris Dominguez, 3B, Louisville University
2009 (4) - Dustin Dickerson, 1B, Baylor Univ.
2009 (5) - Ian Krol, LHP, Neuqua Valley HS (IL)
2009 (6) - Brody Colvin, RHP, St. Thomas More HS (LA)
2009 (7) - Madison Younginer, RHP, Mauldin HS (SC)
2009 (8) - Kendal Volz, RHP, Baylor Univ.
2009 (9) - Ryan Berry, RHP, Rice University
2009 (10)- Sam Dyson, RHP, Univ. of South Carolina (BACK TO SOU. CAROLINA)

Adding these thirteen players (two did not sign) to the Orioles's system, and removing those Orioles signed between ROunds 1-5 in 2008 and Rounds 1-10 in 2009, here's what we have for the organization's Top 20:

Player, Position (Current Level)
1. Brian Matusz, LHP (ML)
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP (AAA)
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP (Rookie)
4. Josh Bell, 3B (AAA)
5. Brandon Erbe, RHP (AA)
6. Zach Britton, LHP (A)
7. Kam Mickolio, RHP (ML)
8. Tim Melville, RHP (A)
9. Brandon Snyder, 1B (AAA)
10. Madison Younginer, RHP/SS, (signed late)
11. Ian Krol, LHP (A-SS)
12. Brody Colvin, RHP (Rookie)
13. Roger Kieschnick, OF (A-Adv.)
14. Todd Glaesmann, OF (Rookie)
15. Ryan Berry, RHP (signed late)
16. Kendal Volz, RHP (signed late)
17. Brandon Crawford, SS (AA)
18. Chris Dominguez, 3B (A-SS)
19. Bobby Bundy, RHP (Rookie)
20. Ronnie Welty, OF (A)

Craw has something in store for a "consensus" Top 20, which he'll have up here in the near future. Once it is up, I'll take a look at the Shadow System Top 20 and compare the two. For now, any thoughts on the above Top 20? Would you be pleased with this system?

15 December 2009

Jose Valverde and Type A Compensation


There has been some discussion about the merits of signing a pitcher like Jose Valverde. He is a very good relief pitcher though he did have some wrist issues last summer. When you get down to it, Valverde just does not seem to be important enough to sign in comparison to others out there. For a crude comparison, look at blown saves over the past two years for Valverde, Matt Capps, and Fernando Rodney. Respectively, they are 11, 10, and 7. None of these guys are true shut down closers. You can expect somewhere between 5-7 blown saves a season for any of them. Is Valverde the best pitcher? Sure, but the instances where he can actually deliever plus value is limited. Really, Valverde at his best against Rodney at his worst might be a difference of 15 runs. That sounds more important than it really is given the fact that save situations are often given with a two or three run lead.

A secondary line of consideration is that Valverde qualifies as a type A free agent. For a team that is not good, it is thought often that spending money on type A free agent compensation is questionable. It is thought particularly foolish to spend money on relief pitching that qualifies as type A compensation. Just that happened to the Orioles after the 2006 season when General Manager Mike Flannagan surveyed the previous year and determined that our greatest weakness was our relief pitching. He set out to spend heavily on Danys Baez (3/19MM), Chad Bradford (3/10MM), and Jaime Walker (3/12MM). Danys Baez proved to be wholly ineffective with one season lost on injury. Chad Bradford was serviceable for 1.75 seasons before being dealt to the Rays for cash and getting injured in his final season under contract with the Rays. Walker was very good for a season and them plummeted. None of these moves helped the Orioles much. Maybe shifting them a game or two in a positive direction. But what about the free agent compensation?

Both Danys Baez and Chad Bradford qualified as type A free agents. Walker did not. Danys Baez had a higher rating, so the Braves were awarded a sandwich pick and the Orioles pick in the second round (2:5, 69th overall). This left the Mets with compensation for Bradford in round three (3:5, 99th overall). Who was selected and how have they done . . . after the jump.


2007 Draft

2:5 (69th Overall) Braves
Type A compensation for Danys Baez

Joshua Fields (so.) RHRP University of Georgia
Advised by Scott Boras and thought to go in the supplemental round, Fields was disappointed to fall into the second round. Boras had been suggesting 1+MM signing bonus for the college closer, but several teams passed on that. The Braves selected him knowing that negotiations were going to be an issue, but were confidant they could acquire him for slightly above slot. That never happened. Fields went back to school and pitched his senior season. Reentering the draft, he was selected by the Seattle Mariners 20th overall and signed for 1.75MM. He is currently a C+ prospect in the Mariners system. Fields still has a live arm, but his control and command are issues.

Other players selected at 2:5
2009 Mychal Givens SS/RHRP Baltimore
2008 Anthony Gose OF Philadelphia LoA
2006 Chris Tillman RHSP Seattle (now with Baltimore) MLB
2005 Craig Italiano RHSP Oakland HiA
2004 Yovanni Gallardo RHSP Milwaukee MLB

3:5 (99th Overall) Mets
Type A compensation for Chad Bradford

Eric Neisen (sr.) LHSP Wake Forest
Neisen signed for slot and has been struggling to make his way through the minors. He was not considered much of a prospect coming in and has been ignored by the main trade journals. Four year college lefties usually progress through the minors quickly and get hung up on AA or AAA. Neisen had to go through HiA twice and showed some issues during his stint at AA this season. He profiles mostly as a middle reliever or LOOGY.

Other players selected at 3:5
2009 Tyler Townsend 1B Baltimore LoA
2008 Roger Kieschnick OF San Francisco HiA
2006 Tony Butler RHSP Seattle (now with Baltimore) LoA
2005 Wil Inman RHSP Milwaukee (now with San Diego) AAA
2004 Josh Wahpepah RHSP Milwaukee AA

Conclusion
The Orioles did not give anything of much worth away in these acquisitions. The problem is though that there was no upside. The draft picks will typically fail out. Few are actually worth much in comparison to a free agent acquisition. The issue is that there is some prospective worth to these picks, so you better receive good value in return. Baez and Bradford did not give the Orioles much in return. Their presence or absence on the 2007 team did not matter to much. It was irrelevant. Handing out lottery tickets for irrelevance is just not a smart move.

14 December 2009

Projected Closers


As it stands right now, I count only two teams that have gaping vacancies at the closer position: Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. There are other teams that could look to improve there bullpen slots, but this will break down the market. At most, I see eight teams potentially in the market. Really, all of them have internal solutions. This is particularly poor news to type A free agent closers. So who is left?

Jose Valverde - type A offered
Mike Gonzalez - type A offered
Kevin Gregg - type A not offered
Octavio Dotel - type A not offered
Fernando Rodney - type B offered
Matt Capps - non-tendered

Team by team breakdown after the jump.

Baltimore Orioles - Jim Johnson/Koji Uehara OPEN
Boston Red Sox - Jonathan Papelbon
New York Yankees - Mariano Rivera
Toronto Blue Jays - Jason Frasor (looking to upgrade)
Tampa Bay Rays - Rafael Soriano
Oakland Athletics - Andrew Bailey
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Brian Fuentes
Seattle Mariners - David Aardsma
Texas Rangers - Frank Francisco
Chicago White Sox - Bobby Jenks (available in trade)
Cleveland Indians - Kerry Wood (available in trade)
Detroit Tigers - Ryan Perry OPEN
Kansas City Royals - Joakim Soria
Minnesota Twins - Joe Nathan
Arizona Diamondbacks - Chad Qualls (looking to upgrade)
Colorado Rockies - Huston Street (available in trade)
Los Angeles Dodgers - Jonathan Broxton
San Diego Padres - Heath Bell (available in trade)
San Francisco Fiants - Brian Wilson
Chicago Cubs - Carlos Marmol (looking to upgrade)
Cincinnati Reds - Francisco Cordero (available in trade)
Houston Astros - Matt Lindstrom (might be looking to upgrade)
Milwaukee Brewers - Trevor Hoffman
Pittsburgh Pirates - Evan Meek (looking to upgrade)
St. Louis Cardinals - Ryan Franklin (looking to upgrade)
Atlanta Braves - Billy Wagner
Florida Marlins - Leo Nunez
New York Mets - Francisco Rodriguez
Philadelphia Phillies - Brad Lidge
Washington Nationals - Brian Brunney (looking to upgrade)

13 December 2009

How will Andy fill out the roster?


With the tender deadline come and gone, we have a better idea of the talent market and what may be available. Andy MacPhail has identified several areas that he seeks to find improvements: first base, third base, starting pitcher, LOOGY, and a closer. In this post, we'll take a look who we currently have on the roster to play the positions on Opening Day and three free agent choices. The choices with be defined as: the best chance to win (based on CHONE projections), what I would do, and most probable.

Follow after the jump.


First Base

Current: Michael Aubrey, 28yo, estimate line 262/300/415
That estimated line is pretty harsh for a starting first baseman, but really is not very far away from the production Baltimore saw from their first basemen last year (262/318/411). That fact alone shows how the only direction to go is up. With Ty Wigginton (est 267/321/444) on the team, it is unlikely he is on the team on Opening Day as any first base or third base addition will probably mean him being left off the 25 man roster and exposed to waivers. The team is also trying to put more right handed bats in the lineup, which also does not play to Aubrey benefit.

For the Win: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
People often forget how useful it is to not make an out. Johnson lacks the gap power he used to possess, but he still has very good pitch recognition and plate discipline. It was suggested, by Rosenthal if I remember correctly, that Johnson would sign a two year deal for 18MM. I doubt that. There are real concerns about his health, so a team can probably only assume about 400 at bats from him. Still, with those at bats and about 300 from Wigginton . . . that is still better production than what you would expect from Russell Branyan or Adam LaRoche. Johnson's lefthanded-ness should not be a factor as he has never shown a platoon split issue. The net effect of replacing Aubrey's innings with Johnson's is 2.2 wins, which is worth close to the suggestion I read (9MM/year). This leaves the team at 76.7 wins.

What would I do: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
Getting on base is important and has been an aspect of the Orioles play that needs a great deal of improvement. Johnson will not last the entire season, but he should be able to provide enough innings to make up for the time Wigginton plays or when Snyder shows himself to be ready. This team as well is up to 76.7 wins.

What would Andy do: Nick Johnson, 31yo, estimated line 264/394/407
Johnson does not have the platoon split that worries MacPhail about the construction of the lineup. Johnson is also known to be a professional and has worked well with young teams in Montreal, Washington, and Florida. He should also be available on a one year or one plus one deal at about 5MM or so. The team has enough backup options at first that this does not seem to be a problem. Other options like Russell Branyan (one big season and platoon issues), Adam LaRoche (contact oriented hitter with poor contact and fluctuating performance, desire for a three year contract), and Carlos Delgado (not really a first baseman anymore, concerns about injury effect on hitting, past issues with non-playoff teams) seem to pose more problems than what they solve. Delgado is probably the fan's choice because of our familiarity with him and what he has done. He just might not be able to continue that. This team also sits at 76.7 wins.

Third Base

Current: Ty Wigginton, 32yo, estimate line 267/321/444
Wigginton is not going to work out here. MacPhail has said he wants a defensive third baseman and Wigginton is anything but that. Offensively, it would be a great improvement as the collective line last year was 262/318/373. It was a very rough year for Orioles third basemen. If no one is picked up, I could see Scott Moore being given a chance to finally start at third. He projects as average defensively and a batting line of 253/325/445. His issue has been Major League quality offspeed pitches, so that line based on MLEs might be quite optimistic.

For the Win: Adrien Beltre, 31yo, estimated line 270/320/446
The offensive line is about the same, but Beltre's defense is about 15 runs better. This results in an increase of 1.9 wins to 78.4 wins as this improves the majority of the starting defense, but also improves the backup offense from Turner to Wigginton. Getting out of SafeCo will help Beltre and change people's perception of his bat. After a breakout offensive season his last year in LA, he signed big money to go to a park that completely killed his line drive style of power. The contract seems to have come out alright as most defensive metrics rate him as the best defensive third baseman over that time frame. One could argue that although he was paid to hit, he made up for the value with his glove. I would probably argue that defensive runs saved cost less on the open market than offensive runs produced. Anyway, majors obstacles to sign him would be that he is pushing for 10MM a year and wanted a three year deal. Even though he wishes to stay out West, he will probably take whatever is the richest contract.


What would I do: Joe Crede, 32yo, estimated line 250/312/434
I struggled between Crede, Troy Glaus, and Garrett Atkins. Troy Glaus has been off the grid lately, which is typically not a good thing. He used to have a prime bat and a solid average glove. No press for a free agent during the Winter Meetings is typically a very bad sign. I am questioning his health. Risk of injury does not concern me as much with Wigginton, Moore, and Turner around. None of them are ideal, but they can be used as filler. With Garrett Atkins, you have the issue of a potentially crippling bat and a crippling glove. The play on him would be that he could somehow rewind his career by a couple of years. That sounds like a good MiL invite to Spring Training, but not something to bank on. Crede, though, provides good defense, decent pop, and should be an easy one year deal with injury potential to push Josh Bell. Wins increased by 1.2 to 77.9 wins.

What would Andy do: Juan Uribe, 30yo, estimated line 251/297/415
This is a bit of a bold prediction as no one has heard his name mentioned in connection with the Orioles, but hear me out. He has several attributes that could be of benefit to the team and things that MacPhail would want. First, he is flexible. He can play third base average to above average and is workable at shortstop or second base. His range is limited, so you would not care to start him at either slot . . . but he could spell Izturis if needed and open a roster slot there. Taking Robert Andino off the bench could be useful. Second, as mentioned his defense at third base is solid. He has good quickness and his arm is strong. His bat is a little meager to play off short, but he is potentially solid replacement. Third, as poor as his defense is at short, he does provide some level of coverage in case no solutions are found next year and Izturis leaves. He could probably be signed to a 2 year deal. I doubt though that he replicates last season at the plate where he went 289/329/495. Wins rise by 0.7 to 77.4 wins.

Starting Pitching (First man out of Norfolk)
Current: Jake Arrieta, 24yo, estimate era 5.37
The position at play here is supposedly one that would enable said pitcher to rise up in late May or early June and take over a slot for an injured or underperforming pitcher in the starting rotation. About one team a year goes through six or less starters, so this is a decent perspective to have. Though, it is typically a perspective that playoff teams bank on as opposed to also-rans. Arrieta will hopefully provide above replacement level performance.

For the Win: Erik Bedard, 31yo, estimated era 3.69
Bedard is the clear winner here. Sheets is his main competition, but he seems to be driving a hard bargain and has not been competitive in over a year. Bedard might have a shorter path back although probably just as probable to suffer another injury. Both pitchers aim to add about 2.2 wins over the course of pitching 100 innings. This brings this scenario to 80.6 wins.

What would I do: Erik Bedard, 31yo, estimated era 3.69
Bedard is who I would take as well. Sheets' attitude to vocally drive his price and his time off are a concern to me. I think both will be hard pressed to throw more than 100 innings. Bedard adds 2.2 wins, so this group stands at 80.1 wins.

What would Andy do: Kelvim Escobar, 34yo, estimated era 3.96
The Orioles have inquired on Escobar and I think, in the end, this will be the choice. Bedard will probably have his price driven up by the Red Sox or Yankees as a mid season replacement. The Mets should probably entertain that. Actually, the Mets should take all of the money they are willing to spend on Lackey and just roll the dice with Bedard, Sheets, and Duchscherer. Anyway, Escobar is someone who has experience starting and relieving. He used to be pretty good and he is trying to make his way back in. I could see an incentive laden one plus one deal here. I also think it is more likely he sees about 50 innings. This should take this group to 78.3 wins.

Lefty One Out Guy (LOOGY)
Current: No one
We really do not have one. Wilfrido Perez is the closest thing and his injury prognosis is not very good.

For the Win: Darren Oliver, 39yo, estimated era 3.48
Very solid left handed reliever who under a limited number of innings can still affect a team to great extent win-wise. His only detraction is his age, which can result in performance quickly deteriorating. Still he has been automatic in relief and is capable of being stretch to multiple innings on occasion, which will be a help with a young rotation. This addition would add about 0.9 wins making the total 81.5 wins.

What would I do: Ryota Igarashi, 35yo, estimated era 3.50
Igarashi has not yet pitched in the Majors. While Japanese starting pitchers have not fare well in translating to the Majors (about a 20% decline in performance), relievers have typically not missed a beat jumping from one league to the other. Without a track record in the Majors or the lofty non-arbed Type A status Oliver has, Igarashi's price should be quite a bit lower with similar production. A multi-year deal here might be a good idea. Win total now stands at 80.8 wins.

What would Andy do: Joe Beimel, 33yo, estimated era 3.81
The Orioles were in on Beimel and Ohman last year and this could be the case this year as well. Another name to think about would be Casey Fossum. Although Igarashi has been linked to the team in the Japanese press to a great extent and that the Japanese press were in on the Uehara movement last year far, far earlier than the local press . . . it seems peculiar that journalists like Roch Kobatko have not even heard of the connection. They were at least slightly aware of the Uehara rumblings. With their frustration with Uehara added in, maybe Igarashi is not the guy. Beimel would knock the total up to 79 wins.

Closer
Current: Jim Johnson, 27yo, 3.94
Johnson is not going to close. He looked completely uncomfortable in that setting. Clutch hitting may not exist, but clutch pitching certainly does and Johnson just does not seem to have the state of mind to really succeed there. Uehara could be a decent solution. He was a closer in Japan and was fairly successful at it. The concern is that he may not be fully recovered from him injury and pitching back to back nights may not be something he can do with his health.

For the Win: Jose Valverde, 32yo, estimated era 3.47
Valverde is a rich hire as he will probably cost 8-10MM and you will lose a second round pick here. He really is not that great of a closer to give up that value. He is the best on the market though and can help a team. Added win value is 1.3, raising the total to 82.8 wins.

What would I do: Koji Uehara, 35yo, estimated era 3.82
I think our internal options are good enough. I don't see the need in going outside. I think established front line guys like Valverde are a waste of money and a draft pick. Signing a player like Fernando Rodney is betting large on a multiyear deal that the guy can finally pitch his 2 seamer off his change. Signing a non-closer like Kiko Calero or an retro one like Octavio Dotel is just throwing money when we have other options. Maybe a Dotel or Calero signing would have a positive push down effect, but is that really worth about 4MM to save five runs? I still stuck at 80.8 wins.

What would Andy do: Fernando Rodney, 33yo, estimated era 4.58
I think the Orioles want him because he has closed and has been successful at it. Maybe they saw the same thing as I did last year and think he may have finally figured out how to use his 2 seamer. He walks a lot and that means hits against him are typically worse for him than others who have less people on the basepaths. This move most likely will be a multiyear deal and CHONE thinks it is a loss of -0.1 wins. It would be greater, but pushing down Johnson or Koji does improve the bullpen in general. Final tally is 78.9 wins.

Conclusion
As it stands: 74.5 wins
For the win: 82.8 wins
What I would do: 80.8 wins
What would Andy do: 78.9 wins

That said . . . it makes little sense to go the win approach given the holes MacPhail has mentioned. A much greater refitting would need to occur. Pieces probably are not even available on the free agency market, so trades would need to be explored.

EDIT: I had mistakenly thought Igarashi was left-handed. Feel free to ignore that. I'm getting international free agents mixed up. I mixed handedness with Takahashi, who I would not want any part of. So . . . who instead? No one of note. I would resign Hendrickson and have him be more exclusive as a LOOGY. I would also invite whatever lefties are out on the scrap heap in spring training and see if anything sticks. For where this team is, a LOOGY makes sense to me only if it means something for the future. Beimel, Fossum, and Ohman should fit in the mix, too.

12 December 2009

Ryota Igarashi signing coming soon?

NPB tracker is conveying that the Orioles are getting more in depth on conversations with LHRP Ryota Igarashi, ex-teammate of Koji Uehara, signing on as a LOOGY [note: error was made in handedness of pitcher. Igarashi is a righthander]:

"An earlier Hochi report said that Igarashi’s camp negotiated with the Orioles on the 9th, who would pair him up in the bullpen with Koji Uehara. Hochi also named the Padres and Diamondbacks as interested."


MacPhail sounded non-committal as he always does:

"Righthanders, lefthanders, we're always looking to sign pitchers. Last year we signed Uehara. Our information on Japanese talent has improved. We would like to talk with them."


Here is an excerpt on a scouting report provided by the tracker:

"Igarashi is known one of the hardest throwers in Japan, and jointly holds the record for fastest pitch* by a Japanese pitcher in an NPB game with a 158 kmph (98.75mph) fastball. Igarashi hit 158 kmph in 2004, when the average speed of his pitches over the course of the season was 154.5 kmph (96.6mph), which is an NPB record he has to himself.

Although he doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but still runs his heater into the upper 90’s, and augments it with a hard splitter that he throws at around 90mph. He’s also got a slider and a curve that he’ll mix in occasionally, but is primarily a fastball/splitter pitcher."


Other teams mentioned in connection with Igarashi in the Japanese papers are the Yankees, Mets, Pirates, and Giants. An embedded video after the jump that includes former Orioles Larry Bigbie who pulled in a 255/318/421 line last year.


11 December 2009

Projected Win Total: Post Millwood-Ray Trade


This will be a recurring feature as long as the Orioles actually continue to sign and/or trade for players. I will be using the CHONE database and a WAR prediction scheme based on OBP, SLG, and plate appearance. Assuming the predictions are correct (which is a pretty big assumption with CHONE's r value around 0.7 . . . which is good but not oracle good), the final win total should be around 5 wins of the projected win total.

New Addition:
Kevin Millwood
Prediction . . . 180IP 112k 64bb 21hr 4.83 era

What does this mean for the team? Check after the jump.

Here is a run down of the squad
C Matt Wieters 344/447
C Chad Moeller 269/314
1B Micheal Aubrey 300/415
2B Brian Roberts 355/423
3B Ty Wigginton 321/444
SS Cesar Izturis 304/337
INF Robert Andino 296/362
INF Justin Turner 325/364
OF Nick Markakis 369/477
OF Adam Jones 338/472
OF Nolan Reimold 353/474
OF Feliz Pie 325/418
OF Luke Scott 335/469

SP Kevin Millwood - 4.83
SP Jeremy Guthrie - 4.60
SP Brad Bergesen - 4.72
SP Brian Matusz - 4.59
SP Chris Tillman - 5.00
SP Replacement Level ~100 IP - 5.81
CL Koji Uehara - 3.82
SU Jim Johnson - 3.94
RP David Hernandez - 4.73 (applied 10% improvement with shift to pen)
RP Cla Meredith - 4.22
RP Dennis Sarfate - 4.24
RP Matt Albers - 4.42
RP Kam Mickolio - 4.76
RP Replacement Level ~50 IP - 4.75

Batting Wins Above Average = 20.8
Pitching Wins Above Average = 10.2

Wins Above Average = 31.0

Predicted Wins = 74.5

AL East Playoff at 95 wins, wins to go: 20.5

10 December 2009

Why was Steve Johnson not protected?


The Rule 5 draft was this morning and Steve Johnson was selected with the 15th pick by the San Francisco Giants. First, here are the results from the Major League portion:

1. Washington (traded to NYY) Jamie Hoffman OF from LAD
Fast, gap power, good eye. Cabrera or Gardner being traded?
2. Pittsburgh John Raynor OF from FLA
Speed, decent defense, weak arm, high K rate, was FLA's 9th ranked prospect last year.
3. Baltimore (traded to TEX) Ben Snyder LHP from SFG
Decent power arm, struggled as a starter, found himself as a reliever last year.
4. Kansas City Edgar Osuna LHP from ATL
The Atlanta to Kansas City *talent* highway is still chugging along.
5. Cleveland Hector Ambriz RHP from ARZ
Has struggled as a starter, maybe the Indians find some life as a reliever.
6. Arizona Zach Kroenke LHP from NYY
Rumored to go first, gets selected for the second year in a row.
7. New York Mets (traded to LAD) Carlos Monasterios RHP from PHI
Has a solid sinker and nothing else.
8. Houston (traded to FLA) Jorge Jimenez from BOS
Decent eye and contact skills. No defense. Finishes Lindstrom trade.
9. Oakland Bobby Cassevah RHP from LAAA
70% ground ball rate. Walks 5/9.
10. Toronto Zechry Zinicola RHP from WAS
Decent fastball . . . poor secondary pitches.
11. Milwaukee Chuck Lofgren LHP from CLE
Never has lived up to potential. Maybe a switch to the bullpen will help.
12. Chicago White Sox Michael Parisi RHP from StL
Squint hard and see Jamie Moyer . . . Moyer is never a good comp.
13. Tampa Bay Armando Zerpa LHP from BOS
Trying to jump from A-ball.
14. Seattle Kanekoa Texeira RHP from NYY
Was traded last year in the Swisher deal with the ChiSox
15. San Franscisco Steve Johnson RHP from BAL
Extreme flyball pitcher with average pitches. Has succeeded at every level.
16. St. Louis Ben Jukick LHP from CIN
27, good breaking ball, not much else.
17. Philadelphia Ken Herndon RHP from LAAA
Not sure how he would fit in the Phillies bullpen. Good sinker.

I will be ignoring the minor league portions as they are really about filling out MiL rosters and nothing else.

After the jump, I will discuss why I think leaving Johnson off the 40 man roster makes sense.


Here is my basic thought process on why it made sense to leave Johnson off the 40 man roster. First, Johnson is a fringe prospect. Do not get me wrong, he has some worth, but he has several things working against him. His main value is in his pitchability. He *knows* how to pitch, but the concern is that more polished hitters will tee off him. His pitches are not special and he has a horrific fly ball rate. These strongly suggest a pitcher who will be crushed at the Major League level. After spending less than half a season in AA, he just is not ready. A weak, but fair, comparison would be Garrett Olson. When you rely that much on pitching to the zone, you have to be flawless. Most guys just are not successful doing it.

Second, it frees up a roster slot. Johnson is probably the Orioles 8th to 13th best pitching prospect and 10th to 20th best prospect overall. As mentioned before, he really has no place on a team's 25 man roster, but he does pose a strong argument to being at the backend of a team's 40 man roster. This put the Orioles in a unique position where they could leave Johnson unprotected (off the 40 man), giving them in essence a 41 man roster. This is pretty useful as it adds flexibility in signing free agents and trading players. If Johnson was protected and at a later point in time, we hit a roster crunch after guys like Tatum, Bass, or Hughes were discarded . . . then Johnson could have been in a position to be waived. In such a case, another team could make a claim and put him on their 40 man roster instead of the 25 man roster as the rule 5 designation dictates. It is a high leverage move.

So third? Why protect guys like Rhyne Hughes and Brian Bass? Well, they both have potential value as filler on the MLB roster in April, but they are also useful in that they can be easily waived. A 40 man roster is often composed of useful, wanted players as well as guys who are on the fringe. Guys whose role is to take a few at bats or innings until someone else is ready. Guys who can be waived without much thought and not raise much ire when they are placed on someone else's 40 man roster. Guys who can be DFA'd and go back to Norfolk. This kind of player often exists on the backend of a 40 manroster. Steve Johnson is not this kind of player. Johnson has potential future worth.

Best Case Scenario for the Orioles: Steve Johnson washes out with the Giants, passed through waivers, and is offered back to us for 25k.

Worst Case Scenario for the Orioles: Johnson sticks with the Giants or some other team and we lose our 8th to 13th best pitching prospect.