15 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #3 Jonathan Schoop

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Player: Jonathan Schoop
Position: third base/second base
Ht/Wt: 6-1/185
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 20y1m
2011 level(s): A Delmarva; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 40/45 (55)
Power: 40 (50/55)
Arm: 55/60 (60)
Defense: 45 (50/55)
Speed: 40 (40)
Feel: 50 (55/60)
Overall Future Potential: 56-59
Prospect Grade: B+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Signed as an international free agent in 2008 out of Curacao, and the highest ranked international prospect in Camden Depot's four years of prospect coverage. Among the youngest players in the Class A South Atlantic League and the Advanced-A Carolina League. Selected to the 2011 MLB Futures Game, International Team, participating during 2011 All-Star Weekend.

Physical Description:
Medium build with even distribution. Potential to add core weight and trunk weight, which will keep him a below-average runner. Will tighten physique as he continues to mature. When all is said and done, could resemble Chase Utley or Evan Longoria build, depending on how things fill out.

Hitting:
Schoop benefits from maintaining a compact path from load through contact, which allows him to deliver an economically accelerated barrel to the ball. As his trunk and core thicken, he is generating more and more bat speed and manifesting more and more in-game power. He will continue to improve consistency in his balance and weight transfer, which will aid him in squaring off-speed offerings from more advanced arms. As with many younger bats, he needs to do a better job identifying pitches, but he is already reasonably advanced at spotting hitter friendly situations and adjusting his approach accordingly. His offensive ceiling is a bit lower that that of Machado, as he lacks Manny's plate coverage and bat speed. Still, Schoop may be a slightly safer bet to hit at the highest level, given his knack for contact and compact cuts, and plenty of managers would take Schoop over Machado if they need a "right now" at bat.

Defense:
Schoop has athleticism to spare and were it not for below-average foot speed he might even project to shortstop as a Major Leaguer. His footwork and arm strength play-up at third base, but his highest value is as an offensive-minded second baseman. He is comfortable in his skin and moves easily around the bag as well as while ranging to his left and right. He sees the field well and should be a solid to above-average defender at either the five- or four-spot.

Discussion:
The fall-off between Machado and Schoop is less than the fall-off between Bundy and Machado from a ranking standpoint, but all three are potential above-average first division regulars with star upside. For Schoop, the difference maker will likely be the development of his power tool, which projects well but will be dependent upon how his physicality manifests.

If he can continue to increase core strength without getting too bottom heavy, Schoop could be an above-average defender at second base with mid-20s homerun power. Conversely, he could see a jump in core/trunk strength limiting his side-to-side agility but bumping his power grade up to 30-homerun potential.

Additionally, Schoop signifies the type of potential Latin American impact talent that has been sorely missing in the Baltimore system over the past ten-plus years. Continued success for him and Machado up-the-middle could be a boon for the Orioles, particularly if the two of them are able to provide above-average power production for the middle-infield slots.

Ceiling: Above-average second baseman on first division team
Floor: Fringe-average third baseman on first division team
Projected: Solid average second baseman on first division team

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #2 Manny Machado

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Player: Manny Machado
Position: shortstop
Ht/Wt: 6-3/185
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 19y4m
2011 level(s): A Delmarva; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 40 (55/60)
Power: 40 (55)
Arm: 60 (65)
Defense: 45/50 (50/55)
Speed: 50 (45/50)
Feel: 50 (60/65)
Overall Future Potential: 57-62
Prospect Grade: A-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Drafted third overall in the 2010 Draft, out of Brito Private High School (Miami, Fla.). Among the youngest players in the Class A South Atlantic League and the youngest in the Advanced-A Carolina League. Selected to the 2011 MLB Futures Game, US Team, participating during 2011 All-Star Weekend. 2011 progress was slowed some due to about a month's worth of missed time due to a patella subluxation of his left knee, and there is potential for lingering issues.

Physical Description:
Long, angular, broad frame. Certain to add lots of size over the years, particularly in legs and chest/shoulders. Athletic actions and agility -- impressive given current disposition on growth curve. Fringe-average speed and likely to slow as he continues to thicken. Knee will need to be monitored and consistently strengthened.

Hitting:
Starting from an open stance, Machado utilizes good hip rotation and quick hands to generate bat speed and produce loud contact when he squares. An advanced understanding of the strikezone, as well as well above-average hand/eye coordination allow the young shortstop to barrel plenty of balls and help his hit tool to project to a potential plus weapon as he continues to refine his game. With the addition of significant bulk on the horizon, Machado also has the potential to grow into plus power, though right now his swing is a little more tailored to shooting the gaps and spraying line-drives pole-to-pole. He will also benefit from better identifying pitches he can drive and working to get those pitches from at bat to at bat. Machado has the mental aptitude and physical ability to blossom into a .300/.380/.480 bat, which would easily play as above-average at shortstop or at third.

Defense:
Machado's hands are soft, his arm is an easy "left side" arm, and his body control is highly impressive given his borderline gangly frame. He shows little difficulty charging the ball and will make his throws from all the angles. Around the bag he is smooth and confident. The main obstacle to his sticking at shortstop, long term, is his size. Already a broad build whose range can be stretched in-game, Machado risks losing his playable zone coverage as his lower-half gets thicker and stronger and he gets more bulk and less flexibility in his shoulders and chest. Should he shift to third, he should be an above-average defender there. If he sticks at short, he should be adequate to the edges and above-average in the meat of his zone and with his pivots.

Discussion:
Machado has all the raw natural talent in the world, and an impressive understanding of the game and how to approach it. Among the youngest prospects in full season ball last season, Machado showed some susceptibility to expanding the zone at the plate and hitting a few too many "pitcher's pitches". As he continues to log innings at the pro ranks, he should quickly tighten-up his at bats and is likely to produce even more consistent hard contact, as well as more in-game power.

His ceiling is that of a perennial all-star candidate at shortstop -- something fans in Baltimore formerly claimed as a birthright but have been deprived of since #8 rode off into the sunset. It is a lot to put on a young man, to refer to him and Ripken in the same sentence, but if any Orioles position prospect over the past decade carries that level of talent, it's Manny Machado.

While Machado is more likely to top out as an above-average producer at the hot corner, he is young enough, projectable enough, and talented enough to dream on the best case scenario. His knee will be a wildcard, but the hope is that proper strength and flexibility training will render the concern moot. He could start 2012 back in Frederick or make the jump to Double-A Bowie, and figures to be ready for a shot in Baltimore by mid- to late-2013.

Ceiling: Perennial all-star shortstop on first division team
Floor: Average third baseman on first division team
Projected: Above-average shortstop on first division team; mid- to late-20s shift to third base

14 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #1 Dylan Bundy

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

Player: Dylan Bundy
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-1/200
B/T: B/R
Age at 11/2011: 19y0m
2011 level(s): N/A
2011 statistics: N/A

Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 55 (60)
Fastball: 55/60 (65/70)
Curveball: 45/50 (60)
Change: 40 (55/60)
Cutter: 50/55 (60/65)
Control: 45/50 (60)
Command: 40/45 (55/60)
Feel: 45/50 (60)
Overall Future Potential: 58-62
Prospect Grade: A-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Drafted fourth overall in the 2011 Draft, out of Owasso High School (Owasso, Okla.). Brother Robert “Bobby” Bundy (rhp) pitched most of 2011 as a starter for the Frederick Keys (Advanced-A, Baltimore system) before finishing the season at Bowie (Double-A, Baltimore system).

Physical Description:
Thick, sturdy build. Strength concentrated in thighs/butt, but well proportioned throughout. Athlete with impressive physique and strength but limited physicality and projection.

Motion:
Bundy generates his velocity and big spin on his breaking balls through a quick arm and explosive lower-half. He gets quick drive out of his powerful legs and butt, rotating through with a strong core. Additionally, Bundy uses a low ball drop to start his arm circle, which gives him extra time to accelerate the ball through release (think of a car accelerating in a straight line, measuring speed once at 200-feet and once at 500-feet). Bundy is strong and athletic, showing little trouble maintaining his mechanics and little effort past what you would expect out of an arm throwing in the mid-90s.

Stuff:
Fastball - The fastball is big and loud, clocking regularly in the mid-90s, with an ability to climb to 97/98 mph (and some reports have him hitting triple-digits in Spring 2011). He commands the pitch well to both sides and does a solid job working down in the zone and elevating as needed. There is some question as to how easy it will be for Bundy to maintain the velocity on shorter rest over a longer season, but it's a potential plus-plus pitch.

Cutter - Bundy's cutter is an out pitch now, with borderline slider depth and late life. He brings the pitch in the 86 to 88-mph range, allowing it to serve as a change-of-pace offering. It has developed into his most effective pitch and could be plus or better as he continues to develop as a pro.

Curve - Bundy's curve flashes plus right now and is “on” more often than not. At its best it is a hard 12-to-6 breaker with good depth and hard snap. He can tighten the pitch with more use, giving it more consistent bite and shape. The foundation is here for a third plus-or-better weapon in the armory.

Change-up - Bundy used his change-up more as a junior, and the summer prior to his senior year at Owasso, before his cutter took a big step forward. He has shown feel for it in the past, but will need to spend some time bringing it up to speed with the rest of his repertoire. There is already enough here to hang a future “50” on it, and perhaps better considering the young flame-thrower’s overall feel for the craft.

Discussion:
Bundy had one of the more impressive high school seasons in recent memory leading-up to Draft Day, and separated himself as the top right-handed high school arm in a draft deep in pitching. Despite having yet to throw an official pitch in professional ball, Bundy has more "now" stuff than any other arm in the Baltimore system and fits comfortably as the top overall prospect -- lofty praise considering the Oklahoman turns just 19-years old this month.

His advanced feel for three offerings and a chance for a forth pitch that is at least average, combined with steady and repeatable mechanics and a famous work ethic and training regimen, give him a reasonably high floor for a prep pitcher. He has an even demeanor on the mound, and is well equipped to tackle the challenges of transitioning to pro ball, including a debut assignment in full-season ball.

The two slight knocks on Baltimore’s 2011 first-rounder are his size and past workload, and while his spring numbers were eye-popping they came against uneven competition (as with many prep arms). As of today, it is difficult to envision Bundy falling shy of a front-end spot in a Major League rotation, but if workload and shorter rest prove problematic he could thrive as an elite power arm out of the pen. In fact, you could stick him in a Major League pen right now and feel fairly confident he could keep his head above water.

Ceiling: #1 starter on first division team; true “ace”
Floor: Power closer on first division team
Projected: #1/#2 starter on first division team

MiL Free Agent Pitchers of Interest

Miguel Socolovich
The Orioles mentioned recently that they are paying attention to the MiL free agent market.  It was not exactly the news many Orioles fans were craving.  MiL free agents are typically a motley assortment of players who either do one or two things kind of well, used to be highly rated, or simply provide organizational depth.  All three can be useful.  A player with one or two tools may be able to develop those established tools well enough to overcome a lack of ability in other areas.  A formerly high rated prospect may simply need more time or a different line of instruction to turn the potential into actual performance.  An organizational player is important because he simply allows your other prospects to perform.

In this post I will be focusing on ten MiL free agent pitchers.  My approach is a simple one.  I am looking for players who are 26 or younger and have shown ability to miss bats, strike guys out, or induce a lot of ground balls.

Brendan Wise, RHRP
26 years old
(AAA) 5.7 k/9, 4.2 b/9, 62% GB, 84% Contact, 4.08 SIERA

Wise is a Tigers draftee from the 2005 draft.  He basically lives off a solid two seamer that has been reported as coming in at 90 mph.  He also uses a workable slider as a change of pace pitch.  Wise could be a solid option by keeping the ball on the ground for a team like the Orioles whose home stadium is kind to fly ball hitters.

Leyson Septimo, LHRP
26 years old
(AA) 9.6 k/9, 6.6 b/9, 40% GB, 78% Contact, 4.39 SIERA

Septimo was a promising IFA from the Dominican Republic in the Diamondbacks' organization.  He was blessed with a strong arm, but not much of a bat.  In a way to get some value out of him, the team flipped him over to the mound.  Arizona gave up on him last year and he was claimed by the White Sox.  After a terrible stretch with them, they let him go as a free agent.  A hard throwing lefty can be a special thing.

Miguel Socolovich, RHRP
25 years old
(AAA) 11.5 k/9, 4.4 b/9, 33% GB, 65% contact, 3.08 SIERA

Socolovich was originally in the Red Sox organization, but was dealt to get David Aardsma from the ChiSox.  I do not really know much about him as I tend to largely overlook relief arms.  A Sox Prospect report says he predominantly uses his fastball, sitting around 88 - 92 mph.  However, that would have to be a rather old report and I am not sure how accurate it was.  Just looking at the numbers, Socolovich looks very interesting with a high strikeout rate and batters swinging and missing 35% of the time.

Will Inman, RHSP
24 years old
(AAA) 9.1 k/9, 4.2 b/9, 42% GB, 82% contact, 3.93 SIERA

Inman's 5.61 ERA looked awful, but his peripherals were decent.  He is not the top 100 prospect Baseball America thought of him as in 2007, but there is still potential there.  He will not overpower batters and will often sit in the high 80s with his fastball.  He would do well to fill out a MiL AAA rotation.

Jose De La Torre, RHRP
26 years old
(mix) 9.6 k/9, 4.8 b/9, 49% GB, 66% contact, 3.72 SIERA

De La Torre has been somewhat injury prone during his career with arm and back ailments.  He is known for throwing a very good slider of which he does not exactly have the best control.  He is another player I think is worth a flyer.

Jake Stevens, LHRP
26 years old
(mix) 7.8 k/9, 3.6 b/9, 43% GB, 73% contact, 4.19 SIERA

Stevens pitched for the Orioles organization in 2009.  They had picked him up after poor performance and injuries derailed his career with the Atlanta Braves.  He was considered a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2005.  The report on him then raved about the makings of his curveball.  He is the second and last LHP on this list.

Jhonny Nunez, RHRP
26 years old
(AAA) 9.6 k/9, 3.5 b/9, 37% GB, 74% contact, 3.40 SIERA

Nunez has been sitting in the ChiSox organization for the last couple years and has been relatively successful there.  He features a mid to low 90s fastball and an average slider.  As expected, it translates to him being lights out against righties and quite hittable against lefties.  There does seem to be potential here.

Daryl Thompson, RHSP
26 years old
(AAA) 8.1 k/9, 2.6 b/9, 34% GB, 77% contact, 3.74 SIERA

Thompson has had a couple cups of coffee with the Reds and they have not gone well.  He commands a straight 90 mph fastball quite well and uses an inconsistent curveball.  He also uses a simple change of pace change up.  He is hittable and lefties do a little more damage against him.  I would think a shift to relief pitching might be able to put a little more velocity on his fastball and make him more useful.

Conclusion

If I was the Orioles, I would look to bring in Daryl Thompson, Will Inman, Miguel Socolovich, Leyson Septimo, and Jake Stevens.  This grouping would give them more depth with young starting pitching that has a slight chance for improvement.  Socolovich provides a promising right handed arm that misses a lot of bat.  Septimo and Stevens can be useful lefties out of the pen.  They each have a tool or two that gives hope for more than replacement value at the MLB level.  However, none of these are definites.  I would actually like to sign all of these guys and distribute them among Bowie and Norfolk because there are pitcher within our system that are interesting.

It is awfully early to make such pronouncements, but I would envision Norfolk's pitching as this:
RHSP Steve Johnson
RHSP Daryl Thompson
RHSP Will Inman
LHSP Chris Tillman (though I would prefer him in the Orioles pen)
RHSP Tim Bascom

RHRP Sean Gleason
LHRP Cole McCurry
RHRP Wynn Pelzer
LHRP Zach Phillips
RHRP Pat Egan
RHRP Miguel Socolovich
LHRP Leyson Septimo
Bowie's pitching:
RHSP Oliver Drake
RHSP Bobby Bundy
LHSP Richard Zagone
LHSP Nick Haughian
LHSP Jacob Petit

RHRP Zach Clark
RHRP Brandon Cooney
RHRP Dan Klein
LHRP Jason Gurka
RHRP Kenny Moreland
LHRP Chris Petrini
RHRP Ryan Berry
As you may notice, all of the Bowie pitchers are from within the organization.  I don't think what is left above is all that much better than what is already here.  Part of that is the state of the Orioles' system, but another part is that simply there is often little talent available coming from six year free agents.  I would consider moving Zach Clark down to Frederick to be a relief pitcher for another lefty, so maybe Jake Stevens could fit in here.  Or probably better would be to drop Septimo to Bowie and have Stevens up in Norfolk.

13 November 2011

Primer: Scouting scale and prospect grade scale

Description of 20/80 scout scale:
The Scouting Scale works from 20-80, with 50 being Major League Average. The scale operates loosely on a bell curve, so the further you move from 50 the fewer grades you'll find among ML players (e.g. Justin Verlander's fastball, Ichiro Suzuki's arm strength, Mark Reynold's power and Albert Pujols' hit tool would all be 80 grade). A 60 grade is sometimes referred to as plus and a 70 grade is sometimes referred to as plus-plus.

Scout to prospect grading scale with descriptions:
66 and over / A+ / Potential top prospect in baseball; potential generational talent
63-65 / A / Elite prospect; perennial all-star candidate
59-62 / A- / Top tier prospect; above-average first division starter; front end starter
55-58 / B+ / Good prospect; first division starter; mid-rotation starter; top tier reliever
51-55 / B / Solid prospect; second division starter; back-end starter; good relief arm
46-50 / B- / Prospect with questions; fringe starter; useful bench player or platoon; fringe reliever
40-45 / C+ / Flawed prospect; fringe bench player
35-39 / C / Significantly flawed prospect; limited utility; AAAA placeholder or injury insurance
30-34 / C- / Fringe prospect; significant hurdles to Majors
20-29 / NP / Non-prospect; organizational player

MiLB Year in Review: Bowie Baysox and Norfolk Tides

Hoes showing offensive maturity; Nary a nugget at Norfolk

It is not a strong class of Orioles prospects at AA and AAA. Currently, the group lacks a projected standout impact player and tops out with some potential fringe regulars. At the same time, there is value in finding utility players, relief arms, fourth outfielders and back-end starters on the cheap when you are looking to build a cost effective Major League team -- and particularly when you have some young impact talent at the Major League level that will soon be hitting arbitration and considered for extension.

Bowie By the Numbers:
Record: 75 - 66
Top Arm: Dan Klein (2010 Draft, 3rd Round)
Top Bat: LJ Hoes (2008 Draft, 3rd Round)

Player of the Year:
LJ Hoes (387 PA, 338 AB, .311/.385/.420, 17 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 43 BB, 55 SO)

Camden Depot made (minimal) waves in the blogosphere in 2008 when we listed LJ Hoes as the 9th best Orioles prospect after his first professional season. Since then, he has steadily climbed prospect lists across the board, topping out at #3 for the Depot last year and #4 for the world renowned Baseball America.

In 2011, Hoes made the jump to Bowie after a sluggish start in Frederick. Accompanying his promotion was a position switch from second base to left field. While the Orioles' brass insists this was out of team need, rather than a decision that Hoes could not handle second, there were grumblings from pro scouts that the former St. Johns HS standout was not making the expected progress at the four-spot a month into his third full pro season. Ideally, he would shift back to second base in Bowie to start 2012 and Baltimore could get one last look at his outlook there. Hoes has the athleticism to stick in the infield, but has been tripped-up some by some finer points in the field, including set-up in his lower half, footwork around the bag, and lines.

Offensively, Hoes remains one of the top hit tools in the organization. He is very compact to contact, with a simple and quiet load, balanced lower-half and quick-twitch core. A keen batting eye helps Hoes to maintain a solid OBP while utilizing the whole field in attacking the ball in all quadrants. He has started to manifest in-game pop, and could see a breakout in that department next summer. While there isn't tons of physical projection left, he will hang a little more muscle on the frame, and the stronger hands and wrists at contact will marry with his bat speed to send some more balls to the gaps and over the fence. While some prospect reports were down on his 2011, Hoes still profiles as a potential everyday player -- be it at second base, third base or left field.

Players to know:

Xavier Avery remains an upside prospect with promise, despite completing his third full season with strikeouts in over 20% of his plate appearances. The reason for optimism is simple -- he continues to be promoted by the O's and remains one of the youngest players in the league, year-in and year-out. He will start 2012 at age 22, and could get a bump to Norfolk following a solid AFL campaign and provided he shows well in the spring. A speed-first talent, Avery is among the fastest prospects in the system (along with Kyle Hudson and Glynn Davis -- all "80" runners on the 20/80 scouting scale). His heavy left/right split could spell a future as part of a platoon. If he can tighten-up his routes in center field, he should have easy value as a fourth outfielder. His ability to improve against lefties and to learn to more consistently ID off-speed will determine if he can become a regular at the highest level.

2011 Baltimore MiL Pitcher of the Year (Jim Palmer Award) winner Tim Bascom likely tops as a relief arm or swingman, despite the hardware earned off the solid 2011 stat line. Bascom projects to fringe-average across the board, with solid command and some idea as to how to sequence. His fastball is below-average and his breaking ball is generally short, soft or somewhere in between. His stuff leaves very little room for error, and he could be in for big statistical regression when he reaches Norfolk and has to go to work against a large number of hitters with Major League experience. His profile says "shrug", but you should still know a little about the Minor League Player of the Year for 2011.

Caleb Joseph followed a disappointing offensive 2010 with a similarly "meh" 2011. His command of the strikezone remains solid, but his bat control is lacking and the consistent hard contact simply is not there at Double-A. Around draft time he was projected to grow into average or slightly above-average power, but that growth has not come. He falls into a one-piece swing and too often makes contact out in front, sapping his power and leading to a fair amount of soft contact. Behind the plate, Joseph continues to improve. He blocks well, has quieted his receiving and has improved his catch-and-throw to the tune of an increase in his caught stealing from 26% in 2010 to 38% in 2011. Jospeh profiles as a back-up catcher with a bottom-third bat. Not an uncommon offensive profile for a back-up, but a bit shy of the potential shown in his first couple of seasons.

Dan Klein was a shutdown closer at UCLA with a history of shoulder issues. Baltimore saw the advanced four-pitch mix and sturdy 6-foot-3, 190-pound build and decided to develop him as a starter. The result was 32.1 dominant innings of baseball between Advanced-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, including 10.3 SO/9 and just 1.7 BB/9, and a season-ending shoulder surgery. That means it has been four years now since Klein has surpassed 52 innings of in-game work -- the last time being his performance between his high school team and summer ball. It may be time to shift Klein to the pen full-time, where he could top out as a solid set-up man or second-division closer. When healthy, his low-90s fastball is a solid average pitch that serves to set-up and above-average 12/6 curve and mid-80s change. He has shown growth in his off-speed since his junior year as a Bruin, where he periodically left the pitch flat and up, where it was drivable. Klein will also flash a fringe-average slider with minimal depth and bite, but enough differential from his fastball to force soft contact if set-up properly.

Joe Mahoney is a bat-first corner defender likely to end-up at first base or designated hitter, full time. He has some length to his swing, a not-insignificant leak entering his weight transfer and a moderate to heavy backside collapse, depending on the at bat. Prognosis? It's unlikely contact will be Mahoney's strong suit, and he could be quickly exposed at the Major League level, if not Triple-A. He projects as a bench bat or Four-A player.

In this, Greg Miclat's first full season at Double-A Bowie, the former Cavalier showed why he was signed by East Coast Area Scout Dean Albany for an overslot $225,000, in spite of significant shoulder and elbow issues through his sophomore and junior years at UVA. Miclat baffled opposing pitchers and catchers to the tune of a 54-of-57 stolen base record and top-of-the-order-worthy .371 OBP. While Miclat easily has the glove, arm and footwork to be an everyday second baseman, he likely tops out as a second-division regular or a first-division utility bat, due to the absence of any power. He'll be challenged early and often by ML arms, which will bite into his walks and likely limit him to a bottom-third bat profile.

Ronnie Welty has long been a Camden Depot favorite, after being inked in the 20th Round of the 2008 Draft by Area Scout John Gillette. Welty's promise has always been in his power potential, and over the last two seasons he has shown that pop -- launching 31 homeruns between Frederick and Bowie. Unfortunately, Welty's big leverage comes with an aggressive approach. That has equated to a strikeout about every three at bats, in 25-30% of his plate appearances. He is still drawing walks (with a BA/OBP delta of almost .100), but more advanced arms will be better equipped to play to Welty's weaknesses without having to pitch around the power. He should play an adequate right field at the highest level, and possesses more than enough arm to keep baserunners honest. He will attempt to hit the reset button on his offensive production in 2012, likely back at Bowie.

Rick Zagone may have reached his breaking point as a starter, struggling to miss bats while seeing his BB/9, H/9 and HR/9 rates increase with his promotion to Bowie. The side-arming lefty still has some potential as a lefty specialist, with righties making more hard contact against him than did lefties. Zagone also suffered through a tough July, showing signs of tiring out -- not surprising considering the increase in physical and mental demand inherent in a pitcher of his profile attacking Double-A line-ups twice through every five days. He should shift to the pen in 2012 and could begin his season either in Bowie or Norfolk.


Norfolk By the Numbers:
Record: 56 - 87
Top Arm: Troy Patton (2004 Draft, 9th Round (Houston))
Top Bat: Ryan Adams (2006 Draft, 2nd Round)

Player of the Year:
Ryan Adams (415 PA, 377 AB, .284/.341/.454, 28 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 30 BB, 103 SO)

In 2008 Camden Depot rated Ryan Adams as the 25th best prospect in the system with a Four-A floor, a ceiling as an above-average offensive second baseman and a projected outcome as a below-average everyday second baseman. Three years later that evaluation remains spot on, as the former New Orleans High Schooler has slowly worked his way through the system, making his Major League debut this summer. While his 2011 at Norfolk was more "solid" than "eye popping", he essentially maintained his production from Bowie while cleaning-up his infield defense.

Offensively, Adams will swing and miss a fair amount due to average bat speed, and top velocity will likely always give him trouble. But he keeps his swing simple and tight, and finds ways to get the barrel to the ball. His raw power is above-average, with potential average in-game applicability. He could carveout a spot as a 6 or 7 hitter in a first division line-up if he finds enough gaps and is able to produce 15 or so homeruns per year.

Defensively, Adams still struggles with his footwork, though he has made strides in cleaning-up the set-up on his throws (which in turn has improved his play-to-play accuracy). He is the type of player that will always need to work to maintain an adequate defensive disposition, but could be making enough progress to be passable at either third base or second base. Adams could be adequate as an inexpensive bridge to Miclat, Hoes or Schoop, but probably profiles best as a bench bat and occasional starter at either second or third.

Players to know:

Matt Angle has arrived at Baltimore with largely the profile expected of him since he entered the system in 2007. Largely devoid of power, the former Buckeye center fielder fits best as a 4th outfielder capable of plus defense and solid value as a pinch runner. Like Adams, he could slot in as a placeholder in a starting lineup, but it is unlikely he will be able to handle Major League velocity on the inner-half to the point that he maintains even a passable on-base percentage. He should have the inside track on the 4th outfield spot, depending on what transpires this off-season, and could see significant innings as a late-inning defensive replacement, pinch runner and Sunday starter.

Kyle Hudson, like Angle, made his Major League debut this summer -- starting eight September games and appearing in six more as a defensive replacement, pinch runner or pinch hitter. The hope is that Hudson will eventually provide 4th outfield value along the lines of Matt Angle (though he is unlikely to have the defensive profile of Angle, who's feel for the game drives his plus glove). Hudson is a burner with 20 power on the 20/80 scale and will likely struggle to barrel much of any Major League pitching as a result of his uneven pitch-ID. Hudson should begin 2012 back in Norfolk as the starting center fielder, and is worth keeping an eye on to see if he can grow into even gap power.

After shifting to the pen and keeping Triple-A hitters off-balance for around 40 IP, Troy Patton made the most of his first extended look with the Big Club. While he will never be a strikeout specialist, he does have an ability to miss some bats thanks to a solid four-pitch arsenal. His fastball is generally an upper-80s offering, and is best at 87-89 with some armside life, though he'll push 90-92 with his four-seam. His most effective secondary is an upper-70s to low-80s slider that has good armslot deception and does a solid job missing barrels. His change-up gives him a weapon against lefties, thanks to solid fade, and he'll drop a curve as well to keep hitters honest. While he isn't the sexiest of prospects, Patton could be a valuable 7th or 8th inning arm, and should be a cheap bullpen option for the O's for the next couple of seasons.

12 November 2011

Free Agents - Shortstop

This is the fourth of a series of posts on free agents.

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP | RHRP | LHRP

Reyes is the jewel of the SS Market
For the sake of completeness, we will look at shortstop.

For the purpose of this post, we are using the following groupings:
Elite: Greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Good: 3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Above Average: 2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA
Average: 1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA
Poor Starter: 0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA
Backup: Below 0.75 WAR / 600 PA
No one below a projected 0.75 WAR should be offered anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to training camp.  The values were calculated by weighting performance of the past three seasons normalized each year to 600 PA.  This ranking does not consider injury status which will likely affect some players.

Elite (greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Jose Reyes (4.7)
It looks as if the Mets will not be resigning Reyes.  Whoever signs him should have premium performance at short for several years.

Good (3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
J.J. Hardy (4.2)
If Hardy could actually get to the plate 600 times, he would projects as a 4.2 WAR player.  He could be the most valuable player on the team.

Above Average (2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Jamey Carroll (3.2)
Carroll's ability to get on base along with his ability to play shortstop adequately makes him a potential option here.  However, tweeners like Carroll always teeter on being completely unable to competently play shortstop.
Nick Punto (3.1)
Punto's ability to rank high here is a primarily due to his offensive performance last year.  I doubt his ability to truly give above average performance at this position.
Jimmy Rollins (2.8)
Rollins' offensive has taken a hard turn downward, but he still plays a decent shortstop.  The low baseline for short keeps Rollins in the conversation as an above average shortstop.  His past performance though may encourage a team to pay him more than he is worth.
Clint Barmes (2.6)
Barmes can play SS solidly and show some power.  He could potentially be a decent starter.

Average (1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Rafael Furcal (2.4)
This projection does not adequately account for his injury issues.  I would value him far less than this.
Ramon Santiago (2.2)
The Tigers do not see him as a starter, but the numbers suggest otherwise.  He could be a cheap and effective option for a team who needs to fill a hole at short.
Jerry Hairston Jr (2.0)
Hairston cannot defend the position well, but his bat carries him.
Edgar Renteria (1.8)
Renteria is on the downside of his career.  He will likely put up performance below this measure.

Poor Starter (0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Alex Gonzalez (1.5)
Gonzalez has had one good season and two awful ones.  One is more probable than the other.
Robert Andino (1.2)
Andino does not field well enough or hit well enough.
Ronny Cedeno (1.0)
Cedeno is a utility infielder, no more.

The Rest (less than 0.75 WAR / 600 PA)
John MacDonald (0.7), Orlando Cabrera (0.7), Craig Counsell (0.4), Yuniesky Betancourt (0.2), Jack Wilson (0.0), and Cesar Izturis (-0.3).

10 November 2011

Evaluating the front office: Channel your inner Rumsfeld

"[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some
things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. ”

— Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld



As Andy MacPhail ends his tenure as President of Baseball Operations in Baltimore, and Dan Duqette takes over the front office reigns, a poll of the dwindling Orioles fanbase would reveal no shortage of opinions on both MacPhail's performance and the pros and cons of Duqette's selection as his replacement. Skim through an Orioles message board and you are sure to find a laundry list of misteps taken by MacPhail in his shaping of the organization and declarations as to what steps Duquette will be taking to point the O's in the right direction. This should not be a surprise, as the bloggers and message boarders have been vocal for the last month with strong opinions on "the right man for the job", despite the fact that 99% of these bloviators are not even sure what differentiates the various candidates (or current GMs, for that matter). The critiques do not stop at the top.

Scouting directors? Your draft classes are lambasted by fans before the second day of selections has been completed, and you can expect numerous blogs to explain just how good or bad a job you did by the end of the week (after reading-up on the draftees from the same three or four sources). Also, MLBDraftExperts.wordpress.com will explain to you why you never pick a high school pitcher between picks 6 and 22, and why you just "don't get it" when it comes to overslot spending.

Minor League development staff? God help you if your team's prospects do not show up on the right internet rankings (and there are a lot of them these days). Such a shortcoming will make it clear to all that you do not know how to do your job, and are incapable of developing true impact Major League talent.

Managers? Ignore the horde of Twitter users wring their collective hands over a stolen base attempt, pitching change or (gasp!) a post game comment that Player B was "clutch" for you this evening. Yes, apparently you are one of the least informed baseball minds around and have no business discussing baseball, let alone managing a Major League team. But that doesn't mean you should have to have that pointed out to you by @FutureGM, @MLBProspectGuru or @KingofDaBronx.

Players? You should not ignore Twitter. If you check-in during the game you will be instantly informed as to what is wrong with your swing/pitching mechanics by numerous experts who have all been studying the finer points of swing and pitching mechanics for several years via YouTube, MiLB.tv, fuzzy animated GIFs and some "scouting" articles from various internet hotspots. In fact, after striking out, your first move probably should not be a convo with your hitting coach or teammates, or a trip to the video equipment in the office just down the tunnel. It should be to your smart phone -- consider downloading the TweetDeck app.

The reverse is true as well. Get the right endorsement from the right sportswriter (usually someone who uses "WAR" and "xFIP" -- though not necessarily providing the proper context while doing so) and you will have an army of internet experts championing you on their blogs and podcasts. Once hired, you will be showered with the sort of whole-hearted adulation that can only sprout from a place of naivety. Is it important that Sportswriter's endorsement came, at least in part, because, well, you were one of the nice front office folk who would chat regularly with him and occasionally swap some info? Shrug.

It is commonly accepted that there is more information available to the public today than ever before. As a result, each year fans are presented with new statistical metrics for evaluating player performance, opinion pieces from internet sportswriters ranging from one-person shops to mega-corporations like MLB or ESPN, and more video and photographs than any one person could possibly know what to do with. Formerly-niche outfits such as Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have ramped-up their coverage of Minor League prospects and stat-heavy analysis, respectively, which in turn has continued to spur more focused interest among the most zealous of baseball fans -- not coincidentally, these are the fans most likely to be Tweeting, blogging, message boarding and otherwise opining on baseball matters out there in the ether.

So what? More information is always a good thing, right? Maybe si; maybe no. You can never have too much GOOD information. But without a proper filter, you run the risk of too much static in your data pool for it to be of any practical utility. Further, the presence of "information" across the web-scape has given the illusion to many that they have the evidence they need to reach conclusions about nearly every aspect of professional baseball. This includes in-game management, prospect rankings, player critiques at the Major League and Minor League (and even college/high school) levels, front office administration, draft strategy and execution, and the like. The reality is that most writers/message boarders do not have the RIGHT information to form strong opinions about many of these things -- this is particularly true when it comes to the front office.

Mr. MacPhail and Mr. Jordan were dinged left and right by bloggers by the end of their tenure in Baltimore. That can of worms need not be opened again, but it may be useful to look at the first week under Mr. Duquette to try and get a point across. The comments most frequently circulating the web regarding Mr. Duquette indicate that the internet experts consider him to be the right man to rejuvenate Baltimore's efforts in Latin America and to fix the player development system in order to provide a steady flow of Minor League talent to the Major League club. The evidence? Well, he signed a number of international free agents with Montreal back in the early-90s (including Vlad Guerrero) and there are a number of draft picks made under his watch in Boston that turned into Major Leaguers with some value (including Kevin Youkilis, Freddy Sanchez, David Eckstein, Justin Duchscherer, Carl Pavano, Adam Everett and Kelly Shoppach -- list compiled by "FrobbY", a message board poster at Orioles Hangout).

Setting aside the fact that the list is not as impressive as it is made out to be in the message board convos, what is known about this list? Channeling your inner-Rumsfeld you can quickly determine what this list tells you, and what it does not tell you. Then, you can figure out whether the info tells enough to act as a foundation for an opinion on the matter as a whole.

Things we know: These are players Boston brought into their system during Dan Duqette's term as General Manager. There is positive "WAR" value with this collection that is comparable or better than certain other GMs during that same time span. Baltimore has not been as successful (measured by WAR) in graduating Minor League talent to their Major League club over the last 14 years. The players listed had to be developed in some form in order to make the jump from draft day to their Major League careers.

Known unknowns (things that we know we do not know): What was Boston's process for identifying amateur talent at the time (division of responsibilities between area scouts, bird dogs, regional supervisors, cross-checkers, scouting director, general manager)? What role did Mr. Duquette (as general manager) play in creating the process used by Boston? To what extent did Mr. Duquette drive the decision to draft players in lower round (for example, one organization in particular operates such that the scouting director is the driving force in player selection, and he gives a lot of weight to the opinion of area scouts when it comes to lower round picks, as those scouts have seen more of the players in question than has the cross-checkers or scouting director)? Would Boston's process under Mr. Duquette still be effective in today's game? Would the Minor League player development process still be effective in today's game? What has changed? Of the "newer" philosophies relating to player (and particularly pitcher) maintenance, does Mr. Duquette subscribe to certain innings limits, pitch counts, focus on one defensive position versus two, and the like? Heck, what are ANY of Mr. Duquette's detailed thoughts on these issues? Who will his scouting director be? Who will his Head of Minor League Development be?

Unknown unknowns (things we do not know we do not know): Did you know that different organizations use different scout sheets and place different weight on different player attributes? Did you know some organizations literally chart every pitch of every game at large showcases/tournaments at the high school level? Did you know some organizations go out of their way to get specific video of players they are sitting on? Did you know some organizations have no formal process for charting games and no policy for recording video of players? Did you know that many, if not most, of the draft boards (preference lists) for Major League clubs do not look exactly like Baseball America's or Keith Law's? Did you know the approach to developing players varies across organizations to an incredible degree? Did you know that some organizations do not even have a uniform approach across levels for teaching the game?

If you are a savvy baseball fan you may know most or all of the "Unknown unknowns" listed above. Believe that the list of things the typical, or even knowledgeable, fan does not know is pages longer.

Taking your knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns into account, what does the list of drafted players tell you about Mr. Duquette and his prospects for success in restoring Baltimore's draft/sign/develop system? If you are honest, it does not tell you much. In fact, anyone extrapolating any significant positive or negative vibes from the hiring at this point is likely doing so to fit a narrative they have already subscribed to. Maybe it is a desire to be optimistic about their team, particularly in a dark time in the franchise's history. Maybe it's a desire to be pessimistic about an organization that has jaded a majority of its fanbase. Maybe a prospect hound loves the idea of having an exciting system and wants to believe Mr. Duquette is potentially the key to creating such a system in Baltimore. And probably the most common impetus for many bloggers and message boarders, maybe an internet "expert" just likes to have a strong opinion and to appear in the know, regardless of topic.

This blog entry (self aware) is not intended to be a lash out against other bloggers, message boarders, sports writers or, more generally, sports fans. It is simply a call for all of us to take a step back and think about what evidence we really have when we decide to shoot out our opinions over the internet. Think about what you know, think about what you know you do not know, consider the existence of other info you might not know exists, and proceed with some thought and responsibility. Sports are meant to be fun, to spark conversations -- to excite. Drying up all sports talk because the participants are not 100% certain of their views is not the goal. You do not have to be 100% certain of anything before you share a thought.

When your thought involves mudslinging against front office execs, such as Mr. MacPhail, Mr. Jordan, and maybe even Mr. Duquette a year or two from now, however, you may want to get as close to that 100% as possible before hurling your insults. That, or curb the vitriol just a bit. At some point the internet put fans under the impression that running a baseball team is easy. It isn't, and the "fixes" for a troubled organization such as Baltimore are not nearly as obvious as they appear.

09 November 2011

Free Agents - Second Base

This is the third of a series of posts on free agents.

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP | RHRP | LHRP

It is with sadness that I must say that I have no expectation that Brian Roberts will ever be a meaningful part of the Baltimore Orioles on the field.  Effort must be given to replace him at second.  In this post, we will look at available free agent options and who the Orioles have internally.

For the purpose of this post, we are using the following groupings:
Elite: Greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Good: 3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Above Average: 2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA
Average: 1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA
Poor Starter: 0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA
Backup: Below 0.75 WAR / 600 PA
Jamey Carroll might be a good target.
No one below a projected 0.75 WAR should be offered anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to training camp.  The values were calculated by weighting performance of the past three seasons normalized each year to 600 PA.  This ranking does not consider injury status which will likely affect some players.

Good (3.5 - 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Kelly Johnson (3.5)
I have thought well of Johnson for a while, but no one seems to think of him as a good player.  I might be missing something.

Above Average (2.5 - 3.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Jamey Carroll (3.2)
Carroll is another second baseman who has flown under that radar.  He provides very good defense and simply gets on base.  He is not flashy whatsoever, but he does the little things well.
Nick Punto (3.2)
Punto has always had an amazing glove.  It gives him a great deal of value.  Much of his projection here has to do with his hitting performance this past season.  I think the projection is overly inflated.  I think he is a good example of using projection as a rough number that needs to be used with other tools.  Statistics alone, or any tool alone, is not a good way to make decisions.  That said, a metric rating a player higher than you expected sometimes gives you pause and reconsider the players' worth.  Personally, I think he very good year at the plate last year does not accurately portray his true talent level and skews the projection.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (2.6)
Hairston has a decent bat and he can still provide above average defense at second.  He has recently been used as a super-sub, but he really belongs at second.

Average (1.5 - 2.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Clint Barmes (2.2)
Barmes provides some power and excellent defense at second.  It made little sense for the Astros making him untouchable during the deadline, but he can produce.
Mark Ellis (2.1)
During the summer, Ellis was rumored as a player the Orioles were scouting thoroughly with plans of signing him in the off season.  Hopefully, it would be cheap if they do engage because he will be 35 and coming off a poor season.
Aaron Hill (1.8)
After two underwhelming seasons, Hill bounced back last year.  It looked like a last hurrah to me.

Below Average (0.75 - 1.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Adam Kennedy (1.2)
His projection is due almost entirely to his 2009 season.  Not a good indication.
Willie Bloomquist (1.1)
Bloomquist is a more athletic version of Cuddyer with a much lesser bat.  He plays several positions and none of them well.
Robert Andino (0.9)
Andino's value here may be below his true talent level after his solid performance last year.
Ryan Adams (0.8)
The bats plays at second, the glove does not.

The Rest (less than 0.75 WAR / 600 PA)
Craig Counsell (0.5), Aaron Miles (0.3), Jose Lopez (0.2), Felipe Lopez (0.2), Orlando Cabrera (-0.3), Bill Hall (-0.5), Alex Cora (-0.7), and Cesar Izturis (-1.9).

07 November 2011

Free Agents - Third Base

This is the fourth of a series of posts on free agents.

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP | RHRP | LHRP

Nick Punto might be an option.
If Mark Reynolds is vacating the hot corner, the team will need to replace him.  In this post, we will look at available free agent options and who the Orioles have internally.

For the purpose of this post, we are using the following groupings:
Elite: Greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Good: 3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Above Average: 2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA
Average: 1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA
Poor Starter: 0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA
Backup: Below 0.75 WAR / 600 PA
No one below a projected 0.75 WAR should be offered anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to training camp.  The values were calculated by weighting performance of the past three seasons normalized each year to 600 PA.  This ranking does not consider injury status which will likely affect some players.

Good (3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Nick Punto (4.2)
This projection surprised me.  Defensively, Punto looks very good at third.  Just as with second base, his 2011 year at the plate also inflated his value.  Otherwise, he would be sitting around a WAR of 2.
Aramis Ramirez (4.2)
Ramirez' bat still looks strong.  At 34, he has a high probability of a precipitous decline offensively and he has never been a good defender at third.  He is likely to be the most sought after third baseman on the market.

Above Average (2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Casey Blake (3.4)
Blake's shoulder injury and his age puts 2012 into question.  When healthy, he is a solid option at third base.
Wilson Betemit (3.0)
Betemit is a poor defender at third base, but he has put together two good campaigns at the plate these last couple seasons.
Mark Reynolds (2.9)
If Reynolds is merely bad defensively at third base instead of being gut wrenchingly awful, then he would be very good option there.

Average (1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Kevin Kouzmanoff (1.7)
Kouzmanoff was always more glove than bat, but his offense has progressively disappeared over the past couple seasons.

Poor Starter (0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Robert Andino (1.4)
Andino's defense plays better at third base than second base.  Still, Andino at third means you have exceptional offense elsewhere on the team.
Eric Chavez (1.3)
A bad back might prevent Chavez to get anywhere near 600 PA.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (1.1)
Hairston is passable at third due to his bat.  His glove is awful.

The Rest (less than 0.75 WAR / 600 PA)
Jose Lopez (0.7), Andy LaRoche (0.7), Craig Counsell (0.5), Greg Dobbs (0.4), Mark DeRosa (0.3), Omar Vizquel (0.2), Felipe Lopez (0.2), Chris Davis (0.0), Jorge Cantu (-0.9), and Josh Bell (-3.0).

06 November 2011

Come on down, Dan Duquette!


Duquette at a Sabermetrics Seminar in 2011
Dan Duquette will be named the Orioles successor to Andy MacPhail as the head of all baseball operations for the team.  It has been a rough bumpy road.  Jerry DiPoto interviewed and quickly signed on to be the Angels General Manager.  Tony Lacava was offered a position and then declined.  DeJon Watson removed his named from consideration, which probably was not all that important as the Orioles appeared not to like what he had to say in his interview anyway.  Next, several potential candidates turned down interviews ranging from Andrew Freidman to Allard Baird.  It was not a good month for the team who essentially knew back in July that MacPhail was not returning.

Duquette has a tough assignment ahead of him.  He certainly knows a lot of folks, but he is dealing with a rather public shunning of Peter Angelos by many baseball professionals and that many teams have settled the market for scouts and managers.  That leaves the team in a bit of a lurch and may translate into a rather rough off season and, potentially, 2012 draft.  Even though I think the public piling on of professionals and media was a bit much, it is not like it was not deserved.  To some extent, maybe almost completely, it was a justified response to what has seemed like one of the worst episodes in hiring a GM.  Mind you, the worst episode was back in 2005 when Theo Epstein escaped Fenway Park in a Gorilla costume and the Red Sox interviewed five people (including Jim Beattie) before giving Epstein what he wanted.

Duquette has a rather uneven past.  As a director of player development and as a GM for the Montreal Expos, he oversaw that franchise turning into a power house through international signings and player development.  He took the rudderless Red Sox and rearranged them to consistently make the playoffs as well as create the foundation for Theo Epstein to succeed in 2004 with a World Series win.  He also had a rather unfortunate public spat with Roger Clemens and was known for being a bit too blunt at times when giving interviews with the media.  As far as he took the Red Sox, his teams were often a bit limited as well.  He signed players like Jose Canseco and dealt for players like Carl Everett.  The teams had awful clubhouse chemistry (as was reported) and that was associated with the team's collapses.

After being fired, Duquette has not had a lot of interaction with Major League baseball.  He quickly began to work in collegiate player development.  He was involved in owning the Dukes, a summer collegiate team from 2003 to 2009.  He also worked to establish the Israel Baseball League in 2007, which folded due to financial reasons after the season ended.  Also in 2007, he was a finalist to be the Pittsburgh Pirates CEO/President (it eventually went to Frank Coonally).  He is also a frequent guest during seminars about sabermetrics.

What does it all mean?

I am not sure.  Duquette is known to understand the value of international signings and player development.  He was big on that during his Montreal years.  With the Red Sox, he spent more time working on the free agent market.  He also showed during his time there an understanding of sabermetrics that was at most a step or two behind Billy Beane, but a good five to seven years in front of him in understanding the value of foreign players.

04 November 2011

Free Agents - First Base

This is the second of a series of posts on free agents.

C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | SP | RHRP | LHRP


David Ortiz might be a good value at first base.
Another area for improvement for the Orioles would be to upgrade at first base.  In these listings, I have also included several internal options in addition to free agents.  For the purpose of this post, we are using the following groupings:
Elite: Greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Good: 3.5 to 4.5 WAR / 600 PA
Above Average: 2.5 to 3.5 WAR / 600 PA
Average: 1.5 to 2.5 WAR / 600 PA
Poor Starter: 0.75 to 1.5 WAR / 600 PA
Backup: Below 0.75 WAR / 600 PA
No one below a projected 0.75 WAR should be offered anything more than a minor league contract with an invite to training camp.  The values were calculated by weighting performance of the past three seasons normalized each year to 600 PA.  This ranking does not consider injury status which will likely affect some players.

Elite (greater than 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Albert Pujols (6.9)
Pujols is arguably the best player in the game and is likely to pull in an 8 year, 200 MM deal.  This is likely to be beyond what the Orioles could afford.  In the near term, his presence can completely change a team with his elite offense and good defense.
Prince Fielder (5.7)
We mentioned earlier that Fielder is likely to be the better deal of the two.  He does not have Pujols profile, but he is a decent bet to give back value on his contract.  There are some concerns about his body type as people remember Mo Vaughn, but David Ortiz has aged somewhat well.

Good (3.5 - 4.5 WAR / 600 PA)
David Ortiz (3.5)
Speaking of David Ortiz, this might seem a little peculiar.  Ortiz is not a first baseman, but he does have a solid bat.  If we assume he costs a team 15 runs as a first base man, he still projects as being worth 3.5 WAR / 600 PA.  At 36 years old, he certainly is a candidate to see his performance collapse.

Above Average (2.5 - 3.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Derrek Lee (2.9)
The Orioles were quite underwhelmed with Lee's performance last year.  However, in Pittsburgh his offense blew up and he finished the year strong.  He could reward someone who takes a chance on him.
Carlos Pena (2.8)
Pena seems to be underrated by many.  He has a solid bat and is a solid defender at first base.  Chicago will probably look in a different direction for first base this year.  A team might be able to sign him to a short term deal for under 10 MM.
Nick Markakis (2.6)
Markakis played first a few times last year and, according to this system, is currently the Orioles' best option at first base.  However, he is more valuable in right field.

Average (1.5 - 2.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Michael Cuddyer (2.2)
Cuddyer can play several positions while playing none of them particularly well.  That versatility is valuable, but it appears to me that he is somewhat overvalued for his versatility.
Mark Reynolds (2.1)
If Reynolds is truly a -30 run defender at third, then he has to move off the hot corner.  If he is more in line with his career line of -10, then he probably should head back to third base.  He would provide decent production here, but he would not be special.
Luke Scott (1.9)
Scott's year last year caused his value to take a dive.  If last year was the result of several injuries that do not affect his 2012 season, then he could potentially be the best option at first.
Eric Hinske (1.7)
Hinske followed two solid seasons with a poor one last year.  It is always difficult to expect a bounce back season from a 34 year old who is better utilized as a platoon player.
Casey Kotchman (1.6)
How much do you believe in Kotchman's awful 2010 season?  How much do you believe in his outstanding 2011 season?  A good bit of his worth is also tied up into his glove.

Poor Starter (0.75 - 1.5 WAR / 600 PA)
Russell Branyan (1.4)
Branyan had a poor season last year and is also a bit of a platoon player.  I would not be too sold on him.
Lyle Overbay (1.3)
Overbay has been on a downward trend the last few years.
Brad Hawpe (1.2)
Hawpe is not the guy he used to be.  His performance has collapsed.
Juan Rivera (1.2)
Rivera has some value for a team who wants a contact oriented power bat off the bench.  Beyond that, I don't see much value here.
Nolan Reimold (0.8)
Reimold's 2010 hurts his value here.  If you believe in what he did last year, then he looks like a 1.7 WAR player at first base.  He could be passable, but you need to get more production out of other positions if this is to be a first division team.


The Rest (less than 0.75 WAR)
Mark Kotsay (0.7), Ross Gload (0.4), Xavier Nady (-0.2), Chris Davis (-0.3), and Jorge Cantu (-1.3).

Conclusion
If the Orioles are to go big then putting money down on Fielder makes more sense to me than Pujols for the reasons I spelled out in a previous post.  If the next tier of talent is considered, I would target a one or two year deal for Pena or Ortiz.  Beyond that, I would place Mark Reynolds at first base.

03 November 2011

Prince over Pujols?

As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems that signing Prince Fielder would mark for a remarkable improvement for the Orioles assuming a place other than third base could be found for Mark Reynolds.  Cost was not considered for the most part in that evaluation.  A couple weeks ago, I posted what appeared to be an indication that teams have been paying players on average 76% of their weighted WAR worth from the previous three seasons.  Using that method, Prince Fielder would cost about 18.8 MM per year.  If that is the case, how many years would it make sense to go with Fielder at that price?  What if he is about to demand more?  At what point do you turn away?  Making matters bit more interesting is a recent article that questions how Prince's physique will factor into his age-dependent performance.  Also, what about Albert Pujols?

Performance
The following graph showing predicted performance measure for both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder with an additional projection of Prince Fielder with consideration for his body shape (from the FanGraphs post mentioned above).  Roughly put, players tend to peak around age 28 in their performance and plateau with a slight downward direction until about age 32.  Around age 32, they tend to decrease about 0.5 WAR per year until about 38 where the decrease is more like 1 WAR per year decrease.  There are certainly exceptions, but the population of players tends to go in that direction.  The FanGraphs body type prediction puts Fielder in a more extreme decline where he starts seeing a 1 WAR decline per year about 7 years earlier than the general population.  It should also be mentioned that, rather arguably, I have decided to ignore defensive performance at first base.  It could be argued that Pujols is worth about 5 to 10 runs more each year than Fielder.  However, I think the difference will be smaller with aging.  I think in about 5 years, neither will be suitable for the field.

A couple interesting things I find about these projections:
  • After ten years, Albert Pujols cumulative production appears equivalent to an average aging Prince Fielder.  Keep in mind, Pujols is five years older and is not seen as being able to play in the Majors ten years from now.
  • The body shape dependent aging Prince Fielder is done after eight seasons with a eighth one being a 1 WAR season.  He likely will be in the majors the following year (year nine), but should not be useful.
  • Again, differences in fielding are not taken into consideration here.  You could argue that there would actually be a 5-8 WAR difference between the two at the end of the contract.  It depends how you perceive their defense and how they will age affect their performance in the field.
How much is their performance worth?
In the following graph, I have taken the performance detailed in the section above and compared it with predicted contract inflation.  In other words, how much would it take a team to purchase the level of production Pujols or Fielder would provide if said team had to buy it each year in the free agent market.  I am assuming that a win is worth 5 MM this off season and that contracts will inflate 5% each year.


A couple points to take from this graph:
  • Pujols will be worth 200 MM over nine years and then be at or below replacement level.  An average aging Fielder will be worth 205 MM.
  • Over ten years, Fielders and Pujols production may have been predicted as equal, but Fielder is producing in the final year with a higher cost per win.  For this reason, he winds up with a greater overall predicted monetary value.
  • Fielder's accelerated aging curve flat lines him at 170 MM from eight years out onward.
Cost Savings: Predicted Worth vs Predicted Cost
Assuming that the previous few years contracts hold true in a 24% devaluing of weighted WAR production from the previous three seasons, we are looking at Fielder being worth about 18.8 MM per year and Albert Pujols worth 24.9 MM per year.  This yields the following graph on Cost Savings.

  • Albert Pujols at 25 MM would make sense through seven years.
  • An average aging Prince Fielder would make sense at 18.8 MM through ten years and would wind up breaking even after eleven years.
  • An advanced-aging Prince Fielder would make sense at 18.8 MM through nine years.
What if they receive greater per year deals?
Albert Pujols
The three scenarios I look at for Albert Pujols were his 25 MM predicted value, a 27.5 MM value (equivalent to Alex Rodriguez), and him hitting the 30 MM mark.

Where Pujols makes sense at 25 MM for seven years, a small shift to 27.5 MM cuts that down to a five year deal.  At no point is Pujols projected as a good value at 30 MM.  Due to players needing big money, Pujols may 'need' a big number like 200 MM.  In that case, the best deal out there would be eight years for 200 MM.  Perhaps you tack on an evergreen clause at the end at 25-30 MM per year if he hits certain performance marks in year seven and eight of this proposed contract.  Reaching that 200 MM level results in poor contract at anything above 25 MM.

Prince Fielder
The three scenarios I chose for Prince are 20 MM (simply because it is a benchmark numbers and 18.8 is not), 22.5 MM (it surpasses what Adrian Gonzalez is making and is equal to Mark Teixeira), and 25 MM (it is equal to Ryan Howard's silly contract extension).

At 20 MM per year, Fielder holds that value cumulatively through ten years of service while his aging counterpart keeps that value through eight years.  At 22.5 MM per year, he holds value through eight years with average decline and seven through advanced decline.  At 25 MM per year, he holds that value through six years no matter his aging curve.  With this knowledge, I see three potential contracts:
  • 8 years, 160 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension,
  • 7 years, 160 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension, or
  • 6 years, 150 MM with a buyout of 10 MM on a 2 years, 60 MM extension.
I would prefer those contracts in that order for Fielder.  I think you have to recognize that he does have a body type that is likely not to age well.  Some players, like David Ortiz, do manage to sustain performance, so if you are really in need of Fielder I could see an additional one or two million per year or an additional year or two on length.

Conclusion
If the Orioles are trying to win now, I could see it making sense to sign either Pujols or Fielder.  If the answer is right this very minute then Pujols makes sense, but if the win now window is over the next five years then Fielder makes more sense.  I do think the difference between the two is not as great over the long run as people think because of the significant age difference between the two.  When it is all said and done, Pujols will have the much better career, but they look somewhat similar in terms of production over the next ten years.

I think it is almost interesting to keep in mind the contract projection of 8 years and 200 MM for Pujols and 8 years and 150 MM for Fielder.  If those hold true, Fielder will be save his team 20-30 MM in terms of production while Pujols will cost his team 6 MM.  The resulting question is how much does that 26-36 MM difference mean to wins and losses.  From a free agent point of view, that might mean five wins total over those eight years.  If that money is instead used for signing amateur talent, it might be worth about ten to fifteen wins over those eight years.

02 November 2011

Orioles Year in Review and 2012: Outfield and Designated Hitter

Perennially neglected Nolan Reimold
In the previous review piece we identified defense at third base being a black whole in the infield.  A few days ago, we noted that the Orioles' OF defense in terms of range was a great hindrance to the team.  In our prediction here we think that the team is not 4 games below average bad, but more like 2 games below average.  That would still rate as one of the worst defensive outfields in the AL.

Left Field: Nolan Reimold (2.0 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (-0.1)
First Third  >3.5 fWAR (Yankees, Rays)
Middle Third  1.6 - 3.5 fWAR (Red Sox)
Bottom Third  <1.6 fWAR (Orioles, Blue Jays)

Here at Camden Depot, we have always believed in Nolan Reimold as being capable of average to above average play.  He has good athleticism and plus power potential that could transition into a solid option in left field.  In 2011, the O's chose to start with Luke Scott and Felix Pie in left field.  Scott used to be adequate in left field.  He never had much range, but he took good route, had soft hands, and knew where to throw with an accurate average-strength arm.  Add that average defense to an above average bat and you have a solid player.  The streaky Scott was consistently bad at the plate and finally fell below what would be adequate range in left field.  He had a horrible year.  Pie wound up earning more time in left than he really deserved.  All of the positives in defense and potential with his bat evaporated in 2011 with Pie earning -2.1 fWAR.  Reimold was the only positive producer in left with a 1.5 fWAR, but often appeared to be place in LF begrudgingly by Buck.  The O's have never seemed to like Reimold.  It would be surprising to me if they do not, again, try to prevent him from earning any significant time in the field.  As a team, the Orioles were ranked 29th in left field production with a -1.2 fWAR.

For 2012, we have Reimold and Matt Angle as being the bearers of opportunity here.  I think the O's will have Angle in left as a fourth outfielder in 2012, but Reimold is likely to be iffy as the front office plans for next year.  

A 1.9 fWAR would ranked as 19th overall for LF in 2011.


Center Field: Adam Jones (2.4 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (0.1)
First Third  >4.8 fWAR (Red Sox, Yankees)
Middle Third  2.7 - 4.8 fWAR (Orioles, Rays)
Bottom Third  <2.7 fWAR (Blue Jays)

For 2011, centerfield was nothing special for the Orioles.  I think it is clear that Adam Jones is good, but he is not a star.  It s easy to remember Jones' big hits.  He has plus power for a centerfielder, but his on base percentage is rather unimpressive.  Jones' poor ability to earn walks (4.7% which is about half of what an average player earns) counters his impressive bat.  It is also easy to remember Jones chasing down a fly ball, stealing a home run, or his strong accurate arm.  It is so impressive that MLB managers were polled by Baseball America in 2011 and they declared that Jones is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game.  Now, defensive metrics are not perfect, but when every metric consistently tells you the same thing about Jones (that he is a below average defensive outfielder) then it just might be that the conventional wisdom is incorrect.  Over his career, he ranks as an average CF on the road and as a below average CF at Camden Yards.  It is our opinion that Jones could be a good left fielder (assuming the bat holds or improves) or an average centerfielder (for a couple years).  Angle is a solid defender, but he has no bat.  All of the players in centerfield in 2011 gave the team a 2.9 fWAR, which ranked as 20th overall in MLB.

In 2012, we think things will be slightly worse.  Our model prediction is that Jones will be a 320 OBP and 440 SLG hitter.  Basically, he will get on base about the same and show slightly less power.  We also think that Jones' defense will not be as poor as UZR and other metrics suggested this year.  We denoted him simply as a -5 run player in center field.  Angle's defense will hold out well in center, but his bat renders him a replacement level player.  Together we see them as a 2.5 WAR duo, which makes this a potential third tier pairing.

A 2.5 fWAR would rank as 23rd overall for CF in 2011. 

Right Field: Nick Markakis (3.2 predicted 2012 WAR) and Matt Angle (-0.1)
First Third  >4.1 fWAR (Blue Jays, Yankees)
Middle Third  2.4 - 4.1 fWAR (Rays)
Bottom Third  <2.4 fWAR (Orioles, Red Sox)

In 2011, the Orioles right fielders (basically just Nick) ranked as the 21st best right fielders in baseball with 2.2 WAR.  As we mentioned before, Camden Yards might underestimated Markakis' worth by about 5 runs.  With those added on, they would have ranked 19th.  What hurt most for the Orioles was that Markakis was stuck in a three month slump.  It was not until the second half when he began to show his old performance levels.

In 2012, we think that Markakis will bounce back and sustain the level of performance he showed in 2010 and the second half of 2011.  We see Markakis performing at a 360 OBP / 440 SLG level.  It is not a level that would be considered a first division right fielder, but it is solid performance for a second tier right fielder.  It is becoming more and more apparent that the Markakis we saw several years ago, the one in line to be the best right fielder in baseball, was not an accurate projection.  We will have to respect him as a good above average right fielder.

A 3.2 fWAR would rank as 17th overall for RF in 2011.


Designated Hitter: Luke Scott (2.6 predicted 2012 WAR), Chris Davis (0.1), and Nolan Reimold (0.3)
First Third  >1.8 fWAR (Red Sox)
Middle Third  1.0 - 1.8 fWAR (Rays, Blue Jays)
Bottom Third  <1.0 fWAR (Orioles, Yankees)

In 2011, the Orioles excited the fan base by signing Vladimir Guerrero to a 1 year deal worth 8 MM.  Shortly thereafter, Camden Depot was among several Orioles' blogs that were hammered by irate fans when we panned the move.  If I remember correctly, we projected Guerrero to be worth 0.9 WAR.  He wound up doing worse by achieving a 0.0 fWAR.  The Orioles essentially threw away 8 MM that could have gone to useful free agents or amateur talent.  As such, Vlad helped the team be the 13th best out of 14 American League teams for value produced by a DH.  The only AL team they beat were the Mariners (-0.2).

In 2012, the team probably is set.  Between Luke Scott (350 OPS / 500 SLG) and Nolan Reimold, the team is likely to get 3 WAR production.  There will be no reason whatsoever for the team to engage the free agent market paying big money.  The only argument I could see is letting Scott go to save money and pick up another lefty bat for 3 MM or so less. 

A 3.0 fWAR would rank as 3rd overall for DH in 2011.

Conclusion
2011 fWAR = 3.9 fWAR
2012 predicted fWAR = 11.5 fWAR

A target of 14.2 should be identified.

There needs to be more improvement somewhere along the line.  Left field might be the easiest area for improvement, but a major producer needs to found for there to be any sizable difference.

Next up . . . Starting pitchers . . . then relievers.

01 November 2011

The Problem with LaCava's Decision

Lots of things could have happened for Tony LaCava to decline signing with the Orioles.  Highly talented people sometimes don't take good jobs (see Rick Hahn or Billy Beane).  I think it might be presumptuous to say it had to do with limitations placed by Angelos on him.  Frankly, we do not know and it does not really matter.  If Angelos is a problem, he is a constant.  He will not change, so we must focus on the part of the team that can change.

So what is the problem with Tony LaCava's decision?

It resets the interview process with two days to free agency.  DeJon Watson and John Stockstill will not be given a fair shake by the press or the public as the best options.  Watson will likely be seen as the third choice and, perhaps unfairly, Stockstill might be seen as a placeholder.  In this light, the team has to interview at least two more people and that will set the clock back another week.  The organization was already going to go through some pains through transition and this delays that further.

At some point, it might actually be best for Buck to take a year off from the dugout and try being a General Manager.  I don't think that is best for the Orioles in the long run.  However, if they want to move quickly in free agency they need to start getting their plan in order.  That might mean continuity.

So again, the issue today is not that LaCava is not coming here.  There are several GM candidates in baseball who have as good potential as he does.  The issue is that the front office remains unsettled while everyone else is ready to enter the off season.

O's Targeting Other Japanese Pitchers?


Wei-Yin Chen in '08 Olympics
I was told the other day that the Orioles are more interested in three Japanese starting pitchers who are not named Yu Darvish and do not need to be posted.  I was not told the names of these players, but I think it is fair to assume they are the following: Hisashi Iwakuma (RHSP, Rakuten Golden Eagles), Wei-Yin Chen (LHSP, Chunichi Dragons), and Tsuyoshi Wada (LHSP, Softbank Hawks). 

Hishashi Iwakuma (31 years old)
You may remember Hisashi Iwakuma's name.  He was posted last year by the Golden Eagles and the Oakland Athletics won the right to negotiate with him for the conditional amount of 18 MM.  The Athletics failed to sign him after allegedly offering him a three year deal worth 10 MM total with the agreement that they could not use arbitration with him at the end of the deal.  Unsurprisingly, Iwakuma who had made 4 MM in 2010 as a member of the Golden Eagles did not see the point in locking himself in a multi-year contract at that amount.  By staying in Japan, he signed a one year deal at 4 MM, which was more than what the A's offered.  He now is able to enter the MLB market as a free agent without the restrictions imposed by the slotting system.

Iwakuma throws five pitches in the JPL: four seamer, two seamer, split finger, slider, and curve.  In 2010, his four seamer sat around 90-91 mph.  In 2011, he saw it lose some speed which might be connected to shoulder issues he suffered this past year.  Toward the end of the season, he was up in the high 80s.  His two-seamer is a typical shuuto in that there is not much difference in velocity between it and the four seamer.  I figure that will disappear stateside.  His split finger actually looked like a very good pitch last year, but has been less useful to him in 2011.  He throws it around 83 mph this year and the difference in speed between that pitch and his four seamer has narrowed.  I think that is why is now less useful.  Iwakuma's slider comes in the high 70s now and his curve in the low 70s.  Both look very hittable.

My guess is that a stateside Iwakuma will be a below average high eighties fastball, an above average split finger in the low eighties, and an average high 70s slider with a mix of a few curves.  This is likely to be someone who would be hit pretty hard as a starter.  Prior to his injury, he looked like a potential 4 or maybe 3 slot pitcher.  He has lost about 4-5 mph on that fastball and it completely changes the outlook on him.  I think he might be best suited as a relief pitcher where he might be able to get back into the 90s with his four seamer and may be able to live primarily off the four seamer and his split finger.  The more he has to depend on his other offerings, the more trouble he is likely to have.

The projection system I developed for Yu Darvish actually is very kind to Iwakuma.  In large part I think this is due to him probably being a different pitcher in years prior to 2011.  Over 200 IP, it projects Iwakuma to throw 137 strikeouts while giving up 77 walks and 17 home runs.  This would be good enough for a 4.12 FIP.  I think the current version of Iwakuma with his reduced velocity would be more of a 5.00 to 5.50 FIP pitcher.  If someone thinks he can regain his arm strength back, I could see someone putting down a 2 year, 10 MM deal on the table.  He might be able to get 3 MM on a one year deal as a relief pitcher.  The latter would probably result in him staying in Japan.

Wei-Yin Chen (27 years old)
Chen is a rather young to qualify as a free agent as he has finished his age 26 season.  He was paid 2.25 MM for Chunichi in 2011 and would be up for a significant raise in either side of the Pacific.  The lefty had been known for pitching in the low 90s and racking up strikeouts in Japan.  However, things seems to change in 2011.  Based on the information I have, it appears he has become a completely different pitcher.  His average velocity dropped from the low 90s into the high 80s and he wound up throwing 50 more innings this year.  This gives the appearance that he threw with less effort to go deeper into games.  With a new ball this year and power evaporating league-wide, it may have been a conscious effort on his part.  It concerns me slightly, but I have heard nothing of any injury.

Chen has a four seamer, two seamer, split finger, slider, and curve.  He primarily sticks to his four seamer, split finger, and slider.  He has similar offerings as Iwakuma, but has concentrated more on those three pitches than Iwakuma.  Chen also rarely throws his two seamer while Iwakuma has lately depended on it heavily.  The pre-2011 version of Chen threw around 91-92 mph often throwing mid 90s in the first couple innings and then dropping down to 88-90 after the third inning.  This season it stays and remains in the 88-90 range.  His split finger comes around in the mid 80s.  His slider used to be slightly faster than the split finger, but has appeared a tick slower this year.  Chin finished the season coming out of the bullpen for an important game.  He managed to add three mph to his fastball and stuck with his splitfinger with a couple sliders mixed in.

I think Chen has a better chance to stick as a starter than Iwakuma.  His decrease in velocity looks more like a conscious that will be quickly changed in the States.  At worst, I think his current repertoire will play as a below average to average starter.  As a relief pitcher, I think his increased velocity coming in from the left side could make him an incredibly valuable set up or left handed long reliever.  The projection system sees Chen in a negative light.  Over 200 IP, it projects him to strike out 150 while giving up 87 walks and 21 home runs for a 4.42 FIP.  That is five or maybe four slot pitcher in the Majors and could work well for a reliever.  I would be willing to give him a 2 year, 10 MM deal and see where it would lead while starting him out as a starter.  Of course, I would get my scouts to review him first. 

Tsuyoshi Wada (31 years old)
Wada will be entering his age 31 year in 2012 and has just made 4.35 MM for the Softbank Hawks.  He has been rather prolific at striking out batters and reminds me slightly of Koji Uehara in that he is a light tosser that relies on speed change and command to rack up Ks.  Like Uehara, he is also prone to giving up the occasional long ball.  I would not put him in the same caliber as Koji though.  I actually find it surprising if he can muster much more money out of American clubs than Japanese ones.

Wada lives off three pitches: a mid 80s fastball, a 80 mph changeup, and a 80 mph slider.  Based on the pitch f/x data, it looks like he works his fastball between 82 and 88 mph while coming in with a slider occasionally.  His changeup is a pitch he tosses in for good measure against righties.  Otherwise, you only see fastballs that vary widely in speed and his slider.  I imagine to be as successful as he is in Japan, he must utilize a pretty deceptive motion.

It will be difficult for Wada to be successful in the United States as a starter.  With his average velocity of 85 mph, he would have exceeded only four other starting pitchers last year: Livan Hernandez, Jeff Francis, Tim Wakefield, and RA Dickey.  Two of those guys are knuckleball pitchers.  No relievers throwing more than 50 IP would have used a lesser velocity.  However, when Wada has been used in relief he actually averages around 90 mph.  I think he could be a very useful middle reliever for someone.  As a starter, the system projects him over 200 IP with 128 strikeouts while giving up 77 walks and 16 home runs with a 4.55 FIP.

I cannot see Wada making more than five million on this side of the Pacific.  The receiving team would have to be overly optimistic about him being able to start.  I know we were fully behind acquiring Uehara here a few years back, but, even though he was right handed and showed similar speeds, he showed incredible command.  I just do not see that in Wada.  Wada's walk rate is more than twice was Uehara's was in Japan.  I just cannot see giving him more than what he made in Japan.

Conclusion
Compares to what they could earn in Japan, Wei-Yin Chen is the only pitcher who I think shows good value to the Orioles.  He has an outside chance of being a 4/5 slot pitcher working as a 90 mph left hander or he could come out from the bullpen with a little more heat.  His pitch f/x data just looks more like what I expect from MLB quality pitchers.  Iwakuma appears as if his shoulder is a problem.  I have severe reservations spending several million on someone who looks similar to several of our own right handers who were shuttled back and forth between Norfolk and Baltimore.  Wada looks interesting as a reliever, but I just cannot see matching what he makes in Japan in the US.  What works there does not necessarily work here.  It should be noted though that I have not evaluated these pitchers on video.  I have seen Iwakuma and Yada pitch, but have not really focused on them.