08 November 2012

Who is on First? Orioles 2013 Edition

First base is the final position I will be reviewing for the Orioles to improve themselves.  The other positions I have covered have been second base and left field.  This will not be the first time we have discussed the position.  It likely will not be the last.  The point of this post and the other two are to provide an understanding of what level of performance the Orioles generated from these positions last year and whether internal or eternal options are needed in order to improve the talent on the roster.

Below is a graph that first appeared in the Mark Reynolds piece.  It identifies that the Orioles were not weak at first base, but they did not have first division production from that position.  Improvement is possible here, but it may cost a bit.

There are a few options for 2013 that already exist within the organization.  I tried to be incredibly open minded when looking at this position, so I included some of the catchers and Nolan Reimold.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Wilson Betemit 31 65 133 -15 -0.9 1.7 0.8
Chris Davis 27 112 121 -5 0.4 1.7 2.1
Joe Mahoney 26 84 82 -5 -0.2 -0.6 -0.8
Mark Reynolds 29 100 112 -5 0.2 1.2 1.4
Matt Wieters 27 143 105 -10 1.0 0.4 1.4
Taylor Teagarden 29 73 73 -10 -0.5 -1.5 -2.1
Steve Pearce 30 121 68 -5 0.6 -1.4 -0.8
Brandon Waring 27 107 62 -10 0.2 -2.2 -2.0
Nolan Reimold 29 100 105 -10 0.0 0.4 0.4
In an earlier post, I mentioned that a platoon of Betemit and Davis would work.  It should be noted that Davis all on his lonesome would also project to generate just as much offense as the platoon would generate.  I must say though that I find Davis' projection to be rather remarkable.  I do not believe in him as much as the model projects him.  Wieters would also be a good platoon partner at first, but it is quite doubtful that a sufficient catcher would be found to replace him at catcher.  Russell Martin would be a fit for that idea, but there is no way he would accept a role as a backup catcher, nor should he.

However, I think the take home message again from the above table is that Mark Reynolds' production can be replaced by what the Orioles already have.  Chris Davis, if he truly is the projected player, simply is better than Reynolds.  On the DH role, Betemit could face righties and, perhaps, Steve Pearce could face lefties.  Jeff Keppinger and Jonny Gomes would also be suitable DH platoon partners.  Whatever the solution is, it should be less than the 9MM Reynolds seems likely to earn in arbitration.

What is available for 1B as Free Agents?

Free Agents
LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Lance Berkman 36 93 134 -5 0.0 2.5 2.5
Eric Hinske 35 57 84 0 -0.6 -0.1 -0.8
Travis Ishikawa 29 81 108 10 0.2 2.0 2.2
Jeff Keppinger 33 116 65 0 0.6 -1.3 -0.6
Adam LaRoche 33 99 123 5 0.4 2.6 3.0
Carlos Lee 37 91 88 -5 0.0 -0.2 -0.3
James Loney 29 69 101 5 -0.2 1.3 1.0
Mike Napoli 31 134 111 -5 0.9 1.1 2.0
Nick Swisher 32 132 116 0 1.0 1.8 2.8
Kevin Youkilis 34 118 107 0 0.7 1.2 1.9
As I mentioned before, I am a Keppinger fan and would be very interested in having his bat on the bench or starting against lefties.  Another player I find interesting, one that I think might be available on a split minor league deal, is Travis Ishikawa.  His value is based more on defense, but he is sufficiently able to start against righties.  I am not completely sold on his value, so I would be hesitant to make much of a commitment to him.

Of course, the elite bats here are Berkman, LaRoche, Napoli, Swisher, and Youkilis.  If you are concerned about the Orioles late first round selection in next year's draft, then you may hesitate in signing LaRoche or Swisher as both have qualifying offers on them from their 2012 teams.  Berkman is considering retirement, has a severe platoon bat, and is at an age where abilities can fall apart.  Youkilis is more of a natural fit for 1B, but looks like he is not long for MLB as his injuries are beginning to sap his offense.  Napoli is an interesting player as he is a platoon bat that is strong against left handers.  He may be able to give Wieters a rest at catcher against lefties and rest against some righties with tough plus breaking balls.  Such a move would push Davis to more of a full time DH with some 1B work and Betemit to the bench as a pinch hitter against righties as well as an occasional DH against right handed starters.  Napoli has been a bit of an up and down player, so there may be some concern over committing to him for too many year.

LHP 40g RHP 110g

Age wRC+ wRC+ Defense WAR WAR WAR
Daric Barton 27 94 91 10 0.4 1.0 1.5
Kyle Blanks 26 92 105 -5 0.0 0.8 0.8
Dan Johnson 33 94 93 0 0.2 0.4 0.6
Casey McGehee 30 67 100 -5 -0.5 0.5 -0.1
Gaby Sanchez 29 72 112 5 -0.2 1.9 1.7
I'd like to see both Daric Barton and Kyle Blanks in the system.  Gaby Sanchez looks likely to find himself a role with a MLB team and that simply is not an offer I would make to him.  Barton and Blanks would not earn a 40 man contract from me though.  There are more than enough people in the organization who can eke out play at first.

As I mentioned before, Mark Reynolds simply is not worth 9MM.  If one insists on spending 9MM and assuming Wieters can play some first base, then Mike Napoli would be someone I would target.  Equally acceptable for me would be to have Chris Davis or Davis and Wilson Betemit take on first.


Matt P said...

If you think that the Os should put Davis and/or Betemit at 1B, then I'd curious to know who you have at DH. Is it Nolan Reimold?

Joe K said...

Jon, just saw your article on ESPN---really informative, well analyzed, and interesting to read.

Looking over your content here, I'll definitely be back to learn more (you had me at "ANOVA").

Liam said...

Maybe I'm missing something here but why are Steve Pearce's splits so different depending on his position? 121/69 at first and 93/71 in left?
My first thought when I saw that 121 was wow, he should easily make our team as a platoon player at first base (Betemit) or left field (Riemold or McLouth).

Even if the 93/71 projection is accurate he's certainly got some value as a depth player who will likely get a few AB's, considering his numbers against lefties and versatility. If its 121/69 he should make the club out of spring training.

Jon Shepherd said...

It should be the 121/69 split.

Not sure where the 93/71 split comes from. May be mixed up with someone else. Similar splits to Keppinger, but Keppinger has more of a history. Makes sense that Pearce would be a league minimum guy.