29 January 2013

Weaver on Strategy - Offense (Camden Depot Book Club)

Previously on the Camden Depot Book Club, I remarked on a few items that Weaver addressed in his first chapter of the book, Weaver on Strategy.  That chapter addressed his thoughts on Spring Training and contained a great many more thoughts than those I addressed.  This entry will address the next chapter.

Chapter 2 - The Offense
Praise be the Three Run Homer!

Home Run Offenses
During Weaver's continuous 15 year tenure, his teams were largely built upon scoring runs through home runs.  He was risk averse when it came to putting base runners in difficult positions and he deplored the bunt.  As Weaver wrote:
I've got nothing against the bunt--in its place.  But most of the time that place is the bottom of a long forgotten closet.
He then goes on length about the value of the home run versus the value of a contact hitter:
The power of the home run is so elementary that I fail to comprehend why people try to outsmart this game in other ways.  If I were to play a singles hitter in right field or left field or at third base, he'd have to hit well over .300 and get on base often to be as valuable as a twenty five homer man.
I do think Weaver overstates things here in him selling how great home runs are.  For one, offensive profiles for corner outfield and third base bats are not exactly equivalent.  Ignoring that, the statement is pretty profound in noting that he is equating a plus power hitter with a guy who not only makes successful contact, but also gets on via walks.

He then takes a little swipe at the industry perception of Charlie Lau:
As a hitting coach, Charlie Lau is known for producing .300 hitters, and he has turned out a lot of them.  But when Charlie was with a team that hit a lot of homers, they won.  When he was with a singles hitting club, they lost.
Suffice to say, Weaver was not a Juan Pierre kind of guy.  Lau is actually a pretty interesting guy.  He was a massive failure of a hitter (a below .200 hitter with no power), but bounced around due to his catching.  Upon being dealt to Baltimore in 1961, he completely re-engineered his batting stance.  He exaggerated the spread between his feet and lowered his bat in order to make more contact.  When he found was that with a higher contact rate, he hit more singles and would sometimes find himself in hitters' counts to exploit.  After he retired in 1967, he moved over to the Royals and made his name through George Brett and the Royals' athlete first movement by working on having their players focus on contact.  I imagine Weaver's comments are primarily directed to the 1977 and 1980 Royals' squads who won 102 and 97 games, respectively, with a good number of home runs to boot.

However, Weaver's words made me want to see how those words compared to the reality of the team that Baltimore constructed during his tenure.  To do that, for each year I determined the average percent of runs scored via home run.  Then I compared Baltimore's percentage to the league average.  What I wound up with was a number similar to OPS+.  For instance, a 124 value would mean that the team scored 24% more of its runs via home runs than the average team.  A 94 value would mean that the team scored 6% less via home runs than the average team.  A 100 value would be league average if the above inference was not clear.



As you can see above, only two of Weaver's 15 squads were below average in terms of how important home runs were to the team scoring runs.  It is also interesting to note that Memorial Stadium during these years tended to lean toward benefiting pitchers by being a slightly difficult place to hit a home run.  That is pretty remarkable.

Although Buck Showalter only has a shade over two years as Orioles manager under his belt, his offenses have also reflected the same tendencies as Weaver's.  In 2011, the Orioles ranked second in the AL by scoring 42% of their runs through the long ball.  Last year, that number increased to 47%.  We will see how much the Orioles will miss Mark Reynolds' power production as he has contributed 15% of the Orioles' home runs over the past two seasons (60 out of 405).

Weaver As Innovator
I mentioned velocity in the last post on Weaver on Strategy.  In that post, I noted how there was expressed wonder and amazement at Sammy Stewart throwing a 92 mile per hour fastball.  Nowadays, that sort of amazement would go for someone who throws in the upper 90s.  Heat at 92 these days needs to be well commanded with a solid secondary pitch to be of great use in the pen.  In this chapter, Weaver goes a bit more into radar guns and velocity:
The Orioles were the first team in the majors to makes extensive use of the radar gun, and I love it. It's another tool that gives a manager information.  It took me six years to convince the front office that we should have the guns in our minor league system.
Yes, Weaver was a great innovator always looking to improve himself, to improve his understanding of the game.  This really is the main idea behind Weaver and his success.  Never resting, always striving.  I think the current manager who really puts this sort of perspective out there is Joe Maddon with the Tampa Bay Rays.  I am sure other managers embrace advancement as well, but Maddon celebrates it quite vocally just like Weaver did.

Velocity
In his discussion on using radar guns, he mentioned using one on his own pitchers:
When a pitcher is throwing at 88 miles per hour most of the game and then goes to the mound in the eighth inning and is at 84 miles per hour, it is a good bet he is tiring.
What, again, impresses upon me here is that my assumption of 88 miles per hour being used as an example is that this is considered typical velocity.  In 2012, 90 pitchers qualified for ERA.  Of those 90, only 14 (16%) threw an average velocity below 88.5 mph.  That includes knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  Again, this only shows that the game has changed a great deal from the 1970s.

-----

Next time on the Camden Depot Book Club:
Weaver on Strategy
Chapter 3
The Lineup: Pushing the Right Buttons

28 January 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic: Australia

This is the first in a series to introduce everyone to teams participating in 2013's World Baseball Classic.  As this series progress, you will find all of the articles under this key world: 2013 World Baseball Classic.

The body of the Australia article was written by Stuart Wallace.



Australia
IBAF Ranking (out of 74) 10th
2013 Pool South Korea

Netherlands

Chinese Taipei
2013 Players of Note Peter Moylan R

Ryan Rowland-Smith L

Allan de San Miguel, C

Mitch Dening, OF

Chris Snelling, OF


2009 Record 1 - 2, Qualifier Round

17 - 7, Mexico

4 - 5, Cuba

1 - 16, Mexico
2006 Record 0 - 3, Preliminary Round

0 - 10, Italy

0 - 2, Venezuela

4 - 6, Dominican Rep.




While it doesn’t enjoy the popularity that Australian rules football or cricket enjoy amongst the populace, baseball in Australia nonetheless has a long and storied history at both the national and international levels of competition. Commonly believed to have been brought to the continent during the 1850’s Victoria gold rush by American miners, the first reports of organized baseball games and scores came from Ballarat, Victoria in 1857. It wasn’t until 1878 that competitive games were played by teams comprised solely of Australians, when the Surry Baseball Club faced the New South Wales Cricket Association at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 1897 saw the first international excursion by an Australian baseball squad, when a team comprised of players from the states of South Australia and Victoria toured the United States, playing 22 games, compiling a 8-14 record in the process. Since these early beginnings, Australia has slowly grown into a leading baseball nation, not only in the form of their national team, but also in the form of the 6 team Australian Baseball League, a jointly funded endeavor between Major League Baseball, the Australian Baseball Federation, and the Australian Federal Government.

With respect to their international presence, Australia has enjoyed a modicum of success, culminating with a silver medal showing in the 2004 Athens Olympics; they currently find themselves 10th in the International Baseball Federation rankings. However, their showings in previous World Baseball Classics have left much to be desired, as both have seen them knocked out in the first round, their only WBC victory coming in 2009, against Mexico. Overall, Australia has a 1-5 record in WBC competition.

While the 2013 WBC squad won’t have the star power of Grant Balfour or Travis Blackley due to their contractual obligations with the Oakland Athletics, their roster does boast an impressive amount of talent. Of the 28 players on the provisional roster, 15 are currently under contract with a MLB team; of the remaining 13 players, all have had previous playing experience in the minor leagues. Overall, the talent the Australian roster boasts pitching heavy, and is where most of the familiar faces to Americans, such as Peter Moylan and Ryan Rowland-Smith, will be found. Offense will be supplied by the likes of former MLBers Luke Hughes and Chris Snelling, current minor leaguer Mike Walker, and ABL star Mitch Dening, whose .347 batting average and .936 OPS rank second and sixth in the ABL, respectively. 

With the pitching depth and talent comes most of the team age, with the average age of the pitching staff being 28; the average age of position players is 25.4. While this WBC will more than likely be the last hurrah for the likes of players like Moylan, Rowland-Smith, and Chris Oxspring, the focus for the 2013 squad will be offense - the more the better. Outside of a 17 run outburst against Mexico in their only WBC victory, Australia scored a total of 5 runs in their 2009 WBC showing, proving that their success will be closely tied to how many runs they will be able to score, thereby lessening the burden on the pitching staff to keep the team in games. With the roster being so young offensively, with a minimal of international experience under their belts, this might be a tough order to fill for the young bats of Oz.

For 2013, Australia is posed with a tough path to victory, one that will be heavily reliant upon a young offence to play beyond their years, and a veteran pitching staff to turn back the clock. For the future, 2013 shapes up to be a watershed year in some respects. While the end results might not show much in terms of wins and losses, it will be the education of the youngsters, and the experience they gain that will help write the next chapters of Australian baseball. Also crucial to the future success of Australian baseball will be the continued evolution of the MLB Australian Academy Program. Started in 2001, the MLBAAP is sponsored by the MLB, and the Australian Baseball Federation, and is set up to develop the quality baseball players of the Oceania region, and has recently begun to consistently shown themselves to be top notch international foes, with a significant amount of MLB caliber talent. Of the 73 Australians that were signed to MLB or other professional league teams in 2011, 57 were MLBAAP graduates. With the continued development of the MLBAAP, and continued success of Australian baseball on an international stage, these numbers will only continue to grow, as baseball evolves into a truly global sport. 

For 2013, Australia is in place to maintain their stronghold at the bottom of the top 10 IABF rankings, regardless of their showings in the WBC. However, with the evolution of their young hitters during WBC play, and the further development and nurturing of Oceania baseball talent, this could very well be the last year of double digit IABF rankings for this sleeping baseball giant.

Hall of Fame Debate for the Birds

To borrow a page from David Schoenfield:

Player A:  18 years 254 Wins 3.90 ERA 175 CG 2478 K 1.29 WHIP 105 ERA+
Player B:  23 years 245 Wins 3.70 ERA 122 CG 2149 K 1.26 WHIP 106 ERA+

Pretty close right? In the never-ending hall of fame debate that has been raging over this slow point in the offseason, people have fought over PED allegations and whether writers should be the ones to determine the HOF. This is more of a strict baseball debate.

Player A had a nice long career that included 5 all-star selections, 5 top-5 Cy Young Award finishes, and 3 world series titles. Player B had an even longer career which places him just outside the all time MLB top 10 for seasons played, has 4 all-star nominations, and two seasons top-5 in Cy Young Award voting, although he was winless in 2 world series attempts. The real question is, are either of these players worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Player A is Jack Morris, the pitcher debated up and down every direction this offseason, and someone that missed the cutoff in his 14th year of eligibility with a 67.7% total. Player B is former Oriole great Dennis Martinez, who was on the HOF ballot all of one year, and gone from discussion. Joe Posnanski wrote a great article back in 2009 that I found when I was about 75% done with this piece taking a look at some of the greatest players to go one and done on the ballot, inspired by Martinez back in 2004. In his piece he also compared Morris and Martinez, as well as looking at a long list of great players that never got a 2nd year on the ballot including, Lou Whitaker, Dwight Gooden, Joe Carter, Fernando Valenzuela, and Mark Belanger.

Both players, given their career stat lines are more in line with a middle of the rotation innings eater, although each had great periods during their careers, overall they were more of the epitome of durable veterans to eat innings on good teams. To give these kinds of numbers some modern day spin, another guy up for the ballot next year in Mike Mussina (270 Wins 3.68 ERA 57 CG 2813 K 1.192 WHIP 123 ERA+) has numbers a bit better than this duo, but still close enough to raise debate. If Martinez wasn't good enough for a 2nd ballot, and Morris missed out again in his 14th, where does that put Mussina on the scale? If guys like Kenny Lofton can't get a 2nd turn on the ballot, how does that stack up for next year when an impeccable class of so many new names become eligible. Will more great players miss the cut, and what about the guys with the dreaded PED chatter? Will they finally get in after serving time for a couple years, and do those votes knock of some guys like Mussina if too many become eligible at the same time? The question on everyone's mind after a year with no one selected, is the Hall of Fame procedure broken or just need some updating?

27 January 2013

Sunday Comics: Oh, Look, Duquette Did Something

So we signed Jair Jurrjens. More than anything, I like his name.

At least Dan Duquette made a move, so we know he's not dead or anything.


26 January 2013

Major League Retreads in the International League -- A Comparison

Among the stories of the 2012 Orioles were the returns of outfielders Lew Ford and Nate McLouth from baseball oblivion. Having been declared washed up by most, if not all teams, Orioles GM Dan Duquette took low-risk gambles in signing them to midseason minor-league contracts. After performing well at Norfolk, they were promoted to Baltimore where they made contributions to the team's playoff run. Duquette received a lot of credit for finding Ford and McLouth. Less known is that Duquette took several other low-risk gambles that didn't pay off, at least in that the players didn't contribute much to the 2012 Orioles. So the question is — was Duquette lucky or exceptionally talented, at least in comparison to the other GMs? This article will look at the other teams with International League franchises to compare the Orioles and those other teams in their use of last-chance talent.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I've been skeptical of Dan Duquette as a GM since I saw him quoted as saying that one of the hardest things to find, always, is a backup catcher. Also, although I don't believe I've ever formally met him, I have been working in the Norfolk press box when Dan Duquette was visiting the Tides general manager and have overheard their conversations. There's a certain amount of subjectivity in a big-picture overview like this; and while I hope my biases don't affect my conclusions, they might and you should be aware of them.

For this article, I'm going to focus on players most generically like Ford and McLouth — once-successful major-league players who were signed as free agents after spring training. The term "successful" is somewhat nebulous. However, if I tried to come up with some arbitrary definition, there would almost certainly be a borderline candidate on one side or the other of the line. All of the players identified were either long-term major-leaguers or had been a regular player for at least one full season. Limiting the players to those signed after spring training eliminates players who may have been free agents waiting for the right offer, and ensures that all the players had been truly given up on.

Below are all the retread major league players, based on the above definition, on International League teams in 2012. Players who made a significant contribution to the big-league team are in bold.

Buffalo (New York Mets)—C.J. Nitkowski
Charlotte (Chicago White Sox—Conor Jackson, Jose Lopez, Dewayne Wise
Columbus (Cleveland)—J.C. Romero
Durham (Tampa Bay)—Hideki Matsui
Gwinnett (Atlanta)—Miguel Batista, Lyle Overbay
Indianapolis (Pittsburgh)—None
Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia)—Mike Fontenot, Jake Fox
Louisville (Cincinnati)—Joey Gathright, Will Ohman
Norfolk (Baltimore)—Lew Ford, Bill Hall, Nate McLouth, Jamie Moyer, Joel Pineiro, J.C. Romero, Miguel Tejada
Pawtucket (Boston)—Nelson Figueroa, Scott Podsednik, Mark Prior
Rochester (Minnesota)—None
Scranton / Wilkes-Barre (New York Yankees)—Jason Bulger, Kosuke Fukudome, John Maine, Ramon Ortiz
Syracuse (Washington)—Koyie Hill, Mike Gonzalez, Mike MacDougal
Toledo (Detroit)—None

Teams with affiliates in the International League took chances on 29 established major-leaguers who were available free agents during the 2012 season. Four, or just about 14%, or nearly 1 in 7, proved to be of at least marginal value to the parent club. Since most of these players were signed to minor-league contracts, there is little risk in signing these players, so even a 1-in-7 chance of getting a useful player out of it might seem worthwhile.

The 2012 Orioles signed seven of these players during the season, as many as were signed by any two other teams combined. That should not come as a surprise. The Orioles' farm system did not really have a lot of major-league ready players in the higher levels. Several of the players they did have had failed in previous chances. When holes opened up at second base, left field, and in the starting rotation, there weren't obvious solutions at Norfolk and it made sense for them to take chances.

And of the four such players who made contributions to the major-league team, the Orioles signed two of them. That's nearly twice the "success" rate of the entire set of teams. There are several possible reasons for this:
  • Luck. Dan Duquette and the Orioles just stumbled upon the right players.
  • Skill: Dan Duquette and his staff spotted and signed the players who had the best chance of helping.
  • Safety in Numbers: By signing as many as they did, they increased their chances of finding players who could help not merely in total but as a percentage.
  • Opportunity: The Orioles gave more of their retreads a major-league chance, and so more of them had a real opportunity to contribute.
  • Bias: I either considered too many or too few players, or identifed too many or too few as contributors.
All of these reasons can be examined more closely, and that's a task for another researcher and/or another day. To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, the Orioles did gamble on more last-chance players than other teams, and they were more successful with them.

25 January 2013

The Orioles are Going Indy: American Association

Players wind up in Independent baseball for a variety of reasons.  A player may have been a top performer in a mid to low level college program or from AA or below.  Another route is that the player was injured throughout college and was never able to show enough on the field or in tryouts to convince a MLB team to take a chance on him.  Or maybe a team actually drafted the player, but for a variety of reasons gave up on him.  Many quit when the above happens, but some have a passion that still burns bright enough to endure pay that is equivalent to about a dollar per hour at the park that leaves some players sleeping in cars or sharing the clubhouse floor.  It is a difficult life.  Still, some, like George Sherrill, make it to the Majors and that fuels the self-determination of many.

Each year, Baseball America ranks the top 20 prospects from Independent leagues.  These names are some of the few who have turned heads with their performance.  Typically, this list is populated with athletic positions players and pitchers who have one fringe plus pitch.  With that in mind, you are generally looking at players whose ceiling is a fourth outfielder or a relief pitchers.  Guys like Daniel Nava, the aforementioned George Sherrill, or Brandon Sisk should come to mind.  In other words, Independent leagues have the potential to pipeline talent to the Majors, but that pipeline provides product that has a relatively low ceiling and few on Baseball America's rankings ever make a significant contribution to a big league club. 

Below is the top 10 of Baseball America's list with the MLB teams that signed this this past off season.
  1. Kevin Gelinas, LHP, Amarillo (NA) - Miami Marlins
  2. Chris Cox, RHP, Quebec (Can-Am) - Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Jonathan Kountis, RHP, Lake Erie (Frontier) - Unsigned*
  4. A.J. Nunziato, SS, Washington (Frontier) - Unsigned*
  5. Alfonso Yevoli, LHP, Washington (Frontier) - Atlanta Braves
  6. Jason Martin, OF, Abilene (Frontier) - Unsigned*
  7. Buddy Sosnoskie, OF, Fargo-Moorhead (A-A) - Baltimore Orioles
  8. Robert Coe, RHP, St. Paul (A-A) - Arizona Diamondbacks
  9. James Hoyt, RHP, (A-A / NA) - Atlanta Braves
  10. Brandon Sinnery, RHP, (Can-Am / A-A) - Unsigned*
* - I was unable to find any information on these players being picked up by any MLB affiliated clubs.  However, this information is not always readily reported.
Based on the listing above as well as transaction reports, it appears that the three most active teams in the Independent league market have been the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, and the Baltimore Orioles.  I am unsure about the Diamondbacks and the Braves, but this is a new occurrence for the Baltimore Orioles.  They had typically ignored Indy ball outside of the Lancaster Barnstormers where the organization has had a great number of former personnel employed over the years.

Based on my count, the Orioles have signed ten players who spent the past season in the Independent Leagues:

American Association
P Marcel Prado, El Paso
P Chase Johnson, Amarillo
P David Quinowski, Lincoln
P Kyle Mertins, Sioux Falls
OF Buddy Sosnoskie, Fargo-Moorhead

Frontier League
P Logan Mahon, Gateway
P Mike Recchia, Windy City
SS Chris Wade, Windy City
C Jim Vahalik, Washington Wild Things

Pecos League
P Luis Pardo, Trinidad Triggers

This article is the first of two.  This one will focus on players signed from the American Association while the second will include those from the Frontier League and the Pecos League.

The American Association came together in 2005 with teams from the Northern League and Central League joining together.  The vast majority of players in this league range from 26 to 30 years in age.  Players coming from this league to the minors will often be younger than majority of players here and be players who at worst are above average.  For pitchers, the typical pitcher making a move is someone who has a high strikeout rate.  For position players, the typical player making a move will be athletic, playing a premium defensive position, as well as showing good contact and, at worst, good gap power.

More detail of the Oriole signees:

Marcel Prado RHRP
25 years old

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS IP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2006 18 Dodgers DOSL FRk LAD 0 4 8.85 12 4 20.1 11.1 0.4 10.2 8.4
2007 19 Dodgers DOSL FRk LAD 1 0 1.24 13 4 36.1 5.7 0.0 5.7 10.2
2008 20 Ogden PION Rk LAD 1 1 4.86 21 0 37.0 9.5 0.2 6.1 9.7
2009 21 Inland Empire CALL A+ LAD 2 2 4.06 41 0 44.1 9.7 0.4 5.7 4.1
2010 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs Ind 0 3 10.80 9 1 10.0 12.6 1.8 7.2 4.5
2010 22 Yuma GOBL Ind 0 1 3.60 5 0 5.0 7.2 3.6 1.8 1.8
2010 22 Rio Grande Valley UNLB Ind 0 2 18.00 4 1 5.0 18.0 0.0 12.6 7.2
2012 24 El Paso AA Ind 2 3 3.38 44 0 50.2 8.5 0.2 3.6 7.6
6 Seasons


6 13 4.35 140 9 198.2 8.9 0.3 5.8 7.6
Ind (2 seasons)
Ind
2 6 4.60 53 1 60.2 9.2 0.4 4.2 7.1
FRk (2 seasons)
FRk
1 4 3.97 25 8 56.2 7.6 0.2 7.3 9.5
Rk (1 season)
Rk
1 1 4.86 21 0 37.0 9.5 0.2 6.1 9.7
A+ (1 season)
A+
2 2 4.06 41 0 44.1 9.7 0.4 5.7 4.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2013.

It is often difficult to find information about low level international signings as well as guys who have spent significant time in the independent leagues.  His past history suggests a pitcher with some swing and miss pitches at low levels, but poor control/command over his career.  The American Association is a pretty tough league for younger players, so Prado doing well in relief as a 24 year old suggests at the very least he should provide as decent filler in a pen.  I would think he would be targeted for Frederick or Delmarva, whichever team needs more depth.

Chase Johnson RHRP
25 years old

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLERAGGSIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9
200921PhilliesGULFRkPHI013.9415029.28.50.63.610.6
201022WilliamsportNYPLA-PHI122.7926029.06.80.65.09.9
201123LakewoodSALLAPHI464.3138071.09.30.43.48.1
201224AmarilloAAInd553.6644046.28.30.64.28.9
4 Seasons


10143.831230176.18.50.53.99.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2013.

Like Prado, Johnson spent his age 24 season in the American Association and performed well.  I am unsure as to why the Phillies released Johnson last spring as it is quite obvious that he was not injured and potentially could have been good depth in their system.  They drafted him in the 21st round out of South Mountain CC in 2009.  Johnson flashed a fastball that was in the low 90s and was seen as a relief arm.  Johnson is more accomplished than Prado, but also has shown some wildness.

David Quinowski LHRP
27 year old

YearAgeTmLgLevAffWLERAGGSIPH/9HR/9BB/9SO/9
200519Salem-KeizerNORWA-SFG213.2119014.07.70.69.012.2
200620AugustaSALLASFG421.4344075.14.30.12.99.1
200721San JoseCALLA+SFG123.2721033.05.20.34.49.5
200923Salem-KeizerNORWA-SFG211.7722040.26.60.44.011.7
201024San JoseCALLA+SFG322.3228042.27.40.42.710.8
201024RichmondELAASFG202.8412012.27.10.73.69.9
201125RichmondELAASFG433.6440154.18.10.73.16.5
201226SomersetATLLInd006.1011010.19.63.53.55.2
201226Lincoln, GaryAAInd323.8632030.16.80.03.99.8
7 Seasons


21132.702291313.16.50.53.69.4
Ind (1 season)
Ind
324.4343040.27.50.93.88.6
AA (2 seasons)
AA
633.4952167.07.90.73.27.1
A- (2 seasons)
A-
422.1441054.26.90.55.311.9
A+ (2 seasons)
A+
442.7449075.26.40.43.410.2
A (1 season)
A
421.4344075.14.30.12.99.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2013.

Back when Qunowski was in the Giants organization, his success was in large part due to his deceptive delivery rather than his mid 80s fastball.  Although he did quite well in the American Association, there is certainly some concern that as the level increases that the pitching style simply will no longer work.  That said, he has shown some competence at the AA level, so he should be able to strengthen Bowie's pen or perhaps even Norfolk.

Kyle Mertins RHRP
25 years old

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA G GS IP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2010 22 Danville APPY Rk ATL 0 1 3.86 7 0 11.2 5.4 0.0 3.9 3.9
2010 22 Braves GULF Rk ATL 0 0 3.00 4 0 6.0 6.0 0.0 1.5 7.5
2010 22 Rome SALL A ATL 0 2 4.82 9 0 18.2 9.6 1.4 2.9 7.7
2011 23 Rome SALL A ATL 1 3 2.25 22 0 28.0 9.3 0.0 2.9 6.4
2012 24 Sioux Falls AA Ind 4 1 1.00 45 0 54.0 6.0 0.2 2.3 9.0
3 Seasons


5 7 2.28 87 0 118.1 7.3 0.3 2.7 7.6
A (2 seasons)
A
1 5 3.28 31 0 46.2 9.4 0.6 2.9 6.9
Rk (1 season)
Rk
0 1 3.57 11 0 17.2 5.6 0.0 3.1 5.1
Ind (1 season)
Ind
4 1 1.00 45 0 54.0 6.0 0.2 2.3 9.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2013.

Mertins was rated as Baseball America's 19th best independent league prospect.  Although that is something none of the other acquired arms above can claim, that praise is somewhat faint.  That main difference I can detect in old scouting reports and the numbers is that Mertins can match his average stuff with control.  Mertins when he was with the Braves was a classic 4 seam fastball and slider pitcher who did well in the low minors, but will need to be diligent in keeping the ball lower in the zone as he progresses.  Braves are often noted as a team that only gives up on prospects who will not become Major Leaguers though I think that praise is more of a forced narrative than reality.  That said, Mertins is probably low minors depth.

Buddy Sosnoskie OF
24 years old

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA AB 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 23 Fargo-Moorhead AA Ind 53 200 192 18 2 2 9 2 5 24 .339 .357 .484 .841
1 Season

53 200 192 18 2 2 9 2 5 24 .339 .357 .484 .841
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2013.

Sosnoskie is perhaps the only one from the Orioles incoming independent league players to be considered having a decent ceiling.  Sosnoskie originally played for the Hokies.  He red shirted as a freshman with shoulder surgery, played little his freshman year in 2009, and then made enough noise in 2010 to be drafted by the Royals in the 25th round.  He decided to reject the Royals offers and then asked Virginia Tech to let him out of his obligation to permit him to transfer to DII school Francis Marion.  He had mentioned at the time that he wanted to go to a program that treated the team more similarly to professional teams.  A program that emphasized playing baseball instead of running drills.  In 2011, he showed solid gap power and above average defense, but no one drafted him.  The same happened in 2012, so he went to Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association where he once again showed good gap power and above average defense.  He does not really do anything exceptional and his lack of walks is a concern, but he did very well as a first year player playing against guys many years old and more experienced than he is.  I would expect him to sit in extended Spring Training if the transition is more difficult than expected.  Otherwise, it would not be a surprise to see him in the outfield mix out in Delmarva.