21 September 2015

Contributions From The Orioles' Non-Prospects

Game Day Employee - The [Norfolk] Tides' offense has just been terrible for the last three weeks. What's gone wrong?

Me: Their offense was never their strength to begin with, and Harbor Park depresses their offense. The real problem, though, is that when Parmelee got hurt, and Reimold, Urrutia, and Alvarez got promoted, there wasn't a good player to promote. That's partly because the Orioles have a terrible farm system, so there isn't any depth to promote from.

Press Box Visitor - How can the Orioles have a terrible farm system when their AAA and AA teams are leading their divisions and going to make the playoffs?

Tides Staffer, diplomatically - Well, I wouldn't say the farm system is terrible - the Orioles promote lots of players to help the big league team. Yeah, it is short in prospects, but it is functioning.

That is a paraphrase of a conversation that occurred in the press box before the last 2015 Norfolk Tides' home game. The Tides, who at one point had a six-and-a-half game lead in their division, staggered into the International League playoffs by losing 13 of their last 19 games. In this article, I do not intend to review the Tides' season, or to evaluate the Orioles farm system. Rather, I will explore the possibility that the Orioles' farm system is underrated because, while it may lack star-quality prospects, it's doing the job the Orioles need - providing players to fill holes on the major-league roster.

Commentators on and evaluators of minor-league organizations have emphasized the role of developing young talent into major-league stars. They rate farm systems by the amount and quality of its potential "impact players". In my opinion, these evaluations overemphasize young "lottery tickets" in the low minor league and under-emphasize higher-floor, lower-ceiling players - but that's another article. But a minor-league organization does have another role - to provide immediate help to the major-league team when needed. A seventeen-year-old in the Dominican Summer League may eventually become a Hall-of-Fame-quality player, but if your team needs a left fielder right now, that DSL rookie won't help.

The Orioles' farm system in 2015, and for the past few years, has primarily focused on having players available to fill immediate major-league needs. They have signed many 25-to-29-year old minor league free agents, many with major league experience, to free-agent contracts and assigned them to AAA Norfolk and AA Bowie, with the idea that they will be promoted to Baltimore if they play well and if the Orioles need them. The Tides' and Baysox' 2015 success is due, in large part, because the Orioles signed many of the best minor-league free agents. The Orioles called upon some of these minor league veterans to fill in when needed because an existing major-leaguer was tired, injured, or ineffective. If these veterans did the job, then it could be argued that the Orioles' minor-league system has been underrated. So, how much did the 2015 Orioles get from the players in their minor-league system whom the experts did not include when making their evaluations?

I will look at the 2015 Orioles to identify the players who (1) were on an Orioles' minor-league team at the start of 2015; (2) were promoted to the major-league team during the season; and (3) were not listed on the depth chart of prospects in the Baseball America 2015 Prospect Handbook. I believe that players not even listed on the organizational depth chart are not considered when BA evaluates farm systems. It is these players whose contributions were not, and possibly should have been, included in farm system evaluations.

The tables below include the position players (top) and pitchers (bottom) who meet the above qualifications. The data is through September 20:

Nolan Reimold
Chris Parmelee
Steve Clevenger
Rey Navarro
Paul Janish

Chaz Roe
Oliver Drake
12 2/3
Steve Johnson
Cesar Cabral

The Orioles have gotten quite a bit out of the non-prospects in their system. Nolan Reimold has played about as much in left field as any other 2015 Oriole, and at least offensively has been the best of the bunch. (Other than Reimold and Chris Davis, the best OPS+ of anyone who has played corner outfield for even one inning for the 2015 Orioles is 90.) Steve Clevenger has been a productive bat as a third catcher and part-time DH. Chaz Roe has pitched very well in middle relief. Oliver Drake has pitched a few effective innings. There's at least a prima facie case that the Orioles farm system was better than the experts thought, because there were productive players not accounted for.
To determine whether or not the Orioles' farm system should be rated more highly relative to other teams because of Reimold, Roe, and Clevenger, we'd have to identify contributions to other teams by"non-prospects". We can say that, given that the Orioles didn't have a lot of young prospects to provide immediate help, they adapted and used their farm system efficiently. And it's possible that immediately-useful players like Chaz Roe and Nolan Reimold make their farm system better than rated by the evaluators.

But we also have to be reasonable. While Reimold and Roe have been useful to the 2015 Orioles, they're not likely to become key, long-term contributors. It's unlikely that the contributions of Reimold and Roe, when added to the Orioles' traditional prospects, will drastically change how we look at their system.


Anonymous said...

It is doing the job of finding AAAA fill ins for the big league club, but it is not doing its job in developing playoff quality starters. In other words, it complements the big league team well, but does next to nothing for the future.

Anonymous said...

Don't be surprised to see a similar accumulation of potentially useful, but not standout, players at Norfolk next year.
Pitchers: Gunkel, Lee, Miranda, Kline?, Bridwell? Hess?, Richard Rodriguez, Jason Stoffel
Position: Mancini, Corban Joseph, Lattimore, Yaz, Sisco?

Don't get me wrong, guys like Joseph, Lattimore, and Yaz have no prospect value. They do, however, have the potential to add half a win or so in select roles if used correctly (though that is fairly optimistic).
However, Mancini and Sisco are both guys who could make more legitimate contributions. Have heard Sisco compared to Markakis and Panik, who are both very useful players. They should move Sisco from catcher already, Joseph/Clevenger can provide at least league average production for the foreseeable future. Mancini is a big wildcard for me. I still see his hit tools as underrated, MLB.com has him at 50-40 (hit-power), I have him at 55-55. He could be a useful piece, especially if he can improve his BB:K ratio.

Pitching wise, I think we will be in an even better spot than this year. Wright should definitely be in the major league bullpen, IMO, I think they could get 1.5-2.5 wins out of him there. Wilson is a sixth starter on a competitive club IMO, unless he gets his fastball back into the 92-94 range it apparently was in spring training. Then he should bump Gonzalez.
A rotation of Gunkel (24), Lee (23), Miranda (27), Bridwell (24), and Kline(24)/Hess(22) is about as good (top to bottom) of a AAA rotation as you'll see
Gunkel is similar to Wilson with probably better velocity potential, Lee is legitimately a 3/4 starter prospect (Baseball prospectus put up a pretty favorable scouting report for him), Miranda is either a 4/5 starter or a bullpen lefty (depends on if his changeup comes around). I've heard he has something like a 55-60 FB and 55-60 split. Bridwell has the highest upside of the lot. He's a guy who I really hope steps up. Huge wildcard though. I hope they stick Kline in the bullpen and give Hess a shot at Norfolk. He'll probably go to Bowie, but he really stepped up against legit prospects like Nick Williams and JP Crawford in the playoffs. I think he could hold his own at AAA.
Anyway, I think the Norfolk team will be similarly competitive next year. The bullpen will be a similar collection of arms that can probably dominate AAA. Rodriguez, Stoffel, and Kline would provide nice depth like Brach, Roe, etc once did.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, I think the potential Delmarva team for next year is pretty prospect-laden and people are already assuming it will be barren. This team will be one of the most exciting parts of the 2016 season for me and right now I'm calling that at least two of the guys on this team will crack top 100 prospect lists by the end of the season.
Bucks been talking up impressive GCL and A- guys who should make the jump to full season ball next year
Starting Pitchers: Leyva (21), Scott (21), Fenter (20), Seabrooke (20), Alvarado (21), Gonzalez (20)
Baseball Prospectus considers Leyva a likely future closer with an 80 fastball and future 60 CB. He isn't on any prospect lists though. Scott looks like a future LH su man with a fastball that scrapes 100 from the left. Fenter is the best pitching prospect with above average stuff across the board. Seabrooke is young and raw but gets groundball. Alvarado is a little like Zach Davies with the command, higher velo possible for fb. Gonzalez is basically a project who throws hard and sometimes shows good stuff but struggled a ton this year. Basically, the common denominator is they are all young-ish and have upside. This was absolutely not the case this year. Also, three lefties in there is nice. Cleavinger and Meisinger are interesting relief prospects to keep an eye on.
Position players: Rifaela, Stewart, Mountcastle, Heinrich, McKenna, Mullins, Heim
I am not a DJ Stewart fan. Still, I hope he can make the adjustments and bounce back. This year was brutal. Anyway, the rest of these guys are young and interesting. Heinrich and Mountcastle most of all.
The whole point is that the Orioles have a whole slew of 20-21 year olds who will be giving Delmarva a crack next year. Most of those players have interesting upside and a level of breakout potential.
Mountcastle, Fenter, and Leyva would be my top breakout picks. Soooooo much better than the prospect wasteland (with Jomar Reyes as a shining beacon of light in the darkness) that was this year's Delmarva team. Ugh, awful.

Jon Shepherd said...

Just a note...I write for BP and know the guy who wrote up the Leyva report quite well. He does not think that. He thinks Leyva is very interesting as relief pitchers go and has a ceiling of a future closer (which is different from the term likely). He needs to develop his approach and follow up viewings of him saw Leyva having lost several mph off his fastball and was far less interesting. Based on folks working in the industry, it seems consensus is essentially a LOOGY. If the fastball can play, then his stick rises.

If we stick to BP evaluations of Aberdeen, our view of Delmarva next year would be one of low expectations. It might be a similar year to the one you suffered through this year. Maybe more promising guys were in the GCL and will be able to better round out Delmarva.

Unknown said...

Regarding the possible 2016 promotions from Bowie to Norfolk, at least four of the players you mention - Rodriguez, Stoffel, Latimore, and Joseph - will be minor-league free agents. I suppose Corban Joseph might stick around because his brother's in the organization, but I can't see the others staying unless no one else wants them. (Bridwell would also become a free agent, but there's a reasonable chance the O's will add him to the 40-man during the offseason.)

And while there's a lot of (justifiable) excitement about Trey Mancini, remember that Christian Walker had essentially the same 2014 as Manicini's 2015. He still has a lot to prove, at least to me.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Jon Shepherd said...

Bidwell will be an interesting case because he is a bit aways still from contributing, but there are a couple teams that really like him.