14 November 2016

Four Orioles Prospects with the 2016 Tides

Joe Reisel's Archives

During the 2016 season, ten of Baseball America's preseason top 30 Orioles' prospects played at least one game in Norfolk. I was able to see 52 Norfolk games last season, and so my observations and opinions of these prospects might be of interest. This article covers half the prospects; the other half will be covered in a subsequent article.

Chance Sisco, catcher (#4)

Chance Sisco wasn't promoted to Norfolk until after they had played all their home games, so I didn't see him play.

Trey Mancini, first base (#8)

How good is he? Will he have a major-league career? How does he compare to Christian Walker?

Accurately or not, I see at least superficial similarities between Mancini and Christian Walker. Both are right-handed hitting first basemen, drafted in a middle round out of college. Mancini is almost exactly one year younger than Walker. Walker shot to AA in his first full season, but Mancini did not get there until his second full season. Mancini has slightly out-performed Walker at AAA - a .770 OPS vs a .754 OPS.

It's important to remember that Norfolk's Harbor Park is a pitcher's park. It's especially hard on a player like Mancini, a right-handed hitter who's more of a line-drive hitter with a little power, rather than a true slugger. Mancini was also much better at Bowie than he was at Norfolk. Given that, I think his .770 OPS is a reasonable estimate of what he'll do in Baltimore, moving to a better hitting environment. His OBP will probably drop some but his SP will probably increase by about as much. Looking for players who hit about as well as I think Mancini would, the best comp I found was David Freese.

Freese is a better player than we might remember, given that he was a last-minute free agent signing last season. And if Mancini were a third baseman, he'd be a solid regular. But Mancini has only played first base, and he hasn't yet hit well enough to be show that he'd be a championship-quality  first baseman. He can still improve, although probably not dramatically.

I was struck by a couple of things about Mancini, but I'm not sure if my perception is accurate. I thought he was too aggressive in run-producing situations to the extent that I really wasn't expecting him to drive in the runs in key situations. He also struck out more than I expected. I'll be taking a more detailed look at his performance later in the off-season.

Is he good trade bait?

He's a right-handed hitting first baseman who hasn't yet shown himself to be a great hitter. He won't bring much back.

Mike Wright, pitcher (#10)

Can he be a major-league pitcher?

He's been terrible as a starter in the major leagues, and I suspect his chances of being a starter with the Orioles are gone. On the other hand, he's been effective the past two seasons at Norfolk, although last season his strikeout rate deteriorated while his walk rate improved.

Two things about Wright. First, I wonder if he has concentration problems. He generally hasn't pitched well when he's been given early run support. It could be that he lets up too much when he's given a lead. Second, he generally is more effective when he strikes out fewer batters. I suspect that the harder he throws, the more hittable his pitches become because they move less.

This pattern - general ineffectiveness in the major leagues and general effectiveness in the minor leagues - is that of Jake Arrieta. Arrieta had more periods of sustained major-league success than Wright has had, and I am in no way declaring that if Wright got to another team, he'd be another Jake Arrieta. I do think his chances for success will be higher if he gets in another organization.

Dariel Alvarez, right fielder (#13)

Is he a major-league player?

If you took his best offensive numbers out of his two AAA seasons - a .287 batting average, 38 doubles, 16 home runs - that's good enough to play regularly. Unfortunately, (1) he didn't put those numbers in the same season and (2) he doesn't walk, so his on-base percentage is low. And his defense, which was quite good in 2015, deteriorated in 2016, perhaps because he was discouraged. With all that, he probably won't win a major-league job but might get one if all other options fail.

He's a lot like Adonis Garcia of Atlanta - a Cuban expatriate who spent a few years in AAA before falling into a job as the Braves' 2016 third baseman. He didn't play well, but will probably keep his job because the Braves don't have anybody better ready. That's the best case for Alvarez - he gets a job filling a gaping hole on a bad team.

Could he be a bench player?

It's hard to see it. He doesn't hit well enough to be an offensive asset; he probably can't play center field except on an emergency basis. A bench outfielder, especially in the American League, either has to really hit or play center field passably. He'd probably be a little better than Nolan Reimold, if that's what you're hoping for.

Christian Walker, left fielder/first baseman (#14)

How's the conversion to the outfield going?

He's not yet ready to play the outfield in the major leagues.

I'm willing to give Walker a mulligan for much of 2016. His father died suddenly in mid-season; he missed several days to attend services and he obviously was distracted when he came back. He seemed to be improving until his father's death; after he came back, he regressed.

It's obvious that he's never going to be a good outfielder. He's slow, has trouble tracking the ball, and doesn't have a good arm. He does catch what he can get to - he just can't get to enough.

He's been remarkably consistent offensively in his 2+ years at Norfolk. He's a .260/.325/.430 hitter. I thought last year that Billy Butler was a reasonable comp for Walker, and I still think that. Walker probably wouldn't be quite as good a hitter as Butler, but he'd be a better defensive first baseman.

1 comment:

whjoe said...

Sisco I have seen twice in person. 1 DEL 2014 1 at Bowie 2016. 1st observation was he had a better understanding of the strikezone as a batter than the other SA league players on the field that day. Also, swings a little on a downward plane so the bat spends good time in the zone. Produces line drives. While catching, he seemed ok demeanor wise. Pitches appeared called from dugout.
At Bowie, same hitting approach but more refined. But defensively much more confidence in his demeanor while talking to pitchers and framing. Much better you will love having him at Norfolk next year.
Mancini saw him twice at Bowie 2015. Big good looking kid in uniform. Thought my fiancé was going to run off with. Very nice guy.
That bat will carry him. Unlike Walker 2015 call up this guy did not looked overmatched in the short amount of time in MLB last season. On defense he seems a little stiff and don't see him playing anywhere other than first. Oh but that bat.
Wright I believe has to learn to not overthrow when he gets in trouble.