30 January 2012

In what cities could MLB expand?

Previously, I touted the New York metro area and Connecticut as expansion areas.  Those arguments relied on a few difficult to foresee events: (1) the New York and Boston teams agreeing with new encroachment, (2) a multi-stadium home format would work until a real stadium could be built, and (3) proper infrastructure exists to support a new stadium.  The main problem with that idea was that there is not an overwhleming demand of locals to bring more baseball into those areas.  That means that no one could mount enough of a cause to get ballot measures passed to appropriate money to build a stadium.  Even if private funds were put in place, public funds would need to be tapped to put improvements on infrastructure to get people in and out of games.  Infrastructure is the main issue that is killing the Rays down in Tampa.  It is just so difficult to get to their stadium if you live in Tampa.  Connecticut and upper New Jersey have similar issues.

If those funds could not be put in place then MLB would wind up having teams that floated around the existing baseball stadiums as well as barnstorming AAA and AA stadiums in a sort of boutique fashion.  That idea might be too different for some people.   Think of it this way, if the Bowie Baysox stadium was dressed up with a 10 MM renovation, would you pay $50-150 instead of the normal $8-75 you pay at Camden Yards?  Would that level of intimacy work?  It would be a major risk.

In light of that, I decided to look at more traditional locations for expansion.  The following list was devised based on what cities were previously entertained with expansion and relocation opportunities.  For statistics, I will be using the same method I used when suggesting that you actually can argue the Orioles are a small market team.

TV Market - 25th
Radio Market - 24th
Population - 731k; 18th in US
GDP - 103MM; 2.6% growth

Charlotte has several things going for it as a potential MLB city.  First and foremost, it has a modern stadium in Bank of America Stadium, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.  This provides a large capacity structure where a team could eek out a few seasons before a sufficient stadium could be constructed.  Not all stadiums can house a football team, I am assuming this one can.  Second, Charlotte has a corporate culture.  Seven fortune five hundred companies call Charlotte their home.  This includes Bank of America (134.2B revenue; 9th overall), Nucor (15.8B; 157th), Duke Energy (14.3B; 173rd), Goodrich (7.0B; 337th), Sonic Automotive (6.9B; 339th), SPX (4.9B; 460th), and Ruddick (4.4B; 498th).  Additionally, 50th ranked Lowe's (48.8B) is a half hour up I-77 in Mooresville, NC and Family Dollar (7.9B; 302nd) is 20 minutes away in Matthews, NC.  This means that there is a strong corporate base to buy season tickets in the area.  Charlotte's TV and radio market is better than five current MLB teams each.  It has a strong population that is steadily growing and a growing GDP.

TV Market - 26th
Radio Market - 40th
Population - 820k; 12th in US
GDP - 92.8MM; 3.6% growth

Indianapolis share a few things in common with Charlotte.  It has a similar TV Market, a slightly larger population, a similar growth in commercial products, and a football stadium that should be able to be converted into a temporary home for a baseball club.  However, there have been yearly cries by the ownership of the Colts about how Indianapolis is a not a cash flush area.  It may just be ownership looking for a better deal similar to what Irsay did when he took the Colts out of Baltimore (or when Modell took the Browns out of Cleveland for that matter).  One difference between Charlotte and Indianapolis is corporate presence.  Indianapolis has two Fortune 500 companies bringing in a revenue of 81.9B within the city limits: WellPoint (58.8B; 42nd) and Eli Lilly (23.1B; 115th).  Cummins (13.2B; 186th) is located an hour away in Columbus, IN.  Charlotte has corporations headquartered around the city that pull in 2.5 times as much revenue as the ones around Indianapolis.  That reduced foundation makes for Indianapolis to be a potentially worthwhile MLB city, but with poorer footing than Charlotte.

Las Vegas
TV Market - 40th
Radio Market - 32nd
Population - 584k; 30th in US
GDP - 80.2B; -1.9% growth

Las Vegas is commonly mentioned as a location for an MLB team either by expansion or relocation.  In fact, Bud Selig considered Las Vegas a finalist when determining where to move the Montreal Expos.  It sounds like a good idea.  Vegas was going through a period of rapid growth until smacked down by the recent economic crush.  Lots of tourists with free time visit the city and may be interested in watching a game.  The concerns were that the city has a high level of flux, which would make it difficult for a baseball team to take root and there was some concern over the need for gambling establishments to take a major investment in the franchise.  Why gambling establishments?  There is not much else there in Las Vegas.  The city can claim three Fortune 500 corporations: Caesars (8.8B, 277th), Las Vegas Sands (6.9B, 342nd), and MGM Resorts (6.0B, 380th).  In addition to a poor corporate presence, Vegas would have the worst TV Market in the game, which is where a lot of the money is at, contracting GDP, and no suitable stadium for a team to begin play.  There just is not enough money in the city to prime the pump for a MLB team to move in.

TV Market - 19th
Radio Market - 34th
Population - 238k; 79th
GDP - 94.2B; 2.4% growth

Orlando has a few things going for it and a few reasons why it hasn't been tapped for a team.  It has a solid low second tier TV Market and the region is rather prosperous.  What has hurt the city is that much of the money is in entertainment in the form of all of the amusement parks in the area.  As has been shown countless times, baseball teams do not make money for the city as opposed to merely pushing it around a little bit.  With the city already being a pilgrimage of the Mouse...there just is not likely to be a major buy in from those group.  The only Fortune 500 company headquartered there is Darden Restaurants (7.1B; 332nd).  The Citrus Bowl is likely to be the only stadium to be able to be used for baseball until a new one could be built.  Finally, Florida seems to be home to two baseball clubs that are not exacting pinnacles of business success.  Putting in a third one, two hours from the Tampa Bay Rays may not be the best of ideas.

TV Market - 21s
Radio Market - 23rd
Population - 584k; 29th
GDP - 121.7B; 4.7% growth

Portland appears like an obvious location for a MLB to sprout up.  It has a long history with AAA baseball.  It has had a rapidly growing GDP.  It is a decent size city with a respectable standard of living.  A corporate presence is on the low side, but it does have Precision Castparts (5.5B; 409th) and Nike (19.0B; 135th; 15 minutes away in Beaverton) call it home.  Even with this presence, AAA baseball has left the city twice in the past 30 years.  That is not a great record.  However, I would put it ahead of Orlando and Las Vegas.  With Indianapolis it is a question how whether one believes more in corporations and population or media markets and GDP.

San Antonio
TV Market - 36th
Radio Market - 28th (Cinci, Clev
Population - 1.327 MM 7th in US
GDP - 73.6B; 3.0% growth

San Antonio is a promising option, but with a drawback.  First with the good news, San Antonio has an immense population that is being poorly served by top tier professional sports.  The media market is not great, but has good long term prospects.  This region has been a hotbed of growth even during the economic struggles the rest of the United States was facing.  San Antonio also has a major corporate presence.  The city is home to Valero Energy (86.0B; 24th), Tesoro (20.3B; 128th), United Services Automobile (17.9B; 145th), CC Media Holdings (5.9B; 391st), and NuStar Energy (4.4B; 497th).  That is a good group that would help buy up seats and luxury suites.  The problem is though that the main stadium available, the Alamodome, was built without the ability to store a MLB field.  The structure cannot be retrofitted to accommodate a team either.  This means a club would need to have a new stadium waiting for it.  The Arizona Diamondbacks accomplished that feat.  The Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, and Washington Nationals required an existing stadium.  Before them, Seattle and Toronto used preexisting stadiums.  Point being, it is uncommon to have everyone in order for a MLB to show up on your doorstep.

TV Market - ~20th
Radio Market - ~42nd
Population - 590k; ~29th
GDP - 83B; 3.0% growth

I have argued before that baseball should move up north again.  I think baseball could work in Montreal, but I don't think that will happen any time soon.  That city is no longer MLB ready anymore.  Vancouver is.  Of all of the cities, Vancouver would be the easiest one to move into because of BC Place.  BC Place was originally built with the intent of luring a baseball team.  That was unsuccessful, but the building has been renovated and is a fairly modern stadium with proper infrastructure in place.  It hearkens back to the Tropicana except that it has an excellent location and the stadium has been kept up.  Vancouver also boasts a few corporations who would appear on the Fortune 500 if they were in America: Telus (9.6B; 257th), Teck Resources (8.8B; 277th), Jim Pattinson (7.1B; 331st), and Best Buy Canada (5.6B; 404th).  That is not a stellar corporate presence, but it is stronger than Portland, Orlando, and Las Vegas.  It has a second tier TV market, a third tier population, and a growing economy.


Of these cities, Charlotte is an obvious front runner for an expansion team.  San Antonio has a strong foundation, but would need to get enough capital in place to not only buy a franchise, but also develop land for a stadium for the team to play in on day one.  That is logistically difficult.  Indianapolis has supposedly had issues with the Colts pulling in enough cash, making them threaten to look elsewhere.  Portland is an old school favorite, but their difficulties in keeping their AAA clubs cast some doubt and they need a stadium immediately.  Orlando and Las Vegas are simply poor fits.  Vancouver looks like a decent third tier location with a great stadium situation.

I would probably award Charlotte and Vancouver the teams.  I would bump out Vancouver if San Antonio could promise a stadium.

Also of note, with Constellation Energy appearing to be falling under Exelon, Baltimore will have no Fortune 500 companies.  Washington DC has seventeen.

28 January 2012

Circle the Bases with Peace

Here at Camden Depot we understand during the week you are busy with work, school, taking the kids to hockey practice, or just don't have time to get to a computer. So at the end of each week we will do a recap  and update of the latest Orioles news items.

Early in the week the Orioles went out and addressed their DH position by signing switch hitting utility infielder Wilson Betemit to a multi year deal. As a result of the move the Orioles DFA'd relief pitcher Rick Vandenhurk to make room for Betemit on the 40-man roster.

The Orioles avoided arbitration with utility infielder Robert Andino and signed the Red Sox slayer to a one year deal.

The ball club announced the minor league coaching staffs of all seven Oriole affiliates. Ron Johnson from the Red Sox organization will be the manager of the Norfolk Tides. Johnson as a minor league manager has a record of 1,261-1,262 in 18 seasons. Pitching coach Mike Griffin is back with the Tides for his fifth consecutive season in the organization. Hitting coach will be Denny Walling who was a roving instructor for six seasons. Mike Shires will be the athletic trainer.

Former Tides manager Gary Allenson has been sent down to manage the short-season Class A squad the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Allenson spent five seasons as the skipper for the Tides. The Ironbirds bring in a blast from the past as former Orioles pitcher Alan Mills will be the pitching coach. (Good thing Darryl Strawberry doesn't manage in the Penn League.)

The Bowie Baysox skipper Gary Kendall  is back for his second season and his 13th in the system. Field coach Denny Hockling, pitching coach Kennie Steenstra and trainer Aaron Scott will be back for the Baysox.

Class A Frederick and Delmarva return both managers Orlando Gomez and Ryan Minor for their third consecutive seasons.

The Gulf Coast League Orioles return Ramon Sambo for his fifth season as the GCL Birds manager. nd finally Elvis Morel will manage the Dominican Summer League squad.

MASN's Roch Kubatko reported this week that the Orioles will send several representatives from the organization down to the Dominican Republic next week to watch Cuban star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes play. The report also mentioned the O's will take a look at the other Cuban star Jorge Soler.

Kubatko also announced the Orioles signed 18 year old Guatemalan outfielder Andres Aguilar.

And Finally, reports came out this week from local and national reporters that the Orioles would be willing to offer a multi-year deal to free agent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Baltimore Sun beat writer Eduardo Encina tweeted on Saturday the O's probably wouldn't go four years with Jackson but would opt to do a three year deal with an option. Jackson, 28, went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP last season between the White Sox and the Cardinals.

P.S. Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson sustained a fractured clavicle Friday night when he fell from a stage at a benefit at the Seminole Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reported the story. Robinson was accepting an award where he fell backwards, six feet to the ground. The report says Robinson was scheduled to attend a charity game today benefiting the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital but spent the night in the hospital.

27 January 2012

O's Kim Sung-min in Dan Duquette's version of Rashomon

Kim Tebow
Kim Sung-min was signed by the Orioles.  That is pretty much all we know for sure.  In an apparent ode to Kurosawa's Rashomon we have a South Korean paper, a Baltimore Sun beat reporter, and a national baseball talent writer giving somewhat different accounts of the player.

South Korean Paper
I do not read Korean and the Google translator is confused by a few words.  I assume "maximum strength fat guts" means something equivalent to having nerves of steel.  I don't know.  What we can glean from the article is the outline of a pretty impressive talent.  Sung-min is a high school left handed pitcher who has a 89.5 mph fastball.  He also has a curve and a "remarkable" circle change.  He is listed as 5'10.5 and weighing in at 181 lbs.  There is no information on the financials.

The Baltimore Beat
The Sun's Eduardo Encina talked to a team source and came up with the following pitcher.  Sung-min at 17 is the best left handed high school pitching prospect in South Korea (which is similar to being the best high school left handed pitching prospect in Rhode Island--that can be quite good and it could be quite poor).  He is 5'10 and 180 lbs with a high 80s fastball, an above average 12-to-6 curveball, and an above average change up.  They expect him to become 6'1.  These pitches are expected to progress as he ages (this means that all three pitches will be plus pitches).  He will play a few weeks at the academy in Los Angeles before heading over to the Orioles' facility in Florida.

The National Writer
Keith Law reminds me of Frau BlΓΌcher.  You mention his name in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and you will surely hear some snorting and gnashing of teeth.  That certainly was the case when the following was written from his twitter account:
The O's gave $550K to a 5'9" Korean HS lefty throwing 80-83 with no feel for a breaking ball. Nice use of savings from cutting pro scouting.
 With respect to the Orioles projection of Sung-min growing a few more inches, Law wrote in a chat:
Predicting body development is a big part of scouts' jobs, although it's usually about a frame filling out more than a player growing three freaking inches after his 18th birthday, which is pretty rare. A scout would also want to meet the parents and see how tall they are, how broad, how heavy, etc. I'm much more comfortable looking at a 17-year-old Tyler Skaggs and telling you he'll add velocity because he's tall and thin with broad shoulders rather than looking at a 17-year-old Jarrod Parker and telling you he'll grow from 6' to 6'3" because I like his fastball.
I agree with Law on this last point.  Final height determinations are quite difficult and are often guesswork even when you understand family genetics and have a long term growth pattern documented from the player.  You could get even more exact with more invasive medicals procedures, but that seems an unlikely scenario for an upstart operation in South Korea.  I really do not know if anyone is using that approach.

Like Rashomon, I do not know what the reality is.  I am drawn into Encina's article as something I want to be true.  Sung-min, a player on a well covered Junior national team, somehow slips through the cracks even though he is a lefty with potentially three plus pitches.  Typically, a player like that would be followed by many teams and would be worth a couple million.  The South Korean paper appears more tame, but we don't really know if the papers used the same source.  Many aspects are similar between the two players with the Baltimore account having a greater eye to the future and what Sung-min could become.  Law's account is a dousing of cold water.

In all honesty, all three could be accurate.  Law's information could have come from an earlier outing or on one of the player's bad days.  The Korean article may be an account from an Orioles' scout highlighting the performance when everything was clicking.  The Baltimore Sun account may be a summation of the high points and a focus on the top 1% outcome.  When he reports to Florida, we will likely have much of this progressing toward some answers.

Right now, I would not put too much stock in any of these evaluations.  How could you?

25 January 2012

Os Pitchers, Option Years, and Cuts

Note: Vandenhurk was on the 40 man roster when this post was written.  He was DFA'd for Wilson Betemit.

For this article, I used the information collected by this poster and filling in where I see holes (such as Dana Eveland's absence). I have yet to find a good resource on the internet to figure these things out.  However, it appears for the time being that Tom Peace will be working with us at the Depot and providing us transaction information news.  We are happy to have him on board and quite happy to more fully cover the Orioles.

I have not compared this year's 40 man roster heading into Spring Training to any other year's, but it feels as if there is a great deal of roster inflexibility this year.  This post is to run down the current stable of arms and try to determine how many spots on the team are actually up for competition, who that competition is, and who is most certainly going to be placed on waivers.

Players with Three Options
Jake Arrieta RHP
Arrieta on first glance did not have an incredibly impressive season, but his peripherals look good.  Also, if the bone spurs in his arm were hampering him then we may be able to expect even more from him.  I do think even though he would be an excellent late inning arm, if he does not earn a spot in the rotation then he is going to Norfolk.

Zach Britton LHP
I cannot imagine Britton not starting with Baltimore in their rotation.

Dylan Bundy RHP
Bundy signed a major league deal at the signing deadline last August.  He actually has four options due to signing that deal as an amateur and will use the first of those this season.  He is at least two years away from the parent club.

Oliver Drake RHP
Drake was placed on the 40 man roster this past fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  He faces long odds breaking camp with the Orioles, but he may see some time in Baltimore this year as the season drags on and players are demoted, released, or injured.

Two Options
Jason Berken RHP
Berken was on the Scott Garceau Show the other day and mentioned that he feels strong and ready for Spring Training.  I could see him breaking camp in Baltimore.

Brian Matusz LHP
Matusz has two options left and he is certainly fighting for a spot in the rotation this Spring whereas last year he was merely working on a few minor things.  Unless he finds where his lost 2 mph went, then he will likely break the year in Norfolk.

One Option
Darren O'Day RHP
O'Day amazingly still has an option left according the link above.  Plagued with injuries of late, he might need more time to get himself in order to perform well in the majors.  He is certainly one of the pitchers on the bubble.

Zach Phillips LHP
Phillips is another player I was surprised as having another option year left.  He is another player on the bubble as he has shown to be effective as a lefty in the pen.

Pedro Strop RHP (edit: Strop has no options left, he was optioned once by Colorado)
Strop came over to the Orioles in the Mike Gonzalez deal with Texas last year.  At the time, Nick wrote a brief scouting review on Strop.  He looked good in a short cup of coffee last year.

Chris Tillman RHP
Tillman is another pitcher who has lost some velocity as well.  When the Bedard trade went down, Tillman had another 4 mph to his fastball.  As that velocity decreased, so have expectations.  Tillman could help out in the pen, but with an option left he is going to AAA again.

Brad Bergesen RHP
Bergesen may be able to benefit from the Peterson Pitching Lab.  He has flashed moments of very good-ness, but if he loses his command he becomes quite hittable.  It appears that his best fit would be as a reliever, so that the team could protect him from left handed batters.  It would surprise me to see him DFA'd.

Wei-Yin Chen LHP
Chen should have three options left, but I imagine his contract prevents him from being optioned similar to what most star Japanese players sign.  Chen also was likely promised an opportunity to start, which will narrow things down for the club.

Dana Eveland LHP
Eveland has enticed and disappointed many teams over his career.  He is now without options.  The Orioles gave up minimal talent to acquire him, but that effort probably means that he would have to completely fall apart to not break with the team.

Kevin Gregg RHP
"Proven" closer Kevin Gregg cannot be optioned and will be sticking with the club in some capacity.

Jeremy Guthrie RHP
Guthrie is the dependable veteran hand and, by default, the ace of the team.  Unless dealt, he will break with the club.  His value takes a dramatic downward turn once the season begins because players dealt during the season no longer qualify for free agent compensation.

Tommy Hunter RHP
I am fairly confidant that Hunter is a Buck Showalter player.  However, I just do not see much there worthwhile in him starting.  He will likely start in the pen and will almost certainly break camp with Baltimore.

Jim Johnson RHP
Is he a reliever or a starter?  It really does not matter.  He will be in Baltimore.

Troy Patton LHP
Patton was the major piece in the first Tejada deal (as opposed to Luke Scott).  He was very impressive last year in Baltimore over 30 IP with a 3.00 ERA.  His peripherals looked solid as well.  I am thinking he has earned himself a trip past the Potomac as well.

Clay Rapada LHP
Rapada kills lefties.  He outright kills them.  Righties outright kill Rapada.  They kill him.  Does the team have space for a true LOOGY?

Alfredo Simon RHP
Simon is a fringe player.  He has good velocity in his fastball, but is generally inconsistent.  He has flashed some hope as a starter and a closer, but has ultimately disappointed in both roles.  My guess is that with his law troubles over, he will be dealt to an NL team for a low ceiling B level minor leaguer or a low probability slightly higher ceiling low minors player.

Rick Vandenhurk RHP
Vandenhurk is a shade below Simon.  Simon having been able to show his abilities at the MLB level while Vandenhurk is caught more as someone who does quite well at AAA.  I think the market for him is less than that for Simon.  Vandenhurk will likely be DFA'd at the end of camp.  I would not be surprised if he heads back to the Marlins.

Tsuyoshi Wada LHP
Like Chen, Wada probably has two elements in his contract that limit opportunity for others: (1) he cannot be optioned without his permission and (2) he was likely promised a starting rotation job to being the season.

Starting Rotation
Sure Bets: Guthrie, Britton, Chen, Wada
Competition: Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen, Eveland, Hunter, Simon, VandenHurk
I think the first four slots have been filled.  I also think the competition will really be between Arrieta, Eveland, and Hunter.  For Arrieta, it will be the rotation or Norfolk.  For Eveland and Hunter, it will be the rotation or bullpen.  I cannot see either of them being released.  Matusz is the main wildcard here.  He has the potential to be a very solid 2 slot pitcher on a first division team.  His loss of velocity last year was quite concerning.  If better conditioning improves things, he will secure that fifth slot.  However, it would also not be surprising if we learn this year that he is suffering from an injury.  I also suspect that Simon and Vandenhurk will not be with the club when they break.

Sure Bets: Kevin Gregg, Jim Johnson
Competition: Berken, O'Day, Phillips, Strop, Patton, Rapada, Simon, Vandenhurk
Assuming there is a thirteen man pen, Gregg, Johnson, and perhaps Eveland and Hunter means that there are four slots remaining.  Under competition, the Orioles have eight pitchers competing for four slots (this does not include MiL contracts with Spring Training invites).  Eveland would be the only lefty in that group.  I see Patton in the pen along with the winner of the Phillips/Rapada competition.  For the other two slots, I think Strop and O'Day make it, but that Berken or Simon has a decent chance to displace O'Day due to their ability to eat up innings.

Spring Training Invites
Willie Eyre RHP, Dennys Reyes LHP, Oscar Villareal RHP, Armando Galarraga RHP (I hear he signed)
I would be surprised if any of these pitchers are able to push the players in front of them out of the way.  Eyre depends on getting outs on batted balls.  I think we could see him later in the year, but not in April.  Reyes fell apart last year.  I do not know exactly what happened to him, but I see no evidence that he played past the spring.  He has the ability to push Phillips and Rapada for a spot.  I do not believe in Villareal.  He only has a couple good seasons and last pitched in 2008.  Galarraga has always appeared to be a better pitcher than he really was.  I have a hard time seeing him contributing in a substantial way for a MLB club.

Offseason Not Over
There have been some rumblings that the Orioles have interest in acquiring another pitcher.  The two names mentioned are Francisco Cordero who would come in an close or Luis Ayala who would be another rightie in the pen.  I think the former allows Johnson to stay in a late inning setup role while the latter supposedly solidifies the late inning work and permits Johnson to close out games.  In either of those circumstances, I think it weakens the chances for Strop, O'Day, Berken, and Simon to make the roster.

My Bet
SP: Guthrie, Britton, Chen, Wada, Arrieta
RP: Johnson, Gregg, Patton, Reyes, Eveland, Hunter, Strop, and O'Day

24 January 2012

O's make roster moves and what not to do on Twitter

Monday was a productive day for the Baltimore Orioles as the ballclub decided to release outfielder Kyle Hudson. Hudson, 25, was a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft out of Illinois. The young outfielder was designated for assignment to make room for recently acquired pitcher from Taiwan, Wei-Yin Chen. The Orioles had to trade or release Hudson. The team can attempt to resign Hudson, but he wont be able to play for the ballclub before May 15. In three minor league seasons Hudson put up some decent stats, .296/.375/.336 in 119 games.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the Orioles and free agent switch hitting utility infielder Wilson Betemit have agreed on a 2 year +1 deal, pending a physical. Betemit, who played for the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals last season, will provide the Orioles with some infield depth along with the additions of Ryan Flaherty and Matt Antonelli. Betemit for his career has a stat line of .296/.336/.448 with 63 homers and 243 RBIs in 1,742 plate appearances. Last season between the Tigers and the Royals Betemit went a combined .285/.343./.452 with 22 doubles, four triples, eight long balls and 46 RBIs in 97 games. The signing would be considered an On-Base percentage aisle type signing for EVBOP Dan Duquette. The O's will need to remove a player from the 40-man roster  to make room for Betemit. 

Twitter has become a way to deliver the news whether it be entertainment, sports, or even the weather. News can be distributed so fast on twitter, its hard to keep up with whats current and what is old news. The speed of the news though creates some drawbacks and people will try to boost their credibility on social network sites by reporting false or made up information in hopes of making a name for themselves.
(Everybody wants to be the next Roch Kubatko, who doesn't?)

Recently, Scott Swaim who claims to have ties to MLB, tweeted that top free agent Prince Fielder was close to signing a 8 year deal with the Washington Nationals. None of the reliable and trustworthy news outlets, such as MLB, ESPN, Jon Heyman or Ken Rosenthal followed with confirmation on the Swaims news.

Former Nationals GM and ESPN Radio personality Jim Bowden did some investigating and eventually tweeted the report was untrue and that Prince Fielder hadn't nearly signed a deal with the Nats. My grandfather always told me when breaking news happens to always wait and read everything and to see what the true facts are before making a judgement on something. My guess is Swaim, was trying to stir up the hot stove and get people talking about the top free agent left on the market. I mean what else is there to do on a cold January night? Swaim even has it on his twitter that he was the one who broke the Albert Pujols to the Angels story. We live in a world where its not important that the story is accurate or not, its more important and sexy to just report the story first without any resources to back up what you are reporting. Whatever helps you get more followers and more pats on the back by your friends more power to you. But please think before you post, because when your story comes back and bites you and no one is coming to back you up, you look less credible then you already did. 

23 January 2012

Are O's Still Looking for a Left-Handed Batter?

Note: This column is now outdated with Betemit signing.

Dan Duquette has mentioned in the past he is looking to add a left handed bat to the team.  He has also expressed a desire to add someone with a ".380 on base percentage."  Those two things are a tough combination to find a free agent whether at the beginning or end of free agency.  At it stands, the only player who immediately appears as a fit is Prince Fielder.  Fielder has been a good, but not elite first baseman.  He tends to have on and off seasons that run the inverse of the infamous Star Trek rule (Fielder's odd years have been better than his even ones 17.1 fWAR vs. 6.4 fWAR).  I think over the next eight years or so that Fielder will be a cheaper and better deal than Albert Pujols, but that he is not a great first baseman.  It is on par with players like Mark Grace, Kent Hrbek, and Glenn Davis.  Very good, but not great players.  As such, it is difficult making a good argument that Fielder is worth 25 MM a year.

However, there are other options than Fielder.  These options are not as flashy or dependable as the production that Fielder will provide.  Additionally many of these second/third/fourth choices have issues with them which may explain why they are available at this late date.

Nine Potential Options:

The First Basemen
This position is one of several where the Orioles lack prime production.  The current plan is to open the season with Chris Davis at first base.  Davis, the long time Ranger who had his moments in Arlington, will try to make a home there, but will need to improve upon his contact rate to an acceptable level (producing a .280 to .300 batting average) to be useful to the team.  The only other option there that could lead to league average or above production would be to shift Mark Reynolds back to first base.  As it stands now, Davis is a left handed batter and an additional left handed batter makes little sense with respect to a platoon.  Davis, however, could be a good offensive backup corner infielder.

Russell Branyan
36 years old
1B/DH/fringe 3B
Branyan has been an extreme platoon hitter with a career +.105 OPS favoring his bat against right handed hitters.  His career has been one where teams have seemed to have difficulty fitting him in as he is a solid defensive 1B who was above average against righties and replacement level against lefties.  Such a player is difficult to find a spot on the bench as his role is limited to 1B and DH as well as being a target for a relief switch late in the game.  In 2009 and 2010, Branyan hit quite well against right handed pitching with 905 and 874 OPS in Seattle and Cleveland.  In 2011, the wheels feel off and had a line of 198/293/388 in 133 plate appearances.  Optimism can be found for this year as his BABIP was 50 points below his normal level.  BABIP tends to regress to a player's average BABIP.  The cause for concern though that I see is that Branyan also saw a collapse in his ISO.  He would be worth a Minor League invite.

Casey Kotchman
29 years old
Kotchman has had high expectations placed up him, placing in the top 100 prospects for Baseball America in 2002 (22nd), 2003 (13th), 2004 (15th), and 2005 (6th).  He was known for plus contact, plus discipline, and plus defense.  The hope was that his gap power would play up as he matured.  After a solid rookie year, his hitting sputtered out.  The Angels eventually gave up on him and he moved around to Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle.  Last year, everything came together again playing for the Rays.  He showed a good hit rate (potentially inflated by a high BABIP) and played good defense.  The Rays apparently did not believe his performance last season was in line with his talent level and chose to pay Carlos Pena instead.  Kotchman would probably be a good play if the team did not already have Davis.  I find him an improvement on Davis, but not remarkably so.

The Third Baseman
It is a matter of discussion when trying to determine whether Mark Reynolds is going back to third base because he is best suited there due to his skills or Chris Davis' shoulder.  A platoon might work here with the left handed third baseman taking third and pushing Reynolds to first or DH when facing a right handed starting pitcher.

Wilson Betemit
30 years old
Betemit is likely looking for a starting gig.  He has predominantly played third base and he has defensively played that position quite poorly.  Betemit keeps himself in lineups because he has keep his 800 or above OPS.  He actually profiles as an extremely good platoon player with a career long 817 OPS against right handers and a 684 OPS against left handers.  His defense is no worse than Reynolds', so he might be a decent choice as a 3B or DH against right handers and a left handed bat off the bench in cross handed matchups.  He could also stand in at 2B or 1B in a pinch.  He has never played the outfield.

The Left Fielders
Left Field is another area of some instability for the Orioles.  They have seemed relatively unconvinced that Nolan Reimold was an appropriate solution for the past several years.  The team has tried to play Felix Pie, Corey Patterson, Kyle Hudson, Matt Angle, and now perhaps Endy Chavez instead of using Reimold.  Chavez, a lefty, has been rumored as being used as a platoon player, but lacks the bat to be effectively used.  It may benefit the team more by relegating Chavez to being a backup centerfielder and use a more legitimate bat to pair up with Reimold.

Johnny Damon
38 years old
Damon was signed on the cheap by the Rays last year and was thrust into the lineup as a full timer.  He showed himself to be unable to play the field and that his bat had deteriorated.  The Orioles have been tied to him, but he would likely be an inflexible player who would be a detriment offensively.

Carlos Guillen
36 years old
DH/LF/1B/fringe INF
Guillen has not been a major contributor in the past three seasons.  He still shows a powerful bat and a decent eye, but he no longer appears able to make enough contact.  Pitchers appear to be going after him more directly than they use to.  However, he does show more flexibility than Damon and that means Guillen can stand around poorly defending more positions than Damon.

Raul Ibanez
40 years old
Ibanez is not a adequate defender.  He hasn't been for years.  For the Phillies, he had a good half season and the rest went to pot.  Ibanez still does relatively well against right handed batters.  He is the type of player I imagine that the old Andy MacPhail regime would be interested in.  Ibanez had a down year last year and someone might take a chance that he could find his stroke again.  I doubt he can though.  He just does not have the bat speed anymore.

J.D. Drew
36 years old
Drew suffered from a shoulder impingement and a fractured finger which resulted in an awful season last year.  He has said that he would continue playing only if he found the right, winning situation.  Many players waiting for contracts have said that and it remains to be seen what Drew will do.  If his shoulder is fixed, then it would be an easy decision to sign him and slot him in left field.  Without looking at his medicals, he appears to me as a great buy low candidate.  I would not want to spend more than 3-4 MM on him and would not wish to promise him a starting slot.  The latter contingency may be difficult in convincing him.

Kosuke Fukudome
35 years old
When the Cubs signed Fukudome they expected a superstar.  What they got was a very good season, two average ones, and a mess of a final season.  His numbers in Japan actually translated quite well with a high OBP.  Somehow the frenzy of a top notch foreign player coming to the US escalated the cost beyond reason.  Although he did not perform according to expectations, that does not make Fukudome a worthless player.  Even last year's evaporation of any sense of power, Fukudome maintained an OBP over .350 against lefties.  He could be useful as a 5th outfielder and an OBP focused platoon player against righties.

The Designated Hitter
One thing has remained the same even though there was a regime change: the expressed desire to keep DH duties open to give players rest.  In the MacPhail era, this often unraveled into reserving the DH position to full time players like Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, and Vladimir Guerrero.  As the Duquette era begins, does he go out and sign a full time DH?  Damon, Guillen, and Ibanez likely would qualify as that.  So would our last option.

Hideki Matsui
38 years old
The Athletics have tried for the past several seasons to take advantage of a cheap way to improve offensive production: strict DH bats.  This included Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jack Cust, and then Hideki Matsui.  This approach has not exactly gone well for the Athletics.  The poor success rate is likely a reason why it is relatively cheap to use this approach.  Before last year, Matsui was a 850 OPS performer against right handed pitching.  Last year, he was at 654.  I don't see him bouncing back.

I see J.D. Drew, Wilson Betemit, or Casey Kotchman as the three targets that would be ideal.  They are players with good reason for optimism and an outside chance of being useful in a deal that would bring back a B level player.  That said, if the sole play is for a B level prospect then the cost at hand should be no more than 5 MM.  Adjust for the probability of these players being tradable and I would be comfortable offering 3 MM with incentives.  The only other one of these eight that I would be OK with offering a MLB contract would be Kosuke Fukudome.  I could see offering him a base pay of 1.5 MM with incentives.  There really are not a lot of great choices.

Arrivals and Departures: Peace and the 40 Man Roster

I have finally found a forum and a website that has given me the opportunity to speak my mind about the Baltimore Orioles. For so long, I have been searching various Oriole message boards and blogs for a place to contribute to the daily news surrounding the ball club and Camden Depot has graciously given me the space to do that. First let me introduce myself, I'm born and raised in Baltimore and have been an Orioles fan since Cal Ripken Jr. made the winning catch in the World Series in 1983. I have been in the radio business for the last ten years working as a producer and reporter for CBS Radio. Throughout my time as a reporter I have covered the Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terps Basketball and Football for 105.7 The Fan and ESPN Radio 1300AM.

My desire to write about sports began two years ago when I took a fun writing course in college and ever since I have been helping out with writing about Lacrosse for ESPNHS.com and have covered high school sports for The Carroll County Times

I have always wanted to write about the Orioles. I occasionally will go over and chime in on the message boards at Orioleshangout.com. But adding posts and creating threads can get fun for only so long. My passion is to cover the team and bring the latest news coming out of the warehouse to you the reader. With my experience as a reporter and the love I have for the Orioles I feel we will have a lot of fun here on Camden Depot.


So lets dive in to what has been going on so far this offseason for the Birds. Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations (wow that is a long title to type out, would you be cool if I called Dan the EVPBO?) Dan Duquette has stepped into Andy MacPhail's role and has made some significant changes to the front office. Since taking the role as the EVPBO, Duquette has brought his own people in from his days when he was with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. Its pretty impressive what Duquette has been able to do with the changes in the front office and the scouting department considering the fact that GM candidate Tony LaCava said he wasn't allowed to mess with the cupboard. The hires in particular that stand out to me so far are Rick Peterson, who will be the Director of Pitcher Development and has a lengthy track record of helping pitchers and former Orioles centerfielder Brady Anderson who will be Duquette's special assistant and will oversee the conditioning and fitness of the ball club. Both moves I see will be beneficial for the ball club and have been needed in the organization for a long time. 

But moving along, the Orioles have also made some changes to the 40 man roster and Duquette has made it no secret that he wants to shop in the pitchers aisle and the high on-base percentage aisle. And with the moves so far you can tell he is not leaving a stone unturned. Even though the additions have been made it is also interesting to take into account with the 2012 season approaching, where everyone on the 40-man roster stands with the option years. Orioleshangout poster CrazySilver did a nice breakdown, provided by COTS, on how the options work and where each player stands.

An option (optional assignment) allows a club to move a player on its 40-man roster to and from the minor-leagues without exposing him to the other 29 teams.

After 4 or 5 years as a professional, a player must be added to his club's 40-man roster or exposed to the 29 other clubs in the Rule 5 draft. (A club has 5 years to evaluate a player who signs his first pro contract at 18 years old or younger, but only 4 years to decide on a player who signs at age 19.) For purposes of calculating years as a pro, the counting begins the day a player signs his first pro contract, not the season he begins to play.

When a player is added to the 40-man roster, his club has three options, or three separate seasons during which the club may to move him to and from the minor leagues without exposing him to other clubs. A player on the 40-man roster playing in the minors is on optional assignment, and within an option season, there is no limit on the number of times a club may demote and recall a player. However, a player optioned to the minor leagues may not be recalled for at least 10 days, unless the club places a Major League player on the disabled list during the 10-day window.

After three options are exhausted, the player is out of options. Beginning with the next season, he must clear waivers before he may be sent to the minors again. See Waivers. Additionally, a player with 5 years of Major League service may not be sent to the minor leagues on an optional assignment without his consent.

Counting option years
- If a player is not sent to the minors during a year, an option is not used.
- If a player is on the 40-man roster in spring training but optioned to the minors before the season begins, an option is used.
- If a player's optional assignment(s) to the minors total less than 20 days in one season, an option is not used.
- A player may be eligible for a fourth option year if he has been optioned in three seasons but does not yet have five full seasons of professional experience. A full season is defined as being on an active pro roster for at least 90 days in a season. (If a player is put on the disabled list after earning 60 or more days of service in a single season, his time on the DL is counted.) The 90-day requirement means short-season leagues (New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, Arizona Rookie, Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) do not count as full seasons for the purposes of determining eligibility for a fourth option.

The following is the 40 man roster as it stands.  Again, this list is largely informed by the work mentioned above.

Adams, Ryan
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Adams was brought up to replace Brian Roberts in May 2011. He was optioned after only getting a handful of starts.

Andino, Robert
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Marlins purchased his contract on 9/2/2005. He was optioned for the first time on 3/25/2006. He was optioned for a second time on 3/23/2007. He was optioned for a third and final time on 5/25/2008. Andino was sent outright to AAA Norfolk at the end of Spring Training 2010 with the acquisition of Julio Lugo from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was later added back to the 40 man roster in September 2010 and remained on the roster over the winter.

Angle, Matt
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Angle was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Angle was optioned at the end of ST 2011.

Antonelli, Matt
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract purchased 9/1/2008 and optioned on 3/23/2009 and 3/28/2010.

Arrieta, Jake
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Arrieta's contract was purchased on June 11th 2010 to make his major debut against the New York Yankees.

Bell, Josh
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Bell had his contract purchased in November 2009. He was optioned for the first time following Spring Training 2010. He was optioned for the second time following Spring Training 2011.

Bergesen, Brad
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on 11/18/2008 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He was optioned to the minors for the first time on 3/21/2009. Bergesen was sent to the minors on 4/20/2010 but was recalled on 5/1/2010. Bergesen was optioned to the minors again on 6/14/2010 and remained in the minors for more than 20 days throughout the season. Bergesen was optioned to the minors for four days in 2011, from 4/9 to 4/13 before being recalled for an injured starter. He was later optioned on 5/29/11.

Berken, Jason
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on May 26th 2009. Berken was optioned to Norfolk on 5/26/2011 to help him work on his command.

Britton, Zach
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Britton was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Britton was optioned on 3/29/2011 but was recalled on 4/3/2011 so an option year was not used.

Bundy, Dylan
Options Remaining: 4/4
Reason: Bundy was added to the 40 man roster upon signing in August 2011.

Chavez, Endy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Chavez no longer qualifies for options.

Chen, Wei-Yin
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Signed by Baltimore as a Free Agent on 1/10/2012.

Davis, Chris
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 6/26/2008 and optioned on 7/6/2009, 4/23/2010, and 3/29/2011.

Drake, Oliver
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Drake was added to the 40 man roster in November 2011. 

Eveland, Dana
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Eveland was acquired via trade in December 2011 and is without options.

Gregg, Kevin
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Gregg is in the last year of his free agent contract.

Guthrie, Jeremy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: With the Cleveland Indians, Guthrie exhausted all of his option years.

Flaherty, Ryan
Options Remaining: 3/3 (Rule 5 draftee, cannot use options in 2012)
Reason: Flaherty was drafted in Rule 5 draft in December 2011.

Hardy, J.J.
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Hardy has signed an extension and no longer qualifies for options.

Hunter, Tommy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Rangers purchased his contract in 2008 and was optioned in each season subsequently.

Johnson, Jim
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased Johnson's contract on 11/18/2005. The Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors for the first time on 3/16/2006. On 3/12/2007, the Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors for a second time. The Orioles optioned Johnson to the minors in March of 2008, but he spent less than 20 days in the minors so his optional assignment is withdrawn. Johnson was optioned to Norfolk on 5/1/2010 to make room for the returning Brad Bergesen on the major league roster. Johnson was recalled on 5/28/2010 and placed on the major league DL, unfortunately, the final option was used.

Jones, Adam
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 7/14/2006 and optioned on 8/22/2006 and 4/1/2007.

Mahoney, Joe
Options Remaining: 2/3
Reason: Mahoney was added to the 40 man roster in November 2010. Mahoney was optioned to the minors for the first time during Spring Training 2011.

Markakis, Nick
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies.

Matusz, Brian
Options Remaining: 2/4
Reason: Matusz signed a MLB out of the draft with options used on 3/14/2009 and 6/30/2011.

Miller, Jai
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 11/20/2007 and optioned on 3/10/2008, 3/13/2009, and 4/8/2010.

O'Day, Darren
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 3/29/2008.  Options were used on 5/13/2008 and on 7/14/2011.

Patton, Troy
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: On 8/25/2007, Patton had his contract purchased by the Astros after completing his fourth season in the minors. Patton remained with the Astros throughout September of 2007. Patton was optioned in Spring Training 2009 and 2010. Patton was optioned for a final time during Spring Training 2011.

Phillips, Zach
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract was purchased on 11/19/2009 with options executed on 3/17/2010 and 3/12/2011.

Rapada, Clay
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract was purchased in 11/20/2006 with options executed on 3/12/2007, 3/30/2008, and 4/1/2009

Reimold, Nolan
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Reimold had his contract purchased on 11/18/2008 to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He was optioned for the first time during Spring Training 2009. After opening up with a horrendous beginning to his 2010 season, Reimold was sent to Norfolk to work out some of his issues in May and has remained in Norfolk. Reimold was optioned for a final time at the end of ST 2011.

Reynolds, Mark
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies for options.

Roberts, Brian
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: No longer qualifies for options.

Simon, Alfredo
Options Remaining: 0/3
Story: Had his contract purchased by the Phillies on 11/19/2003. He was optioned for the first time on 3/13/2004 by the Phillies. Upon being traded to the Giants during the 2004 season, he was optioned for a 2nd time on 3/14/2005. He was optioned for a 3rd and final time on 3/13/2006. He was sent outright to the minors on 7/29/2006.

Strop, Pedro
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 8/27/2009 and optioned on 3/24/2010 and 5/4/2011.

Teagarden, Taylor
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reason: Contract purchased 7/18/2008 and optioned on 7/21/2008, 4/27/2010, and 3/29/2011.

Tillman, Chris
Options Remaining: 1/3
Reason: The Orioles purchased his contract on 7/29/2009 to make his major league debut against Kansas City. Tillman was optioned to the minors for the first time during Spring Training 2010. Tillman was optioned to the minors on 5/29/2011.

VandenHurk, Rick
Options Remaining: 0/3
Reasons: The Marlins optioned Vandenhurk in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He was acquired by the Orioles for Will Ohman at the trade deadline in 2010 and was consequently sent down to Norfolk.

Wada, Tsuyoshi
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Wada was signed as a free agent on 12/14/2011.

Wieters, Matt
Options Remaining: 3/3
Reason: Contract purchased on 5/29/2009.

Four Options Remaining:

Three Options Remaining:
J. Arrieta, Z. Britton, O. Drake, M. Wieters

Two Options Remaining:
R. Adams, M. Angle, B. Matusz, J. Mahoney 

One Option Remaining:  
J. Bell, A. Jones, D. O'Day, Z. Phillips, P. Strop, C. Tillman

Zero Options Remaining:
R. Andino, B. Bergesen, E. Chavez, W. Chen, C. Davis, D. Eveland, K. Gregg, J. Guthrie, R. Flaherty, J. Hardy, T. Hunter, J. Johnson, N. Markakis, J. Miller, T. Patton, C. Rapada, N. Reimold, M. Reynolds, B. Roberts, A. Simon, T. Teagarden, R. Vandenhurk, T. Wada

We will be following the option year process with each player throughout the season.

22 January 2012

Cup of jO's: Pita Rona and Kim Sung-min

As many have noted, two of the players the Orioles have signed this week are 17 and hail from New Zealand and South Korea.  I know next to nothing about these players, but have been asked repeatedly about them.  What I know about Rona is that he is an athletic softball player who played in the infield and needs help in refining his baseball mechanics.  Sung-min is a left handed pitcher who was mentioned in a Korean paper as being a top notch prospect.

What does this all mean?

I don't really know.

The odds are long against Rona.  No Kiwi has ever made the climb to play in the majors.  Australia has been able to punch in a baseball player into the bigs on almost a yearly basis, but no one from New Zealand has had the honor.  Toronto's Scott Richmond is often mentioned as the sole citizen of New Zealand to play in the Majors, which he is through his father who was born in Aukland.  Richmond, as best as I can tell, was born and lived most of his life in British Columbia.  In BC, they actually have advanced amateur baseball.  In NZ, softball is the most dominant stick and ball game.  It is pretty difficult to take mechanics learned from softball and seamlessly transition to baseball.

I'd have to say the best baseball prospect New Zealand has yielded has been Scott Campbell.  He was an infielder in the Blue Jays' system.  His calling card was a solid average and strong plate discipline.  However, he tore his groin in 2009 and chose to rehab the injury.  It did not get better, so he had surgery to repair his hip labrum and missed all of 2010.  The next Spring Training, the hip was still an issue.  Further review found that his femur was oddly shaped and would continually tear at his labrum, so he had another surgery and missed all of 2011.  The Jays are hoping that they can bring him along at 3B and see what he can do.

The Red Sox have been particularly active in New Zealand, signing brothers Mona and Boss Moanaroa in 2008 and Te Wara Bishop in 2011.  Mona Moanaroa took three years to emerge from rookie ball, but looked decent in short season A ball if you solely look at the numbers.  He displays good discipline and power.  Boss, on the other hand, appears to be a bit of a free swinger.  I think Bishop was still in the academy last year.  I think a major problem for many of these players acclimating to baseball is probably their swing.  A severe uppercut swing that works in softball does not work well in baseball because the bat moves too quickly through the zone.  The limits the amount of contact that can be produced.

South Korea, on the other hand, is a nation that has produced several baseball players.  However, if the Orioles did in fact sign the best amateur in South Korea...it may not exactly mean much.  There are years where the talent out of Korea is very good and years where it is not.  I think if we compare these nations to the talent produced by states in the United States.  I would compare South Korea to Rhode Island and New Zealand to maybe Wyoming.  That said, the populations of South Korea and New Zealand are greater than those respective states, meaning that the potential to find talent is greater than those states.  The problem is often having the proper infrastructure and instruction in place to develop players who will succeed in the American game.

So, to answer your question about what does it mean that the O's have sign Pita Rona and Kim Sung-min?

I am not really sure.

20 January 2012

Cup o' jO's: Rick Peterson and the O's Arms

Just a quick entry this morning...

Rick Peterson and his pitching lab will apparently be in full effect for the Orioles in 2012.  His analytical technique has been hailed as a major prevention tool against injuries.  I have disabled list numbers of starting pitchers from part of his tenure with the A's and all of his tenure with the Mets, giving us a time line from 2001 to 2007.  I also have disabled numbers of Orioles' starting pitchers in 2009 and 2010.

Rick Peterson
2001 - No starting pitchers visited the DL
2002 - 3 DL visits, 84 missed days
2003 - 3, 60
2004 - 3, 91
2005 - 3, 205
2006 - 5, 382
2007 - 3, 215

I am not sure what to make of the above except to note that much of the injury issues with the Mets were with aging retreads as they tried to fill out their pitching rotation for another post season run.  I look at those numbers and they appear to be quite impressive.  Although, he did have one of the more unfortunate statements to have been uttered during his time with the Mets.  He noted that he could fix Victor Zambrano's performance in "ten minutes" while Scott Kazmir was at least three years from performing in the big leagues.  Zambrano, as many expected, quickly fell apart and Kazmir becames the Rays' ace.  At the time and in hindsight, it was an awful deal and incredibly perplexing.

Now, looking at the Orioles
2009 - 4, 304
2010 - 4, 192

That does not appear to be much different than the end of Peterson's run with the Mets.

In a future post, I hope to get into these numbers a bit deeper.

18 January 2012

Trading Adam Jones: AL Central Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This fourth part will focus on packages from AL Central teams.

Chicago White Sox
Dayan Viciedo, RF
Addison Reed, RP
Gordon Beckham, INF

I think it is often a good exercise to go through and look at each team.  How each team matches up.  The White Sox are obviously a poor fit.  Right now they are going through an Orioles style rebuilding project.  That basically means that are trading away fringe value pieces and inexplicably holding onto their guys with real value.  Their minors is thin which hurts teams wanting young players in return and works against the ChiSox's new goal to beef up their system.  A deal here centers on Dayan Viciedo who is a promising player, but there are questions about his hitting approach with poor discipline and a need for more power.  Much of the hope statistically on him is based on his rapid improvement in walk rate as he faced AAA pitching for the second year in a row.  The other major piece is the struggling Gordon Beckham.  Beckham promising breakout in 2009 is now overshadowed by poor 2010 and 2011 campaigns.  He has developed a habit of chasing really bad pitches.  He is a reclamation project.

Cleveland Indians
Matt LaPorta, 1B
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Michael Brantley, LF

The Indians system thinned out a bit with last year's acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez.  Otherwise, LHP Drew Pomeranz would have been the target here.  The second target would be Jason Kipnis.  I have always been a big Kipnis fan, lobbying hard in 2009 for Nick to draft him in our Orioles shadow draft.  He logged 150 plate appearances last year and showed a strong bat and the potential to stick it out at second base.  I think the team control on him and his offensive production will make him a hard target to acquire, but one you have to insist on.  The bat certainly looks real, but with his difficulties at second the bat looks not quite as shiny if it needs to be moved to left field.  I also focused on acquiring a couple disappointing prospects and second tier arm.  Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley are two prospects who came over in the CC Sabathia deal and have disappointed.  LaPorta has never shown the power and contact rate he displayed in the minors.  He does not have much more rope left.  In Michael Brantley the Indians have someone who has logged a couple years and is approaching his more expensive team controlled years.  His two major failings in the Majors have been a lack of meaningful contact and an inability to hit left handed pitching.  Adding a little more salt to the wound, his approach in left field leaves one wanting, but he does have the ability to be average if not better out there. Brantley could also be exchanged out for someone like Zach McAllister.

Detroit Tigers
Casey Crosby, LHP
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Andrew Oliver, LHP

The Tigers at first look like a bad fit with Austin Jackson in center.  However, Jones is a clear upgrade to Jackson with the bat and potentially with the glove.  The Tigers could also pay deference to Jackson and shift Jones to a corner position.  However, shifting Jones to a corner position reduces his value to the team and makes him less of an attractive piece to acquire.  Additionally, the Tigers give up good pieces that should be of use to them.  Crosby and Oliver are not far away from potentially providing meaningful contributions to the big league club. Castellanos is a very good prospect who could be developed by the club or dealt for a player that more fits the team's needs.

Kansas City Royals
Wil Myers, LF
Christian Colon, INF
Tim Melville, RHP

This trade almost makes sense if not for the Royals being set in their outfield.  Alex Gordon finally accomplished with his bat what everyone thought he was capable of doing.  Jeff Francoeur had a career year.  Melky Cabrera broke out big in a career year as well.  All of these guys were in their age 26 or 27 year, so it makes some sense that these performance may be real and qualify as what one might expect from their peak seasons.  For a team like the Royals it would make more sense to use any trade chips to beef up their pitching instead of going after Jones. 

Minnesota Twins
Miguel Sano, 1B/LF
Eddie Rosario, OF
Niko Goodrum, SS

Budget issues, Denard Span, and stopgap Ben Revere make this a difficult place for Jones to land.  Add that to the general feeling that the Twins are trying to retool as opposed to push for the playoffs and it just does not seem like a fit.  Sano would be the prize here.  Oriole fans can often be heard gnashing their teeth when hearing of Sano because the Orioles were turned off by his 3.5 MM price tag and instead took that money along with another million, investing it in Garret Atkins.  Good times.  Of course, Sano is still a very raw hitter who strikes out far more than should against not too advanced hitting.  He is young and could develop into a monster bat.

Adam Jones simply does not appear to easily fit for any team in this division.  The White Sox and Indians appear not to be in the market for Jones and their packages rely far too much on reclamation projects with too much service time already used.  I could see the Tigers being interested as they fill out their outfield.  It appears they are set with Jackson in center and Delmon Young in left field.  The Royals have the young talent to offer, but they sport an outfield that is entering into their peaks years and is reasonably priced.  I also simply do not see the Twins choosing to spend so much to fill a position that they already have coverage with the difficulties they face with their budget allocations already.  However, of those deals...I'd like to find something with the Royals and then the Tigers.  It still appears the only logical place so far for Jones to go is Atlanta.

17 January 2012

Kyle Hudson's Draft Excluded Status

In one of his posts, Roch Kubatko wrote the following:
Hudson can't be placed on waivers and outrighted to the minors before March because he's "draft excluded." The Orioles must trade or release him. They can re-sign him if he's released, but he can't play for them before May 15.
Roch apparently believes that surrounding mystery around quotation marked designations improves the beauty of sports journalism, I guess.

What does it mean to be draft excluded?

It is a player who begins the season as a minor leaguer who would be eligible for that December's Rule 5 draft and is added to the 40 man roster between the draft signing date (August 15th) and the deadline for the Rule 5 draft.  This player can be traded at any time during his draft excluded status, but cannot be designated for assignment until 20 days prior to opening day.

Therefore, Kyle Hudson, a draft excluded player by being added to the 40 man roster in September, must pass through waivers and given his outright release.  Apparently, there is a May 15th deadline as well that I did not know was in effect.  This means that Kyle Hudson will not be an Orioles in 2012.  He will sign with someone else assuming the May 15th date is correct.

What is the specific language?

MLR 6 (e)
DRAFT-EXCLUDED PLAYERS. A player who is excluded from selection in a Rule 5 Selection Meeting because the player was promoted to a Major League Reserve List after August 15 of the championship season preceding the selection meeting and remains on a Major League Reserve List through the conclusion of such selection meeting shall be referred to as a "draft-excluded player." A draft-excluded player shall not be directed to perform for, assigned to, or otherwise transferred to a Minor League Club unless the player first receives a trial with the player's Major League Club lasting until 20 days before the opening day of the following Major League season. See Rule 10(e)(6) (Restrictions on Waiver Requests) for rules concerning when waivers may be requested on a player who would become a draft-excluded player and Rule 10(d)(5)(B) (Consideration for Assignment of Player; Selected or Draft-Excluded Player) for rules concerning the waiver claim price for a draft-excluded player.
Rule 10(e)(6)
Assignment waivers may not be requested on the contract of a player who stands to become a draft-excluded player, as described in Rule 6(e), during the period beginning five days following the last day of the World Series and ending 25 days prior to the opening of the championship season of the year following the year the player became a draft-excluded player. If waivers are obtained, no assignment may be made pursuant to such waivers until 20 days prior to the opening of the championship season of said year.
I do not see anything about May 15th.

16 January 2012

Is Reynolds Going Back to Third the Best Move?

Last week it was announced that Mark Reynolds reprieve from third base has ended and he will return to the position that so flummoxed him in 2011.  It was an awful season.  A season where many of us winced when batted balls suggested they were heading to the hot corner.  Over at Camden Chat, Andrew expressed his negative reaction upon hearing the news.  I would be surprised if he was alone in his frustration.  Me?  I shrugged.  I find myself shrugging a lot lately.  In this post, I would like to go beyond shrugging and try to understand what Reynolds did last year and how that informs us on what should be done with him this year given the current roster.

First, it is good to look at the numbers in a historical context.  In 114 games at third, Reynolds' defense was measured as -18 runs there.  That equals what Bob Aspromonte (1967; 144 games), Todd Zeile (1993; 153 games), David Wright (2009; 142 games), and Danny Valencia (2011; 147 games).  Reynolds accumulated that deficit while playing about 30 fewer games than the players he tied.

As you would expect, those with greater deficits typically played fewer games at the hot corner. Worse seasons were Greg Norton's (1999; -19; 120 games), Jim Presley's (1990; -20; 133 games), Joel Youngblood's (1984; -21; 117 games), Toby Harrah's (1979; -21; 127 games), Fernando Tatis' (1999; -22; 147 games), Edwin Encarnacion's (2007; -22; 137 games), Mark Teahan's (2005; -24; 128 games), Joe Torre's (1971; -25; 161 games), Ty Wigginton's (2003; -28; 155 games), Gary Sheffield's (1993; -31; 133 games), and Ryan Braun's (2007; -35; 112).  Braun's season is of special note because his rate of losing a run every 3.2 games is almost twice as unproductive as Reynolds' rate (6.3 games per lost run).  Keep in mind though that in general, a bad defensive third baseman is one who loses a run every 15 games.  Reynolds certainly was not the historically worst third baseman to log significant time in the field, but he was the worst regular with only Houston's Chris Johnson as his only serious competitor.

So...why push him back to third base after such a dreadful, soul crushing year?  Well, Reynolds wanted to go back to third.  A player's wishes only go so far though, so those wishes had to be in concert with what the organization as a whole wanted to do.  Reynolds' 2007 year may be a bit of a career year in terms of awfulness.  He has typically been a player who would give up about 10 runs over the course of 150 games.  That fits neatly with the one lost run every 15 games level of badness.  His ability to take a walk and to force fresh white baseballs into the pitcher's hand for the subsequent batter has typically more than made up for his glove of stone.  You could suggest that his 2011 year was not indicative of his true talent level and that he will regress upward to being bad at third instead of being somewhat historically bad.  You could also suggest that even though the 27-30 age seasons are a time of offensive peaking that this is about the time where defense begins to deteriorate for many players.

For this post, I decided that it might be good to compare how the roster could fill in with Mark Reynolds at a variety of positions.  For simplicity's sake, I used the Bill James projections (which always feel optimistic, but perform just as well as any of the others) available at Fangraphs.  I projected WAR for each player by using the OBP/SLG projections, scaling them over 600 plate appearances, and predicting defensive capability. 

For Mark Reynolds, I projected him as a 1B, 3B, LF, and DH.  You my remember that in the beginning of the off season that I suggested that the Orioles think about sending Reynolds to left.  That never happened, but I can still dream.  I foresaw him being worth -10 runs at 1B, -15 runs at 3B, and -10 in left field.  His WAR would be 2.3 at 1B, 3.2 at 3B, 2.8 in LF, and 2.6 as DH.  The 2.8 WAR in LF with a -10 run defense still says to me that he should be trotted out there.  He has athleticism.

Other options at first base include Chris Davis (2.8 WAR, -5 runs) and Nolan Reimold (1.5 WAR, -10 runs).  I projected the Robert Andino / Matt Antonelli / Ryan Flaherty combination as worth 1.2 WAR.  Other options at third were the combo at 1.2 WAR and Chris Davis (2.7 WAR, a potentially kind -10 runs).  In left field, Reynolds would have company with Nolan Reimold (2.2 WAR, -5 runs) and Endy Chavez (2.1 WAR, +15 runs).  Finally, DH could also be manned by Chris Davis (2 WAR) or Nolan Reimold (1.8 WAR).

Mark Reynolds at First Base
With Reynolds at 1B and earning 2.3 WAR the following is the best setup according to the projections: 3B Chris Davis (2.7 WAR), LF Endy Chavez (2.1 WAR), and DH Nolan Reimold (1.8 WAR).  8.9 WAR

Mark Reynolds at Third Base
Reynolds is slated for 3.2 WAR at third with 1B Chris Davis (2.8 WAR), LF Endy Chavez (2.1 WAR), and DH Nolan Reimold (1.8 WAR).  9.9 WAR

Mark Reynolds in Left Field
We start with a conservative 2.8 WAR for Reynolds with 1B Chris Davis (2.8 WAR), 3B Combo (1.2 WAR), DH Nolan Reimold (1.8 WAR).  8.6 WAR

Mark Reynolds as Designated Hitter
DH Mark Reynolds (2.6 WAR), 1B Nolan Reimold (1.5 WAR), 3B Chris Davis (2.7 WAR), LF Endy Chavez (2.1 WAR).  8.9 WAR


Based on the above projections, the Orioles placing Reynolds at third base gives them 11% more projected production from the current roster.  Even a best case scenario where Reynolds would provide league average defense in left field would not be more productive than the current set up with him at third base.

Additionally, this little exercise made me aware of something else: Endy Chavez is likely to be a full timer this year in left field.  The only things preventing him from doing so would be Nolan Reimold taking another step forward firming his grip on LF, Jai Miller all of a sudden figuring things out, or an injury.

I am shrugging.