25 January 2014

Brandon Waring - A Lost Minor League Free Agent

More than for most teams, the offseason playing-personnel moves of the Baltimore Orioles have been minor-league free agent arrivals and departures. Most of the focus at Camden Depot has been on the players signed by the Orioles, which is proper - most people reading this site are much more interested in the players joining the Orioles rather than in those leaving. And most of the players who might leave the Orioles as a minor-league free agent are either AAA veterans who joined the Orioles as a minor-league free agent for 2013 (Manny Delcarmen, Adam Russell, Jairo Asencio et al); lower-level fringe players and backups (Travis Adair, George Barber, Allen de san Miguel et al) or players we've discussed in the past (Luis Exposito, Zelous Wheeler).

The all-time home run king among professional baseballers named "Waring." (Elaina Ellis / Norfolk Tides)

But there's one somewhat-familiar and as-yet-undiscussed name among the minor-league free agents leaving the Orioles for potentially greener pastures. In four of his seasons with the Orioles, Brandon Waring made the list of Baseball America's top thirty Orioles' prospects, with a high rating of 18 before the 2010 season. And before both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, BA regarded Waring as the best power hitter in the Orioles' minor-league system. Waring has hit twenty or more home runs in every professional season he's played, including his first professional season in 2007, in which played only 69 games.

Waring, a corner infielder who split time between third and first, joined the Orioles' organization in the 2008 season when the Orioles traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds for Waring, Justin Turner, and the late Ryan Freel. Despite Waring's power, he progressed very slowly through the Orioles system; spending all of 2010, all of 2011, and the first six weeks of 2012 at AA Bowie before earning a promotion to Norfolk. It's not surprising why he didn't get promoted more quickly; he was a bad third baseman; he hit for a low average and struck out a lot; and although he took some walks he struggled to maintain an acceptable on-base percentage.

Waring had a fairly good 2012 season split between AA and AAA, but he injured himself in spring training 2013 and found himself back in Bowie for 2013, where he again hit 20 homeruns despite a .213 batting average. He'd obviously fallen out of the Orioles' plans; he wasn't going to push Manny Machado or Chris Davis aside; so after he was granted free agency he signed with the Twins.

Waring turned 28 on January 2, and he's not going to be a star or even a good regular player. Still, Waring's skill set isn't that much different from Mark Reynolds' - low-average power hitter who draws a few walks and plays bad defense - and because so many teams have problems finding even slightly productive designated hitters, can Waring be a useful player to somebody?

I saw and recorded 81 of Waring's AAA plate appearances in 2012. I've gathered some more-or-less unrelated facts about his performance and these may describe him more fully:

First, here's a look at his batted-ball breakdown:

Line Drive
Fly Ball
Ground Ball

This data includes both hits and outs; the ground / fly ratio is available only for outs, so any conclusion must be tentative. It does seem that Waring hits the ball in the air more than average, which is not surprising but also advantageous; players who hit the ball in the air hit into fewer double plays than those who hit the ball on the ground. Waring is not blessed with great speed; it's an advantage for him to not hit ground balls that could become double plays.

More interesting is the number of pitches he saw at different counts. The first table shows the number of pitchers he saw ahead in the count, even in the count, or behind in the count (excluding first pitches); the second shows the number of pitchers he saw at each count:



Waring had difficulty getting far ahead in the count. He had only ten 2-0 counts, 3 3-0 counts, and 4 3-1 counts. Considering that there are more chances to hit ahead in the count than behind in the count, it's safe to say that Waring doesn't work the count to his advantage. That could be because he's swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, fouling off pitches, or because he's taking pitches in the strike zone. The breakdown of his strikes doesn't tell us much:

Possibly Waring should have swung at a few more strikes earlier in his at-bats, but that's a risky approach if he expands his strike zone too much and it's not based on substantial evidence.

Brandon Waring had the power to possibly make him a useful bench part on a major-league team. Certainly he deserved more of a shot than the Orioles gave him. I'm not going to state that the Orioles should have given him that shot and I'm certainly not going to say that he would have done anything with his shot. It does seem that Waring could have changed his game to work ahead of the pitchers more frequently and take more advantage of his power. It's unlikely, but Brandon Waring might help the Twins in 2013; but with Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, Delmon Young, and Francisco Peguero, the Orioles probably won't miss him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to see Brandon leave the organization. He had some excellent years in the organization, winning a league MVP.He has power and was very serviceable at both third base and first base. High character kid too. I think he has what it takes to play in the majors and hope he gets a shot to show that as a Twin. First team college All American. Best wishes.