Thursday, May 22, 2008

Down On The Farm

I think it's a good time to take a look around the minors again. Just how are those Orioles farmhands doing?

Scott Moore is hitting just 191 / 276 / 372 with a less than ideal 7:26 BB to strike-out ratio. He has always been a high strike-out guy, but the walks haven fallen off quite a bit. Once his BABIP levels off (it's .231 and it should be .280) he should be OK with the average. His wOBA (weighted On-Base Average - "The formula for wOBA is wOBA = (0.72 BB + 0.75 HBP + 0.90 1B + 0.92 RBOE + 1.24 2B + 1.56 3B + 1.95 HR) / PA. Pretty simple - the multiplication is performed according to run values of each event scaled to look like OBP (in this case, the ratio of one to another is more important than the actual multiplications).") is .287; down from .385 in AAA last year. I still think that he can become a solid utility player - one that has a much better bat than the usual breed. He hasn't been playing as much 2B/SS as I expected though. I don't know if that means he can't handle the positions or what.

Mike Costanzo (basically, Scott Moore V.2) is at 238 / 305 / 344, 15:55. Moving up to AAA, his walks have gone way done and his K's have gone up. He hasn't even been unlucky with the BA, as his BABIP (.355) is where it should be (.350). Continuing the Moore comparison, he has a .286 wOBA, down from .358 in AA last year. He hasn't been seeing much time behind the plate - which is something I would like to see. Like Moore, he probably won't be a regular at the major league level, so his main chance to contribute is to keep his walks up (to go with his power, which actually hasn't shown up yet) and to be capable of playing multiple positions. If he can slide in as a back-up or emergency catcher, it'll be much easier for him to find a spot on the bench.

Hayden Penn: 59.2 IP, 4.68 ERA, 22:34 BB to K ratio, 4.78 FIP. He's giving up a few too many HR, but the main problem has been the low K rate. The walks aren't great at 3.3 per nine, but he has to strike out more than 5.1 per nine to be an effective starter with his flyball stuff. I expect the K's to pick up as we move along this season, as he has been much better about that in his minor league career. Still only 23, so there's no reason to write him off.

Radhames Liz: 52.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 22:50, 3.40 FIP. Liz has pitched much better than his ERA would show. His K's are down a little, but he has also cut his walk rate. After a rough stretch (coinciding with talk of him coming up to the majors) Liz was very good in his last start (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K). Another power arm for the bullpen, I think. For some reason, I've never really thought much of Liz - I was always surprised when he was mentioned on prospect lists. I guess that means I won't be disappointed if he flames out, but he still has an electric arm.

Nolan Reimold: 282 / 359 / 471, 21:24, .355 wOBA. After a slow start, Reimold is really picking it up (317 / 385 / 585 in May). Bring the 24 year-old up to AAA and see if he'll be in a position to help the team in the second half (or next year).

David Hernandez: 47.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 23:59, 3.80 FIP. If Hernandez keeps striking out over a batter an inning (which he's done every year) then has relative lack of "stuff" won't keep him from getting mentioned in prospect circles. The walks are an issue, but he should see AAA soon. I don't think he'll make the rotation, but he could be a successful reliever in the majors.

Chorye Spoone: 17.1 IP, 4.67 ERA, 11:17, 4.07 FIP. I don't know why the innings are so low; perhaps he was hurt? The walk problems he alleviated somewhat last year have come back, but it is a very small sample-size. Spoone is a guy I really like - I think he can definitely be a #2/3 starter in the bigs.

Chris Tillman: 42.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 22:40, 3.56 FIP. Looks like promoting him to AA was a good call. The walks are still too high, and he's been lucky with balls in play, but I definitely like what I see. Maybe not the "Ace of the Future", but a very good pitching prospect nonetheless.

Jason Berken: 51.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 4:44, 2.66 FIP. A K to BB rate of 11 is very impressive. His control has been fantastic, and a move up to AAA is probable soon. He is 24, so he's not really a top prospect, but there's no reason he can't step up and contribute.

Brad Bergesen: (AA) 33 IP, 1.36 ERA, 8:12, 3.69 FIP. The .233 BABIP means he's been lucky, and he isn't striking anyone out so for. He's getting lots of groundballs though, and has shown solid control. Has already made the jump from Frederick this year, so he will probably stay in AA for the rest of 2008. With him and Spoone, that Bowie infield should get a lot of work.

Kam "The Almighty" Mickolio: 24.1 IP, 4.07 ERA, 14:22, 3.78 FIP. He's come as advertised; lots of K's, lots of walks, and lots of groundballs (56%). Once his control improves even a little, I think he'll be making his way to AAA.

Billy Rowell: 282 / 347 / 435, 8:27, .343 wOBA. Where's the power? Rowell is supposed to be a big strong guy, but he has just 14 HR in his professional career (2 this year). The line-drive rate that fell off a cliff last year is still down, and he is hitting everything on the ground (65% GB rate). He is only 19, so there is plenty of time for him to develop, but it was a lot easier to swallow poor production when he was really young for his league.

Ryan McCarthy: 310 / 370 / 476, 4:8, .369 wOBA. Who the heck is this kid, and do the O's have a shortstop prospect on their hands? He's been lucky on balls in play, but I'll now add him to the list of players to follow in the minors. [Oops. I just saw that he is already 24, soon to be 25. That won't cut it in A+ ball.]

Brandon Snyder: 253 / 290 / 387, 7:31, .294 wOBA. Yikes. He's cut his K's a bit, but he's just not walking anymore. Already 21 in A+ ball, so his chances of becoming a starting first baseman aren't looking great (for those of us who thought he might actually hit well enough to play first).

Pedro Floriman: 186 / 222 / 209, 2:16, .200 wOBA. This guy was the SS of the future when he debuted hitting 333 / 456 / 425 in Rookie ball in 2006. His once good batting eye is gone, as are his chances of ousting Alex Cintron (or whoever is eventually there) are nearly gone with it.

Matt Wieters: 348 / 435 / 617, 22:26, .418 wOBA. What the heck is he still doing in Frederick? He has 11 HR and is destroying those pitchers. A September call-up to Baltimore really isn't out of the question - especially if Ramon is traded.

Jacob Renshaw: 50.1 IP, 3.93 ERA, 20:34, 4.77 FIP. A solid enough pitching prospect in general, but free talent considering he was acquired from the Cubs for Steve Trachsel. I expect nothing from him in the majors, and so I won't be disappointed.

Brandon Erbe: 47.2 IP, 5.10 ERA, 11:45, 4.59 FIP. He's given up a lot of homers (9), but has otherwise been very good. If the HR thing is flukey, then he might see AA this year. The 4 K's per walk is where he was back in 2005 when people were so excited about him. It was less than 2 in his horrible 2007 campaign, so there is some reasons to think he's turned it around. Electric arm could find itself in the pen as well, but it would look awfully good at the front of the rotation.

Jake Arrieta: 59.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 27:64, 2.62 FIP. Pretty good fifth round draft pick, eh? He is old for the league (22) but he is dominating and needs to be moved up to AA right now.

Tony Butler: 34 IP, 3.97 ERA, 5:26, 3.56 FIP. Boy is that Bedard trade looking good so far. His control issues have disappeared, and he has been all kinds of fantastic at Delmarva. How can he not be promoted to at least Frederick soon?

Zach Britton: 51.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 10:36, 3.30 FIP. For the second straight year, Britton has almost halved his walk rate. Like Butler, he should be moved up to Frederick in the near future. [I'm a big fan of advancing guys that have had success. I'd rather a guy be a bit below average but young for his league than blow away inferior competition. I think players - especially pitchers - learn more that why. If a 22 year-old has a ton of success in A ball just throwing it by people, then leaving him down there may make him more attached to that manner of pitching. But seriously, what do I know?]

Cole McCurry: 40.2 IP, 5.57 ERA, 9:39, 3.99 FIP. Another lefty at Delmarva. He's given up some runs, but you have to like the control and the strike-outs. Hadn't heard of him before now, but if he has many more starts like his last one (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K) then some other people will be taking notice.

Sean Gleason: 33 IP, 1.36 ERA, 9:27, 3.17 FIP. I've never heard of the kid, but he is pitching really well. He posted a 3.36 FIP at Bluefield last year, so I'm surprised I haven't seen him mentioned before.

I've ignored some older players who are having good seasons, because it's doubtful that they'll be of much use to the Orioles in the future (with regard to contributing in the majors). Another thing to notice is the extreme bias towards pitchers. That is clearly where the strength of this system lies. That's why it irks me that almost everything I've heard has the O's taking lefty Brian Matusz with the number four pick in the draft. That's fine if there are no position players available there, but I've heard that they'd still pick Matusz even if toolsy shortstop Tim Beckham is available. That would be a mistake, I think. I know you're not supposed to draft for need early on, but Beckham has a high ceiling (enough to go #1 definitely) and that he plays a position the O's are weak at is just gravy. I don't think reaching for the other Beckham (Gordon) would be a great decision, even though he also plays short. He doesn't have Tim's tools, and so bypassing him for Matusz is OK with me. If the team thinks that they can sign Mark Teixeira (for example) then not getting one of the first basemen (like Justin Smoak) is fine also. Picking a catcher, even though there are a couple of really good ones, wouldn't make much sense either. More on the draft when it happens.

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