Friday, January 30, 2009

Community Projections: Matt Wieters

I've seen a lot of articles about Matt Wieters coming out lately. Many are the standard top prospect lists - with Wieters holding the top spot - while others are general of the form "man, that Wieters kid is going to be some player."

I had Wieters projected for 400 PA of .275/.344/.438 ball (which makes him a slightly above average hitter already), but that seems to be the worst anyone thinks he's going to do. When coming up with that line, I gave a lot of weight to his being a catcher (and thus needing more transition time). I'm also not used to the Orioles having such a good prospect - I remember thinking Larry Bigbie was going to be the next Shawn Green (oops).

Wieters is about as complete of a hitter as you can ask for; he hits for average and power (and has a very good batting-eye) from both sides of the plate. He definitely showed that too, putting up (in retrospect) a monster year - .345/.448/.576 in A+ and .365/.460/.625 in AA, with 27 HR and 82 BB to 76 K in 437 combined AB at the age of 22.

There are a lot of players Wieters has drawn comparisons to:

Joe Mauer: At age 20 he hit .335/.397/.412 in A+ and .341/.395/.453 in AA. Mauer was younger, but Wieters had a higher OBP and much more power. Joe hit .294/.372/.411 in his first full year at age 22.

Mike Piazza: At age 23 he hit .377/.441/.658 in AA and .341/.403/.564 in AAA. Maybe give a small OBP advantage to Wieters, but Piazza was a beast and carried that through to the big leagues; .318/.370/.561 with 35 HR.

Mark Teixeira: At age 22 he hit .320/.404/.593 in A+ and .316/.403/.591 in AA. Tex showed a touch more HR power, but Wieters has the edge in BA (and thus SLG) and OBP. Mark hit .259/.331/.480 the following year in the majors. Teixeira is the guy who Wieters should be most like with the bat. Mark Teixeira... as a catcher. Boy the Pirates must be kicking themselves for that one (picking lefty reliever Daniel Moskos #4 overall instead of Wieters).

Average their first-year lines together and you get .290/.358/.484. That would be awfully impressive, but with some seasoning in AAA (which looks like it might last longer than I originally expected) it is conceivable.

So the current projection for Matt Wieters is:

300 78 20 1 10 29 .289 .359 .482 .365

That would have made Wieters the 7th most valuable catcher in baseball last year (in half a season, no less). The NL has Brian McCann (.301/.373/.523 last year), Russell Martin (.280/.385/.396), and Geovany Soto (.285/.364/.504). The AL only had Joe Mauer (.293/.413/.451). And Matt Wieters might be the best one of them all in the not-too-distant future. Read more ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hope He Didn't Unpack

Just about a week since arriving in Chicago, Garrett Olson is one the move again. He was packaged with short-stop Ronny Cedeno in a deal for right-handed pitcher Aaron Heilman, who himself was just recently acquired by the Mariners from the Mets in the JJ Putz deal.

The Cubs basically traded Felix Pie and Cedeno for Heilman and his increasing tRAs (2.12 in 2005, to 3.04 to 4.45 to 5.80 last year). That seems like a pretty horrible deal to me, even if Chicago had no use for those two guys.

For the M's this is a great deal. Cedeno should be a capable back-up at short and second for them, and Olson (5.26 tRA last year) is, in my opinion, as good as Heilman already. Seattle plays in a pitcher's park where Olson's fly-ball tendencies will play well; that may give him some confidence to go after hitters more. He was great in his one start there last year for the O's, going eight shut-out innings before giving up three singles in the ninth which Lance Cormier allowed to score.

The assumption all winter was that an Olson-to-Chicago trade was a precursor to the Cubs acquiring Jake Peavy (with Olson and others going to San Diego). Boy did they come up short. Read more ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Howard Worth Two Princes?

Prince Fielder just signed a two-year contract buying at a couple of his arbitration years for a total of $18 M. He hit .276/.372/.507 last year with 34 HR, .376 wOBA, 113 wOBA+ (and .419 wOBA, 123 wOBA+ in 2007).

Ryan Howard is asking the Phillies for $18 M in arbitration next year, after hitting .251/.339/.543 with 48 HR, .367 wOBA, 108 wOBA+ in 2007 (.398 wOBA, 155 wOBA+ in 2007).

I know there's service time considerations and national recognition (Howard was 2nd in NL MVP voting despite being only the 7th most valuable player on his own team last year, according to FanGraphs), but that seems kind of silly to me.

I think the arbitrator is going to go with the Phillies submitted figure of $14 M, but I wouldn't be surprised if Howard won his case. Read more ...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Community Projections: Adam Jones

Most casual O's fans weren't happy about it at the time, but the Erik Bedard trade turned out wonderfully for the team. The main piece coming over from Seattle (much to USSMariner's chagrin) was center-fielder Adam Jones. Expectations for Jones were pretty high - and he didn't quite live up to them - but it's hard not to be excited about his future.

Jones had some plate-discipline issues, posting a .270/.311/.400 line, with 9 HR, .322 wOBA, 96 wOBA+. He more than made up for it with his gliding defense in center and cannon arm (accuracy not withstanding).

He still has a ways to go to reach those Torii Hunter comparisons, but I expect a bump in OBP and SLG, if not so much with the average:

575 145 32 2 15 41 .273 .325 .425 .331

Considering his defense, that would make Jones an above-average player already. And if he learns not to chase those down-and-away breaking balls and starts hitting the ball in the air a bit more then he might be reaching his ceiling sooner than expected. Read more ...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Community Projections: Brian Roberts

There are no shortage of Brian Roberts trade rumors (as well as contract talk) but for now he's set to be an Oriole in 2009.

After his career year in '05 (.314/.387/.515, 18 HR) and down-year in '06 (.286/.347/.410), Roberts has been pretty consistent the last couple years (.290/.377/.432 & .296/.378/.450).

Over at FanGraphs they have Roberts being worth 4.9 WAR in both '07 and '08, with extra offense in the latter being made up for by better defense in the former.

For now, I have Brian projected at:

625 158 40 5 9 69 .285 .365 .425 .358 3.9

That's a pretty big drop-off (a whole Win), but it still makes Roberts worth $19.4 M next year.

On a related note, there are reports of Roberts rejecting a contract extension from the O's in the neighborhood of 3 years, $30 M. That seems reasonable in this market (it may be more than Orlando Hudson ends up getting by something like 1 year and $12 M), but it's probably not near what Brian will be worth.

For that to be a fair contract, he would have to hit something like the following:

2010 600 152 38 4 7 57 .281 .350 .405 .343 2.7
2011 575 144 35 3 5 48 .274 .336 .381 .326 1.7
2012 550 136 32 2 3 42 .269 .325 .358 .311 0.7
2013 525 130 28 1 2 32 .265 .310 .338 .297 0.0

I added 2013 just to show that such a progression would leave him as a replacement level player by then (if not below). The WAR values assumes gradually worsening baserunning and defense.

Taking inflation into account, for 2010-2012 given that kind of decline, Brian Roberts would be worth the 3/30 deal he was offered. He'd be a below average player in 2011, but he'd still have some value. By 2012 he's at around Cesar Izturis levels of production (more bat, less glove).

Now I think it's fairly likely that Roberts will age better than that, even if not by much. In the past I said that the team should probably trade him, but that was based on the assumption that Brian would want a 4/60 type deal - if he's amenable to 3/33 or 3/36 (maybe with a team option) then that might be OK.

3/36 would require something like:

2010 600 152 38 4 7 61 .283 .357 .408 .348 3.0
2011 575 145 37 3 5 53 .279 .346 .391 .335 2.1
2012 550 139 34 2 4 43 .275 .333 .374 .320 1.2

That doesn't seem unreasonable, but I guess Roberto Alomar probably looked like a fine investment after his .336/.415/.541 season at the age of 33. That was followed with .266/.331/.376 and a couple more even worse seasons before he was out of baseball.

How good will Brian Roberts be next year, and how long will his above-average production last? Read more ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

They Finally Signed The Man

I've lost count of the number of times I've suggested that the Orioles need to sign Nick Markakis long-term. With Nick going into his first year of arbitration, the O's have locked him up to a six year $66.1 M deal, including some incentives and a limited no-trade clause. No word of any team options, but I won't be too nit-picky.

Right now I've got Nick worth a monster 5.5 Wins Above Replacement next year (3.65 with the bat, 0.50 with the glove, 2.50 for the replacement level, -0.75 for the position adjustment, and pro-rated to 650 PA). And, though it's not close to being finalized yet, the feedback I've gotten on my initial projection of .301/.401/.493 is that it's too low. Assuming we don't project him to be even more awesome, Nick should be worth about $25.1 M next year (on the free agent market).

For arbitration, players tend to get 40%, 60%, and 80% of the free market value in successive years. That means the team "should" pay him about $161 M for those six years, assuming he stays at those 5.5 WAR every year and there's 10% salary inflation annually.

That's why I've said that no matter what contract Nick would be signed to, he'd still be a bargain. The difference between $64 M and $66 M (or whatever) isn't nearly as important as actually getting the deal done. The guy is a championship caliber player.

Needless to say, I'm really really happy about this.

[Update: It seems that the contract includes a mutual option for 2015, so that's a small plus.] Read more ...

Goodbye, RAN-DOR!

The O's Rule V pick from last year, right-handed reliever Randor Bierd, has been traded to the Boston Red Sox in return for 25 year-old right-hander David Pauley.

Bierd wasn't anything special last year (4.91 ERA, 5.23 tRA) but I thought he was an interesting arm.

Pauley started 25 games in AAA in 2008, posting a 3.55 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 6.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9. The scouting report from
"Pauley mixes a very good sinker with a low 90s fastball with good movement, a good changeup, and a nice curveball. Has 5th starter potential at the MLB level. Pauley has demonstrated solid success against AAA competition for extended periods of time, but has yet to impress much at the big league level, although he hasn't been given much of an opportunity. Needs to improve his control somewhat. Gives up a lot of home runs. Good fielder with a strong pick-off move."
I guess you could call that a minor upgrade for the O's, as Pauley should be able to match or beat Bierd production if he was put in the pen. Bierd wasn't even likely to make the team anyway. I will, however, miss having a guy on the roster named Randor. Read more ...

Community Projections: O's Closer

The O's should have a solid bullpen next year, though the guy's at the back-end aren't exactly Mo Rivera.

George Sherrill was acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade and went on to have a good season as the team's closer - even making the All-Star game. The 4.73 ERA was high, but he did pick up 31 saves with a 9.8 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.33 FIP, 4.07 tRA, 109 tRA+.

For next year I have him projected for 55 IP with a 4.00 tRA.

Jim Johnson was an OK starting pitching prospect, but was moved into the pen when he was brought up to the majors. His mid-90s fastball / curveball combo led to a very good season (2.23 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 3.48 tRA, 122 tRA+) despite a poor strike-out rate (4.9 K/9).

I've got him projected similarly to Sherrill, with 65 innings of 4.00 tRA ball

Chris Ray didn't spend any time in the majors in 2008 due to injury. Back in '07 he was the O's hard-throwing closer, putting up a 16 save, 4.43 ERA, 4.30 tRA season before going down hurt. The previous year he converted on 33 save opportunities with a sparkling 2.73 ERA despite a 4.64 tRA.

I'm not expecting all that much from Ray in '09: 40 IP with a 4.50 tRA.

With three good but not great arms available at the end of games, how will Dave Trembley choose to utilize these weapons? I would use a Sherrill/Ray combo for the ninth inning depending on who's coming up to the plate with Jim Johnson (who seems to be the most effective against non-specific competition - Sherrill is very effective against lefties; .171/.235/.287 career line) serving as the team's "relief ace".

So who's entrance music is going to be playing at the end of O's victories this year?
Read more ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Community Projections: Felix Pie (Now Needed)

Wow, I totally didn't see this coming. I know that there have been Garrett Olson for Felix Pie trade rumors going around for a while now, but no way did I actually think they'd get done.

I'm higher on Olson than some people are, but the consensus from O's fans that I've seen thus far has him as about a 150 IP, 4.83 ERA pitcher next year (worth 1.3 WAR). With him gone, there are even more question marks about the rotation after Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara. The O's also included A-ball right-hander Henry Williamson, who I had never heard of.

Felix hit .241/.312/.325 in 93 PA last year for the Cubs (.290 wOBA, 85 wOBA+). He is a very good defensive outfielder with some glowing scouting reports, but I am very wary that he could turn into the next Corey Patterson. To start out, I'm projecting him at

450 111 24 4 9 33 .267 .322 .409 .323

I'm thinking that Pie plays (mostly) left - giving the team one of the best defensive outfields in baseball - with Luke Scott DH'ing and Aubrey Huff playing first, or the other way around if Scott can show he can handle the position. This does leave Nolan Reimold in the cold, as he's hit very well at Double-A but is already 25 years old and doesn't seem to have a place with the team anymore.

I imagine that Andy MacPhail has something else in the works as a complement to this move, and so I'll wait to give a final judgment until we see what happens. I'm cautiously optimistic that it's a plus right now.

So, what kind of role do you expect Pie to play on the time? And how well will he hit in his new home? Read more ...