Monday, January 30, 2012

Prospect Watch: Joe Mahoney

The Orioles have a couple studs at the top of their prospect lists. But the Orioles have a few other intriguing guys in their system as well. Joey Mahoney is a big-framed first basemen that may surprise some people in the future...If he can continue to develop properly.

Mahoney is a left-handed hitter drafted in the 6th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Richmond. At 6'6'' 240lbs, Mahoney possesses the body type that one would desire at first base. When the Orioles drafted Mahoney, they most likely projected that his big-framed body would offer plenty of power. So far that has not been the case. In five seasons, Mahoney has only 53 HR. That averages out to only 10.6 HR per season. Of course he has only reached 500 plate appearances once in his minor league career, but it shows that the Orioles are still waiting on his power to emerge. However, if you dig deeper into his body of work, you can see that maybe Mahoney IS hitting for enough power.

Here is Mahoney's ISO (Isolated Power= SLG%-Batting Average) over the past 5 seasons:
2007 (A-): .169
2008 (A) : .128
2009 (A) : .129
2010(A+): .166
2010(AA): .225
2011(AA): .213

I only listed stops through the system where he had more than 100 AB. As you can see, there is some fluctuation going on. His ISO has been trending upwards since 2010 though, indicating that he may have taken a step forward. So while his HR's are not exactly showing up, he is still proving to have power. An ISO in the .200's is very good.
Mark Reynolds led the Orioles with an ISO of .262 in 2011. He had 37 HR.
Jose Bautista led the MLB with an ISO of .306 in 2011. He had 43 HR

So maybe Mahoney is beginning to realize his potential in the power category. Of course he still will need to work on producing in other areas, but they have never seemed to have been much of a challenge. He currently has a .276/.332/.443 batting line throughout his five seasons.
His wOBA the past five seasons has been .351, .283, .356, .388, and .370.
His BABIP over the past five seasons has been .315, .278, .348, .355, and .349.

These numbers indicate that Mahoney is putting up viable enough numbers to eventually reach the majors. If you take out his 2008 season, his numbers look exceptional. The only knock is that as a first basemen, power is essential. The ability to hit the ball deep is a factor in moving up. Mahoney may be a sleeper right now in the Orioles system, but one day he could become a major league first basemen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who Can Lead The Orioles?

     The Orioles are heading into the 2012 season with an extraordinary hole at the top of their lineup. Brian Roberts may never be the same player he once was. Some would argue that Roberts may not ever play again. Regardless of whether Roberts does play again, the Orioles will still have to find out who can be their lead-off man if/when Roberts is out of the lineup. There are a few options that the Orioles have on their current roster right now.

JJ Hardy: While he is not the ideal lead-off candidate, he did an alright job last season in the role. Hardy offers an interesting approach to the typical lead-off guy. He has power, doesn't get on base too often, and has minimal speed. Last season in 293 plate appearances batting first, he had a line of .268/.295/.525 with a BABIP of .260. That does not indicate the type of numbers that the typical lead-off guy would have, although he also had 18 HR. It remains to be seen whether the Orioles truly feel that Hardy is an actual candidate to bat first, although I expect that they probably began looking for an alternative this off-season.

Robert Andino: The logical replacement for Brian Roberts is also a candidate to take over his spot in the lineup. Andino has some speed also, which is something that Hardy did not bring to the table. In 128 plate appearance leading off, Andino posted a .239/.299/.308 batting line with a .298 BABIP. Those numbers are not exactly lighting the world on fire either. However, when you dig deeper into Andino's stats, you see that he could potentially be effective against LHP, as he has been his entire career. Last season against LHP as a RHB he posted a .306/.367/.354 batting line. Compare that to his.243/.308/.339 batting line against RHP as a RHB and you can see the noticeable difference. This leads me to believe that Andino could certainly work as a lead-off guy against LHP. Obviously the question after that is who leads off against RHP?

Endy Chavez: Endy is a new face to the Orioles, but fills a few roles on the club that the Orioles lacked last season. Chavez has a career batting line of .267/.299/.369 while leading off games. Against RHP as a LHB, Chavez has a career batting line of .270/.310./375. His career batting line against LHP as a LHB is .287/.325/.366. Chavez may not be the best fit at the top of the lineup, but he does provide the Orioles with another option. He probably would work in a lead-off platoon with Andino at the top, although his numbers are not exactly leagues ahead of Andino's.

Nolan Reimold:  Reimold is an interesting case for the Orioles at the top of their lineup. He has the on-base skills that the typical lead-off guy has, and brings speed and power as well. Reimold only has 21 plate appearance as a lead-off guy, so it is tough to grasp how well he would do in the position. His splits offer something for us to look at though. Against LHP as a RHB, Reimold has a career batting line of .225/.276/.404. Against RHP as a RHB, Reimold has a career batting line of .258/.353/.478. Could Reimold be a possible platoon option with Andino at the top of the lineup? The numbers indicate that it would more than likely work.

I was going to put Nick Markakis on here, but at this point in time I honestly doubt that he gets the chance to even attempt batting lead-off since it would just leave a hole at the 2 or 3 spot in the lineup. Of course, now that I have written that, he will probably lead off every game. Matt Angle could be another option, but at this point in time, I doubt he starts the season with the Orioles since they acquired Jai Miller, and Chavez. He needs to beat one of them out, otherwise he spends time down in AAA.

In conclusion, I am intrigued by the possibility of an Andino/Reimold platoon at the top of the lineup. A .306/.367/.354 and .258/.353/.478 batting line at the top of the lineup sounds effective enough. I think it would work, and allow us to keep Hardy down in the 5th/6th/7th spots in the lineup.

(all statistics are from Baseball Reference)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Orioles 2012 FIP Projections

Clearly a very flawed look into the projection of next years staff, but it's fun to look into the crystal ball every once in a while.

Zach Britton
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.84
Jeremy Guthrie
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.56
Brian Matusz
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.55
Jake Arrieta
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.79
Tommy Hunter
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.48
Chris Tillman
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.82
Brad Bergesen
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.63
Dana Eveland (only 30 Innings in 2011)
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.81(presumably projecting him as a reliever)
Jim Johnson
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 3.71
Pedro Strop
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 2.98
Kevin Gregg
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.48
Alfredo Simon
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.96 (looks to be projected as a starter though)
Troy Patton
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.55
Jason Berken
Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.63

Average Bill James 2012 FIP Projection: 4.34
This would have been the fourth lowest FIP in 2011, only better than the Houston Astros (4.35), Cincinnati Reds (4.37), and the Dreaded Baltimore Orioles (4.67!!!!!)
So yea....The Orioles are projected to get better, but not enough to matter!
4.34 is a terrible number still. The Phillies had the best FIP in the majors at 3.24!!! For anyone wondering, the Yankees had a team FIP of 3.87 (13th).

Some things to consider:

-There are no Bill James projections for the following players: Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O'day, Zach Phillips, and Clay Rapada.
-They could provide the Orioles with some much better numbers, and who knows, they could even factor into other players producing better numbers in other roles (such as a starter in the bullpen).
-The Orioles still could be looking into adding more pitching.
- Players could actually do better than their projection, or for that matter, they could do worse.

Anyways, they are just projections and nothing more. But even as projections you can see how far the Orioles really have to go or how much the young starters really need to improve for the Orioles to be a contender

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Analyzing Matt Antonelli

The Orioles made a curious move this off-season when they signed infielder Matt Antonelli to a major league contract. The former first round pick of the San Diego Padres has only 65 major league plate appearances in his career. So what reason(s) could the Orioles possibly have to sign a guy like Antonelli to a major league deal?

Antonelli started out his career with fairly strong numbers in the lower minors with the Padres. His first season he had a line of .286/.426/.360 with a .331 BABIP and a .388 wOBA in Low-A Ball. His second season he raised the bar even higher, posting a .307/.404/.491 line in 629 plate appearances between High-A and AA Ball. It seemed that Antonelli was well on his way to becoming a very productive major league infielder.

 Unfortunately for Antonelli, his stock fell through the roof in 2008 when he posted a line of .215/.335/.322 with a .248 BABIP and .305 wOBA. Antonelli also battled injuries, and to make a long story short, fell off the map in terms of prospects. It seemed that at age 26, he might have run out of time to show he could still play at the major league level, until the Nationals gave him a minor league deal to prove his worth.

Antonelli did not disappoint. He posted a .297/.393/.460 line with a .342 BABIP and .377 wOBA in 2011 at AAA for the Nationals. It was nothing short of the promising resurgence that he surely was looking for. It was strong enough to land him a major league deal with the Orioles.

 Some may wonder why the Orioles would give a struggling prospect a major league deal after one good season in AAA at age 26. If you look at his career minor league numbers though, his .373 OBP shows that he could potentially be a solid addition to any club. If Antonelli is fully healthy, it would not be a stretch to say that he could provide the Orioles with the asset they are indeed looking for. Not only can he get on base at a reasonable clip but he has the track record proving it. If you take out the seasons where was injured (2008-2010), he has a .402 OBP. His career numbers are rather exceptional for a low-risk signing, although he does not provide much power or stolen base potential at this point. He can also play multiple positions such as 3B, 2B, SS, and OF. He most likely will get playing time at 3B and 2B, but it is never a bad thing to have multiple position eligibility. Overall, Antonelli is exactly the type of player the Orioles need to take a risk on. They are not going to be contending anytime soon, so they need to take fliers on former big-talent guys such as Antonelli. He may never be more than a bench player at this point, but he still provides the Orioles with a low-risk/high-gain potential.

*Credit to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for the statistics*

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dan Duquette: Silently Building Strong Depth?

I think most people would tend to agree that Dan Duquette was probably not the Orioles first choice to inherit their GM role after Andy MacPhail. Heck, he may not of been their second, third, or fourth choice either. As it stands though, Duquette fell into the Orioles role of GM.

Duquette is known to be one of the smartest minds in baseball. From his time with the Expos, to his time with Boston, he has unearthed and developed numerous amounts of stars. However, he also had not been in baseball for nearly a decade when he was signed by the Orioles. Some argued that he would be rusty and it may take time for him to fully catch up to the other GM's in baseball that had been there for the past decade. But as of 1/9/2012, I don't know if I could believe that argument anymore.

The best thing Duquette has done may be the talented minds that he has brought into the organization. It all started when he brought in Gary Rajsich to be the amateur scouting director. He then followed this by bringing in Lee Thomas to be his special assistant. Later he then brought in Danny Haas to be a national cross-checker. Finally, Duquette brought in former pitching coach Rick Peterson as a "pitching guru" and Chris Correnti as a a rehab coordinator. These moves may seem small from the outside, but they are big steps in the right direction for the Orioles in a development and talent-tracking aspect. There are also rumors that he has legendary international scout Ray Poitevint helping out the cause in the international market. This could very well tell us why Duquette has been so active in Asia.

Duquette has made plenty of  player moves this off-season as well. One could argue that none of the moves he has made are truly "impact" moves, however they provide the Orioles' with depth that they clearly lacked last season. It has been fairly obvious that Duquette came into this off-season with starting pitching, backup catcher, and potentially another infielder as his biggest wants and needs. He traded for his backup catcher in Taylor Teagarden. He has signed Asian pitchers' Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada, and brought in Dana Eveland through another trade. While some would argue that Teagarden and Eveland are probably not anything other than depth moves, they still could potentially add depth to areas where the Orioles severely lacked last season. Another argument against those moves could be that they gave up two legitimate relief prospects in Randy Henry and Jarrett Martin, but we honestly cannot make an accurate judgment on that because they are simply too far away from the majors at this point. Wada and Chen may or may not be the top-tier pitchers the Orioles need, but they could provide innings and half-decent numbers for the Orioles while they wait on their young pitchers to either develop or grab a spot on the 25-man roster. The Orioles also brought in Matt Antonelli and drafted Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 Draft. Both will provide some depth and insurance around the diamond.

Let's also not forget the signings of Endy Chavez, and the trade of Jai Miller. Endy will provide the Orioles with a solid 4th OF who can play all three OF positions and provide a true insurance in case someone gets injured. Some would consider him an upgrade over Angle, and it also allows Angle to prove his worth in AAA again this season. Jai Miller is an interesting case because of the simple fact that he is out of options and was traded straight up for cash. He could also prove to be a solid 4th or 5th OF for the Orioles, and he was acquired for essentially very little.

Overall, the Orioles certainly have not made a giant splash in the free agency market yet. They also did not make any exuberant trades so far either. But what Duquette has done is put this team in a situation where they will not simply fall apart and deteriorate once the calender turns to July. They finally have a rotation with some form of depth. It still needs plenty of work, but there is at least a formation evolving where they could build around. The offense is still a work in progress as well, but Duquette has brought in plenty of low-risk pieces that could potentially turn into some form of value. And if they falter, they didn't break the bank.

Duquette undoubtedly has one of the toughest jobs in sports right now. However, he may have taken a very solid first step in the right direction already. While it is hard for Orioles' fans to sit back and watch them make minor moves while all the big stars sign elsewhere, we need to remember that the Orioles' are not in a situation to sign them anyways. Prince Fielder sounds nice, but he only helps the Orioles' win a few more games or maybe sniff .500 baseball. Duquette has a goal of being over .500, so he needs to do much more than just sign Prince Fielder. I urge everyone to give Duquette the benefit of doubt right now. He has created a seemingly strong game-plan so far, and we need to allow him time to work the game-plan before we truly cast any serious judgment on what he is doing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Orioles Stealing: Conservative Yet Effective?

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles were 5th in SB% at 76%. However, they only had 81 SB, which ranked 25th in the MLB. This shows that while the Orioles were very effective at stealing bases, they were often very conservative on the base paths. What possible reason could there be for such an effective but conservative approach on the base paths? It could very well be Showalters' style of managing, or it could be the fact that the Orioles might lack the necessary speed to even attempt more SB.

If you take a look at the Orioles top five SB leaders for the 2011 season, it might surprise you a little.

1) Robert Andino: 13/16 for an 81% SB%
2) Nick Markakis: 12/15 for an 80% SB%
3) Adam Jones: 12/16 for a 75% SB%
4) Matt Angle: 11/12 for a 92% SB%
5) Nolan Reimold: 7/9 for a 78% SB%

(All % were rounded up)

As you can see, the Orioles "Utility INF" was the leading SB threat for the Orioles in 2011. Personally, I do not think of Andino as a guy who is a SB threat, so it comes to a surprise that he led the team. But if you delve deeper into the subject, you see how little speed the Orioles truly have in their starting lineup. Markakis and Jones could certainly increase their SB attempts, but it may make them less effective. Angle will have a tough time cracking the Orioles roster, with the recent signings of OF Endy Chavez and Jai Miler (who is out of options).

Another option that you have to consider for the Orioles' strong conservatism on the bases is that they are often down in games early and a lot. With the disaster called the Orioles' rotation, it is tough to be in many scenarios where they can risk attempting a SB. The Orioles also had plenty of "turtles" on the base-paths. Vlad Guerruero, Matt Wieters, JJ Hardy, and Chris Davis were not exactly the most fleet of foot.

In reality, the Orioles will most likely continue their conservative and effective approach on the base-paths this season. If  Brian Roberts returns to the club healthy he could have an impact on these statistics. Let's remember that he led the club in SB for the past couple years he was not hurt. Obviously SB are probably the least of the Orioles' worries right now, and it sure seems that Showalter has taken that approach as well. I expect them to have under 100 SB again in 2012.