Mark (Baltimore, MD):
What do the O’s need to do to make sure their talent develops in the minors? It hasn’t happened in ten years.
The Orioles have drafted quite a few players over the years that a number of teams, scouts, and draft followers have felt were highly talented prospects. Matt Hobgood was in high school throwing 95-96 mph fastball with a decent arsenal to suggest workhorse type pitcher. Brian Matusz was at San Diego throwing mostly 93-94 mph with a great change up and feel for pitching.
I could go on and on about a great deal of prospects, but take my word that Joe Jordan and his staff have done a tremendous job finding talent in the early, middle, and late rounds over the last few seasons. Even in limited capacity on the international front, Luis Lebron, Enrico Jimenez, Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Roderick Bernadina are a few diamond in the rough types that the scouting departments can hang their hat on the rack for. Here are some things to improve:
Acquire as much quality talent as possible
The organization needs to continue to acquire as many talented amateur prospects as possible. This can be accomplished by increasing the overall amateur budget into the $10-15 million range annually. This would allow Joe Jordan and his staff the leeway to look past the dollar signs and grab the best in every spot. It would allow the international department to take a closer look at the Caribbean bonus babies to closely evaluate and maybe overspend to retain the services of the best Dominican, Venezuelan, Curacao, kids each season.
Lastly, the organization has to get away from giving crucial picks away at times when the free agents make little long term impact on the win column. If you increase the amount of selections and the types of players the team can afford to select, it increases the overall talent level in the system. Increasing the number of talented players would go a long way to improving the system’s ability to churn out quality prospects.
Better training and diet regiments
The whole diet and training regimens have to be rectified. The problems within the organization cannot be tied to an individual player, as we are talking about a landscape “of this pitcher is hurt”, “this pitcher has decreased velocity”, “this pitcher has a dead arm”.
The organization’s luck certainly is not just “bad” as these problems continue for seasons at a time. I have watched it and talked to so many players and scouts that feel the organization as a whole lacks preparation.
I have always said a strong foundation makes life easy. If your organization puts the hard work in during the winter months and continues these efforts until the spring, I would expect a great deal of the players in the organization to revert to previous forms. I do not see the quality growth and training principles in place to prevent arm injuries, oblique injuries, elbow injuries, knee injuries, etc.
What about improving the diet these players get at the ballparks? Maybe provide the nutritional foundation that not only allows players to grow in the off-season, but makes them better prepared for the long strenuous season.
Conditioning for pitchers
The first thing on my list is to build and maintain the strength of the AC joint and four rotator cuff tendons. Throwing a baseball is completely against physiological principles and the unnatural motion can easily lead to problems.
One of the best methods is long tossing and that is a story in its own right. The Orioles do not discourage the practice, but it is not a foundation for their throwing program to go beyond 120 ft. Some of the best pitchers in today’s game throw well north of that distance and they are healthy, durable and have some of the strongest arms in the game.
Besides long tossing, these guys need to use rubber tubing stretches, weight training, power lifting, strong man sandbag routines, Pilates, boxing along other methods. All of these workouts would help to build the stabilization of the joints, improve the lower body size, lower body strength, and overall core strength.
Change the condition for position players
I feel the position players are pushed by the organization to do the things listed above for the most part. These guys go through the grinds with a great deal of static and non-static condition programs.
I really do not see power guys not hitting their projections because of their size and strength. These guys should continue to find the best methods available to help build strength in the off-season and maintain it through the summer months to withstand the daily rigors that baseball places on your body.
Increase the number of instructors in the system
Increase the number of instructors and the types of instructors not only in the spring training and extended spring training phases, but during the season as well. When I played, I saw a new face every time I turned the corner, whether at home or away. These instructors talked daily and each would go over what the last instructor wanted to improve and continue to advance. There was an open dialogue of communication and I felt at ease with my relationships.
The Orioles need to make sure that players are getting individual attention from multiple people in every facet of their game. They need to take the time to create an environment that not only stresses performance, but growth of the skill sets.
# # #
I cannot start to put my fingerprint on the problem, but something is not right. Do the Orioles need new leadership in the development department? Do they need new instructors? Do they need additional instructors? Do they need to revise their approach to push or relax prospects on individual timetables?
I wish I knew the exact problem, because if I knew it the Orioles would be well on their way to rectify the problem. It is most likely a little bit of the remarks above as a collective front as to why this system is not developing the players as everyone had hoped. Maybe some of it is plain bad luck, but a good deal of it can be hammered out with a fresh approach.
Marty (Brookeville, MD):
As of today the Orioles have signed 15 players from this year’s draft and 11 are pitchers. Of the position players left to sign how would you rank them in importance – Jason Esposito, Nick Delmonico, Johnny Ruettiger, Jason Coats, Derek Jones and Bradley Roney? Also which ones do you think Joe Jordan will actually sign?
There are a few factors involved in signing players and you have to consider what has been spent on the already signed players, the remaining budget, and signability of the remaining players. All of these factor into who will be in the O’s organization by August 15th. For our purposes, I will simply look at the player in terms of value and talent.
1. Jason Esposito
This is a guy that can hit, throw, field, run, and do all the things that you expect out of a ball player. He has decent pop in the bat that could be slightly higher than average for the third base position. His contact rate should be up and he shows gap power at this stage to be a slight dual threat.
He shows the slick fielding, quick reaction and arm to instantly become one of the better third base prospects as a fielder. He may not be fast, but he does have surprising quickness down the base path.
Esposito turned down a $1.5 million contract out of high school and was considered a first round talent heading into his junior season at Vanderbilt. He was ranked in my top 50 prospects and many other scouts felt the same. He was a bit inconsistent at the plate this season and the highs and lows knocked him out the first and supplemental portions of the draft.
He will likely want a bit overslot value and the Orioles will likely have to spend 600k to 750k (recommendations for mid-supplemental round picks).
2. Jason Coats
I have always liked the power from Coats’ game and thought last season he was a first day draft choice. He had some rough patches and consistency this season due to the new aluminum bats. His swing tended to elongate through the zone with late hand action and I had said weeks ago that he would have to compact the swing and be a bit more selective at the plate. He fell all the way to round 12 as a result of his streaky play.
But, boy, a stint at the Cape Cod Summer league has done wonders for him. He displays solid gap power at this stage using the wooden bats. While watching him warming up, I could see some of the compaction in his swing. However, I saw pitchers staying away from his wheelhouse and I left without seeing many game action swings.
He was a bit more selective and was not chasing pitches that were typical of his game during the college season. He is an adequate fielder that shows good instincts.
I do not know if he has the arm stick in RF, but his bat should play in the corner positions. Power is definitely in his game and the solid showing with wooden bats might make him an average to above average contact guy if he can continue to improve his approach at the plate.
Coats was highly ranked well within the top 200 on most scouts boards and fell in part because of the bonus demands. The feeling is that he wants second or third round money and it may cost the Orioles $300k to $500k to sign him away from his senior season.
His showing in the Cape solidifies my opinion that the Orioles need his bat to bolster a minor league system that sorely needs corner outfielders.
3. Nick Delmonico
Outside of Dylan Bundy, Delmonico is the second toughest sign out of the 2011 draft. He’s a high school hitter with a professional approach at the plate. An extreme baseball IQ allows him to be selective at the plate and he shows solid plate discipline that is something you rarely see out of the high school ranks.
He’s all projection and should be an above average hitter with the chance for above average power. The improvements in both aspects will greatly depend on health and maturation. His ability was zapped a great deal this spring because of back issues, but most feel that it is not a problem long term.
Delmonico was trying his hand at catcher because he has plus arm strength, but the Orioles see otherwise and like his ability to play third. He shows the quick reactions to play the hot corner and if a move is necessary, his skills, footwork and athleticism would allow him to play RF in the future.
At one point in time this kid was in the top 15 draft prospects and was considered one of the better bats from the high school ranks. He was always a top 100 prospect, but the injuries made teams pause and he dropped into the late middle rounds because of the bonus demands.
He is asking for somewhere between $1.2 million to $1.5 million to sign, but it’s possible that the Orioles could land him in the $900k to $1 million range. Signing him will a tough task, but sense the Orioles have not gone leaps and bounds overslot in the later rounds, they might take a stab in the last week before negotiation window closes.
4. Bradley Roney
Nick Delmonico is a tough sign but Bradley is not that much farther behind. He is not asking for as much as Delmonico, but honestly wants to attend Southern Mississippi and play collegiate baseball. He was asked to play for the Youse Orioles and Orioles cross checker Dean Albany would have loved the opportunity to watch him over the summer to gauge his value and worth.
Instead, Roney choose to stay at home and play summer ball locally. Do not look too far into it because they are watching him closely and over the next few weeks will decide how to approach him with a fair offer.
He was ranked in my top 200 draft prospect but was not on most national radars. I am not quite sure of the bonus demands, but he will be an overslot type; it depends on what they see and how they feel he projects. For the lack of international talent coming to the organization this season, it is imperative to bring the Roneys of the world into your organization and inject talent at all levels.
I liked the sound I heard off Roney’s wooden bat last summer and I think he has a very projectable frame and a slight, natural uplifting swing so there is some power potential if he gains strength and size. With a solid arm and athletic ability, he will likely grow into a solid third base prospect with the ability to transition to the outfield if needed.
5. Johnny Ruettiger
Ruettiger is a prospect that does not come out of the gate with the “wow” factor. He has a patient approach at the plate and displays solid contact ability. But it is the uncertainty of his ability to hit for gap power in order to make him anything more than a slap type hitter.
He shows slightly above average speed but it does not always translate to the base paths as you would hope for out of a top of the order hitter.
I am really surprised to see Johnny Ruettiger yet unsigned; unless he feels strong that he can make improvements he should be signing the dotted line. It might take a bit over slot, but $100k-$200k should get the job done.
As far as who I think the Orioles will sign, it is tough to judge because at this point I thought Jason Esposito and Johnny Ruettiger would have been in the fold. I think Jason Coats has shown enough that they do not want him to go back for his senior season. I feel fairly confident that all three are going to sign before August 15th.
The lack of international talent has me screaming to sign both Nick Delmonico and Bradley Roney, but Roney is the more likely to sign out of the two. I think Delmonico only comes into play if Dylan Bundy plays hard ball. I would obviously like to see all three signed, but nothing is 100% at this point.