Welcome to the first addition of the Orioles Nation Mailbag. If you have future questions, you can submit them here:
All major league questions answered by Alex Conway.
All minor league questions answered by Tucker Blair.
Do you believe the current 2014 version of the Baltimore Orioles is a legitimate playoff contender and if not, do you believe any REALISTIC additions this winter could have made it one?
As of this writing, the Orioles are probably not playoff contenders. They have too many holes in the rotation. If things break right (i.e Gausman is an ace and Bundy can be great this year as well), they could be contenders, but the Opening Day roster is maybe marginally better than the 2013 Opening Day Roster. If you assume a $100 million payroll, there are some additions that could have been made. Balfour would have strengthened the bullpen, but the price was high as it always is for “proven closers.” Yoon is a smart pickup at a low price, but the unknowns with him make it hard to determine how valuable he will be this season. Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez would make this team—again as currently constructed—serious wild card contenders.
I do not think any realistic position player addition would have made this team better. Cruz and Morales are flawed one dimensional players and cost a draft pick while every other free agent of note was out of price range. Some trade targets were out there, Logan Morrison or Ike Davis. However Morrison is flawed and the reported asking price for Ike Davis was a little high. They needed to add quality pitching and have yet to add enough, Santana or Jimenez in combination with Yoon change that equation. A.J. Burnett also made a ton of sense, and did not require the draft pick compensation, but he didn’t appear to want to go to the AL and offering more than what he got from the Phillies would have meant no other acquisitions. Matt Garza also made sense, but with his injury history he is more of a gamble. Also, of note and still on the market, is Chris Capuano. He has some good peripheral statistics and may be cheap at this point and if they sign him in conjunction with Santana or Jimenez it would further improve the rotation and the team. The position players are good enough—while still flawed—to produce enough runs, but the pitching staff lags too far behind in quality currently to make the Orioles true playoff contenders.
What is the name of the young (16 year old) pitcher signed by Fred Ferreira (on the spot) a few months ago? He is from the Dominican Republic. I believe that he was sent to the Minor League Facility in Twin Lakes the next day.
That would be 16-year-old RHP Olelky Peralta out of the Dominican Republic. The Orioles signed him for $325,000 and he is probably the best pitching prospect they have signed internationally since Eduardo Rodriguez. From all reports, he can clock his fastball into the mid 90’s and has hit upper 90′s. As a starter, he probably sits 92-94 mph right now, but also has a feel for a change up. I talked to two within the industry about him – both slapped a 6 fastball on him with potential for better. Without seeing Peralta play, that already sounds very promising. The Shark (Fred Ferreira) has been a terrific pickup for the O’s.
Will the O’s seriously consider landing Santana or Jimenez to bolster the staff? Yoon seems like a bullpen arm, maybe a 7th inning guy. And what about the possibility of signing Nelson Cruz to an incentive based 1 year deal? Reimold/Lough platoon in left just doesn’t seem like a great start to 2014.
I’ll respond all three of your questions/statements separately.
I think the pursuit is genuine at this point of both Santana and Jimenez. Duquette has stated multiple times on the record he expected the payroll to approach $100 million. There is enough money left to sign one of them to a maximum of $16 million per annum which should be slightly above market price. I believe they will add at least one more starting candidate before the season starts, whether that is Santana, Jimenez, or someone else is what remains to be seen.
Yoon is an unknown, projecting him to be anything right now is relatively foolhardy. Scouting reports range from bullpen to 4th or 5th guy in a rotation. He could be better, he could be worse. His contract makes him valuable and cheap at either position especially if he can put up quality outings.
Nelson Cruz is a very flawed player coming off a PED suspension that requires draft pick compensation. He plays poor defense and is a declining player. I think Lough alone is more valuable than Cruz. Also, I don’t think Lough platoons with Reimold. I think Lough should be the everyday left fielder. He has shown no evidence of being bad against lefties and in fact he hits them slightly better. Lough was a great pick up who costs nothing now and cost near nothing to get, a fantastic pick up by Duquette in my estimation.
Why do you think the O’s drafted so many catchers in early rounds last year? Are we going to develop them all and trade bait some since it’s such a scarce position? How can we fit so many top draft picks onto so few low-level minor league teams?
The MLB draft is different from other professional sports such as Basketball and Football. In Baseball, you largely draft the best player available or a player that you believe will fit under your budget at that selected round. There are a few reasons for that:
1. It often takes at least 3+ years for most prospects to even crack a MLB roster. An 18 year old is most likely not going to have any effect on the major league roster for at least 3-5 years, and sometimes longer. At this point, the Orioles really have no clue what Matt Wieters’ status will be in 2017.
2. Prospects have substantial value on the trading market, and certain positions are usually stockpiled because of how important they are (SS, C, P would be my three most important positions). Just think about how important catchers are. The Brian Ward’s of the world are invaluable to an organization because they can call a good game and play terrific defense. You need a guy like that at every level to further the development of pitching.
For the Orioles, it made sense to take Chance Sisco, Jonah Heim and Alex Murphy all in the same draft. Like I said, you can never have enough catchers. Also, the Orioles do lack depth at the position throughout the minors. All three players are young, but they also are on completely different stages of their development.
- Chance Sisco is the most advanced and will most likely spend majority of his time with Delmarva in 2014. He has a good idea of how to use the bat and will require the least adjustment out of them offensively.
- Alex Murphy is most likely slated for Aberdeen in 2014. He hit fairly well in the GCL, and should see the natural progression line of a high school player.
- Jonah Heim was very raw and very young when drafted. I fully expect him to begin in the GCL again and he will probably get substantial playing time compared to last year.
The good thing with catchers is that they can work on many things (like footwork, defense, framing) outside of the game. This will be a fun trio to watch for the next few years.
Can Steve Pearce and Delmon Young coexist on the 25-man roster?
I think they can, but it likely means Nolan Reimold is not on the roster. I have gone back and forth on whether Young will make the team or not. He hits lefties really well, but that’s all he can do. Pearce hits lefties well, not as well but still productive, and can play a serviceable left field and first base. I think the versatility of Pearce wins out. Although, Reimold’s roster spot seems like a foregone conclusion to many and I don’t think that is the case.
How about your ranking of rhsp and lhsp in the minors?