Thursday, March 3, 2011

O's links: Wieters, Rosenthal, and Reynolds

So the Orioles have won their first three spring training games, which doesn't really matter a whole lot, but is still better than losing all three, I guess. Still, the team's offseason moves have received more attention this year, and it doesn't seem like the O's are being completely ignored as in years past.

Here are a few links from yesterday examining various O's questions and concerns for the next season and future ones as well.

- Heath of Dempsey's Army took issue with an article on Baseball Prospectus listing the most disappointing prospects of all time. On that list was a certain 24-year-old O's catcher: Matt Wieters. Heath disputed Wieters's placement on the list, saying:
Some of the best hitting catchers in recent memory did not even debut until after their age 24 season. Piazza doesn't really count; he got a cup of coffee when he was 23 but at 24, he put up a monster season and took Rookie of the Year. But Jorge Posada? He only had 15 MLB at bats at 24. Victor Martinez had just 61 games and an 87 OPS+. Chris Hoiles had only 6 games under his belt.

Sure, it would have been great if Wieters had hit the ground running like Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk or Joe Mauer. But catchers typically take awhile longer to develop offensively in the majors. They just do. That's why the Nationals moved Bryce Harper to the outfield and the Royals have moved top prospect Wil Myers from behind the plate. They value their bats more than their catching skills and they know the position will slow their development at the plate.
That's just one part of his analysis; you should check out the rest of the piece as well.

- Rob Neyer of SB Nation read Heath's post and tends to agree with him. Here is his succinct offering:
"Disappointing" is highly subjective. The Baseball Prospectus crew is naturally disappointed in Wieters, considering they basically anointed him the new Johnny Bench two years ago. But as Dempsey's Army demonstrates, in terms of 24-year-old catchers he's done just fine and still figures to have a solid career. If not better.
That's essentially what my opinion is. It's hard not to be a little disappointed with Wieters's production -- particularly at the plate -- so far, but he's still pretty young and brings a lot to the table in terms of defense and controlling the running game. He still has time to improve, and I think he'll be fine.

- Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal also wrote about the O's, and he chose to focus on the current state of the organization's farm system. Here's some of what he had to say:
MacPhail has made some excellent trades, getting a bounty for lefty Erik Bedard in February 2008 and obtaining third baseman Josh Bell for lefty George Sherrill in July 2009. But the Orioles rarely draw much from the minor-league free-agent market and lack the creativity of teams such as the Rays and Jays.

No doubt, the franchise is in a much better place than it was a year ago. But rival executives often refer to the Orioles as a sleeping giant, and the description still applies.

For the Orioles to regain their footing, their farm system needs to gush with talent, not offer dribs and drabs. Right now, in the area that matters most, the O’s aren’t good enough.
I don't think anyone would argue that the O's don't need to keep improving the level of talent in the farm system. In that sense, Rosenthal is right. And his criticism of the team's lack of international scouting has been repeatedly questioned by other baseball writers and analysts, including Keith Law. To keep pace with the Yankees and Red Sox, and really, the entire AL East, the O's need to keep adding young talent through whatever means necessary.

- Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew interviewed Mark Reynolds, and while there's not much quote-worthy material, it's a good read.

- Kaduk spent some time at the O's new facility in Sarasota, Ed Smith Stadium. After $31 million in renovations, Kaduk has plenty of nice things to say about the place, which, as the title suggests, has been turned "from pit to palace." He also provided several photos of the renovations and upgrades. Really, the place looks fantastic.

- Since yesterday must have been focus on the O's day at Big League Stew, Kaduk also quickly summarized the team's offseason acquisitions and departures and raised five crucial questions. Here's the question that I found must interesting:
3. How much of a difference will a full season of Buck Showalter make? The most repeated stat about the Orioles this offseason has been 34-23, which was Baltimore's record after Showalter took over at Camden Yards in 2010. It was a nice run to be sure, but the implication — however serious — that the O's could have played at that clip with last year's collection of talent is misguided.

That said, it'll be interesting to see what Showalter does with this team, which is a hodgepodge of not-fully-realized talent and veteran guys who have been there before. He'll really earn his stripes if he can coax an above-average performance out of a pitching staff that ranks the weakest in the division.
Showalter's biggest hurdle will be to get more production out of guys like Wieters, Adam Jones, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman (if he's on the roster), and other youngsters making the transition from minor leaguer to full-time MLB regular. If he can do that, the O's should improve mightily.

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