With the beginning of Spring Training, Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Jim Callis for his thoughts on the O’s.
You can find Callis’ work with Baseball America at:
You can find Callis on Twitter at:
Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. Callis for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Baltimore Sports and Life: “In Tsuyoshi Wada and Chen Wei-yen, the O’s have added two lefties to their rotation (or at least as rotation possibilities). Wada (who turns 31 in February) is described as a cerebral, soft-tosser. Last year the Japanese native was 16-5, with a 1.51 era. In his 184.2 ip, he allowed 7 homers, 40 bb’s, with 168 k’s. The 26 year old Chen is known as a power arm, whose velocity dipped in ’11, as he dealt with a leg injury. In ’11, the Taiwanese native was 8-10, with a 2.68 era. In his 164.2 ip, he allowed 138 hits, 9 homers, 31 bb’s, with 94 k’s.
Wada: 107-61, 3.14 era, 1,444.2 ip, 1,263 hits, 142 hr’s, 395 bb’s, 1,329 k’s
Chen: 36-30, 2.48 era, 631.1 ip, 518 hits, 47 hr’s, 153 bb’s, 500 k’s
Chen appears to be a lock for the rotation, while Spring Training will decide if Wada joins him or begins in the bullpen. Do you find it realistic to believe this duo could combine for 350 innings, at a 4.50 era for Baltimore?”
Callis: “Perhaps–and I know that’s not much of an answer. Dan Duquette and Ray Poitevint mined the Far East heavily when they were in Boston, so they have good contacts over there. It’s just so hard to project how foreign major leaguers will translate to MLB. The AL East is an unforgiving division, and Wada will have to be particularly fine with his pitches and Chen will have to regain his velocity to survive.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “My interpretation of the trade of Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom was that the O’s received fair (maybe better) value back. Hammel profiles similar to Guthrie overall (though Guthrie regularly exceeds his FIP, while Hammel regularly does not), and is arbitration eligible in ’13. The O’s will hold a $4M club option on Lindstrom for ’13. Guthrie will be a FA after this year. While it is possible the two obtained pitchers could be flipped later, my problem with the trade was that the O’s did not get any youth under long-term team control back. Duquette has said such youth was not available. Would you have held Guthrie until the non-waiver deadline, and attempted to move him then; or would you have made the trade as is?”
Callis: “I would have waited. I don’t think Guthrie would have been part of the Orioles’ future when they finally get back to contention, but I would have rather gone for younger talent with more upside, even if it meant more risk. You know there are going to be any number of contenders looking for starting pitching help during a season.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “If the O’s are ever going to be competitive in the near term, their young pitching has to produce. Matusz was extremely strong over his last 10 starts of 2010, and abysmal over his 12 outings in 2011. I think the truth about Matusz is probably somewhere in the middle, but he appears very unlikely to earn a spot this Spring. In 2011, Arrieta saw improvement in his K/9, Line Drive %, Ground Ball %, and First Strike % numbers. With the removed bone spur not directly at the elbow (and with him having surgery when he did), there seems to be confidence in his ability to have a normal throwing program this Winter. Obviously 21 homers in 119.1 ip is too much, and his fastball command has to increase.There was been a lot to like about Britton’s rookie season, especially with how he responded to the adversity of July. Overall he finished 11-11, with a 4.61 era. In his 154.1 ip, he allowed 162 hits, 12 homers, 62 bb’s, with 97 k’s. His OPS against was .735, and he had a G/F ratio of 1.24. Like Arrieta, his fastball command needs to improve. What are your current thoughts on these three?”
Callis: “I’d still think Matusz, when mentally and physically healthy, has a chance to be a No. 2 starter. He’s left-handed and has shown solid stuff and savvy in the past. Britton is my favorite of those three, and I think his sinker will be his meal ticket. Arrieta has the upside of a No. 3, though as you note he has work to do to get there. That’s not a bad trio of young pitchers to build around at all.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s had a league average offense last year. The primary changes will be moving Chris Davis (1st), Nolan Reimold (LF), and Wilson Betemit (DH) into the everyday lineup. Would you take the over or under on these three collectively combining for a .750 OPS and 50 homers?”
Callis: “I’d take the under. I’m not sold on Davis hitting consistently enough to stay in the lineup, Reimold also has to prove he cna do the same and Betemit never has shown he can be an everyday player either.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Wieters finished with 50xbh’s (.450 Slugging) and was lauded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. If you were starting a team – which catchers do you take before him? Your expectations for him in ’12?”
Callis: “Not many. Carlos Santana and Buster Posey maybe, and that’s it. I think he’ll keep getting better and develop into a perennial All-star.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “I would be pleased to be wrong, but I believe the O’s will reach a buyout with Roberts during Spring Training. Hardy spent a lot of time leading off last year, but would prefer not to be used in that capacity, and has a relatively low career on-base % anyway. Who should leadoff for Baltimore? Markakis? Reimold? Antonelli (if he were to start over Andino at 2nd)?”
Callis: “I’d go with Markakis in that scenario. He may never hit for the power the Orioles hoped, but he does consistently get on base.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Reynolds was abysmal at 3rd last year. The prior two years, he was below average, but ‘livable’ at the position. I’m pleased the O’s are giving him another chance at 3rd instead of moving him across the diamond. What would you need to see from Reynolds this year, to advocate Baltimore picking up the $11M club option in ’13?”
Callis: “It’s hard for me to see where a team that has no chance of winning in 2013 would want to spend $11 million on Reynolds that year. He does hit for a lot of power, but he’s never going to be much of an AVG/OBP guy and he’s a subpar defender. Best-case scenario is he has a good enough year in 2012 that another team will give up something in trade for him.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “In a Baseball America poll (http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/majors/best-tools/2011/2612213.html) of Major League Managers, Adam Jones was ranked as the 2nd best defensive CF in the American League. On the other-side you have the most advanced defensive metrics which state Jones is a below average CF. Like Matusz, I tend to believe that the truth lies between those two extremes. In ’11, Jones had a Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) of .339, and Isolated Power (ISO) was .185. For the 2nd consecutive year, he played in 149+ games. For the 3rd consecutive year his OPS fell within the range of .767 to .792. He finished with 25 homers, and 26 doubles. Jones is a Free Agent after the 2013 season. Jones avoided arbitration for this year with a 1 year $6.15M contract. Most agree he can be a piece of a good team, but not a franchise player. By Opening Day 2012, do you think the O’s need to have either extended him or traded him? If you would like to see him extended, what type of contract do you think would be fair? If he were to be traded, he has to bring back players who can be under long-term team control. What type of trade could you see as fair?”
Callis: “I agree, Jones is more solid regular than franchise player. Given that he’s going to keep getting more expensive, I’d try to trade him for the right package. I wouldn’t trade him just for the sake of trading him, but I’d deal him for a package of prospects and young players if I found one that piqued my interest.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “I have been pleased by the organizational moves Dan Duquette has made since being introduced to the Baltimore media November 8th.
Some of the moves made include:
1) Amateur Scouting Director Joe Jordan has been replaced by Gary Rajsich (formerly the National Cross-checker for Toronto).
2) Under Rajsich, the existing Professional Scouts have been resigned to the Amateur side, and the O’s will rely more video and statistical analysis while evaluating players on other teams.
3) Boston’s Southeast Cross-checker Danny Haas has been hired as the National Cross-checker for Baltimore.
4) Fred Ferreira has come on-board as the Executive Director of International Recruiting. Ferreira has helped bring in 10 new international scouts, working in the Dominican, Venezuela, Curacao, Guatemala, Holland, and Costa Rica. Ferreira has stated the O’s are looking into adding a Venezuelan academy.
5) Ray Poitevint has also joined the International Department, as Executive Director International Baseball.
6) Former Phillies General Manager Lee Thomas has been added as an assistant to Duquette.
7) Rick Peterson has been hired as Director of Pitching Development.
8) Stephen Walters has been hired as an Economic Advisor.
What are your impressions of the Duquette hire, and the staff he has assembled? Do you believe the O’s would have been any better off had LaCava been hired instead? Do you believe adding a young up-and-coming Executive as Asst. GM should be a priority for the organization?
Callis: “The thing that jumps out at me the most is that their amateur scouting department now has a heavy makeup of guys, starting with Gary Rajsich, who have been heavily involved in pro scouting in recent years. That could be risky, and I don’t mean that to sound like I’m demeaning Rajsich’s scouting ability. There’s just a difference between the two. The Duquette hire surprised me, because I hadn’t heard his name connected with any jobs since things didn’t end well with him in Boston. At the same time, his track record is pretty good and he laid the groundwork for the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series title. The reality is this: A lot of the better GM candidates don’t have any interest in the Orioles job because of Peter Angelos and his sons. They’re going to have a hard time attracting young up-and-coming executives.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Between the lines, the 40 man roster has been upgraded, but only with minimal incremental improvements. Heading into the off-season, I wanted to see the O’s either commit to a full-rebuilding or augment what was already here with known game-changing talent. With the O’s doing neither, I deem this the primary mistake of the Winter. Your thoughts?”
Callis: “They need to totally commit to a rebuild. They have the fifth-best team and the fifth-best farm system in the AL East, so they’re not going to win any time soon.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “As Spring Training begins, I am looking at the O’s roster as:
Britton, Chen, Arrieta, Hammel, Hunter
Johnson, Lindstrom, Gregg, Strop, Ayala, Wada, and 1 of 3 out of Simon, Patton, Eveland
With Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen, O’Day, and Berken to AAA.
Teagarden, Antonelli, Chavez, and Flaherty or Miller
General thoughts on this roster? What upside do you see? What do you dislike?”
Callis: “Outside of Wieters and potentially Britton and maybe Matusz, I don’t see any real difference-makers. I see more second-division regulars than solid regulars. It’s not pretty.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Going into ’11, we polled 19 writers and analysts on their projected record for the O’s. The average pick was 78 wins. The O’s failed to reach those expectations, winning just 69 games. Baltimore has not reached the 70 win plateau since ’06, nor been at or above .500 since ’97. In 2012, Baltimore wins how many games? What would have to occur for you to consider the season a failure or a success?”
Callis: “I’ll take 68 wins. The division is just too tough for the Orioles to really compete. I wouldn’t judge their season a failure or success based on wins. I’d judge it based on how many building blocks they can put in place.”
Note from Baltimore Sports and Life: You can discuss Mr. Callis’ comments at the BSL Message Board (http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/forum). We will be adding the responses of several other writers and analysts to these questions during the next few days.