Orioles Q&A w/ Scott Miller, CBS Sports

Returning home from their 10 game road-trip, the Baltimore Orioles are 9-7 with 7 games left in April. Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Scott Miller, from CBS Sports, to help take a look at some of the early O’s returns, and also project ahead.

You can find Miller’s work at:
http://www.cbssports.com/columns/writers/scott_miller/archive
https://twitter.com/#!/ScottMCBS

Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. Miller for again taking the time to answer a few questions.

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Cleveland recently locked up Carlos Santana for 5 yrs $21M. Wieters is a Free Agent after the 2015 season. If the O’s attempted to sign him to an extension, paying for his Arbitration years, and his first two years of Free Agency; what do you think would be be a reasonable contract for both sides? With Wieters coming off of a productive offensive season, and a outstanding defensive season; the off-season talk was that he was one of the best Catchers in the game. Will we end ’12 saying Wieters has arrived as one of the games real elite players (regardless of position)?”

Miller: “I don’t see Wieters signing because his agent is Scott Boras, and Boras almost always takes his guys into free agency. There are notable exceptions — Jered Weaver of the Angels and Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies being two — but it’s rare. Bottom line is, it has to be player driven. The only way Wieters will sign with the Orioles ahead of free agency is if he does not give the choice to Boras. That said, you use Santana’s contract as a comp. Wieters has one more year of service time, so it probably costs the Orioles a few bucks more because he’s that much closer to free agency. Five years and $25 mil or so would be reasonable for both sides.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Adam Jones is a Free Agent after 2013. What makes more sense to you from the perspective of the O’s – A 5 year $60M extension, or trading Jones for 2-3 well regarded, cost-controlled prospects?”

Miller: “You always hate to be dealing known quantities for future prospects. But the Orioles simply have to keep stockpiling those prospects. You look at Baseball America’s organization rankings this year and the O’s are 20th. That’s the bottom third. I say deal him.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “After 4 starts, Arrieta is: 1-1, with a 4.01 era. In his 24.2 ip, he has allowed 20 hits, 2 hr’s, 7bb’s, with 21 k’s. His OPS against is .588, and his G/F is 0.69. James projected Arrieta’s 2012 FIP as 4.74, ZiPS projected it as 5.10, and Marcel projected 4.65.

Last Month, Camden Depot took a look (http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-good-is-al-ace-mean-performance-of.html) at the 2011 FIP performances for American League starters by slot.

An AL Pitcher in Slot 1, had a Median FIP of 3.26
An AL Pitcher in Slot 2, had a Median FIP of 3.71
An AL Pitcher in Slot 3, had a Median FIP of 4.06
An AL Pitcher in Slot 4, had a Median FIP of 4.36
An AL Pitcher in Slot 5, had a Median FIP of 4.90

Where do you currently think Arrieta will slot in, to end 2012?”

Miller: “I’m awful at predictions. So start with that! I think if Arrieta keeps his ERA around 4.00 pitching in the AL East, I take it. Slot 3, to me, is the most reasonable in terms of expectations.”

Baltimore Sports and Life:
“If Jim Johnson approximates his 2011 season production (while racking up saves) will he command a package at the non-waiver deadline which value wise is similar to what Texas sent to San Diego last year for Mike Adams?”

Miller: “I think so. Adams was a late-bloomer and had a history of injuries. Teams recognize the importance of bullpens, especially contenders. Plus, bullpens are among the most unpredictable commodities in the game. Some clubs start the season thinking their bullpens are terrific, and they blow up. One of those clubs can be had for a package like Adams.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Working with Rick Peterson, Chris Tillman had a solid Spring Training. He showed an ability to repeat his mechanics, with improved velocity and movement. The 24 yr old has not translated that into AAA success so far to begin 2012. If it becomes clear that his Major League future in in the bullpen, how long would you keep him starting this year at AAA?”

Miller: “Midseason. Give him half a year. He’s still only 24, but by July he won’t be a young 24 anymore, in baseball terms. He’s had three years to develop so far and all he’s been is inconsistent. It’s too early to give up on him. But he’s at a crossroads.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Last Summer, JJ Hardy signed a 3 year $22.5M extension. In the 3 years he has played 129+ games (’07, ’08, and ’11) his slugging has been above .463 in each of those seasons. He is also a quality defensive SS. Prized prospect Manny Machado is already at AA Bowie. If Machado ends 2012 appearing to be ready to join the show to start ’13, would you trade Hardy, or move him to 3rd?”

Miller: “I seem to recall the Orioles have had some success moving guys from SS to 3B, haven’t they?! I’m not saying Hardy is Cal Ripken Jr., of course, that’s ridiculous. But here’s the thing about bringing along kids like Machado: When the core of kids hits, you need a few veterans sprinkled around to help show them the way. I’m a Hardy fan – he’s a real pro and a great influence. I keep him, move him over to 3B and let him show the kids the way.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “In ’11, Reynolds was amazingly bad at 3rd (-30.3 UZR/150). If left alone at 3rd, would you expect his defense to rebound closer to his ’09 (-7.4 UZR/150), and ’10 (2.5 UZR/150) levels? the Orioles hold a $11M option for Reynolds in ’13. In ’09, FanGraphs valued him as 3.5 WAR player equating to $15.7M in production. In ’10, FanGraphs valued him as 2.3 WAR player equating to $9.2M. If he was primarily a DH, do you think Reynolds would be a 3 WAR player next year? Should the O’s be willing to pick-up that option?”

Miller: “Two words: DH! I think it’s too early to say whether O’s should pick up that option. That’s a lot of money. My early impression is that they’ll be able to find a DH for less than that and it might be time to say sayonara to Reynolds. See how things play out, but this one’s tricky. Not sure that he can be a 3 WAR player as a DH.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Nolan Reimold has a game built on power, plate discipline, athleticism, and constant hustle. He is an easy player to like. The primary knock on him is that he turned 28 in October, and entered ’12 with just 741 previous ML ab’s.What do you see from him, what do you think his ceiling is?”

Miller: “I think, with more than 104 games (his career high), he could be a 20 HR, 80 RBI guy or even a little better than that. The thing with guys with great plate discipline is, they’re smart. And because of that, I like the ceiling to be a little higher than with some other guys. Not sure that Reimold will ever develop into an All-Star, but he’s a solid, productive player and a valuable asset.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Markakis signed a large extension after an absolute monster 2008 season. During that year, Markakis had a .897 OPS, with 69 xbh’s, and superior defense. During ’11 Markakis had a .756 OPS, with 47 xbh’s. While I think he is as good defensively as any RF in the American League, the metrics say he is slightly below average. Markakis deserves credit for rebounding from a very poor start last year (.561 OPS in April, .708 OPS in May) with a .806 OPS after the All-Star break. I think there is more there, but at this point you have to consider him a ancillary piece as opposed to a star. If he is not going to be a run producer, should he be utilized as the lead-off hitter to best take advantage of the skills he continues to provide?”

Miller: “Correct, and great wording — ancillary piece. The Orioles have had a lot of those, as opposed to real stars, for many years now. I don’t think it hurts at all to see what he can do as lead-off hitter. Really, there’s not much other choice.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Heading into 2012, the favorites for the AL Rookie of the Year were Yu Darvish, Matt Moore, and Yoenis Cespedes. You could also find supporters for Jesus Montero, and Mike Trout. Based on what we have seen, I don’t know if Chen Wei-yen can elevate his way into that conversation, but I  think it is entirely plausible he ends the year as a league average 3rd starter. Through 3 starts, Chen is 1-0, with a 2.60 era. In his 17.1 ip, he has allowed 18 hits, 5 er, 1 hr, 6 bb’s, with 15 k’s. His OPS against is .725, and his G/F ratio is 0.61.Your thoughts on him?”

Miller: “One of the happiest surprises of the early going, not just for the Orioles, but for anyone. Not a whole lot was expected from him — at least, not nationally. And you’re right, he is headed toward easy status as a league-average third starter. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is what you want. He doesn’t hurt himself. If he can continue in that vein, he’s going to please a lot of Orioles fans.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “For his career, Kevin Gregg has been a guy that is typically durable, that allows around a hit per IP, with a K per IP, and walks too many. Basically a below average / to average reliever. He drives O’s fans crazy, with his approach of refusing to challenge hitters. Even though Gregg is owed $5M this year, my feeling is that the O’s should be willing to eat his contract, if they are unwilling to use him. Do you agree with that? Do you think it would be better for the O’s to give him further opportunities?”

Miller:
“No way as a closer. As a mop-up guy, or middle reliever, sure. Thing is, at the rate they’re paying him, and they owe him the money regardless, they may as well see what they can get out of him for a bit yet. And if he can soak up some inning here and there to keep other bullpen guys fresh, to keep Buck Showalter from having to overwork them, then why not slot him in in a role like that?”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Like Reimold, Chris Davis has gotten off to a decent start. Unlike Reimold, Davis’ on-base % will remain a concern. I asked people prior to the season if they would take the over/under on Davis finishing ’12 with a .750 OPS and 20 homers. Your thoughts? If both players (Reimold and Davis) reach that level, how much better do you feel about the O’s positional core?”

Miller: “You’re basically asking him to go back in time four or five years. Just once has he had a .750 OPS or better, and that was in ’08 as a rookie. Just once has he hit the 20 homer mark, and that was in ’09 when he was 23. I look for regression as we get deeper into 2012. Obviously, if Reimold and Davis both reach levels you’re talking, the O’s are on the verge of a new day as far as their core goes. This falls under the category of a lot of things needing to go right.”

Baltimore Sports and Life: “Zach Britton could return to the O’s in late May / early June. Injuries and performance will dictate who he replaces in the Baltimore rotation. Hypothetically though, if Britton is physically ready to return, and Matusz / Hunter / Hammel are each healthy and providing relatively equal performance; who would you have him replace? Matusz has youth, and the upside potential. Hunter and Hammel might lack that upside, but might be more likely to be steadying influences at the back of the rotation.”

Miller: “As you said, performance will dictate. All things being equal in that regard, Hammel has the most experience working out of the pen — he spent most of ’08 there as his Rays were moving toward a World Series appearance. For that reason, I’d ask Hammel to do it. But again, he’s pitching better than Hunter right now, and if that continues, Showalter’s answers will be forming in front of him.”

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About the author


Chris Stoner   

Operations Manager

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, ESPN 1300, FOX 1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. You can reach him via email at Chris.Stoner@baltimoresportsandlife.com.


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