With the Orioles Pitchers and Catchers reporting to camp tomorrow, Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Matthew Pouliot for his thoughts on the O’s.
You can find Pouliot’s work with NBC Sports / Hardball Talk at:
You can find Pouliot on Twitter at:
Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. Pouliot 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?”
Pouliot: “That’s pretty close to what I have them projected at. I gave Chen a 4.26 ERA in 171 innings and Wada a 4.42 ERA in 183 1/3 IP. I do feel a bit more secure with the Wada projection, considering that I’ve seen more of his video and he doesn’t come with Chen’s health questions. Chen would seem to have the greater upside of the two, but that much reported velocity drop is definitely a cause for concern. It’s a projection that’s likely to change some depending on how he performs this spring. If he’s back throwing in the low-90s this spring, he could prove to be a steal for the Orioles.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I would have held on to him. I’m taking Duquette on his word that there weren’t any prospects on the table in the Guthrie talks. That’s too bad, because Guthrie has some real value with his ability to throw 200 league-average or better innings per year. He likely would have been quite a bit more attractive to teams come July. Still, it’s unlikely the Orioles missed out on any great bonanza, and the change in the free-agent compensation rules made holding on to him a less attractive choice. I’m not very optimistic about either Hammel or Lindstrom succeeding in the AL East, but stranger things have happened.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I was a big Matusz fan — I thought he’d be one of the 30 or 40 best pitchers in baseball last season — but so much went so wrong in 2011 that there’s really no telling what his future has in store. I’m not writing him off as a lost cause yet, but I don’t think the Orioles can count on him this year. He should be in Triple-A barring an exceptional turnaround this spring. Arrieta looks like a decent enough No. 4 to me. The homers are going to remain a problem, but it shouldn’t be that bad again. Britton projects as the Orioles’ best pitcher. He’s the one likely to give up less than a homer every nine innings, and I think he’ll get his K:BB ratio up around 2:1 this year.”
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?”
Pouliot: “The over, if just barely. Guarantee all three 500 at-bats a piece, and I’d expect 60 homers between them. Still, that’s probably overly optimistic. Davis could easily find himself out of a job with an early slump, and Reimold might see fewer starts against righties if Brian Roberts is out and the Orioles feel they need Endy Chavez’s speed in the leadoff spot. But I do project Betemit and Reimold to better that .750 OPS, and Davis has a chance to as well. My projection calls for him to bat .247/.302/.434.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I don’t think there’s a catcher I’d take before Wieters. Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey are the only ones I project as better hitters this year, and Wieters has a big defensive edge over Santana and Napoli and fewer durability questions than the other two. Ignoring the contracts, maybe I’d still take Mauer first, but not with the idea that he’ll still be catching four or five years down the road. Wieters showed his power in the second half of last year, and with his modest strikeout rate, there’s good reason to think he’s going to start hitting for better averages. I have him at .286/.360/.495 with 25 homers for 2012.”
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)?”
Pouliot:“I’m scared that they’re going to try to plug Chavez in there as much as possible. Antonelli might make some sense if he can play well enough to beat out Andino, but that’s probably a long shot. Reimold seems like the best option of the projected regulars. He strikes out a lot, but I don’t think Buck Showalter is going to be as worried about that as another manager might be. He has decent speed and a career .339 OBP. Obviously, he’s far from ideal, but he looks like the best choice to me.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I actually wanted to see Reynolds at first and Davis at third this year. Davis has some pretty awful defensive numbers in the majors, too, but I think he has a bit more to offer at the position. Reynolds, if he has a future in Baltimore, it will almost certainly be at first. On the offensive side, I thought Reynolds’ first year in Baltimore was fairly encouraging. I figured there’d be more of an adjustment period after the league switch, but he was very good from mid-May onwards. I’m projecting him to up his average from .221 last year to .240 this season, and if he does that, then $11 million for 2012 will be reasonable. There are only a handful of right-handed hitters with his kind of power.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I thought the Orioles should have been very open to trading him. The problem there is that, with the obvious exception of the Nationals, no one was out there shopping for a long-term center fielder this winter. The Giants should have been, but they settled for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. The Rangers were content to let their trio of candidates battle it out this spring. Most everyone was content, whether they should have been or not. The Braves seemed to be the only team interested in making a run at Jones, and they actually would have stashed him in left field for a year.
I don’t watch Jones enough to have a strong opinion on his defense, but I think of him as pretty average in center field; better than the numbers and plenty good enough to remain in center for a few more years. A leap forward offensively is still a possibility, but I’m not as optimistic about that as some are. I’m pretty skeptical that he’ll be worth what he’s going to get paid in his next contract, which is why I would have advocated trading him. Still, I doubt there was any sort of blockbuster return available for him this winter. Now, if the Nationals had been willing to give up for Jones what they did for Gio Gonzalez, the Orioles would have been smart to jump.”
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?
Pouliot: “I thought Duquette deserved another chance after the job he did in Boston, but I was shocked with the way it came together. He was out of the league for 10 years. I wonder just how familiar he is with the current generation of players. But I think he’s done well so far. If you have to settle for middling free agents, then go after the ones with upside, which is what he’s done. I can’t really speak of the new staff, except to say that I like that he carved out a role for Peterson.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I’m not really sure the opportunity was there to do either. I think it would have been worth it for the Orioles to overpay for Pujols, Reyes or Fielder, but they likely would have had to overpay in a big way. As for tearing it down, who besides Jones was both moveable and would have brought a substantial return? Markakis probably doesn’t have any trade value with his contract. Guthrie couldn’t bring prospects. Jim Johnson would have been nice for some team, but he wouldn’t have brought much. While Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez brought great returns this winter, the trade market was pretty dim overall. I don’t think the A’s did very well for Trevor Cahill or Andrew Bailey. The Orioles were kind of stuck. Of course, it didn’t help that the GM search took as long as it did.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I want Wada in the rotation, probably over Hunter, but I’m sure he’ll get his chance soon enough.
I like the depth of the lineup, though it’d be a lot more impressive with Roberts in the leadoff spot. There’s an awful lot of power there, and (with Roberts), Davis would be the only player who projects as below average at his position.
Too much would have to go right with the pitching for the Orioles to contend this year, but I could see them surprising early on. The league won’t be familiar with Chen and Wada, and a healthy Britton should be a big-time asset. The lineup can win some 7-5 games.”
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?”
Pouliot: “I definitely thought they’d finish closer to .500 last year. In another division, I think they’d have a shot of getting to .500 this year. The AL East, though, is just too tough. 70-75 victories is my best guess, and they could fall well short if the imported starters don’t prove useful.
As for the success and failure of the season, that may not be especially represented in the win-loss record. I think a big success would be to end the season knowing that they have four-fifths of a strong rotation going into 2013. Between Britton, Chen, Wada, Matusz, Arrieta, Hammel, Hunter and Tillman, hopefully they’ll have four starters to go to war with next year. If they get that, then maybe they’ll be one big free agent acquisition away from contending. This year is more about figuring out who from the group will be useful going forward.”
Note from Baltimore Sports and Life: You can discuss Mr. Pouliot’s 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.