As Spring Training rapidly approaches, Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Marc Normandin for his thoughts on the O’s.
You can find Normandin’s work with SB Nation at:
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Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. Normandin 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
Do you find it realistic to believe this duo could combine for 350 innings, at a 4.50 era for Baltimore?”
Normandin: “An ERA of 4.50 isn’t that high of a bar to set – the league-average ERA in 2011 was 3.94. I can see them being below-average arms at the back of the rotation, but more stable than some of the others the Orioles have tried out for the same role in their recent history. Either way, though, the O’s didn’t invest a whole lot of money into the duo and aren’t exactly stocked with alternatives, so as long as these two are usable arms, the O’s have done well in this situation.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “If Chris Davis receives 550 ab’s, would you take the under or over for him providing a .750 OPS, and 20 homers?”
Normandin: “He certainly has the power in his arsenal, although it hasn’t manifested at the big league level very often. He’s been below-average offensively for his career, but the O’s at least represent a situation where Davis can stick until we know he won’t be successful, whereas the Rangers shuttled him back-and-forth between starting, sitting, and the minors. Let’s put it this way: if Davis plays enough to rack up 550 at-bats, then the over already happened.”
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)?”
Normandin: “Markakis doesn’t seem to be the power hitter he looked like he might become a few years back, making him a viable option for the lead-off spot. Antonelli might be my preference in the long run, though, since Markakis can work elsewhere in the lineup. Antonelli has always had a solid bat, he just couldn’t stay healthy. He’s the kind of player the O’s should be testing out.”
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?”
Normandin: “Wieters would be near the top of the list, but not at the very top. Alex Avila, Nick Hundley, Carlos Santana, and Brian McCann might all be better hitters, though they don’t have Wieters’ defensive chops. You can’t go wrong with any of those backstops, and it’s good to see Wieters is finally among the position’s best after the teasing of the last few years.”
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. Like Jones’s defense, I think the truth about Matusz is probably somewhere in the middle, but he absolutely needs to earn his spot next 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?”
Normandin: “I like Britton’s potential still; it’s not his fault his rookie campaign came in the AL East, where the Red Sox and Yankees hit him very hard over the course of the year. The fact he’s got groundball tendencies on his side will be a good thing in the long run. Arrieta needs to cut down on the homers and the walks, but he’s shown some flashes. Matusz was a complete mess in 2011 – it’s hard to predict where he’ll be in 2012, given he didn’t look like he had the stuff, velocity, or approach that served him well in the past.”
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?”
Normandin: “I don’t think there is anything Mark Reynolds could do to make me think paying him $11 million is a good idea, apart from deciding to not be Mark Reynolds anymore.”
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. 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. 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?”
Normandin: “I’m not sure the Orioles are close enough – or have a full enough farm system – to hold on to Jones. He’s a great talent, and he’s only going to get better, but given the way top free agents have avoided Baltimore, the team might be better off dealing him to restock their farm or to bring some young, cost-controlled talent to the club. As for fair, the Orioles need to shoot high, and bring back multiple, legitimate prospects.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “Going into Spring Training, I see the roster looking like:
Guthrie, Britton, Chen, Arrieta, Wada
Johnson, Gregg, Strop, Hunter, Patton, Eveland, and Simon
Teagarden, Antonelli, Chavez, and Flaherty or Miller
This would have Matusz, Tillman, Bergesen (and O’Day, and Berken) ticketed for AAA.
General thoughts on this roster? What upside do you see? What do you dislike?”
Normandin: “Reimold and Antonelli might surprise some people. Other than that, I’m not big on the lineup, in terms of upside – it’s pretty much known quantities, and that’s not necessarily a good thing here. As for the rotation, it will be interesting to see how the off-season’s latest additions do in their first MLB campaigns. There is upside there, but I’m just not sure how much – if they are anywhere close to average, then they have been highly successful in their transition, especially for a team lacking that kind of pitching.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s were one of the teams which sent a contingent to the Dominican to scout Yoenis Cespedes. Now granted Free Agency, Cespedes has stated the O’s are one of the teams pursuing him the hardest. If obtained, Cespedes could take over LF, with Reimold moving to DH, and Betemit to the bench. If Jones was later traded, you would have an in-house option to take over CF. If it took Baltimore 6 years $60M to sign Cespedes, is this a risk the O’s should be willing to take?”
Normandin: “Absolutely. They lack this kind of potential impact player in the upper levels of the system right now, and $60 million isn’t that much money for someone who is a free agent. Cespedes doesn’t have to be that great to be worth around $10 million per year, and if he’s as good as advertised, the Orioles have themselves a highly-productive bargain.”
Baltimore Sports and Life: “The O’s have been rumored to be interested in Edwin Jackson, and are apparently willing to offer Jackson 4 years. Does 4 years, $40M get Jackson to Baltimore. Would you like this signing for the O’s?”
Normandin: “Supposedly, Jackson wants no part of Baltimore, even on a long-term deal. Likely because the Orioles are not contending yet, and he can always go back to free agency next year in the hopes of landing a similar deal with a better team. From Baltimore’s side, though, you have to offer this type of contract to him in the hopes of bringing in a stabilizing arm for the rotation. Even if it’s a long shot.”
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?”
Normandin: “I liked Duquette when he was with Boston, but the Orioles are going to need the version of Duquette that was successful in Montreal back in the early 90s. It is a good sign that Duquette has been able to bring in lots of fresh blood to help overhaul the front office and scouting departments, though, so I approve of this as a step in the right direction.”
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?”
Normandin: “70 games is difficult in this division, but I’ll throw that number in the ring for 2012. As for being a success: the Orioles need to develop players for their future more than they need to win games today, so their season’s merit rests on the performances of their young pitchers and the fliers they have taken on players like Chris Davis and Matt Antonelli.”
Note from Baltimore Sports and Life: You can discuss Mr. Normandin’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 week.