O’s Q&A with Stan McNeal, Sporting News

As Spring Training rapidly approaches, Baltimore Sports and Life has reached out to Stan McNeal for his thoughts on the O’s.

You can find McNeal’s work with Sporting News at:
http://aol.sportingnews.com/author/stan-mcneal

You can find McNeal on Twitter at:
https://twitter.com/#!/stanmcneal

Baltimore Sports and Life thanks Mr. McNeal 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.

Career Numbers
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?”

McNeal: “Though I know little about either, I think 175 innings and a 4.50 ERA from either would earn Dan Duquette votes for executive of the year honors.  These guys will be paid less than $5 million each this year. A free agent starter expected to put up a 4.50 ERA in the A.L. commands upwards of $10 million.  I think getting 60 starts combined from the two would be a success.”

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?”

McNeal: “Over and here’s why: There’s no way he gets that many at-bats unless he is producing. Now do I think he’ll hit 20 homers? No. I think pitchers have figured him out.”

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)?”

McNeal: “Markakis clearly is the best of these options. Markakis, Hardy, Jones, Reynolds and Wieters make a pretty strong top half. The bottom half, however, needs help.”

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?”

McNeal: “Buster Posey, as long as I was sure he would be totally recovered from his leg injury, and Brian McCann, who has continued to improve his defense and handling of pitchers.”

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?”

McNeal: “They’re young so you have to keep hoping. Maybe they will benefit from lowered expectations.”

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?”

McNeal: “35 homers. In today’s game, $11 million for 35 homers is a bargain. Heck, 30 homers would probably be enough.”

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?”

McNeal: “If convinced he can stay in center field into his 30s, I’d offer five years and $75 million. If I’m Jones, I’d ask for eight years and $120 million. To trade him, I’d want a starter such as Julio Teheran but would take a Brandon Beachy. While you’d like Jones’ situation resolved asap, I don’t think it’s imperative because he is not a franchise-type player. I see him as more like a Jayson Werth complimentary type.”

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

Hardy SS
Markakis RF
Jones CF
Reynolds 3rd
Wieters C
Davis 1st
Reimold LF
Betemit DH
Andino 2nd

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?”

McNeal: “Average lineup, below average bullpen and a rotation that needs its offense to score 6 runs a game. They’ve got to be able to do better at DH than Betemit, especially if they are going with Reimold in left field.”

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?”

McNeal: “I don’t think it is. I am getting the feeling that this guy is more hype than substance.”

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?”

McNeal: “Yes. He’s a solid No. 4 starter, a durable innings eater. He has the stuff of a No. 2 or even a No. 1 but never has been able to develop consistent command.”

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?”

McNeal: “He’s been busy, for sure.  Peterson will do great things as long as he has the attention of his pitching coaches and the pitchers. His thinking is not what you would call conventional. I understand the logic for reassigning pro scouts but they must find a way to maintain a healthy balance between analyticals and old-school scouting.”

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?”

McNeal: “If the rotation ERA could get even close to the A.L. average, the Orioles would have a chance at a winning season. But, as Orioles fans know, that’s a huge if. Last year the Orioles’ rotation ERA (5.39) was more than a run higher than the A.L. average (4.21). With that in mind, a repeat of last year’s 69 wins feels about right.”

Note from Baltimore Sports and Life: You can discuss Mr. McNeal’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.

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About the author


Chris Stoner   

Majority Owner

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 find Stoner on Twitter @BmoreSportsLife, and you can reach him via email at Chris.Stoner@baltimoresportsandlife.com.


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