Shorebird of the Year – a 2017 season wrapup

September 14, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

Well, we had two good seasons in a row, anyway.

After a six-year run of losing, the Shorebirds reverted to their winning ways of old in 2015 and 2016, but that streak came crashing down this season thanks to one of the more mediocre squads the Orioles have sent us in some time. With the Orioles passing prospects like Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin, and Austin Hays – who recently made his Orioles debut – from Aberdeen straight to Frederick, we were left with a team that followed up a 29-39 first half with a nearly identical 30-39 second half. The shame of it was that Delmarva was in first place in the second half as late as July 29 with a 20-13 record after completing a perfect 7-0 road trip to Georgia. (It was their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years.) But the next day a doubleheader loss to Greensboro set the Shorebirds on a 12-game losing streak that plunged them out of contention and began an August where they went 9-20 – from the high point Delmarva lost 26 of their last 36 games.

So the 59-78 mark was their worst since a 54-82 mark in 2013 and it ended a run of improvement each year since. Overall, it was a team that wasn’t particularly great in any main category of offense, pitching, or defense.

  • A .240 team batting average was next to last in the league, with Columbia’s .234 the only team holding them up.
  • Consequently the team was only 11th in runs and hits, scoring just 544 times on 1,108 hits.
  • The 229 doubles was good for fifth in the loop, and they were eighth with 31 triples.
  • They were ninth in the league in home runs with 77.
  • We finished tied for 10th with 492 runs batted in.
  • Back to 11th we went in total bases with 1,630.
  • We drew 341 walks, which – you guessed it – ranked 11th in the SAL.
  • One dubious category was strikeouts, where their 1,243 was the most in the league by 33 over Lexington (who played one more game.)
  • In steals, we were 11th (as one might expect) with 91 stolen bases in 125 attempts. (This time, league-leading Asheville was caught more than we stole – 100 vs. 91.)
  • Our .304 on-base percentage was next-to-last in the league (Lakewood was .301) and the .353 slugging percentage was eleventh. With those numbers our OPS of .657 was only better than Columbia’s .649 mark.

Our pitching was only slightly better when compared to the rest of the league, as we finished ninth in ERA with a 3.79 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 9 shutouts was also ninth in the loop.
  • We tied for 12th in saves with 29, with Augusta last with 23.
  • We tied for seventh in innings pitched with 1,204 1/3.
  • 1,210 hits allowed was 11th. Matching the rank in ERA it follows the 613 runs and 507 earned runs we gave up were also ninth.
  • Allowing 94 home runs was tenth.
  • While we only had 71 hit batters (good for fourth) we were also fourth with 354 walks allowed.
  • While our staff had a nice, round number of 1,000 strikeouts it was the fewest in the league.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) was ninth in the league at 1.30.

With 136 errors and a .973 aggregate fielding percentage our defense was right at league average.

Help may be on the way, though. Below us in the Orioles organization Aberdeen was 41-34 (contending until the final days for a wild-card spot) and the GCL Orioles closed 28-32 while the single Dominican Summer League team (down from 2 in recent years) the Orioles provided players for wrapped up a 32-37 season. Ahead of us, Frederick made the Carolina League playoffs despite a 68-71 record and Bowie did the same in the Eastern League with a 72-68 record. (Both lost in their respective opening rounds.) Norfolk also finished below .500 with a 66-76 record. So as a whole the talent pool may be worse than average, although individual players from the lower levels may combine for a better team.

With a switch from weekly to monthly honors, going over those selected won’t take as long – so let’s review.

April player – Jake Ring

Jake began the season like he had something to prove after a somewhat bitter cup of coffee with the Shorebirds in 2016. It began by being the South Atlantic League’s first Player of the Week for the season and the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Month. Later on Ring was selected to the North’s All-Star team and a postseason All-Star despite a September promotion to Frederick. As a whole for Delmarva Ring hit .272/14/65/.785 OPS in 118 games, leading the team with 65 runs, leading the entire league with 36 doubles, and setting the pace for the Shorebirds with 212 total bases and a .457 slugging percentage. In almost every offensive category, Jake was among the team leaders.

However, the league seemed to catch up with Ring in the second half as he went from a .313 average at the All-Star break to a split of .232/5/24/.653 OPS in the latter stages. His brief callup to Frederick saw Ring go just 1-for-8, although that one hit was a home run. Ring was also the hero of the Keys’ lone playoff win, driving in the winning runs to cap off a ninth-inning comeback.

Yet the problems that led to a dearth of outfield talent in the organization to a point where the Orioles were experimenting (with varying success) with Christian Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Trey Mancini suddenly seem to have disappeared as prospects like Cedric Mullins, D.J. Stewart, and Austin Hays are names being considered for the 2018 Orioles, with 2016 Shorebird Ademar Rifaela (the Carolina League MVP) close behind. With that glut on top of the organization, a player like Ring – who was a late-round draft pick and is a little older than his league competition at the low-A level – won’t be as highly regarded as he may have been a couple years ago. Notice that a solid player from that period like Mike Yastrzemski is barely regarded as a prospect despite his elite lineage.

I would look for Ring to continue in Frederick next season, but he will need to make more contact to avoid stalling out at that level. Getting his first 15 professional home runs in one season is nice, but 141 strikeouts is not. (SAL Player of the Week April 6-16, SAL All-Star, SAL Postseason All-Star)

April pitcher – Alex Wells

You knew Alex would be something good when his first four starts netted two wins and just two earned runs allowed, but the thing about Wells was that a bad month for him (like June, where he was 3-2 with a pedestrian 4.46 ERA) was a good month for many of the other Delmarva starters. Named as an SAL All-Star, Wells turned up the heat on opposing batters in the second half by quickly embarking on what would become the stuff of legend: a 68-inning walkless streak that carried through the end of the season. (This helped the Shorebirds lead all of baseball in walkless games from a pitching staff; meanwhile, the major league record for such a streak is 84 1/3 innings by Bill Fischer of the 1962 Kansas City Athletics.)

Even without the pinpoint control of allowing 10 walks in 140 innings, Wells put together a fine season that arguably should have nabbed him the league’s Outstanding Pitcher honors – in a case of highway robbery, the award instead went to Rome’s Joey Wentz. Wells finished 11-5 (2nd in wins), with a 2.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP (both led the SAL) and 113 strikeouts. At home Wells was unbeatable, going 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 starts. Armed with a simple, easily repeatable delivery, Wells works at a pace that would make legendary “work fast, throw strikes” purveyor Mark Buehrle proud – the Shorebirds clocked one of Wells’ 10-pitch innings under two minutes, and a 10:35 7-inning game Wells started on April 26 wrapped up at the stroke of noon. (It took Wells just 68 pitches to dispatch Lakewood in a 2-1 win. The game probably would have been done before noon had reliever Jake Bray not needed 22 pitches to retire the side in the 7th.)

It’s almost certain the Orioles are slotting Wells to be the #1 pitcher on Frederick’s staff next season, and unlike this season the Orioles would not hesitate to move him up should the performance warrant. After all, he is the reigning Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year as he was honored before the September 5 Oriole game with the Jim Palmer Award. While a 2018 debut may seem like a bit of a reach, a good season for Wells sets him up for a date at Camden Yards sometime in 2019 – basically the only questions are whether he will fare as well against more selective batters and work on a way to give up fewer home runs. (SAL All-Star, SAL Player of the Month for July, Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July, Jim Palmer Award winner for Oriole Minor League Pitcher of the Year)

May player – Preston Palmiero

Preston had spots of excellent play, including a month of May that turned out to be his best month as he turned around a very slow start (.197/2/9/.608 OPS in April) to establish himself at about the overall level where he would finish the season. So far in his career, however, he’s only put up average numbers as his .253/13/77/.718 OPS run this season tracked closely with his Aberdeen numbers from 2016 with the exception of finding a decent power stroke – like Jake Ring, all 13 of Palmiero’s professional home runs came this season. Those who thought his May was going to be the norm for the rest of the season had to be disappointed, though, as he left about 30 batting average points and a corresponding number of hits, home runs, and RBI on the table. While Preston led the team with his 77 RBI, better contact would have allowed him to make a run at 100.

Invariably, there are those who will compare Preston to his father and note that the elder Palmiero was already in the majors by the end of his second pro season. On the other hand, Preston is outpacing his older brother Patrick, who washed out after three seasons in the White Sox organization and has played in the independent Atlantic League the last three seasons. (Interesting fact: the older brother played 2 games at Delmarva in 2013, going 2-for-9 with Kannapolis as their third baseman.) But taken as a player who was a 7th round draft choice – one of the few high picks on the team – it seems like the Orioles should be expecting more. Over the last ten seasons we have seen our share of first basemen with some power but mediocre average – Mark Fleisher, Anthony Martinez, Joe Mahoney, Elvin Polanco and Mike Flacco are guys who come to mind, with only Mahoney briefly making it to the Show – but Palmiero was definitely handed the first base job. (You have to go back to Fleisher in 2006 to find a first baseman who played 100 or more games at the position in a season, and Palmiero’s 123 games this season rank second behind 1998 Shorebird Franky Figueroa’s 137 at the position.) It’s doubtful Palmiero will return for 2018, but his road to the big leagues may have to involve either a position change or numbers that do a better job of knocking the socks off the top brass.

May pitcher – Francisco Jimenez

Marking his third straight season with Delmarva, Jimenez was honored in the midst of a long scoreless streak (20 2/3 innings over six appearances between April 18 and May 21) that encompassed his first-ever appearance with Frederick – that cup of coffee was May 17 as he pitched 3 2/3 scoreless at Salem. Overall, Jimenez was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA with Delmarva in 28 appearances, striking out 63 while walking 28 and allowing 68 hits. That put his WHIP at 1.24, which was right around league average.

While Jimenez made a couple spot starts – including six no-hit, shutout innings in a game against Charleston on April 27 – he seems to be transitioning into a long relief role going forward. However, his numbers really haven’t changed much in the two-plus seasons he’s been here except for an uptick in strikeout rate, which may be a result of more bullpen work. It’s most likely he will be promoted because there’s really not much reason for him to repeat this level for a fourth time. (In his career, Jimenez spent 2012-14 in the Dominican Summer League but advanced all the way to Delmarva in a little over one season through the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen. So this is his second stall, as it were.)

As slowly as he is moving, Francisco needs an impressive season at Frederick to separate himself from the “organization player” category he seems to be settling into given his propensity to keep himself close to career average each season.

June player – Alejandro Juvier

Another repeat performer from 2016, Alejandro managed to avoid demotion this season by picking up steam at the right time and putting together a good campaign with a slash line of .241/4/34/.606 OPS. No, it’s not the stuff of a Jonathan Schoop, but Juvier seems to be working his career into a Ryan Flaherty mold: he played 75 games at second base, 27 at third base, and 9 at shortstop this season after playing his first 24 at second. Moving him around the infield seemed to do his bat good as well: hitting .218/0/3/.512 OPS after that first 24 games improved to a .248 average and .632 OPS the rest of the way.

When I did his profile, I was hoping he could run his average up into the .250 or .260 range, but Juvier slumped somewhat toward the end of the season with a .194 average after August 1. It’s something that may hold him back for next season, but can be overcome with a good spring.

The issue with the utility player role Juvier seems to be moving into is that the chain is littered with them – one example is longtime Bowie player Garabez Rosa, who has been with the team for five seasons. Remember, Flaherty was handed a job as a Rule 5 draftee of the Orioles but they haven’t seen the need to bring up such as player such as Rosa. But if not for his versatility Juvier probably doesn’t impress scouts as a prospect.

June pitcher – Steven Klimek

In the middle part of the season Klimek was almost untouchable, with June and July numbers that were outstanding: a 3-1 record and 0.99 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 3 walks. The rest of the season wasn’t bad either, with Klimek going 7-3 with a 2.67 ERA. He made 37 appearances on the year, covering 70 2/3 innings with an astounding 71 strikeouts and just 12 walks. Steven was one of just three Delmarva pitchers with significant time to average a strikeout an inning, but neither of the others had a WHIP comparable to Klimek’s 1.02 mark.

Steven was yet another second-time player, having pitched 10 1/3 innings with little success at the tail end of the 2016 season. But he made the improvements and adjustments needed to advance in the system as a late-inning guy – none of his appearances this season came before the 4th inning, and most were in the 8th or 9th. Steven wasn’t the primary closer but still managed to pick up 6 saves, a valuable experience for down the line.

With numbers resembling that of a power pitcher, Klimek may move into more of a one-inning setup role as his career goes on, sort of like a Brad Brach. But there may be a time where he becomes a closer someplace, especially if he can maintain his good control while keeping hits to a minimum. Aside from the rough debut with the Shorebirds, Klimek kept most of the same numbers he had with Aberdeen last season, and the progress he made should play well in 2018 as he moves on. The only way I could see him with Delmarva is as a closer, to gain more experience in high-leverage situations rather than the guy holding down the fort (which is why he had seven wins this season.) Steven has earned a promotion, though.

July player – Ryan McKenna

McKenna had a month sort of like Preston Palmiero did in May: the type where you expect this breakout will last the rest of the season given the fact the Orioles selected him early in the draft. But after the .319 average and .824 OPS in July, Ryan slipped back to just a slightly better than average rest of the season by hitting .264 in the last month-plus (although his OPS was a robust .849 for that period.) As a whole, McKenna put up a .256/7/42/.712 OPS slash line.

But without the bloodline of Palmiero, you have to wonder how long the Orioles will wait on a 4th round pick, even if he was plucked out of the high school ranks. In his favor, though, was the improvement he had year-over-year when compared to his half-season at Aberdeen in 2016 – 15 points higher in batting average, 30 more extra base hits in slightly over twice the plate appearances, and an 83-point jump in OPS (mainly due to the improvement in extra-base hits.) His only drawback was the 129 strikeouts he amassed, and while he had 20 stolen bases, it doesn’t compare well to having 17 in half the time last year.

So Ryan did make some progress, particularly when you recall he was hitting .235 at the All-Star break but hit .280 in the second half. If he can replicate that success with the Keys next season, heads will begin to turn in considering McKenna as part of the group of young outfield prospects that includes Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and D.J. Stewart.

July pitcher – Alex Wells

This was the month Wells did not allow a walk or a run in 31 innings, leading him to be named both Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month and SAL Player of the Month. So he became the first two-time winner.

August/September player – Daniel Fajardo

Since he was the last player of the month for the season, he didn’t improve on his .236/1/24/.554 OPS split between three teams, but predominantly with Delmarva. (He played in 67 contests here, 4 for Frederick, and a spot game for Norfolk. That should be good for the paycheck.) He turned out to be a very good defender as well in terms of catching would-be base thieves, but his question going forward may be how much longer he stays in the organization since he’s eligible for Rule 5 and one season away from free agency. Among the peer group that has played with him, though, Fajardo has gotten the most playing time both with Aberdeen and here. (With Aberdeen in 2016, as this year, Fajardo was on the same squad as Stuart Levy, who bounced around last season between Aberdeen and Delmarva and did the same this year with Frederick and the Shorebirds, the now-retired Jerry McClanahan who was with Delmarva for the first half of this season, and Chris Shaw, who missed a lot of time in 2017 with an injury.) Out of that group, Levy and Fajardo were the best performers.

Next year, though, Fajardo will have to compete with Ben Breazeale, a catcher who tore up the NY-Penn League as well as Levy and other players up the chain. However, after picking four catchers in the first 11 rounds of the draft a few years back (which has netted current Oriole Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, who had a breakout year at Bowie) the Orioles’ catching pipeline has pretty much dried out with the exception of Breazeale, who is likely going to be a cusp player between Delmarva and Frederick next spring. So Daniel may be destined for Frederick. (Much of the Keys’ catching this year was done by Armando Araiza, a six-year free agent player the Orioles acquired from the Atlanta organization in May – pointing out the lack of depth in the organization. Yermin Mercedes also did some, but he had a disappointing season and finished it on the suspended list.) It’s more than likely he will move into the ranks of catching insurance for the organization, but Fajardo now will be playing to impress others as well with the pending free agency.

August/September pitcher – Kory Groves

Kory was my one comeback story for the season, since he missed all of 2016 with an injury. But the time lost will also put him behind the eight ball as far as being too old to be considered a prospect despite a nice 3-5, 2.58 season that featured a 1.21 WHIP and a solid ratio of 41 strikeouts to 14 walks. While Groves certainly wasn’t as dominant as he was before the injury – his abbreviated 2015 campaign featured a 1.11 ERA and 0.77 WHIP between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen – he was also facing better competition this year so the statistics hold up well.

While Kory was rather effective when stretched out to 40-50 pitches (he had four appearances of four innings or more this year, including the 17th to 20th innings in the 21-inning game against Lexington July 13 and 14) his bread and butter this season was being a setup guy or the one holding the opposition in hopes for a late rally. (This would explain why Groves had but one save.) That’s not to say the Orioles wouldn’t consider him as a starter with a little more stretching out, but I think his destiny is the bullpen, and it would more than likely be the one in Frederick.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco
  • 2015 – John Means
  • 2016 – Yermin Mercedes

With my new format of monthly honorees, I had some early favorites for the honor – all they had to do was stay for the requisite 2/3 of the season to be eligible. Thus, Jake Ring and Alex Wells burst out of the gate.

But as the season went on for the hitters, Ring was like a helium balloon that slowly lost altitude. He was leading the team in pretty much everything the first half of the season, but as time went on Ring began falling down the ranks: Preston Palmiero caught and passed him in RBI, Gerrion Grim went on a power surge to outpace Ring in home runs, and eventually Cole Billingsley passed Jake with a .282 batting average to lead the squad. So Ring won none of the traditional Triple Crown categories, and one could make an argument that Billingsley (who was in the hunt for a monthly honor a couple times) was more of an offensive star despite a fairly low .715 OPS.

On the other side, while several pitchers had good months and were at times in contention for monthly honors, there was only one month where Alex Wells wasn’t in the conversation for the honor, and that subpar June was followed by an all-world July where I had no choice but to name him a second time. And when you consider just how elite he was in terms of the entire league – not just the team – I pretty much had a no-brainer for Shorebird of the Year. Even the photo I’m using is one where he gets hardware.

Alex Wells had a hardware collection going this season with the Shorebirds.

I wish I had hardware to give, but for now the pixels to officially dub Alex Wells as the Shorebird of the Year for 2017 will have to suffice. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 needs just one more to tie for largest, and it’s only a callup away.

Meanwhile, I’m already jonesing for a ballgame at the stadium. By the way, I’ve finally added the other photos I promised so now each month can be reviewed and they are how I intended them to be.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: August 2017

September 7, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

Unlike months past, this time I’ll dispense with the preliminaries because next week will bring a full season review for the 2017 campaign. So instead let’s go straight to a look at my final honorees, who both get the award for the first time.

We’re going to begin with a player that definitely stepped up the pace in the season’s final month compared to his previous performance. My August (and September) Position Player of the Month: Catcher Daniel Fajardo, who settled in with a shifting cast of backups and put together a great month of August. His .314/0/8/.774 OPS slash line for the month was among the team leaders with previous honorees Ryan McKenna and Cole Billingsley, but Fajardo also proved to be a good defensive weapon with his arm by nabbing 9 of a potential 17 base stealers. (For the season Fajardo caught 44% of would-be thieves.)

Overall, Daniel finished the campaign with a .240/1/24/.568 OPS slash line in 67 games with the Shorebirds, although his time here was interrupted by a spot start for Norfolk on May 3 (where he went 1-for-4 at Charlotte at a time where he was Johnny-on-the-spot – the Tides had a need and the Shorebirds were in the midst of a southern swing to Columbia and Charleston, SC) and another brief stint with Frederick from May 19-22 – there Fajardo went 2-for-13 in 4 games.

The 22-year-old Fajardo is a veteran of six minor league seasons, as he was signed at the age of 16 in September of 2011 and left his native Venezuela the next summer to catch in the Dominican Summer League. Two seasons there led to a promotion to the Gulf Coast League for the 2014 season, and he played there most of the next two seasons (with the exception of 2 games at Frederick in 2015.) Last year he moved up to Aberdeen as a backup catcher and this year served as somewhat of an organization player with the two brief departures from the Delmarva roster. Over the last two winters he’s also done spot duty in his native land, playing for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League.

One thing that sets Fajardo apart from many of his teammates is the fact, based on his lengthy service time in the minors, that he would have to be protected on the Orioles’ 40-man roster if they wanted to assure themselves of keeping him. It’s not likely the Orioles will do so, thus it’s possible another team may take a flyer on him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. (Unlike the major league portion, where a player has to remain on the 25-man active roster or be offered back to the original team, those picked in the minor league portion can be assigned to any minor league affiliate. So a team selecting Fajardo could ship him to the high-A level where the Orioles would likely send him.)

Fajardo, McKenna, and Billingsley were the best of a mediocre lot of hitters for the Shorebirds, who faltered in early August and fell well off the playoff pace. On the other hand, I had a difficult time deciding the Pitcher of the Month as several had a legitimate claim, including two-time honoree Alex Wells and swingman Cody Dube. But my final decision came down to a razor-close debate between lefty Tyler Erwin and righthander Kory Groves.

This was one that came down to expectations, and the fact he was recovering from a lost 2016 tipped the scale to Kory Groves.

In August and September Groves made a season-high 10 appearances covering 19 innings. In those stints he allowed just 13 hits (for a .197 average against) and 6 runs (4 earned) which translates to a 1.89 ERA. Striking out 14 while walking just one, Groves gave up just 2 earned in his last 7 outings. The only blemishes on his record were losses to Kannapolis and Hagerstown, right around the end of a stretch where Groves was pitching 3 or 4 innings at a time – he thrived in shorter 1 or 2 inning outings as the month wore on.

Over the season Groves stayed healthy enough to pitch in 33 games, covering 59 1/3 innings. Kory gave up 58 hits but only 17 earned runs, also amassing 41 strikeouts to 14 walks. The bottom line for Groves was a 3-5 record and 2.58 ERA with a WHIP of 1.21.

Because he lost that season to injury and came from a small, unheralded school (Cal State – Monterey Bay, which has had just 4 players drafted from the program and none since Groves in 2015) Kory has worked his way from being just a 34th round pick to this point. But having just celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday, it’s more likely Groves will be pitching for his very career in spring training if the Orioles don’t decide to move on from him over the winter. Such is often the fate of a late-round selection, and especially one whose numbers don’t seem to show him as a power pitcher (just 6.2 strikeouts per 9 innings is one of the lowest rates on the team.)

However, Groves did put up one of the better WHIP numbers on the team and was reasonably effective in short outings, so he could be one of those late-inning guys at Frederick next year. And for this month he was about the best the Shorebirds had to offer on the mound.

As I noted up top, next week I will do my season review and track the players selected as Shorebirds of the Month, with the following week devoted as always to picks and pans from a fan. So September will bring a flurry of Shorebird activity before its hibernation until December when I add at least six players to the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2017

August 3, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2017 

July was a month where the Shorebirds marched through Georgia like William Tecumseh Sherman, compiling their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years and coming home in first place. Unfortunately that lead has melted away like a gallon of ice cream left out in the sun, but the Shorebirds are enjoying unexpected success due in large part to the players honored here this month.

While Jake Ring took home honors in April, it was his two usual counterparts in the outfield, Cole Billingsley and Ryan McKenna, who were vying for the Position Player of the Month honor in July – seemingly trying to outdo each other at every turn. Billingsley was hitting an even .250 when the calendar turned to July, but his hot month improved his overall average to a more solid-looking .270 mark. However, while his average has gone up Billingsley has become more of a slap hitter, with just three extra-base hits in July leading to an OPS of just .718.

Thus, what tipped the scale to his teammate Ryan McKenna was the latter’s .319 batting average, 5 steals, and .824 OPS – by far his best of the season and way above his numbers for May and June. While Billingsley picked up his average 20 points in July, McKenna did even better by going from .231 to .254 in the month, recovering a large part of what he lost in a two-month slump. On that aforementioned road trip to Georgia, Ryan was a hot hand as he went 11-for-27 in the seven games, including four doubles. (Ryan had 11 doubles for the month.)

Ryan is an Oregon native who was drafted out of high school in New Hampshire two years ago as a fourth-rounder, so a lot is expected of him. With this being his first opportunity to play full-season ball, McKenna has set career marks in most of his categories already, but he has shown some improvement in his all-around game so he’s tracking to make the jump to Frederick next year as a 21-year-old (he will turn 21 just before camp opens next spring.)

Besides Billingsley, another batter who had a month worth noting (albeit in limited spot duty) was infielder Tanner Kirk, who brought his average up above the Mendoza Line with a little room to spare.

On the other hand, there was no contest on the pitching side of the equation and it netted me my first-ever repeat Shorebird Pitcher of the Month in Alex Wells.

Here are the brief lines from Alex’s five July starts:

  • vs. Lakewood, 7 innings, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Hickory, 6 innings, 2 hits, 4 strikeouts.
  • vs. Rome, 6 innings, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts.
  • at Rome, 6 innings, 1 hit, 5 strikeouts.
  • vs. Greensboro, 6 innings, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts.

I did not mention runs or walks because there were none. Wells has not allowed a run since June 30 and last walked a batter June 25. Brett Barbier, then of Lakewood, was the last batter to walk off Wells, and it turns out Wells’ streak has outlasted the remainder of Barbier’s pro career as he’s since been released.

In the category of “duh”, the Orioles also selected Wells as their Minor League Pitcher of the Month. So the question now becomes what will happen with him?

He’s on pace for six more starts this season, and it seems to me that as long as the Shorebirds have a chance at the postseason he should stay here. Barring rainouts, Wells is actually lined up just right to start the first game of a postseason series on normal rest. And it’s not like he doesn’t have things to work on, despite the recent success – one is a penchant for giving up the longball. (Wells has allowed 13 this season, and consider the team has given up 66 collectively.) At 114 innings, the Orioles may also want to slow his workload down as well, so he may be cut back to 5 inning starts or skip a turn along the way.

In either case, when you have an ERA of 0 and a WHIP that comes in at 0.42 for the month, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be my pitcher of the month, again.

One more month and then we’ll line ’em up and pick a Shorebird of the Year.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2017

July 13, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2017 

I promised when I did last month’s awards that this month I would do a first half in review, so here goes.

Over the last several years, our trend has been to have the better first half and fade in the second so the fact that we had a lackluster 29-39 first half that placed us 10 games in arrears to eventual leader Kannapolis doesn’t bode really well. And unlike a lot of other seasons I can recall, the team did not do a large-scale turnover at the All-Star break as no players were promoted to Frederick – those who were bound for Aberdeen had already long since left the scene. So there’s been little player movement since the second half began.

Statistically, the Shorebirds were a bottom-echelon team in most offensive categories, generally ranking outside the top 10 in the league. As far as pitching went, they were more toward the average but still tended toward the lower half. And the fact that there were no obvious standout players who just had to be promoted to Frederick says a lot about this team, which seems to be comprised of a large proportion of late-round draft picks for some reason. As of this writing, it’s worth noting that the top five hitters in average were respectively drafted in rounds 31, 19, 7, 21. and 15, while the best ERAs belong to pitchers drafted in rounds 33, 23, and 34 (three others were international free agents.)

So the fact that they are where they are in the standings may be reflective of their relative talent level compared to other squads loaded with blue-chip prospects. The success we may have will definitely be unexpected on paper, but it is why they play the games.

June provided a wide-open free-for-all competition for Position Player of the Month – there was no real standout. I could make legitimate arguments for four different players based on the factors of statistics, comparison to season performance as a whole, and comparison to expectations. Cole Billingsley, Rafael Palmiero, Alejandro Juvier, and Frank Crinella were all contenders for the prize, which Palmiero would have won in back-to-back months.

And while Alejandro Juvier started out July with a personal milestone, it was the great month preceding it that tipped the scales toward the Player of the Month honors for the versatile infielder. Juvier, who’s now played 53 games at second base, 17 at third base, and 5 at shortstop, hit a solid .288 in June (23-for-80) to lead the team in hitting, chipping in four doubles, a triple, and a home run with 8 RBI.  Stumbling along with a .221 average as the month began, Alejandro increased the mark to .244 by month’s end, setting monthly highs in most offensive categories and putting up a remarkable .760 OPS for the month (compared to a lifetime .595 mark.) Maybe the guy needs to shop for diamond rings more often.

It’s a significant improvement over the time he spent here last season, where he fell one AB short of the Mendoza line in 30 games, going 22-for-111 (a .198 average.) But aside from the 2015 season, where he somehow put together a slash line of .307/0/18/.742 OPS between the GCL Orioles (29 games) and Aberdeen (17 games), offense has been a challenge for the 21-year-old Cuban native whose family found its way to Miami and got Juvier into the Doral Academy Preparatory School, from which Juvier was drafted three years ago in the 15th round. (Juvier was the first player drafted from there; two others followed this year.) Alejandro carries only a .236 lifetime mark, and tossing out the aberrant 2015 season lowers it to a .220 number. So hitting over .280 for a stretch is big news, and worth celebrating. I’ve often noted that it sometimes takes a player a second time here to “get it,” but with perhaps the chance at another 200 or so plate appearances, Juvier could make a run at a nice mark around .260 with the same sort of effort.

Similarly to the position players, there were three pitchers I could have awarded the Pitcher of the Month distinction to. It really came down to a trio who had good months in Lucas Humpal, Steven Klimek, and Matt Trowbridge – of the three, Humpal is the lone starter.

In the end, though, I opted to go with the best body of work overall and that belonged to Steven Klimek. Like Juvier, Steven spent a brief amount of time with the Shorebirds in 2016 and struggled, going 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. In June Steven made seven appearances, allowing 2 runs on 10 hits in 11 2/3 innings for a 1.54 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. (The WHIP was low because Klimek walked no one while striking out 14. This goes with a 45-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season, in 44 innings.)

Klimek had either a tie or lead in all seven appearances, and there was only one instance where he failed to keep it – Kannapolis scored a run on him June 12 to tie the game, but the Shorebirds would win it in extra innings. Thus, he had a win and two saves in the month as Klimek has become the guy for high-leverage situations. Not bad for a 33rd round draft pick out of St. Bonaventure two years ago. Klimek is actually my oldest SotM honoree for this nascent award as he’s already turned 23.

Over the years I have seen this type of pitcher a lot – a guy with pinpoint control at this level who has issues when promoted because batters become more selective. Obviously that will be a test for Klimek when he moves up, since I see no reason why he shouldn’t get a chance in the coming months. But bear in mind he struggled his first time here, so he was one of those that “got it” the second time too.

Now that I have my internet back, I should be able to resume my regular schedule and do July’s Shorebird of the Month on August 3.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2017

June 8, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2017 

Because I did a lot of explanation before introducing my April position player and pitcher of the month, I think I’ll stay with the trend for May and do my impressions on the season so far.

As it stands, the Shorebirds are tracking to be about the team I thought they would be when I found out that three of the top four picks in last season’s draft would bypass Delmarva and jump straight from Aberdeen to Frederick: how would this team look with Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin in the rotation and Austin Hays in center field? I’m not sure they would flip their current record that has them well under .500 and already all but eliminated from the first half title with a couple weeks to go, but we would be much less mediocre.

When I looked up those players who were slated to make the Delmarva starting lineup, I cringed at their offensive production. One of the few saving graces I thought we would have was the fact the plan for Dariel Alvarez was to have him pitch once or twice a week as he learned that aspect of the game but stay in touch with the offensive end as a DH a couple games a week also. It would have been like having a guy on rehab all year (and bear in mind Joey Rickard hit .300 in his brief rehab stint here.) Alvarez wasn’t a slouch at the plate for the Orioles in his time there, so that would have been an interesting couple days a week and/or weapon off the bench. Alas, Alvarez blew out his arm so we may never know how it would have worked out.

I thought we would have a reasonably decent pitching staff, but with the exception of my April Pitcher of the Month Alex Wells, the rotation has been roughed up for much of the season. Aside from Wells, none of the five rotation mainstays have an ERA under 4.10 or a WHIP under the league average of 1.27. (Lucas Humpal is right on that mark, though.) Even our closer has an ERA over 4. It’s just a team that seems to languish in the bottom half of the league in a number of categories, including the number of blue-chip prospects that are playing right now.

Earlier this week we also learned who our three representatives to the SAL All-Star Game will be, and to no one’s surprise my April players of the month are two of the three – Alex Wells will pitch for the Northern Division team while Jake Ring will be a starting outfielder. They’re joined by Chris Clare, who’s the utility infielder of the group. However, while all three of them had good months in May, none of them were selected as my two honorees.

Instead, I went with two players who had hot hands in May; in particular my position player. This player had a May batting average over 100 points higher than his April mark and his OPS surged from .608 in April to .908 for the month of May. Based on a stellar month in which he batted .303/4/15/.908 OPS I selected Preston Palmiero as my Position Player of the Month for May.

It’s obvious that Palmiero has a bit of a legacy to uphold as a member of the Orioles’ organization, as his father had seven of his twenty very productive major league seasons in a Baltimore uniform. (Unlike his older brother Patrick, who played for three seasons in the White Sox organization and now plays with the independent Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Preston was born while his father was an Oriole.) The younger Palmiero was also the higher draft pick, taken in the 7th round last season by the Orioles. (Worth noting: his brother Patrick was drafted out of high school by the Pirates, but did not sign. The White Sox signed Patrick as a free agent after college, so Preston obviously drew a lot more interest as he attended North Carolina State.)

Preston put up reasonable numbers in 34 games last season with Aberdeen, hitting .258/0/18/,622 OPS. It wasn’t going to set the world on fire, but I’m certain that Palmiero was ticketed for Delmarva this season all along unless he really struggled or shined with the IronBirds last season. And April was a mighty struggle for Preston, but May was a month he righted the ship, aided by a lot of road games – Palmiero has an extreme split in favor of games away from Perdue Stadium thus far, where he’s hitting .289/6/18/.941 OPS compared to .216/1/11/.575 OPS at home. It’s almost like he tries too hard here, but since the Shorebirds had so few home games in May it helped Preston out. Surely the numbers will begin to balance out, but for now his average is about where it was for Aberdeen and the trend is in a good direction.

If Preston hadn’t come on with such a good month, I would have had no problem giving the honor to Jake Ring again. He had a fairly solid month of May to go with a stellar April, and that’s why he’ll be an All-Star.

As for the May Pitcher of the Month, the seeds of his success began in April when he began a shutout streak that would take him deep into May and even through one spot appearance with the Frederick Keys. Francisco Jimenez had six consecutive shutout appearances that varied between 2 and 6 innings during the run, but for the month of May itself he was 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA and WHIP of 0.906. (Note that Baseball Reference does their splits among all levels, so this counts his one 3 2/3 inning appearance with Frederick. If you back out the Frederick innings the ERA goes up to 1.29 and WHIP to 0.929, which are still really, really good.)

In Francisco’s case, though, one could argue that he’s only come to master this level because he’s repeating it for the third time – he was he for the last few weeks of the 2015 season, all of 2016, and so far this season except for the quick dash to Frederick. But a point to consider is how many pitchers who succeed here struggle immediately on their promotion to the Keys, so that’s in Jimenez’s favor. Also. he’s had the flexibility to pitch as both a starter and reliever this year, although his background has been more geared toward a starting role.

Also doing well this past month on the bump and deserving mention are starting pitcher Matthias Dietz, who has bounced back to great extent after a terrible start, and relief pitcher Cody Dube. Both were top-10 picks last season so you would hope they have success at this level.

Finally, I wanted to point out that so far – with the exception of Wells, who is but 20 years old – all of my Shorebird of the Month selections are 22 years old, so they are right in line with expectations for excelling at this level. Once we reach the All-Star break, it will be interesting to see how the roster is shaken up as the team doesn’t appear to be a contender with the cast they have now. My June Shorebird of the Month selection will have a first half review as well.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2017

May 4, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2017 

After I decided to retire the Shorebird of the Week feature at the end of last season, I still felt something was in order to express my fandom and admiration. So I decided (after some thought) to do a Shorebird of the Month, then it occurred to me that both position players and pitchers should be so honored as most organizations that give awards such as those tend to do.

This award will be subjective to the point where it won’t just be based on statistics, but also on whether a player exceeded the expectations one could reasonably place on him. A good case in point was my Shorebird of the Year for 2016, Yermin Mercedes. Here was a guy who had been released by one team, went to play in the independent leagues to keep his dream alive and was rewarded by latching on with the Orioles organization. I knew he could hit based on his previous campaigns, but there were reasons to expect a so-so season from him last year: his numbers slipped when repeating a level for the third time in his previous organization, his best hitting season came in a league where hitting an even .300 would put you somewhat below the league average, and he only hit .272 the season before for the Shorebirds – quite solid for a catcher, but could he do that well a second time? He definitely exceeded my expectations by winning the SAL batting title.

I would expect a guy like Manny Machado (or Ryan Mountcastle from last year) to take the South Atlantic League by storm. And having seen enough 20th round or later picks come to this level and have their weaknesses exploited by opposing pitchers or hitters, I have a pretty good idea of what a player’s ceiling is expected to be. Go back seven years to the 2010 draft (which featured Manny Machado as the #1 pick) and you will find the Orioles drafted 49 players that season. Out of those 49 players, five made it to the majors: Machado (1st round), Parker Bridwell (9th round), Chi Chi Gonzalez (11th round), Scott Copeland (21st round), and Tim Adleman (24th round.) While Machado and Bridwell debuted with the Orioles, Gonzalez was not signed and was later a 1st round pick; meanwhile, both Copeland and Adleman were released by the Orioles in 2012 and made The Show with the teams that eventually signed them, Toronto and Cincinnati, respectively. Adleman played for two seasons in independent league baseball before the Reds snapped him up.

Just five other players from that Baltimore draft are still active in lower levels: Matt Bywater (7th round) was in the Braves’ organization and independent baseball last season, but hasn’t yet latched onto a team for 2017. Wynston Sawyer (8th round) was an Orioles’ farmhand until the end of last year, but now the six-year free agent plays in the Dodgers’ chain. Both Bywater and Sawyer have only advanced to AA ball.

The other three were high school players who opted to sign later when drafted by other clubs. Between those three active players, they have played a combined one game beyond the advanced-A level.

That covers just 10 players out of 49. Out of the other 39, seven did not sign with the Orioles, 2 made it to AAA Norfolk (34th rounder Sammie Starr – for one game – and 42nd rounder Jake Pettit), 4 never advanced past AA (rounds 3, 10, 17, and 30), 7 could not get past advanced-A (rounds 4, 5, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 28), 7 were stopped at Delmarva’s level (selections 22, 23, 29, 31, 37, 40, and 48) and a whopping 12 never broke out of rookie league, covering rounds 19, 20, 25, 26, 33, 35, 36, 38. 39. 43, 44, and 47.

To make a long story short, I would be as impressed if a 35th rounder comes in and can be about league average as I would be with a first rounder hitting .380 and home runs by the bushel. There’s also track record to consider as well, since we have had many players who finally “got it” at this level and went on to be successful.

With all that introduction now out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, 2017.

The Player of the Month is outfielder Jake Ring.

After the Shorebirds’ initial road trip, Ring was hitting just .190 (4-for-21.) But he loved home cooking so much that in the seven-game opening homestand the Shorebirds had against Hagerstown and Greensboro Jake went an amazing 12-for-17 against the Suns and 4-for-11 versus Grasshopper pitching. Folks, that’s 16-for-28, or a .571 average with a homer, 12 RBI, and an absolutely mind-boggling OPS of 1.696 – the slugging percentage was also over 1.000 thanks to a total of 10 extra-base hits.

Overall in April Ring played in 20 games, hitting .359/3/19/1.085 OPS. As of this writing (through games of May 3) Ring is still second in the SAL in average, leads in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and the associated slugging percentage (he’s sixth in on-base percentage), third in doubles, tied for the lead in triples, tied for eighth in home runs, second in RBI, and second in total bases.

His season-opening exploits led Jake to be named 2017’s first SAL Player of the Week, covering April 4-14. It’s a far cry from the struggles he had with Delmarva at the tail end of last year, where he began his Shorebird career hitless in his first 10 at-bats before finally breaking through in the eighth inning of the season finale September 5. He would add another hit in the 10th inning of a game the Shorebirds won later that frame, finishing 2-for-12 in the three games. The 31st round selection from last year, out of Ingleside, Illinois by way of the University of Missouri, Jake spent the previous portion of the 2016 season hitting .278/0/21 in 53 games for the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League team – but that would be somewhat expected against a league where many of the players are either fresh from high school, coming from lightly-regarded or smaller college programs, or just arrived from the even more raw talent pools of the foreign summer leagues in various countries. The SAL is probably the appropriate challenge for Ring at this stage in his career.

Looking ahead, Jake could be here for a little while barring any injuries on Frederick’s roster – their outfield complement of Josh Hart, Austin Hays, Randolph Gassaway, and Ademar Rifaela is holding its own so far. Hart, Gassaway, and Rifaela should be familiar to Delmarva fans but Hays is a 3rd rounder from last season who bypassed Delmarva in his advancement. And while Jake has slowed down a little bit, hitting “just” .294 over his last ten games, keeping himself at or above .300 should merit him both a league All-Star bid and a mid-season promotion. Since he’s still only 22, there’s not a great deal of urgency to rush him along.

While Ring was a clear winner in this field, shortstop Chris Clare deserves honorable mention as well for a great month of April.

My Pitcher of the Month was a somewhat closer call, but I felt that putting together four excellent starts and being in the top five in league ERA was enough to give the nod to Alex Wells. Admittedly, I am buying a pig in a poke here because I haven’t seen either of his two home starts but so far Wells has a 2-1 record with a 1.11 ERA and WHIP of 0.945 (less than one baserunner an inning) based on just four walks and 19 hits allowed in 24 1/3 innings – meanwhile, he has struck out 20 in that stint. One thing those who attended either or both of his two home starts haven’t seen is Wells allowing an earned run – Lakewood scratched out an unearned run against him but Hagerstown was shut out.

Unlike Ring, Alex was challenged in his first pro season as he debuted last year with Aberdeen, going just 4-5 but with a 2.15 ERA in 13 starts there. Wells also has a more intriguing backstory as an Australian native whose twin brother Lachlan Wells pitches in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Somehow that fits, I suppose.) With one more season under his belt, Lachlan is pitching one level higher than Alex right now but they have very similar statistical profiles: low ERA, great strikeout/walk ratio, and capable of putting together fine games. In the case of Alex, all of his game scores (a statistic created by sabermetrics guru Bill James) are over 50, and two are over 65, suggesting a high-quality start. (The formula is somewhat cumbersome to explain, but a start that would match the minimum baseball definition of a “quality start” (3 earned runs or fewer in 6 innings or more) would net about 55 to 60 points, or an increase of 5 to 10 points over the 50 given to start. An absolutely perfect nine-inning game with 27 strikeouts would be 114 points, and the record for a nine-inning game is 105. Wells has a high score of 72 for his start at home against Lakewood (6 IP, 1 unearned R on 2 H, 6 K’s, no walks.)

Signed by the Orioles at the very end of the 2015 minor league season (and about 9 1/2 months after Lachlan), Wells was named as both an organizational and NYPL Midseason All-Star last season, all before he reached the age of 20. Baseball America also selected him as the 20th best NYPL prospect and 25th best Orioles prospect. The bespectacled Wells (both brothers wear glasses) has now pitched a total of 18 games for the Orioles’ brass and has started every one, compiling an overall ERA of 1.86.

So Wells has a pretty high ceiling, although one could definitely argue he’s simply meeting expectations. If he tracks as his twin brother did at this level last season, one could expect Alex to finish with a sub-2 ERA and stellar peripheral numbers such as WHIP and strikeout/walk ratio. While he has the potential to be moved up midstream, the Orioles can afford to take the time to develop Wells given their blue-chip young guns already in the rotation (although a left-hander would be a good companion to right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.) If the rotation and weather cooperate, the next time Wells should pitch here would be May 13 against Greenville.

Two pitchers who will get an honorable mention for beating expectations in their second tour of duty with the team are Steven Klimek and Jhon Peluffo. Both – but especially Peluffo – were batted around in their first stint here but have recovered nicely to start 2017.

With that, welcome to this new chapter. It will be more in-depth than a weekly look at one player, and the next one on the schedule would be June 8. The first Thursday in June is the 1st, so I’m creating the rule that these players of the month will be featured the Thursday after the first Monday of the month – it gives me time to digest the previous monthly splits and see who is deserving of the honors.

The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2016

December 8, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2016 

For a short time this summer, I thought I was going to have a record class for the SotWHoF this season, but as it turned out it fell one short of the record seven, with six. But this season’s class is making a prediction I made a couple years ago on the Shorebird of the Week tracker page come true:

I think the 2014 (SotW) crop has the potential to match the 2008 SotW group in terms of guys who can make it. They just seem to have that air about them, and three of them made the jump to Frederick immediately after the All-Star game.

True to my prediction (and within the timeframe of 2 to 3 years typically elapsing after their selection as Shorebirds of the Week) there are three players I picked in 2014 among the five inductees this season. In order of their debuts, they were Steven Brault, Donnie Hart, and Trey Mancini. Parker Bridwell was only the second player from 2013 to advance to the Show, and Ty Kelly finally gave me one player from the 2010 SotW crop that made it – from a team that was sometimes nearly unbearable to watch. Meanwhile, Eddie Gamboa became the new record holder for longest wait, going over seven years before his debut.

As has become a trend over the last few years, we have watched as two players traded away for a quick lineup fix made it to the majors with other franchises. But while Brault was acquired by the Pirates in a trade with the Orioles, it took another trade, waivers, and free agency (along with a blazing hot start) to finally bring Kelly to the bigs, while Gamboa left as a minor league free agent. But Kelly was among a record five Hall of Fame members playing in the postseason this year (and the only one not suiting up for Baltimore.) However, none of them advanced past the wild card game and Zach Britton was a healthy scratch that could have been six.

Perhaps the one making the most impact of this season’s crop was Hart, who has been a solid LOOGY (left-handed one-out guy) for Baltimore. But none of the six made a great splash this season like some have in the past; luckily that’s not an indicator of future results.

I actually did rather well predicting some of the guys who made it this year, but I think 2017 may be a somewhat barren year. Sure, you could have the feelgood stories of longtime prospects like Garabez Rosa, Michael Ohlman, or Tim Berry finally breaking through, but if you look at the guys from 2012 and 2013 who are still hanging on no one jumps out at you. Former SotW players who participated in the Arizona Fall League included Adrian Marin from 2013, Jimmy Yacabonis and Austin Wynns from 2014, Stefan Crichton from 2015, and Jesus Liranzo from last season. (Liranzo was also the only SotW added to this winter’s 40 man roster.) None of them really made an impact in the AFL, though. The most likely person to be a 2017 class member could also be the first Shorebird of the Year to make it, 2014’s Chance Sisco.

And going forward I’m a little bearish on the prospects that I will have another class with as many as six in it, as the players over the last two years don’t seem to have the same prospect cache as those from 2014. So this class of six may be the last really large one.

Yet the process may not be done with this past season after all. I am thinking about a less stressful alternative to weekly honors, with the thought of perhaps going to a monthly award with the prospect of repeating during a season (so the monthly honoree in April could repeat in May.) It may also expand to a position player and pitcher, based on merit, and if I decide to do this it would begin the first Thursday in May for the April player and pitcher so honored.

But in the meantime it’s time to congratulate my six newest members of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, and with the posting of this article I will restore the SotWHoF page to public view.

Update, February 20, 2017. The best-laid plans of mice and men. I had Eddie Gamboa’s name on the list as I fixed the SotWHoF page but some edit must have wiped it out. He waited seven years to make it, though, so what was another two months?

The next in line

November 3, 2016 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on The next in line 

It’s definitely time for a fun, topical post, and since my tradition on Thursday nights during the season is something baseball-related I thought this would be a enjoyable thing to do.

Unless you were under a rock for the last six months, you know the Chicago Cubs had the best record in baseball this season and proved why by outlasting three solid teams (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cleveland) to win their first National League pennant since 1945 and their first World Series in 108 years. Since none of the other major professional sports leagues existed in 1908, their stretch between championships is likely a record that won’t be broken.

But while the Cubs had generations of fans that lived and died without ever seeing their heroes hoist a World Series trophy, beating the Indians made sure Cleveland’s record of championship futility extended to 69 seasons – they have gone without a World Series title since 1948. Yet I have figured out they are not the most overdue baseball city. (Actually, as a city Chicago hadn’t gone all that long since the White Sox won it all in 2005.)

So I sat down at lunchtime and did some figuring – here are the cities that are most overdue, and the top city may surprise you.

Washington is actually the city which has gone longest without a World Series title, although perhaps they receive an asterisk because there was no team there for over three decades. The first version of the Senators won it all in 1924, lost the World Series in 1925 and 1933, then went decades in futility (Washington was “first in war, first in peace, last in the American League”) before the team moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season. The expansion team they received (also called the Senators) lasted from 1961 to 1971 before that franchise left for the greener pastures of Texas to become the modern-day Rangers. A 34-year hiatus ensued before the Nationals were moved from Montreal in 2005, but they haven’t won a pennant – let alone a World Series.

Cleveland has the next longest losing streak, going since 1948. Here is the list of the major league cities, from way overdue to the most recent.

  • Washington (1924 – Senators 1 until 1960, Senators 2 1961-71, and Nationals since 2005)
  • Cleveland (1948 – Indians)
  • Milwaukee (1957 – Braves until 1966, Brewers* since 1970)
  • Houston (1962 – Colt .45s/Astros*)
  • San Diego (1969 – Padres*)
  • Seattle (1969 – Pilots* for 1969 season, Mariners* since 1977)
  • Dallas (1972 – Texas Rangers*)
  • Pittsburgh (1979 – Pirates)
  • Baltimore (1983 – Orioles)
  • Detroit (1984 – Tigers)
  • Los Angeles (1988 – Dodgers)
  • Oakland (1989 – Athletics)
  • Cincinnati (1990 – Reds)
  • Minneapolis (1991 – Minnesota Twins)
  • Denver (1993 – Colorado Rockies*)
  • Toronto (1993 – Blue Jays)
  • Atlanta (1995 – Braves)
  • Tampa (1998 – Devil Rays/Rays*)
  • Phoenix (2001 – Arizona Damondbacks)
  • Anaheim (2002 – Angels)
  • Miami (2003 – Marlins)
  • Philadelphia (2008 – Phillies)
  • New York (2009 – Yankees – Mets since 1986)
  • St. Louis (2011 – Cardinals)
  • Boston (2013 – Red Sox)
  • San Francisco (2014 – Giants)
  • Kansas City (2015 – Royals)
  • Chicago (2016 – Cubs – White Sox since 2005)

Teams demoted with an asterisk (*) are still looking for their first World Series title.

There should be an honorable mention for Montreal (which would slot in with the Padres and Pilots from 1969) who did not win a title in their 1969-2004 Montreal run and for Brooklyn, which lost the Dodgers after the 1957 season but last won the World Series in 1955.

Of the most overdue teams, Washington has a legitimate shot at ending their streak next season as they were a playoff team this season. Obviously Cleveland looks like a contender as well. (Just as an aside, for all the talk about the AL East being a good division, the Central division has sent four of the last five AL champs to the World Series – Cleveland this year, Kansas City in 2014 and 2015, and Detroit in 2012.) Milwaukee has an up-and-coming young team that should contend with the Cubs in the next few seasons, while Houston has made some noise in the playoffs recently, too. Only San Diego in the top 5 seems to be stuck in mediocrity.

All right, you’ll get political stuff again tomorrow and Sunday, although I have a music review set for Saturday. I just had to have some fun expanding a Facebook post I did in the wake of Chicago’s victory last night.

A look at the trade (part 5)

October 27, 2016 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on A look at the trade (part 5) 

Things will be a little different for the 2016 evaluation because, simply put, we have a long way to go in determining winners and losers. Guys who are in A or AA ball now may need another three to four seasons to pan out, so in this instance it’s likely I won’t determine a winner or loser – just the deal and how it’s gone so far.

  • Trade 32 (December 2, 2015) – Orioles trade catcher Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for pitcher C. J. Riefenhauser and outfielder Mark Trumbo.

Clevenger was the Orioles’ remnant of the disastrous Jake Arrieta deal (Trade 13) with the Cubs but he was enough to get Trumbo, who was being traded for the third time in two years. But 2016 has been a lost year for Steve, who broke his hand in June and was suspended indefinitely by the Mariners for comments made on Twitter in September. If Clevenger is through in Seattle and cannot be traded (chances are he won’t, because no one will take him in this PC climate) the 0.0 WAR Seattle gets makes Riefenhauser, a pitcher who pitched in the bigs for Tampa Bay but was waived shortly after his acquisition, a cipher in the deal. (Riefenhauser was eventually released from the Cubs organization in August.) My surprise is that Trumbo, the MLB home run leader, only has a 1.6 WAR for the season. But this good 2016 trade also accrues on the Orioles’ side of the Arrieta ledger, and, if they can keep the pending free agent Trumbo, makes that deal a little less bitter.

  • Trade 33 (February 4, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Jean Cosme to San Diego Padres for pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne.

Cosme is at least two to three seasons away from making a major league impact, as he pitched at Class A ball with Fort Wayne – essentially the Padres’ version of Delmarva. Despaigne was largely ineffective for the Orioles, compiling an (-0.2) WAR before being lost on a September waiver claim to Miami. So the best the Orioles can do on this one is a push.

  • Trade 34 (March 24, 2016) – Orioles trade player to be named to Chicago Cubs for pitcher Edgar Olmos.

Olmos, who had big league time with Miami and Seattle, was the subject of a waiver wire tug-of-war between the Cubs and Orioles in December, 2015 before Baltimore finally broke down and made this trade. Edgar pitched in Norfolk all season, so this may become a trade for no one or a cash deal.

  • Trade 35 (March 29, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Chris Jones to Los Angeles Angels for minor league outfielder Natanael Delgado and minor league infielder Erick Salcedo.

This trade was strictly a minor league deal but I include it to close the loop on Jones, who was acquired in a 2013 trade (Trade 10) and spent three seasons in the Orioles organization. He had a mediocre AAA season for the Angels, basically on par with the season Delgado had here in Delmarva. Salcedo, on the other hand, did well with Frederick and may be the best prospect going forward.

  • Trade 36 (April 18, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league outfielder Alfredo Marte to Philadelphia Phillies for player to be named.

There was actually a cash option to this deal as well, and given the fact Marte only lasted two months in the Phillies organization before his release, that’s the most likely outcome. Prior to that, he spent time in MLB with the Diamondbacks and Angels.

  • Trade 37 (May 23, 2016) – Orioles trade pitcher Brian Matusz and their 2016 Competitive Balance Round B draft choice to Atlanta Braves for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves selected catcher Brett Cumberland with the draft pick, June 9, 2016.

Matusz was only the property of the Braves for a week before his release, which eventually led him to the Cubs organization. (Shades of Jake Arrieta!) Meanwhile, their draft pick Cumberland did not burn up the Appalachian League, although he still is with the organization – as a high draft pick Cumberland will be given a lot of leeway for awhile. For the Orioles side, Barker had a decent, but not great, remainder of the season with Bowie while Belicek struggled with a promotion to Frederick – he was pitching for the SAL Rome Braves to start the year. It’s more likely the Orioles do well with this one, besides dumping Matusz. It’s also interesting to note the Orioles have traded away their last 3 CB picks, which are the only draft choices teams are allowed to trade. The only one they have used was to draft outfielder Josh Hart in 2013, the first year the feature was added to assist small-market and struggling clubs. Hart played this season for advanced-A Frederick since being drafted out of a Georgia high school.

  • Trade 38 (July 31, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Ariel Miranda to Seattle Mariners for pitcher Wade Miley.

While this was an effort to upgrade the starting rotation, a key difference in this deadline deal was that Miley is under team control through 2017, so the Mariners received a prospect closer to major-league ready – in fact, Miranda debuted with the Orioles earlier that month. Since then Ariel has been plugged into the Mariners’ starting rotation and put up a 0.9 WAR in his brief Seattle stint. Meanwhile, Miley is responsible for a (-0.3) WAR after a slow start with the Orioles – however, over his career he has been good for a WAR of 1 to 2 a year. It’s possible this could be a winner for both teams, although Miley’s team made the postseason in 2016 over Seattle.

  • Trade 39 (August 1, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league catcher Jonah Heim to Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Steve Pearce.

The jury is obviously out on how successful the heretofore light-hitting but defensive-minded Heim will end up being as he’s only playing in advanced-A ball. But the latest go-round for Pearce in Baltimore has been less than successful as he battled injuries the entire time before finally giving in and having season-ending surgery. An 0.1 WAR with the Orioles in 2016 is a far cry from the (team-leading) 5.9 he put up in 2014. But the Orioles may be willing to sign him once again in 2017.

  • Trade 40 (August 31, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league outfielder Jason Heinrich to Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Michael Bourn.

It’s way too early to speculate what sort of player Heinrich will be given that he’s never played beyond short-season ball, so we won’t know for awhile what sort of price was paid for Bourn, who’s often been used as a defensive replacement and has put up a WAR of 0.1 since the deal. Considering teams have picked Bourn off the scrap heap twice this year, Arizona could be in line for a good return.

  • Trade 41 (August 31, 2016) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Zach Phillips to Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Kyle Lobstein.

The final trade this series will cover, it took a player who made his debut with the Orioles in 2011 (but had bounced around two organizations since and hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013) and sent him off for a pitcher who didn’t seem to fit into Pittsburgh’s plans. Phillips pitched a little for the Pirates this September, putting up a 0.2 WAR. Lobstein made one single-inning appearance for Norfolk but was not called up in September.

At this early juncture, the jury is still out on Duquette’s 2016 trading success – thus far he is slightly ahead in WAR, but that is mainly on the strength of Trumbo and if he walks away from the Orioles it may be a losing season in the market for Dan. This would be a bit of a contrast: throughout the series I have tallied up the results and they tend to closely follow the results on the field. Since Baltimore had a regular season that was the third-best of the five-season Duquette era – the Orioles won 93 games in 2012 and 96 in 2014 compared to 89 this season – it’s likely this season will end up as a modest success, with a few hits and some misses.

In 2012, the players Baltimore acquired in trades put up a collective 4.6 WAR for the team, while those going to the various trading partners [Texas, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado, Arizona (twice), Philadelphia, and Cleveland] actually lost a WAR of (-1.1). One player still has potential to add to the opponents’ total, but it’s unlikely he will tip the scale away from Baltimore in this group of trades.

The story was different in 2013, as Baltimore received just a combined WAR of 3.9 for players who have provided the partners [Seattle (three times), Pittsburgh (twice), Atlanta, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs (particularly), Milwaukee, and Houston] a combined 25.5 WAR. Toss out the Arrieta deal, though, and it’s almost even (1.3 vs. 1.7). Unfortunately, the one player Baltimore has that accrues to their side of the bargains is up against six who combine for the opposition ledger.

On the other hand, 2014 was beneficial overall to the club as they have gained 7.1 Wins Above Replacement for their acquisitions while giving up just 0.9 to the partners [San Diego (twice), Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston (twice), and the Chicago White Sox]. There are three players on the Orioles side who will help their cause while two still play against them.

The comparatively quiet year of 2015 has so far netted Baltimore a (-0.6) WAR while partners (Pittsburgh, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee) have accrued a total of 4.8 WAR so far. Three players can still net gains for Baltimore right now while four players work against them.

In 2016, the Orioles picked up 1.3 WAR in its trades while opponents [Seattle (twice), San Diego, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Pittsburgh] have picked up 1.1 WAR. Of course, much is still to be determined when 10 players involved for these deals are still in the Orioles organization while 8 play with the various partners.

Duquette seems to be most willing to swing a deal with Seattle, trading with them five times. (Obviously they haven’t learned from the Eric Bedard deal.) Pittsburgh is also another willing dealer with four trades, while he’s not afraid to stay in the division with Boston, risk another disaster with the Cubs, or try and pry more folks out of Arizona or San Diego – each of them have made three deals with Duquette. So far he has avoided Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, both the Yankees and Mets, St. Louis, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington.

But to answer the lament of the person who started all of this, it appears that the trades have done more harm than good overall. Duquette has gained just 16.3 Wins Above Replacement over five seasons while giving up 31.2 WAR. And even if you toss out the Arrieta trade as an outlier – which puts the advantage back on Dan’s side – you have to figure that several of those he has given up (like the young pitchers Rodriguez, Brault, Davies, and Miranda) will be useful to their new clubs long after those he got in return are gone.

That’s the risk you run, though, and the Orioles haven’t been slouches on the field as they have the most wins in the American League since Duquette took over. In the end, that is an important statistic, but there’s also the aspect of player development to look at and, to succeed, the Orioles have to develop players both for their needs and as trade bait. Since Delmarva was the only team in the Orioles’ system to have a winning record this season, that prospect may hurt Duquette’s ability to secure pieces for his teams in the future.

This has been an enjoyable series to put together over a couple weeks as the season came to a close. Next on the sports docket for me will be updating the SotW Tracker in the next couple weeks and the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame in early December.

A look at the trade (part 4)

October 20, 2016 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on A look at the trade (part 4) 

With the Orioles having a successful 2014 season – and having only one loss from a “rental” to deal with in replacing relief pitcher Andrew Miller – Dan Duquette actually waited until the beginning of 2015 to spring his next trade in an effort to replace departing outfielder Nick Markakis.

  • Trade 27 (January 27, 2015) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a player named later to Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Travis Snider. Minor league pitcher Steven Brault was added on February 20.

The Pirates obviously believed Tarpley, who had not pitched beyond short-season A ball with Aberdeen, would be a valuable future pitcher. But his value turned out to be that of being a part of the August 2016 trade that brought pitcher Ivan Nova to Pittsburgh from the Yankees, with Nova adding a WAR of 1.4 in his brief tenure with the Pirates. At times Nova’s rotation-mate has been Brault, who worked his way up the Pirates’ minor league chain to debut for the Bucs this season. Thus far Brault has a WAR of (-0.4) with Pittsburgh, but both players involved from the Orioles can pay dividends in their own way for seasons to come. Snider wasn’t the answer to replace Nick Markakis, posting a WAR of 0.9 before being released in August 2015 (and going back to Pittsburgh.) He tried to latch on with Kansas City in 2016 but did not make the club, spending the season at AAA. Slight loss for Baltimore now, but could get much worse.

  • Trade 28 (April 9, 2015) – Orioles trade minor league catcher Brian Ward, pitcher Ryan Webb, and their 2015 Competitive Balance Round B draft choice to Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league catcher Chris O’Brien and pitcher Ben Rowen. The Dodgers selected pitcher Josh Sborz with the draft pick on June 8, 2015.

Ward was a catcher who the Orioles liked for defense, but never hit enough to make the big club. That remained the case with Los Angeles, who released him after a half-season at AAA in his final baseball stop. And with Webb lasting just four days (!) with the Dodgers before his release (he has since pitched for Cleveland and Tampa Bay), it seems like they wanted the draft pick. Sborz has advanced to AA in his 1 1/2 seasons with the Dodgers organization. O’Brien is the only player of the two remaining active in the Orioles organization, as Rowen – who had debuted with Texas the season before – was released in July, 2015. He’s now pitching for the Brewers. A push, with the greater potential for an Orioles loss.

  • Trade 29 (June 3, 2015) – Orioles trade outfielder Alejandro De Aza to Boston Red Sox for minor league pitcher Joe Gunkel.

While the Orioles weren’t sellers at this point of the season, this was a reverse of the usual Duquette method of using minor leaguers to fill big league holes. De Aza, who came in a August, 2014 deal (Trade 25) was struggling at the plate for the Orioles so they decided to scoop up a prospect for him. It turned out the De Aza was a good fit for Boston, putting up a 1.3 WAR in a couple months before he was traded again to San Francisco for Luis Ysla. Since then De Aza has moved on to the Mets, but Ysla could still help the Red Sox end of the ledger in this one. Meanwhile, Gunkel has also climbed the ladder to AAA, meaning this will eventually be a battle of 2 AAA pitchers to determine the winner of this deal. Slight loss for Baltimore, but could go either way.

  • Trade 30 (July 31, 2015) – Orioles trade pitcher Tommy Hunter to Chicago Cubs for outfielder Junior Lake.

Hunter was a popular presence in the Orioles’ clubhouse and was pitching relatively well, so it was a shock to see this deal go down. It turned out that neither player succeeded in their new home – Hunter had a (-0.2) WAR for the Cubs before signing with Cleveland as a free agent and eventually coming full circle back to Baltimore this August. Lake was even worse, posting a (-0.4) WAR in just 8 Baltimore games before being waived during the offseason. He played a little for Toronto this season, but was not a September callup. I’ll call this one a push.

  • Trade 31 (July 31, 2015) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Zach Davies to Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Gerardo Parra.

In what seemed like a never-ending effort to shore up the Oriole outfield, they got the hot-hitting Parra from Milwaukee for yet another draft choice made under Duquette predecessor Andy McPhail. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Davies was almost a finished product and a month later he debuted with Milwaukee. So far he has a 2.7 WAR and should get consideration as the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year. The rental Parra was not the hitter they expected and put up a (-1.1) WAR for Baltimore before departing for Colorado as a free agent. Clear loss for Baltimore.

That sour note ended the 2015 trading season for Duquette, who was comparatively quiet in his fourth season with the Orioles. And as has been the case throughout, the result of the trades he made was reflective of the season’s result, as Baltimore tumbled to an 81-81 finish after three straight winning seasons under Duquette. Would 2016 continue the trend?

A look at the trade (part 3)

October 13, 2016 · Posted in Sports · 1 Comment 

After the disappointment to Oriole fans that was the 2013 season, it was up to management to address the deficiencies. Three of the players Dan Duquette traded for in 2013 (pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez as well as outfielder Mike Morse) departed at season’s end for greener pastures, so he had some holes to fill from within or elsewhere. Fortunately, this was the point that some of the young prospects were beginning to develop so needs weren’t as great. We start with a trade that’s a clear win for Duquette.

  • Trade 18 (November 25, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Devin Jones to San Diego Padres for pitcher Brad Brach.

Devin Jones was a high draft pick in Andy McPhail’s final draft (2011) and one of the last dealt away by Duquette. All San Diego got out of him was 9 minor league appearances before an injury ended his season. The Orioles actually got him back as a minor league free agent a year later but Jones voluntarily retired just days after joining Frederick. On the other side, Brach has blossomed into an elite setup man, made the All-Star team in 2016, and has contributed a composite 5.1 WAR in three seasons (including 2.6 this year.) Clear win for Baltimore.

  • Trade 19 (December 2, 2013) – Orioles trade pitcher Jim Johnson to Oakland Athletics for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player named later. Minor league catcher David Freitas was added December 12.

This was truly a contract move to free up some money, although it turned out well for Baltimore. Johnson was a complete bust for Oakland, garnering a (-1.3) WAR before being released that August. He similarly failed that season for Detroit and the next for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but has somehow been a serviceable closer this season for the woeful Atlanta Braves. Weeks managed to put up a 0.1 WAR in three games with Baltimore before being traded to Boston later in the 2014 season (Trade 26.) The return for that later trade (Kelly Johnson) wiped out Weeks’s 0.1 WAR back to zero for scoring this deal but there is still one minor league player involved on Baltimore’s side, as you will see. Freitas spent two seasons between Bowie and Norfolk before moving on to the Cubs organization. Slight win for Baltimore, with a bit of potential for more.

  • Trade 20 (December 18, 2013) – Orioles trade infielder Danny Valencia to Kansas City Royals for outfielder David Lough.

Valencia was only on the Royals through the trading deadline, posting up a composite 0.0 WAR in 36 games and netting the Royals two players (Liam Hendriks and Eric Kratz) in a trade with Toronto that actually lost (-0.2) WAR between the two in their time with Kansas City. However, Hendriks went back to Toronto a year later in a trade involving minor leaguer Santiago Nessy, who eventually was waived. So the total balance for the Royals in all this dealing was a (-0.2) WAR, which makes the total 1.6 WAR Lough put up in two seasons with the Orioles look fabulous. Lough signed later as a free agent with the Phillies. On a side note, Liam Hendriks was an Oriole for a brief period himself, picked up on waivers from the Cubs days after the Valencia trade and lost to the Blue Jays just as spring training started. Clear win for Baltimore.

  • Trade 21 (March 24, 2014) – Orioles trade infielder Alex Gonzalez to Detroit Tigers for infielder Steve Lombardozzi.

This was a trade made out of desperation by Detroit, who had seen their starting shortstop Jose Iglesias go down with a serious injury in spring training. The longtime veteran Gonzalez, who the Orioles picked up as a free agent, wasn’t the answer as he put up a (-0.5) WAR in just nine games with the Tigers before being released. However, that (-0.5) WAR was the same Lombardozzi put up in 20 Oriole games, spending the bulk of the season in the minors before Pittsburgh purchased his contract for 2015, his last big league stop. Since then Steve spent time in independent league baseball as well as Washington’s AAA team. A push.

  • Trade 22 (April 7, 2014) – Orioles trade minor league infielder Torsten Boss to Cleveland Indians for minor league pitcher Preston Guilmet.

Boss was an infielder who had just played for Delmarva the season before (and was the second Duquette draft selection to be dealt away from the 2012 draft), but in splitting time between two Cleveland Class A teams he hit poorly and was let go at season’s end. Guillmet made 10 appearances for Baltimore with a (-0.1) WAR before going on to Pittsburgh the next season. It’s almost a push but Guilmet did help the Oriole bullpen. Slight win for Baltimore.

  • Trade 23 (May 24, 2014) – Orioles trade pitcher Troy Patton to San Diego Padres for catcher Nick Hundley.

The struggling Patton, who had been a fairly effective reliever for several seasons but was demoted to AAA to start 2014 before being recalled, only lasted seven appearances with San Diego (with an 0.1 WAR) before injury claimed him. He signed with the Royals organization the next season and Marlins for 2016, but was let go before the season started. Conversely, Hundley was the best backup catcher Duquette acquired in several tries, making it to 50 games for the Orioles and at least compiling an 0.0 WAR before signing with the Colorado Rockies for 2015, where he remains and has played well. A push.

  • Trade 24 (July 31, 2014) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston Red Sox for pitcher Andrew Miller.

Every time Boston plays the Orioles, the Baltimore faithful wail and gnash their teeth about this deal. Although injuries have taken a bit of a toll on Rodriguez, since his 2015 promotion he has provided Boston a 2.9 WAR. (He was also another minor leaguer signed during the McPhail years, in 2010.) As we all know, Miller was a rental player for 2014, and was effective enough in Baltimore’s stretch run to receive an 0.9 WAR in the short time he was here. A more recent deal involving Miller may invoke similar future heartburn for Cleveland fans, as the Yankee team that signed him away from the Orioles got four Cleveland Indian minor leaguers in return for Andrew this season. But the Rodriguez deal could break Oriole hearts for another decade. Clear loss for Baltimore.

  • Trade 25 (August 30, 2014) – Orioles trade minor league pitchers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas to Chicago White Sox for outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

Another deadline deal for postseason rosters, the Orioles went to shore up their outfield. Since the minor league season was about over, Blackmar didn’t make his White Sox organizational debut until 2015, lasting one season in their system before retreating to independent league baseball long enough to secure a deal with the Washington organization, where he ended the 2016 season. Chalas pitched at AAA for the White Sox in 2015, but missed the whole 2016 season with an injury. Once again, both were acquired originally under Andy McPhail. De Aza spent the rest of the 2014 season and part of 2015 with Baltimore, playing well in the 2014 postseason but only compiling an 0.2 WAR before leaving in another trade made with Boston (Trade 29) a year later for minor league pitcher Joe Gunkel. Most likely this will eventually pan out in the Orioles’ favor. Slight win for Baltimore, but could eventually go either way.

  • Trade 26 (August 30, 2014) – Orioles trade minor league infielders Ivan De Jesus and Jemile Weeks to Boston Red Sox for minor league infielder Michael Almanzar and infielder Kelly Johnson.

Weeks was one of the players acquired from Oakland for Jim Johnson (Trade 19) but didn’t make the Orioles out of spring training, so both he and De Jesus (minor league players with a little MLB experience) were spare parts that Boston could perhaps find a place for – in parts of two seasons there Weeks accrued the same 0.1 WAR it took him 3 games with Baltimore to get; meanwhile De Jesus was involved in a trade with Boston for the third time as he was traded from Los Angeles in the Carl Crawford deal and to Pittsburgh a few months later in the Joel Hanrahan trade. This time De Jesus never played a game with Boston as he was allowed to become a free agent – the Reds signed him and he’s become an everyday infielder for them. Weeks also got back to the majors eventually with San Diego after two seasons back and forth between the Red Sox and AAA. Baltimore had acquired Almanzar once before, selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft from Boston but forced to return him after sheltering him as long as possible from an early-season injury. He’s become a Norfolk mainstay since the trade but has yet to play a big league game. The veteran Johnson had a (-0.1) WAR for Baltimore in 19 games before leaving via free agency. In the two seasons since he has been signed as a free agent twice by Atlanta and traded twice from the Braves to the Mets mid-season. A push, but could eventually be a Baltimore win.

That was the last trade Duquette made in 2014, beginning an eerily quiet period for him. Granted, he could rest on his laurels after the Orioles’ most successful season in a generation. Aside from the Rodriguez trade, his 2014 deals were generally favorable to the team. It was a trend they hoped would continue for the team in 2015.

A look at the trade (part 2)

October 6, 2016 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on A look at the trade (part 2) 

I’m going to pick up on this saga where I left off last week. The 2012 season brought Oriole magic back to the minds of Charm City fans who, for over a decade, had little to cheer about between football seasons. But a loss in the ALCS meant there were improvements to be made, so Dan Duquette quickly set to work during the Hot Stove League season.

  • Trade 8 (November 20, 2012) – Orioles trade infielder Robert Andino to Seattle Mariners for outfielder Trayvon Robinson.

Andino is still remembered in Baltimore for the last day of the 2011 season, when his base hit defeated the hated Boston Red Sox and, coupled with a stunning comeback by the Tampa Bay Rays against the Yankees, knocked the BoSox out of the playoffs. Some consider it the birth of the Orioles’ recent renaissance. But Robert slumped in 2012 (although he played well in the postseason) so Duquette shipped him off to Seattle. Andino would spend barely a half-season there, compiling a (-0.3) WAR before being traded to Pittsburgh for a player to be named that never was. Andino resurfaced in the big leagues briefly last month with the Miami Marlins, the team Baltimore got him from back in 2009. It’s more than Robinson can say – he spent one season between Bowie and Norfolk before being allowed to sign with the Dodgers as a minor league free agent. Since then Robinson has played with four organizations and split time between two independent league teams this year. I’ll call this one a push.

  • Trade 9 (November 30, 2012) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Jhondaniel Medina to Pittsburgh Pirates for infielder Yamaico Navarro.

Apparently Duquette was looking for infield depth, but Navarro didn’t stick long with the Orioles – most of his time with the organization was with Norfolk, although he compiled 0.1 WAR in 8 games with the O’s before latching on with teams in Korea and Japan over the last three seasons. On the other hand, the 23-year-old Medina has worked his way up to the AAA level with the Pirates, meaning they could still get a return on the deal four years later. In this respect it is similar to the Jim Thome deal (Trade 5.) A push, but could still be a Baltimore loss.

  • Trade 10 (April 10, 2013) – Orioles trade pitcher Luis Ayala to Atlanta Braves for minor league pitcher Chris Jones.

This was sort of a head-scratcher at the time – Ayala was a solid veteran pitcher who had a good season for Baltimore in 2012 but struggled in his first two outings in 2013. Luis pitched the rest of the season with the Braves, picking up an 0.4 WAR for the campaign before signing for the next season as a free agent with the Washington Nationals. An attempt at a 2014 reunion with the Orioles fell flat as Ayala pitched briefly at Bowie, but he was still active in the Mexican League this season. Jones pitched mainly in Norfolk for three seasons before being dealt to the Los Angeles Angels in a 2016 spring training deal (Trade 35.) Slight loss for Baltimore, but could eventually be a push or better thanks to the later trade.

  • Trade 11 (April 28, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Rob Delaney to Los Angeles Angels for catcher Chris Snyder.

Delaney was a “just in case” pitcher the Orioles had signed for minor league camp, although he had brief stints with Minnesota and Tampa Bay in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Once the season began at Norfolk, he was lit up and didn’t fare much better at AAA for the Angels, pitching his final game by mid-June. Delaney replaced Snyder on the Salt Lake roster, where he was the starting catcher. For the Orioles, though, Snyder played in just 9 games in two different stints as backup (for a WAR of 0.0) and spent most of his lone season in the organization at Norfolk. The next season he was signed and released by the Nationals before a short run as a AAA catcher with Texas led to Snyder voluntarily retiring in April 2014. A push.

  • Trade 12 (June 30, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league infielder Ty Kelly to Seattle Mariners for outfielder Eric Thames.

Believe it or not, this trade is still an active one in terms of value. While Kelly never made it to Seattle, after the 2014 season he was traded again to St. Louis for minor league pitcher Sam Gaviglio, who is still active with Seattle’s AAA farm club in Tacoma. So they can still score from this deal. (Kelly eventually made his MLB debut this season for the New York Mets.) Meanwhile, Thames languished in the Gulf Coast League for a rehab stint before a forgettable 36 games with Norfolk. He was lost on waivers to Houston after the minor league season ended but has spent the last three seasons playing professionally in Korea. A push, but could still be a Baltimore loss.

  • Trade 13 (July 2, 2013) – Orioles trade pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to Chicago Cubs for catcher Steve Clevenger and pitcher Scott Feldman.

Jake Arrieta was a prospect for whom the Orioles ran out of patience. As his ERA climbed with each season in Baltimore, the team decided it needed a more reliable starter and sent Jake off to Chicago for the rental of pending free agent Scott Feldman. Pedro Strop was a decent relief pitcher who sweetened the deal for the Cubs as a return if Arrieta was a bust, while the Baltimore native Clevenger was Duquette’s third try at trading for a backup catcher. Of course, no one knew that Arrieta would blossom to be a Cy Young winner for the Cubs, racking up an aggregate 19.4 WAR in four seasons in Chicago (compared to 0.3 WAR in four Baltimore seasons) while Strop has chipped in with 4.4 more Wins Above Replacement in his seasons with Chicago. For Baltimore, Feldman had an 0.7 WAR but they couldn’t sign him to a deal – he eventually went to the Houston Astros as a free agent and now pitches in the AL East in Toronto’s bullpen. Clevenger had just an 0.3 WAR for Baltimore in three seasons. So the deal looks like a huge loss for Baltimore, but there is a potential silver lining in a later trade (Trade 32) since Clevenger was the price the Orioles paid to get Mark Trumbo (and his 1.6 WAR in 2016). Overwhelming loss for Baltimore, but may even out some over time.

  • Trade 14 (July 12, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league outfielder Russ Canzler to Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league pitcher Tim Alderson.

This turned out to be a strictly minor league deal. While Canzler had a modest amount of MLB time with Tampa Bay and Cleveland, by this point he was bouncing on and off 40-man rosters with regularity. Canzler only played in the Pirates organization through the end of the 2013 season, later on trying to grab a spot with the Yankees and Phillies before his career closed in 2015. Alderson spent about one full season in Norfolk before being released, moving on to minor league stints with Oakland and Washington then independent baseball in 2016. A push if there ever was one.

  • Trade 15 (July 23, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league infielder Nick Delmonico to Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.

Looking for that elusive shutdown reliever, Baltimore sent a decent prospect out for the veteran closer “K-Rod” – and promptly used him mostly as a setup guy. Their reward? An 0.1 WAR and watching him return to Milwaukee in free agency, where he would be an All-Star for the next two seasons before being traded to Detroit for this year. However, Milwaukee only had Delmonico for a season before a suspension for amphetamine use led them to release him after the 2014 campaign. He’s now playing in the White Sox organization. Slight win for Baltimore.

  • Trade 16 (July 31, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league pitcher Josh Hader, outfielder L.J. Hoes, and their 2014 Competitive Balance Round A draft choice to Houston Astros for pitcher Bud Norris. The Astros selected outfielder Derek Fisher with the draft pick on June 5, 2014.

Hoes had just been called up to the Orioles when he was sent across the stadium for Norris, as the Astros were in town when the trade occurred. It led to the unique situation of Hoes getting his first MLB hit off Norris, the player he was traded for, the next day. In three seasons bouncing between the Astros and AAA, Hoes compiled a WAR of 0.2. He ended up coming back to Baltimore in a cash deal last November but spent the season in Norfolk. For his part, Norris gave the Orioles a great 2014 season (15 wins plus another in the playoffs and 1.9 WAR) but in roughly 2 seasons with the Orioles only compiled an aggregate 0.7 WAR. After a disastrous start to 2015 Norris was let go in August and has gone on to pitch with San Diego, Atlanta, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who released him last month. If the trade were straight-up Hoes for Norris, it would be almost even. But the fact that Fisher has smartly rocketed up to AAA in 2 1/2 seasons for Houston means the strong potential for this trade to be a significant loser. And then you have Hader, the first draft pick in a Duquette draft to be traded away, who was involved in a six-player deadline deal with Milwaukee in 2015 that netted the Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitcher Mike Fiers. While Gomez contributed a net WAR of 0.0 in about a season with Houston (he was released and signed with the Texas Rangers in August) Fiers has put up a WAR of 1.3 in a little over a season with the Astros, where he remains active. Clear loss for Baltimore.

  • Trade 17 (August 30, 2013) – Orioles trade minor league outfielder Xavier Avery to Seattle Mariners for outfielder Mike Morse.

The final trade of the 2013 season sent Avery, who had played sparingly for the Orioles in 2012 but was in Norfolk at the time, for the pending free agent Morse. Avery would play one season in the Mariners’ chain before leaving for AAA stints with three different teams in 2015. The Orioles re-signed him for 2016 but he never got out of Norfolk. Only the fact that Avery never panned out makes this deal a slight loser since Morse managed to accrue a (-0.5) WAR in just 12 Oriole games before an injury ended his season. Morse went on to have a decent season for San Francisco in 2014, but fared worse for Miami and Pittsburgh before his career ended the next season. Slight loss for Baltimore.

As you can tell, the 2013 trading season was not Duquette’s shining moment. In ten trades Duquette only won one and was significantly burned on at least two others. Most of the rest had little effect, and it may be why Baltimore slumped to an 85-win season. So it was back to the drawing board for Dan, who had plenty up his sleeve to begin 2014.

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