What will it take for the brass to look at him?
He’ll have to keep pitching brilliantly and the Orioles’ bullpen will have to implode. After spending 2010 and 2011 pitching effectively at Bowie and ineffectively at Norfolk, he returned to Bowie for 2012 and pitched even more effectively than he had in 2010 and 2011. He was promoted to Norfolk late in the year, and pitched effectively in 16 innings.
Egan’s a classic right-handed sinkerball pitcher. He has great control and doesn’t give up home runs, but doesn’t strike out batters and gives up hits. Even at Bowie in 2012, posting a 1.60 ERA, he gave up 50 hits in 50 2/3 innings. He’s not the type of pitcher who gets chances, but if he pitches well enough in Norfolk, his numbers will eventually grab someone’s attention. And if the Orioles then need a relief pitcher, he might get the call. He might have a good year as a major leaguer, but probably not.
Who is he?
A tall, left-handed organization guy from Texas. Zach Fowler was drafted out of Texas Tech in the 34th round in 2011, and has pitched in long/mop-up relief the past two years. He’s pitched in 46 games, 91 2/3 innings, all in relief. He’s finished 24 games with four saves. He was called up to Norfolk when the Tides were desperate for a non-tired pitcher, and he got into three games, usually as the second pitcher in a bullpen game. That’s why he was able to be the winning pitcher in two of them.
Who is he?
An organizational pitcher. He was apparently drafted as a college senior (he signed at age 23) who became a marginal prospect by virtue of pitching well. He was bypassed by pitchers with better stuff and was relegated to the dreaded swingman role at Bowie. He’s survived by not walking batters, but he gives up too many hits and doesn’t strike out enough batters. He made four emergency appearances at Norfolk in 2013, and didn’t pitch well. There’s no guarantee he’ll survive the numbers game after spring training.
Is his career over?
After two decent seasons as an AAA swingman, George made the Tides’ opening day roster in 2012. He made three relief appearances and one start, and didn’t pitch well. The Orioles released him at the end of April and he wasn’t signed by anyone else. His career should be over, but maybe someone else will be moved to give him a chance.
Will he amount to anything?
It’s hard to see it. After a mediocre 2011 season as the Frederick closer, he was promoted to Bowie where he accumulated a 5.97 ERA in 37 2/3 innings. He was a desperation promotion to Norfolk late in the season, pitching five innings.
He’d fallen so far out of the Orioles’ plans that he was loaned to a Mexican League team for two months during 2012. I thought he would have become a minor-league free agent, but apparently not.
Can he keep this up? Is there any precedent for his meteoric rise?
If there is a precedent for his 2012 season, I can’t think of it. The Orioles signed Miguel Gonzalez as a minor-league free agent in spring training based on his impressive work in winter ball. Since he didn’t have the benefit of a full spring training, the Orioles assigned him to the Norfolk bullpen, where he pitched impressively. Then, they stretched him out as a starting pitcher, and he continued to pitch impressively. Recalled to Baltimore, he pitched impressively in the starting rotation during the Orioles’ playoff run.
Because I can’t remember anything like this, there’s no obvious comparison. Looking back at Gonzalez’ career, it’s even more unexpected. He was originally with the Angels and pitched fairly well; spent all of 2008 on the Disabled List, was selected in the minor-league Rule 5 draft by the Red Sox and spent all of 2009 on the Disabled List. He pitched reasonably well in 2010 but poorly in 2011; the Red Sox released him. Then the Orioles signed him and his career took off.
The only relevant thing I can think of is that he missed two full seasons with an injury, and he pitched substantially more in 2012 than he had since 2007. As a result, he may be more of an injury risk than normal. It’s likely that he’ll be asked to up his innings to the 175 level or so, which may put more stress on his arm. I don’t think he’ll be as good in 2013 as he was in 2012; but even if his ERA goes up by half a run, it’ll still be at 3.75, which is fine. I don’t see any reason to think that his 2012 was a completely unsustainable fluke, but forgive me if I want to see him do it again.
Does he have a role on a major-league team?
I don’t see it. Hall is a very poor man’s Alfonso Soriano — a low-average, low-walk, high-strikeout home run hitter. Although Hall had some speed when he was younger, he lost it fairly early in his career. He can play outfield and third base passably and can handle second or short in an emergency. If he had a regular j0b, he’d probably hit .220 with a sub-.300 OBP and 15-20 home runs. He’s so offensively one-dimensional that I can’t see him being a full-time bench player. He’ll be an AAA player for as long as he wants to, getting called up occasionally in emergencies.
Hall was granted free agency after the 2012 season and has signed a minor-league contract with the Angels. Because he finished the 2012 season on the Orioles’ roster, he qualifies as an Article XX (B) free agent, which gives him certain rights and privileges.
Should the Orioles have kept him?
Probably not. Hester was one of several backup catcher candidates Dan Duquette accumulated in his attempt to find a backup catcher good enough to be a regular catcher. Hester had more power than the others but wasn’t a contact hitter, and his defensive reputation wasn’t as good as Luis Expositor or Taylor Teaguarden. After the Orioles released him in April, the Angels signed him to be the AAA backup. When they needed a backup catcher in Los Angeles, the AAA regular catcher happened to be temporarily hurt and the Angels recalled Hester. He got off to a very good start and received favorable publicity, then tapered off and got hurt himself. He’s still on the Angels’ 40-man roster.
Hester is a backup catcher, pure and simple. Having Hester as opposed to any other backup catcher won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to the team. I guess the best way to answer the question “Should the Orioles have kept John Hester” is “It doesn’t matter.”
Can he be a regular? A star?
I think L.J. Hoes should be a least a second-division level regular, even if he doesn’t improve a bit. If he improves a little, he’s should be a solid regular. If he improves a lot, specifically by increasing his power, he’s got a chance to be a minor star, a .290 hitter with around 20 home runs.
For more of my thoughts on L.J. Hoes, see here.
Could he help a major-league team?
Hoffmann’s the type of outfielder who would make a good fourth outfielder, if you’re looking for your fourth outfielder to not hurt you. Unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t help you much, either — he sort of does everything right at replacement level. He’d hit around .270, with a reasonable number of walks. He’d hit 10-12 home runs in a full season. As a runner, he’s neither a burner nor as slow as the Pawtucket Red Sox would have you believe.
Hoffmann began the year as a regular outfielder for the Tides, but when the Orioles promoted L.J. Hoes and signed Nate McLouth, he was relegated to the fourth outfielder role. He regained his starting role when McLouth was promoted to Baltimore.
Hoffmann declared free agency at the end of spring training 2012, when Colorado tried to remove him from their 40-man roster, He signed with the Orioles and was one of two players to stay with Norfolk the entire season. He was declared a free agent after the season and has signed with the New York Mets.