Is his career finished?
I don’t think so. Joey Gathright is an unusual player; given today’s roster-composition practices, he has a very difficult time making a 25-man roster; but he can be extremely useful to a contending team once rosters expand in September.
Gathright has plus-plus speed, and he also has figured out how to use his speed effectively on offense (he steals bases, he is a very good drag bunter, he doesn’t try to hit home runs, etc.) His speed gives him terrific range in the outfield. On the other hand, he has zero power, and he has so little power that pitchers aren’t afraid to groove pitches, so it’s hard for him to draw walks. While he has good range in the outfield, he has a weak arm, so he’s really just an average defensive player overall. On a twenty-five man roster with twelve pitchers, you can’t carry a guy with that skill set — he’s really just a pinch-runner. Sort of a poor man’s late-career Willie Wilson.
But when rosters expand, contending teams can use pinch runners. If you’ve got forty roster spots (really, teams don’t carry more than 35 or so, but still …) you can use one of them for a pinch-runner for those times when you really NEED one. When you add that he can be an adequate outfield fill-in for a game, and that even the best farm systems can always use a guy like Gathright on their AAA team, a contending team like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies should sign him to an AAA contract planning to add him to the roster in September.
Years ago, the Royals had a hot pitching prospect named Chris George. This can’t be the same guy, can it?
Yes, it can; and yes, it is. Chris George is a left-handed pitcher, drafted out of a Texas high school by the Royals as a 1st-2nd round sandwich pick in 1998 (as partial compensation for the loss of Jay Bell.) He shot through the minor leagues and reached AAA in his second full season. In 2001, he pitched great in his first look at AAA, and the Royals called him up. He didn’t pitch well, with a 4-8 record and a 5.59 ERA.
That was the best ERA of his major-league career. In 2002, he had a 5.87 ERA in AAA and a 5.60 in six major-league starts. In 2003, he poorly both in AAA (7.29 ERA), and with the Royals (7.11 ERA in 18 starts, with a 9-6 record, go figure). In 2004, he pitched well in AAA (3.42 ERA) but his major-league ERA increased to 7.23.
He was still only 24, but ruined his chances of a major-league career with four remarkably consistent years in AAA. From 2005 through 2008, he had ERAs of 5.63, 5.62, 5.56, and 5.85 in AAA. His 5.85 ERA in 2008 was as a relief pitcher. He pitched 12 games in Pawtucket in 2009; got released; and then got signed by the Orioles. He pitched well in five late-season starts, and was in the rotation most of 2010.
He is what he is, an innings-eating AAA roster filler.
Can he improve? Does he have a chance to pitch in the major leagues?
His control is much better now than it was before. His BB/9 ratio has gone from roughly 4.5 in the pre-2008 period to roughly 2.5 now. It wouldn’t shock me if he got an emergency start, and if he pitched well he might be able to get a few more starts. It would shock me if he did anything with them.
Chris George is, as much as anything, a cautionary tale about high-school pitchers. His career is a pretty good track for Chris Tillman’s up to this point. With this track record, I’m concerned about Zach Britton too.
Who is he?
Yet another catch-and-throw guy, a Cuban defector who turned 32 during the 2010 season. He came up through the Yankees organization and didn’t hit his first four years. Then he started hitting for average, but doesn’t draw walks or hit for power. By the time he got out of the Yankees’ organization, he was 25 and was labelled as a 4-A player. Since then, he’s been a half-time player.
Is he a viable option as a backup catcher?
He probably could do a satisfactory job as a once-a-week type backup, but he doesn’t bring anything to the table that twenty others don’t.
The Baltimore Orioles all but completed a trade with the Arizona Diamonbacks yesterday, sending pitchers Dave Hernandez and Kam Mickolio and acquiring third baseman Mark Reynolds.
By getting Reynolds to play third base, the Orioles are pretty much acknowledging that Josh Bell is not ready to play third base in 2011, and may be close to writing him off. Reynolds turned 27 in August, and is signed through 2012 at a very reasonable $6.25 million per year. By the time Reynolds’ contract has expired, Bell will be 26 himself.
Reynolds is better than Bell, no question. Yes, Reynolds hit .198 in 2010, but he also hit .260 in 2009. He strikes out a lot, as everyone knows*; but he draws 70 walks a year. If you look at his career numbers — .242/.334/.483 — you’ll see that he’s a better hitter than anyone on the 2010 Orioles except for Luke Scott and Nick Markakis. He’ll make the Orioles better.
Especially I don’t think they gave up very much. I’ve shared my opinions on Kam Mickolio already. I also saw Dave Hernandez pitch at Norfolk in 2009. He’s kind of the opposite of Pedro Viola; he doesn’t have great velocity but his pitches move. His pitches move so much that he doesn’t have great command of them. There are a few pitchers like him; they can’t command their best stuff and when they reduce their stuff to increase command, their stuff is very hittable. Most of the time, they never quite learn to command their best stuff; on the other hand, Carlos Marmol is like this. It’s fair to say that the Orioles acquired a cleanup-hitting third baseman for two guys who may turn out to be okay.
On the other hand, Reynolds isn’t a great cleanup hitter. He’s not a star; he fills a glaring hole. The Reynolds trade fits right in with Andy MacPhail’s history. Going back to his days with the Cubs, MacPhail has been a “tactical” GM. He’s been able to find available talent to fill holes relatively cheaply. That’s good, when you have a solid team with a couple of holes. That’s not so good when you’re building a team. The players you’ve acquired reach the end of the line just when the team’s on the verge of making it.
So, while I can’t fault the acquisition of Mark Reynolds, I have the nagging suspicion that it won’t matter much.
* Reynolds has just turned 27. He’s already struck out more times in his career than Gus Zernial, Bill Freehan, and Al Oliver.
Is he worth taking notice of?
Hinckley’s your basic left-handed spot reliever. He’s pitched quite well in the major leagues, but in only 23 1/3 innings. He pitched fairly well for the Tides, generally in a longer/middle relief role. He’ll probably be up and down over the next five years, although in his role he could put together a spectacular season.