Is his power spike for real?
It looks as though Michael Aubrey made the conscious decision to hit for more power at the expense of making contact. After being a consistent .280 hitter with 8 home runs over the past two seasons, he increased his power (.495 slugging percentage, 25 doubles, 22 home runs) but at the expense of his batting average (.235, leading to a .310 on-base percentage).
It’s likely that Aubrey, seeing Harbor Park, realized that if he were to be productive at all he would have to learn to hit flyballs right down the right-field line. The power alleys are huge and the park is at sea level, so his previous line-drive approach wouldn’t work. He probably came out ahead on the deal; with an .805 OBP in 2010 compared to a consistent .750 OBP previously.
But it’s probably not enough to save his career. His approach would work in Camden Yards or the old Yankee Stadium, but would be problematic in any park that didn’t have a short right-field porch. If Aubrey could hit .280 with 22 home runs in a season at Norfolk, then he could be a real option at first base. He really would be Sean Casey. We won’t find out, as he’s left the organization.
Is he one of the great what-ifs?
He’ll probably go down as a first-round draft pick whose career was derailed by injuries. It’s unfair that players whose careers are destroyed by injuries get labeled as “draft busts”, but that’s life. After playing fairly well in AA as a 22-year-old, Aubrey missed 2 1/2 of the next three seasons with injuries. By the time he came back, he was 26 and other players had bypassed him in the system. We’ll never know what he would have been had he not gotten hurt.
Does he have a major-league future?
Tim Bascom ranks well down the list of Orioles’ pitching prospects, possibly completely off the list. Pitchers are unpredictable and he could turn a corner, but I think not.
Is he the Orioles’ third baseman of the future?
Not of the immediate future, obviously, since the Orioles acquired Mark Reynolds in a trade during the off-season.
Can he be a solid regular third baseman?
Bell, a fourth-round draft pick of the Dodgers, was a fairly good prospect until he exploded in 2009 in AA. He was traded to the Orioles’ organization in the George Sherrill trade and continued to play well. He was promoted to AAA and considered to be a potential star. After he got off to a slow start at Norfolk, he was promoted to the Orioles when Miguel Tejada was traded and was terrible — .214/.224/.302, with a 53/2 K/BB ratio.
Obviously, anyone with a 53/2 K/BB ratio can’t play. Equally obviously, he’s can’t be THAT bad. Those of us who saw Bell at Norfolk, especially at the beginning of the season, saw him as a really good athlete but not that good of a baseball player — he struck out a lot and made a lot of errors. That combination really turns off people like us, who aren’t great athletes ourselves.
Despite that, Bell wasn’t that bad. Yes, he’s going to strike out a lot — but he still slugged .481 in Norfolk. And remember, Norfolk is the worst hitters’ park in AAA — a .481 slugging percentage in Norfolk is (1) not over Bell’s head and (2) pretty close to a .481 slugging percentage in the majors. Yes, he’s going to make a lot of errors, but he still had a range factor of over 2.5. I think Bell could have a couple of good years as a regular, but he’ll need (1) a fairly long transition time and (2) a team willing to put up with strikeouts and errors. Think Darnell Coles, if you go back that far.
Will he bounce back to his 2009 form?
Brad Bergesen’s had an interesting career. Promoted to AAA for the 2009 season, he was called up to Baltimore after a couple of very solid starts because one of the Orioles’ starters got hurt, and pitched surprisingly well before being shut down. In 2010, he was in the starting rotation; pitched poorly; was sent down to Norfolk for a couple of starts; and was recalled and pitched somewhat better the rest of the year.
Before I saw him pitch — I hadn’t seen him pitch in 2009 — I thought he had a good chance to be a John Burkett, Rick Helling-type starter. That is, someone who would never be a star but would be a solid innings-eater (with luck, of course, these innings-eaters have an occasional big season.) When I saw him pitch, I was not impressed. Then, I looked at his career statistics, and realized that Bergesen has no chance of being a successful starting pitcher. In the majors, he has averaged 4.1 strikeouts per 9 innings, and no right-handed starter has had a career of any length or consistency striking out so few batters. And it’s not a matter of needing to make adjustments — Bergesen didn’t strike out batters in the minors. He’ll likely improve his strikeout rate a little bit, but not enough to where he can be successful. Unless he learns a new pitch or radically changes his mechanics, he’ll never match his 2009 success.
Who is he?
Zach Britton’s brother, called up from Frederick at the end of the year to hang out with Zach and to allow them to share a ride to their offseason destination. He’s also a third baseman, and if Zach turns out to be any good will have a position in the Orioles organization as long as he wants it. Quality-wise, he’s probably about as good as Bobby Bonds, Jr. or Stephen Larkin, not as good as Ozzie Canseco.
That name sounds vaguely familiar.
Note: I did not see Phillip Britton play for the Norfolk Tides.
If his name does sound familiar, you’re either a diehard Braves fanatic or you’ve been spending too much time with Baseball America. In 2006-2007, Britton was a fringe catching prospect in the lower levels of the Braves system — he hit for a good average and fringy power. In 2008, he moved up to Myrtle Beach, a terrible place to hit. He didn’t hit well but it wasn’t too bad in context. He moved up to AA in 2009, and the bottom dropped out. He moved to the Orioles system for 2010 and didn’t find a new bottom.
Two points of note. He played in one game for the Tides in 2010; he went 1-for-3. That .333 on-base percentage is the highest on-base percentage he’s had anywhere in professional baseball. Second, Rob Picciolo is notorious for never drawing walks; he drew 25 in over 1700 major-league plate appearances. In his minor-league career, Picciolo drew 49 walks in 1273 plate appearances. Phillip Britton has a worse walk rate in his career than Picciolo did in his minor-league career — 39 walks in 1241 plate appearances.
How good will he be?
I am optimistic about Britton’s short/medium term future, less so about his long-term future. Britton has been promoted as an outstanding pitching prospect — mlb.com recently named him the third-best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball — and it’s easy to see why. He’s a sinker-type pitcher with an above-average fastball, and a very good fastball for pitchers of that type. He’s pitched very well everywhere he’s been, and it looks like he’s handled each new level without hiccup.
On the other hand, I have three concerns. First, he’s pitched a lot every year he’s been in full-season ball. I’m not sure that it’s a career-killer, but he pitched 147 innings as a 20-year-old, 140 innings as a 21-year-old, and 153 innings as a 22-year-old. Second, he does give up more hits than you’d like to see. It’s not a lot more — right around 8 hits per 9 innings — but it is a little bit more. Finally, his stuff isn’t overpowering. It’s good, but not great.
Yeah, that’s Tom Glavine’s profile. But it’s also Steve Avery’s. On the whole, the three concerns don’t mean Britton’s not an outstanding prospect. Given the right opportunity, patience, health, and luck, Britton will have some good years in the major leagues. But I think it’s a 50-50 shot that he’ll be done by age 30.
Is he a viable candidate for a left-handed one-out relief pitcher?
Is he a viable candidate for a larger role?
Absolutely not. He is a sidearm pitcher and very vulnerable to right-handed batters, which sort of rules out a set-up or closer role. Nor does he have the stuff to overcome that. His limit is that of the left-handed Mike M.’s, Mike Myers and Mike Munoz.
Should we pay attention to him when he comes up again?
No. Clark defines “staff stabilizer” — he moves up and down among Frederick (Advanced A), Bowie (AA), and Norfolk (AAA) as needed, making spot starts when there are no other options.