Did the Orioles get something here?
It’s hard to say, primarily because the circumstances of his move to the Orioles from Texas are a little murky. The Rangers sent him to the Orioles for Nick Green and cash in July. Depending on the source, either Phillips had to be removed from the Rangers’ roster and Nick Green/cash was the best they could do; the Rangers wanted Nick Green as an insurance policy and were willing to send Phillips to the Orioles to get him; or the Orioles wanted Phillips and gave up Green/cash for him. If the Rangers were dumping him, then the Orioles probably don’t have anything; otherwise, they might.
Phillips’ first three full seasons were spent as a starting pitcher; he had a terrible year in Low-A, followed by a good year in Low-A, then a bad year in High-A. He was then shifted to the bullpen, where he’s pitched pretty well in AA and AAA but in kind of an undefined role. He hasn’t been used as a closer and doesn’t seem to have been used as a lefty specialist or swingman. When he pitched for the Tides, he was used in a variety of roles — sometimes desperation closer; sometimes lefty specialist. In a September callup with the Orioles, he pitched very well to 33 batters.
Phillips, apparently, has one thing going for him — he doesn’t give up home runs. He doesn’t have exemplary control; he doesn’t have overpowering strikeout rates; he gives up more hits than you’d like to see. Because he’s not what you look for in a lefthanded spot reliever, I don’t see him having much of a big league career.
Could he still become a regular?
If you look at the two seasons in which he played the most — 2009 and 2010 — you have a player who is slightly below the league average in overall offensive production, with good range in the outfield (enough to play a good center field) but a questionable arm. Offensively, his production is depressed by his willingness to swing at everything. He’s not good enough to beat out anyone else for a job, but if he got lucky and (1) got a chance to play because of injury or slump and (2) played very well at the the start he could stay for the year. I think the holes in his game will prevent him from being a long-term regular.
He’s a left-handed hitter, and can play a passable center field, has some power, some ability to hit for average, and some speed. That’s a good start. But he doesn’t do anything really well, so he’s not a tactical in-game weapon. He’s still a nice guy to have on the bench.
The Orioles tried to outright him off their 40-man roster, but Pie elected free agency and signed with the Indians for 2012.
Did the Cubs ruin him, the way they ruined Corey Patterson?
Pie wasn’t quite as good a prospect/player as Patterson, who had more power. But Pie was still a good prospect, a consistent .290-level hitter with line-drive power (and substandard strike-zone judgment.) While it’s tempting to say that the Cubs rushed him to the majors, it’s hard to say that he was accomplishing anything in the minors. It’s probably fairer to say that the Cubs promoted him at a time when they couldn’t live with the learning curve, and then gave up on him.
Is he good enough to be a left-handed spot reliever in the majors?
Certainly. That’s one of the least demanding roles in the majors. Rapada is a left-handed sidearmer, which is the typical profile. He hasn’t pitched very well — a career 89 ERA+ — but he’s pitched to more than 40 batters in only two seasons. Of those, one has been a good season and one not-so-good. That, too, fits the profile.
He’ll get his chance to make the majors with the Yankees, who signed him in February after the Orioles released him.
In 2011, Rapada pitched in 32 games for the Orioles, and 16 1/3 innings. Is this the extreme of specialization?
The theoretical limit is that a pitcher can pitch to one batter per appearance. In Rapada’s 32 games, he faced 69 batters; or 2.16 batters per appearance. However, in 2011, Randy Choate of the Marlins ”broke” the 2 batters per appearance barrier. with 103 batters faced in 54 appearances (1.96 per appearance.)
I can conceive of a veteran left-handed spot pitcher who is completely ineffective against right-handers getting into something like 80 games, facing perhaps as few as 100 batters.
Most sophisticated analysts have concluded that reserving a roster spot for someone so specialized as this is a bad idea. Is it?
First, aesthetically, I think the constant in-game platoon matchups, and the use of one-inning-at-most relievers, is bad for baseball. It slows the game down and makes it less exciting. It’s why I think baseball would have been better off if Tony LaRussa had never managed.
But, I’m not sure that reserving a roster spot for a lefty spot reliever is necessarily a bad idea. I’m not sure how much the typical 25th man plays. It only makes sense to compare the value of a left-handed spot reliever to that of the least-valuable position player. The position player can be used as a pinch hitter, pinch runner, or defensive replacement. His value as a pinch runner is negligible. It’s certainly possible that the last man on the bench would not be playing in as many as 120 plate appearances — either on offense or defense. When you factor in the likelihood that your left-handed spot reliever will be used in more critical situations, it’s possible — not certain — that the lefty reliever is more valuable.
Is he a useful major-league player?
When Reimold first came up through Norfolk, he looked like he’d be a multi-dimensional offensive star, potentially a .300 hitter with power. He seemed to take a long time to recover from a late-2009 injury. In 2011, he seems to established himself as a low-average slugger.
On the surface, Reimold’s major-league statistics make it look as though Reimold has degenerated from 2009 (.279/.365/.466 in 411 plate appearances) to 2011 (.247/.328/.453 in 305 plate appearances). But that doesn’t take into account the league context — Reimold’s 2009 is a 116 OPS+ and his 2011 is a 113 OPS+. The difference is that much more of Reimold’s productivity came from home runs in 2011 than in 2009. IN 106 more plate appearances, Reimold had only 2 fewer home runs; but eight fewer doubles, 19 fewer walks, and 34 fewer base hits. That indicates a less well-rounded set of skills. And that is reflected in his 2011 Norfolk numbers compared to 2009 — .394/.485/.743 with 9 home runs in 130 plate appearances in 2009; .237/.329/.410 with 6 home runs in 161 plate appearances in 2011.
If I were running the Orioles, my first plan would probably be to play Matt Angle in center field in 2012, moving Adam Jones to left. I think Angle gives the Orioles an outstanding defensive center fielder, and another look on offense as a singles-hitter with speed. But if that didn’t work, I’d have no problem playing Reimold. He’s a Plan B type player, good enough to fill a hole but not really good enough to have a solid hold on his position. The problem with Reimold on the Orioles is that he gives them another right-handed hitting home run hitter, along with Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, and Adam Jones.
Who is he?
A good-field, no-hit shortstop. He seems to be overmatched by, well, professional pitching. His highest single-season OPS in the minor leagues is .652, with a career OPS of .555. He came up in the Cubs’ organization, and if he were still in the Cubs’ organization he’d have been converted to a pitcher.
In the late 1960′s, there were a number of major-league shortstops whose offensive contributions were a .220 batting average and one home run a month. Defensively, they weren’t athletic but had a strong throwing arm and were reliable. Think Luis Aparicio without the range and the speed. Dal Maxvill may have been the most memorable of the group; Ed Brinkman the best; others included Bobby Wine, Hal Lanier, and Ray Oyler. When artificial turf came into the game, these guys lost their jobs because they weren’t quick enough for turf. Carlos Rojas is in that class; he is a reliable shortstop with a strong throwing arm and an absolute zero as an offensive player. He’s a AA player.
Is he done?
On the one hand, you’d think he would be. Rupe, who played his high school ball in Hampton Roads, signed a minor-league free-agent deal with the Orioles, presumably because Norfolk was their AAA team. Surprisingly, he made the Orioles out of spring training. He pitched for a month, as roughly a replacement-level pitcher, and was sent down when the Orioles wanted or needed a change. At Norfolk, he was awful, compiling a 7.07 ERA before being released. If a player gets released in his hometown, it’s a pretty good indication that he’s not going have much of a career.
On the other hand, he did pitch reasonably well in 2010 — a 2.92 ERA with Omaha, as a part-time closer. So, if he wants to and has a good agent, Rupe can try to sell 2010 and find a team willing to use him as AAA fodder.
It’s really interesting that I didn’t actually see Rupe pitch in all that many games, and when I did, he usually was pitching long/garbage relief. As a long man and in garbage relief, he was pretty effective. But when he pitched in key situations, he was rocked.
The other interesting thing is that Rupe really hasn’t pitched well, anywhere, for any length of time. His best stat lines are partial seasons of 15 or so starts, 50-70 innings pitched, after which he was promoted or traded. He’s never had good control, averaging a pretty consistent 4-5 walks per nine innings. And his strikeout rate has plummeted to around 6 per nine innings.
If I were a general manager, I certainly wouldn’t make much of an effort to sign Josh Rupe; but if I needed an arm for a minor-league team, I wouldn’t reject him out of hand. I imagine that pretty much sums up his future.
Could he be the Orioles’ first baseman of the future? Is he still a prospect?
He’s less likely to be the Orioles’ first baseman of the future, now that he’s been sold to the Rangers.
At least he’s been consistent at Norfolk:
I think we can conclude that this is his true level of ability. And, even granting that Norfolk is not a good place to hit, we can conclude that this isn’t going to cut it as a major league first baseman; it’s an almost exactly average OBP+ in Camden Yards. So no, he’s not really a candidate for the Orioles’ first baseman of the future.
He played the 2011 season at age 24; his birthday is in November. He played sixteen games at third base for the Tides in 2011, and all things considered wasn’t horrible. He may improve slightly as a hitter. On the other hand, he’s slow — really, too slow to play the outfield except in desperation. On the whole, I don’t think he’s got much of a chance.