Has he established himself as a useful AAA veteran?
Superficially and on the surface, yes — he was re-signed by Orioles in the offseason, presumably to fill the same role as he has in 2010-11, and his base numbers in 2010 and 2011 are very similar — 5-7, 4.20 in 124 innings in 2010; 7-5, 4.27 in 131 innings in 2011. But, in reality, he was much worse in 2011. His hits allowed rate jumped from 9.3 to 9.9; his walk rate jumped from 2.6 to 3.9, and (most important) his strikeout rate plummeted from 7.3 to 5.0. All of his 2011 numbers are closer to his career marks than in 2010 numbers.
I guess it depends on what you mean by “useful AAA veteran.” It seems clear that he’s willing to work in whatever capacity he’s needed, and he’s so clearly a non-prospect that it doesn’t matter if you destroy his arm. For an organization like the Orioles, who are at this point just trying to get their AAA team through the season, he’s perfect.
Who is he?
The primary 2011 closer at Frederick (High-A), promoted to the Tides in August to help them complete the season. He’ll pitch the 2012 season at age 26.
Gleason had a great year as a starter in Low-A in 2008, then had a miserable year as a starter in High-A / AA in 2009. Shifted to the bullpen for 2010, he pitched fairly well in High-A / AA, which earned him the closer’s role in High-A for 2011. Even though he had 32 saves in 50 appearances, he didn’t really pitch well at Frederick (4.53 ERA) which probably made it easier to promote him.
Gleason gets by with great control; his walk rate as a relief pitcher is around 2.5 / 9 IP. His record doesn’t provide any indication that he’s going to have a major league future, but if he pitches well in AAA he might get a callup. He’s also a candidate to be released in spring training if he doesn’t impress.
Will he be in the major leagues in 2012?
Green is a 33-year-old utility infielder. He hasn’t played in the majors since 2010, when he batted .143 in 14 games. He’s coming off a 2010 in which he hit .240 between Portland and Albuquerque and a 2011 in which he hit .235 between Norfolk and Round Rock. I wouldn’t think he’d be on many teams’ short list of desirable utility infielder candidates.
Green signed with the Marlins for the 2012 season.
Was the trade worth it?
J.J. Hardy is not the typical Tides player. He played three games in Norfolk on a rehabilitation assignment, and even recovering from injury he demonstrated that he is clearly a major-league caliber player.
The Orioles acquired him from the Twins in the 2010-2011 offseason because the Twins were trying to dump salary. The cost was pretty cheap — Hardy and Brendan Harris for Jim Hoey, a hard-throwing but unpolished relief pitcher, and another second-tier pitching prospect. On the first level, the trade was obviously a good one; Hardy just last year probably provided the Orioles with more wins than the pitchers they gave up will provide for the Twins. Hardy is a fairly good defensive shortstop with an effective power bat — even though he doesn’t walk much or get on base, he has enough power to be useful if he can hit .270, and he usually hits .270. He was a definite upgrade over Cesar Izturis.
But on the next level – will he help the Orioles contend — I’m not sure he does. The Orioles are a bad baseball team, probably two or three years away from being ready to contend. Hardy probably won’t be able to contribute at that time, he’ll be 31, starting his period of probable decline. The Hardy trade is very similar to what Andy MacPhail, then the Orioles GM, did when he ran the Cubs — take advantage of bargains even if the bargain doesn’t fit into the long-term plan.
But, in context, unlike some of the other similar moves, the Hardy acquisition is, on the whole, beneficial. The Orioles had no young shortstop worth looking at; their in my opinion top prospect is a young shortstop, Manny Machado, who is two or three years away. He’ll be ready to step in just when Hardy is starting to decline. So there’s no real downside to using Hardy; he’s not interfering with the long-term plan and helping you win in the short term.
Will he be in the major leagues in 2012? Should he?
I’ve written plenty about Brendan Harris in 2011 already — here, here, and here – and don’t really have much more to add. It’s safe to say that a 31-year-old player coming off consecutive .233/.292/.353 and .225/.282/.331 seasons in AAA isn’t an immediate candidate for a big-league job.
Harris has to rely on his bat for a utility job, so if this is a new level of skill, he’ll never see the major leagues again. If he can rebound with the bat, then he’s iffy — a bat-first utility infielder. In the National League, that can be useful, but less so in the American League. With borderline players like Harris, reputation as a good guy in the clubhouse can help him earn one of those last spots; I’ve heard that Harris isn’t a good guy in the clubhouse.
Harris signed with the Rockies for 2012.
How long can he last? Will he be back?
The Orioles released him in September, so he’ll have to scrounge for a job. It makes no logical sense for the Orioles to re-sign him, but then again the Orioles have done a lot of things that make no logical sense.
Although Hendrickson is a left-handed pitcher, he’s never been used as a lefty relief specialist, at least not for any length of time. Most of his career, he’s been either a starter or a swingman. Even in 2010 and 2011, when he made one start and fifty-nine relief appearances, he still pitched 86 innings in his 60 games (as opposed to someone like Clay Rapada). Most left-handed pitchers who hang on forever are lefthanded relief specialists.
On the other hand, Darren Oliver was able to transform himself from a so-so starter into a long relief pitcher into a lefty specialist reliever. There’s no reason why, if he wants to and is persuasive, he can’t give it a try.
Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked him as one of the top 25 prospects in the Orioles system. Is he still that highly regarded?
Remember that being one of the top 25 prospects in a system isn’t really THAT significant, although it’s obviously better than not being ranked. Almost every team really needs only 18-20 key players, with the remainder of the roster being more-or-less interchangeable role players. That said, his ranking tells us:
- Baseball America, in its rankings, may overreact to the most recent season. Henson’s 2010 was significantly better than his previous seasons and BA overreacted to it.
- The Orioles’ farm system is really, really shallow.
Henson didn’t hit for average (.247), he didn’t draw walks (41 in 498 plate appearances, leading to a .313 OBP), didn’t hit for power (a .321 slugging percentage), and didn’t steal bases (9 in 14 attempts.) Defensively, he played well in right field but didn’t have the range for center. So, you’ve got a corner outfielder with the offensive skillset of Cesar Izturis. The Orioles thought so highly of him that they sent him to the Dodgers as partial payment for Dana Eveland, a 27-year-old starting pitcher who spent most of 2011 in AAA.
After the Orioles released him, where did he end up?
He hooked up with the Indians’ organization, and played with Akron and Columbus.
Could he have been a major-leaguer?
First off, he wouldn’t have been a regular, because he has zero power. However, it does seem odd that he didn’t get a real shot at a backup role. Hernandez, a Cuban refugee, signed with the Yankees and started his career at 19. He struggled with the bat at first, but his age 23 and 24 seasons were pretty good, with batting averages in the .290 range in the high minors. He was the odd man out in some roster moves, and got claimed on waivers by two different teams. He then settled in as a .260-range hitter as an AAA lifer. Hernandez wasn’t a great defensive catcher, but if he had ended up in the right organization at 24 he might have had a long-term job as a backup.
The weird thing about Hernandez is that he’s never been a real full-time catcher, playing around 80 games a year. I wonder if he just doesn’t have the durability or stamina to be a full-time catcher. You might think that it wouldn’t matter as a backup, but you do want your backup to be able catch five or six games in a row if the regular suffers a minor injury. If Hernandez wasn’t physically able to go back-to-back, teams might not consider him for a job.
Could he be a major-league regular?
He probably could, but he probably won’t. Hester hit very well in Reno in 2009-2010, but otherwise he’s been a .260-range hitter, with fair power until last year at Norfolk. He’s an average defensive catcher. If he got a major-league job, I’d expect him to hit .240-.250 with 10 home runs and adequate defense. He’s not good enough to win a regular job, but in the right circumstances he could inherit one and hold it for a couple of years.
Do you want him as a backup?
He’s a good backup for a Matt Wieters-type catcher, because he does everything adequately. If I had a starting catcher who is a “partial” catcher – one who does some things well but other things badly – then I’d want a backup catcher who is a mirror image, whose strengths correspond to my regular’s weaknesses. Then, I’d try to match up based on my opponent. But Matt Wieters is a “total” catcher, who does everything better than his backups (or at least well enough so that you rest him when he needs rest, not when the backup is a better player.) I’d want a backup catcher who does everything fairly well, so that my opponents can’t exploit his weakness.
However, whoever Matt Wieters’ backup is, it’s not going to make the slightest difference. Wieters is going to play so much that the backup catcher won’t get enough playing time to impact the team. If you get into a discussion with someone who vehemently insists that catcher A should be the backup catcher over catcher B, you’re dealing with a chucklehead.
What was the point of the Mark Reynolds trade?
I mention that here because Hester was the Player to Be Named Later in last winter’s Mark Reynolds trade, in which the Orioles sent pitchers Dave Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona for Reynolds and, ultimately, Hester. Reynolds was acquired to be the Orioles’ third baseman, and he couldn’t do even a passable job at third base. Now the plan is to move him to first base and try the erstwhile first baseman Chris Davis at third.
Although Reynolds is not as bad a player as his batting average and strikeouts are frustrating, I think the trade was a desperation move. The Orioles seem to have given up on Josh Bell, and had no other viable third-base candidates in the system, so they felt they had to acquire someone. Reynolds had signed a reasonable contract, and the Orioles felt that they could surrender two of their bullpen arms to get him.
But it was still a stopgap move, a move to get the Orioles through the season rather than building a team that can truly compete in the AL East. Instead of acquiring stopgaps, they should be focusing on developing young players. That Dave Hernandez proved to be a better bullpen option than the pitchers the Orioles kept only highlights the irrelevance of the trade.
How does he project as a prospect?
Not only was Kyle Hudson the player most fun to watch for the 2011 Tides, he may have been the player most fun to watch (in a positive way) for the Tides in the six years I’ve been datacasting. He’s very fast and gives his all every play. However, I don’t think he’s a very good prospect, for several reasons:
- He has zero power. His entire offensive game is based on slapping at the ball and running like crazy; or, for a change of pace, bunting and running like crazy. Major-league pitchers will knock the bat out of his hands unless he gets stronger.
- Although he’s very fast, he’s not a good outfielder. He has trouble judging fly balls and doesn’t have a good throwing arm.
- Possibly because he’s a former college football player, he does play all-out on every play. That makes him entertaining to watch and someone to root for, but it also makes him susceptible to injuries.
I think the best-case scenario for Hudson is to be someone like Joey Gathright, another pure speed player. Gathright managed to last four seasons as a bench player / part-time regular. The key difference is that Gathright was a .300 hitter in the minors, while Hudson has been a .280 hitter in the minors. That may not seem like much of a difference, but when you consider that Gathright was a very marginal player anyway, it may be enough to keep Hudson in the minor leagues.
Would you rather have Hudson or Matt Angle?
Although they’re similar players, I’d rather have Angle, who’s a far better defensive outfielder and, at least in my opinion, has more strength. The Orioles won’t have either one; they waived Matt Angle. They wanted to remove Hudson from the 40-man roster, but because of an arcane roster-rule technicality Hudson was declared a free agent and signed with the Rangers.