Who is he?
Yet another minor-league second baseman who can hit for a high average, with little power or patience, and who can’t handle the job defensively. Typically, their organizations try to move them to a corner outfield spot, and they don’t hit well enough to play there. If they have some speed, they carve out careers as utilitymen, like Chone Figgins or Eric Patterson. If they don’t have speed, they get released as soon as they have a season in which they hit under .280. The 2010 Tides had a couple of other guys like this, Jonathan Tucker and Paco Figueroa.
Miguel Abreu doesn’t have speed.
Could the Orioles have made him the regular shortstop, rather than trading for J.J. Hardy?
They could, but it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. The Alex Gonzalez family of shortstops is defined by (1) offensive contributions driven by power, with very marginal strikeout-to-walk ratios and on-base percentages; (2) reasonably good defensive shortstop play, with strong arms but a tendency to commit errors; (3) not a lot of speed. This applies to both Toronto Alex Gonzalez and Florida Alex Gonzalez, and they are the two best players of this type I can think of, hence the name.
Robert Andino is clearly in the Alex Gonzalez family of shortstops, but he’s not nearly as good as the Alex Gonzalezes. He’s closer in ability to two 1980′s shortstops, Todd Cruz and Andres Thomas. Cruz and Thomas could have a batting average upside around .250, and if they could hit .250, their .305 OBP, power, and defensive contributions would keep them in the lineup. But their downside would be a .200 batting average, which would lower their on-base percentage to an unacceptable .275 or so. At that level, their errors became less tolerable, and they almost immediately washed out of the majors after that first off-season.
That’s Andino. If he would hit .250, he’d stay in the lineup. As soon as he hit .210, he’d be gone.
Is he a viable bench player?
No. He’s not a good enough offensive player to be used as a pinch-hitter, and his error-prone-ness on defense make him a poor risk as a replacement. In general, you don’t want players on your bench who can lose you games. Andino is likely to commit costly errors that will cost you games.
Is he a future star?
No. Angle has no power, so he has no star potential.
How about a future regular?
Maybe. While Angle has no power, he is an outstanding defensive center fielder. Offensively, he has good speed which he uses well; he’ll take a walk; and can probably hit .280 in the major leagues.
The interesting thing about Angle is that he’d probably have a better chance of being a regular on a good team — or, more specifically, a good offensive team — than on a bad team like the 2010 Orioles. Angle doesn’t profile that much differently than Brett Gardner. But because the Yankees have a good offensive team, they can afford to bat Gardner in the 9th spot in the batting order, where a speedy on-base machine with little power can be the so-called second leadoff man. Unfortunately, the 2010 Orioles were carrying at least two non-hitters in the lineup. Angle’s not a good enough hitter to bat leadoff, and he doesn’t have enough power to bat 7th or higher. So, he could play regularly on a good team but not on a bad team.
The Orioles have added Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero, and J.J. Hardy to the lineup, presumably improving the offense. Unfortunately, that probably moves Luke Scott to left field, and Angle won’t be beating him out unless Scott’s defense is unplayable.
How about a bench player?
Definitely. A table-setting pinch-hitter, who can pinch-run, and play brilliant defense in the outfield? Who hits left-handed? I’d sure think I’d find room on my bench for him. The Orioles are probably committed to carrying at least twelve pitchers, which will hurt his chances.
Is he a future star?
I may be in the minority, but I’m not boarding Jake Arrieta’s bandwagon. Arrieta was a highly-touted prospect after he signed an above-slot contract out of college; he shot through A and AA ball and reached Norfolk in mid-2009. He pitched unimpressively in 2009 but seemed much better in 2010; after twelve starts, he was called up to Baltimore and pitched superficially okay (6-6. 4.66 ERA).
But both in AAA and Baltimore Arrieta hasn’t been able to throw strikes consistently. In AAA, his BB/K ratio has been 67-142 and his K/IP ratio has been 142/165; in the majors, they’ve been 48-52 and 52-100. His AAA numbers aren’t outstanding and his major league numbers are bad. I’ve seen Arrieta pitch several times at Norfolk, and he just doesn’t have good control or command. I expect Arrieta to have occasional flashes of brilliance, but I also expect him to be a mediocre contributor over the long haul.
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.