Results tagged ‘ Brandon Waring ’
Does he have a major-league future?
Probably not. Waring is a Mark Reynolds-type player, a home run hitter who strikes out so much that his batting average is low. While Waring doesn’t strike out quite as much as Reynolds, he doesn’t walk as often or hit as many home runs either, so basically Waring’s good year would be Reynolds’ typical year. Both are slow; and although Waring is a better defensive third baseman than Reynolds he’s not good enough to win a regular job.
Because Waring is an all-or-nothing offensive player, it makes it hard for him to pinch-hit. Defensively, he’s too slow for even left field and thus is limited to third base and first base. He’s a right-handed hitter. So it’s going to be hard for him to take a bench job.
Waring will be 27 in 2013. One of the active leaders in career minor-league home runs is Mike Hessman, who has hit 364 minor league home runs. He’s gotten 223 major league plate appearances, but they’ve been scattered over five seasons. He’s hit 14 home runs in those 223 plate appearances, but he has a batting average of .188 and an on-base percentage of .272. Waring is on the Mike Hessman career path and could easily end up with 300 career minor league home runs.
I believe Waring will be eligible for minor league free agency if he’s not added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster,
Saturday’s 8-4 Tides win over the Pawtucket Red Sox was the kind of game the Norfolk Tides would typically lose, especially over the past few seasons. The Tides jumped on Pawtucket starter Justin Germano for four runs in the first inning, capped by Ronnie Paulino’s two-run double to the right-center field wall. They added two more runs in the third on newcomer Brandon Waring’s first AAA home run, a two-run fly just into the left-field picnic area.
(As an aside, I first saw Justin Germano on his way up in 2002, pitching for Fort Wayne in the Midwest League at Kane County. The Kane County starting pitcher was Dontrelle Willis. I next saw Germano start in 2006, my first year of datacasting, when he started for the Louisville Bats. Germano has made 113 starts in AAA and has a 43-35 career AAA record.)
Back to the present. Pawtucket began a comeback, stringing four singles to produce two runs in the fifth inning. They closed the gap to 6-3 with run in the seventh. Jose Iglesias led off the eighth with a well-executed bunt single. Kevin Youkilis, down on a rehabilitation assignment, hit a ground ball to shortstop, a nearly tailor-made double-play ball, that rolled through Blake Davis’ legs for an error, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Those of us familiar with the Tides knew what was coming next — a big inning, leading to a Pawtucket lead or (worse for us) a tie game with several extra innings on tap.
But no. Lars Anderson hit a ground ball just to the right of second base, and Carlos Rojas fielded it cleanly and flipped it to Davis covering second base. Davis touched the bag with his foot and threw the ball to Joe Mahoney, doubling up Anderson. Although Iglesias scored the Red Sox’ fourth run on the play, the rally had fizzled and the momentum shift stopped.
And in the bottom of the eighth, Lady Luck smiled on the Tides. With two out, Lew Ford blooped a Texas Leaguer in front of the Pawtucket right fielder. Blake Davis smacked a low, hard line drive inches inside the third-base foul line for a double. And with runners on second and third, Jamie Hoffman placed a soft fly ball just far enough into right field so that the first baseman couldn’t catch it, just close enough to the foul line so that the second baseman couldn’t catch it, and just shallow enough into the outfield that the right fielder couldn’t catch it. Two runs scored and the game was clinched.
While Friday’s game was a planned bullpen game for the Tides, Saturday turned into an unplanned bullpen game. Starting pitcher Steve Johnson left the game after two innings with a strained groin, and four Tides relievers nursed the game to its conclusion. No Tides pitcher deserved the win; the official scorer awarded the win to Pat Neshek, who faced only five batters and allowed an inherited runner to score. Not that there were any better options.
It’s hard to write about the Norfolk Tides without straying into thinking about the Baltimore Orioles sometimes. The Orioles are the parent club of the Tides. The Tides players who are prospects are hoping to move up to the Orioles, so how players fit into the Orioles’ plans affects how they are used in Norfolk. Other Tides players are players whom the Orioles have brought in but failed to make the big-league team. Normally, the big-league team will bring in several players to fill a hole and some of the players who lose the battle end up in Norfolk. Right now, the Orioles believe — correctly — that they have a hole at third base, and there are several players who are or had been candidates for the job.
The Orioles 2011 most-regular third baseman was Mark Reynolds. While it’s easy to focus on Reynolds’ low batting average and lofty strikeout totals, Reynolds was actually a pretty good offensive player in 2011. He hit 37 home runs, which wouldn’t have been too impressive a decade ago but was fourth in the 2011 American League. He drew 75 walks. So, even though he had a .221 batting average, his walks and power made him a batter 19% better than the average American Leaguer. The real problem was his defense. He joined the Gary Sheffield-Joel Youngblood-Butch Hobson club with a .897 fielding percentage in 114 games at third base, and he demonstrated range about 30% below the league standards. In the 2011-2012 offseason, the Orioles announced that they would move Reynolds to first base.
That was a reasonable decision. The question becomes “Who is the new third baseman?” The first thought was Chris Davis, acquired from Texas in the Koji Uehara deal. Davis had been a third baseman in the Texas organization — and was moved to first base because he was just about as bad defensively as Reynolds. Davis isn’t any great shakes as a hitter, either; he has similar skills to Mark Reynolds but he’s not as good. He doesn’t have Reynolds’ power and he doesn’t walk nearly as much. After Davis’ impressive first season, he hasn’t had a season in which he’s been a league-average hitter.
In the offseason, the Orioles signed Wilson Betemit as a free agent. Betemit has been more of a third baseman than he’s been anything else, but he’s never had a major-league season with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. And, he too hasn’t been a good defensive third baseman, with substandard fielding percentages and range. The Orioles announced that Betemit would serve primarily as their designated hitter, and are conceding that he’s not the answer at third base.
So much for the major-league options. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook listed five minor-leaguers with rookie eligibility at third base in the Orioles’ organizational depth chart. Two of them, Nicky Delmonico and Jason Esposito, are 2011 draftees who have yet to play professionally. Delmonico was signed out of high school and, even if he’s put on and able to handle the fast track, is still three years away. If the Orioles think he’s ready, he’ll start 2011 at Delmarva; if not, they’ll hold him in extended spring training and have him play in Aberdeen. Esposito, signed as a college junior, is one level ahead of Delmonico, and will start 2012 at either Frederick or Delmarva. He’s two-and-a-half to three years away.
The other three candidates are closer to the big leagues. Ryan Flaherty was selected from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft, so he must stay on the Orioles’ 25-man roster all season (except for minor-league rehabilitation assignments) or be offered back to the Cubs. Flaherty is another power hitter; he has a career .475 slugging percentage in AA. Although he probably profiles best as a third baseman, the Cubs moved him all around the infield (probably because the Cubs have an incredible number of grade C+ prospects and it’s hard to find playing time for all of them.) Flaherty probably won’t end up in Norfolk; the Orioles will give him the benefit of the doubt and keep him in Baltimore so they won’t have to offer him back to the Cubs.
Brandon Waring is yet another low-average, high-home-run, high-strikeout hitter. In 252 AA games, he’s hit 44 home runs and struck out 315 times, with a .234 batting average. It’s hard to interpret his available defensive statistics, but BA’s summary states that Waring has improved his defense to slightly-below-average. Waring has never played at AAA, and in normal circumstances would be set to play at Norfolk this season.
But the circumstances aren’t normal, partly because the fifth name on the Orioles third-base prospect depth chart is Matt Antonelli. Antonelli was the Padres’ first-round draft pick in 2006 and reached the majors in 2008. He was drafted as an offense-first second baseman, and was on track until 2008, when his bat died. He missed almost all of 2010 (playing in 1 rookie-league game) and signed with the Nationals for 2011. His bat has recovered, but he now projects as a third baseman. The Orioles signed him to a major-league contract for 2012; he’s on the 40-man roster and may end up in Norfolk if he doesn’t stick in Baltimore.
The final candidate was Josh Bell, a former hot prospect who failed his real chance to claim the job in 2010. I’ve written a lot about Bell here and here, and there’s really nothing more to add. He was optioned to Norfolk early in the spring, and therefore he’s probably not in the Orioles’ plans.