Results tagged ‘ John Hester ’
Should the Orioles have kept him?
Probably not. Hester was one of several backup catcher candidates Dan Duquette accumulated in his attempt to find a backup catcher good enough to be a regular catcher. Hester had more power than the others but wasn’t a contact hitter, and his defensive reputation wasn’t as good as Luis Expositor or Taylor Teaguarden. After the Orioles released him in April, the Angels signed him to be the AAA backup. When they needed a backup catcher in Los Angeles, the AAA regular catcher happened to be temporarily hurt and the Angels recalled Hester. He got off to a very good start and received favorable publicity, then tapered off and got hurt himself. He’s still on the Angels’ 40-man roster.
Hester is a backup catcher, pure and simple. Having Hester as opposed to any other backup catcher won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to the team. I guess the best way to answer the question “Should the Orioles have kept John Hester” is “It doesn’t matter.”
The Tides have been losing, losing, losing — six straight and counting — on a road trip over the past week. The Baltimore Orioles made some moves affecting the Norfolk Tides’ roster over the past few days. They claimed catcher Luis Exposito from Boston on waivers. To make room for Exposito on the forty-man roster, the Orioles designated Josh Bell for assignment and then gave him to Arizona — technically, they traded him to Arizona for a player to be named later, but the chances are the PTBNL won’t be significant. Then, the Orioles optioned Exposito to Norfolk and released catcher John Hester.
None of these moves will have the slightest impact on either the Orioles or the Tides. Exposito is a 25-year-old backup catcher type. He’s a good defensive catcher with a marginal bat — essentially, he’s the same player as John Hester except three-and-a-half years younger. From the Orioles persepctive, I don’t see the point of having Luis Exposito, Chris Robinson, Taylor Teagarden, and Ronny Paulino all competing for the backup catcher job. From the Tides’ perspective, I don’t think Exposito brings anything to the table that Hester didn’t.
And the price of “upgrading” from Hester to Exposito was Josh Bell. I admit — make that I declare — that Josh Bell has been a disappointment. He’s always shown more athletic ability than baseball skill. He’s been frustrating — he’s struck out too much and he’s made too many throwing errors. On the other hand, he’s hit 33 home runs in a season-and-a-half at Norfolk, which is legitimately impressive. Defensively, Bill James wrote that a useful shorthand for a third baseman’s defense is his ratio of double plays to errors, with a 1:1 ratio being average. Bell’s ratio at Norfolk was 31;32, which tells me that he was better defensively than his error total. I still think Bell could have been converted into a corner utility player, able to play left field, right field, third and first, with a power bat.
The Orioles announced that erstwhile backup catcher Taylor Teagarden will not be ready for opening day, and he’ll almost certainly be placed on the Disabled List. That means that Ronny Paulino will be the Orioles’ backup catcher for the start of the season. That, in turn, means that John Hester and Caleb Joseph will likely be the two catchers on the Tides’ opening-day roster. I don’t see any other catchers in the organization who are ready for AAA.
Yesterday, the Orioles optioned three players to Norfolk, reassigned five others to the minor-league camp, and essentially placed two other players on the disabled list. With just over a week to go before the Tides’ season opener, I can make some guesses about who will be on the Tides when they play at Charlotte on April 5.
The Orioles optioned pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken to Norfolk, and announced that both will be used as starting pitchers. I expected both to be with the Tides, and Bergesen to be a starter. I am surprised that Berken will be used as a starter, as his only major league success was as a relief pitcher. This tells me that Berken isn’t really in the Orioles future plans, and that they’re just hoping that lightning will strike.
The Orioles also sent Dontrelle Willis and Armando Gallaraga to minor-league camp. I’d be surprised if Gallaraga is in the organization and not with the Tides, and in the Tides’ starting rotation. He has 518 innings of major-league experience and hasn’t been below AAA since 2007. Willis, on the other hand, is being groomed as a left-handed spot reliever. The Orioles may want to stash him at Bowie so he can be more easily available for a quick call-up.
John Hester was sent to minor-league camp, which can’t have been much of a surprise after going 0-for-14 in spring games. I’d have to say he’s headed for Norfolk. Even if Caleb Joseph is heading for Norfolk, there’s still a need for another catcher. Taylor Teagarden is recovering from injury and Ronny Paulino is the only other backup catcher in camp, so there won’t be another catcher coming down. That means Hester should be here.
Matt Antonelli was optioned to Norfolk, and Steve Tolleson and Scott Beerer were sent to minor-league camp. That makes for some interesting possibilities. Antonelli, Ryan Adams, Josh Barfield, and Josh Bell have all been second basemen or third basemen in their careers. There’s no way you can get all four players into the lineup at second, third, and DH. Even assuming that Jai Miller and Scott Beerer end up in Norfolk, that still leaves the third outfield spot uncertain. I still think L.J. Hoes will start the season in Bowie, so that might mean that either Adams or Bell will get a look as a corner outfielder. Tolleson is a career utility player who would be welcome in Norfolk, playing six games a week at five positions.
Brian Roberts was put on the Disabled List, which means that Robert Andino will start the season as the Orioles’ second baseman and that Ryan Flaherty will make the Orioles as the utility infielder. Zach Britton was also put on the Disabled List, which probably slots Brian Matusz into the Orioles rotation but doesn’t really clarify Chris Tillman’s status.
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.