Results tagged ‘ Josh Bell ’
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 claimed third base prospect Zelous Wheeler off waivers from the Brewers, and to make room for him designated for assignment left-handed starter Dana Eveland. Eveland stated that if he cleared waivers, he would accept an assignment to Norfolk, where he likely would join the starting rotation. It’s unlikely that Eveland will be picked up by another team, because he’s not significantly better than what most teams already have and organizations are looking to reduce their rosters, not add to them. So it makes sense for Eveland to hang onto a job he will have, rather than try to find one in a tough market.
Zelous Wheeler is a twenty-five year old. It looks like the Brewers had been developing him as a utility player; he played 2009 as a third baseman, moved to shortstop for 2010, and moved to third for 2011, playing several games each year at second base. Offensively, Wheeler’s strongest attribute is probably his strike-zone judgement; his career on-base percentage is .371. His most noteworthy attribute is his consistency; his full-season minor-league batting averages have been .258, .268, .275, and .272; his corresponding on-base percentages have been .346, .370, .382, and .378. Unfortuately for him, he’s listed at 5’10″ and 220 lb., so he doesn’t really look like an athlete.
Wheeler was optioned to Norfolk, where he’ll compete with Josh Barfield, Ryan Adams, Matt Antonelli, and Josh Bell for time at third base (with some of these other players covering second base.) It’s looking more and more as though Josh Bell is the odd man out here, and I would be surprised to see him still in the Orioles organization by Memorial Day.
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.
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.
This past weekend, the Orioles made their first “cuts” from major-league spring training. Most of the players were minor-leaguers who received invitations to major-league spring training, and they were assigned to minor-league spring training. The Orioles will decide where they’ll play at the end of spring training. Two of the players were players on the 40-man roster, and were optioned to Norfolk. While it’s not guaranteed that Ryan Adams and Josh Bell will be on the Tides opening-day roster, it’s likely. I’m surprised that Adams and Bell were optioned so soon.
In Adams’ case, I really thought that the Orioles would want to give him a better look. It’s becoming apparent that presumptive Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts isn’t coming back from his injuries soon, and I think Adams is a viable candidate for second base. I know that a lot of scouts and others don’t think he can handle it defensively, but I disagree with them — I think he’s a passable second baseman. And Adams is hitting 1-for-11 in six spring training games. I think the real reason is that Robert Andino had an apparently good 2011 as Roberts’ replacement. Adams isn’t a potential star, and I can understand why you don’t want to replace a player after a good year with someone who’s not clearly superior. Adams will probably play in Norfolk as insurance in case Andino reverts to his norms.
In Bell’s case, I thought that Bell would stay in major-league camp because it doesn’t appear that he fits in the Orioles’ plans, and it would make more sense to keep him in major-league camp to see if another team might be interested him. The Orioles don’t have a short-term answer at third base. They were dissatisfied with Mark Reynolds’ defense at third in 2011, and talked about moving him to first base with Chris Davis playing third. However, in spring training, Reynolds is playing third base, which is inconsistent at the least. The other options are Wilson Betemit, signed as a free agent this offseason, and Ryan Flaherty, selected from the Cubs in the Rule V draft. The opportunity is there for Josh Bell, but he’s failed to seize it and he’s doesn’t appear to be in the Orioles’ plans. In 2011, the Orioles drafted and signed Jason Esposito and Nicky Delmonico, both who project as third basemen. So why the Orioles still want Josh Bell is something of a mystery.
Is he a major-league player?
Because Bell had such a horrible 2-53 BB/K ratio in his extended 2010 big-league service (53 games, 161 plate appearances), he’s going to have to be really impressive before he gets another full shot. With the Orioles in 2011, he doubled his walks and halved his strikeouts, but his BB/K ratio was a still-poor 4/25.
Even after 2010, I still thought Bell could be a good player, but I’m less optimistic after 2011. On the positive side, Bell hit 19 home runs in AAA, playing his home games in offense-killing Harbor Park. But that power increase came at the expense of his batting average, which dropped from .278 to .253, and especially his non-home run extra-base hits, so his slugging percentage dropped from .481 to .438. His BB/K ratio in AAA was 40/118, which is just barely acceptable. As a defensive player, Bell still has great “tools” but lacks baseball skills and judgment; he still doesn’t know when to throw and when to hold onto the ball.
In the 1980′s, Seattle came up with a very athletic third base prospect named Darnell Coles, whose career got off to a slow start because of inconsistency and poor strike-zone judgment. Coles bounced around, had one good season with Detroit as a full-time player and lasted a few years as a part-time, platoon corner outfielder. Josh Bell reminds me of Darnell Coles. I expect Bell to have a good season or two, but not be a player you can rely on.
In one 2011 game, Josh Bell committed four throwing errors. In the box score summary, the following line appeared:
E: Bell 4 (throw, throw, throw, throw)
I think that could lead to a Weird Al Yankovic-style parody of a Ke$ha hit — (Josh Bell’s About to) Throw.
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.
The Baltimore Orioles all but completed a trade with the Arizona Diamonbacks yesterday, sending pitchers Dave Hernandez and Kam Mickolio and acquiring third baseman Mark Reynolds.
By getting Reynolds to play third base, the Orioles are pretty much acknowledging that Josh Bell is not ready to play third base in 2011, and may be close to writing him off. Reynolds turned 27 in August, and is signed through 2012 at a very reasonable $6.25 million per year. By the time Reynolds’ contract has expired, Bell will be 26 himself.
Reynolds is better than Bell, no question. Yes, Reynolds hit .198 in 2010, but he also hit .260 in 2009. He strikes out a lot, as everyone knows*; but he draws 70 walks a year. If you look at his career numbers — .242/.334/.483 — you’ll see that he’s a better hitter than anyone on the 2010 Orioles except for Luke Scott and Nick Markakis. He’ll make the Orioles better.
Especially I don’t think they gave up very much. I’ve shared my opinions on Kam Mickolio already. I also saw Dave Hernandez pitch at Norfolk in 2009. He’s kind of the opposite of Pedro Viola; he doesn’t have great velocity but his pitches move. His pitches move so much that he doesn’t have great command of them. There are a few pitchers like him; they can’t command their best stuff and when they reduce their stuff to increase command, their stuff is very hittable. Most of the time, they never quite learn to command their best stuff; on the other hand, Carlos Marmol is like this. It’s fair to say that the Orioles acquired a cleanup-hitting third baseman for two guys who may turn out to be okay.
On the other hand, Reynolds isn’t a great cleanup hitter. He’s not a star; he fills a glaring hole. The Reynolds trade fits right in with Andy MacPhail’s history. Going back to his days with the Cubs, MacPhail has been a “tactical” GM. He’s been able to find available talent to fill holes relatively cheaply. That’s good, when you have a solid team with a couple of holes. That’s not so good when you’re building a team. The players you’ve acquired reach the end of the line just when the team’s on the verge of making it.
So, while I can’t fault the acquisition of Mark Reynolds, I have the nagging suspicion that it won’t matter much.
* Reynolds has just turned 27. He’s already struck out more times in his career than Gus Zernial, Bill Freehan, and Al Oliver.
What does he have to do to get a real chance?
Stay healthy and avoid the bad luck he’s had. Moore, who believe it or not played 2010 at age 26, was Detroit’s first-round draft pick out of high school back in 2002. He was rushed to A-ball, in two of the worst places to hit in all the minors. When he predictably struggled, the Tigers shipped him to the Cubs as part of a Kyle Farnsworth trade. The Cubs wisely had him repeat the Florida State League, and he hit .281/.358./.485. Since he was only 21, he wasn’t too old for the FSL, and he continued to hit as he moved to AA at age 22 and AAA at age 23.
Unfortunately, he was a third/first baseman in the Cubs organization in 2007, and he wasn’t likely to beat out Aramis Ramirez or Derrek Lee. So the Cubs traded him to Baltimore in late 2007, and he did well enough in a September cameo to warrant a good chance.
And since then he’s managed to get hurt just when he has an opportunity. In 2008, he was hurt at the start of the year, and Melvin Mora rebounded from a bad 2007 to drive in 104 runs. In 2009, Mora slumped — but Moore hurt himself early in the season and missed most of the season. In 2010, Moore was showing he was recovered from his injury — but first Miguel Tejada and then Josh Bell were given third base.
Moore’s not the most disciplined hitter, but he’s a good-fielding third baseman who should hit 25 home runs. If he’s healthy, he deserves a chance.
When the Orioles traded Miguel Tejada, they promoted Josh Bell to play third base. Should they have tried Moore instead?
In a simulation world, definitely. It should have been clear to everyone in the organization that Bell, despite playing well at the time of his callup, would benefit from more polish and sustained success. The Orioles weren’t going anywhere. In a simulation world, where you’re dealing only with impersonal representations of players, there’s no downside — if Moore plays poorly you haven’t lost anything, and if he plays well you have another asset either for your bench or for trade.
In the real world, though, I’m not so sure. Josh Bell may have thought he was ready for the majors; giving Scott Moore the audition may have been seen as a vote of no confidence. But even worse, the Orioles are grooming Bell as the third baseman of the future and aren’t interested in grooming Moore — which makes some sense since Bell is three years younger. If Moore plays well, he creates undesirable uncertainty. Do you give Bell the job next year? If you don’t, that will certainly reduce Bell’s value. How long do you stay with Bell if he plays poorly? How do you justify taking Moore’s job away after he’s played well? These are the sorts of questions real organizations, with real people involved, would just as soon avoid. By giving Bell the look, you (1) find out exactly where he is in his development and (2) avoid Bell vs. Moore problems.
All that said, I still would have given Moore the job, primarily because I don’t think Bell is a sure thing to be the Orioles third baseman of the future.
The Tides are on a brief road trip to Durham; they return to Harbor Park for a brief homestand against the Gwinnett Braves Monday through Wednesday. I’m scheduled to work Monday and Wednesday, so I’ll have some timely thoughts on those games.
The purpose of the Norfolk Tides is developing players for their parent team; now, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are looking to their farm system to provide a first baseman of the future and a third baseman of the future. Conveniently, the Tides have the most major-league-ready prospects at those positions in first baseman Brandon Snyder and third baseman Josh Bell. Many Orioles fans are counting on them to fill the holes and become big-league contributors. Unfortunately, I don’t think either one will be ready soon.
The love prospect watchers have for Brandon Snyder — Baseball America rated him as the #6 prospect in the Orioles system — is inexplicable. At least for those of us who have seen him play at Norfolk. He spent the second half of last season at Norfolk, and he has been very unimpressive. He hasn’t shown any home-run power. He hasn’t been peppering the outfield with line drives. He hasn’t been expert at coaxing walks. Unless he improves, he’s probably not going to score or drive in 100 runs in a season. For a first baseman in today’s game, that’s unacceptable. Think right-handed hitting Casey Kotchman, or Doug Mientkiewicz, without the brilliant defense.
Josh Bell has only been in Norfolk for eight games (seven at Harbor Park), so I’m evaluating him on a limited sample size. I can see why Bell impresses prospect watchers. He’s trim and athletic, “looks good in the uniform.” I’ve been impressed with his defensive range at third base, although he has a knack for stopping hard grounders backhanded and then having the ball drop out of his glove. However, Tides’ hitting coach Richie Hebner needs to work with Bell on his stance and his pitch recognition. Bell, a switch-hitter, has a wide-open stance when he’s batting left-handed. Perhaps as a result, he dives for low, outside pitches, resulting in a lot of swings-and-misses and weak grounders to short. He hasn’t seen many pitches he can drive, so I really haven’t had a chance to see his best stroke. Bell is definitely young enough and has shown enough athletic ability to improve, but right now he’s not a major-league player.