Results tagged ‘ Ricky Delmonico ’
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.