CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

No Previous Article
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Triple Play... (06/03)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (06/05)
No Next Article

June 4, 2003

Prospectus Triple Play

Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets

by Baseball Prospectus

Baltimore Orioles

  • Unlikely Star: Two weeks ago, Melvin Mora was having the best season of his career, posting a .324 EqA through Monday. Since then, with two weeks right out of one of Barry Bonds' best seasons, he has raised his EqA to .360, and come within five points of the American League lead. His .455 on-base average leads the American League, his .350 batting average is just two points shy of Hank Blalock for that lead, and his slugging average places him fourth. He's taken over the #2 spot in the batting order (scoring 11 times in just the past week), and he's also taken over as the regular left fielder.

    Now, Mora's been an Oriole for three-and-a-half years, and has always been described by the team and scouts as somebody who couldn't play everyday--the ultimate bench player, able to fill in at every position. As things presently stand, though, he's the Oriole most clearly deserving of an All-Star berth. The All-Star game shouldn't be the all-May team, but you have to consider that: 1) it hasn't just been a good May for Mora, but a great May, and 2) these are still the Orioles; it's not like someone else has had a great career with a rough start.

  • Kids: Mora's not alone on the "performance by someone who's not supposed to be here" bandwagon. The Orioles were considering calling up Brian Roberts to take the slumping Deivi Cruz's place, but had to use him to replace Jerry Hairston and his broken foot instead. After 11 games in the leadoff spot, Roberts has a .389 OBA, 10 runs scored, and has beaten the Angels twice with grand slams. The team got tired of Gary Matthews' extended slump, tried to send him to Ottawa but lost him on waivers; his replacement, Luis Matos, is 18-36 with five doubles in nine games, and he's scored 11 runs.

    Since Matos was called up, the lineup has been basically set, and every player has hit better than an average major league hitter. For the last two weeks, it has essentially been

    
    1.	Brian Roberts, 2B, (.316 EqA)
    2.	Melvin Mora, LF (.448)
    3.	David Segui, DH (.276)
    4.	Jeff Conine, 1B (.308)
    5.	Jay Gibbons, RF (.281)
    6.	Tony Batista, 3B (.267)
    7.	Luis Matos, CF (.434)
    8.	Deivi Cruz, SS (.302. That's right, .302.)
    9.	Geronimo Gil/Brook Fordyce, C (.334/.269)
    
    

    Geronimo Gil has reclaimed the #1 catcher spot from Brook Fordyce. The team's EqA has improved from .253 to .267--up a point a day. The Dow should act so well.

  • Draft: The Orioles finally succeeded in landing their #1 pick from 2002, Adam Loewen, flipping the $700,000 they saved when Gary Matthews was claimed by the Padres. Unfortunately, the O's signed Loewen to a major league contract, meaning he'll have to be in the majors in 2006, whether his play (and injuries?) warrant that or not.

    For 2003, the Orioles chose to take Nick Markakis with their first pick. Like Loewen, Markakis was a draft-and-follow from 2002 (Reds); unlike Loewen, he didn't sign and so re-entered the draft. Since he hit .455 with 17 HR as a juco player this year, the O's have said they'll groom him primarily to be an outfielder instead of a pitcher. The Orioles next three picks were all college pitchers. The #3 and #4 overall picks from this year's draft, pitchers Kyle Sleeth and Tim Stauffer, were both picked by the Orioles out of high school in 2000.

Colorado Rockies

  • Road Rage: The Rockies continued to be a disaster on the road by posting only one win in seven road games over the last two weeks. On the other hand, they've been on fire at home lately, winning six of the seven games at Coors Field during the same period. Overall, they are now 21-8 at home and 7-22 on the road.

    The Rockies, of course, have had to deal with a home-road split larger than normal since they started playing in 1993. Denver teams from other sports have traditionally had extra-large home-field advantages too; the Broncos have had a huge home/road split during the last two decades. But the Rockies' split so far this season is more than huge; it's almost unbelievable. The extremity of the 2003 home/road advantage may be just a function of small sample size, but that can't be used as an explanation for the last decade. The easy explanation for the Broncos' home-field advantage--the team's ability to treat the thinner air as normal--wouldn't seem to apply as much to a baseball team. The Rockies have tried experimenting with many different types of players during their history, especially during the Dan O'Dowd era, but the team has yet to stumble onto a solution to their home/road disparity.

    Colorado will play six games at Coors Field before they have to face another treacherous road trip. It will be interesting to see if the Rockies' road failures continue versus the hapless Tigers in Comerica; that series starts a week from Friday.

  • Bad Break: The best of times suddenly turned into the worst of times for Rockies second baseman Ron Belliard this past week. Belliard was once a top Brewers prospect, but his fortunes had fallen in recent years. So he came to Rockies camp guaranteed only a minor league contract and was given only a small chance of making the big league club. As a result of others' injuries and his own solid play, Belliard won not only the Rockies' everyday second base job, but also the job of leadoff man. By the end of May he'd peaked, going 5-for-5 on May 29th.

    During his last two years with the Brewers, Belliard's plate discipline had fallen apart and his power had waned. Belliard still wasn't providing much pop for the Rockies in April and May, but his home .407 OBP and his road .378 OBP were just what the Rockies needed from their leadoff hitter. Unfortunately for player and team, Belliard badly sprained his ankle on June 1st, forcing him onto the disabled list just as Juan Uribe finally finished rehabilitating. As Belliard has already seen, injuries can win players jobs. He'll have to wait several weeks to see if his injury loosens his hold on the Rockies' second base job.

  • He's Drafty, and He's Just Their Type: For only the second time in their history, the Rockies took a position player with a true first-round pick in the annual Amateur Draft. Their only previous first-round position player pick was Todd Helton in 1995. (Second baseman Jayson Nix was the Rockies' first pick in 2001, but he was selected with a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds).

    This time the pick was third baseman Ian Stewart, a high school senior from Garden Grove, California. Stewart is known for his great bat speed and has some the best power potential of anyone available in the draft, though many experts expected him to go a few picks later than he did because his defense at third is questionable and his plate discipline is spotty. The Rockies already are deep at third in their organization and probably expect Stewart to end up at a corner outfield position anyway; the club generally tries to take the best player available regardless of the specific needs of the organization. Bill Schmidt, the Rockies' scouting director, then returned to his usual picking style by taking college players with every one of the Rockies' 10 picks. Five of those 10 selections were pitchers.

New York Mets

  • He's #1: The Mets' shopping spree last winter didn't cost them their 2003 first-round draft pick, thanks to the rule that protects teams in the lower half of the standings from losing their #1 pick as compensation for free-agent signings. The Mets needed to make good use of the bonus, however, as their pick at #13 would be their only one in the first 108 selections.

    Florida high-school outfielder Lastings Milledge fills a need for the Mets, who have a distinct lack of both outfield prospects and athleticism in their system. Milledge stole 43 bases in his senior season for Lakewood Ranch H.S. while hitting .414 in 98 at-bats, with four doubles, three triples and 10 home runs. Milledge was arguably a top-10 talent who, like other high school players, slipped in the draft as teams rushed to grab college hitters.

    Milledge is far from a sure thing, however. He's the classic toolsy high schooler, but without the great body--just 6'1", 185 pounds--that marks the type. He struggled with wood in a Baseball America showcase last fall, and was expelled from his first high school, after allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor, although no charges were filed.

    All things considered, taking Milledge made sense for the Mets, who needed a high-upside outfielder and may have gotten a bargain (Milledge was neck-and-neck with #1 overall pick Delmon Young less than a year ago) in the deal.

  • Star Performer: We've said it before, but paying too much attention to performance in April is a good way to make bad decisions.

    Armando Benitez is just the latest example. When the sun came up on the morning of April 20, Benitez had an ERA of 6.97, having blown four save opportunities in two weeks. He'd walked eight hitters and allowed 17 hits and two home runs in 10 1/3 innings. He was still whiffing hitters, though, notching a dozen Ks. All things considered, the stretch seemed to be the result of a minor control problem, paired with some bad luck on balls in play.

    Benitez has been his old self since then, posting an ERA of 1.71 in 21 innings with 20 strikeouts, 10 walks and 12 hits allowed (one home run). He's converted his last 11 save opportunities, and other than a blip against the Diamondbacks on April 27 (three runs in one inning when the Mets were already down 4-2), he has been absolutely dominant. Given Al Leiter's no-trade rights and the poor play of Roberto Alomar, Benitez is the Mets' most valuable trade chit. Every great outing he has makes it that much more likely the Mets can start their rebuilding process by trading Benitez for the good young hitters they need.

  • Stat of the Week: Benitez is pretty much the only Met striking anyone out. The Mets pitching staff is next-to-last in the NL in strikeouts and strikeout rate, a rare occurrence.

    Shea Stadium has long been one of the best strikeout parks in baseball, and the Mets haven't finished in the bottom half of the league in strikeouts or strikeout rate since 1997, when they were also next-to-last in both categories. Their inability to get hitters to swing and miss is a big part of their 4.75 team ERA, 12th in the NL, as well as their #28 rank in Adjusted Runs Prevented and #20 rank in Support-Neutral Value Added. This is not a good pitching staff.

0 comments have been left for this article.

No Previous Article
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Triple Play... (06/03)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Triple Play... (06/05)
No Next Article

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, August 29
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
Premium Article Raising Aces: Mis-Priced

MORE FROM JUNE 4, 2003
Premium Article Prospectus Today: Imitation and Condemnation
Premium Article Under The Knife: Watching and Waiting

MORE BY BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
2003-06-09 - Prospectus Triple Play: Houston Astros, Milw...
2003-06-06 - Prospectus Triple Play: Montreal Expos, San ...
2003-06-05 - Prospectus Triple Play: Anaheim Angels, Chic...
2003-06-04 - Prospectus Triple Play: Baltimore Orioles, C...
2003-06-03 - Prospectus Triple Play: Boston Red Sox, Cinc...
2003-06-02 - Prospectus Triple Play: Florida Marlins, New...
2003-05-30 - Prospectus Triple Play: Cleveland Indians, L...
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TRIPLE PLAY
2003-06-09 - Prospectus Triple Play: Houston Astros, Milw...
2003-06-06 - Prospectus Triple Play: Montreal Expos, San ...
2003-06-05 - Prospectus Triple Play: Anaheim Angels, Chic...
2003-06-04 - Prospectus Triple Play: Baltimore Orioles, C...
2003-06-03 - Prospectus Triple Play: Boston Red Sox, Cinc...
2003-06-02 - Prospectus Triple Play: Florida Marlins, New...
2003-05-30 - Prospectus Triple Play: Cleveland Indians, L...
More...