Baltimore Orioles

  • Shuffling: Promotions were in order around the Oriole minor leagues, and I’m not talking about free Whoopee Cushion Day. Tim Raines Jr. and Matt Riley were called up from Bowie to Rochester…oops, I mean, Ottawa. Tough to change 40 years of habit. While Raines certainly deserves the promotion, the Ottawa outfield has also been wiped out: Darnell McDonald is down for the season with a shoulder injury, Larry Bigbie can’t get his hamstring healthy, and Luis Matos has taken over in CF for the Orioles.

    Riley, meanwhile, continued his return to Prospectdom (which started in the second half of last year) by advancing to Triple-A and winning his second start. John Maine was promoted from Delmarva to Frederick, where he’ll try to bring down the team’s league-worst 5.23 ERA, but got cuffed around a bit in his first outing. Recent draft signees Adam Loewen and Nick Markakis made their debuts at Aberdeen: Loewen struck out five in two innings, while Markakis has been kind of ewwww thus far.

  • Rotation: Omar Daal has lost his spot in the rotation, and Pat Hentgen will take over. This amounts to very little difference. Daal has been absolutely hideous for the last month–a 10.80 ERA, five games pitched, five charged losses. Hentgen hasn’t been a whole lot better (1-5, 6.65 ERA in 8 starts). Whichever one pitches is a loss waiting to happen…or waiting for someone from Ottawa.
  • Mea Culpa: A couple of editions ago, I wrote that “David Segui can still hit; B.J.Surhoff can’t.” At the time, Segui had an EqA around .370 while Surhoff was in the .240s. Since that time, it has been the other way around–Surhoff has had a .320 EqA to Segui’s .207. Maybe Segui and Surhoff are like the Gorgons of Greek mythology; they only have one bat between them, and have to share.
  • Trades: Sidney Ponson has been the subject of trade rumors all season. Lately, another Oriole free agent-to-be, Tony Batista, has been surfacing in trade rumors. If Batista is dealt, Melvin Mora would probably get first crack at the third base job.

Colorado Rockies

  • Schedule: The Rockies have continued playing .500 ball with an extreme home/road split, but they did manage to finally win some road series for the first time since April, when they beat the Tigers two out of three in early June, then won two out of three from the Padres last week. After what was the easiest stretch of their 2003 season the last three weeks, with five series against last-place teams.

    The club faces a much rougher road ahead in the weeks before the All-Star break, with four out of their five series coming against strong divisional rivals. The Rockies will have the home field advantage for most of these games, but if they don’t take advantage of Coors now they’ll be knocked out of the race completely by the time the All-Stars gather in Chicago.

  • Speaking of All-Stars:…it’s time to single out the players who have made the largest contributions to the Rockies this year, even if only one of them deserves an All-Star berth.
    • Todd Helton appears to be duplicating his 2002 season. He’s also duplicating his 2002 ranking as the National League’s best first baseman. As usual, Helton has almost no platoon split. He does have an enormous home/road split, but that probably doesn’t mean anything more than it usually does for Rockies. He may never again hit for the kind of power he showed in 2000 and 2001 due to his his back problems, but the Rockies can easily live with that weakness as long as Helton is productive in every other way at the plate.
    • Shawn Chacon says he has changed both his mental approach and his physical routine this season, and the results imply that those changes have been for the better. Chacon has been dominating at times this season, especially in Coors Field. After an extremely disappointing 2002, Chacon has clearly established himself as the Rockies’ best pitcher. All he has to do now is stay healthy. Unfortunately, after a sub-par outing in which both his velocity and command were poor, he’s been placed on the disabled list with inflammation and discomfort.
    • Larry Walker is getting older, but he’s still a major contributor to the Rockies. After a weak start, Walker’s bat heated up enough in June to make it onto this list. Walker’s main problem in recent years has been staying healthy enough to play, but that hasn’t been as much of a problem this year. His most unexpected contribution has been a significant increase in his walk rate, which has been more than 50% higher in 2003 than previously in his career.
    • Brian Fuentes has been the Rockies’ best relief pitcher so far, pitching 39 innings of ball while allowing 30 hits and 20 walks while striking out 43 batters. He’s proven to be more than just a left-handed situationalist–while he has indeed dominant against lefties, his performance against righties has been very respectable as well. With Jeff Cirillo still struggling in Seattle, Fuentes may end up being the most significant player who was traded in the deal between the Rockies and the Mariners in December 2001.

New York Mets

  • Transaction Analysis: The transition continued Tuesday as the Mets made what will surely be the first of many trades, sending Roberto Alomar to the White Sox in exchange for one prospect and two organizational space fillers.

    Alomar leaves New York behind as the least successful of his five big-league stops. He hit .265/.333/.370 as a Met, fighting nagging injuries throughout his stay that rendered him useless from the right side (.193 against lefties in two seasons) and limited on the basepaths (22 steals as a Met, following three straight seasons with at least 30).

    The Mets aren’t getting much back from the White Sox. Centerpiece Royce Ring was the Sox #1 pick last year, a left-handed reliever out of San Diego St. While he’s pitched well at Double-A this year (2.52 ERA, 44 strikeouts, 14 walks in 35 2/3 innings), his ceiling is what you’d expect from a college closer: middling. At 6-0, 220, his build is going to be an issue as he gets older, and you can count the number of left-handed closers in baseball on one hand.

    The other two players in the deal are right-hander Edwin Almonte, another closer suspect with a 6.88 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte, and Andrew Salvo, a Sally League utility infielder. In case it isn’t clear yet: for the Mets, this trade is about getting rid of something you don’t want, not acquiring something you do.

    Moreover, the Mets clear playing time at one of the positions where they lack a top-tier prospect. The immediate effect of the trade is that Jose Reyes‘ tryout is extended, probably for the rest of the year, with Rey Sanchez moving to second base. Minor-league veteran Marco Scutaro could be in line for time at the position as well. Second baseman Danny Garcia has emerged over the last year and may make a run at the job in September. He’s hitting .288/.346/.362 for Norfolk after opening the year with a .333/.391/.530 stretch at Double-A.

    The move is important not for what it brings, but for what it symbolizes: the end of an era for the Mets. Look for Armando Benitez and any other expensive reliever Jim Duquette can trade to follow Alomar out of New York, followed by tough decisions on the free-agent class of 2003 (Cliff Floyd, Tom Glavine) and Mike Piazza).

  • Stat of the Week: By going 0-6 against their crosstown rivals, the Mets continued a streak that dates to the beginning of interleague play: they’ve never won a season series with the Yankees. This year’s shutout runs their regular-season record against the Bombers to 12-24, and has to have Fred Wilpon longing for the return of the Mayor’s Trophy Game. That was just one day, and it didn’t count in the standings.
  • Down on the Farm: The Mets had just one player selected for The Futures Game, a prospect showcase to be held on the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Justin Huber makes his second appearance in the game for the World team, on the strength of a .284/.370/.514 performance in 50 games for St. Lucie. Huber, the Australian who is heir apparent to Mike Piazza behind the dish at Shea Stadium, was recently promoted to Double-A Binghamton and started out there 4-for-13 with a homer and three walks.
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