Wednesday, March 31, 2010

AL East Q&A: Daniel Moroz Talks O's

Next up in our AL East Q&A series, we are pleased to welcome one of the best Orioles bloggers on any of the intertubes.

Daniel Moroz is the proprietor of Camden Crazies and a contributor to the excellent Beyond the Box Score. For a sampling of his sabermetric chops, take a look at the five part series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that he did exploring Nick Markakis' drop in walks last year. Daniel is also the man behind the sensational Matt Wieters Facts. Please give him your undivided attention.

Fack Youk: Is it true that saying Matt Wieters is perfect would underestimate his abilities?

Daniel Moroz: One of the more amusing parts of the Matt Wieters Facts phenomena has been that my analysis of his actual performance hasn't been all that complementary. He did well – for a catcher - last year, but I don't think he's going to be a dominant force quite yet. I was expecting him to walk a little more than he did in 2009, though (not that it means much) he has been doing that this Spring. An above average bat in 2010 may not make Wieters an MVP candidate, but it should make him one of the better catchers in baseball already - with plenty of room for more development in the coming years.

FY: Aside from Wieters, what young position player on the O's do you have the most hope for going forward? Is it Adam Jones? Nick Markakis? Nolan Reimold?

DM: I have the most hope for Markakis, because we've seen him play at an elite level before with his .306/.406/.491 line from 2008. If he can return to that echelon - largely by getting his walk rate back up - then that would really help the offense. I don't know that Adam Jones can reach those levels with the bat because of his less than stellar plate discipline, but a .300/.375/.500 peak with plus defense in center-field would also be very valuable. Reimold I'm not quite as high on - though I was one of his biggest fans as he was coming up through the minors - as I think he's more of a role player (above average bat, but average to below defense in an outfield corner - average player overall) in the Luke Scott mold than a star. Honestly, I might have more hopes for Felix Pie, who is already a very good defensive outfielder and who could become an above average player if he improves at the plate.

FY: With Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Brian Matsuz, Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe the Orioles seem to have a fine crop of young pitchers either already in the MLB or reasonably close to it. Do you think Bergesen can duplicate the success that he had in '09? Will Tillman and Matsuz be breaking camp with the club? Will Arrieta and Erbe contribute this season?

DM: I think Bergesen can largely duplicate his success - getting groundballs and limiting free passes - but I doubt he posts another ERA that low (3.43). He's more of a mid-rotation starter to me, which is less glamorous but certainly still valuable. Matusz will definitely break camp with the club, and might already be the team's best starter (and if not now, then by the end of the year). Tillman will start out the season in the minors - he still needs to work on a few things (more K’s, fewer BB and HR) - with David Hernandez getting the 5th starter spot, but he'll be up before too long and should get plenty of innings in the majors. Arrieta and Erbe might see a cup of coffee at the end of the year, but I don't expect them to really contribute unless there is a big wave of injuries to the first 7-8 guys on the depth chart.

FY: With all this young talent, when should we Yankee fans start to worry about the O's becoming a legitimate threat in the division?

DM: Not this season - or maybe even next - but by 2012 I do expect the O's to be contending with the Yankees (and Red Sox and Rays, and maybe Blue Jays, depending on how quickly they can turn things around). If the Yankees get old quickly and the free agent well starts to run a little dry, then Baltimore might be in a pretty good position to capitalize on it. It's a very tough division though.

FY: What are your feelings on the return of Miguel Tejada? What have you heard about his defensive transition to third base? Does he deserve to be hitting cleanup? What are the chances Josh Bell sees some playing time at the hot corner this year?

DM: I like Tejada, so it's nice to see him back. The contract wasn't bad, and the only reason I didn't think the deal made sense was because it pushed Garrett Atkins to first-base (where he's especially overpaid). He's made 5 errors at third this Spring, but I think he'll adjust relatively well to the position and be average to only a little below. He shouldn't be batting clean-up, since he's maybe the team's 7th best hitter at this point and so should be further down in the line-up. Bell - like Arrieta and Erbe - will probably make an appearance later in the year, but everything I've heard leads me to believe that Miggy is the team's third-baseman for 2010.

FY: And lastly, can you list off the order you think the AL East will finish in this season?

DM: Yankees, Red Sox (Wild Card), Rays ... gap... Orioles, Blue Jays. The top three should be pretty close though.

FY: Daniel, thanks for your time.

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