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Put a bird on it!

Updated: 2017-02-22T10:00:03-05:00


A Birdland salute to Matt Wieters


The time has finally come to say good-bye to Matt Wieters. Once the expected Orioles franchise savior, he had a solid career and will be missed. The very moment that Matt Wieters first took the field for a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a rainbow appeared in the sky above the Warehouse. This seemed like it must have been an omen from the baseball gods. Wieters would save the franchise from the darkness, as was prophesied in the tomes of old. Wieters came to us from Georgia Tech, the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. The hype was there from the beginning. Before his MLB debut, pretty much the entire prospect-industrial complex agreed that Wieters was the best prospect in all of baseball. Here would be Joe Mauer, with power. He was Switch-Hitting Jesus. Chuck Norris dressed up as him for Halloween; no one survived when he took batting practice. These were the Matt Wieters Facts that envisioned his Hall of Fame plaque before he had ever played a professional game. Nearly ten years later, we know that reality is not quite so simple. Although Wieters hit 117 home runs as an Oriole, not one of them was a bases-empty grand slam. O’s fans were fond of saying, “Don’t. Run. Ever.” But it turned out that you could still run 67% of the time. And not only was he not Joe Mauer with power, he wasn’t even Joe Mauer. Yet the story of the Buck Showalter era of the Orioles, of a moribund franchise returning from the grave to the playoffs three times in five years, cannot be told without Wieters. When the Orioles got back to the postseason, finally, in 2012, Wieters started at catcher in 132 regular season games and threw out a staggering 39% of would-be base-stealers. He smashed a career-high 23 home runs, was selected to the All-Star team, and won one of his two Gold Gloves. He might not have been the best player in MLB, or even on the Orioles, but they couldn’t have done it without him. In the final accounting, we can probably say that Wieters gave the elbow with which he was born to the Orioles. He wasn’t a key figure in the 2014 AL East champion team since his arm exploded after about a month of baseball. This, after catching 1,201 innings the previous year and over 1,150 innings each of the two years before that. Catchers just don’t catch that much. Wieters did. He was a workhorse. Orioles teams both good and bad needed him, and there he was, with dingers, with a cannon of an arm, with walk-up music that could be counted on to make your ears bleed. If you ask an Orioles beat writer, Wieters was even largely responsible for developing young Orioles pitchers - the same young pitchers that the rest of the baseball media bashes the Orioles for not developing. How could we ever pick out one favorite Wieters highlight from an eight-year O’s career? He had many, including one from the very last regular season game he played as an Oriole, when he homered from each side of the plate to help the O’s win their finale and clinch their spot in the postseason. Or how about this glorious dong: id="48531" data-src="" data-aspect="1.7857" style="width:100%" frameborder="0"> The 16th freaking inning, with a position player on the mound, and there’s a ball hit that should have absolutely ended the game. But there was that Jones to Hardy to Wieters relay, with Marlon Byrd futilely attempting to displace Wieters. And there is Wieters, having held his ground, casually showing the ball to the umpire, the ultimate shit-eating grin on his face. I love that team so much. There are only 20 players in Orioles history who have ever played in more games for the team than Wieters. He’s in the same place with his 117 homers. Not many past Orioles are past him, and not many current or future Orioles will end up doing so either. In all likelihood, we will never see his like again. Wieters was drafted. He played. He is Birdland. With Wieters signing elsewhere, there are now just 13 players remaining fro[...]

Four recent Orioles additions, and whether they will mean anything


The Orioles have made four late acquisitions as spring training begins. We’ve seen these late additions before, but will they add up to anything this time? The Orioles under Dan Duquette have always made late in the offseason acquisitions. Some have been “big” splashes like Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Yovani Gallardo. While most of the others have been very minor pickups of veterans or former first round picks. The approach of “throw as much as possible against the wall and see what sticks.” This past week or so the Orioles have made four more additions to their Spring Training roster and all of them could have an opportunity to impact the 2017 season for the Orioles. Let’s run through them and see what each of them brings to the table. Craig Gentry Craig Gentry was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The 33 year old outfielder has bounced between the majors and minors for the past couple of seasons only playing in 26 games in 2015 and 14 games in 2016 at the major league level. Gentry has primarily played an above-average center field. At the plate he has a career line of .261/.335/.333 with a 7.2 percent walk rate and a 17.5 percent strikeout rate. The only two very productive seasons of Gentry’s career were in 2012 and 2013 with the Texas Rangers largely fueled by running very high BABIPs. In fact, Gentry’s career BABIP is .320, a testament to both his luck and probably his foot speed. He has also graded out as a plus base runner in his career stealing 20 or more bases two times. For the Orioles, he is a plus defender in the outfield and can play center field. They need both desperately. He also brings base running skills that most of the team lacks. At the plate he does not bring much. He has posted a career 97 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, but only a 72 wRC+ against right handed pitchers. If Gentry makes the team he will be relegated to a platoon situation most likely in left field. If the Orioles want to give Joey Rickard more seasoning in the minors, Gentry would not be a bad option to fill Rickard’s spot. Michael Bourn You all remember Michael Bourn from last year. The 34 year old left-handed hitting outfielder is essentially the same player as Craig Gentry, but he bats left-handed. He has received more solid playing time in recent years, but has still struggled to be the player he once was back in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Bourn is probably best left to a corner outfield spot these days as well. However, he is still at least an average defender and has plus base running skills. Much like Gentry, Bourn brings skills the Orioles need. He can actually catch a ball if it is hit towards the outfield and he can actually manage to advance two bases without being thrown out. He only has a career 92 wRC+ against right handed pitching, so his platoon potential is not that great. Bourn could still have a role to play. His minor league contract comes with an opt-out so it is likely he does not make the Opening Day roster, but an injury or two could open the door for him. Vidal Nuno The Orioles traded right-handed pitcher Ryan Moseley for the right to call Vidal Nuno their own. Nuno is a 29 year old left-handed pitcher. He has pitched for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Mariners in his career. Last season he was almost completed relegated to the bullpen appearing in 55 games, but starting only 1 of them. 2014 was the last season he was a starting pitcher the majority of the time and he posted a 4.56 ERA. Last season in relief he posted a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings of work. Nuno is left-handed pitcher so he has a leg up on the competition. He also a minor league option which is pure gold to in the eyes of the Orioles. Funny enough Nuno will be replacing the guy he kicked off the 40 man roster, T.J. McFarland. Nuno has a career wOBA against of .282 when pitching to left-handed batters, but a .344 when going against right-handed hitters. He also cannot keep the ball on the ground with only a 38.6 percent career groun[...]

Wednesday Bird Droppings: Intrasquad games continue



The Orioles played their first intrasquad game yesterday and will play another one today. Zach Britton will not be participating due to a sore oblique. NO!

Happy Wednesday to all you Camden Chatters. We are halfway through another week and just 40 days from Opening Day. The number 40 has been worn by a number of players in the recent past including the elusive Troy Patton from 2010-2014. But did you know it was also the number that Brooks Robinson was given in his rookie season of 1955? That was before he settled into the more familiar (and now retired) number five.

Let's check out some spring training links:

Orioles notes: Zach Britton to be held out of second intrasquad game - Baltimore Sun
Are you looking for a reason to panic? Look no further than a sore oblique on Zach Britton. They are playing it down saying that he pitched fine Monday but is showing "symptoms" of an oblique issue, almost as if the rest is preemptive. We'll see.

Though their careers are in different places, Orioles' Machado and Andino share a tight bond - Baltimore Sun
Manny and Andino are super close. I hope Schoop doesn't get jealous.

Jimenez putting thoughts of free agency on hold - School of Roch
Do you think it's possible that Ubaldo Jimenez will have a really good contract year? Probably not.

Spring Training 2017: Three O's With Something To Prove - Camden Depot
He actually writes about four Orioles with something to prove, including J.J. Hardy. I'm not sure why he chose Hardy unless trying to stay healthy is proving something.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have a number of Orioles birthday buddies, most notably Steve Barber. Barber spent eight seasons with the Orioles, from 1960-67, putting up very solid number as a starting pitcher. Barber ranked at #32 in our top 40 Orioles of all time series.

Other Orioles celebrating today include journeymen Kelly Johnson and John Halama along with Brian Duensing, Ramon Nivar, and Ryne Duren.

On this day in 2014 the Orioles signed Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal. That was a good day.

Orioles acquire Richard Bleier from Yankees, designate Christian Walker


The Orioles have spent February stockpiling fringe lefties from wherever they can get them. Richard Bleier is only the latest one. The Orioles have spent February stockpiling lefty arms and optionable arms. They added another one of these in acquiring Richard Bleier from the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon. The O’s committed to send a player to be named later to New York as part of the trade. Presumably, it won’t be anyone who matters. To make room on the roster for Bleier, the Orioles designated Christian Walker for assignment. That’s sad news for the contingent of Walker fans on Camden Chat and not very sad news for anyone else. After being passed on the first base prospect depth chart by Trey Mancini, there wasn’t much of a place for Walker. That’s even more true with the multi-year contracts given to Chris Davis last offseason and Mark Trumbo this offseason. The Orioles didn’t even call Walker up last September. If Walker turns out to be a late-blooming useful MLBer - he’ll be 26 in March - more power to him. For now, he’s a guy who posted a .757 OPS at age 25 in Triple-A. Not exactly forcing himself into the big league picture. As for Bleier, he was on the market after having been DFA’d by the Yankees on February 16 when they signed Chris Carter. The lefty will be 30 shortly after Opening Day, so he’s not exactly some young arm with potential. After being drafted by the Rangers in the sixth round in the 2008 draft, he’s also been through the Blue Jays and Nationals organizations. Bleier had some modest success last season out of the Yankees bullpen, his first ever taste of big league action. In 23 games, Bleier had a 1.96 ERA while holding lefties to a .409 OPS. It’s a small sample size, and possibly one where he was lucky: He only struck out 13 batters in 23 innings and did not give up any home runs. That low strikeout rate is in line with Bleier’s minor league performance. In the 2015 season, when Bleier was still used mostly as a starting pitcher at Double-A, he pitched 171.2 innings and struck out only 65 batters. That kind of strikeout rate worked for a pitcher like Scott McGregor in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but there aren’t many pitchers today who can succeed with so few strikeouts. Working in Bleier’s favor is that he got the ball on the ground 54% of the time. If that’s not a fluke, that might help him find some success even without many strikeouts. The Orioles track record of developing starting pitching may be poor, but their track record of developing relievers with funky arm actions into successful big leaguers has been good lately. They may think Bleier can be a part of that tribe. With Bleier getting his first ever call-up last offseason, he’s got the full complement of minor league options. The Orioles can stash him in Norfolk in case somebody gets hurt, or in case he pitches so well that there’s no ignoring him. Or they might DFA him before the end of spring training. You never know with Dan Duquette. [...]

Matt Wieters finally signs, can opt out after one year with Nationals


Matt Wieters is officially an Oriole no more. He’s reached an agreement with the Nationals for up to two years and $21 million guaranteed. Orioles fans who, for whatever reason, have been unable to bear the thought of not getting to see Matt Wieters play any more can take heart. Wieters finally signed on Tuesday and he won’t be very far away. The neighboring Washington Nationals have turned out to be the team to finally take the plunge on Wieters. The deal is still pending a physical, so it’s not official yet, but close enough. The contract turns out to be structured similarly to the one that the Orioles gave to Welington Castillo two months earlier. Wieters got a two-year deal from the Nationals but has the option to opt out after only one year if he puts together a monster season at age 31 despite not demonstrating that capability in eight previous big league seasons. Wieters gets more money than Castillo, though. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the contract’s value is $21 million guaranteed, with $10 million of that coming this season and $11 million for next season if Wieters does not exercise the opt-out. Castillo’s contract is for at most $13 million, with $6 million in salary for this season. The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes added that up to $5 million of the salary will be deferred through 2021. Whether the Orioles would have signed Wieters at this price if they could have done so two months ago is a natural question to wonder. I think that they might have, because we’ve seen this offseason how much they like their guys, but this wouldn’t have been the price two months ago, or even two weeks ago. Agent Scott Boras seems to have been asking for the moon, dropping ridiculous comparisons like calling Wieters “Carlton Fisk-like” and attempting to Jedi mind trick away any concerns about Wieters’ poor pitch framing ability. There was that interview last week where Boras said Wieters was like Brian McCann offensively (he’s not) and Russell Martin defensively (he’s not) and therefore deserves a similar contract to them. Only after this long could Boras finally connect with a team, and this, at least according to Rosenthal, was over “lukewarm” front office interest and the result of a direct connection with ownership. The Nationals seemed to be the destination always expected among the baseball talking class for Wieters, probably because of that strong Boras-Nats owner connection. The Nats catching situation was only a little bit less dire than how things were for the Orioles before they signed Castillo. You don’t want to go into April with your catchers being Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton. Even if Wieters scuffs along to another below league-average hitting season, he’s probably a better choice than those guys. So maybe it’ll work out for everybody. It’ll be weird to see Wieters, the one-time franchise savior who never was as good as they said he would be, playing on the lesser half of MASN. It would have been weird to see him in any other team’s uniform. He’s been an Oriole forever and now he won’t be. That’s the way it goes. [...]

Camden Chat’s 2017 top 25 Orioles prospects list


We asked you to vote on the top Orioles prospects right now and the votes are in. Chance Sisco is at the top, but what about the rest? Unless you’re Dan Duquette or Buck Showalter, you probably don’t think that the Orioles farm system is very good. The experts certainly don’t think it’s very good. But this isn’t about what they think, it’s about what you thought. Last week, I posted a prospect poll for the Camden Chat community to vote on the top 25 names in the system, generating a ranking based on how players were selected in an endless (until you got bored) series of head-to-head votes. Nearly 9,000 votes were cast in all to generate the list of prospects. Will Camden Chat’s ranking do better than the experts? Here’s who the community liked and in what order: 1. Chance Sisco, C One place where everyone agrees is Sisco, who is the only top 100 caliber prospect on anyone’s rankings. Sisco’s “The Good” column from Baseball Prospectus sounds good indeed: Sisco will hit. He ticks all the boxes you look for when projecting a plus major-league hit tool: Good zone control, short to the ball, quick wrists with barrel control. He’s comfortable deep in counts and should add a shiny OBP to the profile as well. He’s improved his defense behind the plate to the point where you’re more confident he sticks at catcher. The arm is average, and his catch/throw and receiving actions have improved in 2016. If Sisco was ready right now, the Orioles probably wouldn’t have signed Welington Castillo. Runners in Double-A last year had something of a track meet against Sisco. But you’ve got to love a .402 OBP, even if he hasn’t got much in the way of power. 2. Cody Sedlock, RHP The Orioles’ top pick in last year’s draft came from the University of Illinois. He has his boosters among the prospect-industrial complex, including ESPN’s Keith Law: Sedlock was a top guy on my draft board, just missing the top 100; he’s a three-pitch starter with mid-rotation upside, although some scouts don’t love his delivery and I think he needs to get off the extreme third-base end of the rubber. Doesn’t exactly sound like the next Clayton Kershaw there, but considering the Orioles failure to develop any of the hoped-for mid-rotation talent of late, it’d be nice if they could succeed with one for once. Sedlock will be starting this season at High-A Frederick, the kind of track that could see him getting big league action late next year. 3. Hunter Harvey, RHP A higher ranking here than many places, probably because he’s a name people know, even if the only reason Orioles fans might know about him is because he keeps getting hurt. The Orioles drafted him in 2013 and here’s what BP wrote about him this year: On talent/stuff/OFP/whatever, Harvey is the best prospect in the system. He threw 12 innings this year before finally going under the knife. He’s never thrown more than 87 innings in a pro season. He has thrown 125 innings total in a four-year pro career. He still may have top-of-the-rotation upside, but at what point do you say: “I have no idea if this guy will ever be able to physically pitch?” For BP, he reached that point: He wasn’t listed on the Orioles top 10 prospects. He’ll probably miss most or all of the 2017 season. The Orioles will actually have to think about protecting him from the Rule 5 draft in November before Harvey ever pitches higher than Low-A. 4. Ryan Mountcastle, SS The CC community is also a bit higher on Mountcastle than most of the experts are. The Orioles seem to want to hype him - after all, he got an introductory press conference at Camden Yards even though he wasn’t even the highest draft pick two years ago. SB Nation’s John Sickels at Minor League Ball is one of the people who does rank Mountcastle highly in the system: Optimists love (Mountcastle’s) overall athleticism and power potential, and think his instincts wil[...]

D.J. Stewart needs to have a big summer if he’s ever going to make the Orioles


The Orioles former top pick is falling down the pecking order of the organization’s top prospects. On Monday, MLB Pipeline released their list of the top 30 prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. There were few surprises. Catcher Chance Sisco is number one. He is joined in the top five by pitchers Cody Sedlock and Hunter Harvey, infielder Ryan Mountcastle and southpaw-smasher Trey Mancini. Without a doubt, the biggest disappointment is down at number 26, where the 25th overall pick of the 2015 draft from Florida State, outfielder D.J. Stewart, can be found. The now-23-year-old Stewart has, overall, been a letdown. As a college hitter drafted in the first round, the expectation was that he would move quickly through the farm system and slot into one of the corner outfield spots as soon as late last summer. Instead, he has moved at a glacial pace and just finished 2016 with the high-A Frederick Keys. But just as those expectations can be a curse, providing extreme pressure, they can also be a blessing, granting a player more time to develop and requiring more patience from decision-makers. Stewart still has a fair chance at being a major league contributor eventually, but will need to make some serious moves this season in order to do so. Competition is mounting The Orioles used two Rule 5 draft picks on outfielders in December. Now, both players (Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander) are rated higher than Stewart by MLB Pipeline; ninth and 25th, respectively. Not to mention, Joey Rickard was picked up the same way one year earlier. These rankings are not a direct reflection of how the organization itself views the players. However, these moves can easily be seen as condemnations of Stewart, his development and the type of the player the Orioles higher-ups believe he can be after watching him play baseball for the better part of two years. Basically, it would seem, they aren’t buying what he is selling. Beyond the Rule5 trio, there are fellow top 30 prospects like Mancini, Christian Walker, Randy Gassaway, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins who may also be vying for a spot in the Baltimore outfield soon. This type of clustered talent becomes even more dangerous for Stewart as he lacks a defining trait that puts him well above all of the others he is competing against. Mancini has the best all-around bat. Mullins is the fastest. Hays has the best arm. Gassaway is the power hitter. Where does Stewart fit in? Maybe getting on base? More on that in a minute. Showing improvement As Stewart jumps up a level, he does seem to raise his level of performance. He spent the final 59 games of 2016 with the Keys, his biggest test so far, and excelled, slashing .279/.389/.448 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 30 RBI. This is not an unheard of trend. Take Manny Machado for example. With double-A Bowie in 2012, Machado slashed .266/.352/.438 before going to the bigs and becoming an all-world talent. Now, Stewart is already four years older than Manny was at that time and will never be as good as him, but it’s possible that he struggles in the minors and succeeds at the next level. It has happened before. More recently, over 22 games in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, Stewart hit .244/.395/.384, walking 19 times and striking out 21 times. One thing he does seem to do consistently well is walk and have a good idea of where the strike zone is located. His career minor league on-base percentage of .346 is OK, but really impresses when you learn that his batting average is a measly .241. The Orioles stink at getting on base and this is a tool that tends to translate from one level to the next. This year it counts Stewart should start the season with the double-A Bowie Baysox. He is coming off the best year of his professional career and needs to be pushed just a touch more. The Eastern League is tough and will confirm whether or not he can truly han[...]

Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where the Orioles are going to play the Orioles


The Grapefruit League season starts later this week, but first, the Orioles will play a couple of games against themselves, including one today. In today's links, Bourn arrives again, a good O's deal and a "bad" one, and more. Hello, friends. There are now 41 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day. This number was worn most recently in the 2016 season by both Ariel Miranda and Tommy Hunter, and has also been worn by Orioles luminaries such as Steve Trachsel, Jeff Tackett, and Don Aase. Luminaries may be a bit of a stretch. One thing that makes today remarkable is that players in Orioles uniforms will be playing baseball. Sure, it's only going to be an intrasquad game, which of course doesn't count even in the exhibition standings that themselves do not count. But it's something! No, it won't be televised or on the radio. It won't matter much at all. It'll be happening, though, and another one will happen tomorrow before the real fake baseball games begin on Friday afternoon. Hopefully nobody gets hurt. Do you think the Orioles have any more news to make this spring? It's been a lot of minor league signings so far and the trade for Vidal Nuno. They still seem to want to get the band back together, even people like Michael Bourn who was only part of the band for a month last year. Bourn only got a minor league contract, but maybe he'll factor into the competition as spring goes along. And until somebody else signs Matt Wieters, some part of me kind of expects the Orioles will end up signing him even though that's probably not even a good idea. Let's hit the links. Around the blogO'sphere Always looking for value, Dan Duquette adds two veterans to Orioles roster - CBSSports.comOften, national baseball writers who parachute in to talk about the Orioles don't know what they're talking about, but this article about the acquisition of Nuno and signing of Bourn is an exception to that. Orioles notes: A deep crop of optionable arms in Baltimore and minor leagues - Baltimore SunWhether even one of those optionable arms has any value to the major league whatsoever is a question that remains to be answered, but there's no doubt there are several of them. Notes on Nuño, Ondrusek, Davis, Andino and more - School of RochRobert Andino says that there will not be a return of Andino at the Movies this season. My girlfriend was sad to hear this. Andino probably won't make the team anyway. Thoughts on re-signing Bourn and how it affects leadoff spot, outfield, Rickard, Jones - BaltimoreBaseball.comI think the answer to these is, "It doesn't," "it doesn't," "it doesn't," and "it doesn't." Dan Connolly's article takes a different tack and therefore has more and varied words. After Yankees reliever lost arbitration case, it got real messy - Steve MelewskiSometimes even ostensibly objective writers can't resist a little trolling. The Worst Transactions of the 2017 Offseason | FanGraphs BaseballGood news: The Orioles trade of Gallardo makes the list from the Mariners standpoint. Bad news: The Orioles signing of Mark Trumbo is even higher up the list. Here’s Where the Projections Disagree | FanGraphs BaseballApparently the ZiPS projection system likes the Orioles more than does the Steamer projection system. Does this amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world? No, probably not. Birthdays and anniversaries One lone former Oriole has a birthday today. Reserve outfielder Tom Shopay, who spent some time with the team in 1971, 1972, and 1975-77, turns 72. Happy birthday to him. Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Your birthday buddies for today include: Erotic essayist/memoirist Anais Nin (1903), poet/playwright W.H. Auden (1907), Baltimore-born philosopher John Rawls (1921), singer/pianist Nina Simone (1933), civil rights marcher and current sitting Congressman John Lewis (1940), cinema's Alan Rickman (1946), former University of Maryland[...]