Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoughts on Brian Roberts & the Back of the Rotation

Many people think that Brian Roberts will be traded to the Cubs before the end of Spring Training. Andy MacPhail insists that there are several clubs still expressing interest in Roberts, but the Cubs are the only ones we hear about and are the most likely destination. I’d love for the Rockies to get involved, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. I have gone back and forth on whether or not I believe it’s wise to trade Roberts now or wait until mid-season, or even next off-season. Part of that reservation has been my doubts of how well the Cubs available players really match up with our needs, and part of it has been my fear of what taking Brian Roberts out of our lineup would mean.

Roberts is our lead-off hitter, our catalyst, and he is very good at that job. He does all the things that are expected of a lead-off hitter and he does them well; he hits for average, has a good OBP, makes pitchers work, sees a lot of pitches, he steals bases and does it with a high success rate. The problem is that there is no one else in the organization even close to major league ready who shows this skills set. Finding his replacement is a daunting task.

I know that as a rebuilding club we shouldn’t worry about this too much. We just need to stockpile as much talent as we can, regardless of where they play and what they do well. We can put the pieces together and complete the puzzle later. But with Roberts gone, the best in house alternatives would be Melvin Mora, if he can rebound a little, or Nick Markakis, if we wanted to move him out of the 3 spot where the O’s envision him being for years to come.

However, a player who may have surfaced briefly in the beginning of Roberts/Cubs rumors has resurfaced and peaked my interest. He is second baseman/outfielder Eric Patterson. I had dismissed him early on, thinking he wasn’t worth pursuing. The knock on him was that many baseball people don’t see him sticking at second base. That’s why he’s started to see some time in the outfield, but his arm isn’t very strong so he’s best suited to left field, where we want to start playing someone with power, such as Luke Scott or prospect Nolan Reimold. But if the Orioles think Patterson can stick at second base, or at least are interested in giving him every chance to do so, he would make a lot of sense for the Orioles. Patterson would become the best candidate for the lead-off spot. In the minors he has shown a lot of the same offensive skills as Brian Roberts, with maybe a little more power. All he needs to do is prove he can stay at second base.

Update on the competition for the back of the rotation:

RHP Matt Albers and LHP Garrett Olsen pitched in intra-squad scrimmages today, throwing two innings a piece. Each had their moments, good and bad.

Albers’ velocity impressed and he pelted the strike zone throwing 20 of his 26 pitches for strikes. He also gave up a long homerun to Kevin Millar. He could be someone to watch. Troy Patton was and is looked at as the best pitcher in the Tejada trade with Houston, as he is polished and a good bet to fulfill his potential as a middle of the rotation starter. But many insiders think that Albers has a higher ceiling. He has better stuff. He just needs to work on his command and polish up that change-up. Without it he essentially throws only 2 pitches and will be destined for relief.

Olsen needs to improve if he wants to make good on my prediction of him making the rotation. He has displayed great control in the minors, but during his big league audition at the end of last year he didn’t show any confidence in his stuff and started nibbling around the plate, falling behind hitters constantly. Nothing has changed as he only threw 14 of his 30 pitches for strikes today. He also hit two batters. However, he did hold the opposition scoreless.

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