Q&A With Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies

Happy Opening Day!  To help ring in the new season here at FB365, Daniel Moroz of the great Orioles blog Camden Crazies takes a few minutes to talk Orioles baseball and what we can expect from some of the key Orioles players this season as well as a few prospects looking to make an impact just around the corner.

I recently predicted that Brian Matusz will win the Rookie of the Year award.  What do you think he can realistically produce in the W, SO, ERA, WHIP categories in his first full Major League season?

I’ve got Matusz at about 150 innings pitched this season, which at 5.75 innings per start would be about 26 games. I think he’ll be a little above average – an ERA around 4.15 – which on a slightly below average team (I’m thinking 75-76 wins or so) would allow Matusz to rack up maybe 9-10 wins or so. WHIP of around 1.35 (about a hit an inning and a touch over 3 walks per nine), and 125 K’s (7.5 K/9). I may be a little higher on him than the projection systems, but I think he’s pretty polished and has four average to plus pitches that he can locate effectively already. I’m on his RoY bandwagon as well.

Adam Jones has yet to play 135 games in a Major League season, yet his draft stock was considerably high on draft day. What does his best season look like and is that season 2010?
I think in his prime Jones will hit something like .300/.375/.500 with upwards of 30 HR. He’s only 24 years old though, so there’s probably a couple years before we see quite that level of patience and power. This year I’m not looking for much of an improvement over ’09, with a line around .280/.335/.460 and maybe 20 home runs or so, plus 8-10 steals. He still has a lot of raw talent though, so a break-out towards that peak wouldn’t be completely shocking.
Look, Matt Wieters is a golden god.  Heck, he even has a website dedicated to facts about his life.  How much improvement can we expect in 2010 and how long will it take for him to reach his peak season?

I think he’ll improve – with more walks and some extra power production – to something like .285/.350/.450. He obviously could go crazy on the league, but I think that’s still a couple of years away. Making adjustments in the majors is hard, and Wieters has to work on catching the pitchers as well. It’s actually a little funny, since people assume that since I started Matt Wieters Facts that I’d be a huge Wieters booster, but I’ve been a little more down* on him than most so far.

* I call it “realistic”, but one’s mileage may vary.

Does Nolan Reimold become the everyday left fielder for the Orioles this season or does he continue to have issues with his ankle and split time with Felix Pie?
I think Reimold will be the primary left-fielder, but Pie should still get plenty of time there. Partially because of the healing Achilles, and partially because Pie is the superior defensive player. If it was me, I might have made Pie the full-time LF, moved Reimold to DH, and had Luke Scott spend a lot of time this Spring learning first-base.
Can Nick Markakis go .300/25/20 season?
Nope. Not going to be stealing 20 bases, and 10 would probably be counted as his upside. A .300 average is more or less expected, and while I’d be more inclined to go with 20 home runs, 25 is pretty reasonable.
Garrett Atkins is done, right?
Not quite done – I think he’ll bounce back some, to around .265/.330/.425 – but he’s no longer an impact guy and his bat doesn’t play very well at first-base. Moving out of Coors and to the harder league doesn’t help either.
Over/under on 30 stolen bases from Brian Roberts this season?
Under. Partially because he’s been slowing down in recent years – http://camdencrazies.com/2010/03/22/brian-roberts-falling-stolen-base-total/ – and partially because he may may miss some time due to that back problem he’s had this Spring. 25 might be a better bet, though hopefully an improved line-up behind him will result in some more runs scored (on a per-game basis).
David Hernandez doesn’t get much hype, at all, but his strikeout rates have been very impressive in the minor leagues while showing decent command.  Is there a chance he makes a mixed league impact in 2010?
He did have big-time strike-out numbers in the minors, but I’m not sure how much that’ll carry over to the major leagues. He has some giddy-up on his fastball, but I don’t think it’s an especially great pitch. His breaking pitches are solid, but unless he can improve his command and control (4.1 BB/9 last year, and 4.5 BB/9 in Double-A the year before) I don’t see him striking out a ton of batters. He can help some in that category though, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hit in ERA (probably over 5), WHIP (around 1.5), and Wins (not more than 5-6, I’d think).
Speaking of young Orioles pitchers; Chris Tillman has some good stuff, but his command seems to hinder him a bit.  Is his ceiling a number three starter or can he push being a number two type guy?
His absolute ceiling is that of a #1, but it’s obviously not close to being a sure thing. He did a better job not walking batters in the majors than I expected last year (3.3 BB/9), and his change-up was also more advanced than I thought it would be – already average to maybe a little above, as opposed to something that needs a whole lot of work. The curve was plus-plus as advertised, but his fastball didn’t have quite the pop or the movement that I was looking for. Tillman’s main problem – like Hernandez above – was the longball (2.1 HR/9) as a result of being a flyball pitcher. He was working on a cutter this Spring, which if it allows him to generate some more groundballs could be a very useful weapon. Locating better down in the strike-zone would help with that as well. Tillman’s only going to be turning 22 this season, so he still has plenty of development time. I don’t think he’s a great fantasy option this year unless he starts out dominating in the minors and has shown that he’s made some adjustments before being called back up to the majors, but 2011 and beyond should be a different story.
Thoughts on Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe?  Who’s a starter and who’s ultimately a reliever?
For now my working assumption is that both are going to be starters, but if I had to assign roles it would be Arrieta in the rotation and Erbe in the pen. I think both have good stuff, so it comes down to command and who can develop their secondary pitchers a little more.
Does Josh Bell get a shot this season? And if so, does he hit enough to have value outside of AL-only leagues?
My understanding is that Miguel Tejada is the team’s third-baseman, but I’d guess that Bell gets some playing time later in the season. I don’t think he’d hit well enough to be that valuable anyway, but just by virtue of the playing time it probably doesn’t make sense to even worry about him until at least mid-season.
The Orioles are loaded with prospects.  Name one player for keeper and dynasty leagues to keep and eye one other than the obvious top prospects.
The guy I’m highest on is Zach Britton – even more than Arrieta or Erbe. He’s a lefty pitcher that’s moving up to Double-A and has induced a ton of groundballs in the minors (~66%) while upping his strike-out rate last year. If he keeps that power sinker working while continuing to miss bats – and improves his control – I think he’ll shoot up prospect lists. Not ace potential, but I’m looking for big things.
I am also a big fan of Zach Britton.  Lefties with his stuff don’t grow on trees.  He’s 22-years-old and should get his first action above A-ball this season.  Do you think there is a chance we see him in September or is 2011 more realistic?
2011, or maybe even into 2012 (spending ’11 in Triple-A), unless he really dominates and shoots through the system. I think there are enough guys in front of him that there’s no reason to rush him to the big leagues.
Be sure to follow Camden Crazies all season long for some of the best Orioles analysis anywhere.