CC.com Community Projection Results: The Hitters

As always, we sway toward the optimistic in many projections. We're fans, what can you do?

We'll just go in alphabetical order, which leads us straight into the man of the hour, the man with no power, the one, the only...

JAY GIBBONS, "OF" 

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  136  .222  .265  .317    6    3    10    6  26

Yep -- that's the real projected line for Jay Gibbons. I'm guessing most assume he'll be cut or traded or sent to a big farm to play with the other truly performance-enhanced dogs, but whatever the reason is, I think true feelings come out a lot in human projections for baseball stats, which is sort of a weird thing to say. Clearly, the people have spoken on Jay Gibbons, and we demand that he got off our plane.

It's easy to forget that Gibbons was once a guy pretty hard not to root for. He came over as a Rule 5 pick, the prize of the Syd Thrift era -- which, all things considered, is terribly, terribly sad and is even further evidence of how clueless and inept Thrift was during his time in Baltimore. It's always been hard for me to understand how Thrift could be THAT bad at his job. But when Jay Gibbons, who at his best was fairly good, is the king mother of your many transactions, you are especially horrible.

RAMON HERNANDEZ, C

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   RBI   BB   K

  409  .265  .331  .425   14    63   36  69


Ramon's an interesting case. I thought he was a solid pickup by the club even though we still had Javy Lopez under contract, and I still think he wasn't a bad addition by any means. He had a good first year before struggling with injuries last season, but injuries are something I was prepared to accept with the Razor. He's just not all that durable.

What's bothersome NOW is that this is a rebuilding club, and having a decent-hitting veteran catcher isn't exactly a priority. So if he can be traded, you gotta do it, right? And trust me, there will be someone in the market for Hernandez if he stays off the DL this season. Someone's catcher will go down, or they'll want to add a bat and find Ramon affordable and get the added bonus of the fact that he wears the mask and squats.

On the other hand, he has a good reputation for working with pitching staffs, for whatever that's worth, and that's probably got at least some real value to our team. Steve Trachsel might not be around for very long, which would leave Daniel Cabrera and his occasional lunacy as the veteran leader of the rotation. How much advice can you get from Jamie Walker? "Throw it soft, somehow they don't hit it far." Or Bradford? "Try throwing underhand!"

That line is pretty in sync his career averages (.263/.328/.423), too. At 32 in May, that's probably the best that you can hope for.

AUBREY HUFF, LF/CI/DH 

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  460  .268  .331  .421   23   15    63   41  81 

 

Oh, Aubrey. Whatever can be done with you?

The sad truth of the matter is he's still one of the most talented hitters on the team, which isn't saying a whole lot, granted, but it makes him a pretty useful spare part for some other team. Which is the hope, of course. That we send him to some other team.

Giving Huff the benefit of the doubt would be a mistake, too. He made no friends on his way out of Tampa, and wasn't in Houston long enough to ruffle any feathers there as far as I ever heard. It took him less than a season to annoy the hell out of O's fans with his play in the field, and then it was over with once he made his now infamous comments about the city of Baltimore while on that moronic, sub-modern Howard Stern radio show.

Huff is now an average hitter and bad glove at all three of his positions. As a DH, he makes little sense since he doesn't H enough to be a guy for whom you D the role. For all the guff Millar takes as a first baseman for being fat, he's actually way better than Huff. I'll never forget Sam Perlozzo giving Huff the third degree in the dugout after a particularly boneheaded mistake at first base last year. Perlozzo looked as dumbfounded as anyone could.

ADAM JONES, CF

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  490  .264  .325  .452   27   18    69   38  108


This is what you'd call guarded optimism. That's not a huge year, but it's a pretty good one for a still rather raw player who reportedly has trouble with breaking pitches and doesn't turn 23 until August.

I don't like to give out stuff from Baseball Prospectus often, partially because you should definitely buy the book, but their PECOTA line for Jones in Seattle is quite similar to what we came up with, at .266/.329/.449.

Nick Markakis struggled early in 2006 and rebounded to have a really solid rookie season, followed by a strong sophomore campaign. Jones will have his share of awful, awful days where he looks overmatched. But the hope is that with every day play in the major leagues, he learns from mistakes by making them at the highest level of competition. He's a tremendous athlete, has all the tools, but isn't outright "toolsy." While I think you could say Markakis has better baseball skills than Jones, Jones has the much higher ceiling. 

He also seems genuinely excited to be somewhere where he'll undoubtedly play every day unless he plays himself out of the starting lineup.  We're a team that can afford to be very, very patient with Jones, which should benefit him. And while I'm not the world's biggest Dave Trembley fan, I think Trembley's great experience managing in the minors will help him communicate with Jones and keep him from getting too down on himself should he come out of the gates cold.

It's as close to a perfect situation as Jones can get, I think, just as far as his own personal experience. The team could be better, admittedly.

NICK MARKAKIS, RF

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI

  605  .299  .374  .504   42   26   102

                          SB   BB   K

                          15   72  104


Nick Markakis has never projected as a real stud ballplayer, but here he is, the No. 1 and best player on the team. Some of that is because we traded Bedard and Tejada, and some of it is just because he's already really good.

The one thing about Markakis that gives me some pause is that he really might never get much better than he is, but a decade or so of that type of production would make him one of the best players to ever put on an Orioles uniform. He'd be top ten, easy. Expecting anyone to get up there with Cal, Brooks, Palmer, Eddie and Frank would be unwise, but...

You know, he could be an Eddie Murray type of guy. I'm not saying he'll be as great as Murray was, but he could be that every year type of ballplayer that puts up his numbers, does his job, and helps you win ballgames. He is the Face of the Franchise now, the man who's meant to lead us into a new era of Orioles baseball, one that takes us out of the worst period in the modern existence of the franchise.

But hey, no pressure, Nick.

As far as Faces of the Franchise go, you can't make one any better than Markakis. He's good, he's young, and let's face it, he's a handsome SOB. As Brian Roberts starts to watch his hairline recede, Markickass will be counted on to bring the ladies into the park. And I'm still upset that no one in the O's front office ran with my idea to build a marketing campaign geared toward women that centered on Roberts, Markakis and the also-good lookin' Corey Patterson.

KEVIN MILLAR, 1B

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   RBI   BB   K

  397  .262  .359  .411   13    55   58  79


Kevbo is going to start the year in the cleanup spot, and if he stays healthy and in that role, he'll have plenty of RBI chances. But I don't think he's going to stay in the four spot for very long.

One of my favorite moments last year involved Millar. It was a game where the O's were rallying, and he didn't start. It was an obvious "Send Millar up!" type of moment, but obvious moments have never been all that obvious for the recent stretch of O's skippers.

The camera was in the fixed at-bat position, on the pitcher's back. It was probably considered shoddy camera work, actually, because they should've been looking at anything else between ABs, and there was a moment where nothing happened. All of a sudden, Millar came strolling into view with his bat, still adjusting his helmet and eyeing the pitcher. Very dramatic moment. I think he grounded out.

There were definitely points last year where it seemed like the fastballs were getting too fast for Kevbo, and I'm fearful that that's going to get worse in '08. His average dipped well below the norm, as 2007 was the first season since 2000 that he didn't hit at least .270. He doesn't have any real power anymore, which is odd to think when you look at him, but he was always a doubles hitter more than anything else. His patience has improved, and it's really his one true asset outside of being Kevin Millar.

I like the guy, but every season is one closer to his inevitable and surely ugly collapse.

SCOTT MOORE, 3B/1B/OF?/2B?/EVEN SS?

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  373  .260  .320  .437   17   14    55   33  112


Moore, Moore, Moore! How do you like it? How do you like it?

Scott Moore and Mike Costanzo are the exact same player. They both have some pop, both bat lefty, both throw northpaw, are the same age, came to the O's in trade, are third basemen by trade but willing to play wherever they have to to get into the bigs -- Moore has taken on everything he could this spring with Mora blocking the way at the hot corner, and someone convinced Costanzo that giving catching a shot would be a good idea.

Because of his willingness to play any position, it's assumed Moore is just a real go-getter, a hell of a guy, the type you want on your team. And unlike Brandon Fahey, who's just as gung ho, he can actually play a little bit. We'd be better off giving Moore ABs than giving them to Mora and Millar, really, even if he didn't match their production. But Moore's got some troublesome flaws, with low patience and high strikeouts, which just looks bad on a stat sheet no matter who's looking at it. He's not a total hacker, but he swings like a guy who should be hitting 35 homers in the minors, not 20.

He's never going to be a star. But he could be a perfectly fine player. Considering his price, that beats our two corner infielders and Aubrey Huff every day of the week.

MELVIN MORA, 3B

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  430  .266  .333  .400   19   11    55   39  74


We expect Mora the same from Melvin this year, as he continues to age.

Melvin Mora could be something of a cautionary tale about the Scott Moores of the world, too. What was once a hard-workin' guy who was willing to take his glove wherever it was needed just to stay in the lineup is now a player who is so against the idea of moving off of third base that he passed on representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic because they would've wanted him to play center field. He presented some good reasons, such as, "I haven't played there in a long time," but he also bizarrely said he would have made the move had it been for Edgardo Alfonzo, just not Miguel Cabrera.

And I'm not trying to blame him for saying, "No, I'm not moving. This is where I play now." He's the third baseman. He's 36 years old and he plays third base now. He probably doesn't have the legs to be out in left every day anymore, let alone center. He has every right to staunchly hold his position, literally and figuratively.

He's a guy that should be traded by a team like this, but the only rumor that really came up was the Phillies. While Tejada is still a good-hitting shortstop (even though he needs to be playing third himself at this point) and Bedard is a breakout ace lefty, Mora is, after all, a clearly declining 36-year old third baseman with a mediocre glove at best. I'd all but guarantee he'll never hit .300 again, let alone contend for batting titles. His power has taken a big hit, too, so he's not even really maintaining old player skills.

While athletes today are remaining relevant longer than in the past, there are still ten Melvin Moras who really start to show their age at 35 for every guy who still performs at a high level into his 40s. Mora is exactly where everyone should expect him to be at this stage of his career. His late bloom made for a short prime.

BRIAN ROBERTS, 2B

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI

  602  .295  .392  .448   43   15    64

                           SB   BB   K

                           47   86  93


Brian Bob remains an Oriole, something that at various points this offseason looked like it wouldn't happen. But after negotiations with the Cubs never got too far, we'll have our familiar leadoff man on Opening Day.

Roberts' 2007 was a minor revelation in his career. It was immediately agreed upon that 2005 was a huge career year bolstered by the amazing early season power run that bulked his homer total up to 18, but anyone that thought after 2006, "Is this all there is?" was certainly excused for being skeptical. It wasn't much of a season in the real world, though it was a fine 5x5 roto campaign for his fantasy owners.

In '07, he turned into a walkin' fool, taking 89 free passes (six intentional), and on top of that, he turned into a major base-stealing asset, going 50-for-57, the first Oriole to swipe 50 bags since Brady Anderson in 1992. (His 186 steals ranks third among all 1954-present O's, behind Anderson and Al Bumbry, at 307 and 252, respectively.)

Roberts turned 30 last October. Speed players tend to age just fine, and he could hang around forever, the way Kenny Lofton has. The .377 OBP he put up last year was the second-best total of his career, behind only his .387 mark in '05. Other than those two seasons, he's never been over .350. He always strikes me as a player who runs very hot and cold -- not exactly streaky, but when his swing is on, you know it. And when it's not, you really know it.

It also remains a mystery to me why he continues to insist on switch-hitting, though his newly refined plate discipline helped matters last a year, as he put up a career-best .727 OPS from the right side, inflated by a .386 OBP. He has zero power from the right side of the plate -- as a lefty, he has a .798 career OPS; as a righty, .673 with a .349 slugging percentage. The difference is enormous.

LUKE SCOTT, LF

   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   2B   HR   RBI   BB   K

  514  .271  .359  .506   32   25    89   65  121


Actually putting up that line would make Scott's first season in Baltimore a great success. He's 30 years old and has never had a regular job in the majors, though he most certainly could have been given one.

His major league totals stack up pretty well into a 162-game season, as he's hit .273/.366/.516 over 663 at-bats, with 28 homers and 105 RBI. He might have a couple of All-Star type seasons in him, and he's certainly got what it takes to hit 30 homers, which would make him the first Oriole to do so since Tejada in 2004. 150 RBI is probably way too much to ask, though.

Should Scott deliver, it's almost certain he'll wind up batting fourth, left-right-left be damned. The team's two biggest power threats are both left-handed, and our best right-handed power bat might be Ramon Hernandez. Scott was a very savvy pickup by MacPhail, as it was clear the Astros didn't terribly value him. He seemed like a hand-picked guy (MacPhail has even alluded to just that) who was seen by Houston as more of a throw-in. "Sure, you can have him, too."

WHAT IT ALL MEANS!

Again, I think we lean toward the optimistic side in projections, and that's fine. But even if these were all spot-on accurate, the O's would still be struggling to plate enough runners to win more than maybe 65 games, and that's not even taking into account what promises to be a very shaky starting rotation.

Lazy sportswriters have become quite fond of saying, "It'll be a long season for Orioles fans," but they clearly don't understand that this is the first time we've had any legitimate hope for the future in a long, long time. It's been a long decade for Orioles fans. We've lost in all of the possible ways there are to lose. Bad pitching, bad hitting, bad managing, bad front office. Everything that can be bad has been, sometimes all of it happening at once. Outside of the miracle first half O's of 2005, there has not really been a single fun period in the last decade, except maybe the team that started a surprisingly competent 63-63 before the glorious 4-32 finish.

Yes, this team is going to stink. And how! But it's not quite as hopeless or pointless as it usually is, at least ideally. If it turns out some of the guys we think can play actually cannot, then that'll make it a longer-than-usual season.

But I've said this before, too -- there are going to be times this season when Markakis and Jones are both really hitting the ball, and we see what the future could hold. That's going to be exciting. Losing is nothing new. Michael Jordan once said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. What I can't accept is not trying."

For a decade now, the Orioles have essentially not even tried. Every hair-brained scheme they had was destined to fail from the word "go," because no one ever stopped to consider the big picture. Now, the ONLY thing the team is looking at, really, is the big picture.

I also don't think this team is going to lack character or guys busting their asses. A lot of these players are playing just to stay in the majors, which is a big incentive. And that could push the veterans if they start to feel like their jobs might be in jeopardy. Plus, to get traded (the hope of most of the vets, probably), you do have to play well in most cases.

They won't be chasing a pennant, or even anywhere close to one, but this team is filled with guys who are absolutely playing for a reason. I've called it a forfeit season, but that's probably not the right word. I'm absolutely more looking forward to this team than I did any in the recent past.

And, hey, everyone has SOME shot.

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