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May 24, 2011

A Scout’s Take: Jones, Vlad, Guthrie, Markakis, Tillman

I am hoping this will become a semi-regular feature on “Orioles Insider” where we'll talk to a scout who has recently watched the Orioles or one of their affiliates. Yesterday, I spoke to a scout who was at the Orioles-Washington Nationals series over the weekend and got his opinion on several Orioles who made an impression on him, either good or bad.

On Adam Jones: “It seems like he’s got a little more maturity about him. He has a little more composure, a little better approach. He doesn’t do as many things at the plate where you say, ‘He’s just kind of a hacker up there.’ He’s making some adjustments. I think [Vladimir Guerrero] has kind of helped him because of how he plays the game and stays on the ball to right field. He’s not going to get out in front of anything. I think that carries over to guys who pay attention and want to get better. I think Jones does want to get better, and he sees that he can take something from Vladi and become a better player. On the bases, he seems to run hard. The other day, he scored from first base on a single, and he didn’t hold up at all. That’s a sign that he’s playing hard, he’s not taken anything for granted. In the outfield, he does it pretty easy, he’s plus out there. Running the bases, he’s average to plus there. Now swinging the bat, if he continues to understand the situation and stay within himself, he’s on his way. I’m not sure if it is it his vision or is it his approach that is causing him some issues [at the plate]. I’m still waiting to see. But it looked to me that he stayed on some balls to right field that I didn’t remember him doing before. I saw a little bit of [change there]. He used to be a dead fastball hitter, and any little wrinkle, you could get him to strike out or roll over. But now, I think you have to mix it up with him a little bit.”

On whether Guerrero has anything left: “I still think he has something left through at least this year. It depends on how he’s being used. If he plays the outfield a lot and has to run around, that’s the only way he knows how to play. By the end of the year, he might tail off and lose his legs. I’ve seen him do that before. But right now, he looks pretty solid. He basically won the game [Sunday]. They should use him as an example, that this is how you drive runs in. That would be my approach if I were these guys and somebody was passing through my team on the way to the Hall of Fame. I still think he has something in him to be a .290, 20-plus homer, and 90 to 100 RBI guy. And beyond that, just his presence alone helps. He always stands out to me.”

On Jeremy Guthrie and his outing Saturday: “Good velocity. I’ve seen him the same way every time. He keeps coming. He’s got the slider, he’s got that little curveball he gets over early in the count and then he starts to pound the corners. He’s got that cutter/slider that you have to keep watching. And he’s got enough fastball to keep you honest. He’s got weapons, there’s no question. Sometimes he loses them because he starts walking guys or he starts nibbling. I think he’s a No. 3 starter, a solid No. 3. If this guy is your third guy in a playoff deal, you have to feel pretty good about it. He’s not the best of what you want for that spot, but he’s pretty darn close. He’s going to compete, throw 94 to 96 [mph], work the corners. He’s got to make some pitches. The only thing that scares me is he’s not really a [strikeout] guy. He’ll flash it to you, but that's it. When he’s down in the zone, he’s great.”

On what he sees from the struggling Nick Markakis: “At the plate, he’s swinging early -- first pitch, second pitch -- too much, and not making hard contact. He just seems like he’s out of whack. He looks a little thin, a little skinnier to me, but he’s a wiry guy anyway. When I saw him two years ago, I thought, ‘This was Markakis?’ He’s got an old-school body. Last year, I saw him the same way as I do now, and I didn’t think twice about it. I thought he was going through a little slump, like he was trying to figure it out. But this year, he looks frustrated. I don’t know what to think. If he gets his mind right, it’s all in there. He’s still young enough to pull it all together. I don’t know what his offseason program is like, if he did anything differently. I’ll still give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s a solid, above-average outfielder with the ability to hit .300 and be a 16-to-20-home run guy.”

On Chris Tillman and his outing Sunday: “He was fine. He had a nice high angle, used his fastball early. If he can go in and out with that fastball, he’ll be OK. It’s fairly straight, but he’s got good angle. When he’s down in the zone, guys just see the top of the ball and it’s a good pitch. His breaking ball was working for him. He’s not an overly aggressive pitcher. He’s a bottom-of-the-rotation-type guy, maybe a fifth guy. I was a little disappointed in his velocity. He was 86 to 91 with a lot of 88s in there. He doesn’t really command a lot of presence with his physicality. It’s just his reputation of being a little less aggressive than what you’d like to see precedes him a little bit. I was fairly impressed with him early, but then he got into some jams. He did well to get out of them. He’s got to keep doing that and go seven, eight innings, not just five innings and throwing 100 pitches. That’s not pitching to contact enough. That’s being a little scared and not trusting your stuff or your stuff just isn’t that good.”

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (29)



I hope this becomes a regular, as it's nice to hear what scouts have to think.

I can't imagine the O's playing Vlad in the OF other than when they are at NL parks.

Jeff Z's reply: Me either and Showalter has mentioned on a couple of occasions when he talks about his disdain for interleague play that they'll lose their cleanup hitter in NL parks. That tells me that Vlad may not play the outfield at all, even in those games.

Jeff from that acouts point of view he isn't saying anything about NICK M that i haven't and a few others have been saying for the last 2 years. SOMETHING IS WRONG. Don't know what it is but something is wrong, i truly don't believe the mental part of the game is where it use to be.Everybody from his coach to the media always tells you that he puts his work in but i will always remember what EDDIE Murray said about nick and i will keep going back to it, doesn't seem to want to take is game to the next level, not aggressive enough at the plate.Nobody is going to tell me that there isn't something wrong with his arm, the velocity on his throws aren't even close to what it was.Jeff it must be human nature for people to try and protect there favorite ballplayers , like roberts and nick but at some point in time no matter what you can't keep going back years to what they use to do but you have to be judge on what you do for me now. They have to be judeged as significant disappointments in view of what was expected when they were both given those huge contract extensions.

Jeff Z's reply: I trust your take on it Bob but I never heard Eddie Murray's comments on that matter so I hesitate to react too much to them. But to be frank, I've seen Murray around the team for about 10 total days in Markakis' six-year career so I'll certainly put more stock in what I see and what the others that are around him on a regular basis say. He works his butt off and he cares. He cares too much probably which is why he's constantly in the video room before and after every game trying to study pitchers and what is wrong with his swing. But there's no doubt there's something wrong there that has really prevented him from moving into that upper echelon of player. I can't pinpoiint it at all. I think his confidence is obviously not what it was, and I guess that could be a big part of it. As for his arm, I've said on numerous occasions here that Markakis has been dealing with some shoulder soreness for several years that stems from his days as a pitcher. I think he showed on Sunday with that throw home to keep Werth from tagging that he still has enough arm strength, but it's no secret that his arm is not what it was.

Great stuff- I too hope it becomes a regular feature! Thanks Jeff.

I think Markakis has become very satisfied once he got his fat contract and has stopped working at the same level. I agree with his scrawniness and the fact he has gotten weaker (both from looking at him and from looking at his ISO (.185 in 07 and 08, .88 this year)). Consider what this guy is making the next three years, 43 million or 14 million + per season. For a team with payroll like the O's, that is superstar money and you are giving it to an average player. I still think Markakis' reputation (mainly due to the O's having had no one else the last couple years) exceeds what he actually does. Since this is the case, they ought to be looking to move him and if they can't do that and they can put him on waivers and have someone absorb the contract they should let him go.

Jeff Z's reply: Markakis certainly deserves some criticism, but saying that he's gotten fat and happy just flat out isn't true. The guy is one of the hardest workers on the team. Before and after games, you see him either in the video room or in the gym. He probably does even too much and presses because his struggles have gone to his head. Again, criticize away. He's making an awful lot of money to do what he's done over the last year-plus, but his work ethic isn't the reason for his struggles. I can promise you that.

Great stuff, Jeff. I love the insight from scouts ... it's unfiltered sand objective and real. Would love to see more stuff like this. Thanks.

Definitely try and keep this as a staple to the blog--good info that's straight forward--2 thumbs up.

I hate how people tend to see these athletic struggles as moral things: "O, Markakis hasn't played like he did 2 years ago, must be his attitude or work ethic." I am sure he works hard and cares (remember when he went out of his way to have a meeting with Angelos last year?)

That's not to say that his struggles can't be analyzed. I tend to think that pitchers in the past 2 seasons have been coming after him more, realizing that he wasn't really a power hitter, and that in response he has become over aggressive and that has cost him his selectivity (his greatest asset) and, at this point, has eroded his confidence.

I certainly don't know what the solution is: Nick's lack of power might just be his downfall. It was refreshing to see him load up and drive that inside fastball into the seats like he did last weekend in Tampa: perhaps more of that will make pitchers nibble, and then he can really work the strike zone and do what he does best. But that homer was off Sonnastine: those pitchers with better fast balls than Sonnastine (i.e.: most pitchers in the game) won't get that same treatment.

O, and I also really enjoy this aspect of the blog, Jeff.

Jeff Z's reply: Thank you. Your participation on this blog is always appreciated.

"Jeff it must be human nature for people to try and protect there favorite ballplayers"

Probably must also be human nature for people to constantly harp on and tear down the ones that AREN'T their favorites...

blancione - You are right about Markakis, he has looked lost at the plate for 2 plus years. When you talk about contracts that are regrettable, his extension has to be right up there. If he can't turn it around, this team will be in trouble.

Howver, it is frustrating when you say things like the team should cut ties with Roberts. He has been the one guy who has played at a high level for years, and he clearly still makes a difference. The tea went 30-29 with him last year compared to 33 -70 without him (I might be off a bit, but those are in the ball park). THis year, he was a huge part of the team's hot start. Take away that hot start, and the team is currently buried, just like last year.

As far as Markakis goes, I think unfortunately he is just not as good as we thought he was. Hopefully I am wrong, and he starts crushing it in the batters box again, but I am not going to question his work ethic or his approach because I don't think either is the problem.

Also, the biggest compliant anyone should have with this team is that for the past decade, we have had gaping holes at 1b and 3b and at clean up hitter in the line up, and after being here for 4+ years, we still have those same holes. Even more troubling is that our farm system is a joke, even after McFail has been here for all this time. Whith him constantly botching free agent signings and apparently not drafting well, I am not sure why his job is justified. I would fire him and hire anyone I could from the Marlins scouting department / front office.

Jeff-- Good Stuff. BTW a headline in the NY Post today reads O's Meet Royals (OBamas meeting with the Royal family). In light of tonight's game, kinda funny.

LOVE this feature. Would love to get an occasional minor leaguer assessment too. Thanks!

Jeff Z's reply: That will come. A little harder finding scouts for that because we're at the big league games and don't see who the scouts are watching the Oriole affiliates, but I'm sure will find some.

Keith I am not going to go around and around with you on this subject because it has been scrutized many many times. The reason i keep harping and will continue to keep harping is because these 2 ball players haven't lived up to there contract extensions period. If you think they have then your expectation level isn't that high and that is ok to but that is not ok for a team that is depending on the 2 players that they determined were the heart and soul of there team. What they did prior to those extensions are the reason they got those extension but what they have done since is underperform. And i will say it again privately the orioles feel the same way.

King i am not going to start with you about roberts again. Your points are very valid but only valid prior to last year. From that time on with all the time that he has missed you can't and shouldn't be happy with not only his performance but the fact that the orioles are now stuck with ageing, injury prone player. Now i for the life of me can't understand why you can't see that he is now undependable and injury prone. Your validation for him as a player was from 2 years ago and before and you can't keep taking about him like it's the present. Something that you always do. This isn't that hard to understand if you don't post here with your heart and watch games with your eyes.

I remember a Baseball Prospectus annual from a couple years ago, after a big year from Markakis, that listed his most similar players as guys whose production suddenly fell off -- Steve Kemp was one, I forget who the others were. The similarity scores were created by computer; the writer's analysis was that players who do everything fairly well but aren't great at any one thing might not age as well as we expect.

THANK YOU, Jeff. I love this type of info. I'd rather know what the opposition thinks than our own people (orange-colored glasses).

Re Jones: seemed like damning with faint praise..."a little more"; "a little better"; "he seems to"; "if he continues to understand"; "I saw a little bit of [change there]." And, i agree with that assessment.

What has surprised me about Jones is his attitude hasn't seemed as amenable as it did when the trade occurred.

Re Guthrie: "He’s not the best of what you want for that spot, but he’s pretty darn close. " I hope that's borne out in what we can get back in a trade. It's not that i dislike Guthrie, but when an organization has as little talent as the O's do we can't afford sentimental fan favorites. By "afford" not talking about money, but using available resources (talent) to get better.

Re Nick: If this yr is as mundane as last yr or worse, think he has plateaued. If he plateaus at this age, think he's Ben Grieve. At any rate, don't think one pays a RF $10mln + for this type output.

Jeff, I am curious about this comment about Tillman made by the scout.
He’s a bottom of the rotation type guy, maybe a fifth guy

Is the scout talking about his present potential or future? Also, I find it interesting that the scout didn’t mention that Chris hasn’t given up a home run since mid April and Guthrie has, several times mind you.

As far as I am concerned unless we get Edinson Volquez or Fransisco Liriano, who are the Orioles going to replace Tillman with if they send him to Norfolk? There’s no one from AAA that I would want, nor is there anyone in our bullpen that could do the job Tillman is doing. Lastly, maybe this could be seen as a shot at MacPhail. Well it is sorta, but not really. Anyway, what money would the Orioles be saving if the Orioles drafted Dylan Bundy? Here’s a quote from an article today He quotes a couple folks around the game saying that Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy's $30 million demands are ridiculous, but notes that Bundy (that includes a seven million dollar bonus). Grow the arms; buy the bats Hardy Har Har. I love it when 18 yr olds make demands! If it were me since I am the gambling type (horses only), I would trade my 2011 draft choice for a young, but established pitcher like (Volquez or Liriano) and to heck with Bundy!

Here’s the whole link

Jeff Z's reply: He meant the future. That's the consensus among scouts that unless Tillman starts to generate better movement on his fastball, his velocity improves, or he gets better command of his secondary stuff, he is essentially a back-end starter. The good news is tillman is 23 and he has time to work on that stuff.

At times, I love to read the comments section and see what other O's fans think. And at times, it irritates me what they come up with.

One example is Blancione's constant preaching of letting BRob and Markakis go. If you are the GM of the Orioles today, tell me who can we trade these ageing and injury prone players. If we cut them today, who can we replace these players with. Who can we replace the defense and arm of Markakis' arm (with his four assist at this point of the season)? Who can we replace the above average lead off hitter? Andino? Pie? Reimolds? Adams? This season, please tell me how many runs have we scored with BRob gone. All I hear from you is complains, how about telling us what to do instead.

Let's go back to the year when both BRob and Markakis were on their contract year. I bet you were one of those people, who posted on this site, constantly preaching that they should sign both players to what ever cost. If you were not, you are lying to yourself. I know I was one of them. Mussina signing with the Yankees still hurts and I prayed that the management should sign them to what ever the cost is.

You know for a fact too, that if we cut this ageing and injury prone players, a team will grab them quickly. And what if, they both are suddenly healthy, hitting .300, and punishing the Orioles, what would you say? You would say, "Look at this management, they should be fired for listening to a fool like me"

It sucks. It is a no win situation. I for one will take BRob and Markakis. That because that is all we have. They are both hard working players, great people, caring, and awesome work ethic. If one moment I read that they both are fat, lazy, and a bad team mate, I will be on the same boat as Blancione. But they are not.

I do thank Jeff and his gang for informing the Birdsland. Keep up the good work!


"... with (one's) heart and watch games with (one's) eyes."

Coincidentally, i thought the following about info from scouts before i read your comment: Fans tend to see with their hearts; scouts, in general, tend to see with their eyes.

If we fans & the organization must keep our sentimental favorites, we can extend our time in the AL East wilderness.


Sorry, about the triple post. Obviously, i didn't intend to do that. The server was slowwwww & i didn't think that my post was going thru.

My apologies to all. I thought your system would prevent duplicate posts.

Mr Maizky once again you are partial guilty of what happens on here all the time. People have selective reading skills. I have never once indicated to anybody that the orioles should release NICK M my only argument is and will remain until he proves me wrong is that is has grossly under performed and should be producing way more in relationship to what he is getting paid. Now on the brian roberts issue, yes i did say the orioles are faced with a big problem and because brian has showed different types of ailments over the better part of 2 years they can no longer depend on a guy that is now getting old and is injury prone. Now for the record what part of the brian roberts issue isn't true. Help me out here. And finally in regards to why they gave them extensions is because they earned them but that is where we stop , earning it and then continuing to earn it is 2 different subjects all together. Why don't you tell me why nick hasn't taken his play to the next level and is now what many call just a serviceable ball player.

I've said it over and over. Markakis was NEVER a power hitter. I feel his struggles this year are mostly due to the fact that he is swinging for the fences and/or trying to drive the ball too far. If he gets 3-1 or 2-0 he should turn on a pitch. But if he gets 0-2 he needs to use the opposite field. I don't see him doing that, and to me it is that simple. Please, these 10 extra homers he may hit is NOT worth it.

Probably the dumbest and most ill-informed post by "slick" willie about Markakis, than you'll ever read about any of the more beloved players in this town.
It truly makes you wonder if these kinds of people pay attention at all, check the stats or see what Markakis does in the community as well. All of that combined is a testimony to the man's value, both on the field and off. Posts like that have no place here. Now, get back in your cab and ride away, Slick Willie.

Jeff Z's reply: I think you got the wrong guy. Slick Willie didn't say anything negative that I saw.

I've been saying for a couple years that Markakis is incredibly overrated as a hitter. He's a .290-.300 hitter w/no power. 12-15 HR's a yr is pathetic for a corner outfielder. The only reason the media and the fans in this town are so in love w/him is because he's the only homegrown product who's an even halfway decent hitter(not sold on Wieters yet). Who cares if he's a nice guy and does a lot for the community? He's paid to produce on the field and he's not doing that.I wouldn't mind if they traded him and a pitcher for a power hitting 1st baseman

Rick not trying to be sarcastice but you told me what his struggles are this year , please tell me what were his struggles about last year.Look we can slice it up we can dice it up but the bottom line is nick isn't the same ball player that we or the ball club expected him to be. The question that nobody seem to really know is why. 27 year old players don't progressively start to have dimished skills with no apparent injury. Now if you want to get into the mental part of his game that is another topic all together.

Okay, I'll bite, Blancione. Your argument is and will remain until he proves me wrong is that is has grossly under performed and should be producing way more in relationship to what he is getting paid. Yes, both BRob and Nick has this contract to live up to. Jeff (and maybe all of his gang) constantly reports that Nick is doing his best. Unless Jeff is lying, he is first and last analyzing videos. Instead of criticizing him constantly, tell me what he needs to do that he isn't doing. If you want to talk about numbers from last two years, he hit .297, 12 HR, and 60 RBI. That is about the same numbers as he had on his rookie year. The one thing I could tell you about the difference this year from last is that it seems like Nick is hitting for the fences. I believe the one thing that is lost is when he was hitting the ball all over the place. I love it when he hit the ball and goes with the pitch. Singles, doubles, Triples hear and there. I believe criticisms that he doesn't hit power has got to him. I think also the fact that he is constantly getting snubbed on All Stars adds to this. It is all mental. And that is the change that I see in him. The one thing that fans forget is that he is not Albert Pujols, ARod, or a Ryan Howard type of player. I see him as a Don Mattingly type. And that is what he should do. Stay true to his form and not be someone else.

With regard to Brian Roberts, yes, it is true that he has all this ailments this past two years. When he first got injured last year, I personally believe that he should have rested all of last year. But he is a player. He is actually doing his best and living up to his contract and he is a leader on his own way. Do we have anyone to replace BRob? Was there a free agent that we could have this past season? What BRob needs to do is heal himself fully and play smart. He has aged and shouldnt go for the head first slide on first base all the time.

I believe and I may be wrong (surely Jeff can correct me on this), Nick was extended only once and BRob twice. They were both doing well when they got extended. And when the next extension comes around, then I agree with you that health and performance should be taken into consideration. And don't forget to ask the question when the extension comes, is there anyone out there that can replace what BRob and Nick brings on the table.

I hope I answered yours. But from the looks of it, you didnt answer any of mine.

Easy on Nicky Mak. He struggled last year if you consider hitting .297 a struggle. His power numbers were way down, but how much does that have to do with the anemic offense they had in 2010. As for this year, no question he had a long slow start, but take a look at his numbers for May. He has an 8-game hit streak going and a .326 average over the last 10 games and baically the same number for the month of May. With Vlady swinging a hot bat, Jones and Wieters heating up, and even Lee, who was on a seven gamer when he got hurt and Reynolds on a nice little groove, look for Nick to produce another .300 year with 15-20 HRs and 80+ RsBI. I'll take that.

Hey Squirrel,

You do realize that MLB teams can't trade draft picks, right? Might want to revise your trade proposal.

Excellent analysis, thanks Jeff! Have to admit I'd previously ignored the Sun articles/blogs unless directly linked from a forum, but this season I've found myself coming here more and more.

Thank You, Jon!

I did not realize that. I guess that's why I never hear of any traded involving draft choices. I also read an article about it.
After the 2011 John Schuerholz is going to look at the whole issue. It drives me nuts when I am wrong or uninformed.

The one thing I did know is that you have to hold onto a draftee for one full year before you can trade him. So as for my trade idea back to the drawing board as usual.

"Rick not trying to be sarcastice but you told me what his struggles are this year , please tell me what were his struggles about last year."

aah blancione, that's a softball better than any beer beer league game. Let's agree on his stuggles this year (by the way his BA is climbing). Markakis hit .297 with 45 doubles last year. The only alarming stat was the 60 RBI's. And the reason there? Look at the team around him. Wiggington cleanup? Are you kidding me? Markakis is not a no 3 hitter and not a home run hitter. You put ballplayers in the position to succeed. This year he is in the 2 hole, and once he gets out of this trying too hard funk he will be FINE. Last night he could have extended the 8 run inning but swung at the first ball from a wild pitcher. That's struggling and not Nick. So last year, hitting out of position and no protection and RBI opportunities doomed him.

Simple enough for you?

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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