How big is the loss of Benson for the year?
The loss of Kris Benson, for what will likely be the entire season, is not as big of a deal as it might seem at first glance. For one, 33 year olds who just set a career low for strikeout rate for the second year in a row generally don't improve the following season. While it has been established that Benson was not terribly likely to be all that valuable next season anyway, Steve Trachsel is one of the few pitchers in baseball that is almost guaranteed to be worse. His strikeout rate I horrible. His walk rate is horrible. He gives up a lot of home runs. Oh, and he did all this in the easier league and a pitching-friendly stadium. Despite his 15 wins, Trachsel is barely a major league caliber pitcher and he is unlikely to be in the rotation, and maybe even on the team at all, through May. He isn't going to be Rodrigo-Lopez-in-2006 bad, he's going to be Bruce-Chen-in-2006 bad. Losing the $3 million it took to sign him isn't going to be a huge deal. The bigger problem will be the opportunity cost of having such a cipher in the rotation, while better options get work in triple-A Norfolk or the big league bullpen.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the full 40-man roster with Trachsel added. Although fellow ITW contributor John Kazlo is a bigger fan than I am, the easy thing to do would be to pass Eider Torres through waivers. It would be a shame if the Orioles lost a potentially useful player like Adam Donachie or Luis Hernandez for the likes of Steve Trachsel.
With the oft-injured Jaret Wright and Erik Bedard penciled into two rotation slots ahead of the aforementioned Steve Trachsel, a few pitchers could get a crack at holding down a rotation slot of their own. The Orioles would love to see Hayden Penn step up in the spring, but they are reluctant to hand him a spot outright because of the trouble he has had translating his considerable minor league success into the majors. Recent waiver claim Jeremy Guthrie may also get a chance at the rotation, though he is already 27 years old and has also had trouble translating his plus arm strength into major league success. Should both Penn and Guthrie falter, the next likely candidate to get a shot at the rotation will be the polished Garrett Olson, who is actually a year older than Penn. By the end of the season, it is quite possible that both Penn and Olson will be entrenched in the rotation for years to come.
Where would guys like Markakis, Ray, Loewen and Penn… rank on the top prospect list if they wee eligible?
Nick Markakis looked like a future all-star after a rough start and would easily rank atop such a list. Adam Loewen would be much closer to the pack but would rank right behind Markakis. Hayden Penn's major league struggles have naturally led to some makeup concerns but, after Loewen and Markakis, you could make a case for him against anyone in the system. I'd place him fifth on a list that included Loewen and Markakis. Chris Ray has established himself as a solid closer, but his peripherals indicate that he may be in for some regression to the mean. He'd rank behind Penn but ahead of the other pitchers and Nolan Reimold in the system.
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