Deric McKamey has been BaseballHQ's Director of Minor League Analysis for ten years. His position has allowed him the opportunity for formal training at MLB's Scout School. He also serves as an advisor for the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the past few years, McKamey has put his unique combination of statistical analysis and old school scouting techniques to use in his annual Minor League Baseball Analyst. Inside The Warehouse was fortunate enough to catch up with Deric and ask him a few questions about the Baltimore Orioles' minor league system.
ITW: Garrett Olson was getting some play as a possibility for the 25-man roster out of spring training at one point. How far away is he from contributing to the big club and where does he slot in on the roster?
Deric McKamey: Olson will likely make his MLB debut in 2007 and I think he would be a perfect candidate for a long relief/spot starter role by mid-season. I don't think his upside is particularly high, but pitches above his stuff by mixing his pitches and throwing three pitches for strikes.
ITW: Can you explain why so many people think Radhames Liz is destined for the bullpen? What type of role do you see for him?
Deric McKamey: A couple of reasons. His mechanics aren't entirely smooth which raises stamina issues and his command within the strike zone needs work. That being said, he does throw incredibly hard (97 MPH) and has two complementary pitches (curveball and change) that are at least average by Major League standards, so the ingredients are there for him to be a starting pitcher. Putting a gun to my head and forcing me to make a call on his role, I say he becomes a setup reliever/closer.
ITW: Brandon Erbe is giving a lot of O's fans dreams of a home grown ace. What adjustments does he have to make to achieve that lofty status?
Deric McKamey: Most of his adjustments have to do with his mechanics. He tends to throw across his body which could eventually lead to elbow problems. His high ¾ slot really isn't conducive to his slider and cutter which causes him to elevate the ball, and he doesn't repeat his arm speed for his change-up. That sounds like a lot of negatives, but his fastball has plus movement and velocity by virtue of his easy arm action. He may not have the third pitch needed to be a starter, but the Orioles will find a role for an arm of his caliber. One of the more underrated pitchers in the minors.
ITW: No one is happier than the Orioles that the Mets allowed Pedro Beato back in the draft. He's known for his vast repertoire- can you break down his pitches for us?
Deric McKamey: His fastball and slider are his primary pitches. He pitches very aggressively with his fastball (89-95 MPH) and slider (82-84 MPH), and has proved he can throw both for strikes consistently. His 78-82 MPH curveball is an average pitch and is thrown hard enough that it appears as a slower version of his slider. I haven't seen his change-up, but know it is regarded as a below average pitch in that he doesn't have confidence in it and is thrown with slower arm speed.
ITW: What do you feel Beato's ceiling is?
Deric McKamey: In the book, I pegged him for a solid #3 starter, which might be under-selling him. I'd like to have a better look at him to predict anything more.
ITW: James Hoey came out of nowhere to claim organizational Pitcher of the Year honors. How long until he forces his way into a suddenly crowded O's bullpen? Does he have closer potential?
Deric McKamey: If he continues his domination of minor league hitters with that powerful fastball/slider combination, he should be here to stay by mid-season. Despite not having a third pitch and/or something to offer LH batters, I think he can become an eventual closer. LH batters only hit .145 off of him and was pretty impressive against RH batters as well (.238). His fastball is so explosive that he may be able to get away with it.
ITW: James Johnson's stats took a step backwards with his promotion to Double-A Bowie in 2006. What do you feel is his long-term role? What adjustments does he have to make?
Deric McKamey: I see his upside as that of a #4 starter/middle reliever. The curveball is good enough to maintain a fair strikeout rate, but doesn't have much of a fastball, so will need to keep it down and out of the middle of the plate. I don't think he's going to have the stamina to be a 200 IP pitcher due to marginal arm action and will need to reduce the velocity differential with his change-up, which he throws a bit too hard.
ITW: Zach Britton is obviously a pretty raw talent, but he has impressive arm strength for a southpaw. What can you tell us about the 19 year old?
Deric McKamey: As mentioned, Britton does have good arm strength, but he also has a smooth delivery with the ball coming out nicely from his hand. His fastball is more movement than velocity at this point, but has the athletic/projectable frame in which to add muscle and hence, velocity. His fastball comfortably rests in the 87-92 MPH range and he has a curveball at 74-76 MPH, both of which can be above average pitches. He needs to improve his 77-79 MPH change-up, which should come around once he repeats his delivery more consistently. In limited action at Bluefield, his command and strikeout rate were nothing to write home about, but the sample size was limited. If his velocity jumps-up a couple of MPH, he has the makings of a #3/#4 starter.
ITW: Finally, are there any pitching sleepers in the O's system that we should keep an eye on?
Deric McKamey: I mentioned Chris Britton in this spot last season, so I hope I can hit another one on the head. I think you'll see a much better season out of David Haehnel if the Orioles return him to the bullpen. With his deceptive delivery and ability to change speeds, he could dominate like he did in 2005. Watch his command and strikeout ability improve with a return to relief.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com