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: Obviously, you take a great deal into account when you evaluate prospects. Can you tell us what part of your technique sets you apart from other analysts?
Deric McKamey: The thing that sets my work apart from other analysts is the blending of scouting and statistics, and the way the information is gathered. I try to see as many players as possible, attending minor league, college, and high school games, as well as going to Spring Training, instructional league, Arizona Fall League, and watching video. The opinions are my own, not what people tell me. Obviously, it is impossible to see every player, as I’m just one individual, so I do have to rely on sources within the game to fill-in the cracks. When I do solicit information from clubs, I ask just for the facts, not opinions. The downside to all of this is that sometimes I only get to see a player once, but I try and not let the performance (good or bad) influence my overall opinion. Ultimately, I’m the one on the field three hours prior to the first pitch taking in batting/fielding practice and making face-to-face contacts, and I’m the one out there with the radar gun and stopwatch. I’d much rather be at the ballpark than talking on a cell phone.
ITW: Most of our fans are aware that Orioles’ Scouting Director Joe Jordan has worked hard to pump some talent into the organization in the past two years. How do the Orioles’ minor leagues compare to the rest of baseball at this point?
Deric McKamey: I would rank the Orioles in the upper half of all MLB teams, and fourth (behind Toronto) out of the American League East clubs. However, the Orioles have shown as much improvement in their quality and depth over the past two years as the Yankees have. There are a few players on the cusp of the Majors (Olson, Hoey, Liz, and Fiorentino), but much of the strength lies in the young, high-upside players (Rowell, Erbe, Beato, Snyder, and Florimon) at the lower levels of the minors.
ITW: What, if any, themes have you noticed about Jordan’s first two drafts?
Deric McKamey: More so than the previous regime, Jordan has made an emphasis on high upside talent in the early rounds of the Draft and been given the money to sign them. There are always risks associated with this approach, but the end result could be very rewarding. What I like is the mix of talent, drafting both pitching and hitting, and getting players from all amateur levels. Players were drafted from high school (Rowell/Erbe), junior college (Beato), and four-year college (Reimold/Olson), and that’s a great balance.
ITW: Jordan’s first pick, Brandon Snyder, suffered a tumultuous sophomore campaign, ending in shoulder surgery. Do you expect a full rebound now that he is healthy?
Deric McKamey: I would expect a full rebound, especially offensively, but I would imagine his catching days are over. I know he is to play 1B/DH in 2007 as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but catchers rarely can afford to miss developmental time, and I find it hard to imagine the Orioles sticking him back behind the plate in 2008. Assuming no injuries, most catchers spend an additional year in the minors, developing their defense. I don’t know if the Orioles really want to wait that long for Snyder to develop.
ITW: Nolan Reimold had a solid campaign in Frederick in 2006, but many were expecting a bigger breakthrough. What refinements does he have to make to succeed in Double-A Bowie?
Deric McKamey: The biggest refinement he could make would be in using the whole field. He tends to get pull-conscious which cheats himself out of half the field. I think his batting average will be the biggest beneficiary, not so much the power. His plate discipline has always been impressive, so the ability is there for him to be an impact bat.
ITW: Reimold has been getting the bulk of his playing time in right field. With Nick Markakis firmly entrenched there, do you think Reimold will have any problem shifting to left field if needed? Does he have the bat to cut it as a first baseman if he needs to?
Deric McKamey: Reimold should have no problem adapting to LF, as he has adequate arm strength and range. It will be a matter of getting the necessary reps at that position. While I mentioned in the above answer that the ability is there to have an impact bat, my honest opinion is that he won’t have the offensive level to be above average at 1B.
ITW: Billy Rowell looked awfully raw at third base in 2006 and at spring training. What are the odds he is able to stick there long-term?
Deric McKamey: I’d say it’s about 50/50 as to whether he stays at 3B. He was a SS in high school and is athletic, so there is enough defensive instincts and ability for him to stick if he works hard enough at it. His hands are a little stiff and his range will never be greater than average. How he matures physically will ultimately determine whether he can stay at 3B. His projected offense is impressive enough that he could handle a corner outfield spot or 1B if things don’t work out at the hot corner.
ITW: What type of player do you ultimately see Rowell becoming? Care to venture an ETA?
Deric McKamey: I see Rowell being a Scott Rolen type player offensively, but obviously a lot less defense. Assuming normal development and progression, he could make his MLB debut late in 2009 with a chance to be a regular in 2010.
ITW: A lot of people seem split about Jeff Fiorentino’s long-term potential. Do you see a solid fourth outfielder or a solid starter?
Deric McKamey: I’m going to ride the fence on this one and say he can be an adequate platoon outfielder, getting 300-350 productive at-bats per season. Ultimately, it will come down to the quality of the other outfielders on the roster.
ITW: Kieron Pope had a tale of two seasons in 2006. He dominated less experienced pitchers in rookie ball and then fell flat in the New York-Penn League. Is he ready for a jump to the Sally League (Delmarva)?
Deric McKamey: I would certainly give him a shot to start at Delmarva, but based on his contact ability and plate discipline, he could find life tough in a full-season league. To answer your question, no, I don’t think he is ready, but I think there is little to lose in letting him play there for the first two months.
ITW: What type of player could Pope become and what are his chances of fulfilling his potential?
Deric McKamey: I rated Pope an 8D in my book which translates to a player who has the potential to be a solid regular and a 30% probability of fulfilling that potential. To me, he will be a low AVG/high power hitter with a good shot at being a solid defensive corner outfielder.
ITW: In your book, you mention that Pedro Florimon is an “athletic SS… but makes a ton of errors due to lack of concentration.” Is this a problem that is easily rectified?
Deric McKamey: Absolutely. He doesn’t lack any defensive tools; in fact, he rates above average across the board for his defense. Getting better reads on groundballs and getting the requisite repetitions should alleviate those errors.
ITW: Is Florimon the future top-of-the-order threat he looked like in Bluefield or the defense-first shortstop he looked like in Aberdeen?
Deric McKamey: A combination of both. I think his defense is the best part of his game and he has shown the ability to put the bat on the ball, so he will have some offensive value. He has the ability to get on base and utilize his speed, but is unlikely to hit for power.
ITW: Chris Vinyard was a late round draft and follow pick who signed for less than six figures. Is his offensive outburst in his professional debut for real?
Deric McKamey: I believe in the power, but would have trouble predicting a high AVG/OBP based on his strike zone judgment and propensity to pull the baseball. A solid enough player, but his bat is going to have to be extra special at 1B.
ITW: Are there any offensive sleepers in the O’s system?
Deric McKamey: I don’t think too many people outside the Orioles' organization and fandom know about Florimon, and he has the ability to be really good. I would expect solid seasons from the two infielders (Ryan Adams and Blake Davis) that Baltimore drafted in 2006. Neither one set the world on-fire in their debuts.
Thanks, Deric. Now do yourself a favor and check out his book Minor League Baseball Analyst.
Tomorrow, we'll be back with Part II of this interview, which includes questions about many of the O's top pitching prospects.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com.