Here is the second and final part of the interview with ESPN’s Keith Law, picking up where we left off.
Steve Melewski: A couple more things, Keith. We kind of diverted from the minor leagues, but this was also interesting, getting your take on these other topics. How do you see the young pitching. (Jake) Arrieta, (Brad) Bergesen, (Brian) Matusz and that group?
Keith Law: “Matusz, to me, is the ace. He has the potential for four average or better pitches and probably three well-above-average pitches. You saw down the stretch last year, he was a different guy. If he continues to improve his command and his feel for pitching, he can be an ace. He can be a fringe Cy Young contender.
“He leads that crop. To me, the second best guy in that group is actually (Zach) Britton, who is not there yet but he will be this year. Chris Tillman, you can’t give up on him. Some pitchers, it takes a year or more in the big leagues. Some have jumped off the Tillman bandwagon too soon. To me, he is the third best guy, in terms of potential, in that group.
“Arrieta and Bergesen are nice inventory guys. They are three, four and five type starters. Not the kind of impact guys you want to have to compete in this tough division
KL: “(Jonathan) Schoop is one guy that is a long way away, but he is the potential impact guy there. Avery can run, but not a good swing. He’s still got a ways to go and not a lot of power. Hoes does not have a position. I think he’ll hit, but he has to prove he can play a position where a guy hits for average but not a lot of power profiles.
Mahoney is only a below-average big league first baseman. He shouldn’t be a top 10 prospect, but he is in their system now because it’s down. Some things haven’t worked out too. (Matt) Hobgood is young enough to figure it out, but right now he is off the map.”
SM: Being 24th right now (in your farm system ratings), is that a red flag for Orioles’ fans? Or can they upgrade and get back to where they were ranked higher a year ago?
KL: “The way they can sort of salvage signing all these veteran players will be to flip them. If Vlad Guerrero gets off to a hot start, find a contender that’s willing to send you a prospect for him and do it. Don’t even think twice about it.
“(Mark) Reynolds, same thing. Every one of these veteran players, every one that is not nailed down, you trade to get some young talent into that system. It’s the only way to go. Because they don’t have extra picks. They have to hit on their draft picks and I think Joe Jordan does a good job. I think they will hit on some picks this year. But it’s going to take more than that and trading vets for younger talent is the way to go.
“Even if they get off to a good start and it looks like they are headed for 85 wins, not good enough. Same thing, trade the veterans. They are not going to the playoffs this year, let’s try to get some other young talent to supplement Matusz, (Matt) Wieters and Britton for the long term. This club is not going to win anything until 2012, 2013 or beyond.”
SM: You mentioned Joe Jordan. He is getting criticism from fans because they have fallen in the farm system rankings. Do you still see Joe as the guy for the Orioles?
KL: “Yeah, because that ignores some of the better picks from other years. I thought they did a decent enough job in 2010, but it’s early, those guys are just getting into the system.
“People that are criticizing Joe, remember, they’ve lost some picks. They signed Mike Gonzalez and lost a draft pick. I don’t like that philosophy. I don’t like losing clubs giving up even second-round picks. It’s not the best way to rebuild a farm system. If the question is, should Joe Jordan be replaced? I say no, I don’t believe so.”
SM: Is criticism fair of Jordan with a guy like Billy Rowell looking like a miss and Hobgood hurt and somewhat struggling? Or is it that even when you pick high, you can’t bat .800 here?
KL: “The funny thing about Rowell is, his struggles have made a lot of clubs steer away from the next big high school hitting prospect from New Jersey. The concern was they never saw Rowell against great competition and they never saw Mike Trout versus great competition, but he’s the probably the best prospect in the minors right now. It’s a tough business. I don’t bat .800. Projecting amateur kids is hard, even when you pick high.
“If you want to criticize the Hobgood pick, you have to go back to where we were at the time. The criticism of the Hobgood pick was that Shelby Miller and Tyler Matzek, who are better prospects today, were better prospects at the time. But you’d have to really know, what was the Orioles’ thought process?
“Did they back away from Miller because of money? Did they go with Hobgood because of makeup? Hobgood was one of the biggest baseball rats you’ll ever meet in your life and a lot of scouts really liked him on that basis. It’s complicated. It’s not like Joe has a track record of bad drafts or bad picks you can pick apart. It’s a lot more complicated than that.”
SM: The comment you made about Guerrero earlier was that “if he’s not toast, he’s in the toaster.” Yet, he was fourth in the league in RBIs. What makes you say that?
KL: “RBI is useless, just a function that he played in a good lineup. Just watching him, the bat speed is gone, or mostly gone. He can’t use his lower half. Ever since he first hurt his back and his knees about two, two and half years ago with the Angels, he hasn’t been the same guy.
“I don’t see any reason that, at his age, why it’s going to come back. We heard last year he was healthy and he got off to a hot start in April. And it didn’t last. And I don’t see any reason he’s going to do better than that now that he is a year older.”