Notes on O’s prospects, long-term contracts, Angle, Cordero and more

Here is a question to think about: Are all the top sluggers eventually going to wind up in the American League?

After Albert Pujols got a 10-year deal from the Angels and Prince Fielder got a nine-year contract from the Tigers, two of the game’s most-feared sluggers have moved to the AL. Fielder was second in the National League with 38 homers last year and Pujols was third with 37.

While neither player was signed to serve as a designated hitter, just knowing the DH spot is there for those players as they age must have been at least some factor in the long-term deals they were able to get.

Makes you wonder if that will happen with more players and if this will become more of a trend in years to come. Of course, sluggers like that duo don’t come along every day and/or get to free agency that often. Still it got a little harder to pitch in the American League this offseason.

In an edition of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” yesterday, panelists Keith Law and Buster Olney said they thought there would be more of these super-long contracts coming in upcoming offseasons in Major League Baseball. I’m not exactly sure what the rationale is for that, but it will be interesting to see if that does occur.

* For almost all of his minor league career, Matt Angle has been a center fielder, but, for a brief time last fall, at Orioles’ instructional league workouts, Angle found himself taking some ground balls as a second baseman.

“It was a little different,” Angle said of his brief time in Sarasota on the dirt. “Something I haven’t done in a long time. It was a lot of fun, but a different type of challenge. I got to work with (coaches) Mike Bordick and Bobby Dickerson for a week and just tried to get a feel for it and see where it goes from there.”

Angle played some on the infield in high school and he would occasionally take some pre-game ground balls when he played at Ohio State. But it certainly appears that the 26-year-old Angle, who hit .177 in 31 Orioles games last year, remains very much an outfielder.

There seem to be no plans for Angle to change positions.

“I think they just wanted to see if it was something I can handle. Maybe add to my versatility,” he said.

* Earlier this week the Orioles officially released outfielder Kyle Hudson. He had been designated for assignment and taken off the 40-man roster when the Orioles added pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. Because he is “draft excluded,” Hudson could not be re-signed to the major league roster before May 15, but I have heard the Orioles are open to bringing Hudson back with a minor league contract and he would be able to play in the minors for any affiliate before then.

Now it will be up to Hudson, who began last season with Single-A Frederick but later made it all the way to Baltimore, who is free to sign with any team.

* When reliever Francisco Cordero signed a one-year deal with Toronto this week, I heard from fans that were upset that the Orioles didn’t get him and other fans that were fine with Cordero not coming to Baltimore.

Cordero has recorded 153 saves the last four years with the Reds and is coming off a 2011 season where he posted an impressive ERA at 2.45 and WHIP at 1.02. But he turns 37 in May and his fastball velocity has fallen off along with his strikeout rates in recent years. He fanned 10 batters per every nine innings in 2008 and that figure was down to 5.4 last season.

But what may have scared off O’s fans more than anything else was his career walk rate of 4.1 per nine innings, even though it was down to 2.8 in 2011. Fans have been frustrated often by Kevin Gregg’s control issues and his career walk rate per nine innings is 4.0 and was much was worse last year at 6.0 batters per every nine innings.

Cordero has some impressive save percentage rates but some fans were still fine with him not landing in Baltimore. There is also the ongoing debate in baseball as to whether a losing team should invest significant dollars in a closer or late-inning reliever.

* The Orioles’ farm system gets a lot of criticism, but when released its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball yesterday, the Orioles were the only organization to have two players among the top 10 prospects in the rankings. Manny Machado was listed as the game’s sixth-best prospect and pitcher Dylan Bundy ranked 10th.

Jonathan Schoop did not make the top 100, but some speculate that Schoop could make the Baseball America top 100 when it is released, giving the O’s three among the cream of the crop.

Jim Callis of Baseball America told me that, in some respects you’d almost rather have two elite prospects than fewer top prospects but a deep farm system. There is no doubt the Orioles lack depth on the farm but Machado and Bundy are considered among the best of the best.

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