AL East position rankings and a look at Jones vs. Cespedes

This will probably come as no surprise to anyone that follows the team, but when ESPN.com recently ranked the American League East teams position by position, the Orioles didn't fare too well.

This story was in the SweetSpot blog and authored by David Schoenfield.

First, the most positive news.

Matt Wieters was rated as the best catcher in the division.

1. Matt Wieters, Orioles
2. Russell Martin, Yankees
3. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox
5. Jose Molina, Rays

J.J. Hardy was rated as the second best shortstop in the AL East.

1. Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays
2. J.J. Hardy, Orioles
3. Derek Jeter, Yankees
4. Sean Rodriguez/Reid Brignac, Rays
5. Mike Aviles/Nick Punto, Red Sox

But in the other six spots on the diamond, Schoenfield rated the Orioles players fifth in the division four times and fourth twice. If Brian Roberts were healthy, he would likely be ranked higher but the article listed the Roberts-Robert Andino combo as the worst in the division.

Here is the article.

In another story on that same website, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus authored an article that produced some interesting findings. He sought opinions from eight anonymous front office executives in comparing Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes against five other young and talented center fielders.

Goldstein posed this question to the executives: You can have either Cespedes or each of these five outfielders for the remainder of their career - and for free - so cost should not enter into the decision.

Of the eight execs, Cespedes won out by a 6-2 vote over Toronto's Colby Rasmus and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs and a 5-3 count over Tampa's B.J. Upton. The vote was tied 4-4 with Chris Young of Arizona.

But when Adam Jones was put against Cespedes and that same question was asked, Jones won out by a 6-2 vote. Jones is probably the current Oriole that evokes the widest range of opinions among readers here.

Many see him as an emerging star that should be signed to a contract extension. Others see a player that makes some careless defensive mistakes at times and chases too many pitches with too few walks.

To me, Jones' critics among the fan base seem to put more weight on his shortcomings than they do his strong points. The executives used for this story know all about those negative stats, yet six of eight selected him over Cespedes in the survey.

Of course, in the AL East ratings, he was listed fourth of five. You knew he would rate behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson. But he was also rated one spot behind Upton. Last year, Jones outperformed Upton in average, homers, RBIs and OPS.

The story was among ESPN.com's premium content so cannot be linked but here is an excerpt in the scouting report about Jones:

Scouting report: While his over-aggressive approach is still a turnoff, Jones might be finally harnessing what are unquestionable tools, as he set career highs in 2011 with 25 home runs and a .466 slugging percentage.

Jones' 2011 campaign generated considerable buzz in the industry. "He's just starting to take steps forward," an American League scout said. "There's still room for plenty of growth."

Meanwhile, MLBTradeRumors listed some Orioles players that are out of options. The Orioles have 11 players on the 40-man roster with less than five years of service who are out of options: Robert Andino, Chris Davis, Dana Eveland, Jim Johnson, Jai Miller, Troy Patton, Clay Rapada, Nolan Reimold, Alfredo Simon, Pedro Strop, and Taylor Teagarden.

Among some pictures the Orioles posted on the team's Twitter account yesterday were the Bird packing the bags to head to spring training and Earl Weaver playfully arguing in a game at the team's Dream Week camp in Florida. Any day we can see the Earl of Baltimore on a baseball field is a good day.

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