Jeff Fiorentino: 2010’s Ryan Langerhans?

Last offseason, many bloggers sighed when Ryan Langerhans passed through waivers. Despite one horrific season in 2007, Langerhans profiled at about 1.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and perhaps even league average (2 WAR). Langerhans didn’t “look like” an average corner outfielder. His value lay more in his outstanding glove than his questionable bat. But he was a good fourth outfielder (at worst) who could have been had for next to nothing. The Nationals signed him to a minor league deal, then traded him to the Mariners mid-season for the legendary Mike Morse after the Ms’ outfield depth was compromised by an injury to Langerhans’ conceptual older brother, Endy Chavez. Although Langerhans didn’t play much, he turned out to be what we thought he was — mediocre hitter, great defender (check out Langerhans’ 2009 versus average).

Langerhans was celebrated not because he was a star, but because he was decent and came for nearly free. This is the kind of player about whom we go nuts. Who will be this year’s undervalued outfield hero? While I (and others) called it weeks ago when the 2010 CHONE projections were released, I wanted to see some other projections. The appropriate ZiPS projections came out this week, and I am ready to predict the winner of the 2010 Ryan Langerhans Award For Undervalued Outfielder That Teams Should Be Trying To Acquire On the Cheap: Jeff Fiorentino.

Drafted in the 2004 by the Orioles, Fiorentino has seen scattered playing time in the majors. He went back and forth on waivers between the Reds and As during 2008, and returned to Baltimore via waivers later that year. Given their crowded outfield situation, the Orioles are letting him go as a free agent.

How good is Jeff Fiorentino? CHONE projects him as exactly a league average hitter (.267/.342/.399 line). ZiPS projects him at .266/.329/.391; converted to linear weights, I get about four runs below average per 150 games.

The big question is his defense. If Fiorentino can play a decent center field, he might be a league-average player. His UZR numbers tell us almost nothing, given the extremely small sample. CHONE’s TotalZone projection for 2009 saw him as a +2 center fielder. Still, given that teams have moved him around in the minors, we should be wary before slotting him in as a center fielder. The Fans don’t help us — there was exactly one ballot for Fiorentino in 2009.

Given the limited data, let’s play it safe and postulate that he’s somewhere between an average center fielder and an average corner outfielder, such that his defense + position is between +2.5 and -7.5 runs per season. Combine that with a range of 0 to -4 offense, Fiorentino projects somewhere between 1 and 2 WAR . 2 WAR might seem like a stretch, but 1.5 WAR is reasonable. He isn’t a great hitter, but he can get on base decently. He might not be an everyday center fielder, but he can hack it out there if you need him to, and his glove profiles well in the corners. He’s a good fourth outfielder/platoon player who can be a stopgap starter. Sound familiar? Fiorentino will be only 27 in 2010.

It wouldn’t shock me if Fiorentino ended up getting nothing more than a minor-league deal. More power to the team that makes that deal. Still, older outfielders with less talent will get more than that. I look forward to seeing who is smart. One more problem: if some team is smart and signs Fiorentino over, say, Scott Podsednik, or gives Fiorentino the minimum instead of shelling out millions for Rick Ankiel, is he still eligible for the Langerhans Award?

If you want to try and project Jeff Fiorentino in 2010, click here.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

26 Responses to “Jeff Fiorentino: 2010’s Ryan Langerhans?”

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  1. Joe R says:

    I’ve decided through this website that if I was a GM of a small or mid market team, I would stockpile my team with players who don’t “look right” and make like a bandit.

    Langerhans in LF, Clete Thomas in RF, Augie Ojeda at 3B, I could probably get that for like $1.5 to $2.5 mil a year total, and get 5-8 WAR out of it.

    I don’t think good defense is underrated, but good defense at spots not traditionally known for defense is, especially corner OF. Third base, well, third base has been historically underrated anyway.

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  2. The A Team says:

    You might want to be careful asking for projections on a player that few of us have seen play right after an entire article extolling his dubious virtues. I don’t see a problem with this practice when it’s a Placido Polanco or somebody else that most of us have seen play at least a handful of games over the last year or two. But when you’re working with a Jeff Fiorentino the projection is match your analysis.

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    • The A Team says:

      *the projection is going to match your analysis.

      You guys should work on getting an edit post option.

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  3. sabes says:

    How about Brent Gardner? If he’s half as good as his fielding numbers last year, he could be starting CF.

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  4. tom s. says:

    even though he doesn’t project as an offensive leviathan, i really like his on-base skills. he has a great walk rate in the minors and that’s carried over into his major league appearance, albeit in small sample sizes. maybe more telling is that his patience at the plate stands out – in a total of 150-odd PA’s he’s maintained a 15% O-swing rate; swing rates tend to solidify very quickly, so i don’t think that major league stat is quite as hazardous to use as others.

    his defense is very hard to read, but i’m inclined to think he’s an average to just below average CF and a well-above average corner OF defensively. for a club without great options in the OF (and the FA class is very thin this year), he could be a very nice fit as a 4th OF or a member of a platoon.

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  5. Jeff V says:

    Screech already signed with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.

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    • tom s. says:

      the link says “working on a deal.”

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      • Patrick says:

        My understanding is that it’s a done deal at this point, though I’m not sure if it’s been officially announced yet. I agree that Fiorentino would be a nice pickup for the right MLB club, and I expect him to do well in Japan.

        This type of analysis of guys on the MLB fringe who project somewhere around MLB-average would certainly unearth a number of good prospects for Japan.

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  6. Mike Newman says:

    I coached against Fiorentino when he was in high school. He was a special bat then. It’s really amazing just how good a player has to be to make it to the show. I hope he has success. I’ve been waiting to see what he can do if he logs some decent playing time.

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  7. Mike Newman says:

    If I remember correctly, he was an outfielder. He was recruited by the same coach at Florida Atlantic who had previously recruited me so we had a lot to talk about at the time. He had an odd set up in the box, but could rake anything thrown. He was a VERY difficult out. I was actually surprised he didn’t go to a bigger school than FAU even though they had a hell of a program.

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  8. acerimusdux says:

    I think I’ll be depressed if this kid doesn’t get more than a minor league deal at this point. Watching the Mets last year, he’s probably as good as any outfielder they had after Beltran went down. Well, maybe excepting Pagan.

    But if teams are carrying guys like Cory Sullivan and Jeremy Reed, someone should be able to find a spot for this guy on a 25 man roster. At least guarantee the kid a spot on the 40.

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  9. Matt Walsh says:

    Jeff Fiorentiono is the DEFINITION of replacement level. I really like this website, but sometimes you guys go too far. In a major league season Fiorentino would be lucky to put up an OPS of 700, and he bears absolutely no resemblance to Ryan Langerhans in the field. There is a reason he passed through waivers.

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    • You’re entitled to your opinions and I welcome discussion. Thanks for the comments.

      As for my position, I’m simply following projections from two of the better projections systems out there that incorporate MLEs. As for the “resemblance” between Fiorentino and Langerhans, I’m not saying that Fiorentino is as good a fielder (although he arguably has a better bat potential given his performance in the minor leagues and age). The similarity is in what I take to be their value versus their likely cost on the market.

      And for the record, it was _Langerhans_ who passed through waivers last offseason, As for Fiorentino, during 2008 he was waived three times, and didn’t “pass through” a signle time — he was claimed three times. Whether or not any of those were good moves by teams involved (or not), that’s another issue, but the As, Reds, and Orioles all thought Fiorentino was worth picking up in the not-so-distant past.

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  10. There is more information in the name link, but

    Since taking over as GM, Zduriencik has made a bold change by moving the team’s spending away from offensive production and shifting it towards runs prevention and defense. Instead of luring in “offensive” players to fill team holes last season (those like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, or, god forbid, Richie Sexson), the Mariners went out and got guys for their gloves, acquiring Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez. Even Russell Branyan, who was brought in for his offensive contributions, provided the team with a league average glove. Zduriencik, realizing that both Safe Co. Park and the Oakland Coliseum, between which the Mariners play approximately 92 games a season, similarly deflated offensive production, decided to exploit the runs creation/prevention gap by focusing on the prevention aspect of the game. And he did successfully.

    By a wide margin, the 2009 Mariners had the best defensive team in baseball last season, preventing 16 more runs from scoring than the second best defensive team (the Rays). Between the park’s cavernous dimensions and +62.0 UZR outfield, the team was able to turn even Jarrod Washburn into a staff ace and the team won 85 games behind the league’s 6th best team in ERA (note: ERA is a terrible metric to evaluate future success, but it does evaluate the level of success a pitching staff had in a single year, whether it be luck, defense or talent based). And although I normally lobby for FIP-based ERA regression, I dare utter no such thing about the Mariners’ league leading -0.52 ERA-FIP split going into next season. Why? Because the Mariners defense is only gettting better.

    As Erik Manning points out, the Mariners continue to abuse the persistence market inefficiencies of defense. Chone Figgins has a stellar glove and above average/no-power skill set that should bode well with Safe Co. and the Mariners. After posting a +6 WAR season, $36 million over four years seems a steal for Chone Figgins; especially when you consider that Jason Bay is posed for a +$60 million dollar, four year pay day after posting a mere +3.5 WAR season. In addition to bringing into Chone Figgins to play third, the team has also extended mid-season SS acquisition Jack Wilson, who averaged a +18 UZR/150 over the last two seasons. That solidifies the left side of the infield, while Ichiro, Ryan Langerhans, and Franklin Gutierrez man the outfield.

    The right side of the infield is more ify, though still solid with some combination of Jose Lopez (decent bat, average glove) and Ronny Cedeno (terrible bat, great glove) playing 2B. 1B remains an unknown at this point, though the team seems intent on bringing Russell Branyan back. If they cannot, however, the market is plenty saturated (I smell value) with players the team can plug and play at 1B.

    In sum, the Mariners are poised to again be the league’s best defensive team. A few high risk, low cost gambles like Rich Harden or Ben Sheets help lead the team to a stellar 2010 season (escpecially when you consider that Chone Figgins and Jack Wilson cannot possibly hit any worse in 2010 than Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Bentacourt did in 2009).

    The AL West needs to look out. With Jack Zduriencik aroud, the M’s are back in force.

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  11. Jeff K says:

    wtf, why do u keep posting that same thing in different articles? Ronnie cedeno was traded for Jack wilson. Also, Saunders is the favorite to start in left field, not Langer.

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    • The A Team says:

      maybe Eckstein is lobbying for a job once he decides to hang up his cleats.

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      • My mistake with Cedeno. I do not think that Saunders will necessarily run away with the job. Despite his higher SLG numbers in the minors this yr, he doesn’t walk at all and strikes out a ton, putting a huge hole in his offensive approach. Langerhaus also has a high K rate, but walks almost double the amount as Saunders. Both have around 160 ISO power according to Bill James. Given this and the comparably good D, I would take the better K/BB guy. If for nothing more than for the sake of consistency.

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  12. Jeff K says:

    Yea, I get YOU would take Langer, but you were also talking about what you think will actually happen this year. I think barring injury, Saunders starts on opening day and is giving a chance to play. That has been implied by Jack Z in various interviews, and it’s normal for a top prospect in an organization that values youth. Even if the M’s think he will have a slightly worse year compared to Langerhans, the upside of letting him develop into a potential star gives him an edge. If you disagree, lets do some sort of bet, I would lay you 2:1.

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  13. Padre Steve says:

    I saw Fiorentino play in Norfolk all of last year. He led the team in hitting and played in right field. His speed on the basepaths and defensive abilities are exceptional. To give you an idea of his speed one of his home runs was an inside teh park home run. Likewise though he is not loaded with power he can do so occasionally with 12 at Norfolk, one off of Bartolo Colon. He will be a steal if anyone is smart enough to grab him.

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      He’s gone to play in Japan, so I don’t think that’ll be happening.

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    • ethan says:

      uh, nothing quite like drawing conclusions from really small sample sizes and anecdotal evidence! i didn’t realize jim bowden was going by “padre steve” these days!

      ok sorry, i don’t mean to be snarky. but the whole goal of analysis at fangraphs, etc is to eliminate/reduce the bias of things like “i saw this guy run fast one time” or “he hit a homer off a guy who used to be in the majors!” as reasons to employ a player at the major league level. just because sometimes the rigorous analysis overlaps with anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean they are correlated or causal…

      now, certainly you are entitled to your opinion, and i didn’t see any norfolk games last year, so i will now shut my face.

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  14. Joe R says:

    Kind of funny that both Scotty Pods AND Rick Ankiel ended up on Matt’s favorite team.

    Poor guy

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  15. DJ Noble says:

    I played on the same HS team as Morse and Fiorentino. Both were great players back then, and still are now. Both of them got raw deals in their careers. Jeff told me there was no way he wouldn’t go to Japan due to fact they offered him more money in incentives in his first year than he usually made in a season here. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. And it would suprise me if Morse didn’t make the squad this year because of his bat alone, not to mention he’s now playing every position on the field but pitcher.

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