Sunday January 29th, 2012
Sam Evans: Alfredo Simon has not had the Major League career that most people grew up dreaming about. He’s never maintained success in his four years in the big leagues, plus he was accused of murdering a man during the last offseason. Luckily for Simon, he has a chance to be a starter in Baltimore’s talent-deprived rotation. He is still a promising player with a good build and a fastball that can touch up to 95 MPH.
Simon should be an inspiration to all minor league players. He spent seven years in the minors before he ever reached the majors. During those seven minor league years, he played for the Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Phillies, and the Giants. Simon never posted amazing minor league numbers and had problems with his offspeed pitches. What kept Simon on teams was his fastball in the upper 90′s and positive veteran influence. In 2008, Simon finally got his chance. The Orioles called him up to the majors and gave him a chance to showcase his abilities against major league hitters.
When Alfredo Simon signed with the Phillies over ten years ago, he claimed to be almost two years younger than he was, as he went by the name Carlos Cabrera. This wasn’t a huge deal, but eventually the information about Simon’s name and age was released to the public. Little did Simon know, this was just the start of his legal issues. Last year, on New Year’s, Simon was accused of killing Michel Castillo Almonte and wounding his own brother. As the story was told, the locals were all bringing in the New Year at a huge party, with Simon celebrated by firing his gun into the air twice. I’m not a lawyer, but this seems very suspicious. If Simon was firing his gun up into the air, how did he kill someone? I don’t speak very fluent spanish, but according to a Dominican news telecast, Simon was at a street block filled with hundreds of people, away from Almonte at the time of the murder.
The justice system in the Dominican Republic is far from perfect. Simon could have just paid off people to cover this up after he actually did murder Almonte. Or this could have been a misunderstanding or tragic accident. However, the court found indisputable evidence that Simon was not the murderer. He had approximately three hundred witnesses testifying his innocence. What I find amusing is that almost all of them showed up for the court appearance, dressed in Orioles gear and Simon’s jerseys. On November 8th, Simon was acquitted of all charges of involuntary manslaughter.
Back to baseball, Simon has never been able to maintain success for long periods of time in the majors. He has shown glimpses of being an electric closer at times. He’s also had moments where he looks like a potential innings-eater starter. Nobody, even Simon, knows where this talented veteran will fit into the Orioles roster. Whether it’s as a starter, or as a late-inning bullpen arm, Simon could be a breakout player in 2012. Or he could end up on waivers.
Simón can still heat up the radar gun, even now at age thirty. Last year, his average fastball was 94.4MPH. He threw his fastball almost 1 MPH faster in 2010, but that’s likely because he was used out of the bullpen. Speaking of 2010, that was the year when Orioles fans got to see the potential of this 6’6” giant. Due to a Mike Gonzalez injury, and a dreadful Orioles bullpen, Alfredo Simón was name the O’s closer. Simon took complete advantage of the situation and he finished with 17 saves in 21 chances.
Simon’s peripherals suggest that he has been consistently getting lucky during his time in Baltimore. He has a 5.23 career FIP, but only a 4.19 career SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA). Simon is starting to look like another pitcher who consistently outperforms what their sabermetrical numbers suggest they should be. Sabermetrics are far from perfected statistics always and they could be misleading, in terms of Simon’s production.
In 2011, Simon returned to starting pitching. He had sixteen starts and he threw more innings in one year (115.2), than he’d thrown since 2007. He still missed time due to hamstring issues, but overall, Simon threw some quality ballgames for Baltimore. Eight of his sixteen starts were for six innings or more. If Simon can perfect his offspeed pitches better, I could see him having a Carlos Silva in 2004-esue year. That’d make him one of the Orioles best pitchers and he would then be due for a payday in 2013.
Recently, both Manager Buck Showalter, and General Manager Dan Duquette, have made it clear that they want to have players competing in Spring Training for a spot in the Orioles rotation. According to Orioles beat writer, Brittany Ghiroli, Simon has lost ten pounds this offseason and he’s been preparing to be a starter. There will be approximately eleven players competing for five spots in the Orioles rotation this spring. Fortunately for Simon, the majority of them are not very good.
If the Orioles coaching staff can ameliorate Simon into a starter who goes deep into games, without losing his velocity or blocking a younger prospect, then they will have gem of a pitcher at a fraction of the cost of most top starting pitchers. I really do believe in Simon’s capabilities. He has the potential and given that he has a good opportunity coming up this spring, I don’t see any reason why he can’t spend the entire year in the Orioles rotation (health permitting).
If starting doesn’t work out for Simon, he can still be an effective late-inning arm. The Orioles need to develop their pitchers better and stop messing with their roles. They can tell Simon if they want him to be a starter, or a reliever, but the worst thing they can do is have him switch back and forth. For Simon’s career, it’s now or never. 2012 will be the most important year of his career and the Orioles need him to produce at the Major-League level so that they don’t have to rush their young prospects any further.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter***
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