Introducing L.J. Hoes
6’0” – 190 lbs. – Bats/Throws (R/R)
With Baltimore’s pick at 3:5, we get some insight into this year’s draft approach. By selecting their second “toolsy” high schooler in three picks, the Orioles signal they are confident in their ability to develop their own talent and would like to grab the best tool sets with which to work. Hoes is an athletic ballplayer with the skill set to play almost any position in the field. Baltimore announced him as a second baseman, and it looks like that’s where the O’s will try to shape him (though he’ll likely bounce around the infield a bit in the rookie leagues to ensure he gets his at bats while others are working out at the four-spot). While the Matusz pick was probably the most heavily debated by Baltimore fans, the Hoes pick is the most significant – Jordan and the Orioles are stating in no uncertain terms that the organization will be looking to develop this year’s infusion of talent at the low-minor levels, and they are confident that the likes of Hoes and Avery will ultimately outshine the likes of more developed college players such as Kieschnick, Darnell and Danks. Let's take a look at what Jordan and Co. will be working with over the next 4+ seasons.
AVG – .524
SLG – .964
AB – 84
H – 44
2B – 9
3B – 2
HR – 8
RBI – 29
R – 44
SB – 32
As was the case with Avery, it looks like Baltimore was targeting athleticism with this pick -- primarily speed, with some semblance of raw power. Hoes enjoyed a successful career at St. John's and was an impact player right from the jump-off, batting third as a freshman for a team ranked in the top 25 nationally by four separate publications. Had he not signed with Baltimore, he would have continued his baseball career with national powerhouse University of North Carolina. St. John's is a member of the Washington Catholic League, which is competitive enough to add some legitimacy to his stats (though one has to keep in mind that even the most competitive of high school leagues is plagued with inconsistency in competition).
Hitting - 60
Power - 55
Fielding - 55
Arm - 60
Speed - 55
Hoes is a solid all-around ballplayer that doesn't dominate any one facet of the game. He's solidly above-average across the board and has earned a reputation as a clutch player capable of helping a team in all areas -- defense, throwing out runners, stealing bases and timely hitting with occasional pop. He doesn't have a huge frame, but he is already well on his way to filling it out. His power could grade as high as a 60 on the 80 point scale, but there probably isn't a ton of room for growth. His speed plays well in the outfield, but he probably isn't fast enough to profile as a Major League center-fielder. Likewise, his speed is fringe-plus on the offensive side -- he is quicker on the base paths once underway than he is out of the box. His arm should play across the diamond.
Scouting video available on the Orioles's Draft Tracker page at MLB.com
Load - Hoes has an effective load. His hands are optimally placed slightly above and behind his back shoulder. His elbow is angled slightly below 90 degrees, with his bat head pointed towards third base and moving towards perpendicular as he completes the first stage of his swing. His weight distribution is close to 60/40 and he lifts his front leg through the load. There are schools of thought that regard this as a good timing mechanism, though it carries with it the requirement that the hitter keep his weight-shift in mind during his stride so as to avoid getting his lower half out in front of the ball as he brings his leg down.
Stride - Starting with a closed stance, Hoes's stride takes him slightly open, towards third base. This leads to his hips occasionally opening early, and accordingly, pull-side tendencies. This also opens up a hole on the outside of the plate that might be exploited at the professional level. Because he utilizes a raised front leg during his load, his weight transfer is occasionally uneven. He tends to shift his weight forward a little prematurely, which may lead to difficulties with offspeed stuff down the road. His hands and upper body are excellent. His hands stay tied to their position relative to his shoulders, keeping a short path to the ball. He has a still head and keeps his front shoulder closed and driving towards the pitch.
Swing - Hoes's calling card is his quick bat speed. Strong wrists, forearms and upper body, together with good upper body mechanics lead to a firm, compact swing that produces solid contact on a regular basis. While Hoes stride limits his ability to spray line drives from pole-to-pole as effectively as one would like, he has shown an adequate power to the opposite field -- this is likely due to his ability to let the ball deep into stance before beginning his swing (a huge benefit of above-average bat speed). It will also benefit his pitch identification as he works through the minors.
Contact - Mechanics at contact are sound. Hoes squares up on the ball regularly, and his body is in good power position at contact. His weight is centered and a straight line runs close to perpendicular to the ground from head to back knee (though he is generally a little too far out in front with his upper body). On those occasions where his weight transfers forward too quickly and he hits off of his front foot, he does a respectable job of rotating through his core and not lunging.
Follow-Through - Hoes has a clean, one-handed follow-through. As he works on hitting to the opposite field with authority, he may consider a two-handed follow-through to try and maintain a little more bat control towards the end of his swing, but this will largely depend on the hitting philosophy of his minor league instructors.
Swing Grade - B
Hoes is impressive in the field. He has enough arm to play anywhere on the diamond and is direct to the ball in the outfield. He tracks the ball well and shows good instincts while in pursuit. Baltimore will look to mold him as an infielder, which is certainly possible giving his above-average athleticism and body control. Though he was an above average outfielder in high school, he isn't likely to have the speed to man center field at the Major League level or the bat to hold down a corner outfield spot. His above average arm and fringe-plus speed play well, defensively.
Fielding Grade - B
The gamble here is that Hoes will hit enough to be an everyday infielder. The Orioles seem to be confident that he will be able to pick-up second base, and it would appear the target production will be somewhere around a Brian Roberts-lite. There is plus-power potential in his swing, but it is unlikely he'll add enough bulk for it to translate to much above low-double-digit home run output. With Hoes, Jordan grabs his second solid tool set and hopes to mold him into a late first round talent over the course of the next three seasons. He has the advantage of being quite versatile in the field already and fairly sound mechanically with his swing. His development will likely center around fine-tuning his game and working to get the most out of his body.
Prospect Grade - B-
ETA - 2013
WED 6/25 - Kyle Hudson (Pick 4:5)
THU 6/26 - Rick Zagone (Pick 6:5)
FRI 6/27 - Caleb Joseph (Pick 7:5)