25 January 2009

Orioles Prospects: 1-10

Top 30 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles (1/11/2009)

Prospects 01 - 10

01. Matt Wieters | Stats | Depot Grade: A+
6-5 / 230 | Age - 22 | C | B/T - B/RDrafted - 2007 (R1) | Georgia Tech
Floor: AVG C | Ceiling: All-star C | Projection: All-star C

Notes: Plenty of hyperbole has been thrown around over the past fifteen months with regards to Wieters. Rather than add to litany, we'll just run down our scouting grades and notes, Hitting (70). Wieters is a switch hitter capable of spraying linedrives from pole-to-pole. He has an advanced approach at the plate and plus-bat speed that affords him the privilege of allowing the ball to get deep on him before beginning the swing. This has served him well thus far in his pro career and will aid in his pitch-ID at the Major League level. He has plus-strikezone command. Power (60). Wieters has solid plus-power from both sides of the plate. He doesn't muscle-up, but rather allows his homerun power to come naturally from his linedrive approach. Offensively, he is the total package and profiles as an elite middle-of-the-order bat.
Defense (70). Wieters moves well behind the plate and shows advanced receiving skills. He is a plus-blocker that slides well to both sides and his transfer skills are solid, as well. Coming into 2008, Wieters's greatest shortcoming was his game-calling, which was not a task asked of him at Georgia Tech (as is the case with most college catchers). As his bat was elite both at Frederick and at Bowie, we assume that game-management and game-calling were the hold-up and developmental focus throughout last summer. Arm (70). Wieters was a closer at Georgia Tech and touched the upper-90s off of the mound. He has above-average transfer skills behind the plate and an accurate plus-plus-arm. His footwork was improved this past year and he stands a well above-average defensive catcher with plus-catch-and-throw skills. Speed (35). Wieters is a plodder, limiting him to 1B on the off chance he needs to be moved from behind the plate any time soon.
02. Brian Matusz | Stats - N/A | Depot Grade: A6-4 / 200 | Age - 21 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2008 (R1) | University of San Diego
Floor: Mid-rotation | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: #2 Starter

Notes: Baltimore's first round draft pick in this past Rule 4 draft in June, Matusz immediately became the top pitching prospect in the system. The lefty has a smooth, repeatable delivery (as more fully detailed in our draft article - Finding 1:4 (Brian Matusz)), utilizing a high 3/4 arm slot for each of his offerings. He does not get full extension in his stride, leaving some velocity on the table, and he occasionally lands on a stiff front leg. Though a lengthening of his stride may add one or two mph to his fastball, Baltimore may elect to leave well enough alone as it's unlikely to be a hindrance to success.

Matusz's arsenal is advanced, and he has shown above-average command over each of his four offerings. His fastball is a low-90s pitch that he throws effectively to all four quadrants. Because his secondary stuff is so advanced (and so heavily relied upon), his fastball has a tendency to sneak-up on hitters looking for his plus-changeup or plus-curveball. His changeup is probably his best offering, thrown with deceptive armspeed and above-average depth and fade. His curveball is solid two-plane offering with plus-depth. Matusz also comes with a hard cutter that moves with like a slider with solid depth. With advanced pitchability and solid above-average stuff, Matusz is close to Major League ready right now, and should move quickly. Like David Price last year, he'll likely start at HiA and could reach Baltimore as early as August, depending on the team's needs.
03. Chris Tillman | Stats | Depot Grade: A-6-5 / 200 | Age - 20 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R2) | Fountain Valley HS (CA)
Floor: Back-end Starter | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: #2 Starter

Notes: At 20 years of age, Tillman showed why many (including us) considered him to be the true gem in last Winter's Erik Bedard deal. With an ideal pitcher's frame, Tillman still has room to add strength and perhaps some velocity. He plays-up his height, throwing on a solid downward plane creating a challenging angle for hitters both with his fastball and his secondary stuff. His approach is still a bit raw, and his command can be fringy at times, but there is plenty of time to refine each. 

Tillman has the makings of a frontline arsenal, highlighted by a potential plus-plus-curveball. A hard upper-70s downer that Tillman struggled to control earlier in his career (because of the big break), 2008 saw better control and an increased ability to use it as both a chase pitch and a strike. His fastball is a solid low-90s offering with some armside run, and his changeup is fringe-average and could be a 50-55 when all is said and done. Command remains the biggest obstacle for Tillman, and Baltimore will need to decide whether he can best improve upon this weakness in AA Bowie or AAA Norfolk. Each is a possibility, and we likely won't get a clear idea as to Tillman's assignment until the Spring is well underway. He could make his way to Baltimore as early as 2010.
04. Jake Arrieta | Stats | Depot Grade: B+6-4 / 225 | Age - 22 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2007 (R5) | Texas Christian University
Floor: Late-inning relief | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: #3 Starter

Notes: Behind Matusz, Arrieta is likely the most refined "high ceiling" arm in the system. After a rocky final year at TCU, Arrieta saw his stuff return to form in the 2007 Arizona Fall League before enjoying great success in his first pro season. Arrieta's fastball is his best offering, sitting in the mid-90s with good late life. He is capable of working both sides of the plate, though he struggles at time to command it in the zone. His curve is a big-breaker that serves as an out pitch both in and out of the zone. His changeup is still improving, and he made great strides in 2008 to improve its depth and his arm speed. In time, it could be an above-average offering.

As with Tillman, Arrieta's focus in 2009 will be his command (and particularly his command in the zone). AA Bowie will be the next stop, and he could likely work out of a Major League pen as early as mid-2009 (though it's unlikely Baltimore will have the room or desire to rush him). With three potential plus-pitches, Arrieta is the third legitimate potential front-end starter in Baltimore's system. Ultimately, command and the development of his curveball and changeup will determine whether he shakes out as a mid-rotation arm or something more.
05. Nolan Reimold | Stats | Depot Grade: B6-4 / 215 | Age - 25 | OF | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2005 (R2) | Bowling Green State University
Floor: 5th OF | Ceiling: Above-AVG RF | Projection: AVG LF

Notes: Reimold has possibly the greatest raw-power in the system, highlighted in his homerun showcase in this year's Eastern League playoffs wherein he belted four homeruns in the first two games of the Akron series. His potential to tap into his plus-plus-raw power, however, is limited by his streaky nature and sometimes fringy contact skills. Reimold also tends to get overly-aggressive at times, leading to his hitting poor pitches and preventing him from consistently squaring-up. In the best case, Reimold is able to close some of the holes in his swing and can realize his power potential at the Major League level -- even if he never hits for a particularly high average. In the worst case, Reimold's aggressive approach and inability to square-up prove too great a hurdle for him to overcome.

Defensively, Reimold is a mixed bag in the outfield. He has a true plus-arm that plays extremely well in right field (where he logged almost all of his time in Bowie). He has adequate foot speed for a corner outfielder, though his routes are inconsistent. There have been grumblings that he does not maintain focus in the outfield, leading to mental mistakes and more generally sloppy play from time-to-time. While he profiles best as a right-fielder, left field seems the more likely point of entry with Markakis entrenched in Baltimore. Reimold should get a solid look in Spring Training and could start 2009 in a platoon with Luke Scott or at AAA Norfolk.
06. Brandon Erbe | Stats | Depot Grade: B6-1 / 215 | Age - 23 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2005 (R3) | Baltimore HS (MD)
Floor: Bullpen | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: Late-inning Relief

Notes: After a solid 2008 at Frederick, Erbe will likely get a shot at AA Bowie at the age of 21. With each passing year, Erbe has made progress in refining and repeating his delivery. In 2008, he began to sharpen his command over his fastball -- a low-90s offering that can be dialed-up to the mid-90s from time-to-time. With consistent late life, this offering is a fringe-plus pitch that could play-up even more were he shifted to the pen where he could max out in an inning or two of work. He also throws a heavier 2-seam fastball which sits 2-3 mphs slower than his 4-seamer. His slider is a fringe-plus offering with solid bite.

The biggest hurdles for Erbe as a starter are command and a viable third offering. While he has made strides with his changeup, it is still only a fringe-average offering. He'll have to improve both its consistency as well as his ability to command it down in the zone. With regards to his broader command issues, he has a tendency to leave his pitches up in the zone -- something that will certainly not play against more advanced hitting. If Baltimore shifts him to the pen he could move quickly off the strength of his fastball/slider. For now, Baltimore will likely work to keep him a starter.
07. Brandon Snyder | Stats | Depot Grade: B6-2 / 210 | Age - 22 | 1B | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2005 (R1) | Centreville HS (VA)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG CIF | Projection: AVG 1B

Notes: Finally healthy, Snyder took a big step forward in 2008. Aided by a clean, linedrive swing, Snyder has started to tap into what Baltimore hopes will ultimately be solid above-average power. After a slow April, Snyder built momentum throughout the season, squaring-up consistently against Carolina League pitching and driving the ball to the tune of over one extra-base hit out of every three. A talented Eastern League should provide a good gauge next season as to how far Snyder has developed his offensive approach. He still needs to improve his pitch-ID and his ability to stay back and drive quality offspeed pitches.

Defensively, Snyder looks to be entrenched at first base (though some have hypothesized a switch to third or left). He has adequate range and hands at first and he moves reasonably well side to side. He'll always be a bat first and foremost, and he'll move as quickly and as far as his offensive game will take him. If all breaks right, he could find himself in Baltimore as early as 2010.
08. Billy Rowell | Stats | Depot Grade: B-6-5 / 205 | Age - 20 | RHP | B/T - L/R
Drafted - 2006 (R1) | Pennsauken HS (NJ)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Above-AVG 3B | Projection: AVG LF

Notes: The former first-rounder had an unspectacular season in the Carolina League, though it's noteworthy that he did so as a 19-year old. At times, he gave glimpses of the future power Baltimore hopes will emerge from his large, middle-of-the-order frame. When all is said and done, his power could top out anywhere from above-average to plus-plus. He has focused on his approach over the past three seasons though he still struggles with pitch-ID. As he fine-tunes his approach and puts himself in position to hit better pitches, he could put up big homerun totals sometime in the next season or two. He has already started to fill-out his large frame, though there still remains plenty of room for projection.

Drafted as a shortstop, Rowell shifted to third base in his first professional season. As he continues to add bulk, it's possible that he may move off of third in time. The good news is that he's athletic enough to tackle left field before being relegated to first. He held his own at third base in Frederick, and Baltimore will undoubtedly keep him there as long as he can handle it. Off of some radars after a down-2007 due in part to a lingering oblique strain, Rowell will get the chance to turn some heads in Bowie batting along side Brandon Snyder. While a breakout season would make mid-2010 a possibility for a Major League call-up, 2011 seems much more likely.
09. Chorye Spoone | Stats | Depot Grade: B-6-2 / 205 | Age - 23 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2005 (R8) | Catonsville CC (MD)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: #3 Starter

Notes: After a breakout season at HiA Frederick in 2007 wherein Spoone was able to reign-in his fastball and limit his bases on balls, he hit an unfortunate setback in 2008 when his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. After undergoing surgery in September, Spoone has begun to work back from his labrum tear and hopes to be in a position to rejoin the Bowie staff sometime in 2009. When healthy, Spoone boasts some of the best stuff in the system. He throws two fastballs, each sitting in the low-90s with his four-seamer capable of reaching the mid-90s. His two-seamer has plus-armside run whereas his four-seamer is a heavier offering with solid boring action. He also comes with a plus-power curveball that has tight, late break and plus-plus potential. His changeup is still fringy but he shows a solid feel for the pitch and it could be average in time.

Mechanically, Spoone is sound in an easy and repeatable delivery. He throws out of a 3/4 arm slot and shown an ability to repeat his release point on both his fastball and curveball. While labrum injuries are always dangerous, Spoone has stuff to spare. Even if he does not come back all the way, he has a solid chance to provide Major League value down the road. 2009 will hopefully give more insight into his future and wherein that value will lie.
10. L.J. Hoes | Stats | Depot Grade: B-6-0 / 190 | Age - 18 | 2B | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2008 (R3) | St. John's HS (MD)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Above-AVG 2B | Projection: AVG 2B

Notes: Probably the largest surprise in our list, the 2008 third-rounder brings average to above-average tools across the board. Baltimore drafted Hoes and immediately shifted him from the outfield to second base, where he has made admirable progress thus far in his pro career. The Orioles hope that, in time, he will develop into an average defensive second-baseman. He is an excellent athlete with exceptional body control, which has aided him in his switch to second. He has arm enough to play anywhere on the field, but his bat will likely play best in the four-spot.

Offensively, Hoes has an advanced approach and a plus-command of the strikezone -- an impressive attribute for a high school draftee. His swing is compact and quick to the ball, and his quick wrists and plus-hands generate above-average raw power. His bat speeds affords him the luxury of letting the ball get deep on him before beginning his swing, which will also aid in his pitch-ID moving forward. He needs to work on improving his stride, as he starts with a closed stance and occasionally steps in the bucket as he starts his swing. While his frame is near filled already, there is some room to add strength, which in turn could bump his power potential up a notch. Ideally, he profiles as a number 2 hitter with solid on-base skills and good gap-to-gap power. He has the work ethic and skill set to move quickly, and should be an interesting player to watch develop over the next 2-3 years.

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