This will be the first of a four part series focusing on players of interest in several levels of the Orioles minor league system. Today, the first part of this series will focus on players we assume will be playing for the Delmarva Shorebirds. At this level there are a number of young players who are going to be thrown into the fire and challenged (i.e. Mychal Givens, Matt Hobgood) or are trying to make good on solid short seasons or rookie ball (i.e. Vito Frabizio, Jake Cowan).
After the jump, top five guys to keep a tab on.
1. Matt Hobgood RHSP Bluefield
27.2 IP 3.18 FIP 5.2 k/9 2.6 bb/9 2.21 GB:FB -21 FIP(L)
Matt Hobgood probably has had one of the worst looking professional debuts from those who signed last year, but it really was not that bad. He came in throwing about five miles per hour slower than he did in mid-season form as a prep, so a month of buffets probably did not help him. When he finally showed up at Bluefield, he did one thing well and another not so well. He induced groundballs, which is good. His 2 seamer will be what gets him to the Majors. At this level, though, groundballs wind up for hits at a much greater rate than they do at higher levels with better fielding. What Hobgood did not do so well at was missing bats. 5.2 k/9 is not going to get you anywhere near Norfolk much less Baltimore.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Hobgood has devoted himself to conditioning and is in better shape now than he was when he was pitching last year. He also claims to now be back past 90 mph with his fastball, which he will need. With a pitcher's palace like Delmarva's stadium (though it is more helpful for flyball pitchers like Cole McCurry), Hobgood should see a great change in his fortune and how Baltimore fans regard his selection in the 2009 draft. Although the general consensus among the national publications has him as the 8th best prep arm in last year's draft behind Chad James . . . I think some opinions might change. He is a great pitcher to look for when you are thinking about attending a Shorebird game.
2. Jake Cowan RHSP Aberdeen
25 IP 3.41 FIP 9.7 k/9 4.0 bb/9 1.16 GB:FB -30 FIP(L)
Cowan was another pitcher selected in last year's draft. Somewhat overlooked by many casual fans, several of us were actually quite pleased with the selection. In Aberdeen, Cowan threw a few innings and showed that he is capable of missing bats and inducing some ground balls, which are both hallmarks of successful pitching. His main problem in that short amount of innings was command of his fastball. It should be an offering that develops significantly as his body fills out. He also has a pretty remarkable slider. If he can develop more consistency, he and Hobgood could make for a pretty devastating 1-2 tandem at Delmarva.
3. Mychal Givens SS
Did not play
Givens signing was a little tumultuous with him demanding more money than he has previously indicated to Jordan and some confusing words he sent out to the media. Joe Jordan at one time publicly announce that Givens was not signing and that the money budgeted for him would be spent elsewhere. Eventually, Givens relented and Jordan asked Andy MacPhail for a budget extension (as he had spent the money on other talents). By the time this happened, it was said that Givens was not in game shape (having not played all summer) and would be shelved until next season.
Here at Camden Depot, we have seen Givens more as a solid backend bullpen arm. The Orioles view him differently. As a SS, his form at short is a bit rough. His footwork is not ideal and that often leaves him slightly out of position with him swiping at the ball. We also feel that his lower body is going to thicken out and hurt his range. His bat is also a work in progress. He showed poor contact skills at the high school level and not much power. In short, the Orioles will need to teach him how to play short and how to hit. This is not a typical second round selection. As a power arm, he would be much better suited to reach the Majors at an earlier date.
So, this makes it very interesting to see how he does at Delmarva. With a great deal of instruction on his fielding and hitting, we should be able to either see some amazing progression as the season unfolds . . . or we may see the beginnings of doubt and a few omens that call him to put away the glove and break out his mid-90s heat. I hope I am wrong about him at short. The Orioles future is a bit simpler if he does belong there.
4. Vito Frabizio RHSP Bluefield
76 IP 3.61 FIP 8.2 k/9 2.1 bb/9 1.38 GB:FB +39 FIP(L)
Frabizio is another player that is very intriguing. He is a player who the Orioles signed as an undrafted free agent, largely overlooked because he had dropped out of high school. In his second year of pro ball, he showed he was able to miss bats, not give up walks, and induce more ground balls than flies. It was very impressive. If he is able to continue that in Delmarva, he may establish himself as a solid top 10/15 prospect in the Orioles system. He is certainly someone you should remember.
5. Aaron Wirsch LHSP
18 IP 3.10 FIP 9.0 k/9 5.0 bb/9 3.37 GD:FB +62 FIP(L)
Some think it might be aggressive to put him in Delmarva. The other option would be extended spring training and then slotting him into the Aberdeen rotation. I think though that Wirsh, a 7th round pick last year out of El Toro HS, is advanced enough that he would be able to pitch in LoA. He needs to fill out and when he does that his fastball should break into the low 90s. He also has two secondary pitches which show some promise. If the Orioles do aggressively promote Wirsch, his development this year will be quite exciting.
Others to watch:
Tyler Townsend 1B - disappointing season last year, needs to establish his hit tools
Gery Helmick 2B - showed remarkable patience at the plate and could stick at second
Enrico Jimenez RHSP - never heard of him, but his peripherals in DSL are very promising
Jesse Beal RHSP - local amateur scouts love him, great GB:FB, does not miss a bat though
Reminder: Evaluations of these players are composites of public chats as well as consensus data collected from multiple trade journals. Specific evaluations by me or others at Camden Depot is typically mentioned specifically.