25 December 2008

Orioles Prospects: 21-30

Top 30 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles (12/29/2008)

Prospects 21 - 30

21. Luis Montanez | Stats | Depot Grade: C+
6-2 / 200 | Age - 27 | OF | B/T - R/RDrafted - 2000 (R1) | Miami HS (FL)
Floor: 5th OF | Ceiling: AVG LF | Projection: 4th OF

Notes: After winning the Eastern League Triple-Crown, Montanez enjoyed modest success with Baltimore over the last two months of the season. Offensively, his approach is adequate. He shows average power when he squares-up, but fringy pitch-ID will likely continue limit the frequency with which this occurs at the Major League Level. On a brighter note, his game generally translated well between AA and ML. His MLE at Bowie (.293/.328/.499) was similar to his actual line in limited action with the Big Club (.295/.316/.446). He's a solid fastball hitter that struggles with offspeed stuff. His plus-raw power will always play against mistakes, but his upside is limited.
Defensively, Montanez can handle any of the three outfield positions. With average footspeed, he isn't ideal in centerfield. Further, his routes are fringy, limiting his value in Camden Yards with a spacious right/center gap. Left-field is the best fit, and likely where Montanez will see the most action as a Major Leaguer. At 27, Montanez is what he is at this point -- a bat-first 4th outfielder that can fill-in around the outfield. He's athletic enough to play some infield in a pinch.
22. Tony Butler | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-7 / 205 | Age - 21 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2006 (R3) | Oak Creek HS (WI)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Mid-rotation Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Butler has been hampered by injuries since beginning his professional career. As a result, he has struggled to build upon his impressive debut in 2006 with the Mariners organization. The former 3rd-rounder has a terrific frame with more room to add some strength and velocity. He throws on a tough downward plane which makes it difficult for hitters to square-up when he's commanding his pitches. His fastball tops out in the low-90s, though it more recently sits in the upper-80s. His curveball is a potential above-average pitch, though he showed fringy feel for it in limited work this past season. His changeup is a work-in-progress but flashes some fade and gives him a potential weapon against righties. He tends to sling the ball, which sometimes causes him to lose his release point, particularly with his secondary offerings.

The big question marks right now for Butler are health and endurance. With plenty of other arms in the system, the pressure is off and Butler can focus on staying healthy and improving his endurance. He could benefit from adding some muscle mass, though at this point Baltimore would likely be happy with just keeping him on the mound for a season. If Butler isn't able to make solid progress in 2009, the Orioles could consider shifting him to the pen where endurance would be less of an issue and he could dial-up his fastball. While his curve is adequate, his arm action may be better suited for a sweeping slider.
23. Jim Hoey | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-6 / 205 | Age - 26 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2003 (R13) | Rider University
Floor: Middle-relief | Ceiling: Closer | Projection: Late-inning Relief

Notes: When healthy, Hoey boasts legit shut-down stuff. His fastball is a plus-plus offering that sits in the upper-90s with lots of late armside run. His slider has plus-plus depth and can be used as a freeze pitch or a chase pitch. Injuries, however, have limited his ability to progress. In 2006 he underwent Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2008 due to setbacks in his rehab.

With velocity to spare, he doesn't need to be 100% in order to hold solid value for the Orioles. Baltimore will focus on getting him healthy, and with two remaining option years there is ample opportunity to be patient. However, with several other intriguing arms closing in on the Majors, with each further setback comes an increased likelihood of Hoey missing his window.
24. Ronnie Welty | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-2 / 180 | Age - 20 | OF | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2008 (R20) | Chandler-Gilbert CC (AZ)
Floor: Non-prospect | Ceiling: Above-AVG RF | Projection: AVG RF

Notes: Welty flew below many radars this Spring, primarily due to the inconsistent competition he faced at Chandler-Gilbert. As a result, Baltimore may have grabbed a single-digit talent in the 20th round. Offensively, Welty has intriguing plus-power potential. There are questions as to whether his swing (which can get hitchy at times and generally has too much going on in his load) will play at the higher levels. An optimist would point to Hunter Pence and argue that Welty's hand/eye coordination will continue to allow him to square-up consistently, adding another member to the ugly swing/pretty production club.  After a solid showing at Rookie Bluefield, Baltimore will undoubtedly watch with anticipation as he tackles some more advanced pitching in 2009.

Defensively, Welty is pure right-fielder. He has a plus-arm, above-average footspeed and good instincts in the field. He tracks the ball well and does an excellent job of keeping plays in front of him. Again like Pence, Welty can appear gangly in his pursuit, but he closes well and sets himself up to make the required plays. An excellent breakout candidate for 2009, Welty will likely get a shot at LoA Delmarva.
25. Ryan Adams | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-0 / 185 | Age - 21 | 2B | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R2) | New Orleans HS (LA)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Above-AVG 2B | Projection: Below-AVG 2B

Notes: After limited success in the NY-Penn League in 2007, Adams took a nice step forward this season at LoA Delmarva. His strong wrists and quick hands give him above-average bat speed and decent gap-to-gap power. He has good hand/eye coordination but his pitch-ID is still below-average, resulting in too many strikeouts. As he continues to refine his approach and improve his strikezone command, Adams could move quickly once he shows the ability to handle more advanced pitching. Orioles fans should temper their excitement for now, however. As described in more detail in our Organizational Depth (2B) article, Adams's splits indicate a likely regression in '09, though he should continue to see an up-tick in his power numbers.

Defensively, Adams is still very much a work-in-progress. As Delmarva's second-baseman, Adams recorded an error at a rate of once every other game (primarily on throws). While he ranges alright to both sides, he struggles in setting himself-up for his throws. His transfer is adequate but his lower-half is well below-average. He doesn't set his feet well he's expectedly fringy in his pivots. There's almost no chance Adams will ever be an above-average defender, but the Orioles would be happy to settle for fringy at this point. If he can clean-up his throws, he'll move as quickly as his bat will carry him given the lack of middle-infield depth in the upper-minors.
26. Jason Berken | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-0 / 195 | Age - 25 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R6) | Clemson University
Floor: Bullpen | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Berken was part of one of the better rotations in the Eastern League, posting a solid season for AA Bowie. His low-90s fastball is a solid average to fringe-above-average pitch and Berken is improving upon his command in the zone. His secondary stuff, however, is still lacking. His slider is a low-80s offering that flashes good tilt and late break, but it's still quite inconsistent and at times will saucer over the plate. It could be a plus-pitch if he can improve upon his command and stay on top of it. His changeup ranges from the upper-70s to the low-80s. It has solid depth but lacks enough fade to be a truly effective pitch against lefties. His curveball is below-average and loopy.

Berken comes with two potential above-average pitches, but lacks the third offering or command to succeed as a starter at the Major League level. With more impressive arms coming up with and behind him, a shift to the bullpen seems eminent. He could repeat 2009 at Bowie to continue to work on his secondary offerings, or he could bump up to Norfolk either in relief or as a starter. He profiles as a 7th-inning arm.
27. Tyler Henson | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-1 / 190 | Age - 21 | 3B/SS | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R5) | Tuttle HS (OK)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG 3B | Projection: Below-AVG 3B

Notes: Henson is still very raw offensively. Despite some glimpses of improved plate discipline at the start of the 2009 the Hawai'i Winter Baseball season, Henson regressed back to his free-swinging ways as the games wore on. His ceiling is that of a gap-to-gap hitter with average pop, but he looks fringy offensively as a third-baseman. His approach needs a lot of work and there isn't enough raw power to truly get excited about. On the positive side, he keeps a relatively short path to the ball and he does a good job of spraying the ball to all fields when he does square-up. His offensive profile would drastically improve were he swinging at more hittable pitches -- an issue that will need to be resolved as he progresses to the upper-levels.

Henson is a very good athlete who was originally drafted as a shortstop. While he was quickly moved off of the six-spot, he shows more than enough footwork, range and hands to stay at third. His arm is also more than adequate for the left side of the infield. Worst case, Henson could be shifted to a corner outfield spot where his above-average speed would easily play. The biggest question for Henson will continue to be his bat. Even at his ceiling, it looks like he could a fringy option for third base.
28. Rick Zagone | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-3 / 210 | Age - 22 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2008 (R6) | University of Missouri
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Not surprisingly, Zagone enjoyed a solid first professional season at Short-season Aberdeen after being selected in the 6th-round of this past Rule 4 Draft. Zagone's refined approach and deceptive delivery played well against less developed talent in the NY-Penn League, his average stuff playing-up on a regular basis. His fastball is a fringe-average offering sitting in the upper-80s with some sink. He can add and subtract velocity from his slider and changeup, which range from the upper-70s to the low-80s and mid-70s to the low-70s, respectively. His slider has average, late bite and his changeup can be an average offering when kept down in the zone. When he fails to stay on top of his slider, it tends to spin and drag up in the zone.

Zagone's stuff is fringy for a Major League starter, though his solid command and above-average pitchability should allow him to progress quickly through the low-minors. His high leg kick helps his stuff to play-up, and he likely profiles best as a situational lefty arm or a low-leverage longarm in the pen. LoA Delmarva should give a little more insight into Zagone's projection, though his most likely stumbling block will come once he makes the jump to more advanced hitting at Bowie.
29. Justin Turner | Stats | Depot Grade: C5-11 / 180 | Age - 24 | 2B/SS | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R7) | Cal St. Fullerton
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG 2B | Projection: UTL

Notes: One of two prospects to come over from Cincinnati in the Ramon Hernandez trade, Turner provides some much needed middle-infield depth in the upper-minors. Turner shows a solid understanding of the strikezone, which allows him to focus on hittable pitches. He squares-up consistently, but has little pop in his bat. Offensively, he profiles in the bottom third of a Major League order.

Defensively, Turner has the tools to hold down either shortstop or second-base, but his range plays better on the right side. His footwork around the bag is more than adequate and his soft hands are smooth transfer are his best assets. His arm and range are fringy at short, but he can handle it in a pinch. He's probably not solid enough at the six to profile as a true utility player, but that's likely where he'll find his future role should he establish himself at the Major League level. To his benefit, there is currently little competition up the middle should short or second open-up with the Big Club.
30. Matt Angle | Stats | Depot Grade: C5-10 / 175 | Age - 23 | OF | B/T - L/R
Drafted - 2007 (R7) | Ohio State University
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG CF | Projection: 5th OF

Notes: If all goes well, Angle has the makings of a Major League center-fielder and lead-off hitter. Offensively, Angle has plus-strikezone command and an advanced approach. He squares-up well with above-average bat control and utilizes the whole field. With a slight build, his power is severely limited, though he'll flash occasional gap-to-gap power. He profiles best as a slap hitter that can work the count and is comfortable hitting with two strikes. In addition, he's a solid baserunner with good instincts and a career stolen base success rate of 83%. He'll have to work to keep up with more advanced pitching and it's possible he lacks the strength to drive the ball consistently at the higher-levels.

Defensively, Angle has the potential to provide some value even if he falls short with the bat. He has above-average speed and easily covers both center-field gaps. His arm is adequate for center and he sets himself up well as he approaches the ball. His tracking and his routes are advanced, as well. With good instincts, solid speed and above-average defense, Angle should carve out some sort of Major League career as at least a 5th outfielder. His offensive development will determine whether or not he can reach his ceiling as an everyday center-fielder.