25 January 2009

Orioles Prospects 2009 ReCap

Top 30 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles (1/27/2009)

Recap: Five Storylines from the Top 30

1. Matt Wieters

As we stated in Part 3, there has been tons written on Wieters already. So instead of breaking him down further and further, here are some Wieters pieces worth reading. Enjoy:

MLB.com Scouting Report
Keith Law Top 100 (Wieters #1)
Baseball-intellect Scouting Report
ESPN Chat with Matt

2. The "Big Three"
Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman round out one of the better top four prospect groups in the game. It’s clear that Baltimore is counting on these young studs to anchor the staff for years to come. Where you will find differing opinions, however, is when each of the “Big Three” will arrive for good with the Birds, as well as what their upside and likely projection truly is. So let’s tackle each of these questions one at time and see where we end up.

Tillman is the youngest of the three, punching-in at 20-years of age. One of the more junior arms in the Eastern League, Tillman put together a fine season made more impressive by the relative age of his competition and the projectability still remaining in his frame and stuff. Still, those calling for an immediate promotion to AAA and eventual call-up in 2009 may be jumping the gun a bit. While Tillman was certainly impressive, his production doesn’t necessarily indicate that he has vastly surpassed the level. To start, he consistently worked into the fifth inning but only logged 10.7 IP in the sixth inning on the entire season. He never recorded an out in the seventh. He had trouble maintaining his stuff the second time through the order and displayed periodic command issues throughout the season. He has big stuff, and there certainly isn’t any indication that he’s incapable of competing at AAA Norfolk. At the same time, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to start him back at Bowie where he could continue to build his endurance and refine his command and changeup. Either way, Tillman would be well served to log one more full year in the Minors unless he starts putting up David Price-esque numbers between Bowie and Norfolk. There is no need to rush him and Baltimore has a fair number of arms to sort through already at AAA/ML to determine if any of them are pieces for the future.

Arrieta spent the entire year at HiA Frederick, despite his stuff sitting above his level for a large portion of the season. Selection to the Olympic team sidetracked plans to promote the young righty to AA Bowie in the second half. While at Frederick, Arrieta blew away hitters with his big fastball and wipeout slider. Like Tillman, he struggled to command his stuff and held a walk-rate of 4.0 BB/9IP – well above where it needs to be in order to succeed at the upper levels. Again like Tillman, Arrieta needs to refine his changeup and improve his consistency and command across the board. Unlike Tillman, Arrieta has an easier time working later into the game. He logged 18.6 IP after the fifth (11.3 – 6th, 6.0 – 7th, 1.3 – 8th). More impressive, he didn’t see a drop in his stuff, as partially evidenced in his only allowing 11 hits in those 18.6 innings. Interestingly, his walk rate even decreased to 3.37 BB/9IP. Arrieta will likely log at least a half a season at AA Bowie and, depending on his success, could see a promotion to AAA Norfolk. He may be ready to throw out of a Major League pen at some point in 2009, but there is no sense in taking innings away from him at starter. More likely, he competes for a rotation spot in the Spring of 2010.
Matusz is often discussed as the player furthest away from the Majors (due to his lack of experience) but I couldn’t disagree more. He is so advanced with his secondary offerings and command that an argument can be made for him being Major League ready right now. Matusz will likely start at HiA Frederick where I have little doubt his secondary stuff will overwhelm the competition. How he fairs at AA Bowie will likely determine if a late-season call-up to Baltimore is reasonable. If he shows the aptitude to mix his four pitches effectively, there will be little for him to prove at AAA Norfolk. More likely, he’d make a brief stop-over a la David Price before getting a shot at the American League in August/September. Price, of course, was utilized as a weapon in the midst of a playoff push – it’s unlikely Baltimore will have such a need. Regardless, despite not logging any professional innings for a Baltimore affiliate, Matusz’s stuff, pitchability and his past success in college, over the summers and in this past Arizona Fall League (against some of the better prospects in baseball) all seem to point towards a brief Minor League career. He’s our pick for most likely to make an appearance at OPACY in 2009 and will likely be a fixture in the rotation as early as April 2010.
ProjectionAll three of Arrieta, Tillman and Matusz have front-end ceilings (#1 or #2 starters). Let’s loosely define a #1 as the following:
1. Two pitches that grade out as fringe-plus-plus to plus-plus and another above-average to plus
2. Perhaps one more pitch that is average or better (though depending on the above, this might not be necessary)
3. Plus command
4. Advanced pitchability (knowledge of the "art" and how to game-plan and execute)
5. Durability (both in-game and in-season -- loosely I'll say he has a reasonable chance at 6+ IP each outing, with shorter outings due to effectiveness and not stamina or inability to maintain “stuff”)
6. Usually all of this adds up to a high ability to miss bats, but I wouldn't say that missing bats is a requisite (more often, not missing bats is illustrating a shortcoming in 1-4)

Matusz has the best likelihood of reaching a #1 ceiling. His curveball and changeup can be plus-plus offerings, and his cutter is above-average as well. His fastball is at least average. Matusz has plus-command across the board and already has advanced pitchability. Durability has yet to be tested – he’ll start 2009 by acclimating himself to generally five days or rest rather than six. There’s a question as to how his fastball will play but I am not concerned. He locates it well and shows an advanced understanding of how to effectively mix all of his offerings. So long as he can maintain this balance, he has the potential to be a true #1, with a #2 designation being more likely simply because it’s unreasonable to assume he hits on all cylinders before even beginning his pro career in earnest. He looks like another Cole Hamels with potentially a better fourth offering.
Tillman has the plus-plus potential with his curveball and room in his frame to add velocity to his fastball. He needs to improve his changeup to at least an average offering, as well as improve his command across the board. There’s so much projection and he’s accomplished so much at a young age that I’m hesitant to try and figure where his offerings will ultimately grade-out, but it isn’t unreasonable to project a plus-plus-CB, fringe-plus-plus-FB and an above-average changeup. As discussed above, durability is an issue for now, though he’s still young and building-up arm strength. The raw tools are there for Tillman to develop into a #1, but a #2 seems a more likely ceiling with a decent shot at becoming a #3.
Arrieta has two potential plus-plus offerings in his fastball and slider. Both his curveball and changeup can be average pitches at times, already, and there is room for growth with each. His durability shouldn’t be an issue, but his command is still a ways off across the board. His ceiling looks to be that of an AJ Burnett – plus-plus fastball with a devastating breaking ball (slider rather than curve). Like Burnett, he’ll struggle in those instances where he can’t locate his breaking ball and hitters can sit on his fastball. When he’s on, he could be filthy. He looks to profile as a future #3 with a strong likelihood of providing at least #4 production (based on his durability and the quality of his offerings).
SummaryThe “Big Three” look like pretty solid bets to be productive Major Leaguers – exactly how productive they ultimately become will depend on the extent to which they can address the above-referenced flaws in their current game. As far as time-of-arrival, it seems unlikely that any will have a serious impact before 2010, and most likely there will be the usual acclamation period. Long-term, these three pitchers should provide a solid core for the rotation, with Matusz being the closest to fully-baked and Arrieta and Tillman further off (with slightly differing hurdles to overcome). While we currently rated the three Matusz-Tillman-Arrieta each is capable of ultimately outdistancing the other two – a nice situation to have with your top three arms.
3. Another "Big Three"?
No, I’m not talking about the next wave of arms (though we’ll touch on them later). I’m talking about Brandon Snyder, Billy Rowell and Nolan Reimold. While none are close to “can’t miss” guys, each is intriguing in his own way, and all have the potential to fill a current long-term hole at the Major League level – a 4-5-6 hitter.
Reimold is the closest to ML-ready and has the most raw power of the three (a solid 70 on the 80 point scale). With Pie now in the outfield mix, even more stress will be placed on the development of Reimold’s bat. If he can maintain a solid contact rate at AAA and then Baltimore, he easily fits in as a solid #4 or #5 hitter, capable of 30+ homeruns a season. Can Baltimore rely on him contributing as a #4 or 5? Unfortunately, not yet. Contact rate and some holes (though shrinking) in his swing present a formidable challenge to ML success. To Reimold’s benefit, he’s approaching the point where Baltimore will have to let him sink or swim. The good news is that the decision as to whether or not to stick with Reimold will be an easy one. He isn’t close to Markakis or Pie, defensively, and he lacks the footspeed for center field. So if his bat doesn’t reach its middle-of-the-order potential then it won’t play at DH/1B, removing any potential value for this organization. Reimold’s situation should adequately play itself out over the next 18 months.
Snyder is the next closest to ML-ready, but his offensive game is quite a bit different from Reimold’s. He doesn’t project to a #4 hitter, and likely not a #5 hitter. He’s starting to tap into some of his raw power, but he doesn’t have the size or leverage to be a prototypical thumper at first base. If he reaches his ceiling, he likely profiles as a solid-average first baseman sitting between 15-20 homeruns per season, lots of doubles and a respectable average. His on-base skills are a bit limited by his plate discipline, though there is some time to at least improve marginally. Snyder is a better bet to provide some Major League value, but again it’s almost entirely based on his bat. He squares-up more consistently than Reimold and as a result isn’t nearly as streaky a hitter. Finally healthy, Snyder will enter 2009 at AA Bowie with some solid momentum and a likely opening at 1B in Baltimore in 2010.
Rowell is the furthest away and struggled more than Reimold or Snyder in 2008. The difference, however, is Rowell was at least one full year too young for his level. After spending a chunk of 2008 watching Matt Wieters tear-up the Carolina League, Rowell should have a better idea as to where he needs to be over the course of the next 2-3 seasons. He has a powerful frame and a clean swing with lots of leverage. It’s easy to see him projecting to fringe-plus-plus power in addition to hitting for average (though he doesn’t seem to have the raw hand/eye coordination of Wieters). There is plenty of time for Rowell to continue to develop, and he could profile as a #4, #5 or #6 hitter when all is said and done. Because he will be just 20 and still in HiA, it’s still to early to seriously consider the odds of him reaching his ceiling with any degree of certainty. What Baltimore will be looking for in 2009 is progress and maturity.
Each of these three players has varying risk and varying potential return. Were Baltimore to catch lightening in a bottle, they could be looking at a 2011 lineup of:
RF – Markakis
C – Wieters
DH – Reimold
CF – Jones
1B – Snyder
3B – Rowell
LF – Pie

with Rowell eventually bumping Jones and Snyder down a spot. Of course, at this point, it may be just as likely that Baltimore ends up with only one of the three amounting to anything useful at the ML-level. 2009 will be a crucial year for all of them and we should know much more by December. Much attention is paid to the lack of positional depth in the Orioles’s system, but the truth is the Major League club is already pretty well set in the outfield and catcher (potentially for a long time). Baltimore will hope that some or all of these three can eventually fill a portion of the remaining holes at IF/DH.
4. Waves of Arms
Many think of the New York Yankees of the early-2000s and think “big money free agents.” In reality, much of the inflated payroll that NYA has carried around was a result of locking-up the homegrown talent that brought them their late-90s dynasty. It’s unlikely Baltimore will be in the financial position to follow suit with the likes of (potentially) Wieters, Jones, Tillman, Matusz, Arrieta, Pie, Snyder, Reimold and Rowell. This is not a problem, indeed it provides Baltimore the opportunity to be creative in determining the pieces they want long term and the pieces that are expendable.
Baltimore will become a perennial contender when it is in a position to benefit from redundancies in the Minor Leagues and move young talent to help supplement their system. For example, it’s unlikely Baltimore is able to lock-up all of Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz, Jones, Wieters and Pie. Instead, over the next four seasons or so (assuming all develop, of course) Baltimore would determine which three or so of these players will be locked-up and which can be moved for more young talent. This allows an organization to keep payroll at a manageable level while not letting assets go to waste. The trick, however, is having the pieces ready to step in for those Major Leaguers that you eventually move. That’s where the concept of “Waves of Arms” comes in.
If the Big 3 are considered future anchors, there are a handful of other arms that figure to be in on the rotation slots over the next two seasons. This includes mostly the AAA/ML guys in place (Liz, Patton, Albers, Penn, Bergesen, Waters, Berken and an assortment of fringy arms brought in this off-season). Slotted a year or two behind this core is an improving collection of arms currently spread between HiA, AA and maybe AAA (Spoone, Erbe, Britton, Hernandez, etc.). A year or two later sits a third wave currently in the low-minors (Beato, Drake, Bundy, Butler, etc.).
The goal is to develop these arms in waves. Attrition rates will generally take care of the “too many starters” problem, and some arms will prove to be better suited for the pen (Hernandez? Erbe?). As you build up these redundancies, flexibility increases and the organization is able to explore a wider variety of trades (prospects for Major Leaguers and vice versa), filling holes that arise due to injury and generally permitting the arms all the developmental time they need by not forcing them through the system to address shortages on the Big Club. We’re seeing the early stages of such a system being built, and it’s a very good thing.
The question, then, is how does Baltimore make the “Wave of Arms” approach a constant? It really comes down to bringing in talent through all available avenues, and particularly through the Rule 4 Draft and international signings. The Rule 4 Draft allows the team to infuse the system with varying levels of talent at varying ages (roughly 18-23). That means arms starting from Rookie-level to HiA and progressing at various paces. The international market, generally, involves bringing in younger talent (roughly 16-20). That means arms starting from developmental-level to LoA and progressing more slowly. By adding varying talent to all levels the organization can better cope with injuries at the various levels and be more flexible with regards to including pieces in trades. Baltimore is showing evidence of properly utilizing the Rule 4 Draft. In addition to continuing down that path, the organization will need to start tapping into the international market (and particularly Latin America). The infrastructure is being built-up, but it may be another season or two before Baltimore starts reaping the fruits of its labor.
5. Identifying Value in the Rule 4 Draft
Briefly, I wanted to speak on Jordan’s ability to locate value in the draft over the past couple of seasons. This year, Miclat (R5) and Bundy (R8) saw their stock drop primarily due to injury. Drake (R43) flew under the radar of most organizations and Welty (R20) didn’t provide easy-to-scout performances because of the nature of his competition at Chandler-Gilbert CC. All found their way onto our Top 30 list and two of these players are our picks for 2009 Breakout Candidates.
In previous years, Baltimore was able to grab late-round talent in Jake Arrieta (R5), Chorye Spoone (R8) and David Hernandez (R16). While there is still a huge hole to be filled with regards to international talent, Baltimore appears to be on the right track in the Rule 4 Amateur Draft. If and when the organization improves and drops in the draft the order, the ability to spot top talent in the later slots will become even more important. Joe Jordan would appear to be more than up to the task.
Organizational Leaders
Hitting - Matt Wieters
Wieters was an easy choice for best hitter in the system. Split between HiA Frederick and AA Bowie, Wieters posted a line of .355/.454/.600. He’s dangerous from both sides of the plate and comes with an advanced approach and plus-strikezone command (walking 88 times against 76 strikeouts).
Power - Matt Wieters
While Reimold has Wieters beat in the raw power department, Wieters is a safer bet to realize his power and could produce 25+ homeruns on a regular basis. He flashes a little more power as a righty, but is capable of hitting the ball out of any part of the park from either side of the plate. He has incredible bat-speed and lets his power come naturally, flowing from a clean swing that generates lots of natural loft and backspin.

Defense - Matt WietersBlake Davis is the best defender in the field, but the value Wieters provides behind the plate trumps what Davis can do at short. Wieters moves well from side to side and is an excellent receiver proficient at blocking. He has a plus-transfer with solid footwork and a quick release. His throws come out with plus-plus-strength and plus-accuracy, making him the complete package at the most valuable position on the diamond.
Best RHSP - Chris TillmanAlready discussed thoroughly in this piece, Tillman has the ceiling of a front-end arm and has already made huge developmental strides reaching AA ball at the age of 20. He could be up for good as early as 2010.
Best LHSP - Brian MatuszBaltimore’s first selection in the 2008 Rule 4 Draft, Matusz is close to Major League ready right now and has the potential for two plus-plus offerings (CH/CB) and two more plus-offerings (FB/CU) when all is said and done. He has plus-command and plus-pitchability, throwing with an easy and effortless delivery. His ceiling is a Cole Hamels with potentially a little more velocity on his fastball and a better fourth offering.
Best Future RP - Brandon ErbeBaltimore has time to continue to work Erbe as a starter, but his fastball/slider could be lethal out of the pen. He would have little need for his changeup, still just a fringe-average offering, but he’ll still need to work more consistently down in the zone.
2009 Breakout Candidate (Pitching) - Oliver DrakeZach Britton and Bobby Bundy made strong cases (with Britton being the obvious pick based on the writings of sources such as BaseballAmerica, John Sickels and Keith Law. Respectfully, we disagree and put Ollie Drake’s name out there. Drake is durable with advanced pitchability. His fastball is nothing spectacular, but he flashes 2-plane action with his above-average slider and has shown a good feel for his changeup and his curveball. With solid command and a good approach, he should have a nice little coming out party in the Sally League with LoA Delmarva.
2009 Breakout Candidate (Hitting) - Ronnie WeltyWelty is a risky pick, given his questionable mechanics and high strikeout rate. We see a highly talented hitter with plus-hand/eye coordination and an ability to consistently square-up and use the whole field. He finished the year on an absolute tear, posting an August line of .408/.462/.563 against a June line of .220/.319/.390 and a July line of .276/.297/.356. He also reduced his strikeout rate from 0.28/AB to .17/AB. He was solid against righties and lefties, and though he’ll be challenged we’re excited to see how he fairs in Aberdeen or (hopefully) LoA Delmarva.
2009 Bounce-back Candidate - Pedro BeatoWith positive reports coming out of the Fall Instructional League, we’re ready to jump back aboard the Pedro Beato bandwagon. After suffering through an abysmal 2008, Beato worked on cleaning-up his mechanics and saw an improvement in his velocity, command and the consistency of his secondary stuff. Known for throwing the kitchen sink at hitters, we hope to see him simplify his approach and focus on pounding the strikezone in 2009.
10 More Prospects to WatchCaleb JosephBrandon Waring
Tyler Kolodny
Kyle Hudson
Tim Bascom
Garabez Rosa
Wilfredo Perez
Pedro Beato
Luis Noel
Blake Davis

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.

05 January 2009

Orioles Prospects: 11-20

Top 30 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles (1/5/2009)

Prospects 11 - 20

11. Troy Patton | Stats | Depot Grade: B-
6-1 / 185 | Age - 23 | RHP | B/T - B/RDrafted - 2004 (R9) | Magnolia HS (TX)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Mid-rotation Starter | Projection: #4 Starter

Notes: Patton came over the Baltimore last December in the Tejada trade and figured to slot into the back-end of the '08 rotation. A slap-tear of the labrum, however, sidetracked his campaign before it even started. After undergoing surgery to repair the tear, Patton was throwing again this fall in instructionals with positive results (as reported by at OriolesHangout.com -- premium contact article). Since Patton was never a power pitcher, this would seem to mesh with what we expected. We'll want to pay particular attention to whether his feel and release point are back on track in the Spring, as his pitchability is his best asset.
Patton's fastball is a high-80s offering with good armside run. He also throws a four-seamer that comes in much straighter and bumps up 2-3 mph. He commands the pitch to all four quadrants and mixes in a solid set of secondary pitches, keeping hitters off-balance. His slider has tight, late break and can be used as a "strike" pitch or a "chase" pitch. His changeup generally sits in the upper-70s with good fade and plays-up particularly well against lefties. His strength is his ability to pitch up-and-down / left-to-right and changing pace. If healthy in the Spring, he'll be a favorite to make the rotation and should provide back-end production.
12. David Hernandez | Stats | Depot Grade: B-6-3 / 215 | Age - 23 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2005 (R16) | Cosumnes River JC (CA)
Floor: Bullpen | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: Late-inning Relief

Notes: Hernandez has a terrific arm and boasts two potential plus-pitches. The first is a mid-90s fastball that plays-up due to a quick arm action and somewhat deceptive delivery. His two-seamer clocks in 2-4 mph slower but has nice late action. His second potential plus-offering is a hard, slurvy curveball that ranges from in the upper-70s to the low-80s. It already functions well as a "chase" pitch, but Hernandez could stand to tighten his control and consistency if he wants to continue to utilize the offering against more advanced hitters. His changeup is still a work-in-progress, and as with his curveball he'll need to tighten his command and consistency with the offering if he wants it to play at the next level.

The big question marks right now for Hernandez are command in the zone with his fastball, command and consistency with his secondary stuff and development of a viable third offering. Right now, he has a tendency to run up his pitch counts due to fringy command.  This has limited his ability to go deep into games and stands as a legit hurdle to Hernandez sticking as a starter. There is certainly still time for him develop his changeup and improve his command. but with a solid crop of starting arms around him it may make sense to consider shifting him to the pen. His power stuff could really play-up there, and the lack of a ML-caliber third offering wouldn't hinder his value. There's a lot to like about Hernandez, in particular his ability to miss bats. For the second straight season he lead the league in strikeouts (2007 - Carolina League; 2008 - Eastern League) and he has an aggressive demeanor on the mound. Baseball-intellect.com doesn't like his front-side mechanics, and likewise suspects he'll end up in the bullpen. 
13. Bobby Bundy | Stats | Depot Grade: B-6-2 / 215 | Age - 18 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2008 (R8) | Sperry HS (OK)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Front-end Starter | Projection: #3 Starter

Notes: Bundy was a solid value pick in round 8 of the 2008 Rule 4 draft. His stock dipped a bit after spending the Spring rehabbing from a torn ACL, though the injury did little to slow him down in the overmatched Will Rogers League (Senior Year stats included in our 2008 Draft Review article). With his fastball velocity down, Bundy was nearly unhittable as the staff anchor, and Sperry claimed its third state championship in four years. Bundy has since continued to build-up his lower-body strength and his fastball velocity is almost back to its pre-surgery low- to mid-90s pop.

Bundy's secondary offerings are solid for a high schooler. His curveball is a two-plane pitch with legitimate plus-plus potential. Sitting in the mid- to upper-70s, it also serves as a solid "change of pace" pitch. He hardly needed his changeup at Sperry HS, but shows an okay feel for it and it's adequate as a "show me" pitch, already. It could be a solid average offering down the line. A big body that gets on top of the ball, Bundy throws on a hard downward plane. He can attack the zone with a solid two-pitch mix right now, and if the changeup progresses he has the base skill set to ultimately reach a front-end ceiling. He may be able to hold his own at LoA Delmarva, but Baltimore could instead keep him in extended spring training and let him take a shot at the NY/Penn League out of Short-season Aberdeen.
14. Xavier Avery | Stats | Depot Grade: B-5-11 / 180 | Age - 18 | OF | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2008 (R2) | Cedar Grove HS (GA)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: All-star CF | Projection: AVG LF

Notes: Avery is an immense talent that could pay out big for the Orioles if they are able to tap into his raw potential. Profiled in our 2008 Draft Review, Avery boasted one of the best tool sets in the entire 2008 Draft Class. Entering the Summer, his swing was still raw and there were questions as to whether Baltimore would promote an easier "slap hitter" approach or try to refine his approach and tap into his plus raw power. He has above-average hand/eye coordination and reports from the Gulf Coast League and Fall Instructionals have been encouraging. He's keeping a better path to the ball and showing an improved ability to spray to all fields. Twenty-four months from now we should have a better idea of what Avery is going to become, and 2010/11 should be circled as potential offensive breakout seasons.

Defensively, Avery could be plus in left field, but we're not quite sold on his arm strength and accuracy out of center (which is where Baltimore has played him thus far). His plus-plus speed plays all around the outfield. He tracks well and his footwork is solid, though he could stand to improve his routes. Already endearing himself to the organization as a hard worker, Avery should be fun to follow over the next 3-5 years. He has the potential to move quickly and is another in a solid group of high-upside 2008 Baltimore draftees.
15. Greg Miclat | Stats | Depot Grade: C+5-9 / 180 | Age - 21 | SS | B/T - B/R
Drafted - 2008 (R5) | University of Virginia
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Above-AVG SS | Projection: UTL

Notes: Like Bundy, Miclat came at a discount in this past Rule 4 Draft due to injury. While spending his 2008 season regaining strength in his shoulder, the UVA middle-infielder saw his offensive numbers dip dramatically (see our 2008 Draft Review article). When healthy, Miclat brings an advanced approach to the plate, utilizing solid pitch-ID and a plus command of the strikezone. He keeps a short path to the ball and excels at going with the pitch -- using the entire field. Though he is maxed out with regards to his frame, he should be able to generate solid gap-to-gap power as a professional, moving away from a "slap" approach encouraged at UVA. He likely profiles as a bottom-third-of-the-order bat, though he has the on-base skills to hit out of the one spot if he can fully regain his strength.

Defensively, Miclat has the hands, range, footwork and baseball acumen to be an above-average shortstop at the Major League level. He is clean on both ends of the double-play and shows a talent for charging the ball. The big question will be the strength in his shoulder moving forward. Prior to his surgery, Miclat boasted well above-average arm strength. Last Summer, Aberdeen alternated him at DH and SS to get him adequate at bats while bringing his shoulder along slowly. Far from a sure thing, Miclat is an interesting package that is already quite refined and could move quickly through the system. His ability to consistently square-up against advanced pitching and the degree to which he can develop some gap-to-gap power should determine whether or not he ultimately profiles as a Major League regular or a utility player with solid on-base skills.
16. Kam Mickolio | Stats | Depot Grade: C+6-9 / 255 | Age - 24 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R18) | Utah Valley State University
Floor: Bullpen | Ceiling: Late-inning Relief | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Mickolio is a big-bodied righty with a power sinker and a potential wipeout slider that flashes plus-potential. If he can improve upon his command, this two-pitch mix could be dominant in late-relief. Unfortunately, his mechanics make for an inconsistent release point (he throws heavily across his body). However, this same arm action generates plus-sink on his low-90s fastball and plus-spin on his slider. Both offerings also play-up due to the fact that he throws on a solid downward plane. His changeup is a "show me" offering for which Mickolio is still developing his feel.

Mickolio has a limited organized baseball background (there was no high school baseball in Montana) but has steadily moved through the minors as part of Seattle's and now Baltimore's system. The Orioles will continue to develop the righty into a power set-up man, capable of working multiple innings. Depending on the make-up of the 40-man come April, Mickolio could find himself in Baltimore or back in Norfolk to continue working on repeating his release point and commanding his sinker/slider. His sinker remains one of the best fastballs in the organization.
17. Zach Britton | Stats | Depot Grade: C+6-2 / 180 | Age - 21 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2006 (R3) | Weatherford HS (TX)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Britton took a nice step forward this past season and is making a case to remain a starter as he progresses towards the upper-levels. His fastball is his best pitch -- a low-90s offering with good boring action that produces groundball after groundball (though not missing many bats). One reason for this could be that his secondary pitches are still progressing, and hitters (even in the LoA South Atlantic League) are keying in on his fastball. Britton is making headway with his slider, but it's still an inconsistent pitch. When on, he gets good, late bite and it could be a plus-pitch down the line. His curve and change are both fringy, though he gets some solid depth on his changeup, albeit sporadically. Ideally, he'll improve enough upon one of these offerings to give him a legit "change-of-pace" effect batters' timing -- his changeup being the more likely of the two to be an average Major League pitch.

For the time being, we still project Britton to slot-in as a lefty-reliever. His solid velocity with a boring fastball and the makings of a hard slider could together produce very solid results against advanced hitters. He should get a shot at HiA Frederick next year, where Baltimore will watch to see if he can continue to make progress. Consistency in his slider and an offspeed offering are his biggest needs, in addition to improved command in the zone with all of his secondary stuff. He could also stand to add some muscle-mass.
18. Oliver Drake | Stats | Depot Grade: C+6-4 / 210 | Age - 21 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2008 (R43) | United States Naval Academy
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Mid-rotation Starter | Projection: #4 Starter

Notes: As a draft eligible sophomore, Drake was overlooked by many organizations unaware that midshipmen do not begin their commitment period until their third year at the Academy. After being selected after 1285 other amateurs and being offered $100,000 (well above "slot"), Drake elected to sign with the Orioles and begin his professional career. His fastball is a solid-average offering that ranges from the upper-80s to the low-90s with good late life. Currently, only his slider is a plus-offering, sitting in the low-80s with good tilt and occasional 2-plane action. His curveball and his changeup each show lots of promise, as Drake has shown a good feel for both despite not focusing on either at Navy.

Drake has a durable frame that Baltimore hopes will translate into a solid back-end innings-eater. If he's able to develop a viable third offering and continue to improve upon an already solid fastball/slider combo, he could top out as high as a capable mid-rotation arm. LoA Delmarva seems the most logical jumping-off point after working out of the bullpen in Bluefield and Aberdeen last Summer. He should be an interesting arm to follow and potentially a supreme steal in the 43rd round.
19. Brad Bergesen | Stats | Depot Grade: C+6-2 / 205 | Age - 23 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2004 (R4) | Foothill HS (CA)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: #5 Starter

Notes: Bergesen's ceiling is severely limited due to an inability to miss bats a generally pedestrian arsenal. Still, he is a fine package of poise and command. His fastball is a solid-average offering with good sink on his upper-80s/low-90s two-seamer. He also dials-up a flatter four-seamer that can touch 94 mph. His slider is a low-80s fringe-above-average pitch with small, tight, late break. Though not a true "swing-and-miss" pitch, it works with his boring two-seamer to produce groundballs.

With average "stuff", Bergesen will need to rely on pitchability and continued command in order to stick as a starter at the Major League level. If he can keep all of his offerings down and work both sides with his fastball, he could prove a useful piece in the back-end of a solid rotation. He'll likely start in AAA Norfolk, where the spacious park should play well for the groundballer. He could be among the first MiL arms given a shot with the Big Club's rotation should someone stumble or fall due to injury in 2009.
20. Bob McCrory | Stats | Depot Grade: C+6-1 / 205 | Age - 26 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2003 (R4) | Southern Mississippi University
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Closer | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: McCrory boasts a fringe-plus-plus-fastball that sits in the upper-90s and a good secondary offering in the form of a hard-sweeping slider. Erratic at times, McCrory has struggled to keep his fastball down in the zone at the Major League level. Unfortunately, the pitch does not have adequate life to permit McCrory to get sloppy with location, even in the upper-90s. Like Hoey, McCrory could provide good value as a late-inning power arm in high leverage situations, though he hasn't yet been able to put everything together.

McCrory will likely get another shot at Baltimore's bullpen in the Spring, though with options remaining Norfolk remains a possibility. The Orioles are undoubtedly excited by his potential, but McCrory will have to start clicking in order to avoid being surpassed by the next waive of arms working their way through the system.