15 April 2011

Five Baysox to Watch in Bowie in 2011 and Hoes

Orioles' OF Xavier Avery
 When I wrote the Frederick Keys Five to Watch post I had assumed that LJ Hoes would be playing 2B in Bowie.  However, the Orioles wanted to give Greg Miclat the first go at second base.  As such, I think Hoes will perform well in Frederick and give Miclat a couple months to prove himself.  In this post, I will give a short summary of five to watch in Bowie as well as something about LJ Hoes.  The rest of Bowie showcases some of the second tier talent in the Orioles' system.  Unfortunately, the Orioles second tier talent would be other teams' third or fourth tier talent.  For example, Zach Britton and Manny Machado were in Baseball America's top 25.  Baseball America forms their top 100 prospects by having their five contributors devise their own individual top 150 lists.  No other Oriole found himself on any of the top 150s.  That is what we call a steep drop in talent.

However, one should not confuse such a steep drop as meaning the organization is without talent past Machado and Britton.  The organization has several C+ / fringe B- players who have a great chance of being solid bench players in the Majors and an off chance at being a regular.  I would say to not expect anything beyond that though.  Bowie is really the epitome of that.  They will have several players this year that might become something, but have significant flaws that they must address or find ways to compensate.

Xavier Avery, CF/LF
Avery has a package of raw skills that scouts can dream upon.  He has great athleticism and strength that was honed as a serious football first athlete in high school.  It has really only been in the past four years that Avery has taken baseball seriously.  That he will be a 21 year old in AA Bowie shows that his natural ability and a capable learning curve has done wonders for his game since he was selected in the second round in 2008.  Although strong, his lean frame does not and should not result in any significant power.  He has increased his power production from his age 18 season (ISO of .057) to last year's age 20 season (.115).  His goal should be to increase it to about .130 in order to keep pitchers honest.  Otherwise, he will be constantly challenged at the Major League level.  His contact rate is league average (not good) and his plate discipline is a shade below average (also not good).  He has also not proven to be completely adept at stealing bases, but not awful.  His lack of skill is overcome by his speed and has resulted in roughly break even marks for successfully stealing bases.  However, he is on a 16 straight stolen base streak without being caught.  His speed also helps him in the outfield making several plays in center.  His first step is not great, but he covers a great deal of territory and has natural control of his body (think of Felix Pie who has great speed and looks quite clumsy...Avery is similar without the clumsiness).  Avery is still developing as a player, so it will be interesting to see what he can do this year.

After the jump, four more Baysox and Hoes.

Orioles' Ronnie Welty
Ronnie Welty, RF
Welty gives the Baysox another solid defensive option in the outfield.  He has good athleticism and a plus arm.  His routes could tighten up a bit, but he is dependable out in the field.  A major concern following Welty at every level has been his contact rate and getting on base.  He has been able to keep an above average batting average along with an average number of walks and moderate power.  Last year, he saw a significant increase in his power production, but it was mitigated by a decrease in his walk rate.  It is also troubling that he strikes out about 25% of the time.  I think he has an outside shot of being a useful fourth outfielder with some power and defense as attributes.  Although, I do think that drop in walk rate might be a poor omen for his future success.

Billy Rowell, 3B/DH
This is likely Rowell's last season in the Oriole organization.  He will not be a six year free agent at the end of the year, but low minors players are pushing him.  He also finds himself in AA where he never successfully completed Frederick.  He has no defensive position.  He has poor contact with great difficulty recognizing offspeed pitches.  This causes his batting practice power to not translate over to the game.  It also results in a lot of strikeouts and few walks.  He is off everyone's radar, but he is a good reason to sneak a peak at batting practice if you can.

Caleb Joseph, C
Joseph's 2009 season turned some heads.  He was good enough behind the plate and with the bat.  His offensive was buoyed by average contact and walk rate, but also above average power (.166 ISO).  His contact rate collapsed at Bowie last year.  He lost about 20 hits over the same number of at bats resulting in a .235 batting average and a .133 ISO.  Joseph's lackluster performance places him back in Bowie for his age 25 season.  If he can up his contact, you might have a decent offensive oriented backup catcher in the Majors.

Joe Mahoney, 1B
To be crystal clear, I have never seen Joe Mahoney play.  I will this year though.  Last year, Mahoney figured out how to increase his contact rate which enabled him to take more advantage of his power potential.  His ability to maintain this concerns me as he is a big guy (6'6 or 6'7, depending on the source).  Not only does that size mean a large strike zone, it also means a longer swing path.  This means the batter has less time to identify pitch type, location, and arrival.  I have not done any studies on this, but I imagine that height and performance are not normally distributed.  I think being tall is more of a detriment than being small.  To me, that seems like common sense, but it is something I should take the time to answer with empirical data.  Mahoney's defense is average on all accounts, but his athleticism might push him to left field if Tyler Townsend establishes himself.  Mahoney should actually be up in Norfolk this year, but the team has an excessive number of 1B/LF types already on the roster.  Finally, Joe has above average speed for a first baseman and is smart enough to use it well on the basepaths.  It will be interesting to see if he keeps up with his performance from last year.
LJ Hoes, 2B
I like Hoes.  I have for a long time.  It is rare for a guy with so little power to be able to maintain such a high walk rate.  That walk rate back in 2008 put him on Keith Law's map as he thought Hoes was one of those guys who would catapult up the top 100 prospects lists.  Since then, an awful 2009 season knocked him off that perch with only last year showing some of the value we thought we saw a couple years earlier.  However, it must be noted that Hoes does not really have a fielding position (though he supposedly is much improved at 2B), he has no power, and he is an above average runner but is not an average base runner.  The value comes down to him being able to maintain that on base rate while growing into an average defensive 2B.  I doubt the power will ever arrive.  I do not know where it would come from.  I imagine that Hoes will do quite well in Frederick and push Miclat out of the starting 2B position in Bowie by the end of June.

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