Baltimore Orioles: Top 15 Prospects
Yes, welcome back to the top 15 prospects series. I have been looking into the 2009 amateur draft, and got motivated to get back on the prospect series. I would like to note that all of my rankings were made many months ago. So, if players have since left the organization, i.e. the rule 5 draft, I may not be on the ups of that. The ages of some players may also be a year off, as I did this late last year, and do not wish to look up the birthdates of a couple hundred players. However, I will do my best. I also have no idea how most of the players are doing this spring. This series is a continuation of the prospect series I started last October. So, it is each team’s top prospects, following the 2008 season, if you get what I mean by my wording. The series is targeted more towards casual fans, than hardcore prospect followers. I also value experience experienced, low upside prospects. MLL = minor league level last season – A+ is a high A team, A- is a low A team, A (no +/-) means the prospect played at both high A and low A levels last season, “a” is short season A league, and R is rookie league. Something else of note, that you will notice, is that I like to stay pretty objective and “professional” when writing capsules but, will break out of character, and display my own thoughts, and personality as well, especially when in parentheses. Enjoy, and please comment your thoughts.
15. (13). Matt Angle OF Age: 23 MLL: A-
My list is the only place you will find Angle, why? Well, I like low ceiling established players, even if they are 23 playing in low A ball, ok, so, he’s not a great prospect but, I like him all the same, and who cares about the fifteen ranked prospect in a system with Matt Wieters in it. Angle was drafted in 2007, the same draft that produced the aforementioned Wieters (why so much talk about Matt Wieters you ask, because he deserves it! Josh, pull yourself together, and defend your reasoning for placing Angle on this list over someone like Kam Mickollo… a reliever). Angle is a terrific fielder in center, rated as the best fielding outfielder in the system by BA (I hate mentioning BA in my posts). Angle also flashed good offense hitting .287 with a .385 OBP (on base %), he also flashed great base running ability, stealing 37 bases. Another plus to Angle’s season was his near 1:1 SO to BB (strikeout to walk) ratio (86 SO: 71 BB). The downside, Angle does not have much power hitting a .379 slugging %, hitting only 4 homeruns in a full season, and hitting an XBH% (extra base hit percentage) of only 23%. Still, you have to love Angle’s ability to get on base, and use his speed both on the base paths, and in the field. Angle is a very capable backup outfielder, at least, and I think he could potentially be an adequate starter but, no one else seems to share that sentiment.
(14). Collin Allen RHSP Age: 22 MLL: R
Allen was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2007 draft (2007? Just like Angle… and Wieters!). Anyways, last I knew Allen was throwing his fastball in the 80s touching the low 90s. His out pitch is his curveball, while he also throws a changeup. His stuff, not overwhelming by any means however, I value a guy who knows how to pitch, and has proven that he knows how to pitch. In 2008 he threw 62 innings in rookie league ball, posting an ERA of 2.31, and striking out 64 batters. Those are nice numbers. Allen was also a pretty good outfielder in (junior) college, he’s a good athlete – this means the ability to repeat his mechanics, and less of an injury risk, however, he does not have a projectable body, and his stuff will stay below average. With the 11-15 slots I like to include guys you should keep an eye on moving forward, Allen is that type as he begins his first full season in 2009. How is he better than Angle?
(13). Kenny Moreland RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A+/R
Here’s the skinny on Moreland, he throws his fastball in the high 80s/low 90s range, and has no projection at 5’11”. However, he also throws a good curveball, with good command. He has also shown results starting last season in the summer running rookie league, and reaching high A ball. In seventy innings he posted a 3.10 ERA, and struck out 68 batters. Moreland would not be on this list were it not for his control but, still he is very low upside. So, how is he better than Angle?
12. Ryan Adams 2B Age: 21 MLL: A-
I do not understand why people do not like Adams. In 2008 Adams hit .308 with a .367 OBP, the average is great, and the on base percentage is more than respectable for a 21 year old. Adams also flashed good power for a second basemen, recording a SLG% of .462 and hitting 11 homeruns. He also added an XBH% of 30%, which is a respectable number, and you would expect the power to continue to improve moving forward. Adams also stole 12 bases. There are two problems in Adams’ game 1. He strikes out to much, 109 SOs, to 36 BBs - that SO: BB rate is slightly worse than Bill Rowell’s and I am about to hammer Bill Rowell for his plate discipline. In my defense, Rowell’s OBP is only .315, while Adams’ is .367 so; his lack of plate discipline does not hinder him as much. 2. That’s right I said two things. Adams’ defense has become problematic, racking up errors last season, they were however, throwing errors, and he still has the hands and range to be a capable defender. So, this also does not worry me. Anyways, I think Adams can become a possibility at second base, especially with the Orioles’ lack of middle infield prospects.
11. Zach Britton LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-
*I apologize for the two scrubs I threw in at 13 and 14. I like analyzing 15 prospects from each team, and those two were guys I threw in because of success at lower levels but, they both lack the ability to improve their below average stuff, and thus will probably not ever make it to the big leagues. For all intents and purposes, I will refer to this list as a top 13 list, with Matt Angle moving up two spots to 13. I can now list off much better prospects than the previous two: L.J. Hoes 2B, Xavier Avery OF, Chorye Spoone RHP, Pedro Beato but, I am not going to go rewrite the 13 and 14 prospects. So, deal with the two guys who do not belong there.
Britton was taken in the third round of the 2006 draft. I want to point out, quickly how Britton was not a “can’t miss” high school prospect when he was drafted but, opted to sign anyway, instead of developing his game with Texas A&M. This decision has proved to be a wise decision for Britton as he has been very consistent, and will play in AA at some point this season, and is probably on par stuff wise with the college pitchers who will be taken at the end of the first round. Had Britton gone to college he would be eligible to be drafted this year (players attending a four-year college must wait till after their junior year to be drafted), and would likely start playing for minor league team in low A this summer. Anyways, sorry for the tangent but, I wanted to illustrate, well, something, at the least this is a small lesson about the draft. Back to Britton! Britton throws his 2-seam fastball in the low 90s, and pairs it with a slider (he used to throw a power curve but, recently dumped it for the slider). Due to those two pitches Britton does an excellent job of inducing ground balls. Britton will probably have to improve his feel for his changeup to have the same success he’s had at higher levels. In 147 innings in 2008 Britton posted an ERA of 3.12, he stuck out 114 (maybe a 6.98 strikeout/9 innings is not all that impressive in low A ball but, remember, he’s a groundball pitcher). Britton has the capabilities and stuff to become a number four starter, maybe even a number three starter but, what are the chances Baltimore needs him to start?
10. Bill Rowell 3B Age: 20 MLL: A+
This guy is a great prospect. Let me explain, Billy Rowell is a great prospect in the sense that he is a former number nine overall pick (2006) has struggled hitting, some injury problems early last season, has had some pride issues but, still has a boatload of potential (how much is a boatload, well, it’s a lot), and he is only 20 years old, and was the youngest everyday player in the Carolina, high A, league. That being said, I have him pretty low on this list, which says two things 1. This system has more than a boatload of talent, and 2. I like to see results/I like established players. Anyways, more specific to Rowell, he disappointed offensively in 2008 (maybe expected being so young for the level of competition he was facing). He hit for only a .248 BA, and slugged for .368 – Rowell’s second best tool, his power potential. I will continue writing about his power numbers, Rowell (I get sick of using a guy’s last name when referring to him, I need to give everyone a nickname) hit only 7 HRs in 375 at bats – 10-15 over the course of a full, healthy season – Billy R also hit an XBH% (extra base hit percentage, I use it a lot) of 33% which actually is not bad, especially given his slugging percentage. Now the really bad part, Billy R struck out almost three times more than he walked (104 SOs to 36 BBs, yikes!). Rowell is below average defensively, and does not project to be any better than average (if average). Many believe he will need to move to first, which would 1. Waste his best tool, his arm, and 2. Lower the value of his bat, because although he does have above average power potential, he does not have thirty home run power, and will not hit for a high batting average. So, it is best if Billy R stays at third. If he cannot, and has to be moved, why not to a corner outfield position, there his arm would still play, and he is not a terrible athlete so, left field is a possibility (I mean, Manny does it, right?) Billy R could be an above average third baseman at the big league level but, that is contingent on three things 1. The power comes 2. His plate discipline improves 3. He stays at third. If not than Billy R could be an effective corner infield sub/pinch hitter/left side of a platoon/average-below average first basemen/corner infielder, you have to like the options (Remember when I said Billy R was a great prospect? Well, look at how long his blurb is, that is how intriguing (yes, intriguing is the better word) he is).
9. David Hernandez RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA
David Hernandez is the Orioles’ sicth best pitching prospect, on this list, which speaks volumes as to how much of a boatload of talent this system has, particularly on the mound. David Hernandez has been dominant the last couple of seasons. In 2008 he led the Eastern League in strikeouts, with 166 in 141 innings; he posted a stellar 2.68 ERA. David Hernandez throws an above average fastball into the mid 90s; he also throws an above average slider/slurve in the high 70s, low 80s. Despite the great stats, and two above average pitches, many people, including myself have doubts about his future as a starter. The reasons are threefold 1. His spotty command, even when D Hern is throwing his fastball. 2. His lack of a third pitch. D Hern’s changeup is far below average. 3. The Orioles have five pitching prospects ahead of him, plus R Liz, and Guthrie, why would they want to waste D Hern in the minors when he could be an effective reliever right now? Best case scenario, D Hern develops an average third pitch, shores up his fastball command, and becomes a number three starter, which would make for some excellent spring training battles!
8. Brandon Snyder 1B/3B Age: 22 MLL: A+
Snyder is currently a first baseman but, the thought of trying him at third has been tossed around. His value, obviously, increases with a move to third. Defensively he is solid at first though. Why start talking about Snyder’s D, because it will not matter for the rest of this blurb, his game is his offense. Bryder (this nickname thing is catchy) hit for a .315 average last season. He, however, has the same problem as Adams, and Rowell, that is a K:BB ratio in the range of 3 to 1 and 2 to 1. However, like Adams, Bryder still managed a respectable OBP of .357, not great, but respectable. Snyder showed good power last season, and has a little more potential left in the tank, hitting a SLG% of .490 (compare it to Rowell’s .368, someone with similar power potential) in 2008. Bryder added 13 homeruns, and an XBH% of 35%. I like Snyder as an average big league first baseman, and above average third baseman (on offense) but, his outlook gets better if he increases his walks, and power. As of now, Bryder is headed in the right direction.
7. Brandon Erbe RHSP Age: 21 MLL: A+
Erbe threw 151 innings in 2008, posting a lackluster 4.30 ERA but, striking out 151 batters. Erbe throws two fastballs, his 4-seamer is thrown in the low 90s but, can touch the mid 90s, while his 2-seamer is thrown a couple mph slower but, compensates that with heavy life. He also throws a slider, which should be above average in the future. I can almost assure you that either Erbe or D Hern will be moved to the bullpen soon. The Orioles just have too many starting pitchers (too many starters? There’s no such thing), and Erbe and D Hern have the power stuff that plays well in the bullpen, and lack effective third pitches. If Erbe remains a starter he should continue to work on his changeup, and like D Hern, can become a third starter type.
6. Troy Patton LHSP Age: 23 MLL: NA
Patton is the “gem” (tongue in cheek) of the Tejada trade with the Astros, and was injured all of last year. However, he is back, and scouting reports are favorable. Being a part of the Astros organization for so long makes Patton a personal favorite of mine. He throws his fastball in the low 90s, and commands it everywhere in the strike zone. He also throws a tight slider and changeup in the high 70s. Patton can command all of his stuff, and has advanced pitchability. I see as one of those crafty lefties, cough, Tom Glavine, cough, and is a number three starter type. It may take him a little while to get the feel for pitching again though, following the injury.
5. Nolan Reimold OF Age: 25 MLL: AA
Reimold is a guy I really like, despite the obvious flaw of being 25, and spending all of 2008 in AA. There he hit .284 with a .367 OBP. Unlike most of the position players on this list Reimold has good plate discipline, with a K: BB ratio of nearly 1 to1. Reimold bolstered great power, hitting 25 homeruns, and a SLG% of .501, with an XBH% of 40%, all great numbers. Reimold’s defense is his weakness, as he has bad instincts in the outfield. However, Reimold has a plus arm, and is capable of serving as a centerfielder at times, although he will (and should) play everyday at a corner. Reimold also has good athleticism, and can steal a few bags. Reimold can be an above average corner outfielder everyday very soon.
4. Jake Arrieta RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A+
Now comes, perhaps, the best set of pitching prospects, up first, Jake Arrieta. Arrieta throws a mid 90s fastball with late life, however, he has trouble commanding it at times. Arrieta’s second above average pitch is his slider; he also throws a big breaking curveball, and a changeup. In 2008 Jake Arrieta threw 113 innings in the minors, posting a 2.87 ERA, with 120 strikeouts. He also spent time playing for team USA in the Olympics. Arrieta is a future top of the rotation starter but, first must refine his curve and changeup, as well as his fastball command.
3. Brian Matusz LHSP Age: 21 MLL: Arizona Fall League
Missed the regular season after signing, Matusz did, however, throw 27 innings in the AFL, posting a 4.73 ERA and striking out a 31 batters. Matusz was the number four overall pick last June. He throws four above average pitches. B Mat’s fastball falls in the low 90s reaching 94 on occasion, it has some natural sink to it. Matusz also has some projection left so; do not be surprised if you see his fastball topping somewhere in the 95-96 range before he reaches the majors. B Mat also throws a plus curveball and changeup, as well as a slider/cutter. B Mat is a future number two starter, his stuff is not quite electric enough to be a number one starter but, he still possesses very good stuff with good command. He should be called up to the big leagues late in the year, and could become a fixture in the bullpen to start 2010.
2. Chris Tillman RHSP Age: 20 MLL: AA
There are those who think Matusz is the top prospect in the system, they would be wrong. Tillman does have that “electric” stuff required of a number one starter. He throws his fastball in the low 90s but, gets it up into the mid 90s much more often than Matusz, and his peak of 95/96 mph is higher than Matusz’, I also believe Tillman has more projection left. Due to his height 6’5” C Till throws his fastball on a downward plane, a difficult angle to hit. C Till’s best pitch is a plus (possibly plus-plus) 12-6 curveball he throws in the mid 70s, he also throws a changeup, which still needs work but, should be an average offering in time. One thing Matusz has on C Till is command but, at age TWENTY (20 and in AA last season) Tillman has plenty of time to refine that area of his game. Now, the real reason I think Tillman is a better prospect than Matusz, his results! In 2008, C Till threw 136 innings posting a 3.18 ERA, while striking out 154 batters. He did this all in AA, at the age of 20. Tillman is the future ace of this team, how fast he develops his command will determine how fast he arrives there though.
1. Matt Wieters C Age: 22 MLL: AA/A+
Finally, the best prospect in baseball, I and Georgia Tech give you, Matt Wieters. In 2008 Wieters hit .355, with a .454 OBP, and .600 SLG%. I’m going to give you a second to process that… He added 27 homeruns, an XBH% of 33%, and to top it all off, Wieters walked six more times (82) than he struck out (76). What more could you ask for from a prospect on offense? Defensively Wieters is a complete catcher, with plus or better: receiving skills, blocking ability, and arm behind the plate. Wieters does not run well but, is a decent athlete anyway. What does the future hold for Wieters? Ten all star games, 30 home runs annually, many .300/.400/.500 seasons, multiple gold glove awards, possibly an MVP award, and of course zero playoff appearances… as an Oriole at least… sorry.
Final Thoughts: I feel bad for the Orioles. Having to be in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees but, now also the Rays and the Rays do not seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. Still, the Orioles have a solid core of players to build around in the majors: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, and Wieters, along with the three stud starting pitchers. However, even with that group – and the number five pick in June – I don’t think the Orioles are good enough to compete with the aforementioned three teams any time in the coming years. Which is a shame, because the Orioles have been doing a great job of finding and developing young prospects, particularly young pitching. Pitching is obviously the strength of the system; they have six guys who could become number three starters. However, after Wieters and Reimold the Orioles are really lacking for position players. Both Snyder and Rowell show some promise but, their values will suffer if they both end up at first base and both may end up as only average offensively as well. The Orioles are severely lacking prospects in centerfield and at the middle infield positions, I would look for them to look at this area in the draft so, be on the lookout for Donovan Tate HS OF, and Dustin Ackley OF/1B UNC.