I highly doubt anyone (scout or lunatic) would have pegged Robbie Widlansky as a player destined for a true breakout season. Especially after his sad .222 average at Low A Delmarva. Or his .279, 4 HR, 29 RBI at Aberdeen. And yet, no Orioles farmhand had anything close to the kind of season the 24-year old had.
Widlansky, despite his limited number of at-bats, led all O's prospects in batting average at .340. His 31 doubles ranked eighth in the Carolina League, despite having almost 200 at-bats LESS than Jordy Mercer, the league leader with 36. His 59 RBI ranked 15th, although he had 150 less at-bats than the leader in that category, Brandon Waring.
Taking Widlansky's numbers and transposing them out to Waring's number of at-bats, his potential had he played the entire season would have been staggering: 161 hits, which would have led the league. 44 doubles, which would have led the league by EIGHT doubles. 85 runs batted in, which would have placed him fourth.
All that being said, Widlansky didn't have the number of at-bats Waring did, and as we all know, Waring walked away with honors as the Player of the Year in the Carolina League.
If you don't seem to recognize Widlansky's name, don't feel bad. Prior to his substandard season at Delmarva and Aberdeen in 2008, Widlansky put together another sub-par year, hitting .181 at Aberdeen in 2007.
That same year, however, he hit .433 with 15 home runs and 69 RBI for Florida Atlantic, leading their team in almost every statistical category. His stellar senior season as an Owl led him to becoming the Orioles 339th overall pick.
During his early career with the O's, Widlansky saw most of his time in the outfield, although playing on a loaded Frederick squad allowed Widlansky to see some action at first-base, something he could try to stick with and have somewhat of a better chance to stick with the big-league club.
From a scouts standpoint, Widlansky isn't the most impressive specimen. He doesn't profile as a 40 home run guy, and he'll never be a player who swipes 30+ bases. And prior to this season, he would have never been seen as a guy who could hit 40 points above .300.
That's why his 2009 season, in which he was the only player to be named Carolina League Player of the Week THREE TIMES, isn't getting him into the top 10 of my rankings. No. 27 is a conservative ranking for a guy who, aside from his .351 career average in college, is a career .284 hitter in the minors.
Widlansky has the talent and batting eye to be a complete player in the form of a near .300 average with 10-15 home runs and 60-75 RBI. He also had the base-running acumen to steal 10-15 bases per year.
One of the reasons that most say is responsible for Widlansky's impressive 2009 campaign is his age, 25 on Nov. 6, which was quite a bit older than most of his competition in the Carolina League.
Hopefully, next season will see Widlansky making the jump to AA Bowie, where he could follow the career path of Nolan Reimold, who was considered too old for his league in both AA and AAA, but who now profiles to be the Orioles everyday left-fielder in 2010.
Widlansky's position could be the one thing keeping him down. The outfield at AA Bowie and AAA Norfolk is riddled with holes, but at the Major League level the O's appeared stacked with Markakis, Jones, and Reimold.
They also have a pair of viable fourth outfielders in Jeff Fiorentino and Lou Montanez. If Widlansky chooses to make first base his permanent home he'll find some competition there too (Brandon Snyder, Michael Aubrey, Rhyne Hughes), but none of these guys are entrenched.
As can clearly be gleaned from his 2009 campaign, Widlansky is a talented all-around player, and could be quite a find for the Orioles.