Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects: Who's Hot and Who's Not, April 26
Fresh off the Orioles' third win of the year, a heart-pounding, nearly coma-inducing 8-7 win over the Bo Sox, I present the second edition of "Who's Hot and Who's Not" for 2010.
Several players from last week's list came back down to earth a bit, including Justin Dalles and Zach Britton, but they're far from being on the "Not" list.
So without further ado, let's check out who's hot...
...but not like that.
HOT: Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk Tides (AAA)
It's not like Arrieta wasn't performing like he belonged in the Major Leagues, but his seven-inning, 11-strikeout performance on Saturday night amplified the calls of those frustrated Orioles fans looking for some sort of stop-gap.
Arrieta breezed through those seven innings, allowing only two hits and issuing only one free pass. On the season, Arrieta now sports the lowest ERA in the International League, at 0.36. In fact, the right-hander has only allowed one earned run in 25.1 innings so far this year. He owns a 2-0 record and batters are hitting a meager .157 against him.
With the Orioles desperately needing help, specifically in their bullpen, like most O's fans I would love to see the O's bring Arrieta up to get his feet wet out of the pen. He would give the team a hard-throwing guy who could go multiple innings, and allow the Cla Meredith's and Will Ohman's a night off every now and again.
And he has promise and a long-term future with the team—something I'm not necessarily sure about with Jason Berken or Matt Albers.
NOT: Brandon Snyder, 1B, Norfolk Tides (AAA)
I'm pretty sure this isn't the way Snyder envisioned himself starting off the season that would inevitably lead to his first taste of the Major Leagues.
Coming off a year in which he hit a combined .289 between Bowie and Norfolk, including a .343 number with the Baysox, Snyder has struggled mightily. And while it is just an 18 game sample size, you know it has to be frustrating the O's future first baseman.
Snyder does actually have two multi-hit games in his last five contests, but not even those can bolster his .206 season average or his on-base percentage, which is currently a shade under .300.
He has been taking some walks (seven), but his strikeouts have jumped up to 20, which is quite a cause for concern because Snyder has put a great effort into curbing his Ks the past few years.
It's not just the low average that has me concerned. Snyder only has three doubles and one home run to go with his seven RBI, tied for sixth on the team. Not the kind of power numbers you look for from your first baseman.
If you're looking for positives, which would be reaching, he did notch a stolen base last night, keeping alive his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one stolen base, now at three.
It is still early, and Snyder showed the ability last year to go on super huge tears (see all of April/May 2009), so hopefully he'll have his average above .300 (I'd settle for .250) before you know it.
HOT: Tim Bascom, RHP, Bowie Baysox (AA)
While the rotation at AA Bowie has glorified names like Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, and Chorye Spoone, surprisingly the most consistent starter so far this season has been 25-year-old Tim Bascom, formerly of the University of Central Florida.
Bascom appears to be at his best when seemingly under-appreciated and under the radar. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore at UCF, compiling a 10-2 record, yet slipped back when the spotlight was on him his junior year, finishing a weak 5-6.
Upon entering the O's organization, he put together a fantastic full-season debut with Delmarva, before earning a promotion to Frederick to help the Keys to a league championship.
The past two seasons he has, for the most part, disappeared into the background, while other more talented prospects have emerged. But this season, it looks like Bascom is poised for one of those breakthroughs, and his 2010 could not have gotten off to a better start. Two wins in three starts, a 1.00 ERA, and a 10:3 strikeout to walk ratio.
He went seven innings his last start, and gave up only one earned run on six hits, while Britton (8 H and 4 ER in 3.1 IP), Johnson (5 ER in 5 IP) and Spoone (6 ER and 6 BB in 4.1 IP) have all struggled. If those three continue to struggle Bascom could really move up the O's depth chart.
NOT: Brandon Erbe, RHP, Norfolk Tides (AAA)
I've always been in the camp that has argued to give Erbe a chance in the rotation before deciding his fate may lie in the bullpen. Until now.
Erbe has struggled in three consecutive starts, surrendered at least four earned runs in each, and failed to make it out of the fifth inning in each contest. His strikeout rate, which has nosedived since Erbe became a full-time starter, is down to a career low 6.7 per nine innings, and while it has been only three starts, I'm firmly convinced the Orioles don't have a contender for a starting rotation spot in Erbe.
They do, however, have a guy who has the potential to turn into a lights out reliever. Erbe has a stellar fastball that reaches up into the mid 90s, and I'm sure if he was working solely out of the pen, he could dial it up into the 97-98 range. His secondary stuff is average, with a slightly above-average slider being the best of his offerings. This also screams reliever.
Toss in the fact that he can't seem to stay healthy long enough to put together a full-season campaign as a starter and it seems in the stars to move Erbe to the pen.
Now just do it already.
HOT: Xavier Avery, OF, Frederick Keys (A+)
I'm not quite sure what's more impressive about Avery's 2010 season so far. The fact that he just turned 20 in January and that he's already made it to High A ball with limited baseball experience (Avery was offered football scholarships out of HS)?
Nah, I'm going to have to go with the fact that he is dominating pitchers at the level, after struggling to get his bat going in Low A ball in 2009. Avery is blistering opposing teams to the tune of a .375 average (fourth in the Carolina League) and 24 hits (fifth).
Avery had one of the worst strikeout to walk ratios in the organization last year (27:111) and has made it his mission to cut down on the Ks and up the walks. So far so good, as his seven walks and 12 strikeouts attest to.
He's still a blazer on the base paths, with five stolen bases (he had 30 last season) and has already driven in one-fourth of the runs (nine) that he did all of last season (36).
Avery has five multi-hit games in his last seven contests, yet somehow all he could manage was one run scored in last night's 15-4 Keys romp over Salem. If Avery keeps up his ridiculous tear, he could be ticketed for a promotion to Bowie after the All-Star break, with an eye on Baltimore in September.
Clearly, the O's would love to have a guy like Avery on their team. They are missing the speed that Brian Roberts and Felix Pie provide, and they could use a guy hitting leadoff who can spray the ball all over the field.
NOT: Brett Bordes, LHP, Frederick Keys (A+)
Once upon a time Brett Bordes was a hot pick to move quickly through the system and stake his claim on the left-handed set-up guy spot for years to come.
The story sure started well, with Bordes putting together back-to-back impressive years, including the 33 magical innings he threw at Delmarva in 2008, striking out 34, finally limiting his walks and finishing with an ERA of 2.70.
Then it all went crazy.
Bordes struggled upon his promotion to Frederick, finishing with a 9.00 ERA in 16 games. The O's sent him back to Delmarva for a third season, to help him regain his confidence before marching him back to Frederick. He pitched even better at Low A, posting a 2.08 ERA, but again he struggled when bumped up, ending the 2009 season with an 8.23 ERA in 27 games.
And now, here we are, in 2010, and Bordes looks all but washed up. He's now 26 and the organization decided it was the lefty's turn to sink or swim, and he's sinking alright, to the tune of a 18.90 ERA in four games. His issue with walks is still haunting him (seven in 3.1 IP), and he can't seem to put two decent appearances together without self-imploding.
It looks like time has finally run out on Brett Bordes.
HOT: Ronnie Welty, OF, Frederick Keys (A+)
I know Welty made the list a few weeks ago, but what are you going to do? The kid keeps hitting grand-slams.
Welty jacked his second four-run homer of the year last night in Frederick's 15-4 victory, and now has five home runs on the season. He only had 10 in 121 games last year. He also has 19 RBI, and is on pace (164) to shatter the career high he set last season (67).
You don't have to look too hard to find out that Welty has been at his best when he's hitting with guys on base. When the bases are empty he's hitting a meager .269 with ZERO runs batted in. With the bases occupied, though, he's hitting .320 with all five home runs and all 19 RBI.
That's a clutch hitter.
I tabbed Welty as my number 16 prospect in the O's system (Baseball America didn't have him ranked in their top 30), and I continue to believe that he could turn into a solid outfielder in the big leagues.
NOT: Brett Jacobson, RHP, Frederick Keys (A+)
I contemplated putting Jacobson here a few weeks ago, but I thought I'd give him a chance to earn his way out of it.
At the time, the hard-throwing righty acquired from the Tigers last season had only pitched in two games, giving up four runs (two earned). Since then, Jacobson has pitched in two more contests...and surrendered earned runs in both.
Jacobson did enter the season ranked 16th by Baseball America (26th on my list) and has done little to justify either position. He's allowed nine hits, eight runs (five earned), and given up three home runs in only eight innings. That's a 5.63 ERA for those of you who don't want to do the math.
His one redeeming quality is his eight to two strikeout to walk ratio. He's been a bit bullish with the walks the past few seasons, and the O's would like to see him cut down on those, so as long as he continues to do that, I'm sure the organization would have no problem moving him along to Bowie.
HOT: Garabez Rosa, SS, Delmarva Shorebirds (A)
Had Matt Hobgood had a decent start last night, this would have been his spot, but he struggled, so it's all Rosa, all the time.
If you're looking for someone to get REALLY excited about in the lower bowels of the organization, look no further than Rosa. He's got size (6'2" 170), the tools (plus speed, plus arm) and most important...he plays shortstop!!!
Rosa tantalized the O's with a .330 performance in the GCL two years ago, but did little to build upon that with a miserable 2009 that the O's will just chalk up to him getting his feet wet. This year, Rosa looks ready to recapture that form that rocketed him up the depth chart in 2008.
Playing full-season ball for the first time at age 20, Rosa, the Orioles first significant international signing from the D.R., has been raking. His .361 average ranks him tied for sixth in the Sally League (tied interestingly enough with superstar SS prospect Wilmer Flores), and his nine doubles place him third in the league.
He's scored 10 runs and driven in nine, and has impressed the O's by hitting well against both right (.400) and left-handed pitchers (.308).
The doubles make you think that Rosa has some power hidden in there somewhere, and even though he doesn't have any stolen bases in his first 16 games, expect him to finish with upwards of 10.
If Rosa shows he can handle Sally League pitching for the entirety of the season, he could be a sneaky pick to leap Frederick straight to Bowie to begin 2011.
HOT: Tyler Kolodny, 3B/OF, Delmarva Shorebirds (A)
Eschewing the last "NOT" entry, I'm skipping straight to Tyler Kolodny who is giving Ronnie Welty a run for his money.
Not only has Kolodny been jacking homers out at a career pace (six in 18 games), and driving in runs (14 RBI). He's also been a terror on the basepaths, notching three triples to go with his four doubles, and stealing four bases.
Kolodny struggled last season at Delmarva to the tune of a .226 average, but he did show considerable power, knocking nine home runs in 107 games, so you know he was capable of a tear like this.
The problem with Kolodny is that he is such a streaky hitter, and he could very well go hitless in his next 20 at-bats and no one in the organization would be very surprised.
Also, he's cursed with below-average athletic ability so finding him a position has been difficult. It won't be third base, where he's made 57 errors the past three years, and it's unlikely to be first base, where the O's have Brandon Snyder waiting in the wings.
That leaves the outfield for Kolodny, which is already packed at the Major League level, and features minor league prospects like Welty, Matt Angle, Widlansky, and Billy Rowell.
Jake Cowan has been so hot recently, I had to include him as a bonus.
A tenth-round pick in last year's draft, who many projected to be a quick mover, looks like he's going to make good on that bet. Kudos to Baseball America for picking Cowan to be the breakout prospect of the year for the Orioles. So far so good BA.
Cowan has dominated Sally League hitters, only a year removed from a one-season stint with the Virginia Cavaliers. Cowan made his debut with Aberdeen late last season and pitched quite well (27 K in 24 IP), and has carried that over into 2010. He has won two of his first four starts and has pitched well in each.
After building up his pitch count with a four-inning debut, he has gone at least six innings in his last three starts, giving up no more than two earned runs in each. His strikeout totals for each game have looked very Sesame Street: five, six, seven, and eight, and he's managed to limit his walks to only two per game during his recent three game stretch.
Cowan has clearly emerged as the ace of this Shorebird staff, and I wouldn't be surprised if he made good on BA's preseason prediction and took home O's minor league pitcher of the year honors.