Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects: Who's Hot, Who's Not (May 19)
Although it's been quite an exciting time for minor league prospectors—myself included—it hasn't been too thrilling for Orioles fans.
There's no Stephen Strasburg to get excited about. In fact, Baltimore fans are just feeling pleased that Chorye Spoone didn't give up more than five earned runs in his most recent start.
There's no Buster Posey, a guy busting down the door to the big league backstop job in San Francisco. Instead, Orioles fans just have Caleb Joseph raking at a .324 clip to raise his average to a paltry .247.
Without further ado, here's the fourth installment of "Who's Hot and Who's Not."
HOT: Michael Aubrey, 1B, Norfolk Tides (AAA)
Michael Aubrey has filled the resident role of hot hitting first baseman for the Orioles Triple-A club. First, Baltimore fans had Rhyne Hughes; now they have Aubrey; and hopefully (for all O's fans, they'll soon have Nolan Reimold.
Over his past 10 games, Aubrey is batting .400 with six extra-base hits—including two home runs—and four RBI's.
Aubrey also has four multi-hit games—including two back-to-back efforts the past two nights—practically keeping Norfolk's offense afloat (especially considering the hitting woes of the Tides' big guys, Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell).
As a prospect, Aubrey doesn't have a ton to offer: he was a first-round pick in the 2003 MLB Draft (taken before Lastings Milledge and Aaron Hill), but scuffled in five seasons with the Indians.
The young infielder made it to the bigs in 2008, but the Indians couldn't find room for him in a crowded organization (including first base super-prospects Matt LaPorta and Beau Mills).
So the O's scooped up Aubrey—knowing he could fill the role of first baseman for their Triple-A team.
And he has, hitting a combined .290 (between Norfolk and the Indians affiliate, Columbus).
The O's got their first big league look at Aubrey last September when he filled in as a late season call-up. At that time, Aubrey hit four home runs and drove in 14 while holding a decent batting average of .289.
NOT: Josh Bell, 3B, Norfolk Tides (AAA)
It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Orioles best position prospect.
Josh Bell had been mired in a so-so slump, but fans thought it was only a matter of time before he worked his way out of it, showing the form that made him a 20-HR guy in 2009.
Well—not to sound pessimistic—but it might be time to begin worrying about Bell, especially after his 7-for-37 slump (.189).
Bell hasn't homered in his last 10 games, and he's driven in just six runs.
Add in his zero walks, nine strikeouts, and only two extra-base hits, and your answer is a guy who's in a serious rut.
The plan for Bell was to get his feet wet in Triple-A, then give him time as a late season replacement for Miguel Tejada—who would shift to the DH role.
I guess we'll have to wait and see.
But right now it's not looking promising for a guy who's hitting .250 with six home runs and 40 strikeouts (in 148 at-bats).
HOT: Matt Angle, OF, Bowie Baysox (AA)
Things were looking up for Matt Angle coming into the 2010 season.
Angle finished the 2009 season on a tear—hitting .357 during a late season promotion to Bowie—and then showed good discipline at the plate against solid competition in the Arizona Fall League.
Then Angle broke his hand, and he instantly fell back to the pack of mid-tier outfielders in the O's system.
However, he's now back and rearing to go—and he's on quite a tear for the Baysox.
Although Angle has only played in four games so far, he's notched a hit in every contest (and he tallied two or more in half of them).
The young outfielder has yet to notch an extra-base hit this season, but he has driven in two—and in typical Angle fashion, he's been a terror on the base paths while swiping three bases (he also has more walks than strikeouts).
Hopefully, Angle can get on a roll and show the Orioles what he's capable of these next few months.
If everything works out, Angle could eventually work his way into the Orioles outfield—possibly as early as September.
And without a single player stepping up from the Nolan Reimold, Corey Patterson, and Lou Montanez trifecta—there's no reason Angle can't snatch a spot and give the O's some much-needed speed (as well as excellent defense).
Not to mention someone who knows how to work the count.
NOT: Pedro Florimon Jr, SS, Bowie Baysox (AA)
I think it's safe to say that Pedro Florimon's breakout 2009 campaign (in which he set career highs in home runs, RBI's, runs scored, walks, and stolen bases) might have been a bit of a fluke.
The shifty shortstop has regressed to numbers similar to his career line, hitting well under the Mendoza line at .189.
Florimon has yet to hit a home run or triple, and has only three doubles (after raking No. 32 last year).
The shortstop does still offer some value in the steals department (he has four), but Florimon still strikes out way too much (28 times in 106 at-bats).
And it appears he hasn't fine-tuned the intricacies of playing shortstop at a higher level, as he still has 11 errors in only 33 games.
If Florimon matches the 122 games that he played last season, he'll be on pace for over 40 errors.
The O's were hoping that Florimon could develop into their future shortstop, but that hope appears to be in doubt—especially if he can't hit and has errors in the infield every third game.
It also doesn't appear as though Florimon will be ascending to Triple-A anytime soon—leaving the door wide open for hot-hitting Dominican SS Garabez Rosa to surpass him.
HOT: Steve Johnson, RHP, Bowie Baysox (AA)
The Orioles were bumming when they lost Steve Johnson (the son of former Oriole player and current Baltimore broadcaster Dave Johnson) in the Rule-5 Draft.
They were more than pleased when the young right-handed pitcher failed to make the Giants opening day roster and he was returned to the O's.
After getting off to a decent but unspectacular start, Johnson has really turned it on since May has begun. In three starts, he's tossed 18 innings (surrendering only four earned runs on 12 hits) with a 2.00 ERA.
Although Johnson has managed to escape with just one win in those three games, his 3.35 ERA for the season leads a fairly-decent pitching staff.
Johnson has never been a super strikeout guy, but the past few seasons he's really turned it up a notch—and in 2010, his 40 strikeouts in 43 innings are good for a second-place ranking in the Eastern League.
Most scouts see Johnson as no more than a back-end of the rotation guy, but he's been getting pretty good results as he's risen up the ranks.
NOT: Brandon Waring, 1B, Bowie Baysox (AA)
This just isn't the year for power hitters in the O's system.
Brandon Waring has made mince-meat of pitchers in his short professional career.
Hitting home runs has been his M.O., and yet one has to wonder why the Reds were so willing to part with a guy who has light-tower power...for Ramon Hernandez.
Is it maybe because they knew that as Waring rose through the levels he would encounter the kind of troubles he's facing right now?
Trouble, like the .207 average he's scuffled to.
Or the 44 strikeouts in 135 at-bats.
The first baseman is still cranking out home runs at a decent pace (he has five already), and he's a doubles machine—but he has yet to make consistent contact.
If Waring can't fine-tune his batting eye, there isn't much of a major league future for him.
His best bet will be remaining a big slugger at the lower levels of the minors.
Which is a darn shame—because the O's could certainly use a power threat right now.
HOT: Pedro Beato, RHP, Bowie Baysox (AA)
Pedro Beato may have been a bust as a starter (20-30 record and 4.48 ERA)—especially for a former first-round pick—but since the O's decided to move the hard-throwing righty to the bullpen, he's been golden.
Granted, it's only been 11 games (and 20.2 innings), but Beato has showed the flashes of dominance that he failed to muster consistently as a starter.
On the 2010 season, Beato has only allowed two earned runs—good for a 0.87 ERA, the best average in the Baysox bullpen.
Beato's 18 strikeouts and only five walks proves that he doesn't always have to be a victim of poor control. And as long as he works in short or medium outings, he can be as dominant as any reliever in the O's system.
However, he's still new at the reliever position, and he has yet to deal with any sort of true adversity (he holds a 0.41 ERA in his past 10 games).
Beato will most likely stay at Double-A for the foreseeable future—but if he keeps this kind of performance up, he could be ticketed to Baltimore by the 2011 season.
NOT: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Delmarva Shorebirds (A)
It looked for a while as though Matt Hobgood may have turned the corner in April—tossing seven scoreless innings.
But he bombed his next start, and he's been scuffling ever since.
Hobgood's three most recent efforts have seen him give up three, three, and five earned runs (respectively). He also hasn't thrown more than five innings since May 1, and has issued nearly as many walks as strikeouts (his ERA currently stands at a rotund 4.97, and he now has 27 strikeouts to 20 walks).
Remember all that talk about how Hobgood was supposed to be one of the more finished prep prospects?
Seems pretty silly now.
Hobgood can't seem to pitch more than a handful of innings at a time, and he also can't seem to string together consistent outings.
Granted, Hobgood is only 18-years old and one of the youngest pitchers in the Sally League—but after showing the kind of dominance he has in the past, it's sad to see him not be able to repeat it.
I think he'll be fine though.
HOT: Brett Jacobson, RHP, Frederick Keys (A+)
I believe it's safe to say that the Keys have one of the most impressive bullpen duos in all of the O's system.
We all knew Brandon Cooney was destined for a great year—but after the 2009 season that Brett Jacobson had, there were quite a few question marks.
Flashing the talent that made him a fourth-round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, Jacobson has finally settled into his new organization.
And he's made a major effort to make sure that he spends as little time at Frederick as possible.
Jacobson has already notched three wins—which granted, isn't that important as a reliever, but it's also tied for most wins on the Key's pitching staff.
He's also sporting a dandy 2.05 ERA and hasn't allowed an earned run in the month of May.
The right-handed pitcher also has 20 strikeouts on the year (in only 22 innings of work) and has held batters to a .229 average (he's also been pretty stingy with walks, issuing just nine so far).
In May, Jacobson has been outstanding: 10 strikeouts in 11 innings, only seven hits, and no earned runs allowed.
Hopefully he's gotten comfortable, but not so much that he isn't longing for Bowie.
HOT: Garabez Rosa, SS, Delmarva Shorebirds (A)
The season has kept rolling along...and so has shortstop Garabez Rosa.
After getting off to a fantastic start, Rosa has continued to shine and has put himself in prime position to take home Orioles' Player of the Year honors.
Rosa's .339 average ranks third in the league and his 14 doubles rank sixth; he's also driven in 19 runs and has limited his strikeouts (20 this season).
He still hasn't swiped a base, but he should finish with a handful before the season ends.
Now if he could just work on those 11 errors...