Which Baltimore Orioles' Prospects Are Tearing It Up?
So, we're officially one-third of the way through the minor league season.
It's time to review who's tearing it up among Orioles minor leaguers (non-prospects too!), and get to know the guys who are raking.
On the mound, Jake Arrieta is making himself a runaway candidate for O's pitcher of the year. He already has six wins, and leads the IL in batting average against. He's top five in strikeouts, innings pitched, and ERA.
At the plate, you'd have to delve way into the lower levels to find players having remarkable seasons. Joe Mahoney at Frederick is having a great season, and Garabez Rosa is heating up at just the right time.
So, let's get to it...
Batting Average: Joe Mahoney, 1B, Frederick Keys
The Orioles never really have a huge cache of position players hitting over .300, and this year is no different. Only two regulars have averages that high, with Joe Mahoney taking home the crown for highest average and the 1/3 mark.
Mahoney, the 189th pick out of the 2007 draft, is hitting .308 for the High-A Frederick Keys and is tied for the team lead with 32 RBI.
Before this season, Mahoney was better known for his 29 stolen bases last season, and in case you didn't notice the first baseman is a whopping 6'7'' and 255 pounds.
Before that nearly 30-steal season, Mahoney's game was supposed to be about power. He was a hulking power threat at Richmond, and the Orioles were hoping that power would translate to pro-ball, but for the most part it hasn't.
This season, however, Mahoney looks like he's turning a corner. At 23, he's a little old for the Carolina League, but he is on pace to set career highs in home runs and RBI, and hopefully give the Orioles a legit power threat at first base.
And just for those of you that were wondering, Mahoney has five steals already this season.
Hits: Xavier Avery, OF, Frederick Keys
Avery, the Orioles second-round pick in 2008, was labeled as the next Carl Crawford coming out of that draft, and while he hasn't exactly set the world on fire like the Rays outfielder has, he is still having a pretty good season.
He is hitting .274 and leads the team in several offensive categories, including runs, triples, and strikeouts. And his 59 hits lead the entire organization.
Avery was given a stern challenge last year, a promotion to full-season ball as a 19-year old. He struggled for the most part, but appeared to get better as the season wore on, learning the strike-zone better, and gaining knowledge on what pitches he could and couldn't handle.
This season, Avery is still one of the youngest regulars in the Carolina League. And while his power hasn't developed like the O's had hoped, they still love him as a Gold Glove caliber center-fielder who can wreak havoc on the basepaths.
Doubles: Garabez Rosa, SS, Delmarva Shorebirds
Rosa is, without a doubt, the most significant signing the Orioles have ever made from the Dominican Republic.
And he leads the Orioles with a ridiculous number of doubles, at 19.
Rosa, 6'2'' and 166, has developed into the Orioles best hope for a complete player at shortstop. No offense Mychal Givens.
In his first go at full-season ball, he has turned in a .284 average, 21 runs scored, 22 RBI and those 19 doubles, which rank fourth in the Sally League.
He still strikes out way too much (37 in 176 at-bats) but he consistently finds a way to get the bat on the ball, and while his defense looks shaky (20 errors), he's got all the defensive tools to stay at short long-term.
Rosa needs to put on some weight, and add some pop to his game, but scouts claim he has the quick, strong wrists to be able to do just that down the road.
Otherwise, he'll just turn out as another Cesar Izturis...and we don't want another one of those.
Triples: Steven Bumbry, OF, Delmarva Shorebirds
The Orioles have several players who make triples their game: Xavier Avery, Kyle Hudson, Pedro Florimon, and Tyler Kolodny.
And yet, it is Steven Bumbry who leads the O's with four triples in 39 games.
Bumbry, as you may have guessed, is son of legendary Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry. He's also one of the fastest players in the organization. He only has six stolen bases so far this year, but it's not for lack of trying; he's been caught stealing six times as well.
And the 12th round pick out of last year's draft has turned in a more impressive season than most were expecting. His .278 average is one of the highest on the team, as are his 12 doubles, 23 runs scored, and 20 walks.
Unfortunately, he also paces the club with 65 strikeouts, averaging one nearly every third at-bat.
The O's may not have room for Bumbry in their future plans, but it's nice to see a heritage player actually playing somewhat well for once.
Home Runs: Joel Guzman, 3B, Bowie Baysox
I wish I could give this award to a more...organizational player, but the stats are the stats.
Former top prospect in the Dodgers organization, Joel Guzman leads all Orioles minor leaguers with 12 home runs. It shouldn't come as any surprise, given that Guzman cranks an average of 15 home runs per season, but he is hitting them at a quicker pace than ever before, and appears on track to shatter his career high of 23, set in 2004.
The talented third-baseman has bounced around from organization to organization the past few years, seeing time in the Rays and Nationals systems, but it looks like he may have found a home in the power starved Orioles organization.
The only thing standing in the way of Guzman and a promotion to AAA is Josh Bell, so whenever Bell gets hot and gets the call to Baltimore, Guzman should pack his bags for Norfolk.
RBI: Joel Guzman, 3B, Bowie Baysox
Guzman also paces the O's in RBI with 36 and is on pace for 88, which would set a new career high.
Stolen Bases: Kyle Hudson, OF, Frederick Keys
Outfielder Kyle Hudson took control of the stolen base lead, breaking a tie with fellow Key outfielder Xavier Avery, at 16.
Hudson did some damage on the basepaths last season as well, swiping 34 in 123 games.
It should come as no surprise, since the O's drafted him with the 116th pick in the 2008 draft, knowing full well that he possessed 80 speed on the 20-80 scale. In fact, there are some that argue he is quicker than Avery.
Certainly Hudson has better patience than Avery, as his 88:154 walk to strikeout ratio attest. Avery's ratio is 54:210.
Since both players are so similar it's likely that they will suffer from being compared to each other until one of them asserts themselves and gets promoted.
Strikeouts: Brandon Waring, 3B/1B, Bowie Baysox
This category is especially well-known to any O's fan who follows minor leaguers.
The O's tend to have some of the highest strikeout numbers in the minors, and at last check, each minor league affiliate led their league in combined strikeouts.
The worst offender is Bowie's Brandon Waring. Waring has always been a premier power threat, but just as often he's been a swing and a miss threat.
Going into their 51st game last night, Waring has a ridiculous 68 strikeouts in 197 at-bats. More than one-third of Waring's at-bats end in a strikeout, and that's the main reason his average sits at a paltry .228, well below his career line.
Combine that with the fact that Waring isn't cranking home runs out at a record pace, or not even one similar to his career pace, and his season looks all the more...ugly.
Wins: Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk Tides
Arrieta has been the pride of Orioles pitchers this year.
The 2007 fifth-round pick is on the cusp of making his Major League debut sometime in the very near future, and his performance thus far in 2010 has erased any doubt that he's ready to take the next step.
In 11 starts, Arrieta has compiled a 6-2 record. During April, Arrieta pitched to a 1.16 ERA, but his lofty 2.25 number in May raised it to a meager 1.77. He has 62 strikeouts in 71 innings, and his .183 batting average against is tops in the International League.
Arrieta has always been known as a workhorse, and he's done nothing to dispel that, going nearly 6.5 innings per start this season.
The only knock on Arrieta is the high number of walks. He has 34 so far this season, and that's near the top of the IL. The Orioles know that that's also something that Major League hitters will take advantage of when the hard-throwing righty is eventually called up.
Aside from the walk issue, though, there isn't much to not like about Arrieta. He attacks hitters, and shows no fear on the mound.
He should be a rotation regular for years to come.
Losses: Brandon Erbe, RHP, Norfolk Tides
Somehow, Brandon Erbe has managed to lose all but two of the games that he's started this year. And his nine losses lead all Orioles minor leaguers.
I continue to be amazed that the O's staff keeps running Erbe out there after every five or six-run outing he has.
To me, two months ago seems like the logical time to shift him to the bullpen. I mean, if he's only going to last two or three innings in each start, you might as well let him pitch out of the pen, knowing he can give all that he has and that he doesn't have to try to save anything for the later innings.
That's just me though.
It's not like he doesn't have a 0-9 record, and a 6.14 ERA. Hitters are teeing off of him at a .300 clip, and he's given up seven home runs.
Innings Pitches: Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk Tides
Arrieta takes the cake, with 71 innings pitched.
ERA (Starter): Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk Tides
This one goes to Arrieta as well, as his 1.77 ERA is nearly a run and a half better than any other starters.
ERA (Reliever): Jose Duran, RHP, Frederick Keys
It's been a fantastic year for Orioles minor league relievers.
Brandon Cooney has found his niche and is excelling, Pedro Beato has made the jump to the bullpen and has turned into one of the best young relievers in the system, Dennis Sarfate has regained his form while he waits for another shot in the bigs.
But the pitcher who has had the best season so far is none other than Jose Duran, a free-agent pickup, who has pitched to a 0.86 ERA in 13 games for the Keys.
Duran has surrendered only three earned runs all season and has held batters to a .158 average.
Over his last ten games, his ERA is a measly 0.38.
At 25 Duran is a tad old for the Carolina League, and he doesn't figure to hold much prospect value, but he's still having a fine season regardless.
Strikeouts: Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk Tides
Arrieta strikes again, with 62 strikeouts.
Former Oriole and current O's announcer Dave Johnson's son is second with 58, however, and is certain to overtake Arrieta's numbers as soon as he's promoted to Baltimore.
Saves: Brandon Cooney, Josh Dowdy, and Jose Diaz
Taking the recently promoted Frank Mata out of the running, the Orioles currently have a three-way tie for the lead in saved games.
Brandon Cooney, recently promoted to Bowie from Frederick, has six, although they all came with the Keys. Cooney has developed into the Orioles best closer prospect. He has the size (6'6" and 240) and the power arsenal (mid 90s fastball with tons of sink) to get the job done.
Sharing the lead with Cooney is 2009 38th round pick Josh Dowdy. Dowdy also has six saves, and has put together a remarkable campaign. He leads the team's relievers with a 1.00 ERA in 14 outings. He also has 24 strikeouts in only 16 innings and he has yet to surrender a home run. Dowdy is a tad old for Delmarva at 23, but with the results so far, he's more than earned his way to Frederick.
And last but not least, 26-year old reliever Jose Diaz of the Bowie Baysox. Diaz is a non-prospect, but he's still had a great season. A 2-0 record, six saves and a 1.80 ERA. Over his last seven outings, he has one win and five saves.