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Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects, Who's Hot and Who's Not, April 20

Zachary BallAnalyst IApril 20, 2011

Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects, Who's Hot and Who's Not, April 20

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    The Orioles kicked off their 2011 campaign in style, sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays, and then taking two of three games from the projected 2011 A.L. Central champion Tigers. They hit a bit of a road-block in the Texas Rangers, and struggled against the Twins, Indians and Yankees, but three weeks into the season, they're 7-9 and much better than anyone expected. 

    And they've managed to get out to such a decent start on the strength of their young pitching. Rookie Zach Britton (23 years old) has led the way, notching a team-leading two victories, while posting a 2.75 ERA. Chris Tillman (22) has been just as effective, throwing six-innings of no-hit ball against Tampa, following that gem up with 4.2 gritty innings against the Tigers. The right-hander leads the team with 16 strikeouts. And Jake Arrieta (25), fresh off of six shutout innings against the Twins, is tied for the team lead with two victories and paces the rotation with 21.1 innings.

    Down in the minors, it's been more of the same.

    Delmarva has benefited from great starting efforts from Tim Adelman, Luis Noel and Jacob Pettit, while Frederick has gotten quality starts from Oliver Drake and Ryan O'Shea, a favorite of mine because we share the same birthday.

    In the upper levels, the O's minor-league stars have shone brightly. The team's top catching prospect, Caleb Joseph, has shaken off a slow start and has emerged as the team's best hitter, while at Norfolk, Brandon Snyder appears to have found his stroke once again.

    A few of those names ended up on the first Orioles "hot" list of the season, while you'll see a few familiar names on the "not" list.   

Hitter of the Week

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    Jonathan Schoop, SS/3B, Delmarva Shorebirds (Low-A)

    Schoop joined Mychal Givens as a casualty of the Orioles' Manny Machado love-affair. Givens was forced to move to second and has struggled mightily at the plate (see later), while Schoop has moved to third base, and he's flourished.

    He's currently riding a seven-game hit-streak, during which he is hitting .467. He has failed to reach base in only one game so far this year. He's hitting .362 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and nine RBI. He has scored nine runs and has five walks and six Ks.

    During his hit-streak, he's posted three three-hit games.

    Checking out his splits makes Schoop look even more impressive. He's hitting a respectable .275 off of right-handers, but has a ridiculous .857 average (6-for-7) against lefties

    Schoop came to the Orioles as an international signee from Curacao in 2008. He has developed slowly but jumped into the Orioles prospect fray with a solid 2010 season that saw him split time with the O's GCL squad and Bluefield. He hit .316 for the Baby Birds with 11 doubles, two homers and 16 RBI in 39 games, and received a late-season call-up to Frederick, where he held his own as an 18-year-old, hitting .238.

    Keep in mind that Schoop is only 19 years old and won't turn 20 until after the 2011 season ends.

Pitcher of the Week

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    Tim Bascom, RHP, Bowie Baysox (Double-A)

    Bascom has quietly put together a nice run with the Orioles. The right-hander entered the 2011 season, his fifth with the O's, as a starter for the team's Double-A squad, and through three appearances (two starts) has looked solid enough to possibly have earned his way back to Triple-A.

    Bascom was scheduled to make his first appearance in a starting role, but was forced to come on to pitch in relief in the team's April 7th contest. He pitched a scoreless inning, but had to head back to the mound three days later, and his performance suffered. He allowed nine hits and four runs in five innings to Richmond and was saddled with his first loss of the 2011 season. 

    Six days later the 26-year-old was back on the mound, well rested and in fine form. He held Erie to four hits and one run through 6.2 innings. He struck out four and issued his first walk of the year.

    For the season, Bascom has a 3.55 ERA and has an 11-to-1 K-to-BB ratio.

    As for a promotion back to Triple-A, Bascom could stand to perform better than his first go-around. He made 17 starts for Norfolk last year and got shelled to the tune of a 4-7 record, an ERA of nearly seven and 17 HRA in 84.1 innings.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

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    Together in spring training, Nolan Reimold and Brandon Snyder have re-teamed in Triple-A.J. Meric/Getty Images

    Hot

    Brandon Snyder, 1B

    After shaking a slow start to the season, Snyder has emerged as one of the hottest hitters in the system, giving the O's hope that he's finally back to the healthy, productive form that he showed in 2009. Over his last six contests, Snyder has been sizzling, racking up a .417 average, three homers and eight RBI. Two nights ago, he had a 3-for-5 outing with two home runs and three RBI. For the season, his average is up to .297, best on the roster. 

     

    Not

    Matt Angle, OF

    Angle has been a nice surprise for the O's, showing great defensive ability and a solid approach at the plate at every level he's played at. For the first time, though, he's struggled to get his bat going out of the gate. Through seven games as the Tides' lead-off hitter, Angle is hitting .167 with no extra-base hits and eight strikeouts. And he has only recorded one stolen base, getting gunned down in his only other attempt.

     

    Josh Bell, 3B

    The so-called jewel of the George Sherrill trade, Josh Bell has showed plenty of abnormalities. Bell has always been prone to the strikeout, as his 2-to-53 BB-to-K ratio in 53 big-league contests proved last year. Back in Triple-A, he's still showing an incredible weakness, striking out 18 times in 46 at-bats.But whereas last year when Bell at least had solid HR potential (16 HR), he has only one long-ball through 12 games. 

     

    Pat Egan, RHP

    Egan is quite a conundrum. While he has the prototypical size of a big-league pitcher (6'7", 230 lbs.), he doesn't feature big-league, big-guy velocity. That's really hurt him as he's risen up through the minors, and never more than during the past few weeks.

    He's made four appearances, and given up a homer in two. On April 8th, he pitched three-innings in relief and gave up three hits and two runs. Three days later, he surrendered six hits and two more runs in only two innings. He had a relatively quiet two-inning outing, and then followed it up with a four-walk, one-run outing two days ago. So far his ERA stands at 4.66, and he's one homer-allowed shy of his total from 2010. He also has more walks (six) than strikeouts (five).

Double-A Bowie Baysox

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Hot

    Caleb Joseph, C

    Joseph rebounded from a very tough start to the season, and now has his average back above .270 for the first time all season. He celebrated the landmark move with his first home run on Sunday. Thanks to a five-game stretch that has seen him hit .438, Joseph his now hitting .276, best on the team. And as an added bonus, check out this lovely profile picture taken of him during last year's AFL stint.

     

    Wynn Pelzer, RHP

    Pelzer has largely underwhelmed since coming over from San Diego in the Miguel Tejada trade. This year, though, he's pitching incredibly well, emerging as the Baysox best reliever. He's made three appearances, including one spot start last week, and has allowed only one hit in his last seven innings. He surrendered a run during his first outing of the year, but has been spotless since, and his 1.00 ERA reflects that. Pelzer was brilliant during his four inning start as well, striking out five and allowing only one hit. Through nine innings, he now has seven strikeouts and three walks, and has held batters to a .077 average.

     

    Not

    Billy Rowell, 3B

    Rowell's first assignment outside of Frederick hasn't gone as well as he would have liked. Through eight games, the Orioles former first-round pick is hitting .231 with nine strikeouts in 26 at-bats. The O's felt that despite his poor performance in back-to-back-to-back seasons in High-A, Rowell deserved a shot at a new destination, so they promoted him to Double-A.

     

    Greg Miclat, SS

    Miclat, one of the team's best defensive infielders, has struggled mightily at the plate so far in 2011. Through ten games, he's only hitting .162, worst on the team for a player with more than 15 at-bats. And he's been killed by strikeouts, whiffing a team-leading 16 times in 37 at-bats. Leading a team that features Billy Rowell, Brandon Waring and Ronnie Welty isn't something that's easy to do, or to be proud of.

High-A Frederick Keys

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    Before Hudson was a speedster in the O's system, he was a two-sport star at the University of Illinois.

    Hot

    Daniel Klein, RHP

    Klein was the team's third-round pick last season, and despite his success as a shut-down closer for the UCLA Bruins, the O's announced they planned to develop him as a starter. Four months later, they scratched that idea, and made known they would start his career as a reliever. To Frederick he went. He's been incredibly successful so far, pitching to a 2.35 ERA in three appearances, spanning 7.2 innings. Both of the runs that Klein has given up have come on solo-home runs, and if you subtract those two long-balls, he's only given up three hits and struck out nine.

     

    Kyle Hudson, OF

    The Orioles were just as high on Hudson, the team's fourth-round pick in 2008, as they were about Xavier Avery, their pick one round earlier. Both have blazing speed, and while Hudson has the more polished bat, he's still stuck in High-A ball, while Avery has worked his way up to Double-A. It might not be too long before Hudson joins him though, as he's off to arguably the hottest start of any Key, hitting .323 with five runs scored and six steals through nine games. He's never going to be a power guy, as you can tell by his ZERO extra-base hits, but as long as Hudson can get on base, he's going to make you pay with his wheels. He stole 40 bases last year and 34 in 2009.

     

    Tyler Townsend, 1B

    My pick for the O's break-out star of the year, Townsend has been raking for Frederick through the team's first two weeks. Townsend himself has only figured into eight games, but he's currently leading the squad with a .333 average, five doubles and six RBI. He has been prone to the strikeout though, going down on strikes eight times with no walks. The Orioles' third-round pick in 2009, Townsend has hit in five straight games.

     

    Not

    L.J. Hoes, 2B

    Another hitter who was poised for a break-out season, Hoes has scuffled to begin 2011, notching only four hits in his first 29 at-bats. On the plus side, he's still playing solid defense and he's posting a good BB-to-K ratio (5-to-4). He also has two steals, but he's only manage one extra-base hit.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

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    Hot

    Manny Machado, SS

    The Orioles 2010 first-round pick has looked as good as advertised in 12 Low-A contests. Showing an excellent approach at the plate and a line-drive stroke, he has failed to reach base in only three games. He's hitting .295 with three doubles, a triple, eight runs scored and six RBI. And he's got an impressive eight walks and only seven strikeouts. Even more impressive for a player with only 76 professional at-bats, teams are pitching around him at a ridiculous rate. He was walked four times in the night-game of April 9th's doubleheader, including once intentionally.

     

    Jason Gurka, LHP

    Gurka has always been a strikeout machine. He racked up 46 Ks last season at Aberdeen in only 38.1 innings, but what he did on April 9th almost defies all logic. Pitching in relief, Gurka struck out ten batters in only 3.2 innings of work.

    TEN!

    After loading the bases in the eighth-inning, Gurka retired the heart of the Greensboro lineup on three consecutive strikeouts. In case you were wondering, his strikeout-rate is 17.2 batters per nine innings. Gurka was a 15th-round pick in 2008, and has 14 Ks in 7.1 innings and a 2.45 ERA.

     

    Kipp Schutz, OF

    Schutz came to the Orioles as a 19th-round pick in 2009, out of Indiana University, where he hit .392 his junior season, earning all Big-Ten honors. The 23-year-old has continued his hot-hitting ways since graduating to pro-ball. That included a NYPL All-Star season last year at Aberdeen, where he hit .313 with 11 doubles, five triples, four homers, and 45 RBI in 68 games. 

    This season, the O's understandably bumped Schutz up to Low-A ball, where he has continued to rake, hitting .370 with four doubles, one triple, two homers and a team-leading 12 RBI in only 11 games. His finest game came on April 10th. Schutz went 4-for-5 at the plate, with a three-run homer, a two-run double and an RBI single. He also scored two runs. You can make the argument that Schutz is playing at a very high level, but you also have to take into consideration that he's a 23-year-old playing in Low-A ball, so dominating is exactly what he should be doing.

     

    Trent Mummey, OF

    Mummey was the team's fourth-round pick last year after showing an excellent combination of speed and power at Auburn. He had a great debut last summer and he's carried that momentum over into this season. Through 13 games he has 10 steals and two homers, while maintaining a solid .294 average. He's been especially hot over the past six games, hitting .409 with two homers, four RBI and seven steals. Like Schoop and Machad, Mummey has showed excellent discipline at the plate, walking nine times. 

     

    Not

    Mychal Givens, 2B

    Givens has already had to endure playing second fiddle to Machado AND a position change (SS to 2B), and it looks like it's affecting his play early in 2011. Hitting high in the Shorebirds lineup, Givens is 5-for-43 (.116), posting the worst average on the team through 13 games. He doesn't have any extra-base hits, only two RBI and 10 strikeouts.

     

    Tim Berry, LHP

    It's hard to have a worse full season debut than Berry had last week. Making his first ever start, Berry lasted only 1.1 innings. He did, however, spend a good amount of time on the mound. The 20-year-old lefty walked six batters and surrendered five earned runs, all while giving up only one hit. Go figure. Berry was sensational out of the O's GCL squad's bullpen last year, striking out 23 batters in 20 innings, but he did flash some control issues (14 walks). His second outing was a little bit better (5 IP, 1 ER), but he did surrender his first homer of the season and issued four walks to only one strikeout. His ERA sits at 8.53. 

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