We now reach part five of my multi-part series "Around the Diamond" to take a peek over at third base.
Every year, we look around the diamond and we see new faces. We see five different shortstops, various left fielders, two distinct first basemen, and so forth and so on.
There is one position on the field, however, that never seems to change: third base. The man always guarding the "hot corner," Melvin Mora, is a quiet icon in Baltimore known mostly by the fans that reside in the area.
He is not a nationwide name, just a name known by the best of baseball fanatics. He should receive more recognition.
Each season, Mora proves to be a valiant force in the lineup, backing up this statement with one of his most productive years to date in 2008. Last season, he hit .285, with 23 home runs, 104 RBI, and three stolen bases.
He has always been someone who is referred to as "clutch," hitting for a whopping .360 batting average with runners in scoring position and an unthinkable .328 with runners in scoring position and two outs. That, my friends, is what I call "clutch."
I believe that many O's fans, including myself, believed that he was beginning to wear down before last season. Now, he is just showing everyone that he still has some gas left in the tank.
There is one main concern with Mora—his age. He is now 36 years old, a tell-tale sign that he will eventually begin to wear down. Now the question is: How long can this father of quintuplets actually last before he retires? My answer: I don't have a clue.
One thing that I do know is this: As long as Melvin Mora is on the diamond manning third base, the Orioles have every opportunity to win the game.
Though Mora is reliable, the O's do need to look for a different option if Melvin were to severely struggle or even call it quits.
Looking at free agency, I would have said that Baltimore's best bet would have been Hank Blalock, but, as stated in one of my previous articles, Blalock's option for 2009 was picked up by the Texas Rangers, knocking him off the list.
So, instead of looking at free agency, I believe that the Orioles' best chance resides in the minor leagues.
There are two names that I think of when I hear the words "first baseman prospects." I am thinking of Scott Moore and William "Billy" Rowell.
Let us begin with Scott Moore.
Last season, Moore stormed onto the big league club after having a fine beginning in Spring Training. After only eight at-bats in the pros, however, he only hit .125, with one home run and one RBI. He was later sent down to the minor leagues where he would go on to struggle against Triple-A pitching.
Overall, I believe that Moore may be the Orioles' best opportunity to fill the third base position in the future. However, one thing that scares me is his ability to make contact with the ball. He has all the power to become a solid middle of the order hitter, but you have to hit the ball before it can fly over the fence.
Now we look at Billy Rowell.
In the 2006 Draft, the Baltimore Orioles selected Billy Rowell with their ninth overall pick. He was a highly touted athlete coming out of high school, yet injuries have affected his play.
Last season at Single-A Frederick, Rowell hit for a .248 average, with seven home runs, 50 RBI, a .315 OBP, and a .368 slugging percentage. Not the greatest hitting from a top prospect. To his defense, he is only 20 years old.
One fear that I have about Rowell is that he is said to be extremely lazy. If he doesn't begin hitting soon, I will have to begin assuming that he is not the Orioles' future at third base.
Other names have been discussed as possible third basemen for the pro club, including former Houston Astro Mike Costanzo and Jeff Nettles, but Costanzo strikes out too many times (159 times in 483 at-bats) and Nettles has only proven himself with power (24 home runs at Double-A Bowie), but not average (he only hit for a .253 average).
So for now, all that we know for certain is that Melvin Mora will be back on the left side of the infield.
What about behind him?
I do not even believe that Orioles' scouts can figure that question out.