Baltimore Orioles Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Will Lingo
1. Keith Reed, of
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Providence, 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Jim Howard.
Background: Reeds career path has been as improbable as it has been steep. Growing up in Massachusetts he spent most of his athletic energy on basketball, but Providence College recruited him for baseball. He made steady improvement there but remained a virtual unknown heading into his junior season. After he hit .398-17-79, winning Big East Conference player-of-the-year honors and leading the Friars to an NCAA regional bid in the programs last season, people took notice of his all-around skills. The Orioles made him the 23rd overall pick in the 1999 draft, but even they have been surprised at how well he has adjusted to pro ball, considering his relative inexperience.
Strengths: Reed elicits a common response in the organization: "Theres nothing he cant do." He has true five-tool potential, and his arm may be his best tool. The most intriguing part of his package, though, is his power, which generates more line drives now but should increase as he matures. Even still, he had 19 home runs in 2000. Given how raw he was supposed to be, he shows a good approach at the plate and should cut down on his strikeouts as he moves up. And lets not forget his speed, which was rated among the best in his draft class. He uses his speed well, getting caught only four times in 33 basestealing attempts this season. The organization thinks he can be a run producer in the mold of Joe Carter, with a better arm and better speed.
Weaknesses: The main thing Reed needs is experience. Because he grew up in a cold-weather region he hasnt played as much baseball as many players his age. Some in the organization think he needs to improve his concentration, to be in the game mentally on every pitch. Others say Reeds concentration is fine, and that hes just one of those players who makes everything look easy.
The Future: As surprising as Reeds early success has been, the organization still plans a patient approach. As he did by going back to Class A Delmarva to start the 2000 season, hell probably go back to Class A Frederick to start 2001. Hes on track for a big league callup in 2002 and a chance for a full-time job in 2003.
2. Richard Stahl, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSCovington, Ga., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Lamar North.
Background: Stahl got the biggest bonus of any player from the Orioles big 1999 draft haul. He signed on the day he was to begin classes at Georgia Tech and didnt make his professional debut until this season. He was limited by back trouble, but thats a function of his continuing growth and is not considered a long-term problem.
Strengths: Stahl has the best arm in the organization and the package of a true No. 1 starter, with a loose, quick delivery and a fastball that gets up to 96 mph. Big and rangy, his delivery makes batters feel as though hes right on top of them. Hes a good athlete who moves well for a guy his size and could approach Randy Johnson stature by the time he reaches the big leagues.
Weaknesses: Its a simple question of gaining maturity, with his body, his approach to pitching and his adjustment to the grind of professional baseball. He has the makings of a great curveball but needs to become consistent with it.
The Future: Statistics mean little for Stahl at this point. He has the arm and the athletic ability to advance quickly once everything clicks. That process will continue in 2001 at Class A Frederick.
3. Ed Rogers, ss
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 150. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Carlos Bernhardt.
Background: Even the Orioles were stunned by Rogers breakout season. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 1998 and in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 99, drawing a bit of attention in instructional league after each season. Now he looks like the shortstop of the future.
Strengths: Rogers has the potential to have the offense/defense package of the best modern shortstops. He has pure shortstop tools, with a great arm, plus range and silky actions. Unlike many young shortstops with good tools, hes steady rather than flashy, with little wasted motion.
Weaknesses: With his slender frame, Rogers needs to add strength to become a bigger offensive threat and to hold up to the rigors of a long season. He missed time with a broken finger in 2000. He has the potential to hit .300 with alley power if he refines his approach at the plate and adds strength.
The Future: While the Orioles comparisons to Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra might be premature, Rogers does present an exciting package. Hes likely to continue on the fast track by opening the season at Double-A Bowie.
4. Ntema Ndungidi, of
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 199. Drafted: HSMontreal, 1997 (Supplemental 1st round). Signed by: Wayne Norton/Manny Estrada.
Background: Ndungidi was born in Zaire (now known as Congo) and moved with his family to Montreal when he was 3. While his high school in Montreal did not have a baseball team, he played for the Academy of Baseball select team, made up of the countrys best amateur players.
Strengths: A classic projection draft pick, Ndungidis package is starting to come together as he gets repetitions and gets stronger. He should grow to have 25-home run power, and he has exciting speed under way with a long, loping stride. Hes a 60-65 runner (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) from home to first, but a 70 runner from first to third.
Weaknesses: Ndungidi looked overmatched in Double-A and still needs a lot of at-bats against quality pitching. He is still raw in many ways, and his arm will limit him to left field.
The Future: While the jump from prospect to big leaguer is a big one, Ndungidi showed with his jump from draft pick to prospect that hes willing to put in the work. Hell return to Bowie to start the 2001 season.
5. Luis Rivera, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 163. Signed: Mexico, 1995. Signed by: Bill Clark (Braves).
Background: In the Orioles midseason housecleaning, Rivera was the best prospect they brought in. They got him in the deal that sent B.J. Surhoff to Atlanta. Rivera was the top prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 1997 but has battled injury problems ever since.
Strengths: Rivera has dominant stuff and one of the hardest fastballs in the minors, getting it up to 98 mph with good movement. He has a loose, mechanically sound delivery and an aggressive approach. He also has the makings of a good breaking ball, alternately described as a curve or a slider.
Weaknesses: The Orioles dont know what to think about Rivera because they havent seen him pitch much. He pitched just eight innings after the trade before getting shut down with a tired arm. Persistent blisters on his pitching hand have also been a problem, but the Orioles say Rivera will be ready for spring training.
The Future: The Orioles are taking a cautious approach, with good reason. Though Rivera has been bothered by injuries, none has been serious yet. If hes really sound, he could contribute in Baltimore in 2001.
6. Beau Hale, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Texas, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Deron Rombach.
Background: In spite of mediocre numbers in his first two years at Texas, Hale was in scouts sights after ranking as the No. 9 prospect in the Cape Cod League and pitching well in the NBC World Series in the summer of 1999. He built on that with a 12-6, 3.10 season as the Longhorns Friday starter, throwing a no-hitter and leading them back to the College World Series for the first time since 1993.
Strengths: Hale is a bulldog with great makeup and a great arm. His fastball tops out at 97 mph, and he pitches comfortably at 92-94. He has a hard slider that could be a plus pitch. He has a durable arm and always has his game face on.
Weaknesses: The Orioles have to hope Hales durability in college doesnt translate into arm problems as a professional. He piled up some high pitch counts in his junior season and was second in NCAA Division I with 145 innings. Hes essentially a two-pitch pitcher now, which could foretell a conversion to closer.
The Future: Assuming Hales track record in college carries over to pro ball, he projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter who will be an innings-eater. Hell probably start his career at Frederick.
7. Matt Riley, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 201. Drafted: D/FSacramento CC, 1997 (3rd round). Signed by: Ed Sprague.
Background: Youd be hard-pressed to find anyone who had a worse year in 2000 than Riley. Invited to big league spring training, he showed his immaturity, showing up late for workouts and drawing the ire of manager Mike Hargrove. Sent back to the minors, he pitched ineffectively before arm trouble ended his season. He had Tommy John surgery in September.
Strengths: When healthy, Riley has three above-average pitches and is the organizations only true premium prospect. His fastball tops out in the mid-90s, and he has a big-breaking curveball and deceptive changeup. He also has an aggressive approach.
Weaknesses: While Tommy John surgery doesnt carry the stigma it used to, its still a significant bump in a pitchers career. Rileys maturity will be sorely tested as he goes through the rehabilitation process.
The Future: The Orioles are hopeful Riley can return to action by midseason, though that may be optimistic. If he can get in minor league innings in 2001, he will get another big league shot in 2002.
8. Ryan Kohlmeier, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 197. Drafted: Butler County (Kan.) CC, 1996 (14th round). Signed by: Lane Decker.
Background: Looking like little more than an organization player coming into the 2000 season, Kohlmeier was slated to be a set-up guy in the Rochester bullpen. He became the closer and pitched well enough to get an audition in Baltimore, where he shocked everyone by saving 13 games.
Strengths: Kohlmeier has a low-90s fastball and a slider that improved significantly after he learned a new grip from Rochester teammate Mike Grace. His fastball has great natural sink. What puts him over the top is his makeup, though. He wants the ball in any situation and isnt afraid to challenge hitters, pitching aggressively in the strike zone.
Weaknesses: Kohlmeier gets the most of his ability and is probably at his ceiling now. He has to be fine with his pitches because he isnt overpowering. It will be interesting to see if big league hitters figure him out once hes no longer a mystery man.
The Future: He might be better suited to a set-up role on a contending team, but Kohlmeier will go into the 2001 season as the Orioles closer. Given the strides he made in 2000, it might be a mistake to underestimate him.
9. Octavio Martinez, c
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Bakersfield (Calif.) JC, 1999 (10th round). Signed by: Gil Kubski.
Background: Though he was a junior college all-American, Martinez was an unknown when he was drafted and did little to change that in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 1999. He should get attention after his MVP season in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, though.
Strengths: Defense was Martinez calling card coming into the season, but his offense got the attention. He is a strong, heady, hard-working player who is considered a throwback by the organization. He has good, quick feet behind the plate and a strong, accurate arm. While he wont always hit as he did in 2000, he does have good command of the strike zone and has a chance to be a .300 hitter with decent power.
Weaknesses: Martinez catching skills should carry him to the big leagues, but his ability to hit quality pitching as he moves up will determine what kind of impact he has. The Orioles are also concerned about lingering shoulder soreness that could require further treatment.
The Future: After getting eight at-bats at Frederick to end the 2000 season, Martinez should return there to start 2001.
10. Brian Roberts, ss
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 170. Drafted: South Carolina, 1999 (Supplemental 1st round). Signed by: Lamar North.
Background: Roberts missed the first half of the 2000 season after having bone chips removed from his elbow, but he played well at Frederick when he returned. He felt a twinge in the elbow while playing in the Arizona Fall League, so the Orioles shut him down for the year.
Strengths: Roberts, the son of former North Carolina coach Mike Roberts, epitomizes the term "baseball player." He has great instincts for the game and a strong desire to reach the big leagues. His tools arent overwhelming, but the package is greater than the sum of its parts. Hes smooth in the field and has a good approach to hitting.
Weaknesses: The elbow injury raises questions about Roberts arm, which might have been his best tool. He was likely destined to move over to second base anyway. His gaudy stolen-base numbers in college havent translated in professional ball yet.
The Future: The Orioles compare Roberts to Mike Bordick, but he needs to stay healthy and get more at-bats to see if that comparison is apt. Assuming his elbow is sound, hell get the chance to move up to Double-A in the spring.
Rest of the Best:
11. Tim Raines Jr., of
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