|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Orioles Chat Wrap|
Will Lingo took your questions
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Bill Rowell, 3b Born: September 10, 1988 • B-T: B-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: HS--Pennsauken, N.J., 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Dean Albany|
|Background: Rowell was a four-year starter in high school at Bishop Eustace Prep in New Jersey, and he first emerged on the national scene in the summer before his junior season. Aside from a few scouts' questions about whether he was a better hitter in batting practice than in games, his stock never wavered much, even as he saw few pitches to hit as a high school senior. He sealed the deal for the Orioles in a predraft workout at Camden Yards with an impressive round of batting practice. Baltimore made him the ninth overall pick and the first high school hitter selected in the 2006 draft, and he lived up to that billing at Rookie-level Bluefield before earning a promotion to short-season Aberdeen for the last few weeks of the season. Rowell signed with the Orioles for a $2.1 million bonus, the most the team ever has given to a hitter out of the draft, and instantly became the top prospect in a system low on bats.|
Strengths: Rowell is a big young man--he's still growing, and the Orioles think he could end up being about 6-foot-7--with a smooth, fluid swing that generates easy power. He has the bat speed to catch up to any pitch, and he can hit the ball out to any part of the park. He's a baseball junkie who spent hours honing his swing in a batting cage in his backyard, either taking turns pitching to his brother or hitting off a tee. All that work in the cage has resulted in an advanced hitter for his age, and Baltimore officials say they have rarely seen him mis-hit a ball. He also shows an ability to make adjustments, crushing lefthanders later in his pro debut after they made him look foolish early. He spreads out his stance to get better balance at the plate, and he sits low to reduce the size of his strike zone. Rowell was a shortstop in high school but moved to third base when he started his pro career. He committed 18 errors in 47 games at the hot corner, but showed enough potential that the Orioles will give him more time to learn the position. He's athletic for his size and works hard, but he's so big that he could end up at first base or in the outfield.
Weaknesses: Though he's ahead of most players his age, Rowell still has a lot to learn about hitting. He stays back on breaking balls well but needs work on his pitch recognition. He's not as pull-happy as some young hitters, but the Orioles still want him to hit the ball the other way more consistently. Rowell's biggest challenge might be integrating himself into a professional team. He's so accustomed to working out on his own, with his own routines in his own cage, that he'll have to learn to be part of a larger group. And, perhaps not surprising for a player who has said he models his game after Barry Bonds, he has a considerable ego as well.
The Future: Rowell is exactly the kind of impact bat the Orioles desperately need in their big league lineup, so they'll move him up as soon as he shows he has mastered a level. His bat is good enough that defense is a secondary consideration. While he'll open 2007 as the third baseman at low Class A Delmarva, don't be surprised if he moves off that position and quickly shoots up through the system.
|2.||Brandon Erbe, rhp Born: December 25, 1987 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 180|
|Drafted: HS--Baltimore, 2005 (3rd round) • Signed by: Ty Brown|
|Background: Erbe continues to look like a steal as a third-rounder who signed for $415,000 in 2005. The Orioles' only real goal for him in 2006 was to take his turn every fifth day, and he handled that with aplomb. He was limited to five innings or 85-90 pitches per start and was on an even tighter leash after he reached the 100-innings mark, but he still ranked fourth among starters in full-season leagues with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.|
Strengths: Erbe works anywhere from 92-97 mph with his fastball, sitting around 94-95, and he can locate it on both sides of the plate. His slider is also a potential plus pitch when he commands it. Orioles officials have also been impressed by his demeanor and mound presence, which is advanced for his age and has been compared to that of Jim Palmer.
Weaknesses: The Orioles worked with Erbe to resolve a hop in his delivery as he tried to get maximum extension with his front foot, and they're happy with his mechanics now. His changeup is a quality pitch but still needs work. He prefers to work to the outer third of the plate, so he needs to show he can come inside as well.
The Future: The Erbe blueprint is going exactly as planned so far. He'll play the entire 2007 season at 19, opening the year at high Class A Frederick.
|3.||Nolan Reimold, of Born: October 12, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: Bowling Green State, 2005 (2nd round) • Signed by: Marc Ziegler|
|Background: Reimold bashed his way into the second round of the draft with an NCAA Division I-best .770 slugging percentage and had a huge pro debut in 2005. He followed that with a solid season in 2006 in spite of nagging foot and back injuries that bothered him early in the year. He appeared in the Futures Game--flying out in a showdown against fellow O's prospect Radhames Liz.|
Strengths: From the moment he signed, Reimold became the organization's best power prospect. He improved his pitch selection and wasn't so pull-happy by the end of the 2006 season, finding balls to drive and not just making contact. He's learning that he can hit the fastball away out of the park, just as he can the fastball in. The Orioles say he's athletic enough to play anywhere in the outfield but profiles best as a right fielder.
Weaknesses: Scouts who aren't as high on Reimold say he'll eventually have to play first base and they question how much his power will actually play in the big leagues. He has hit just .255 in high Class A, and the pitching is only going to get tougher at higher levels. His back injury made him timid for a time in the middle of the season, but he looked fine by the end of the season.
The Future: Questions about Reimold's athleticism aren't as important as the development of his bat. It's unlikely he'll move Nick Markakis out of right field, but Baltimore is desperate for power and will find a place for him when his bat is ready. He'll open 2007 at Double-A Bowie.
|4.||Pedro Beato, rhp Born: Oct. 27, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC, 2006 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Nick Presto|
|Background: Beato first drew attention as a high school pitcher in Brooklyn, but Tommy John surgery in April 2004 dented his draft prospects. The Mets still took him as a draft-and-follow in the 17th round in 2005, but decided not to exceed Major League Baseball's recommendation of an $800,000 bonus last spring. The Orioles jumped on him with the 31st overall pick, signed him for $1 million and were encouraged by the returns from his first summer and instructional league.|
Strengths: Beato came to instructional league bragging about adding a sixth pitch to his repertoire, but the Orioles want his to focus on three: his fastball, curveball and changeup. He works in the mid-90s and always leaned on his fastball most, showing an ability to locate it to either side of the plate. His power curve is a well above-average pitch at times. He's a strong competitor who brings an upbeat attitude to the park. His elbow is healthy and not a concern.
Weaknesses: The main reason Beato needs to focus on just a few pitches is to improve his location of all of them. He loves to pitch inside, but the Orioles want him to concentrate on commanding the fastball away better. He's athletic but is still working to repeat his delivery.
The Future: With Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen having graduated to the big leagues, Beato is one of the Orioles' best pitching prospects, albeit at least a couple of years away from joining them. He could open his first full season in high Class A.
|5.||Radhames Liz, rhp Born: October 6, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 170|
|Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003 • Signed by: Carlos Bernhardt|
|Background: Liz was the talk of the minors early in the 2006 season as he dominated at Frederick, including an April start when he struck out 13 in five innings in a combined no-hitter against Salem. He found out in Double-A that he still had a lot to learn about pitching, however.|
Strengths: Liz throws his fastball with such life that there's a clicking sound when he throws it at its highest velocity--in the 94-97 mph range--as his thumb hits his index and middle fingers. His curveball is another plus pitch that he's still learning how to use. His changeup can be an average pitch when he doesn't try to throw it too slow.
Weaknesses: He likes to elevate his heater, but Double-A hitters showed Liz he needs to pitch down in the zone. He's also working on control and command of all his pitches. Liz doesn't like to get hit, and the Orioles are trying to teach him that contact on his terms is desirable.
The Future: Liz' command questions and two dominant pitches make him an obvious candidate to be a reliever, but Baltimore officials say his durability and potential three-pitch mix will keep him in a rotation until hitters tell them otherwise. He'll begin 2007 back in Double-A.
|6.||Garrett Olson, lhp Born: Oct. 18, 1983 • B-T: R-L • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: Caly Poly, 2005 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Gil Kubski|
|Background: If you're looking for the safest bet in this system to pitch in the big leagues, Olson is it. He jumped to high Class A in his pro debut in 2005, then made it to Double-A halfway through his first full season. The Orioles said the quality of his pitches improved at Bowie, as he seemed to pitch to the level of his competition.|
Strengths: Olson has a well-rounded package of pitches, works efficiently and has a desire to learn and improve unmatched by anyone in the organization. He threw his fastball at 88-91 mph early in the season but worked at 89-93 later, complementing it with a hard breaking ball. His changeup has improved significantly, though he still needs to command it better.
Weaknesses: The Orioles say Olson was too fine with his pitches early in 2006, though he got more confident with his pitches and was more willing to pitch to contact later. Some scouts doubt the quality of his stuff and say he'll end up as a lefty reliever.
The Future: There are those in the organization who would like Olson to get a shot at the Baltimore rotation in spring training, though he'll likely open the season at Triple-A Norfolk. Assuming his changeup continues to come along, he has the stuff and work ethic to pitch in the middle of a rotation.
|7.||Brandon Snyder, of Born: November 23, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 206|
|Drafted: HS--Centreville, Va., 2005 (1st round) • Signed by: Ty Brown|
|Background: The 13th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Snyder had a lost first full season. He performed poorly at Delmarva--where he dislocated his right shoulder while swinging--and Aberdeen before having surgery to repair a tear in his left rotator cuff in August. His father Brian pitched briefly in the majors.|
Strengths: Snyder is regarded as a potential impact bat, with a smooth swing, good approach and the ability to use the whole field. He also showed power potential when fully healthy in 2005. He's athletic and played several positions in high school before working as a catcher as a pro.
Weaknesses: Becoming a big league catcher is a longshot for Snyder, who threw out just 22 percent of basestealers in 2006 and still has much to grasp behind the plate. He'll likely move to an infield corner, putting more pressure on him to fulfill his potential with the bat. First base is probably his next destination because it's less demanding and Bill Rowell is at third base.
The Future: Getting Snyder healthy is the Orioles' only concern right now. His offensive production will determine his ultimate value, and they just want to get his bat going. He'll go to Delmarva when he's healthy enough to play.
|8.||James Hoey, rhp Born: December 30, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: Rider, 2003 (13th round) • Signed by: Jim Howard|
|Background: Hoey had a promising debut at Bluefield in 2003, but he made just two appearances in 2004 before going down with an elbow strain that eventually required Tommy John surgery. He worked back into shape in 2005 and was at full strength in 2006, jumping through three levels and reaching the big leagues as a reliever.|
Strengths: During his rehabilitation, Hoey smoothed out his mechanics and tapped into the full strength of his arm, and in 2006 he consistently worked at 96-97 mph. In an August appearance with Bowie, he touched 100 six times. He also showed a good slider most of the season.
Weaknesses: Getting knocked around in the big leagues reinforced Hoey's need to improve his command, though part of the problem may have been that he was tired. His slider also wasn't sharp in the majors, and he tends to get on the side of it at times.
The Future: Hoey has the frame to be a starter, but with his success in 2006 he'll remain a reliever. With a good spring, he should return to the big league bullpen.
|9.||Jeff Fiorentino, of Born: April 14, 1983 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: Florida Atlantic, 2004 (3rd round) • Signed by: Nick Presto|
|Background: The numbers show a pedestrian 2006 season with a big league stint, but they don't show two nagging injuries--a sprained ankle, followed by a strained hamstring--that short-circuited Fiorentino for most of the first half. Healthy by the end of the year, he hit .376 with four home runs in August.|
Strengths: Fiorentino is a do-everything player who brings energy to the ballpark every day, runs well and can play anywhere in the outfield. He has an unorthodox approach, putting his upper half over the plate, but he has good hand-eye coordination and gets himself into position to hit for power when the ball enters the hitting zone. He's a good situational hitter who should have enough power to hit 15-20 homers a year.
Weaknesses: While he does everything pretty well, Fiorentino doesn't have one overwhelming tool. He also needs to be more consistent with his pitch selection, as he wavers between being too patient and too aggressive. Too often, he makes outs on pitches that aren't quite good enough to hit.
The Future: In a perfect world, Fiorentino would be a fourth outfielder who could fill in at all three positions and provide a lefthanded bat with some pop. The Orioles will give him a chance to be more than that, and he'll probably start 2007 in Triple-A.
|10.||Kieron Pope, of Born: October 3, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 196|
|Signed: HS-Gay, Ga., 2005 (4th round) • Signed by: Dave Jennings|
|Background: Pope gave up football midway through his high school career to focus on baseball, though his inexperience still shows on the diamond. He made a strong impression in his second tour through the Appalachian League in 2006, but an August stint at Aberdeen showed that he still has a lot of work to do.|
Strengths: Pope's raw power is the best in the organization, and when he gets hold of the ball he can drive it out to any part of the ballpark. His other tools are fairly average across the board. He should be a fine left fielder, and he's a smart player who's anxious to learn and get better.
Weaknesses: Pope came into pro ball with a metal-bat swing and a bad approach, but his talent allowed him to get away with them as an amateur. Baltimore has remade his stroke and worked on his pitch recognition, and he has made strides and showed flashes of putting it all together. However, he may never hit for much of an average.
The Future: It will probably be three or four seasons before the Orioles really know what they have in Pope, but they're encouraged by his work ethic and power potential. They'll keep giving him instruction and at-bats, and he'll get an opportunity to make his full-season debut in low Class A this spring.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Rowell: Robert Gurganus
Erbe, Beato, Snyder: Mike James
Reimold, Olson: Carl Kline
Hoey: Rich Abel
Pope: Tom Priddy