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Top Ten Prospects: Baltimore Orioles
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Will Lingo
November 12, 2004


Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.

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TOP TEN PROSPECTS
1. Nick Markakis, of
2. Hayden Penn, rhp
3. Adam Loewen, lhp
4. Val Majewski, of
5. Jeff Fiorentino, of
6. John Maine, rhp
7. Mike Fontenot, 2b
8. Chris Ray, rhp
9. Tripper Johnson, 3b
10. Dave Crouthers, rhp
BEST TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Nick Markakis
Best Power Hitter Walter Young
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Val Majewski
Fastest Baserunner Clifton Turner
Best Athlete Lorenzo Scott
Best Fastball Chris Ray
Best Curveball Adam Loewen
Best Slider Dave Crouthers
Best Changeup Hayden Penn
Best Control John Maine
Best Defensive Catcher Eli Whiteside
Best Defensive Infielder Brandon Fahey
Best Infield Arm Bryan Bass
Best Defensive Outfielder Jarod Rine
Best Outfield Arm Keith Reed
TOP PROSPECTS
OF THE DECADE
1995 Armando Benitez, rhp
1996 Rocky Coppinger, rhp
1997 Nerio Rodriguez, rhp
1998 Ryan Minor, 3b
1999 Matt Riley, lhp
2000 Matt Riley, lhp
2001 Keith Reed, of
2002 Richard Stahl, lhp
2003 Erik Bedard, lhp
2004 Adam Loewen, lhp
TOP DRAFT PICKS
OF THE DECADE
1995 Alvie Shepherd, rhp
1996 Brian Falkenborg, rhp (2nd round)
1997 Jayson Werth, c
1998 Rick Elder, of
1999 Mike Paradis, rhp
2000 Beau Hale, rhp
2001 Chris Smith, lhp
2002 Adam Loewen, lhp
2003 Nick Markakis, of
2004 *Wade Townsend, rhp
*Did not sign
LARGEST BONUSES
IN CLUB HISTORY
Adam Loewen, 2002 $3,200,000
Beau Hale, 2000 $2,250,000
Chris Smith, 2001 $2,175,000
Darnell McDonald, 1997 $1,900,000
Nick Markakis, 2003 $1,850,000
Can the Orioles ever be a consistent winner with Peter Angelos as owner?

Angelos took over in August 1993, inheriting the respected Roland Hemond as his general manager. Hemond had been on the job since 1987. By 1995, however, he was gone, and no GM since has lasted more than three years. The GM tandem of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan is the latest to try to right the ship.

What they have is an organization in disarray. The Orioles reached third place in the American League East in 2004 after six straight fourth-place finishes, but it was the seventh straight sub-.500 season and the team was 20 games out of the playoffs.

The player-development operation continues to be in upheaval. Tony DeMacio, the scouting director hired during the brief Frank Wren administration, didn't have his contract renewed after the season. Nor did farm director Doc Rodgers, who in his two years brought discipline and planning to a system that previously had little of either.

DeMacio's record as scouting director isn't outstanding, but scouts say almost all of his early selections involved compromise of some sort. It's illustrative that his best picks, such as pitchers Erik Bedard (sixth round, 1999) and John Maine (sixth round, 2002), came in the later rounds when money is less of a consideration.

With the eighth overall pick in 2004, DeMacio wanted to choose Georgia high school shortstop Chris Nelson. After the draft started, Angelos insisted on a college pitcher who would sign for no more than Major League Baseball's slot recommendation of $2.2 million. So Baltimore took Rice righthander Wade Townsend, offered him $1.85 million and lost his rights when he returned to school.

As many as one-third of the players DeMacio and his scouts ranked on their draft board after scouting them last spring were deemed undraftable by upper management. The reason? They didn't fit the psychological profiles the Orioles have relied more heavily on in the last two years.

Flanagan brought in Dave Ritterpusch as the club's director of baseball information systems two years ago, and his influence has grown steadily. The Orioles touted his psychological profiling last offseason, saying it gave them an edge.

Ritterpusch declined to reveal his analysis, though he said it prompted the team to acquire pitching prospects Ryan Hannaman and Don Levinski in trades in 2003, even though most teams considered them damaged goods. Both pitched poorly in 2004 before having shoulder surgery, and both could miss all of 2005. The problem extends beyond favoring one particular philosophy. The approach seems to change with the wind.

The Orioles also got promising righthander Denny Bautista in the trade that brought Levinski from the Marlins, but they traded him to the Royals last June for 37-year-old Jason Grimsley. The decision was prompted by two bad outings by Bautista in a late May series against the Yankees, and club executives outside of baseball operations soured on him and ordered him traded.

If the new farm director (David Stockstill, promoted from field coordinator) and a scouting director can get everyone in the organization working from the same blueprint, it would be a positive move. More likely, however, is that disarray and disappointing finishes will continue until there are changes at the top.


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