Baltimore Orioles: Top 10 Prospects

Baltimore Orioles

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, 2007.

1.Bill Rowell, 3b
2.Brandon Erbe, rhp
3.Nolan Reimold, of
4.Pedro Beato, rhp
5.Radhames Liz, rhp
6.Garrett Olson, lhp
7.Brandon Snyder, c
8.James Hoey, rhp
9.Jeff Fiorentino, of
10.Kieron Pope, of
Best Hitter for AverageBill Rowell
Best Power HitterNolan Reimold
Best Strike-Zone DisciplineJeff Fiorentino
Fastest BaserunnerJarod Rine
Best AthleteNolan Reimold
Best FastballBrandon Erbe
Best CurveballGarrett Olson
Best SliderJames Hoey
Best ChangeupGarrett Olson
Best ControlGarrett Olson
Best Defensive CatcherEli Whiteside
Best Defensive InfielderLuis Hernandez
Best Infield ArmBryan Bass
Best Defensive OutfielderJeff Fiorentino
Best Outfield ArmArturo Rivas
CatcherRamon Hernandez
First BaseBrandon Snyder
Second BaseBrian Roberts
Third BaseBill Rowell
ShortstopMiguel Tejada
Left FieldNolan Reimold
Center FieldCorey Patterson
Right FieldNick Markakis
Designated HitterJay Gibbons
No. 1 StarterErik Bedard
No. 2 StarterAdam Loewen
No. 3 StarterDaniel Cabrera
No. 4 StarterHayden Penn
No. 5 StarterBrandon Erbe
CloserChris Ray
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Nerio Rodriguez, rhpPirates
1998Ryan Minor, 3bOut of baseball
1999Matt Riley, lhpRangers
2000Matt Riley, lhpRangers
2001Keith Reed, ofOrioles
2002Richard Stahl, lhpOrioles
2003Erik Bedard, lhpOrioles
2004Adam Loewen, lhpOrioles
2005Nick Markakis, ofOrioles
2006Nick Markakis, ofOrioles
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Jayson Werth, cDodgers
1998Rick Elder, ofOut of baseball
1999Mike Paradis, rhpOut of baseball
2000Beau Hale, rhpOrioles
2001Chris Smith, lhpOut of baseball
2002Adam Loewen, lhpOrioles
2003Nick Markakis, ofOrioles
2004*Wade Townsend, rhpDevil Rays
2005Brandon Snyder, cOrioles
2006Bill Rowell, 3bOrioles
*Did not sign
Adam Loewen, 2002$3,200,000
Beau Hale, 2000$2,250,000
Chris Smith, 2001$2,175,000
Bill Rowell, 2006$2,100,000
Darnell McDonald, 1997$1,900,000
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Baltimore Orioles

Is it the best of times or worst of times in Baltimore?

The Orioles integrated four of the top five players from last year's prospect list into their big league roster in 2006, led by right fielder Nick Markakis, who hit .311 with 14 homers after the all-star break, and Chris Ray, who saved 33 games. That group didn't include righthander John Maine, who went to the Mets in the Kris Benson deal and rose to prominence during New York's playoff run.

Baltimore also had its second straight productive draft under scouting director Joe Jordan, adding more high-ceiling talent to the farm system, starting with new No. 1 prospect Bill Rowell. The Orioles also moved their Triple-A affiliation to Norfolk after four years in exile in Ottawa, giving them perhaps the most attractive arrangement of affiliates in the game. All six of the organization's minor league teams are within driving distance of Baltimore.

But there's also the small matter of a ninth straight losing season at the big league level, the worst stretch in team history. The Orioles also finished in fourth place in the American League East for the eighth time in the last nine years, leading inevitably to the lowest attendance ever at Camden Yards. And the farm system still lacks depth, especially among position players, and had virtually no legitimate big league talent at the upper levels after the graduation of Markakis and friends.

The meddling of owner Peter Angelos and his sons also continues to hamper the franchise. The Orioles sought deals for its most marketable asset--shortstop Miguel Tejada, who becomes more disgruntled by the game--only to have them vetoed by ownership.

Manager Sam Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone have stabilized things in the big league dugout, but they haven't produced improved results on the field yet. That's because the Orioles simply don't have enough good players at this point.

The pitching staff is young and shows promise, with 27-year-old lefthander Erik Bedard emerging as the team's ace and Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn trying to show they can be consistent winners. Ray has taken a stranglehold on the closer's job, and Chris Britton and James Hoey show promise as setup men.

It's harder to be optimistic about the team's hitters, though. Whether he's happy or not, Tejada was still the team's best offensive player again in 2006, leading the Orioles with 24 home runs and 100 RBIs. Ramon Hernandez was a good signing at catcher, Markakis should be a productive player for years and Corey Patterson benefited from his change of scenery.

But the team lacks power, finishing 11th in the AL in both home runs and slugging percentage in 2006, and probably will have to go outside the organization if it wants to patch the holes quickly. The only players who look like good bets to be big league run producers in the farm system--Rowell and Nolan Reimold--won't be ready to contribute in the big leagues until at least 2008.

So it's no wonder Orioles fans remain frustrated. Though there are some legitimate reasons for optimism, the last decade has taught them all too well to be skeptical of whether the team has the people in place to pull everything together.