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Baltimore Orioles:
1999 Top 10

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Baltimore Orioles Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Matt Riley, LHP
Age: 20  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 205
Drafted: D/F Sacramento CC, 1997 (3rd round)  Signed by: Ed Sprague

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Ben McDonald, rhp
1991 Arthur Rhodes, lhp
1992 Arthur Rhodes, lhp
1993 Brad Pennington, lhp
1994 Jeffrey Hammonds, of
1995 Armando Benitez, rhp
1996 Rocky Coppinger, rhp
1997 Nerio Rodriguez, rhp
1998 Ryan Minor, 3b
1999 Matt Riley, lhp

Background: Riley started 1999 in Class A but made the big leagues about a month after his 20th birthday. Along the way he was named the No. 5 prospect in the Double-A Eastern League and the No. 4 prospect in the Class A Carolina League, and pitched in the Futures Game in Fenway Park. Riley ranked sixth in the minors in strikeouts and has 325 in 260 career minor league innings since signing as a draft-and-follow in May 1998. His three September starts in the majors were forgettable. The Orioles were looking for a sign that Riley would be ready to challenge for a rotation slot in 2000, but instead saw an intimidated young man worn out from 178 minor league innings.

Strengths: Riley has three pitches that project out to above average at the big league level. He has impressive command of a big-breaking downer curveball that is his strikeout pitch. Riley’s fastball tops out at around 95 mph and has good life in the strike zone. His changeup is a deceptive pitch that he could begin to use more often, especially against lefthanded hitters. Riley’s free-spirited personality has been well documented but the Orioles consider him one of the more coachable pitchers in their system. He is a good athlete and an above-average fielder.

Weaknesses: One Orioles official describes Riley as "hyper as hell," which benefits him in terms of competitiveness but also hurts his concentration at times. When Riley gets out of sync, he tends to rush his delivery and leave his pitches up, flat and over the plate. While there are no weaknesses with his raw stuff, he is often a slow starter who doesn’t work in his best pitches until the middle innings. He has better command of his curveball and change than of his fastball.

The Future: Riley threw 189 innings in 1999, a high total for a pitcher in his first full season as a professional. The Orioles’ quick look at Riley as a major leaguer convinced them that their prized lefthander needs at least another half-year of Triple-A seasoning. He’ll have to be careful not to be overaggressive trying to make the Orioles out of spring training.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Frederick (A)     3  2  2.61   8   8   0   0   52  34  14  58
Bowie (AA)       10  6  3.22  20  20   3   0  126 113  42 131
Baltimore         0  0  7.36   3   3   0   0   11  17  13   6

2. Jayson Werth, C
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-6  Wt: 190
Drafted: HS--Chatham, Ill., 1997 (1st round)  Signed by: Fred Peterson

Background: Werth was solidifying his prospect status in Double-A when he broke his right hand in late July and had to sit out the rest of the season. He is much closer to 6-foot-4, 200 pounds than his listed size, which is a less realistic build for a catcher.

Strengths: Despite his size and position, Werth’s best tools are little-man tools. He is a plus baserunner with excellent quickness and defensive mobility. Werth’s swing is quick and short and he projects as a potential .300 hitter. With a big league stepfather, Dennis Werth, and big league uncle, Dick Schofield, he understandably has a good feel for the game.

Weaknesses: Werth’s quick feet and release help make up for an average arm. His true power probably won’t develop for a couple of years.

The Future: Werth’s poise and ability have enabled the Orioles to give him more challenges than most young catchers would receive. The sight of a 6-foot-4 catcher with leadoff skills is sure to confuse future opponents.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Frederick (A)      .305  236  41  72  10   1   3   30  37  37  16
Bowie (AA)         .273  121  18  33   5   1   1   11  17  26   7

3. Richard Stahl, LHP
Age: 18  B-T: R-L  Ht: 6-7  Wt: 200
Drafted: HS--Covington, Ga., 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Lamar North

Background: Stahl’s stock rose last spring, and he wound up being picked 18th overall and signing for the richest bonus out of the ’99 Orioles draft class. After holding out all summer, he was spectacular in instructional league.

Strengths: Stahl generates exceptional arm speed from an effortless, loose delivery and mid-three quarters release point. Already in possession of a 96-mph fastball, Stahl could add even more velocity as he matures. His curve and change show the potential to be plus big league pitches.

Weaknesses: Coming from a small-school background and getting far fewer repetitions last summer than other top prospects, Stahl likely will struggle with his control early in his pro career. Both his curveball and change need more consistency.

The Future: With his arm speed, size and release point, comparisons will be made to fellow lefthanders Randy Johnson and Ryan Anderson as he gains innings and exposure.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
           Did not pitch–Signed 2000 contract

4. Luis Matos, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Bayamon, P.R., 1996 (10th round)  Signed by: Dean Decillis

Background: Matos was an unheralded draft pick from Puerto Rico in ’96, but he has grown two inches and gained 30 pounds since signing. He was named the eighth-best prospect last year in the Carolina League.

Strengths: Matos has the best five-tool potential in the Orioles organization. His added size has brought more power potential, but he hasn’t lost his plus speed. Matos’ instincts on the bases and in center field are excellent, and his throwing arm is well-above-average.

Weaknesses: Like many young hitters, Matos is streaky. Double-A pitchers had the savvy to confuse him by changing speeds. Matos will have to maintain his speed and agility to play center field or risk becoming a tweener prospect.

The Future: Matos was enjoying a strong offseason batting leadoff in winter ball, a role that may serve to improve his batting skills. He will return to Double-A to start 2000.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Frederick (A)      .297  273  40  81  15   1   7   41  20  35  27
Bowie (AA)         .237  283  41  67  11   1   9   36  15  39  14

5. B.J. Ryan
Age: 24  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-6  Wt: 230
Drafted: Southwestern Louisiana, 1998 (17th round)  Signed by: Johnny Almaraz (Reds)

Background: As a college senior in 1998, Ryan was just hoping to get drafted. Less than 18 months later, he had cruised through the minor leagues, been traded for a former ERA champion and shown he could dominate big league hitters.

Strengths: Ryan’s fastball tops out at 95 mph and is consistently in the low 90s. He also throws a late-breaking slider that helped him strike out 16 of the 26 big league lefthanded hitters he saw. Ryan’s frame and herky-jerky delivery add deception to his stuff.

Weaknesses: Ryan has pitched only 124 professional innings and was not a full-time pitcher in college. He will have to fine-tune his command in the strike zone.

The Future: Forget about Ryan’s low draft status and the fact that he’s lefthanded. He’s a potential closer.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Chattanooga (AA)  2  1  2.59  35   0   0   6   42  33  17  46
Indy (AAA)        1  0  4.00  11   0   0   0    9   9   3  12
Cincinnati        0  0  4.50   1   0   0   0    2   4   1   1
Rochester (AAA)   0  0  2.51  11   0   0   1   14   8   4  20
Baltimore         1  0  2.95  13   0   0   0   18   9  12  28

6. Darnell McDonald, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 190
Drafted: Englewood, Colo., 1997 (1st round)  Signed by: John Green/Logan White

Background: McDonald, whose older brother Donzell is a prospect in the Yankees system, continued his conversion from football to baseball with a successful ’99. Offseason shoulder surgery, likely caused by football abuse, improved his arm strength and helped loosen his swing.

Strengths: McDonald has explosive speed and strength. He is an outstanding runner who is just beginning to learn how to use his speed on a baseball field. McDonald’s bat-handling skills improved dramatically last year.

Weaknesses: Though McDonald’s swing isn’t conducive to lofting the ball, the Orioles aren’t pressing him to change. He has a decidedly "cool" approach on the field, but club officials say they have no complaints with his hustle or work ethic.

The Future: Because of his limited baseball background, McDonald has always figured as a one-step-at-a-time prospect. The schedule has been followed nicely and he will start 2000 in Double-A.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Frederick (A)      .266  507  81 135  23   5   6   73  61  92  26

7. Brian Roberts, SS
Age: 22  B-T: B-R  Ht: 5-9  Wt: 165
Drafted: South Carolina, 1999 (Supplemental 1st round)  Signed by: Lamar North

Background: Roberts led Division I college baseball in stolen bases the last two years, with 63 in 1998 at North Carolina and 67 in 1999 at South Carolina. He is the son of current North Carolina-Asheville coach Mike Roberts, who coached him for two years in Chapel Hill before being dismissed.

Strengths: Roberts drew raves for his defense at shortstop at Class A Delmarva and in instructional league. He showed better arm strength than scouts saw in college and outstanding instincts and actions on ground balls. Roberts is a gamer.

Weaknesses: Despite his gaudy stolen-base numbers, Roberts’ raw speed is just a step above average. He depends more on anticipation and first-step quickness. Scouts say he’ll need to take the loop out of his swing to hit more line drives and grounders.

The Future: Perhaps the best big league comparison to Roberts is the Orioles’ own shortstop, Mike Bordick. Roberts has a clear path to climb through the system in two or three years.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Delmarva (A)       .240  167  22  40  12   1   0   21  27  42  17

8. Keith Reed, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 210
Drafted: Providence, 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Jim Howard

Background: Reed was a virtual unknown to everyone but area scouts before the 1999 season, but he led Providence to an NCAA tournament berth in the program’s last year of existence.

Strengths: With his background in a cold-weather area, Reed is still a little raw. But he has tremendous natural ability and strength. He projects to have above-average power. He is a plus runner under way with a rifle for an arm in right field.

Weaknesses: If Reed makes enough solid contact, he can take advantage of his other tools. He can be stiff and grooved with his swing and is susceptible to offspeed stuff.

The Future: Orioles scouting director Tony DeMacio is a former area scout in the Northeast and does not hide his appreciation for prospects from his former territory. After admittedly taking a gamble by picking Reed, Baltimore officials were thrilled with his ability to quickly adapt to Class A pitching.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Bluefield (R)      .188   16   2   3   0   0   0    0   1   3   0
Delmarva (A)       .258  240  36  62  14   3   4   25  22  53   3

9. Tim Raines Jr.
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-10  Wt: 175
Drafted: HS--Sanford, Fla., 1998 (6th round)  Signed by: Harry Shelton

Background: Raines’ father is one of the top major league leadoff men of all time. Junior didn’t fall far from the tree, as last year he led the Orioles organization in stolen bases and walks.

Strengths: Raines has excellent first-step quickness and well-above-average speed under way. He projects to be a player capable of stealing 50 or more bases in a major league season, while showing tremendous range and an average arm in center field. For a teenager, he has an excellent aptitude for the skills needed to be a leadoff hitter.

Weaknesses: With just two years of switch-hitting experience, Raines is struggling for consistency from his newly adopted left side. He is often left waving at the ball from that side.

The Future: Raines’ lefthanded stroke improved significantly during the second half of the minor league season and in instructional league, renewing the Orioles’ hopes that he can become a dynamic leadoff man. He is projected to play all of 2000 at high Class A Frederick.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Delmarva (A)       .248  415  80 103  24   8   2   49  71 130  49

10. Calvin Pickering, 1B
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-5  Wt: 283
Drafted: HS--Tampa, 1995 (35th round)  Signed by: Harry Shelton

Background: Pickering was the Eastern League MVP in 1998 and impressed in a September big league trial that year, but struggled through much of 1999. The conventional wisdom was that he didn’t react well to not receiving a shot at a major league job during spring training.

Strengths: Pickering has bat quickness, a sharp eye, good hand/eye coordination for a big man and natural loft in his swing. His power gets infielders on their heels and outfielders backed up to the warning track.

Weaknesses: At times in his career, Pickering has been in good shape and carried his weight well. Last year wasn’t one of those times. The extra weight and lack of conditioning hurt him most on defense and on the bases.

The Future: Pickering may feel helpless in Baltimore with the organization signing veterans to play in front of him, but nothing could be further from the truth. If he applies himself, he will earn a spot somewhere.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Rochester (AAA)    .285  372  63 106  20   0  16   63  60  99   1
Baltimore          .125   40   4   5   1   0   1    5  11  16   0

Rest of the Best:

11. Larry Bigbie, of
12. Mike Paradis, rhp
13. Jacobo Sequea, rhp
14. Rick Elder, 1b/of
15. Juan Guzman, rhp

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