Baltimore Orioles: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Baltimore Orioles: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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Baltimore Orioles

Could it finally be the beginning of a turnaround for the Orioles? The team hired Andy MacPhail as president of baseball operations in June, effectively making him the team's new general manager. MacPhail came from the Cubs, where he was team president from 1994-2006, and before that he had been GM of the Twins since August 1985.

MacPhail, who knows Orioles owner Peter Angelos from major league labor negotiations in 2002 and '06, may finally be the executive who can isolate the Angelos family from the daily functions of the baseball operation. He got assurances to that effect when he took the job, and when asked at his introductory press conference if Angelos had promised not to interfere, MacPhail said: "If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't be here. It's just that simple."

MacPhail's first major step, other than replacing manager Sam Perlozzo, was signing off on two huge draft deals. The first was catcher Matt Wieters, the fifth overall pick who signed for a draft-record $6 million in up-front bonus money. Baltimore also signed fifth-rounder Jake Arrieta for $1.1 million, making up for the team's lack of a second- or third-round pick. Wieters and Arrieta were the first Scott Boras clients ever signed by the Orioles during Angelos' tenure. They also continued a trend of stronger drafts under scouting director Joe Jordan, who was overseeing his third draft for Baltimore.

After another dismal regular season ended, MacPhail began work on remaking the roster. The first major step was unloading Miguel Tejada to the Astros for five players, most notably young arms Matt Albers and Troy Patton, who will compete for big league rotation spots in spring training. MacPhail was also shopping his other valuable commodities, most notably staff ace Erik Bedard, in an effort to make over a roster that had few difference-makers.

He also hired Rick Kranitz as the team's new pitching coach, ending a failed two years under Leo Mazzone, who couldn't work the same magic he did with the Braves. Kranitz has much less of a major league track record but quickly gained respect with the Marlins, and he was Baseball America's 2006 Major League Coach of the Year.

Those are small steps but hopeful signs for Orioles fans who have grown weary of watching a string of 10 straight losing seasons following the team's last playoff appearance in 1997. Baltimore won the American League East that year but has finished fourth in every year since except 2003—when it finished third.

Years of poor decisions have led to the smallest crowds ever at Camden Yards, an organization that has fallen far behind the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East and the demise of the Oriole Way. MacPhail appreciates the history of the franchise because his father Lee, a Hall of Famer, was GM of the Orioles from 1959-65.

"The Orioles (of the past) had their Oriole Way and we need to find ours," MacPhail said. "You have to do what you have to do to get this franchise, not just to have an over .500 season, but to get them into position to get them to the postseason and get them to the World Series. I don't have a goal of getting over .500. We shouldn't be here for that. No team should be here for that."

But it wouldn't be a bad place to start.

1.  Matt Wieters, c   Born: May 21, 1986B-T: B-RHt: 6-5Wt: 230
 Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Dave Jennings
Matt WietersBackground: Baseball America rated Wieters the best position player available in the 2007 draft and the No. 2 prospect overall. He would have been a premium pick in the 2004 draft coming out of high school in suburban Charleston, S.C., if not for his strong commitment to Georgia Tech. He hit in the middle of the order and was the closer for the Yellow Jackets from the time he was a freshman. Wieters was an All-American in both 2006 and 2007, batting .358 with 10 homers as a junior. He started sliding in the draft as teams worried about his price tag—agent Scott Boras compared him to former Georgia Tech star Mark Teixeira, who turned pro for a $9.5 million contract—but the Orioles took a rare draft gamble with the fifth overall pick. Baltimore signed him just before the Aug. 15 deadline for a $6 million bonus, the largest up-front payment in draft history. He signed too late to play during the regular season, but he went to Hawaii Winter Baseball in the fall and ranked as the league's top prospect, batting .283/.364/.415 in 106 at-bats.

Strengths: Talk about the total package. Wieters offers plus tools both at the plate and behind it, yet the Orioles might be most excited about his intangibles. He's an impressive person, the type who looks like he can lead not only a pitching staff but a clubhouse. He was the most polished offensive player in the 2007 draft class, with plus bat speed and a line-drive approach to all fields. He has a good idea at the plate and shows both discipline and pitch recognition. A switch-hitter, his swing is shorter from the right side and offers more power from the left. And even on days when his bat's not producing, he'll help his club with his catching. One scout said Wieters was the best defensive catcher he had seen since Charles Johnson, and he has soft hands and good footwork and receives the ball well. He obviously has plus-plus arm strength, having touched 96 mph as a closer.

Weaknesses: Pitchers constantly worked away from Wieters in college, and he developed a bad habit of stepping toward the plate to cover the outer half, which short-circuits his power a bit and leaves him vulnerable to inside pitches. The Orioles worked with him to get his lower half in better position and have him step toward the pitcher to free his swing up inside, and they expect he'll be able to make that adjustment. Though he's exceptionally big for a catcher, his size hasn't worked against him behind the plate so far. His worst tool is his below-average speed, but that's a given for a catcher.

The Future: Wieters was a little rusty after holding out all summer, but his time in Hawaii should allow him to hit the ground running in the spring. All his tools are playable now yet he still offers projection, so he has the makings of a legitimate star. He'll officially open his pro career at high Class A Frederick and should move through the system quickly.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
2.  Radhames Liz, rhp   Born: Oct. 6, 1983.B-T: R-R.Ht.: 6-2.Wt.: 185.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003Signed by: Carlos Bernhardt
Radhames LizBackground: Liz burst onto the prospect scene in 2006 when he was part of a combined no-hitter in high Class A, and he added another last season at Double-A Bowie on the way to his major league debut. He got knocked around in the big leagues because he consistently fell behind hitters.

Strengths: Once seen as a possible reliever, Liz now looks like he has the stamina and pitches to work at the front of a major league rotation. His fastball still clocks in at 94-97 mph with life, and he has a curveball and changeup that are plus pitches when he commands them. If he gets ahead of hitters and uses all three pitches, he can be devastating.

Weaknesses: The keys for Liz are commanding his fastball in the strike zone and using his other two pitches regularly. When he falls behind and starts leaning too much on his heater, it tends to drift up in the zone and he gets hammered around. He also needs to be more consistent with his mechanics, which will allow him to improve his overall command.

The Future: Liz had a hard time slowing the game down in his first big league experience, but the Orioles think he learned a lot. Ideally he would get at least part of one more season in the minors, but he'll compete for a spot in the big league rotation in spring training.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Bowie (AA)
11 4 3.22 25 25 2 0 137 101 13 70 161 .204
Baltimore 0 2 6.93 9 4 0 0 25 25 3 23
24 .260
3.  Troy Patton, lhp   Born: Sept. 3, 1985. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185.
 Drafted: HS—Magnolia, Texas, 2004 (9th round). Signed by: Rusty Pendergrass (Astros)
Troy PattonBackground: The Astros spent $900,000 in 2004 to lure Patton away from a Texas scholarship, and he made his big league debut with Houston at age 21 in August. He was shut down in September as a precaution with a sore shoulder. The Orioles then acquired him with Matt Albers, Luke Scott and two prospects (third baseman Mike Costanzo, righthander Dennis Sarfate) in a December deal for Miguel Tejada.

Strengths: Patton enhances his solid stuff with outstanding command. He can touch 94 mph with his four-seam fastball and gets good sink on a two-seamer that sits in the high 80s. He has ditched a slow curveball for a slider that he runs in on righthanders. He isn't afraid to use his changeup, which has nice fade.

Weaknesses: Patton has had minor shoulder issues for three straight seasons. He'll drop down to give batters another look, though that often causes his pitches to flatten out and hang in the strike zone. He likes to challenge hitters inside, which is good, but he has little margin for error.

The Future: Patton should be healthy for spring training and is expected to crack Baltimore's rotation right away. His upside is as a No. 3 starter at best, but he's also a pretty safe bet to reach his ceiling.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Corpus Christi (AA)
6 6 2.99 16 16 0 0 102 96 10 33 69 .247
Round Rock (AAA) 4 2 4.59 8 8 0 0 49 44 5 11 25 .247
0 2 3.55 3 2 0 0 13 10 3 4 8 .213
4.  Nolan Reimold, of   Born: Oct. 12, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210.
 Drafted: Bowling Green State, 2005 (2nd round)Signed by: Marc Ziegler
Nolan ReimoldBackground: Reimold has been the Orioles' best power prospect from the time he signed out of the 2005 draft, but he has battled nagging injuries that have slowed his progress in the last couple of years. It was foot and back injuries in 2006, then a strained oblique last year. He got 106 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League to make up some of his lost time.

Strengths: The injuries haven't dented Reimold's power, as he hit 17 home runs between Double-A and the AFL in just 292 at-bats. His bat speed and the leverage in his swing allow him to drive the ball out to any part of the park, and he should be a good hitter for average as well. He has the best outfield arm in the system, average speed and enough athleticism to play right field.

Weaknesses: The most important thing for Reimold is to stay healthy and get at-bats. He's now 24 and has just 186 at-bats in Double-A, so he needs to get moving. He still has holes in his swing that more advanced pitchers can exploit.

The Future: The Orioles are anxious for Reimold to move through the upper levels of the system. He'll probably start the season back in Double-A, but if he plays well he could become a big league option quickly.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Orioles (R)
.233 .410 .433 30 4 7 4 1
0 8 6 4 0
Bowie (AA) .306 .365 .565 186 30 57 15 0 11 34 17 47 2
5.  Bill Rowell, 3b   Born: Sept. 10, 1988. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205.
 Drafted: HS—Pennsauken, N.J., 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Dean Albany
Bill RowellBackground: Rowell received a $2.1 million bonus as the first high school position player selected in the 2006 draft, the most Baltimore had given a hitter out of the draft until Matt Wieters in 2007. Rowell strained his right oblique in spring training and didn't report to low Class A Delmarva until the end of May, and he struggled all year to catch up.

Strengths: Rowell has a big frame and a sweet lefthanded swing, and the Orioles still have no doubt it will add up to a power hitter in the middle of their lineup within a few seasons. Rowell has the bat speed to drive any pitch out to any part of a ballpark, and the aptitude to make adjustments.

Weaknesses: The Orioles say Rowell has made progress with his defense at third, showing improved footwork and using his arm better. But he still made 21 errors in 82 games last year, and it's not clear he'll have the range to stay there. He also needs to improve his approach against lefthanders after batting .185 against them in 2007. Though he's athletic for his size, he's a below-average runner.

The Future: He didn't have a great year statistically, but Rowell learned a lot in his first full pro season. Baltimore has no doubts about his bat, whether he stays at third base or has to move to first base or the outfield. He'll take the next step to high Class A this season.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Delmarva (Lo A)
.273 .335 .426 352 47 96 21 3 9 57 31 104 3
6.  Brandon Snyder, 1b/3b   Born: Nov. 23, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205.
 Drafted: HS—Centreville, Va., 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Ty Brown
Brandon SnyderBackground: Snyder was the Orioles' minor league comeback player of the year in 2007, rebounding from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in 2006. He went to Hawaii Winter Baseball and hit .378 to win the batting title. He's the son of former big league pitcher Brian Snyder.

Strengths: A healthy Snyder again showed the swing that made him the 13th overall pick in 2005, with his bat head getting a better path to the ball. He also became more aggressive in the strike zone. He stays on breaking balls well and shows opposite-field power. Most of his adjustments were mental, however, after he got low emotionally during 2006. He's a good athlete with decent speed, but he's not a basestealing threat.

Weaknesses: Though he was drafted as a catcher, that now appears to be out of the picture, putting even more emphasis on his bat. He made significant improvements at first base last season. He played third base in Hawaii and will get time there in 2008. He has the arm for third but will need to improve his footwork. He's still refining his strike-zone discipline.

The Future: Now healthy and with his swing back in a groove, Snyder should move quickly. He should be fine at either first or third base, where his value will be tied to his run production. He should open the season in high Class A with the chance for a midseason promotion if he hits.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Delmarva (Lo A)
.283 .354 .422 448 63 127 23 3 11 58 44 107 0
7.  Jake Arrieta, rhp   Born: March 6, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210.
 Drafted: Texas Christian, 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Jim Richardson
Jake ArrietaBackground: Arrieta was a candidate for the top of the first round after a standout sophomore season at Texas Christian and a 4-0, 0.27 summer for Team USA, but a disappointing junior season and high bonus demands drove him down in the draft. The Orioles took him in the fifth round and signed him before the deadline for $1.1 million.

Strengths: Arrieta's fastball has run from 91-95 mph in the past, though he lost some velocity and life during the college season. His heater was better in the Arizona Fall League, though still not at its best. He also throws a hard slider with good bite. He has an ideal pitcher's body and an aggressive approach.

Weaknesses: The Orioles took Arrieta despite his down spring because they thought his problems were mechanical. His lines to the plate got off and he was throwing across his body and not transferring his weight properly, so he lost velocity and left balls up in the zone. The player-development staff thinks those flaws can be fixed with minor adjustments. He flashed a promising changeup as a sophomore but wasn't consistent with it in 2007.

The Future: Even though he wasn't stretched out, Arrieta impressed scouts and performed well in the AFL, going right after hitters. The Orioles expect even better things once he fixes his mechanics. He could make his pro debut in high Class A.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
8.  Chorye Spoone, rhp   Born: Sept. 16, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: Catonsville (Md.) CC, 2005 (8th round)Signed by: Ty Brown
Chorye SpooneBackground: A local product, Spoone had been on the fringes of prospect status the previous two seasons, based on the promise of his live arm. He delivered on that promise in 2007, capping the year with a playoff MVP award as Frederick won the Carolina League title. He had two complete-game victories in the postseason, allowing just two runs while striking out 17.

Strengths: Spoone always has had a live fastball, sitting at 93-95 mph, and an outstanding curveball that has become much more consistent. His changeup also is getting better and ranks as a plus pitch at times. He has been very durable, leading the CL with three complete games and finishing fifth with 152 innings.

Weaknesses: While his command has improved significantly, Spoone will have to sharpen it further and consistently locate all his pitches as he advances. His biggest improvement has come with mound presence, as he now tunes out extraneous things like bad calls and focuses on the matter at hand.

The Future: Spoone took the biggest leap forward of anyone in the system last year, maturing into a pitcher who now seems to have a clear future in a big league rotation. He'll take the next step to Double-A to open 2008.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Frederick (Hi A)
10 9 3.26 26 25 3 0 152 108 8 67 133 .200
9.  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
Pedro BeatoBackground: After the Mets failed to sign Beato as a draft-and-follow, the Orioles took him 31st overall and signed him for $1 million in 2006. He jumped to low Class A in his first full season and got knocked around a bit as he tried to work with a narrowed repertoire in order to improve his breaking pitches and changeup.

Strengths: Beato's stuff compares with that of anyone in the system, starting with a mid-90s fastball that has good movement and sink. He throws both a curveball and slider, with the curve the better pitch right now. His changeup has also made progress. He's intelligent and confident.

Weaknesses: While his stuff is good, Beato's pitchability needs work. He's still inexperienced in knowing sequences and how to set hitters up. Baltimore took away his cutter, which he regards as his best offspeed pitch, and it was sometimes hard for him to pitch without it. He's too inventive with new pitches and actually makes it easier on hitters when he comes off his best stuff. His command also suffers when he tries to be too perfect. He had Tommy John surgery in high school, though he has shown no ill effects since.

The Future: Beato will take the move up to high Class A this season, and he should be more effective with the cutter back in his arsenal. He'll need some time to develop but should be worth the wait.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Delmarva (Lo A)
7 8 4.05 27 27 0 0 142 139 10
59 106 .256
10.  Brandon Erbe, rhp   Born: Dec. 25, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4Wt.: 180
 Drafted: HS—Baltimore, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Ty Brown
Brandon ErbeBackground: There's no getting around Erbe's numbers for 2007, as he got knocked around all year and reached the system's single-inning pitch limit of 30 five times in his 25 starts. But the Orioles focus on how he made every turn in the rotation as a 19-year-old in the Carolina League.

Strengths: Erbe's stuff is still there, led by a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 96 mph, a slider with bite that's sometimes a plus pitch and an improving changeup. He shows good aptitude for his craft and for taking instruction. He smoothed out his delivery in instructional league.

Weaknesses: Command problems are the root of Erbe's struggles, and Baltimore thinks that comes down to being able to repeat his delivery consistently and improving his overall confidence and mound presence. When he starts doubting his stuff, he tries to nibble and winds up leaving pitches over the middle of the plate.

The Future: It wouldn't be surprising for Erbe to go back to high Class A to have some success to open the season, but his progress in instructional league gives him a chance to make the Double-A rotation out of spring training. He needs to show better command if he wants to stay in a starting role.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Frederick (Hi A)
6 8 6.26 25 25 0 0 119 127 14 62 111 .273

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
Jay Metzger (Wieters)
Steve Moore (Patton, Reimold, Erbe)
Rodger Wood (Rowell, Spoone)
Brian Bissell (Snyder)
Bill Mitchell (Arrieta)
Mike Janes (Beato)