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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 '07, 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 upfront 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. 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 approach 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. 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. 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.
Liz was part of a combined no-hitter in high Class A in 2006, 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. 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. 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. He also needs to be more consistent with his mechanics, which will allow him to improve his overall command. 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.
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. The Orioles then acquired him and four other players in a December deal for Miguel Tejada. 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 he used in high school for a slider that he runs in on righthanders. He isn't afraid to use his changeup, which has nice fade. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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. 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. He didn't have a great year statistically, but Rowell learned a lot in his first full pro season despite missing more than a month of action. 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.
Snyder was the Orioles' minor league comeback player of the year in 2007, rebounding from shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in 2006. He then went to Hawaii Winter Baseball and batted .378 to win the batting title. He's the son of former big league pitcher Brian Snyder. 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 very low emotionally during 2006. He's a good athlete with decent speed, but he's not a basestealing threat. 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. 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.
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 a chance on him in the fifth round and signed him just before the deadline for $1.1 million. 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. 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, not a major overhaul. He flashed a promising changeup as a sophomore but wasn't consistent with it in 2007. Even though he wasn't stretched out, Arrieta impressed scouts in the AFL, going right after hitters and performing well. The Orioles expect even better things once he fixes his mechanics. He could make his pro debut in high Class A.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. While his stuff is good, Beato's pitchability still 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. 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.
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. 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. Command problems are the root of Erbe's struggles, and Baltimore thinks that comes down to being able to repeat his delivery 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. It wouldn't be surprising for Erbe to go back to high Class A to have some success, 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.
Costanzo had a busy offseason, moving from the Phillies to the Astros in the Brad Lidge trade in November, then staying with Houston just over a month before going to the Orioles as part of the fiveplayer package for Miguel Tejada. Costanzo has enormous raw power, especially to the pull side, and ranked second in the Double-A Eastern League in homers last season. He typically has struggled against lefthanders, but he made huge strides late in 2007. If pitchers won't challenge him, Costanzo is more than willing to take a walk. A two-way player at Coastal Carolina, he has a plus arm at third base. He's an average runner once he gets underway. Some scouts believe Costanzo will have to move to first base because of poor agility and footwork at third, while others wonder whether he has too many holes in his swing to be an everyday player. He has 379 strikeouts in 345 pro games, and it's unlikely he'll hit for much of an average. Though he arrived in camp last spring in the best shape of his life, his lateral movement and first-step quickness remain fringy at best. The Orioles have had just four players hit 30 homers or more in the last decade, so while Costanzo has flaws, his power has value to them. Younger corner infielders Billy Rowell and Brandon Snyder could affect his future in his new organization, but Costanzo has the advantage of being more advanced and could see big league time in 2008 if he plays well at Triple-A Norfolk.
Olson continued his mastery of minor league hitters in 2007, but his first major league experience was considerably less impressive. He made his major league debut in July and held his own in two spot starts, but he got knocked around when he came up for good in August. Orioles officials said it was a simple function of getting behind hitters in the big leagues. Olson is intelligent and has confidence in every facet of his game, but sometimes he gives hitters too much credit and tries to come up with the perfect pitch early in the count, instead of just rearing back and getting strike one. When he gets ahead of hitters, he's a completely different pitcher. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph, and it plays up because of his command. He has a sharp, late-breaking slider, and his changeup has come along, though he still doesn't throw it enough. The key for him this year will be commanding all his pitches better in the strike zone, and using his changeup more so that he can completely master it. Olson's tough major league debut was the first time he had struggled as a pro, and he should learn from the experience. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training and go back to Triple-A for more minor league innings if he doesn't make it.
Bascom followed a winding road to professional baseball, and the Orioles are happy to be the beneficiaries. The Padres drafted Bascom in the sixth round out of Central Florida in 2006, and agreed to a $140,000 bonus before discovering he had damage in his right knee. He had been pitching on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, making his junior season (5-6. 2.47 with a 90-25 K-BB ratio in 80 innings) all the more impressive. San Diego lowered its bonus offer and Bascom passed, then returned to Florida to have surgery and return to school. Central Florida declared him ineligible because of his negotiations with a pro club and rescinded his scholarship, so he rehabbed his knee and then pitched for about three weeks in the independent South Coast League before the draft. The Orioles had liked him when scouting him for the 2006 draft, and he also worked out at their Sarasota complex in the spring, so they took him with their second pick in 2007 after losing their second- and third-rounders as free-agent compensation. They liked what they saw after signing Bascom for $200,000, even though he wasn't at his best as he worked himself back into game shape. He has a good feel for pitching and is willing to throw any pitch in any count, keeping hitters off balance. His fastball is 93-94 mph at its best, though it was more in the 89-91 range last summer. He also throws a curveball and slider for strikes, and his changeup can be a plus pitch. The Orioles put Bascom on a throwing program and expect to see him back to 100 percent in 2008, when he'll open the season in high Class A. He has the stuff and feel for pitching to move quickly.
Moore looked like a first-round bust after three seasons in the Tigers system, but a trade to the Cubs for Kyle Farnsworth before the 2005 season gave his career a jumpstart. He was blocked at third base there by Aramis Ramirez, however, so Chicago included him and minor league righthanders Rocky Cherry and Jake Renshaw in a late-season deal for Steve Trachsel. Moore jumped right to the big leagues after the trade and held his own in September. Moore offers above-average lefthanded power at the plate, and he has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last three seasons. His .260 career minor league average is about what scouts expect him to hit in the big leagues, as he strikes out a lot and has trouble with breaking balls. He has become a solid defensive third baseman, with a strong arm, though he occasionally has trouble with his accuracy. The Cubs gave him some Triple-A time in the outfield to increase his versatility and his chances of making their roster, and he was decent out there. He's an average runner whose instincts help him get the most of his speed. The Orioles were in full roster makeover mode in the offseason, and depending on how things shake out Moore could end up as the everyday third baseman. He should at least make the team as a backup, because he can also play at first base or on the outfield corners. Another recent trade acquisition, Mike Costanzo, could push him for playing time at the hot corner later in the year.
Hernandez was drafted three times before he began his professional career. The Rockies took him in the 29th round out of a California high school in 2003, but failed to sign him as a draft-and-follow. The Diamondbacks took him in the 34th round in 2004 but couldn't sign him either. The Orioles took him in 2005 and signed him after he put his name all over the Cosumnes River (Calif.) JC record book. He holds school records for single-season (119) and career strikeouts (224), as well as career wins (20). Hernandez draws interest because he has a quick arm that generates 91-93 mph fastballs with amazing deception that allows him to generate high strikeout totals. The ball comes out quick from behind Hernandez' head, and batters don't pick it up. He easily outdistanced Chorye Spoone for the Carolina League strikeout lead last season (168 in 145 innings) and finished tied for eighth in the minors. Hernandez' breaking pitch is a big, sharp curveball, and his changeup has become a usable third offering. His numbers aren't better because he struggles with his command at times and tends to leave the ball up, resulting in too many baserunners and home runs. Command in the strike zone will tell the tale, and Hernandez will take the next step to Double-A for 2008.
Now that he has elbow problems out of the way, McCrory is in a hurry to get to the big leagues. He didn't pitch after getting drafted in 2003 because of a strained elbow, then had Tommy John surgery in 2005. He came back in 2006 and showed his arm was healthy, but he wasn't at full strength until last year, when he showed a fastball that peaked at 98-99 mph out of the bullpen during the summer and then drew good reviews in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the league with five saves and had a 1.50 ERA. McCrory is a pure power arm, coming at hitters with his live fastball and a sharp slider. He throws both two-seamers and four-seamers and keeps the ball down, making it tough for hitters to elevate. He has a nice delivery and good mound presence. Now that McCrory has established that his arm is sound, he'll have to get consistent with his command. He has the stuff and the makeup to pitch in the late innings. Because of his injuries, he has logged just 171 pro innings at age 25. The Orioles will bring him up from Triple-A as soon as he shows he's ready.
Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan has had an eye on Tripp since he was in high school in southern California, picking him in the 21st round in 2003 when Jordan was the Marlins' national crosschecker. Tripp went to Cal State Fullerton instead of signing, so Jordan grabbed him again in 2006. He wasn't a hotter pro prospect because of a funky swing, but roving hitting instructor Denny Walling made a small adjustment during spring training that helped him take off in 2007. He was the organization's minor league player of the year after establishing himself as one of the farm system's best run producers. He belted 19 home runs despite missing three weeks in May with a wrist injury. Walling made a small change in Tripp's lower half that got him in a better position to hit, and it allowed him to tap into his plus raw power while hitting for a better average as well. His pitch recognition needs improvement, but that should happen with continued at-bats. Tripp spent most of his time in right field last season, and he has enough arm to play there, and he also can play in center. His slightly above-average speed allows him to steal the occasional base. After the progress he made last season, the Orioles wouldn't be surprised by anything. He'll advance to high Class A in 2008.
Two years after his promising 2005 season was cut short by Tommy John surgery, Bierd established himself as one of the Tigers' top relief pitching prospects, but they couldn't find room for him on their 40-man roster. The Orioles gladly took him with the third pick of the major league Rule 5 draft in December. Bierd began the 2007 season as a reliever in low Class A and earned a promotion all the way to Double-A in June. He walked only 10 batters thereafter while displaying the stuff and mound presence you'd hope to see in a reliable, sinker/slider setup man. His fastball, which ranges from 90-93 mph, has average velocity but plays up because of sharp sinking movement. His hard slider has good downward tilt and changes planes, and it also induces a lot of groundballs. He has made progress with his changeup, but it's still below average. Bierd has shown good durability since his surgery and has the stamina to pitch on back-to-back days. He averaged 5.2 strikeouts per walk in Double-A, a testament to his impeccable control. Detroit loved his work ethic and believed in his ability, and it's reasonable to think he could stick in the big leagues all season with the Orioles. If he doesn't, they'll have to expose him to waivers or offer him back to the Tigers.
Hoey jumped into the Orioles' plans in 2006, flying through three levels of the minors and making his major league debut after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2004. He pitched just as well in the minors last year, including 20 scoreless appearances in Double-A, but again got hit hard in the big leagues. Hoey has shown plus stuff ever since coming back from his surgery, with a fastball that consistently sits at 94-97 mph and has touched 100. He gets a good downhill plane to the plate from his 6-foot-6 frame, and it's hard for hitters to elevate the ball. He backs up his heat with a sharp slider. While Hoey goes right after hitters in the minors, he has tried to be too fine in the majors, losing command of both his pitches and falling behind in the count. When he goes to the fastball in those situations, big league hitters turn it around. Hoey has all the tools to pitch in the late innings at the big league level, so the Orioles hope his stints at the end of the last two seasons have taught him what he needs to do to have success there. They've worked him in multiple innings and on back-to-back days to prepare him for a middle-relief role for the near future. He'll compete for a job in the Baltimore bullpen in spring training.
Sarfate finally found his niche in the bullpen, and now he's hoping he has found an organization that has a role for him. After coming up through the Brewers system, he was sold to the Astros in September and made seven appearances in Houston, giving up one run. The Astros then included him in the fiveplayer package they used to acquire Miguel Tejada in December. Sarfate's professional future became much brighter when he moved into a full-time relief role in 2006. He could focus solely on his 93-96 mph fastball and power slider, and no longer had to worry about his curveball or changeup. Some scouts have seen his fastball up to 100 mph, and when he commands both his fastball and slider, he can be untouchable. His slider breaks down more than most, with three-quarter tilt. Sarfate always had a great arm, big frame and easy motion, but showed little feel for pitching as a starter, and he has been much more confident in relief. The Brewers didn't trust his command enough to throw Sarfate into a pennant race last season, but Baltimore should give him ample opportunity to work out the kinks in the big league bullpen in 2008.
Britton has the Orioles looking for big things as he heads into his first experience in a full-season league. They've kept a pretty tight leash on him through his first year and a half in the organization. He signed for $435,000 out of the 2006 draft and spent last year in the short-season Aberdeen rotation, showing the live low-90s fastball that made him a third-round pick. He featured a good curveball during the summer, then turned the corner with his slider in instructional league. Baltimore thinks the slider could elevate his entire repertoire. It's a sharp, late breaker, and Britton got excited about it when he saw what it did to hitters in instructional league. He never been able to get good action on the slider before. His changeup also looks promising but still needs work. He has good mound presence and will have to improve his command as he moves up.
Henson was a three-sport standout at Tuttle High in Oklahoma, a school with a proud athletic history and the alma mater of 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White. As a quarterback, he led the football team to a 14-0 record and state title in the fall of his senior year, then led the baseball team to a state championship in the spring. He looked overmatched by pro pitching in his pro debut, but he showed athleticism and the ability to make adjustments last season. He hit the ball all over the field and showed some power as well, handling lefthanders and righthanders equally well. He'll need to improve his approach as he moves up and cut down on his strikeouts. He offers above-average speed and puts it to use on the basepaths, stealing 20 bases in 22 attempts in 2007. Henson made 30 errors in 67 games at shortstop last year, most of them related to poor footwork. The Orioles say the problems can be overcome, but he's also still growing, so it's more likely he'll move over to third base in time. He has plenty of arm for the hot corner. Henson has an interesting package of skills, and Baltimore is curious to see how he'll do in a full-season league in 2008.
While getting to the big leagues is usually a cause for celebration, getting there so quickly hasn't been a boon for Fiorentino. The Orioles jumped him from high Class A to Baltimore in 2005 and it has stunted his progress since, raising expectations unnecessarily. He got off to a horrible start in 2007, batting .160 in April, but hit .298 or better in every month after that and had 10 home runs in July and August. At the plate, Fiorentino uses the whole field when he's at his best and has power in his bat. He has an unorthodox approach, relying on his hands to do the work in his swing, but he succeeds with it. He struggles when he tries to pull the ball, and he didn't perform well against lefthanders last season, batting .217. Fiorentino has a wide range of skills, offering above-average defense at all three outfield positions with good speed, range and arm strength. He plays hard every day. While Fiorentino seems to have stalled, the Orioles still believe he can be an everyday player, though he would also seem to be an ideal fourth outfielder. Pleased with his performance last year, they'll move him up to Triple-A and see if he can earn his way back to the big leagues.
Orioles area scouts and crosscheckers fell in love with Angle's game at Ohio State, seeing a legitimate center fielder who not only could play the little man's game but actually relished the role. He had also impressed scouts in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2006, finishing eighth in the league in batting (.298). Baltimore took him in the seventh round, signed him for $110,000 and found him to be exactly as advertised. Angle has legitimate leadoff skills, highlighted by his willingness to work counts and take walks. He focuses on getting on base and is a skillful bunter, and he also uses his hands well in his swing and shows gap power. He's an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases, and he was caught just four times in 38 basestealing attempts in his pro debut. He also uses his speed in center field to play good defense and shows plenty of arm for the position. Angle's game is all about getting on base and using his legs, and the Orioles are interested to see how it will play at higher levels. He should open his first full season in low Class A.
Vinyard signed as a draft-and-follow in May 2006 and immediately attracted attention by hitting 26 doubles and eight home runs at Aberdeen, establishing himself as a power prospect in a system that didn't have many. He continued driving the ball last season in low Class A, though his slugging percentage dropped by 49 points, and proved himself as a run producer. Vinyard is a skilled hitter who can drive the ball all over the field and shows legitimate plus power. The tradeoff is high strikeout numbers, and while the Orioles are willing to accept that to a point, they would like him to become more selective. The big question for Vinyard, though, is whether he can handle a position. He doesn't move well around the bag at first base, so he'll have to work to be an adequate defender there. A fringy arm and below-average speed mean the outfield isn't an option, so DH is the only other place for him to go. Vinyard split time between first base and DH last year and should do the same this year in high Class A. He'll have to keep hitting home runs to have value.
Bergesen struggled with mononucleosis in 2006, and the illness not only kept him out of action for a month but also sapped his strength for much of the year. He bounced back with a strong performance in low Class A, then was hit in the head by a line drive during batting practice after a promotion to high Class A. He missed only one start but never got untracked, though he pitched better in the Carolina League playoffs. Bergesen succeeds with command and movement, though his velocity improved last season from 89-90 to 91-93 mph. He throws a four-seam fastball that peaks at 95, but is better off using his two-seamer with good sink. He also throws a low-80s slider and a solid changeup. Bergesen gets in trouble when he doesn't command his pitches in the strike zone, and he has a tendency to overthink and try to be too precise at times. As one scout said, "He's not sexy, but he can pitch." Bergesen probably will return to high Class A to open 2008 but could earn another midseason promotion if he performs well.
Baltimore went with a college-heavy approach in the 2007 draft. Kolodny was the first high school player it picked, and one of just two it signed out of the entire draft. After turning pro for a $39,000 bonus, he instantly endeared himself to the Orioles by playing all-out every minute of every game, bringing great energy to the ballpark every day. Scouts and coaches said he was easy to identify because he was the one who always had the dirty uniform. Kolodny is a big, physical kid who loves to play and has a knack for hitting. He makes consistent hard contact and showed good power in his pro debut. He has a good approach for his age and loves to work on his swing. He's an average runner and shows decent range at third base, but he needs to work on his throws. He made 15 errors in 36 games at third base, and his motion costs him strength and accuracy. He made progress in instructional league, but he could end up at first base. There's no doubt he'll put in the work to try to stay at third base, though. Kolodny will open the season at 20, old for a high school player in his first full season, so he'll get the chance to jump to low Class A.
Lebron drew raves in 2006 when he moved to the bullpen full-time and overmatched hitters as a closer in the short-season New York-Penn League, but the results weren't as good last season. He didn't bring his ERA below 5.00 until the end of July. A poor final month took it back up to 5.04. Lebron struggled with his command all season, a function of his mechanics and an inability to repeat his delivery. The Orioles also think he lost confidence in his first exposure to cold weather, as he had a hard time getting a feel for the ball and subsequently lost his confidence. The stuff is still there, however. Lebron throws a lively mid-90s fastball that peaks at 98 mph. His slider is a legitimate second offering now, and he can get by with just those two pitches coming out of the bullpen, though he does mix in an occasional changeup. His control problems not only create baserunners in droves, but also drive up his pitch counts. Lebron is young and has a lot of learning to do, but his stuff means he'll get every opportunity. He should move up to high Class A this year.
Johnson continued his systematic progression through the system in 2007, moving up to Triple-A and again taking his turn like clockwork all season long. His numbers were about the same as the year before in Double-A, but he pitched a little better and was done in by a few disastrous starts. Johnson has three major league pitches, highlighted by an 88-92 mph fastball that maintains its velocity all season long. His curveball has become a reliable second pitch, and his changeup is average as well. The key is getting better command in the strike zone, because more advanced hitters have been able to lay off his chase pitches and wait for something in the fat part of the plate. He also has run up high pitch counts as he tries to pick his way through a batting order. Johnson has proven his durability and the quality of his pitches, and the Orioles are ready to see if he can pitch in the big leagues or if his command issues will keep him from fulfilling his potential. He'll compete for a major league bullpen job in spring training.
Pope is a poster boy for the kinds of players whom scouting director Joe Jordan is trying to bring into the organization, but his progress has been stunted by shoulder problems. After unsuccessfully trying to rehabilitate a shoulder injury, Pope finally had surgery last spring and got just 66 at-bats during the season. He was closer to full health in instructional league, but he had to DH because his arm still wasn't ready. The bad news is that he has missed valuable development time, but the good news is that in 2008, he'll be at full strength for the first time in two years. Pope's raw power is his most impressive tool, and he shows plenty of ability in flashes. He needs to stay healthy and establish some consistency in his game. The key to his advancement is simply getting the bat and ball together more, and the main area of emphasis there is adjusting to breaking balls. His speed and defensive tools all rate about average, but he should be a fine left fielder. It's simply too early to judge Pope, who just needs a full season of at-bats. He'll probably open at low Class A.
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