One of the things I want to try to do with Camden Chat this season is focus more on what's happening down on the farm. All things considered, that's a huge part of the story of the Baltimore Orioles these days, which is a great, great thing.
In the past, there just hasn't been a whole lot to talk about. Now, maybe there is.
I don't claim to be a great prospects brain or anything like that -- this is a list composed simply because I like making lists, I like prospect talk, and I can read stat sheets and scouting reports the same as any of you can. If you want to get better in-depth prospect analysis, I highly recommend, as always, John Sickels' Minor League Ball or Baseball Prospectus, among many others.
First off, there's one guy I left off that makes every O's list, and that's Jim Hoey. There is not a bigger non-believer in Hoey than me, probably. I firmly admit this, and you're free to think I'm an idiot. He's at least fairly well regarded by almost everyone else. Anyone who's seen Hoey pitch knows that he's got a big fastball that is straight as an arrow and nothing else. He's the new Matt Anderson. I'd be pleased as punch if Hoey proved me wrong, but I don't think that's happening.
Without any further ado, let's get talking about the kids that'll be spending most of their days in Norfolk, Bowie, Frederick, or Delmarva, plus a couple of cats that are already on the O's but haven't quite passed out of prospectdom just yet.
20. Bob McCrory, RHP
He's 26 years old and has lost a lot of time to elbow injuries. I still like him better than Hoey. He's on the 40-man roster.
19. Randor Bierd, RHP
Nice Rule 5 pickup from the Tigers, he put up a 5-to-1 K-to-BB ratio at Double-A Erie last season and is just 24. Bierd and I share the same birthday, too, which I just now found out -- he's exactly two years younger than I am. So happy belated, Randor, and congrats on making the team! Enjoy your sharp new suit.
18. Matt Albers, RHP
Already in the show last season with the Astros, he still came into 2008 more a prospect than anything else. He looked good in his O's debut on Opening Day, relieving a spent Jeremy Guthrie and at least holding down the fort at a 6-2 disadvantage. He went 4-11, 5.86/1.60 with Houston in 110 2/3 innings pitched in 2007. He'll wind up in the O's rotation before too long if Brian Burres lives up to his reputation.
17. Scott Moore/Mike Costanzo, 3B
They are the exact same player.
Moore was born on November 17, 1983; Costanzo was born on September 9, 1983.
Moore's career minor league line is .260/.348/.449. Costanzo's is .266/.364/.456.
Moore is 6'2"; Costanzo is 6'3".
Both bat left, throw right.
Both were willing to try any position necessary this spring. Costanzo gave catching a shot, while Moore was all over the place.
Moore was a nice pickup from the Cubs in the Trax trade, and we got Costanzo as part of the Tejada package, seemingly a throw-in more than anything else.
I have no idea how any system can have both of these players, but the Orioles have done it. The difference now is that Costanzo is a Norfolk Tide, while Moore is with the big club. We will also owe Scott Moore a debt of gratitude for being the player that pushed Jay Gibbons into the land of in-season free agency.
16. Pedro Beato, RHP
Got heavier last year, and lost some zip on his heater as a result, which led to him having a rather "ehhhh" sort of season at Delmarva (4.05/1.39, 106 K in 142 1/3 IP). He's 21, but that's not a promising season at all. We'll see what he does in '08 before rushing to any real judgment.
15. David Hernandez, RHP
23 years old. Gets strikeouts. Fastball/slider guy. Pitches a good amount of innings. Sickels says he has "sleeper potential," and the Prospectus regards him as a guy that might be "a few adjustments from taking off," or a guy that might never make them and thus never do anything noteworthy. I get all caught up in lesser-known guys with "sleeper potential," which is why I really liked Nate Spears. Judge for yourself whether or not that's a good thing.
14. Brandon Erbe, RHP
One of the great mysteries in minor league baseball last season was just how and why the young 2005 third-rounder was so terrible for the Keys -- 6.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 14 homers allowed and 62 walks in 119 1/3 innings. The O's say they're working on his mechanics and all that jazz, but isn't every 20-year old pitcher working on his mechanics? He's still very, very young, but it's hardly encouraging for anyone as well-regarded as he was out of high school to bomb that hard at in A-ball. At 6'4", Erbe is no longer among the system's very tallest pitchers.
13. Brandon Snyder, 1B
Snyder is still only 21 -- in fact, he could only legally buy a beer in this country last November. He had an OKish sort of season at Delmarva last year (.283/.354/.422, 11 HR, 118 G) that won't get anyone excited but isn't rights for dismissal just yet either. It wasn't but a couple of years ago that Snyder came into the draft regarded by many as the best high school hitter out there. He was a catcher then, had a brief affair with third base, and now he's over at first. At every position he's been trying, he's now blocked by one of two guys, most likely. I really like Snyder because of that time his mom posted on CC (and just because I was excited about the O's finally making a draft pick that was worth getting excited over), but the realistic side of this is he'll need more power to carry first base, and he's not going to be catching. He's one of my favorite players in the system. And he whomped ass in the Hawaiian Winter League, which re-fueled my hopes for Snyder's future.
12. Troy Patton, LHP
No matter how the Birds or anyone else spin it, Patton losing the 2008 season due to the dreaded fabrum bear
is not good. It's also nothing to take lightly. Andy MacPhail and everyone else can say, "Aw, we knew he was hurt," and then the beat writers can go, "Wow! That must mean he's really somethin' else! If they traded for him as the centerpiece of a major deal! And knew he was hurt the whole time!"
That sort of makes the beat writers Ham Porter to Andy MacPhail's Squints. "You guys, he knew he was gonna do it the whole time!"
Does this put Patton into the role of the absurdly-named Wendy Peffercorn? I always imagined that Wendy Peffercorn would go on to live a normal, happy life while not doing anything particularly special, so I fear that Patton just might be Wendy after all is said and done, married to Andy MacPhail.
11. Tim Bascom, RHP
Fine college pitcher at Central Florida, he started his pro career with indy league Bradenton before the O's picked him up and shuttled him off to Delmarva, where he did pretty damn well for an undrafted free agent (3.74/1.25 in 67 1/3). Another good story type of guy, easy to pull for. Plus, his name sort of sounds like Tim Lincecum.
10. Hayden Penn, RHP
Penn's first stint in the majors was not impressive
, and the second time around in '06 was even worse. But he wasn't ready for it either. He was killing at Ottawa in 2006 before he got hurt, and pitched in only four games last year at Norfolk, plus five in rookie ball on a rehab assignment. As crazy as it sounds, I like Penn more now than I did in 2005 when he was considered to be our top pitching prospect. To be fair, it could just be that I fear this happening again
9. Tony Butler, LHP
The third-most promising of the guys we got from the Mariners
, Butler is 20 years old, 6-foot-7, and has yet to pitch above Low-A ball. He's got a good fastball but needs plenty of work on his secondary stuff. Lots of scouts really like him, but most scouts are going to get behind any 6'7" lefty with heat. Plus I can't pass up an opportunity to show Butler in his Aquasox get-up. To quote our own zknower, "What was it, free bong-hit night?"
8. Chorye Spoone, RHP
Under most circumstances, I wouldn't get behind someone named "Chorye Spoone" as a viable major league player in the future. "Chorye Spoone" looks like the name of a very marginal NBA role player who has a brief 15 minutes of fame as a fan favorite for hitting a game-winning jumper or playing tight D on the opposing team's star one night, or the name of a gimmicky college quarterback at a small 1-A school who leads them into a fourth-tier bowl game to get manhandled by Minnesota or Cincinnati. But he improved dramatically in 2007, posting a 3.26/1.15 line at Frederick after going 3.56/1.53 at Delmarva the year before. His K-to-BB was drastically better (133-to-67 after 90-to-80), he gave up way less hits, and his groundball percentage was seven and a half points better -- he is a groundball pitcher, so that's good. I still don't know about his name, but I'm believing for the time being.
7. Garrett Olson, LHP
When I was a kid I knew a dude named Garrett, big ol' fat young man, generally a really nice dude, but kind of rough around the edges, too. He had a strange way of speaking. Once, at the Glad-Peach Festival in Coloma, Michigan, Garrett showed to me with great pride his new chain wallet. "It's got a e-goo on it," he said. It had an eagle on it, indeed.
That's why I like Garrett Olson. Plus he had nice numbers in AAA last year.
(For those mildly interested, the Glad-Peach Festival is named because of the town's peach output, as well as something to do with gladiolus, which I've never figured out, really, because it's not like there's a great abundance of them as far as I could ever tell. The festival is held in a town with a population of roughly 2,000, its greatest asset being Paw Paw Lake, a small body of water that is home to mostly Chicagoan-owned summer houses, and used to be a place of great Al Capone significance, or at least some Capone significance.
The festival is, historically, a one-street hillbilly brawl. I love it.)
6. Chris Tillman, RHP
Don't pay much attention to his A-ball numbers. This dude was born the same year that the Orioles started off 0-21. He's got real deal type of stuff. Also, the California League is heaven for batsmen, and not so much for the hurlers. His control is spotty, but he's young and immature physically, at 6'5" and a listed 195 pounds. It'll be years before we catch a whiff of him at Camden Yards, but here's looking forward to it.
5. Jake Arrieta, RHP
The Orioles took a calculated risk on Arrieta by drafting him in the fifth round after a bust senior season at TCU, giving him and agent Scott Boras first round money. He slaughtered the Arizona Fall League, has a big, sturdy frame (6'4", 225), and is a polished college product that could work his way up through the system like a bolt of lightning. I think the O's made a very wise decision to snap Arrieta up when they had the chance.
4. Nolan Reimold, OF
I know I've been skeptical toward Reimold in the past, and I still suggest than anyone should be. But for pure hitting ability, Reimold has the goods. After displaying "pretty good" power for a while, Reimold killed the ball at Bowie while healthy in '07, hitting .300/.365/.565 in 203 plate appearances. He's not a big batting average guy, but he's shown good patience at every level and his power keeps getting better. At 24, some might have hoped for more from him at this point. Injuries are the only thing holding him back, but injuries are also a real holder-back.
3. Radhames Liz, RHP
Have you noticed how many pitchers are on the list? This is the last one. While the system is pretty dry for position prospects, the pitching is in fine shape, and Liz is perhaps the best of the bunch right now. He's the one that combines ceiling and readiness the best at this point, as he still has room for real improvement, but has also already seen the bright lights of The Show, and had a fairly legit chance to win a rotation spot this spring -- or, at least, as much chance as guys like Penn did. Liz is 25, so he should really get a move on, and the Orioles should see what they've got. He put up a 6.92 ERA in 24 2/3 IP for the O's last season, but big deal. He's got his command problems, like basically everyone else in the system, but big deal. So does Daniel Cabrera, and they keep letting him take the mound. His long-term future may be in the bullpen, where his electric fastball could make him a legit shutdown late-innings guy. But here's hoping we get a starter out of him. You've gotta like his arm.
2. Billy Rowell, 3B
Richie Sexson! He could be like Richie Sexson! He's tall! He strikes out a lot! Bats lefty, throws righty, he has real problems actually batting lefties. He will eventually wind up at first base after being drafted as a shortstop out of high school. He'll get all the hometown favoritism possible, most likely. Rowell upstaged Snyder; Wieters upstaged Rowell. But Billy's still a damn good prospect.
1. Matt Wieters, C
Duh. All this dealing with Scott Boras is good, I figure. To get in good with Boras can't be bad, considering the type of talent he represents. Wieters was regarded by many as the best player in the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech (also producers of Jason Varitek), did pretty well (.283/.364/.415) for Honolulu alongside Snyder this winter, and he has it all. He's a plus defender, a guy who can hit for average, and he has power. He could be not far off from competing with Joe Mauer every year for the starting catcher spot on the American League All-Star team. He's that good.