Mid-Year Update: Top 20 Prospects

You may recall the original list (CC.com's Fairly Well-Informed Top 20 O's Prospects) from April, and hey, let's kill some time this morning and look at how the 20 fellas are doing in 2008.

(Teams that the player has also played for this season are in parentheses. Current team is listed first, obviously.)

Ph_446308_medium 1. Matt Wieters, C, Bowie (Frederick)

With the way Wieters is raking in his first pro season, it might not be long until we see him sporting that cap for good.

In 69 games with Frederick, Wieters torched the Carolina League to the tune of .345/.448/.576 with 15 homers. In 13 games since his call-up to Double-A Bowie, the Georgia Tech grad is hitting .356/.442/.600 with two more longballs. He's not just the best Orioles prospects, I'd have to rate him top five in all of baseball right now. There has been no learning curve at all. He stormed out of the gates at Frederick and had only a couple of minor slumps along the way, proving in 229 at-bats that he was way too good for the league.

With the way Ramon Hernandez is hitting, fielding and aging, Wieters might see Baltimore by the end of the year. Why not? He's 22 years old, a polished college prospect, and he's treating the minor leagues like a Hall of Famer on a rehab assignment. He's coming.

1206742940_medium 2. Bill Rowell, 3B, Frederick

Even though he was only 18 years old when he hit the Sally League in 2007, his .426 slugging percentage was still a very mild discouragement. Still, it was easy to keep the faith in Rowell, whose 6'5" frame promises to deliver power at some point.

The question now might be if he'll ever deliver anything more than an eventual home run stroke. Let's not sugar coat it. We're talking about the ninth overall pick of the 2006 draft, and at 19, he's being dominated at High-A ball. Yes, he's only 19, and no, that's no reason to give up on him or even get close to giving up.

But is his putrid .230/.289/.360 line something that raises a red flag? Absolutely, it is. He missed a lot of April with a leg injury, then hit .253/.310/.396 in May. Hey, maybe just a late start, right? Give him time.

June was atrocious: .185/.241/.296. The good news is that through eight games in July, he's starting to heat up, at a .296/.367/.519 clip over eight games. Keep it "rowell"-in', Bill. Ahhhhhahahahaha!

Seriously, though.

Ph_467785_medium 3. Radhames Liz, RHP, Baltimore (Norfolk)

Liz has been made a necessity in Baltimore thanks to the injuries to Adam Loewen and the farewell 10-game disaster that was undoubtedly Steve Trachsel's last time in a baseball uniform that doesn't have him coaching little league or something.

He's not THAT young -- he turned 25 in June. His 11 starts in Norfolk went OK (4.05 ERA in 60 innings with a good K-rate), but he's clearly not there yet as a guy who's going to contribute positive results to a major league rotation. The stuff is good, but he leaves pitches up and has real control problems (shocker for an O's prospect).

Totally Rad (seriously, watch that video) still has real promise, because a good arm's a good arm, and at least he doesn't get hurt all the time. He's got gnarly potential. But what's with all the jogging? Can't he just learn magic and skip the aerobics?

Is Rick Kranitz, in fact, Zeb? Either way, I think Kranitz is totally decent.

Ph_460099_medium 4. Nolan Reimold, OF, Bowie

Facts are facts, and fact is, Nolan Reimold looks like a stoner. The kind that says "ganja green" and buys Hendrix shirts at Target.

His overall numbers are solid, at .286/.359/.500, and they are also hampered by a dismal April where he hit just .232/.324/.347. Reimold's ceiling might not be all that high -- I'm starting to think he'll end up sort of like Luke Scott, but a right-handed bat with more injury problems. He had a torrid May (.312/.414/.606, 6 HR), and he's on a rampage so far in July (.382/.389/.824, 4 HR).

In a perfect world, we finally see Nolan in Baltimore this year, too, and we see him for good starting next spring. There's no reason to not. Let's hope he can stay healthy this season, which has been his biggest problem to date. With the way Rowell's swinging right now, I think Reimold should be bumped up to No. 2 positional prospect.

Ph_453562_medium 5. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Frederick

The 22-year old TCU product that dropped in the draft and was a mild money gamble by the O's is paying off. See, between Wieters and Arrieta, is dealing with Scott Boras really all that bad? He's got good clients!

Arrieta is a Carolina League All-Star with a 2.75 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, with 108 strikeouts in 101.1 innings pitched. Not bad at all, eh?

He did have a rough June, missing a couple starts and posting a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings, but he dominated in April and May and his last two starts have been back to the general overpowering of High-A hitters. A bump up may soon be in the making here, too.

If anyone ever gives this guy the "Jake the Snake" nickname, I'm going to barf. Enough with that already. The world has seen enough Jakes the Snakes.

Ph_501957_medium 6. Chris Tillman, RHP, Bowie

Chris Tillman was serious when that photo is taken, and he's serious about striking fools out. With 87 whiffs in 83.2 innings at Bowie so far this season, he's sporting a 7-2 record and 3.12 ERA.

While his line might not look overly impressive -- good K-rate, but not eye-popping, good ERA but not dominant, decent but unexciting WHIP (1.31) -- you have to remember that Tillman turned 20 in April. This dude can't even go buy beer yet, and he's more than holding his own in Double-A, which in a lot of instances these days is the last step before the majors.

There's also almost no way he's fully grown into his body yet. At 6'5", he's listed at 195 pounds. He'll pack on at least 20 more before he's matured.

If we'd gotten nothing back besides Adam Jones and Tillman in the Bedard trade, it would stand right now as a first-class fleecing. While E.B. Farnum struggles mightily just to keep his head above water with the terrible Mariners, we've got a young center fielder with tremendous upside and a 20-year old that's working it in Double-A ball. Plus, we got MORE out of them. God. I genuinely feel bad for their fans.

Ph_457796_medium 7. Garrett Olson, LHP, Baltimore (Norfolk)

When Olson came up in 2007, he was No. 57, an obvious fill-in who would be back down as soon as his services were no longer necessary. His call-up this year came as No. 18, a guy who was taking a spot in the rotation. There's a lot to be said for numbers, even past spring training.

Olson's not been awesome or anything, at 5.65/1.57. Like Liz, he's suspceptible to getting lit right up on any night, which makes the nights where he looks smooth and effective easy to forget. He's 24, so he's still learning on the job, really.

But you can say this for Olson over Loewen: at least you know he'll be there every fifth day. While Loewen's debacle of a 2008 season is most likely over after two trips to the disabled list, Olson continues to ply his trade on the big stage, and it looks like he's here to stay for now. He was never supposed to be an ace or anything, most likely panning out to a No. 4 starter, or a No. 3 in good years.

The '08 Orioles, however, have gotten something very valuable from him. Innings. Innings that Mr. Major League Contract can't deliver. Loewen Replacement will be a position unto itself as long as Adam is an Oriole.

Ph_461870_medium 8. Chorye Spoone, RHP, Bowie

Spoone has made just nine starts, missing all of May and a portion of both April and June. And the starts he has made haven't been his best.

In those nine injury-affected outings, he's gone 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA and ugly 1.61 WHIP. But the really worrisome thing about his numbers is they aren't exactly out of the norm. Remember, Spoone's 2007 was considered a major step up. Everything improved dramatically. Right now, he's just pitching almost exactly like he did in 2005-06.

Let's just look at 2006-08, and you'll see what I mean:

Year H/9 BB/9 K/9 WHIP
2006 8.23 5.58 6.28 1.53
2007 6.39 3.97 7.88 1.15
2008 8.71 5.88 6.97 1.62

The one rate that has spiked his his homers per nine. In 2006, he was at .35, last year at .47. This year, .87. That's a major difference. But I am back to questioning whether a guy named Chorye Spoone can be a good big league ballplayer. Tim Spooneybarger didn't make it -- in fact, he's with Aberdeen, which I will admit to being totally psyched on.

4cd722c80afe022bd81ad4477b397d7d 9. Tony Butler, LHP, Delmarva

Butler currently sits on the Shorebirds DL with tendinitis in his left arm. Not a great sign, but he's only 20. It would also help to explain what was a pretty lackluster performance for a genuine prospect (not a great one, but a real one) at Low-A.

In 55 innings prior to the injury, Butler had put up a 4.42 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, with 7.2 K/9. What is VERY encouraging is his outstanding BB rate, as he put just 11 on base via the free pass. Not too shabby at all there.

Butler was one of the other two pickups in the Bedard deal, and even though he's out of action right now, hey...we win again.

I would like to find out if he has an abnormally high singing voice so I know whether or not I can start calling him Tony Soprano.

You got a bee onna you hat.

10. Hayden Penn, RHP, Norfolk

Ph_435140_mediumThese slight disappointments are sent to prepare
For what may hereafter befall;
For seasons of real disappointment and care,
Which commonly happen to all.
-- Jane Taylor, 'The Disappointment'

If it wasn't quite time to forget about Hayden Penn as any real part of the Orioles future in 2007, it certainly looks like it is now. The guy just isn't getting hitters out in Triple-A ball.

It also appears now that a great opportunity was missed to trade Penn in 2005 or even 2006, because he'd be a throw-in piece for anything worthwhile anymore.

This isn't really an injury case, though he missed much of 2007; or a bad luck case, or anything else. This is just a case of a guy who's not very good. I wanted to hold out hope for Hayden, but it's probably time to give up the ghost. He's a minor league gap-filler.

1207264496_medium 11. Tim Bascom, RHP, Frederick

I'm going to just go ahead and admit that my 10 and 11 guys are screwing the pooch a little bit so far in 2008. I was probably overrating Feel Good Story Bascom a little to begin with, and he's doing me no favors now.

THAT SAID...

He missed all of April and made just two starts in May, so he got a late jump and is probably still working to getting up to 100% on the field. Still, though, the numbers are the numbers. At 23, he's got a 4.89 ERA at Frederick. Not good. His K-to-BB is about 1.5-to-1. Not good. He's getting tagged by hitters. Not good.

12. Troy Patton, LHP, A Rehab Center

We got Patton hurt, he was hurt when I made the list, and he's hurt now.

1206743029_medium 13. Brandon Snyder, 1B, Frederick

His May and June numbers look outstanding, but that's only because you might have looked at his awful April beforehand. He's raking in July, but it's July 10th, so we'll wait and see. An .800ish OPS at Frederick for a first baseman just isn't going to cut it as far as climbing the ladder goes. You can get that in a good year from Chris Vinyard.

Also, to those that have tried to sell Vinyard to me, can we declare that whole bit over? He's OPSing .698. He's got a brick for a glove, and designated hitters that slug .355 are a detriment at any level.

Snyder remains one of my favorite players in the system, but it'd take a fool to not admit he's rather failing thus far. A whole lot of things have gone wrong in his pro career. He turns 22 in November, so it's time to get a move on.

Tell him, Red. Come on, Brandon. Make it. See your friend, and shake his hand.

1206741066_medium 14. Brandon Erbe, RHP, Frederick

2006 with Delmarva went swimmingly for Erbe at age 18. At 19, 2007 in Frederick was a disaster, as he put up a 6.26 ERA and all kinds of things were deemed in need of a tune-up.

2008 has been a mixed bag. He dominated in April (2.73 ERA) and June (2.32 ERA), but was treated like steel at the mighty hands of John Henry in May (7.07 ERA). He's started using his slider as an out pitch, and worked away from his high school curveball. The guy has a serious arm, with big heat, and is another tall pitcher with a still-lanky build.

He's 20, and has shown vast improvement this year. While the overall numbers might not be stunning, they miss the point. He's made a massive turnaround from a year that might have ruined a lot of hyped young pitchers, and even came back in June from a terrible month of May. He's moving back up.

Ph_456696_medium 15. David Hernandez, RHP, Bowie

Just might be time to give the sleeper prospect of the organization a serious look.

Simple reasoning, really. Hernandez's power arm might not get him by as a starter in the majors, but I suspect he might soon be able to do a fair Jim Johnson impersonation were the need to arise to have an extra arm in the bullpen. He's fanning 10.13 per nine innings this season, which is consistent with previous numbers. His ERA is way down, he's got his WHIP down at 1.25, and his fastball/slider combo is the real deal, though he doesn't have a whole lot else.

The downside is what I already said, he might not make it as a starter given his lack of secondary pitches. But the upside might be a shutdown power reliever, too. No rush, though, since he IS a sleeper.

Quickies on 16-20, because they'd all either fall off this list or not qualify anymore:

16. Pedro Beato, RHP, Frederick: He's trying to get by striking out about four per nine. It's not going to work. Beato's peripherals indicate bad things to come if he ever gets out of A-ball.

17. Scott Moore/Mike Costanzo, 3B, Norfolk: It's taken until July, but Moore is finally hitting at Norfolk. There's also still zero excuse for his demotion in favor of the bumbling nimrods we've been putting at shortstop or a 100th pitcher. Costanzo's had a bit of a rough year, himself.

18. Matt Albers, RHP, DL: Uh ohhhh...

19. Randor Bierd, RHP, Rehab: RAN-DOOOOOR! was impressing before the injury. Here's looking forward to his return.

20. Bob McCrory, RHP, Norfolk: Will probably spend his life on the AAA-to-MLB train. Got smacked around and walked everyone in two-thirds of an inning of MLB work this year over two games. What about Bob?

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