The AFL season starts tomorrow and the Orioles will be represented by a number of prospects. The season runs until November 19th with each team playing 32 games. All O's prospects will be on the Phoenix Desert Dogs roster along with players from the Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays.
Brandon Erbe: Erbe turns 22 on Christmas Day so while he's still young, it seems like he's been around forever. When he actually pitched in 2009 he did very well. He made four starts at the beginning of the '09 season before being DL'd for arm fatigue on April 29th. He was shut down for almost two months before he made 4 rehab starts at Aberdeen starting June 21st. He finally made it back to Bowie on July 12th and had 10 starts for the Baysox before the season ended. He finished the season with an ERA of 2.70 and WHIP of 1.085 in 18 starts. His walks are a little high (4.3 BB/9 at Bowie) in relation to his K rate (7.5 K/9), and John Sickels has expressed concern over his command. Erbe seems poised to start the 2010 season in AAA, but a strong showing in the AFL would certainly strengthen his case.
Eddie Gamboa: Gamboa started the 2009 season with the Delmarva Shorebirds, but by years end had worked his way up to AA Bowie. The right handed reliever dominated the Sally League, walking only 3 batters in 38.2 innings with a K/BB rate of 11.67. He didn't have much trouble in Frederick either, posting a WHIP of 1.03 and ERA of 0.55 in 33 innings. He only got into 7 games at Bowie and didn't allow a run although he did walk 7 in 12 innings. Gamboa was drafted in the 21st round of the 2008 draft and at age 24 was a bit old for those younger leagues, so the AFL will be a good test of his talent against older, more talented prospects.
Josh Perrault: Perrault, right handed relief pitcher, is a name I've barely heard and therefore was surprised to see on the roster. He was drafted by the Marlins in the 42nd round in 2001 and instead opted to go to college at Arizona State University. After two years at ASU he signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Diamondbacks. He spent two years in their system before moving to the Washington Nationals where he spent three years before being drafted by the Orioles in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft before the 2009 season. Perrault spent the first half of 2009 with the Baysox and pitched very well. In 35 games with Bowie he pitched to a 1.80 ERA , 0.975 WHIP, and a K/BB of over 4.5. He moved up to AAA Norfolk on July 7th and made 24 appearances with equally impressive stats.
Ryohei Tanaka: 2009 was Tanaka's first season in the United States after spending years in the minor leagues in Japan. He started with Bowie in June as a reliever but was transitioned to starter on July 4th. He didn't allow a run as a reliever and had mixed success as a starter. I'm not sure what role he'll take in the AFL.
Josh Bell: Josh Bell was in the middle of his best minor league season when he was traded to the Orioles by the Dodgers, and he only got better once he got to Bowie. The big third baseman hit 9 home runs in just 114 at bats with the Baysox and posted a line of .289/.346/.570. Bell is a switch hitter but his stats are just horrible as a right handed batter. If Bell wants to succeed he either needs to improve as a right handed batter or learn how to hit both lefties and righties as a left handed hitter. Bell will probably start 2010 at AAA but with the giant hole at 3B, an outstanding AFL and spring training could propel him into consideration to make the ML roster.
Brandon Snyder: The greatest thing about last year's AFL and possibly the entire 2008 off season was Brandon Snyder's Blog. I can only hope he decides to write again this year and that fbi_evan returns as his enigmatic commenter. Snyder knocked the snot out of the ball at AA in the first half of the season, hitting 19 doubles and 10 home runs with a line of .343/.421/.597. After being promoted to AAA on June 19th his stats suffered greatly. He hit just 2 home runs in 73 games with Norfolk and slugged an ugly .355. 2010 will be a huge year for Brandon Snyder and hopefully he can get it kicked off with a solid fall season.
Brandon Waring: Waring completes the Brandon Trifecta on the Desert Dogs. The corner infielder spent almost all of 2009 with the Frederick Keys after coming to the Orioles in the Ramon Hernandez trade. He slugged 26 home runs and was named the MVP of the Carolina League. Waring finished the year at AA, hitting a home run and 3 doubles in 8 games. If Waring can repeat his success in the AFL and in Bowie in AA he'll start giving Snyder a run for his money as possible future 1B. Waring has only been named to the team's taxi squad, however, which means he's only eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For those unfamiliar with the taxi squad, they're basically extra players for each team that allow the regulars to get a few days off and provide the major league teams to send a few extra players to the league.
Matt Angle: Since being drafted in 2007, OF Matt Angle has steadily worked his way up through the minors, finishing 2009 with. He doesn't have much power but he gets on base at a good rate and has great speed, stealing 42 bases in 2009 and 113 stolen bases in his three years in the minors.
Other Desert Dogs of Note:
Stephen Strasburg: Much like Brian Matusz in 2008, Strasburg is making his professional debut in the AFL. He'll no doubt be the talk of the entire team.
Adam Loewen: Turncoat! After snubbing the Orioles for the Blue Jays of his motherland, Loewen spent all of 2009 with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Toronto's A+ team. He wasn't awful for his first year as a hitter, but for a 25 year old in A+ it was hardly inspiring. In 103 games he hit 4 home runs and 22 doubles with a batting line of .246/.340/.355. Loewen is a long shot to ever make the majors and although I was pretty annoyed when he broke his word to the Orioles, I might root for the kid if he ever makes it.