Since the minor league seasons are ending, I figure now is a good time to take a look at some of our lesser-known prospects. Besides with school starting up again, I want to get this published before next summer. Some of these players people will know but most fans aren't quite as familiar with them as they are with, say, our big pitching prospects. In this edition I'm taking a look at Caleb Joseph, Brandon Waring, Matt Angle, Billy Rowell, Robert Widlansky and Pedro Florimon Jr.
Caleb Joseph (C) was hitting over .300 this year as a catcher before falling off. As of August 25th he has played in 96 games or 33 games more than last year. So the cause seems likely. But how has he even neared .300 when last year his batting average was .261? Caleb has cut his strikeout rate...by a lot. Last year he struck out 23.5% of the time and this year it's been 16.2%. Otherwise his walk percentage and slugging percentages are almost perfectly in line with last year. He's been slightly lucky with a batted balls in play (BABIP) of .324 but not extremely so (typically BABIP is slightly higher than .300 although the minors tend to have much more variation as the quality of fielding is lower).If Caleb has really tired late this year, his numbers may be a notch or two lower than we should expect next year. His success should be sustainable, although his low walk rate will have to improve in Double-A.
Brandon Waring (3B) was part of the haul from Cincinnati and has recently moved to third base. While in Cincinnatti's farm system Waring posted decent seasons because of very lucky BABIPs of .384 and .374. This year it's at .316 while he's posting a very good season with a position change. Like Caleb he's done it by cutting down on his strikeouts although he's also boosted his walk percentage by one percentage point. Waring has cut his strikeout percentage by just over 10% to a new low of 24.7%. It's still extremely high but its better. As for his ability to work a count for a walk, this is his third straight year that Waring has increased his walk percentage. He has a chance to be a Mark Reynolds-type in the majors although to do that he's going to need to be able to keep his walk rate up. It would also help if he learns to pick the ball at third so he's average or better defensively. He's taken a significant step up this year so its possible that we may see him suiting up for the Orioles within 2-4 years.
Billy Rowell (3B/OF) may not be in the Orioles system for too much longer. After repeating Frederick this year his performance declined this year. There's probably something wrong with his swing or more likely his approach as like last year he has continued to see his slugging drop as his doubles fall off. He's hitting more homeruns but not enough to make up for his loss of doubles. His struggles may have made him more impatiant as his walk rate decreased by more than one percentage point. However this may not be the time to sell low as this year he hasn't been lucky with only a .294 BABIP a career low. His strikeout rate is still extremely high at 27.8. In any case Billy needs to move to a new park and probably up a level because he seems to be struggling mentally. Andy McPhail seems to think so too, although whether it's a member of the Orioles or part of a different team is a real question.
"I would think he would benefit from a change of scenery," MacPhail said. "His bat hasn't come around like we hoped when we drafted him. He's still young."
Robert Widlansky (1B/OF) is having a major bounceback year after being stuck in extended spring training earlier this year. Unfortunately a good portion of it is luck as his BABIP is over .400 with the average usually being slightly higher than .300. However its about time he's had some luck as in 2007 his BABIP was .207 (How do you get a BABIP that low? Seriously? He must have hit a whole lot of flyballs and infield popups because that's almost impossible) 2008 was somewhat better with a .316 BABIP at short-season A and then a .256 BABIP at class A. The good news is that most of the underlying skill-based stats show a decent player. His strikeout rate isn't bad at 14.1% while his walk percentage is at 6.7%. Overall Widlansky is having a lucky season backed by decent peripherals but definitely deserves a chance to see if he can really improve at the next rung up. Unfortunately, he plays 1B and the outfield, both positions that require very good hitting so he may never make it to the majors. In any case I'm interested in seeing how he adjusts to double-A next year.
Mathew Angle (CF) is one of our better prospects, consistent year-in and year-out. As a centerfielder he doesn't need to be a great hitter. That's good because as he has played tougher competition Angle's walk rate has decreased. He has managed to cut his strikeout rate this year, but his walk to strikeout ratio has still decreased. His power is still very minimal which is somewhat worrying. For a player as fast as he is, he should be getting more doubles. Iit appears that he's using a groundball approach since he has very little power but has a high BABIP at .341. Interestingly enough, his the two point difference between this year's batting average and last years can be attributed to his BABIP dropping by two points. I'd expect him to change his approach somewhat as he fills out more and becomes stronger. He could become our next centerfielder although I'd personally guess that Adam Jones and Felix Pie stay put as our centerfielders. Unless something significantly changes I can't imagine him not being able to carve out some sort of MLB career.
Pedro Florimon Jr. (SS) seemed to break out earlier this year before coming back down to earth. One of the key reasons is that Florimon managed to cut his strikeouts to only about 25% of the time instead of the 28+ percent of the time. Florimon seems to have decent strikezone judgement with about 8.8% of his plate appearances resulting in walks. One of the other things he's done very well this year is add power. This year he's managed a .429 slugging percentage which isn't too shabby for a SS prospect.
Unfortunately he doesn't seem to have the ability to hit for average. As of this writing he's hitting .264 while being somewhat lucky this year with a BABIP of .332. He seems to be having trouble making contact as fast players normally hit for average. According to an old 2007 Scouting report he seems to have major trouble recongnizing breaking balls, although does have good strike zone judgement with fastballs. Florimon may have to change his swing somewhat, probably in his stance in order to ever be a MLB player. If he learns to recongnize breaking balls he very likely will become a good player. However expect Florimon to take time to develop that skill. We may need to resign him to a minor league contract later on in his career and hope he's a late bloomer a la Lou Montanez (speaking of has anybody realized that he's only had 161 ABs in the majors?). Basically unless he develops into an elite defender like Cizzy expect him to either take a while to develop or become a backup. Personally, I find Robert Andino a more likley shortstop of the future. Then again every once in a while he goes on a tear (winning an MILB.com hitter of the week) so he may be closer than I think he is.
If people like this please suggest other players you want to me to take a look at. I'm planning to take a look at our bullpen prospects the next time, mainly because there seem to be a fair number of them that I don't know and who seem to be legit prospects. Anyway hope everyone likes this.
All stats are from Fangraphs unless noted.