This week's prospect profile: LJ Hoes. The 2B/OF is 6' 1", 181 pounds, batting and throwing from the right side. The Orioles selected the local product in the 3rd round of the 2008 (the Matusz draft) out of St. John's High School. One question is where he play in the field, but let's first look at his numbers and his progression.
After he was drafted in 2008, he went to the GCL and posted a slash line of .308/.416/.390/.806. It was encouraging to see his OBP, as he walked 30 times in 191 plate appearances. He was definitely one to watch coming into 2009. And frankly the 2009 season seemed disappointing at the time. In Delmarva as a 19 year old, he produced the following line: .268/.299/.318/.617. He drew 23 walks in 465 plate appearances, at which point I became less intrigued (hopefully I'll learn from that experience). Regardless, Baseball America ranked him as the 21st best Orioles prospect coming into 2010. 2010 was a breakout season for LJ, as he spent the majority of the season in Frederick and posted the following line: .278/.375/.368/.743. The combination of his age and his strong OBP put him in some pretty select company as the only kids that were his age or younger than him in the Carolina League that posted a better OBP were Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. And while that is cherrypicking, I think that demonstrates a real valuable skill in an organization that shuns it like it shuns winning. As a result of his strong campaign, BA ranked him as the #4 overall prospect in the Orioles system. If memory serves he was something like 150 in their top 100 (I think I heard this on one of their podcasts).
So what about 2011 and the other parts of his game? Read more below the jump!
So despite dominating the Carolina League in 2010, the Orioles opted to keep him in the Carolina League so they could let an inferior prospect play 2B (Greg Miclat). Hoes seemed to regress in his return to Frederick, posting a pretty pedestrian .241/.297/.342/.638 line in 41 games. Finally promoted to Bowie, he has done very well batting third in Bowie's lineup: .304/.378/.420/.798. He was walked 37 times in 336 plate appearances, so it is encouraging to see him keep that walk rate in the EL as a 21 year old.
One question is where does he play and why are the Orioles moving him around. The following is from one of Roch's interviews with John Stockstill:
John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of player development, said classification is the key. The Orioles could have kept Hoes at Frederick, and at his natural position, but they felt it was more important to challenge him at the plate. That meant moving him up to Bowie, where opportunities to play second weren't as plentiful with Greg Miclat on the roster. Miclat has appeared in 91 games at second for the Baysox.
"If we were just going for defense, (Hoes) would have stayed a level lower," Stockstill said. "We felt he needed to be challenged with his at-bats, so we moved him, but we don't have a full-time second base position for him. He's also been an outfielder by nature, so he does a good job there. And he can play third and short. But we're not moving him off second. He'll continue to play second. There's just no place for him to play second every day at Bowie."
Our friends over at orioles-nation think highly of his defense. One would think it would be important for him to play the position in the minor leagues.
He has 60 stolen bases and has been caught 20 times in almost 400 games, so it seems like this is not a part of his game.
I really like his walk rate. In all of his stops in the minors, he has drawn 155 walks in 1,619 plate appearances. This would tell me he understands the strike zone and demonstrates above average on base skills. Throw in that he is doing this younger than the competition and it leads me to believe that this skill should be transferable and hopefully will only improve when he makes it to the big club. And while his power isn't there, I think it's still an open question if it might someday come, and rightly or wrongly, I attribute this hope to age v. comp.
As far as comps, maybe Luis Castillo?