As a follow up to last week's MuchO GustO, as a noted optimist, I thought I would look at 2012 surprises but the good kind. I suppose that part of the problem with a player who is surprising is in part because of low expectations in the first place. So while Delmonico has been terrific, he did come in to the season as the sixth best prospect, so while his performance is good for the soul, it's not exactly what I'm looking for. Without further ado:
Ty Kelly: Ty Kelly has to be #1 on this list. There was an interesting discussion about him in bird droppings the other day, and I thankfully had a couple minutes to peruse it. The 23 year old Kelly is a switch hitting infield prospect, drafted in the 13th round of the 2009 draft (Hobgood!). He was born in Dallas and went to college in California (UC-Davis). In 2009 he had a rather anonymous line in Aberdeen, OPSing 667 with an ISO of less than 050. In 2010, then 22, he OPSed 721 in Delmarva. He repeated Delmarva in 2011 and made the all star team, but his OPS declined to 697. And so I figured that was it. But 2012 has been something of a revelation for Kelly, who put up the following line in Frederick as a 23 year old: 346/460/513/973 with a K/BB of 41/54 in 324 plate appearances. That is one amazing line. His ISO has ballooned without seeing an increase in strikeouts, he has more walks than Ks and he isn't that old for the league. He is 3rd in the league in OPS, behind a 27 year old and 22 year old Jackie Bradley, who was a supplemental first rounder last year (of the Red Sox of course). According to first inning dot com, he has seen a higher BABIP (a flukish 385), but that in some ways is due to a decrease in hitting the ball on the ground. His line drive % has not changed much from last year. So I suppose that would mean his fly ball percentage has increased, and one would figure a number of them are dropping in for extra bases. He was just promoted to Bowie a couple days ago and he turns 24 on Friday. It's worth noting that the Orioles did move him to AAA for a spat this year (11 games) and he did not embarrass himself. At the time I took it as the Orioles valuing him as an org guy, but you have to wonder if their opinion has changed. What do you think of Mr. Kelly?
Steve Johnson has really surprised me, though this may say more about me than him. I have an aversion to fly ball pitchers. Possibly too much so. And Steve Johnson is a fly ball pitcher. Most everyone knows that he was acquired in the George Sherrill deal, wasn't protected in the Rule 5 a few years ago, selected by the Giants, burned a lot of bandwidth and was returned to the Orioles. In 17 starts for the Tides in 2011, the now 24 year old right hander got lit up, posting an ERA of 5.56 (FIP of 4.59) across 87.1 IP with a K/BB of 63/47. So it seemed like there was little to get excited about with him. But 2012 has been a great season for Johnson, who now is posting a K/BB of 67/26 in 66.2 IP with an ERA of 3.10 and a FIP of 3.48. Shaving a run off his FIP and increasing his K/9 while decreasing his BB/9 is pretty intriguing I would think. Why has this happened? Can he carve out a role on the 2013 Orioles?
More below the jump!
Jason Gurka is a 24 y/o left handed reliever. Drafted in the 15th round of the 2008 draft (Matusz) out of a Texas Junior College, he has progressed steadily year by year. He has done pretty well it seems like at each stop, in Bluefield in 2008, missing all of 2009, in Aberdeen in 2010 and splitting 2011 between Delmarva and Frederick. He did well in Frederick this season and was just recently promoted to Bowie. In Frederick this season, he has a K/BB of 43/12 in 45.1 IP, with an ERA of 2.18. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find his splits, but with any lefty you have to wonder if he isn't death on lefties and potentially a LOOGY down the road.
Johnny Ruettiger is a 22 y/o left handed OF prospect drafted in the 8th round of the 2011 (Bundy) draft out of Arizona State. He didn't fare so well in Delmarva in 2011, so he was off many radar screens. However, in 2012 he has demonstrated enough to be promoted to Frederick, and maybe to open some eyes. So far in 2012, across two levels (two thirds of the at bats as a Key), he has posted the following line: 296/381/357/738 with a K/BB of 42/38 in 329 plate appearances. He has also stolen 23 out of 30 bags this year (76%). What is encouraging is that K/BB, and really his ability to draw a walk. What is seriously discouraging in the paltry ISO, which feels like it spells doom to me. Nonetheless, his game hasn't been adversely impacted by being promoted from Delmarva to Frederick. What sayeth you about his future prospects?
Connor Narron is a 22 year old switch hitting infielder was a 5th rounder in the 2010 draft (Machado). He is a relative of former Oriole Jerry Narron. In 2011 in Aberdeen he batted 211 and slugged 254. So that will take you off a fair number of prospect radar screens. But he was able to draw a walk. I'm not sure what happened over the off-season, perhaps he is mad at Tony LaCava or something, and while his batting average is a poor 235, his OBP stands at 317 and his SLG at 379, for a combined OPS of 696. So, why am I excited about a 22 year old with an OPS south of 700 in Delmarva? I don't know really, actually. What I do like about him is the ISO boost and the ability to draw a walk, as he has 30 walks in 322 plate appearances in 2012. Probably the most discouraging thing about 2012 is that last year he drew 49 walks in 282 plate appearances, so his BB% has dropped substantially. Of course, one would imagine someone told him to be more aggressive and he has seen his power go up quite a bit. What do you make of him?
Brendan Webb (h/t jq!) is a 22 y/o left handed OF drafted in the 30th round of the 2009 draft (Hobgood). In 2011, he OPSed 632 in Delmarva. So that was pretty bad. In 2012 however, the man has put up the following line: 257/421/475/896, with a K/BB of 89/71 in 257 at bats. This is a super compelling line to me. He has an ISO of 218 with a staggering walk percentage of 21%, with a somewhat ominous K% of 35%. With 32 extra base hits (almost half), he almost looks like a 3 outcome hitter, except he has some decent speed (17/3 SB this year). The K% feels pretty damning, but he is definitely a guy who is opening some eyes.
Others considered included: Mike Wright, Trent Howard, Aaron Baker, Tyler Wilson and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Which farmhands have really impressed you this year? Why? What do you hope for them?