In this post I will attempt to identify a few players throughout the farm system who while not having the traditional shine of a top tier prospect, could still very much see a rise in prospect status in 2014. I will be including one player from each level within the organization from the Dominican Summer League all the way to Norfolk. As a preface, the intent here is not identify future superstars, but identify those who performed above average relative to the average age for the league and possess certain skillsets that add to their value enough so that they could be of value to the major league club at some time in the future.
Dominican Summer League
The Orioles currently have two DSL teams and I have chosen one player from each of them, a pitcher and position player, respectively.
Rafael Moreno-RHP. 2/11/1995 - DSL Orioles 1Moreno will be entering his age 19 season this year after repeating the DSL in 2013. While Jonathan Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez both spent only their age 17 season in the DSL Moreno repeated the league. One possible reason for this is that Moreno was signed out of Brazil, where baseball is still very much an emerging market. Moreno was still one of the youngest players on the team and greatly improved his BB/9 and K/9 ratios. He currently works in the low 90’s with his fastball and throws an above average slider. While he lacks the high upside of countryman Luiz Gohara (Mariner’s LHP), Moreno’s will still be an exciting prospect to watch in 2014 hopefully progressing to Aberdeen by the end of the year.
Ademar Rifaela-OF. 11/20/1994- DSL Orioles 2
Rifaela signed with the Orioles out of Curacao this past offseason and debuted in the DSL at age 18. Rifaela lead the team in doubles, triples, walks, and on-base percentage while being one of the youngest members of the team. Rifaela displayed the best strikeout to walk ratio of anyone on the team with a .85 walks for every 1 strikeout. At 5’10 Rifaela probably doesn’t have much power projection left, but could look to refine his raw speed. Rifaela played left field for the majority of the year and could look to see time there in the GCL in 2014.
Gulf Coast League Orioles
Stephen Tarpley-LHP. 2/17/1993
Tarpley was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft from an Arizona Community College, he was previously drafted in the 8th round of the 2011 draft by the Indians but forwent that commitment to play at the University of Southern California. It’s worth noting that there were concerns about tarpley’s makeup heading into the 2013 draft due to his early departure from USC. I am of the belief that Tarpley’s issues are behind him and his results in 2013 are proof. His arsenal currently contains a low 90’s fastball, a plus curveball, a slider, and a changeup. At 6’1 and 180, it’s not hard to imagine Tarpley adding 20 pounds and a few ticks to his fastball velocity. Tarpley could end up being a steal in the third round and will look to test his stuff at Delmarva in 2014.
Conor Bierfeldt- OF. 4/2/1991
Conor Bierfeldt was drafted in the 29th round of the 2013 draft out of Western Connecticut University. It would be difficult to overlook Bierfeldt at this level as he has an intriguing combination of raw power and speed. While the speed may diminish as he develops, the power will continue to grow and nearly one half of Bierfeldt’s hits in 2013 were extra base hits. He played both left field and right field in 2013 and should look for significant playing time in the outfield at Delmarva in 2014.
Lex Rutledge- LHP. 6/28/1991
A product of the 2012 draft, Rutledge was used as a starter at Aberdeen in 2012, but was transitioned to a relief role full time in 2013. The results were impressive as he posted a K/9 of 9.3 and held opponents to 7 runs over 43 innings at Delmarva. Rutledge struggled after being promoted to Frederick, but maintained his high strikeout rate in a small sample size. It is worth noting that Rutledge experienced the same adjustment period after being promoted to Aberdeen in 2012. He could definitely be an effective late innings option with a mid 90’s fastball and an above average curveball.
Zach Davies- LHP 2/7/1993
Davies is another potential late round steal, as he was drafted in the 26th round of the 2011 draft and was given a well overslot bonus to forego his college commitment. Davies saw improvements in both his K/9 and BB/9 this year while making 26 starts at Frederick. He is often commended for his high pitchability even with his lack of size. Davies will look for more of a challenge next year at Bowie, but at this point seems to have solid command over his four pitch mix which includes an above average changeup.
Tyler Wilson- RHP. 9/25/1989
A product of the 2011 draft, Wilson had a solid while unspectacular season in 2013. He looks to be more of fifth starter at this point, but had some impressive outings at AA, including holding Richmond to one hit over 7 innings with 7 strikeouts. He could compete for a rotation spot at Norfolk, but will most likely start the year in Bowie.
Mike Belfiore- LHP. 10/3/1988
Mike Belfiore has already debuted at the major league level and spent time on the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle in 2013. Belfiore improved both his BB/9 and K/9 at Norfolk this year, and should look to compete for the bullpen slot vacated by LHP Troy Patton during his 25 game suspension.
I hope that this piece was informative and entertaining. If selected to write for CamdenChat I would like to provide analysis and coverage for the Orioles’ minor league affiliates.
Andrew Morris- http://orioles-nest.blogspot.com/