The Frederick Keys open up Carolina League play tonight in Lynchburg at 6:05 PM. Despite a 61-78 record, the 2013 Keys, led by Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Tim Berry and Michael Ohlman, had a solid season in terms of player development. Who will be this year's success stories? Let's have a look...shall we?
Branden Kline (SP): The hometown favorite and UVA product gets the Opening Day nod for the Keys. Though he was drafted in 2012, Kline has only pitched in 21 professional games (11 starts in the O's system and 10 appearances for the 2013 Arizona Fall League Champion Surprise Saguaros) due to an ankle injury suffered last season. The big righty has shown a solid ability to induce grounders, but High A competition ought to be a good test of his stuff.
Matt Taylor (SP): The only left-handed starter for the Keys, Taylor makes the jump to Frederick after 46 games (including 37 starts) and two seasons at Delmarva. Taylor generates lots of unproductive contact, but walks continue to be a problem.
Lex Rutledge (RP): Another 2012 draftee, the lefty from Samford has been used exclusively out of the bullpen, but profiles as maybe something more than just a LOOGY. In fact, Rutledge has faced 259 righties in his career and has pitched to a 2.82 FIP. His fastball can touch the high 90s and he backs that up with a curve and a slider.
Parker Bridwell (SP): After teasing prospect watchers for 54 starts at Delmarva, the mercurial Texan takes his talents to Harry Grove Stadium for 2014. Bridwell struck out 22.8% of batters faced and walked 9.4% (his best numbers since his 12 game stint at Aberdeen in 2011). Still only 22, Bridwell could be poised for a breakout.
Matt Hobgood (RP): O's fans have cursed the name of the Norco, CA native for years, but perhaps saw a glimmer of hope last year. Fit and healthy for maybe the first time in his Orioles career, Hobgood was used almost solely in relief and the role seemed to suit him. Hobgood pulled the nifty trick of matching his 56.7% GB rate at Delmarva and Frederick and actually increased his K rate and lowered his BB rate at Frederick.
Adrian Marin (SS): At the age of 20, Marin is the youngest player on the Keys roster. Remind you of another young Miami native? Well, stop that. Marin doesn't quite have the upside of Manny Machado, but could strive to be a poor man's Brian Roberts. While Marin didn't get much love in the offseason prospect lists, Baseball America DID name him 13th best player in the system under 25, so there's that.
Torsten Boss (OF): I feel obligated to mention Boss because his name is Torsten Boss, but he only slashed .238/.333/.358 at Delmarva while striking out 106 times in 106 games. Boss's platoon splits are real and pronounced.
Trent Mummey, Glynn Davis and Brenden Webb (OFs): For a variety of reasons, these gifted athletes have yet to put it all together. Mummey has been plagued by injuries and Webb has had issues making contact. Davis exhibits speed and athleticism, but his overall offensive game has yet to develop. Baseball America named Glynn Davis the fastest baserunner in the system.
Wynston Sawyer (C): Repeating at Delmarva in 2013, Sawyer's wOBA jumped from .289 to a solid .344. If you put any stock in minor league defensive stats, then maybe his defense behind the dish has shown improvement. The fact that the coaching staff at Delmarva doubled his workload at catcher while limiting him to 6 games at 1B (down from 35 in 2012) maybe is more telling.
Also of Note
- After a modestly successful first crack at pitching professionally, former infielder Mychal Givens gets bumped up to Frederick.
- At 21, Mark Blackmar is the second youngest player on the Keys roster. Since being selected in the 2011 draft, he's advanced through the system at a level per year.
- Indy Leagues vet Tucker Nathans returns to the Keys after a solid turn with ABL Champs, the Perth Heat.
- Luis Pujols takes over as manager for Ryan Minor, who's returned to Delmarva.
- Promotion highlights include an appearance by the Million Dollar Man on June 27, NIck Markakis bobbleheads on July 26 and Matt Wieters bobbleheads on August 30. The popular Belly Buster and Thirsty Thursday promotions return this season as do Saturday night fireworks staring in May.