Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels posted his top 20 Orioles prospects, so give that a look. As expected, he sees the system as very thin, which it is, and thinks there are but a few real prospects, which there are.
John has Nick Markakis and Val Majewski on top of his list, which I wouldn't argue with. Val hit fairly well at Bowie last year (.307/.359/.490) before making a quick jump to the bigs for a cup of coffee. It'll be interesting to see what he does when he gets back from the torn labrum that's going to keep him out this year.
Markakis is further back, just 21 years old. He hit very well at Delmarva of the Sally League last season, coming in at .299/.371/.470, which shows some encouraging patience for a player so young. Jeff Fiorentino comes in third.
John's next three are all RHPs: 20-year old Hayden Penn, Chris Ray, and John Maine, who also had a short stint with the O's last season and got rocked around in one start after a mediocre season in Ottawa that came after five nice starts at Bowie.
Of course I'm rooting for Walter Young, a 6-5, 300-pound first baseman that has yet to climb above Double-A. Young crushed the ball in the Sally in '02 and crushed it again at Bowie last year, but struck out a ton and didn't walk much. Who can't root for a big fat guy, though?
My personal top 10, which isn't much different than John's:
- Nick Markakis, OF
- Jeff Fiorentino, OF
- Hayden Penn, RHP
- Val Majewski, OF
- John Maine, RHP
- Chris Ray, RHP
- Adam Loewen, LHP
- Tripper Johnson, 3B
- Walter Young, 1B
- Nate Spears, 2B/SS
I have Spears up there because I really like him as the sleeper in our system. He's a little guy (5-11, 155), bats lefty, and hit 11 triples at Delmarva last season. He may become nothing, but he's a lot more intriguing (in my mind) than a lot of the other guys in the same range in our system. Could be another Brian Roberts-type, though it's hard to compare because at 19, Roberts was playing at South Carolina. At 21 with the Shorebirds, Roberts hit .240/.349/.323, which is well below Spears' .275/.358/.407 at 19. Still, though, a tricky comparison.
But our system is still very weak, which it has been forever. The good news? It might be slowly improving. Maybe. Got any good news?