When John Sickels ranked the top 20 O's prospects over at Minor League Ball during spring training, I was just in time to list my own top ten. Here's an update on how they're doing.
1. Nick Markakis, OF, Frederick (Sickels Grade: B+)
The Greek Olympian is hitting .289/.368/.470 with nine homers and 48 RBI for Frederick. He's tied for the team lead (with Nate Spears) with 19 doubles and leads the club with 119 total bases. He's drawn 32 walks (also leads the team) compared to 48 strikeouts. Remains easily my undisputed #1 prospect in the organization.
2. Jeff Fiorentino, OF, Frederick (B)
Fiorentino got an unexpected cup of coffee earlier this year before being sent back down to Frederick. The more time that passes since that happened, the more I question what the point of it was. Fiorentino has hit .267/.335/.472 with seven homers and five steals (5/9 SB) for the Keys, which is not exactly thrilling, but he's certainly had his distractions this year. Looking back, it was probably really stupid to purchase his contract, but what can you do about it now?
3. Hayden Penn, RHP, Baltimore (B)
Penn's come a long way, baby, in a short amount of time. Started the season at Bowie before making the jump to the O's when Bedard went down. We've all seen Penn pitch by now, and I've said it before and will say it again: he's got the stuff that makes you look forward to him maturing, but he doesn't belong in a big league rotation at this point in time.
4. Val Majewski, OF, Baltimore (B+)
Would likely be in Ottawa if he were healthy, but he's out for the year with surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. As Sickels warns, shoulder injuries can be bad, bad news. We'll have to see where Val goes from here next spring.
5. John Maine, RHP, Ottawa (B-)
Maine has started 14 games for the Lynx, going 6-5 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 81 innings. Maine, quite frankly, has been very good for Ottawa.
He was actually mentioned in a Sun story just today:
Maine has pitched well enough this season for the Lynx that I think I'd at least not be frightened of him joining the rotation at some point if it were necessary, and I'd certainly rather have him than Ponson. He is another prospect that the Orioles organization has overrated; he's got a good chance to be good, but he'll probably never be great. His performance this season has been encouraging.
6. Chris Ray, RHP, Baltimore (B)
Ray's up with Baltimore now too, though in less of an important role than Penn. He has a hell of a fastball. Hasn't gotten a chance to do much for the O's yet.
7. Adam Loewen, LHP, Frederick (C+)
Visualize it: the 6'7" Daniel Cabrera and the 6'6" Adam Loewen, a righty and a lefty, throwing smoke for the Orioles. It's the thing old Fleer cards were made of. The card would be called DOUBLE TROUBLE or something equally unimaginative, and it would be worth 20 cents because no one likes those stupid cards except people like me. After an injury last summer, Loewen has had a bit of a problem with his control this year. In 15 starts, he's 2-5 with a 4.30 ERA. That's not so bad. He's got 81 strikeouts in 75 1/3, allowing just 73 hits. Well, OK, that's super. 51 walks. 10 wild pitches. Five hit batsmen. ...yeah, work on that, Adam. Sickels remarked that of all the pitchers (Penn included, of course), Loewen has the highest ceiling.
8. Tripper Johnson, 3B, Bowie (C+)
Tripper's hitting .275/.327/.431 for the Baysox, leading the team with seven homers and 40 RBI. The fact that I'd keep him in the top ten shows how shallow this system still is.
9. Walter Young, DH/1B, Ottawa (C+)
Officially listed this season at 6'5", 320 pounds. Young's 25 and his placement in Ottawa seems to indicate that the O's are really just humoring Young and the rest of us by employing him. He's got some power, but he's not tearing the cover off the ball or anything, hitting .290/.346/.455 with eight homers and 44 RBI. Young may never really get a shot and his weight isn't going to help him. I'd love to see Big Walt in an O's uniform swinging for the fences, but I don't know that we ever will. He needs an organization that both has the time to give him a chance and the patience to get past his rough patches. I don't know that we're that organization.
10. Nate Spears, 2B, Frederick (C)
Spears is my sentimental favorite, as I said when I put this list together. He reminds me of Brian Roberts, as he's a little second baseman that just screams "gritty ballplayer." The nice thing is, he hasn't let me down. So far this year, Spears is hitting .325/.378/.466 with 19 doubles, four triples, five steals and 109 total bases. He's tied for the team lead in doubles and leads in triples and on-base percentage. I really think Spears will sneak up and have some good years someday. He probably won't be an All-Star type player, but I could see him having a pretty decent-sized career if he finds the right place.
Anyone seen any of these guys play this year? Any impressions if you have?