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Prospect season in review: Michael Ohlman

A look at the 2014 season of Orioles' farmhand Michael Ohlman.

Michael Ohlman with the Bowie Baysox
Michael Ohlman with the Bowie Baysox
Phillip Peters

After working through both injuries and off-the-field issues, catching prospect Michael Ohlman put up big numbers for the single-A Frederick Keys in 2013, leading to big hopes for him with the Bowie Baysox in 2014. Unfortunately things didn't quite work out as he took a big step back at the plate.

If you're not familiar with Michael Ohlman, here is a quick background. He was drafted out of high school in the 11th round of the amateur draft, and after getting off to a bit of a disappointing start in his Orioles' career, he put up big numbers in 2012 with low-A Delmarva, although he played just 59 games due to both injuries from a car accident and a 50-game suspension for testing positive for recreational drugs. Then in 2013 he played in 100 games for the Keys and hit .313/.410/.524 with 13 home runs and 29 doubles. His prospect shine had faded, but the intrigue was back after that season. He was added to the 40-man roster and attending spring training in 2014 with the Orioles.

It's too soon to say that the buzz after his 2013 season was for naught, but he didn't even come close to living up to it this season. In 113 games for the Baysox he hit just .236/.310/.318 with only two home runs. His walk rate, which had been 15.8% in 2012 and 13.2% in 2013, dropped to 9.5%.

After a slow start to the 2014 season, Ohlman had two nice months in May and June. In May he hit his only two home runs of the season and slugged .408 overall in 21 games. He also showed good patience at the plate with a 14% walk rate over 85 plate appearances. And while he didn't homer in June, he did hit seven doubles and and hit over .300. But it was all downhill after that for Ohlman, as his numbers in July and August weren't good at all. In July he hit just .233 and took only three walks, and in August his OPS for the month was just .597, which included a slugging % of only .278.

Even before his poor 2014 season, there was some question if Ohlman had the skills to stick as a catcher at the big-league level, and belief that if he couldn't, his bat isn't good enough to play at first base. According to Tucker Blair from Baseball Prospectus, Ohlman has a good arm that isn't always accurate. In 2014 he threw out 27% of would-be base stealers and has a career rate of the same. He's 6'5", which puts him in the tall catcher category, and while those aren't common, we have of course seen first hand that it can work out. Blair rated his defense as 45/80 overall and it does seem that he has trouble with blocking the plate. Over the past three seasons he has 38 passed balls in 208 games at catcher, though some of that is surely because of the quality of pitching in the minor leagues.

It's hard to know what to expect from Ohlman from here on out. He'll be 24 next year and is likely to start the season again at double-A. It's worth noting that the Orioles included him in their Sarasota taxi squad of players that they thought they might have a use for at the big-league level this September. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't think there was a chance he could do something for them.