Oakland A's Prospect Profile: Jeff Fiorentino
Name: Jeff Fiorentino
H/W: 6'1''/ 180 LB
To say that Jeff Fiorentino's path to the major leagues has been unorthodox would be an understatement. The Florida Atlantic alumnus made the unusual leap from High-A straight to the major leagues in 2005, one year after he was selected in the third round of the 2004 draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Fiorentino began his minor league career in a conventional manner. After signing with Baltimore in 2004, he was sent to the short-season NY-Penn League, where he immediately impressed by hitting .348 with a 1148 OPS in 14 games for Aberdeen. That quickly earned him a promotion to Low-A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League, where he continued to shine, batting .302 with a 954 OPS and 10 homers in 49 games.
The next season, Fiorentino was sent to High-A Frederick of the Carolina League, where he would spend most of the season. He appeared in 103 games for Frederick, batting .286 with an impressive .508 SLG. He hit 22 homers and drove-in 66 runs in 413 at-bats. The only negative aspect of his season was his walk total, which was a relatively paltry 34, resulting in a .346 OBP.
In the midst of that productive campaign was a short trip to the major leagues in May of 2005 to fill-in for an injured Sammy Sosa. Despite having less than a year of professional experience, Fiorentino made his major league debut with the Orioles on May 12, 2005. He collected two hits in two at-bats versus the Chicago White Sox that day and followed that performance with a 3-5 outing versus Chicago two days later. Fiorentino would appear in 13 games that May and early June for the Orioles, and he batted .250 with one homer in 44 at-bats before being sent back to Frederick for the rest of the season.
Fiorentino was sent to Double-A Bowie to start the 2006 campaign. He got off to a very slow start to begin the season, batting under .230 for the first three months of the year while he struggled with hamstring and ankle injuries. Fiorentino picked up the pace that July and wound-up with a respectable .275 BA. His power was down in 2006, as he had only a .413 SLG, but he did a better job of getting on-base, posting a .365 OBP against Double-A pitching. That late-season surge by Fiorentino earned him another shot in Baltimore, this time as a September call-up. He had 39 at-bats with the O's in 2006, and hit .256 with seven RBIs.
That off-season, Fiorentino was sent to the prospect showcase Arizona Fall League. He got off to a red-hot start for the Surprise Rafters, but faded down the stretch. In total, he appeared in 26 games for Surprise and hit .263 with three homers, 11 RBIs and an 806 OPS.
Fiorentino's 2007 was similar to his 2006 campaign, minus the injuries. He returned to Bowie, where he would stay for the entire season. He appeared in a career-high 126 games, logging the majority of his time in center and left. Once again, Fiorentino got off to a very slow start, but, once again, a fast finish saved his season. He wound-up batting .282 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 436 at-bats. Fiorentino's power numbers were better in 2007, as he had a .445 SLG, but his patience suffered once again, as his OBP fell to .346. After the season, Fiorention was sent back to the AFL. He struggled in the desert, however, batting only .152 in 33 at-bats for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in his return trip to the AFL.
Despite his early success with the O's, Fiorentino appeared to fall out of favor with Baltimore in 2007. Fiorentino was removed from the Orioles' 40-man roster in early January, when Baltimore acquired outfielder Chris Roberson from the Phillies. Fiorentino was claimed two days later by the Cincinnati Reds, but was later waived by Cincinnati in late January. The A's put a claim in on Fiorentino at that point and placed him on their 40-man roster.
Despite being rushed to the major leagues in 2005, Fiorentino's development has been fairly steady. In his three-plus seasons of minor league baseball, Fiorentino has shown improvement with his approach at the plate and with his defense. Although he still struggles against left-handed pitching and, at times, with his plate discipline, Fiorentino is mostly a polished product.
Despite being relatively slight of frame, Fiorentino has good power, especially for a centerfielder. He has a top-heavy swing, using only his upper-body to generate power as opposed to his legs. Fiorentino has strong wrists and good bat speed, but his approach at the plate (which involves putting his upper-body over the plate) has given him trouble against lefties throughout his career.
Fiorentino has been inconsistent with his plate patience during his minor league career. He has done very well against right-handed pitching throughout his career and could be a solid platoon player in the major leagues.
Defensively, Fiorentino can handle all three positions. He profiles well in centerfield, where he gets good reads on the ball and has an above-average arm. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he has good instincts. Fiorentino is a hard worker and he has a reputation for getting the most out of his skills.
Although he has been on a 40-man roster for three seasons, Fiorentino should have another option year left in 2008, as his first three options came before his fifth year of service. He will enter camp with a strong shot to win a fourth or fifth outfielder spot with the A's. Assuming the A's don't bring in any more outfielders, Fiorentino will compete with Ryan Sweeney, Carlos Gonzalez, Javier Herrera, Danny Putnam, Aaron Cunningham, Todd Linden and Richie Robnett for spots in the outfield with Travis Buck, Emil Brown and Chris Denorfia.
Fiorentino's defensive versatility will give him a good chance at a major league career. He profiles best as a platoon or fourth outfielder, where his weaknesses against left-handed pitching are likely to be less exposed. He has enough power to give the A's a ‘Jay Payton in 2006-like' contribution as a bench player down-the-road. If Fiorentino doesn't make the team out of spring training, he will likely head to Triple-A Sacramento, where the River Cats' coaching staff will work with him to increase his plate patience.
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