Talent evaluation for prospects is always a blend of statistical analysis and projection. The single biggest part of projecting a young baseball player involves grading out his tools. Here, we take a look at each individual team in the Orioles system and determine which prospect has the best power potential, best fastball, etc.
Players are considered to be a member of the team they played for the most in 2006. If a player split the season fairly evenly between two different teams, they will be considered for the higher level only. No prospects are counted as members of two different teams. For example, Billy Rowell is considered on the Bluefield Orioles because he played over 80% of his games there. On the other hand, Garrett Olson split his season between Frederick and Bowie and will be considered for the Bowie Top Tools segment only. All evaluations are made by ITW staff, with special consideration given to input from various coaching staff and personnel.
Power: Billy Rowell
This category was almost too close to call between young Kieron Pope and even younger Billy Rowell. In the end, the Oriole's first round draft pick won out. Although only 17 years old, Rowell was able to slug over .500 in his first exposure to professional pitching and wooden bats. He was especially effective with runners on base, slugging .560.
Contact: Pedro Florimon
Once again, this category was a very close call. The 19 year old Dominican shortstop took home the honors because he was one of the few Bluefield Orioles to strike out less than once per game, all while hitting .333 in 120 at bats.
Speed: Pedro Florimon
Florimon has a quick first step and has plenty of speed on the basepaths, as well. He was only 7 for 13 in stolen base attempts in Rookie ball, so he still has a ways to go before this tool is refined into an applicable skill.
Plate Discipline: Pedro Florimon
This was a bit of a strange year at Bluefield. Several candidates had high walk rates, but many of the same players had high strikeout rates as well. While Florimon's strikeout rate is less than perfect, it is hard to overlook his 28:29 BB:K ratio.
Sleeper: Paul Chmiel
Chmiel was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft. The 19 year old spent last season struggling at Bluefield; even failing to hit his weight. That's acceptable if you're a Walter Young clone, but Chmiel is a svelte 200 pounds. His second hack at the Appalachian League was much more successful as he hit a very respectable .286/.364/.429. His walk and strikeout rates were both above average, so there is little indication that he won't be able to carry his improvements forward.
Fastball: Zach Britton
Like in 2005, the O's drafted a projectable high school pitcher in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. Like in 2005, the player was available because his velocity had dipped somewhat as the season wore on. Unfortunately, Britton has not had nearly the instant success of Brandon Erbe. Nevertheless, Britton is a lanky 6'2'' lefty that already touches 92-93 MPH. As he fills out, many suspect he may add a few more notches on that fastball and it could become a consistent plus plus pitch.
Breaking Ball: Josh Faiola
After performing exceedingly well in the Cape Cod League in 2004, Faiola was considered one of the top amateur pitchers in the country. After he hurt his pitching hand while moving some furniture, he never quite looked the same and his draft stock slipped considerably. Because of that, the Orioles were able to nab him in the 32nd round of the 2005 draft and the 24th round of the 2006 draft after he opted to return to school. Pitching out of relief for Bluefield, Faiola's slider looked as sharp as ever. His slider, coupled with his three quarters delivery, helped him keep opponents from getting much lift on the ball.
Changeup: Zach Jevne
Despite being a 6'7'', Jevne is unable to hit 90 MPH on a radar gun. Instead, he relies on his plus change-up and ability to induce groundballs to be effective.
Command: Zach Jevne
Jevne turned 24 in August, so his chance at prospectdom is marginal. Nevertheless, he was able to rely on his relative experience and pound the strike zone against Appalachian League hitters. With only five walks allowed in over 46 innings, Jevne stood out in a league filled with unharnessed arms.
Sleeper: Josh Faiola
Generally, when you're 22 years old and relieving in rookie ball, you're not much of a prospect. But Faiola was effective in just about everything the Orioles asked him to do. He struck out 35 hitters in 36 innings, allowed only two home runs, walked only 8 batters, and kept the ball on the ground. Considering he was once much more highly regarded, it's very possible that his gaudy statistics are for real. We'll get a good opportunity to find out when he breaks camp in 2006 with the Delmarva Shorebirds, but it wouldn't be a total shock if he's not there long.
Infield Range: Bobby Henson
Bobby Henson has all the tools needed to be a good shortstop. At 18 years old, only consistency was lacking in his first professional season; as he was credited with 26 errors in 43 games. This isn't an uncommon problem and nobody I've talked to thinks he is going to be moved off of shortstop in the near future.
Outfield Range: Richard Oleo
The 20 year old Oleo might not have inspired much confidence at the plate, but he was a staple in center field for Bluefield this season. He has above-average speed and takes good routes to the ball. He could handle center field at higher levels, if his bat helps provide the opportunity.
Arm: Bobby Henson
As stated, Henson has all the tools you look for in a good shortstop. He was actually a top prep pitcher and quarterback in high school and, predictably, his arm grades out as his best tool. He can make throws from all over the diamond and, in time, most in the organization feel that he will more consistently harness his excellent defensive tools.
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