Top Tools: Aberdeen Ironbirds

ITW takes a look at the Aberdeen Ironbirds and determines which prospect has the best power potential, best fastball, as well as other tools. And we even point out a few sleepers.

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 consideration to input from various coaching staff and personnel.


Power: Chris Vinyard

After slugging .711 in June, a lot of fans became excited about having a genuine first base prospect for the first time in years. By July, however, Vinyard started to look more like a 38th round pick. He chased more balls out of the zone and became very pull conscious, resulting in a .373 slugging percentage for the month. The organization decided to give him an off day when roving hitting instructor Danny Walling was in town and it paid immediate dividends, as Vinyard again slugged over .500 for the rest of the short season. He has good bat speed through the zone and nice loft to his swing. When Vinyard is on, he is capable of hitting the ball out in any part of the ballpark.

Contact: Chris Vinyard

It is hard to find fault with the season that Vinyard had at the plate. Striking out 62 times in 292 plate appearances is certainly less than ideal, but it's more than acceptable for a big power hitter like Vinyard. He has the potential to be a plus hitter across the board, as he showed by hitting .284 for the duration of the season.

Speed: Robert Andrews

In just 34 games, Andrews managed 13 stolen bases. What's more, he was only caught stealing on three occasions. Andrews' plus speed also helped him in centerfield, where he used it to help compensate for his marginal ability to read fly balls.

Plate Discipline: Victor Castillo

Castillo split his playing time behind the plate with four other catchers at one point or another this season. Even with Brandon Snyder in Aberdeen for the majority of the short season, Castillo emerged as the most effective of them all. One of the main reasons he was effective was that in 134 at bats, the 21 year old Venezuelan managed to walk 15 times against only 19 strikeouts.

Sleeper: David Cash

Cash was drafted in the 40th round in 2006 after an abysmal season at the University of South Carolina. Yet, when he came to Aberdeen, he came to play. The 20 year old switch-hitting shortstop struggled against lefties with a .546 OPS, but he managed to be much more effective when turned around (.821 OPS against right-handers). He may never hit for much power, but a middle infielder who takes his share of walks and doesn't strike out excessively always has a chance.


Fastball: Luis Lebron

Lebron had a breakout season of sorts. He's always had a live arm, but this time he was able to harness it with a modicum of control to be named a New York-Penn League All-Star. Working out of relief, Lebron's fastball sits in the mid-90's and touches 97 MPH on occasion. This season, he registered 46 strikeouts in barely over 30 innings. Lebron's ERA ended up at a sparkling 1.17.

Breaking Ball: Pedro Beato

At this point, Beato's stuff is soundly ahead of his command. Though he was edged out in the previous category, Beato does show glimpses of a plus slider. Now two full years removed from Tommy John surgery, Beato is a prime candidate to greatly improve his consistency in 2007. One of the first signs of such progress would be the command of his very promising slider.

Changeup: Jason Berken

Rating the best changeup in short-season leagues can be a bit like rating the best knuckleball. At this point in their careers, few pitchers have a feel for a good changeup. Nevertheless, Jason Berken has a four pitch assortment that includes a developing changeup. It should only become more effective as he distances himself from Tommy John surgery in 2004 and gains arm strength.

Command: Jeffrey Moore

For a short-season team, Aberdeen had a lot of candidates for this category. But when a guy walks just five batters in almost 80 innings, it's tough to pick against him. This is nothing new to Moore, who walked only eight batters in over 40 innings last year in Bluefield.

Sleeper: Ryan Stadanlick

At 21 years old, Stadanlick is still a very inexperienced pitcher. A couple of years ago, he was a promising college outfielder at St. Joseph's, with plus speed and power potential. His coach at the time, Shawn Pender, who happened to be a former national crosschecker for the Orioles, saw a hole in his swing that he believed would keep Stadanlick from being a successful hitter in the professional ranks. So Pender converted him to pitching. Unfortunately for Stadanlick, he got himself ruled academically ineligible for his final college season and was confined to a few bullpen sessions in the spring. The Orioles felt they had a better read on him than any other team, thanks to Pender, and gambled on his ability to hit the mid-90's. His first pro season was a mixed bag, but he did show an excellent ability to keep the ball on the ground.


Infield Range: Jedidiah Stephen

Stephen may leave fans wanting on the offensive side of the ball, but he has the makings of a big league shortstop on defense. He gets to balls on his left, on his right, and he made only six errors through 42 games.

Outfield Range: Brandon Tripp

Tripp is an exceptional athlete. He has plus speed and plus instincts in centerfield, which makes him quite fun to watch out there. Delmarva's 2007 pitching rotation should be hoping that Tripp's bat comes around enough for him to play there every day. He'll make their job quite a bit easier.

Arm: Jedidiah Stephen

While Stephen impresses with his range at shortstop, the first thing you will notice is his canon arm. The combination of the two defensive tools allows him to make plays very deep to his right.

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