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: Mark Fleisher
In an organization bereft of corner infield prospects, Fleisher is starting to get some attention. Fleisher was a two way player at Radford, but has focused solely on hitting as a pro since being drafted in the 14th round in 2005. The early results are promising, as the 6'4'' 235 lb. first baseman had 46 extra base hits in 120 games this season.
Contact: Jonathan Tucker
Tucker was drafted as a second baseman in the 20th round of the 2004 draft. Since then, he's seen some time at shortstop and in the outfield. At just 5'7'' and 23 years old, he offers little projection, but Tucker has been able to hit for a decent average during his slow rise through the system. This year, he led Delmarva with a .280 batting average.
Speed: Lorenzo Scott
Quite a few Shorebirds have plus speed, but Scott might just be the best overall athlete in the Orioles farm system. Scott was mostly a football player at Ball State and has had some trouble refining his tools into applicable baseball skills after some initial success in Rookie ball. Scott can, however, steal bases against the best catchers the Sally League has to offer.
Plate Discipline: Jonathan Tucker
With a 43:43 K:BB ratio and his previously noted high batting average, Tucker was productive batting out of the top two spots in the Shorebirds' batting order. Though he may never develop any semblance of power, his blend of on-base skills and defensive versatility profile him as a potential utility player.
Sleeper: Mark Fleisher
The Delmarva Shorebirds did not field a powerhouse offense in 2006, but Fleisher was a steady source of walks and power. Of particular note was Fleisher's second half, where he put up a .275/.368/.473 batting line. He'll start 2007 as Frederick's first baseman and, without anyone blocking him, may get pushed fast with a hot start.
Fastball: Brandon Erbe
Delmarva was home to a lot of plus fastballs in 2006, but none was better than the 18 year old Erbe's. He already works in the low to mid-90's, touching 97 MPH. As he matures, many scouts believe that he could eventually hit three digits. Erbe also has an effective cutter that he throws to offer hitters a different look.
Breaking Ball: Jim Hoey
Hoey has an electric fastball, but it sits a little flat in the strike zone at times. Besides, there is no shame to losing a category to Brandon Erbe. Hoey does, however, have the best breaking ball on the team. Despite spending the majority of his season in the Sally League, Hoey's slider helped him rise all the way to the major leagues before the rosters expanded in September. With two plus pitches, Hoey should be pitching in the back of the Orioles bullpen for years to come.
Changeup: Brandon Erbe
Erbe has one of the best arsenals in the minor leagues. What some fail to realize, though, is that he has uncanny pitchability for a teenager. Point in case, he is able to add and subtract from his fastball as effectively as any pitcher in the league.
Command: Brandon Erbe
Erbe tired down the stretch, but he only gave up 17 walks in the first half of the season. Moreover, Erbe surrendered just 2 home runs in over 114 innings despite being a flyball pitcher. That's objective statistical proof of what is plain to anyone that has seen him pitch; Erbe also has great command within the strike zone.
Sleeper: David Hernandez
I may have mentioned this before. The 21 year old Hernandez can touch 94 MPH with his fastball but more commonly works in the low-90's. His slider and changeup are inconsistent, but both have potential to be solid pitches. Hernandez will start 2007 in Frederick, where he will look to tighten up his secondary pitches and refine his command. If things break right, Hernandez has the potential to surprise a lot of people.
Infield Range: Blake Davis
When the Orioles drafted Davis in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, he was considered an agile and polished defender. After he made 17 errors in his first 50 professional games, it is clear that he still needs a bit more polish. But, Davis has proven to have the range needed to effectively handle shortstop. Based solely on his defensive potential, he could emerge as a utility infielder.
Outfield Range: Lorenzo Scott
Scott may not have the best instincts in centerfield, but his plus plus speed keeps it from being a handicap.
Arm: Arturo Rivas
Rivas was fairly well known around the Sally League for his strong right arm. The Orioles have experimented with him in centerfield because of his above average speed, but Rivas has classic rightfielder tools.
Questions? Comments? Send them via email to Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com