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, Radhames Liz is considered on the Frederick Keys because he pitched almost two-thirds of his innings 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: Nolan Reimold
In what proved to be an up and down year for the big 22 year old, Reimold showed flashes of his plus power. While he lags behind the ideal age/league context, Reimold still has a very high ceiling and could wind up as a 30+ home run threat eventually.
Contact: Paco Figueroa
Figueroa ended the season with a .284 batting average. It could have been higher, but he played much of the second half with pain in his right middle finger. Figueroa succeeds by combining a short stroke, above average speed and a pension for not striking out. He went down on strikes just 46 times in 375 plate appearances.
Speed: Jarod Rine
Rine did not have a good season by any means, hitting .213 in 70 games at Frederick. He did, however, display the speed that got him drafted in the ninth round of the 2003 draft out of West Virginia University. Though he was just 14 for 22 in stolen base attempts this year, he also has a long track record of being a good base-stealer.
Plate Discipline: Dustin Yount
Though he's failed to display the type of power necessary to get noticed as a player on the left side of the defensive spectrum, the 23 year old Yount did show his mastery of Carolina League pitching with a 41:43 K:BB ratio in 225 at bats. Bird watchers will be happy to hear that there was plenty of competition for this category on this year's Frederick Keys, who just happened to finish as Carolina League runner-up in the playoffs. Let's hope the parent club made note of this.
Sleeper: Jason Fransz
Fransz was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round of the 2002 draft. After being traded to the Texas Rangers, he blew out his knee and was released. The Orioles pounced quickly and signed him as a minor league free agent during the 2004 season. Since then, he's had an exceptional season and a half in Delmarva and, more recently, a decent year in Frederick. His batting average was nothing special, at .243, and he struck out almost once per game, but Fransz also led the team with 24 home runs. He's already 25 and has little defensive value, but Fransz will be given every opportunity to show that his power is legitimate in 2007 as a member of the Bowie Baysox.
Fastball: Radhames Liz
Liz has some of the best arm strength in the Orioles system, pumping his fastball consistently in the mid-90's. Not only does it come at hitters fast, but it has plenty of movement in the strike zone as well. For the first time in his career, Liz was effective at keeping his fastball low in the strike zone at Frederick.
Breaking Ball: Rommie Lewis
After taking a year off for personal reasons, Rommie Lewis again made his presence known in the Carolina League. He pitched out of the bullpen for the Keys, often relying on his slider. The pitch plays up because he is able to mix it effectively with his fastball.
Changeup: David Haehnel
Most relief pitchers that struggle with a conversion to starting do so because they lack the ability to change speeds. Not so with Haehnel, who has a plus changeup that makes his average fastball play up a notch.
Command: Rommie Lewis
Lewis was a key cog in the Keys' bullpen due to his command, as much as anything else. In his age 23 season, he walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings pitched. He also spotted his fastball and slider low in the strike zone effectively, leading to his impressive groundball tendencies.
Sleeper: Luis Ramirez
It took Ramirez until he was 24 years old to get a crack at the Carolina League, but he has had success at every stop. Nothing in his arsenal rates above average and he has extreme flyball tendencies, but Ramirez keeps making the most of his opportunities. In 2006, he struck out nearly a batter an inning and walked 3 batters per nine innings. It'll be worth tracking his progress in the upper minors, although he will have to make a few adjustments. He was able to get away with fastballs up in the zone far too often in A-ball.
Infield Range: Paco Figueroa
Figueroa doesn't project as a true utility player because his arm is too weak for the left side of the infield. He makes up for it by filling in effectively in the outfield and playing a very solid second base.
Outfield Range: Jarod Rine
In addition to his excellent speed, Rine has good instincts in the outfield. His speed, defense, and good plate discipline would make him a good bench player if he can just get his batting average into an acceptable range.
Arm: Nolan Reimold
Despite spending some time in centerfield, Reimold has classic right fielder tools. He may have somewhat of an old player's skillset, but Reimold is actually a good athlete. His range and speed are solid, but his arm stands out. He also has good instincts, knowing when to hit the cutoff man and when to challenge advancing baserunners.Questions? Comments? Send them via email to Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com