Coming into this season, the Orioles new they had a high-ceiling talent in Radhames Liz. When he held opponents to a .406 OPS in April and then earned a spot in the Futures Game, they realized that he finally started to add some polish to his raw arm strength. Liz faded a bit as the season wore on, particularly after a promotion to double-A Bowie, but his enormous ceiling solidified his ranking near the top of this prospect list.
DOB: 06/10/83 Height: 6-2 Weight: 170 B/T: R/R
Radhames Liz's age 23 season:
Radhames (pronounced ROD-HUM-US) started out the season with a 13 K outing in only 5 innings. He continued to dominate opposing Carolina League hitters until his promotion in mid-July, but his command occasionally caused him bouts of trouble. After his promotion, he fell into an old habit of overthrowing his fastball, only this time the hitters weren't as easily overmatched. Liz did a better job of keeping his fastball low in the zone this season, at least until late in the year. He still has to do a better job at it, as advanced hitters were able to wait for him to fall behind in the count and sit on a grooved fastball.
Liz has a delivery that scares some scouts, with an exceptionally fast arm action and a motion that ends with him falling towards first base. He has a powerful fastball that sits in the mid-90's and touches 98 MPH. His second pitch is a curveball that shows moments of being above-average but needs better consistency. Liz also throws a slider that is the less promising of his breaking pitches, but there are whispers that it will be scrapped in the long-run. His change-up, predictably, is inconsistent. He loses faith in it easily, but the organization is hopeful that it can become a solid third pitch.
At this point, Liz profiles as a high-leverage reliever. His lack of a consistent third pitch will keep him from immediate success in a rotation, but the Orioles are going to give him at least one more chance to stick as a starter. Frederick Keys Pitching Coach Blaine Beatty told ITW "[Relieveing] is just an alternative. He's a very intelligent guy and if we don't exhaust our [patience] with him as a starter, that's where he'll end up. I would definitely keep the ball in his hand as long as I can as a starter because you never know. He's got tremendous ability, strength, he's got a great pitcher's body and he's got great mechanics. So don't rule out starting just yet. [Relieving] will always be an alternative, since he's got that arm strength."
Liz is set for a return engagement in Bowie's rotation and is at least one full season away from contributing in the majors. His timetable could be pushed up with a conversion to the bullpen, but there is enough young pitching depth ahead of him in the organization to give him all the time he needs. Radhames Liz has tremendous potential as a strikeout machine in the major leagues, whether that is as a starter or reliever is to be determined.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com