After a pre-draft workout in Camden Yards, the Orioles had little doubt that they would make Billy Rowell their first round pick in this year's draft if he was still on the board. Rowell justified that faith by performing like the best prep position player in his professional debut. At just 17 years old, he dominated Appalachian League pitching and even performed well in a cameo against college-trained New York-Penn pitchers. Not surprisingly, the overachieving Rowell has been cited for an attitude that some perceive as cocky. As long as he hits like this, that will remain a secondary concern.
DOB: 09/10/88 Height: 6-5 Weight: 205 B/T: L/R
Billy Rowell's age 17 season:
Billy Rowell has a fluid stroke from the left side with plenty of bat speed. He projects to hit for average and power as he moves up through the system. In fact, despite hitting several moon shots as an amateur, the Orioles think he has even more untapped power potential. Rowell does a good job of spraying the ball around, particularly for a 17 year old, but working on hitting the ball the other way will be a priority in his full season debut.
Rowell does a good job of staying back on breaking pitches, but will have to improve his pitch selection to realize his potential. He also got eaten alive by left-handers early in the year. As his professional debut wore on, though, Rowell made a series of encouraging adjustments. By the end of the season, he was cutting back on his strikeouts and hanging in against tough left-handers. Scouts within the organization and otherwise are confident in his readiness to handle South Atlantic League pitching. p>
Rowell struggled in his first exposure to third base, committing 18 errors in 47 games. Despite this, he is a good athlete with good defensive instincts. His arm strength is also more than enough for the position. Rowell certainly has work to do to become more consistent, but this is not an uncommon problem for a teenage infielder.
He does face two unique problems, however; he is extremely tall and potentially still growing, and his bat may force him through the system before he gets the defensive reps he needs. As a result, there is a good chance that he ends up at first base or a corner outfield slot.
Whatever position Rowell ends up at, his bat will play. He has the potential to be an ideal #3 or #4 hitter and should get there quickly for a draft pick out of high school. He'll begin 2007 in low-A Delmarva as their starting third baseman. The lineup figures to be prospect-laden, but Rowell will still be the #3 hitter. The pitching-oriented environment will keep him from posting overly gaudy statistics and the Orioles will try to keep him at one stop in his full-season debut. Nevertheless, Rowell has an advanced approach and could skip through multiple levels a year once the organization feels he is ready.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com