Biggest Surprise: Val Majewski (91 G, 332 AB, .295/.358/.410, 6/10 SB)
Majewski's career path is well documented in the Orioles' organization. He was a top prospect before tearing his labrum in late 2004. After taking 2005 off to rehab, his return to triple-A Ottawa in 2006 was a big disappointment. Another year removed from injury and with a spectacular reputation for his work ethic, many expected Majewski to return to top form this year. When he was unexpectedly assigned to double-A Bowie to start the season, expectations for the kinds of numbers he was going to put up only rose. Unfortunately, Majewski's bat speed seems to be a thing of the past and he was unable to display the kind of power necessary from a corner outfield prospect.
Most Improved Pitcher: Jim Miller (2-3, 2.79 ERA, 38.2 IP, 49 K, 25 BB, 0 HR, 4 SV)
One of the pieces of the Rodrigo Lopez deal, Miller was one of the best relievers in the minor leagues earlier in his career. A high flyball rate and diminishing strikeout rate almost made him come undone in 2006, but Miller's command of his good stuff improved this year. His strikeout rate spiked again and, although he still had a high flyball rate, he managed to go almost 40 innings in double-A without allowing a homerun.
Miller is certainly a big league arm and, quite possibly, a future high-leverage reliever.
Most Improved Position Player: Nolan Reimold (50 G, 186 AB, .306/.365/.565, 2/5 SB)
Although he was confined to 50 games due to a nagging oblique injury, Reimold proved he could hit advanced pitching this year. He still struggled a bit against breaking balls, as evidenced by a .426 difference in his OPS vs. lefties and righties, but there was a noticeable improvement from 2006. In addition, Reimold looked more comfortable in right field, improving his routes to flyballs.
Reimold was very confident in his ability to adjust to more advanced pitching when he spoke to ITW earlier this season.
"It's not like they throw any harder or anything like that. They work you a little different, maybe a little more off-speed [pitches]. They might pitch you differently in different counts. It's nothing I couldn't adjust to."
Best Baysox Pitcher: Radhames Liz (11-4, 3.22 ERA, 137.0 IP, 161 K, 70 BB, 13 HR)
Liz was already a top prospect entering this season, with a blazing fastball and a promising curveball. This year, however, Liz convinced many observers that he was more than just a future high-leverage reliever. He took several starts into the 7th or 8th inning and was the organization's Jim Palmer Award winner (for pitcher of the year).
Baysox Manager Bien Figueroa spoke with ITW in May, stating:
"[Liz] just needs to be more consistent throwing strikes. He's looked pretty good, but he's going to get better."
Coaches would still like to see him work in the strike zone more often, but his second half performance (5-0, 2.18 ERA) is evidence that Liz is now more pitcher than thrower.
Biggest Disappointment: Brandon Sing (64 G, 214 AB, .187/.231/.262, 3/4 SB)
The 6-5 first baseman had consistently outperformed expectations in the Chicago Cubs' organization until a disappointing 2006 campaign. However, there appeared to be a very good reason for 2006 to be viewed as the outlier.
"I had an allergic inflammation in Spring Training with all the dry air in Arizona, which caused bumps under my eyes and on my eyelids." Sing told Inside The Warehouse. "I wear contacts, so it really affected my eyesight. It affected me pretty much all year."
With a fresh start in a new organization, many expected Sing to resume his slugging ways. Unfortunately, his bat never got going and his prospect status took another hit.
Most Valuable Baysox Player: Luis Jimenez (90 G, 320 AB, .328/.399/.591, 1/2 SB)
Jimenez was originally lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft in 2003. Although he's largely posted solid figures since then, the Orioles were able to re-acquire the 25 year old slugger when he got off to a slow start for Pawtucket in the International League. With 22 homeruns and 79 RBI's in 90 games, Jimenez was able to help cover for Brandon Sing's lack of production. He was particularly effective against right-handers, posting a .345/.410/.643 line against them. Unfortunately, Jimenez is a butcher in the field, committing 11 errors despite spending a significant chunk of time as a designated hitter.
Paco Figueroa: Looking for the safest bet on the Baysox to carve out some sort of major league role? Look no further. Figueroa hit a solid .280, drew plenty of walks, stole bases, played solid defense at a premium position and displayed versatility. At the very least, he is a future valuable bench player. Bien Figueroa (no relation) has even claimed "He reminds me of Brian Roberts when he was younger."
David Haehnel: OK, that didn't go so well. After an unsuccessful conversion to starting, Haehnel went back to relieving this year, a role he had thrived at in the past. With a 6.00 ERA and the peripherals to match, his command has to improve for him to succeed in any role.
Jeff Fiorentino: Once again, Fiorentino needed a torrid second half to make up for a slow start. The only problem is that he's another year older and has no more option years remaining. It looks like he'll have to make the big league squad out of spring training or will likely be lost to the waiver wire.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com