HT: 6-2 WT: 195 POS: 3B/SS
Aberdeen Ironbirds/Frederick Keys (42 G, 146 AB, .288/.329/.459)
Drafted by the Orioles in the 8th round of the 2006 draft, Jedidiah Stephen was a senior sign out of Ohio State University. Because he lacked the leverage of the ability to go back to school, he signed for just $25,000.
Stephen had trouble in his first go-around with the Ironbirds, hitting just .174 in 138 at bats. Now 23 years old, Stephen was jumped up to high-A Frederick after showing more success in a return engagement to the New York-Penn League.
Despite his age and modest signing bonus, Stephen has a well-rounded tool set. He's not a patient hitter, but he has a quick level swing and solid contact skills. He even showed a bit of pop in college and again this season, though it is more of the gap variety. He's an average runner, maybe even a tick above, but Stephen isn't a great base-stealing threat.
Stephen has shown that he is particularly adept at hitting left-handed pitching, which would lend itself to a reserve role. If you're looking for an optimistic major league comp, think Chris Gomez.
Physically, Stephen resembles one of the modern-era large-framed shortstops. He saw a lot of time at third base this season, in deference to Tyler Henson, but he is the better shortstop of the two. He's being groomed as a utility player, which meshes with his offensive projections, but he's a capable defender at any infield spot.
Stephen may skip over low-A Delmarva entirely and start out 2008 in Frederick. Organizational needs will likely dictate how fast he moves up, as he is behind a few players with higher upsides on the O's depth chart. He may not make a major league appearance until he is well into his twenties and the potential is there for him to flame out as triple-A filler. However, Chris Gomez was an underrated contributor to an Orioles team that leaned too heavy to the left at the plate and Stephen has a good chance of filling a similar role.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com