HT: 6-1 WT: 195 POS: OF
Bluefield Orioles - (20 G, 66 AB, .197/.284/.227)
A year after taking the Appalachian League by storm, and then flopping in the New York-Penn League, Kieron Pope barely got underway. The 21 year old has a pro body already, but shoulder woes kept him from contributing much in 2007. A raw talent, lost development time impacts Pope more than most. He is supposed to be ready to go in 2008, in what should be an important year for his development.
Pope's numbers this year pretty much need to be thrown out. Small sample size combined with plenty of rust help explain his struggles. He rates this highly on this list for one reason - his incredible raw power gives him an enormous ceiling.
Pope will struggle to hit for average at higher levels because he doesn't make consistent contact and can look lost against breaking balls. When he does make contact, though, the ball tends to go a long way. He's several years and hundreds of at bats away from Baltimore, but Pope has the ceiling of a ~.260 hitter with 30+ home runs.
Pope is a decent athlete, but his speed is no more than average. Combined with his below-average arm, he's pretty much confined to left field. However, he's no liability out there and should be at least average in the long run.
As stated above, there is a huge gap between what Kieron Pope is and what he could be. He'll get a full season in at low-A Delmarva and will likely mix struggles in with his accomplishments. It's not clear when, or if, things will click for Pope, but he could be the type of player that continues improving well into his twenties. The Orioles should have a lot better idea of what they have on their hands after 2008.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com