First Half Surprises No. 2: Jeff Fiorentino

With the full-season All-Star games complete, takes a look at the top five prospect surprises of the first half of the 2009 season. Inside, ITO continues the first half surprises with Fio at No. 2.

OF Jeff Fiorentino, Age 26, Claimed Off Waivers in 2008

Norfolk: .325 AVG, .398 OBP, .515 SLG, .913 OPS, 26 XBH, 9 SB

If you look for the definition of "rushed" in a baseball dictionary, you may find Jeff Fiorentino's picture next to it. It seems like yesterday that a young 22-year-old kid barely into his first full professional season was called up to the big leagues. Straight from Frederick, he made Matt Wieters' year and a half seem like an eternity. Sammy Sosa had gone down with an injury and was not going to be able to play in the Orioles only trip to Chicago. The Orioles decided to turn to the one in his first full year out of Florida Atlantic University.

Well, four years later, he has come full circle. Landing in the Reds and quickly moving to the Atheltics' organization, the Orioles re-claimed Fiorentino off waivers. It's looking like a good move. They got a 26-yearold outfielder with some major league experience and could be one of those guys who could get a call in September (or earlier if there is an injury). Who knows if Felix Pie is going to be here at the beginning of next season, but it is always good to have many outfielders pushing the majors.

But, why is Fiorentino's success a surprise? Well, he had not hit .300 since his first professional season in 2004 (.307 over Delmarva and Aberdeen, the lower A levels). He also has not slugged like he has (.487 this year) since his 2005 season in Frederick (.508). But, the most impressive was his .398 first half OBP which would have been a career high had it not fallen a few points since. His OPS is also the second highest of his career to his 2004 OPS of .987.

Realistically, his minor league career is very similar to that of current injured Orioles outfielder Luis Montanez, the difference being the occasional call up to the majors. Fiorentino, like Lou, had initially struggled in his first shot at an upper level, but improved in his second appearance there.

In 2006 he hit .275 in double-A Bowie and then .282 the following year. He boosted his OPS from .778 to .791 over the two years. Then, in 2008, the year Fiorentino made his triple-A debut, he hit .268 between the Orioles organization and Oakland's and he did not hit the ball with much authority. A .361 OPS and .702 SLG is nothing compared to what he is doing this year.

So what is next for the 26-year-old outfielder? Lou Montanez got his first call when Adam Jones went down with an injury, but unlike last year, there is depth in the majors. With just 98 plate appearances at the highest level, he may get another look, but time is running out at his age.

It will not be a surprise if he continues his hot hitting in the big leagues. After all, his trend of improving with his second shot has worked at the previous levels.

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