Delmarva's Best: Ron Welty

Ron Welty is making the Orioles look pretty good for taking him in the 20th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. After skipping a level and playing in his first full season, Welty has shown he has five-tool potential. Inside, Welty and his coaches talk about the season and what the future may hold for the 21-year-old.

To put it simply, Ron Welty has been the best player on the mid-A Delmarva Shorebirds. If it is an offensive category, he probably leads the team in it.

The right-handed hitting right-fielder was solid in his professional debut in Rookie-level Bluefield, batting .314/.362/.440 in 54 games in 2008 after being the 20th-round pick (596th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He's backed that up with a similar season in 2009 skipping over low-A Aberdeen in his first full-length season.

At this point in the season he has played in exactly twice as many games as he did last year (110 entering Tuesday) and has shown no signs of slowing down as many players hit a wall in the dog days of August.

To back up the opening statement, Welty leads the Shorebirds in the triple crown categories (.301/9/60), hits (119), total bases (171), runs (59), on-base percentage (.379), slugging (.432), on-base plus slugging (.810), and doubles (23) entering Tuesday's play. Welty ranks seventh in the South Atlantic League in average and 12th in OPS.

The one problem he has had this year is with contact. He has failed to do so in 23 percent of his plate appearances, striking out 106 times. A two percent increase over 2008. He leads the Shorebirds in this category as well.

Despite his lack of contact, Shorebirds hitting instructor Ryan Minor is confident in the 21-year-old outfielder.

"What helped him a lot is he's able to hit the ball away and he's not afraid to hit with two strikes," Minor said. "He needs to keep working on pitch selection when he gets ahead in the count and not chase balls out of the zone and he's done a pretty good job with that this year."

Welty said he tries to wait for a fastball he can drive when he is ahead, but shifts to contact mode when gets behind in the count.

"If I get behind, I try to battle and just put something in play, other than that, just try to hit something hard up the middle or the other way," Welty said.

His manager, Orlando Gomez, has been impressed with Welty's work and has taken notice of it throughout the season.

"He's really getting better everyday, improving in all phases of the game," Gomez said, taking time to note the defense specifically.

Gomez said Welty has improved a lot with his routes on fly balls and his arm, and both are noticeable. Welty also said that his accuracy was the most-improved aspect of his game coming into this year, but don't just take his word for it. In Bluefield last year Welty committed four errors in 44 games in right field for a .939 fielding percentage. He had just one assist. This year, he leads Shorebirds outfielders with 10 assists, all from right field and he has just two errors, improving his fielding percentage in right to .990.

Looking ahead, there is a lot to be excited about this outfielder who has proven to be a five-tool player for the Shorebirds. He has even stolen 12 bases in 16 attempts. While this does not lead the team, it shows another dimension of his game that exists.

He is going to need to cut down on his strikeouts, but if he spends 2010 in high-A Frederick, his power numbers could see a major boost. While Welty has enjoyed more success at home than most of his teammates, he still has a 40-point difference in his road and home splits (.319 average at home, .279 average on the road). He is even slugging .460 on the road. It will be interesting to see how he does in the hitters haven that is Harry Grove Stadium.

When asked if he could increase his power output next year to 20-plus home runs, Welty was fairly confident he could.

"I think could do it, personally" Welty told "The fence isn't a big part of it, just try to drive the ball and hopefully it will go out. I'll take doubles too, it's all part of the game. Anything will be good, maybe we'll see next year."

One other interesting split is that he absolutely terrorizes left-handed pitching, batting .358/.435/.541, even with 26 strikeouts in 109 at-bats. He has held his own against righties also, but there is a noticeable difference, batting .279/.357/.390.

"I feel like if I face anyone I can hit them pretty hard," Welty said. "I just got to get a good pitch. I take a lot of pride in my hitting, I'd say I've been working on that. I really like my hitting."

He's not the only one who likes his hitting and his defense is not bad either. His all-around play has Gomez giving him some of the highest praise a manager at this level can give a player:

"I think you guys are seeing a good player over here and one day he's going to be playing in the big leagues."

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