Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | By Alex Eisenberg
For an overview of the process I use to grade players, the factors I use in determining where a player ranks, and other frequently asked questions, please click here. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the season starts. If you disagree, you can make your case by contacting me.
You can find a full listing of each team's top prospect list in the Top Prospects of 2009 Archive Page. Also, each team will have their Team Page published when their top prospect list becomes available. Team pages include team rosters, stats, payroll and front office information, past Baseball-Intellect articles related to that team, and links to some of the team's best fan sites. We continue with the remaining Baltimore Orioles...
Also See: Baltimore Orioles, Prospects 1 - 5
Body Type - perhaps a little projection left, but not a great ahtlete
Snyder has bounced back in a major way following his disastrous 2006 season in which he was hampered by a shoulder injury and saw his K% soar, and his power drop.
You see the elbow disappearing behind the back (remember what I said about Wieters) though the swing gets a bit long. He shows good bat speed as he's able to turn on a firm front leg. His hips occasionally open a little early, but I'm nitpicking. I do like the two-hand finish though it's not necessary for a hitter, but at least it's an indication he's getting a full and forceful hip rotation.
Like Reimold, Snyder is a streaky player--though he might just be a second half hitter because he's gotten hot in each of the past two years. His plate discipline--never great in the first place--kinda goes out the window when he's locked in because he's able to hit almost anything. Let's take a look at a couple of Snyder's numbers from June-on.
June - .326 BA, .812 OPS, .389 BABIP
July - .330, .967, .363
August - .388, .982, .468
Even during his lone .900+ OPS month in 2007, his BABIP was .438.
Snyder shows the ability to make hard contact. He centers the ball well, resulting in line drives. He also rarely pops out. An infield fly is almost like a strikeout. Snyder's career infield fly percentage is just 5.
Snyder has improved his pitch recognition, but still struggles on breaking stuff. One positive is the drop in his K% last year though it should be noted the walks didn't increase.
Snyder's power is still developing--and remember, he just played his age-21 season even though he seems like he's been around for a while. The question is if Snyder has the bat to play first base everyday. That is still debateable.
His value takes a huge spike if he shows he's capable of playing third base. And for the Orioles it makes a lot of sense. There is no third base prospect in their system besides Billy Rowell, who is still a long ways off. Melvin Mora's contract is up after the year and the third base spot could be there for the taking.
Snyder's profile suggest he could be in for a breakout next season so we'll see what happens.
Best Case Outcome - Above average third baseman or average first baseman
More Likely Outcome - Average third baseman or slightly below average first baseman.
Body Type - athletic and projectable
Fastball - Some publications have Erbe's fastball sitting between 92 and 94, touch 95. Another publication (who probably has seen more of Erbe than any other outlet) states that Erbe actually sits in the 90 - 92 range, while touching the 93 - 95 range. (Source: Orioles Hangout) So you have a bunch of varying accounts.
There is a tendency for Erbe to leave his fastball up in the zone. One concern regarding Erbe is his fastball can be too true at times. This shows up in his high home run rates. He throws both a 2 and 4-seamer.
Slider - Solid bite, and it's improving though still inconsistent
Change-Up - Another improving pitch...shows good feel...needs to throw it more in game situations
Consistency - Erbe has a habit of putting up some truly awful performances every once in a while and that leads to a lot of people using the "well if you took out this start, and that start, his numbers look really good..." qualifier. If he's going to make it as a starter, he needs to become more consistent.
However, when you look at Erbe as a whole, you'll notice he misses bats, significantly improved his control, and had a very low BABIP (which is a good sign considering how hard he was hit in 2007).
Erbe has also battled his mechanics for the past couple years, so that could easily be a major cause of Erbe's inconsistency.
Best Case Outcome - No. 3 starter...there is a big margin between Erbe's upside and what he is now
More Likely Outcome - Power arm out of the bullpen
Body Type - big and projectable...not the best athlete, but not bad either
Got off to a great start in his debut season, but has been marred by injuries and attitude problems, and a lack of production since.
Reports were that his attitude improved as the season wore on. His work ethic was never an issue. His inflated sense of self-worth was. Rowell endured a horrific slump in June, posting a .537 OPS, but bounced back for a respectable finish as he posted a .745 and .784 OPS in July and August, respectively.
A quick glance at Rowell's stat line will leave you thoroughly unimpressed.
His power was middling, he struck in a high percentage of his plate appearances, he didn't walk all that much, and hit the ball on the ground far too often.
The one bright spot has been his ability to make hard contact when contact was actually made.
Video on Rowell has been very hard to find, but given his high GB% and K%, one would have to think there are various issues with his swing. It may be too long, or something is really wrong with his swing plane or path...it may be a combination of all those things. But the bottom line is he needs to make more contact and he needs to hit the ball in the air more.
Hit the Ball in the Air
Of the fly balls Rowell hit last year, 32.2% of them became extra base hits. A quick look at a mixture of prospects, some with elite power, some with excellent contact skills, some not very good at all, the elite power hitters mostly fell between the percentages of 25 and 28. There were three prospects with a percentage of greater than 32: Rowell, Tyler Flowers (32.7%), and Aaron Cunningham (32.1%)
That may be a result of small sample size, but over his professional career, Rowell's fly balls have become an extra base hit 27.4% of the time. He also has a career .382 BABIP on fly balls, which is extremely high for fly balls.
The point being? Get the ball off the ground. When he hits the ball in the air, good things happen.
The best thing Rowell has going for him is age. Rowell was the second youngest player in the Sally League in 2007 and the third youngest player in the Carolina League last year. People seem to forget that.
Defense - most still think he'll have to move off third, but his defense did improve last year and he has the arm for the position. A move to first will really hurt his value...
Best Case Outcome - Above average third baseman or average first baseman
More Likely Outcome - Left hand side of a platoon at first or third base (check the splits)...worst case outcome: AAAA player
Body Type - Stocky build, not much projection left
Spoone was one of my pitchers to watch last season, but unfortunately an injury derailed his season. He had surgery on a SLAP tear in his labrum and while that is a difficult injury to come back from, recovery rates have been much better in recent years.
The bottom line is that Spoone's status is very much a mystery. He had No. 2 starter stuff prior to injury and we'll just have to wait and see how much his stuff will take a hit due to this injury, if at all. I still like his potential when all is said and done and until I see otherwise, I'll speculate his stuff will return close to what it once was.
Best Case Outcome - Borderline No. 3
More Likely Outcome - Set-up guy out of the bullpen
Body Type - pretty much maxxed out physically...little projection
Hernandez was one of my mid-level players I expected to move into their organization's top-10 prospect list and he did in fact make the jump--barely.
Fastball - rising fastball in the 91 - 94 range, deceptive with good life...needs better command
Slider - looks more like a slurve and comes out of his hand on a similar plane as the fastball...it's good enough to fool hitters
Change-Up - it's development is key if he is to remain a starter...it still has a long ways to go and he needs it to keep left handers off his harder stuff
By the Numbers
He's always been a high strikeout pitcher as his K% has increased the past three seasons at higher levels of competition--from 24 to 27 to 29 this year. Accompanying that K% is inconsistent control--from 11 to 7 and back up to 11, which is something he will have to continue to hone or he will find himself in the bullpen.
Hernandez is an extreme fly ball pitcher and too often he leaves pitches up in the zone, which will result to some higher home run rates at the big league level.
Just one mechanical observation: not crazy about his front side mechanics--he does a good job firming up the the glove, but he then pulls it up in the direction of his left shoulder. Ideally the glove should be left firm in front of the chest. This helps a pitcher stay closed and achieve better extension toward home plate.
Best Case Outcome - No. 4 starter
More Likely Outcome - Right handed specialist...I'm actually really high on Hernandez's future as a reliever because of his ability against right handers. The walks and homeruns go down and the strike outs go up against righties.
Certainly one of the more underrated prospects in baseball, the left-handed pitcher experienced a breakthrough when he ditched his curveball for a slider. That gave the 20 y/o a capable second pitch to go along with a low 90's 2-seam fastball that generates a ton of ground balls. In fact, Britton had one of the best GB% in all of minor league baseball least year at close to 64%. Britton doesn't really have a wow factor, but he's been extremely consistent. He'll have to work on his change-up to keep right handers off his fastball. He missed many more left handed bats than right handed. Best case outcome would be a solid No. 4 starter.
Grade - B-
Formerly the top prospect in the Astros organization, Patton's stock dropped because of surgery on a SLAP tear in his left shoulder. The injury is similar to Spoone's. Almost as worrisome was Patton's already middling peripherals at the time of his injury.. He stopped missing bats in 2008 and when you combine that with the fact he's an extreme fly ball pitcher, the results usually aren't good. It is possible the injury was already showing up in his numbers before he was actually diagnosed with his injury. The positive thing for Patton was his control didn't falter. Like Spoone, his status is a mystery given the injury.
Grade - C+
Had a nice debut season for the Orioles in Rookie ball. Didn't display much power, but he showed excellent plate discipline--he walked in 16% of his plate appearances and struck out just 13.8% of the time. That bodes well for the future and he provides the Orioles with some positional value as a possible second base or center fielder.
Hoes has possesses a short stroke, geared to spray line drives all over the field. He's got a quick bat and displays the ability to let the ball travel deep into his zone. There are times he gets a little to handsy and he'll have to work on staying back. At the moment, his power potential is limited but he possesses a type of swing that can be molded into a swing that produced more power.
He'll need to stay at either second base or center field to truly hold value One thing to work on: get the ball off the ground.
Grade - C+
Montanez was at one point a top prospect, but he never put it together. Baltimore took a flier on him in 2007 and signed him as a minor league free agent. The move paid off as Montanez went on to win the Double-A Triple Crown as well as put up respectable numbers as a major leaguer in 2008. Montanez's upside is limited but he's ready to be a fourth outfielder now. His good bat speed allows him to hit for both average and moderate power. The skills/tools are there for him to play some centerfield, but you have to be more than just an athlete to play the position. His plate discipline is still a question mark...he'll make enough contact, but will he walk enough?
Grade - C+
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Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Jason Berken (C+), Ryan Adams (C+), Tony Butler (C+), Brad Bergesen (C+), Xavier Avery, James Hoey, Matt Angle, Tyler Kolodny, Garabez Rosa, Tyler Henson, Wilfredo Perez, Bobby Bundy, Greg Miclat
Next Up: Boston Red Sox, Prospects 1 - 5
Also See: Baltimore Orioles Team Page
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