Around The Minors

With the big league club mired in a terrible slump, it’s sometimes nice to keep in mind that the franchise is still about building for the future. Even with several talented young players already in the majors, there’s still some quality prospects down on the farm.

Triple-A:

Slugging first-baseman Rhyne Hughes is killing the ball so far, with 3 home runs and a .375/.434/.708 line though 14 games.

Josh Bell isn’t exactly making people question the decision to get a stop-gap for third-base this year; .216/.231/.294 with 1 walk and 16 strike-outs. Yikes.

His future Orioles’ corner infield partner (hopefully), Brandon Snyder, is off to a rough start as well – .200/.273/.240 – with 17 K’s and 5 BB.

Robert Andino is batting .286, but has yet to draw a walk in 50 PA. The .490 SLG is nice though.

Jake Arrieta has a shiny 0.50 ERA, but just 12 strike-outs to 9 walks in 18 IP. I’m liking the 55% groundball rate though.

Brandon Erbe is 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA, but an 11 to 4 K:BB ratio in 14.2 IP. He’s given up 3 home runs despite being a relatively neutral groundball/flyball guy.

Lefty Troy Patton – another piece in the Miguel Tejada trade – is given up flyballs (33% GB rate) and walks (6). Even K’ing almost a batter an inning (10 in 11.2 IP), that won’t play very well.

Chris Tillman - like Bell above – isn’t making the team look bad for the decision to send him to the minors, as he’s 0-3 with a 8.38 ERA. On the other hand, he’s got a 10 to 4 K:BB ratio in 9.2 IP, and hasn’t given up a home run yet despite just a 29% groundball rate. I think it’s the .486 BABIP.

Double-A:

Caleb Joseph is hitting just .214/.314/.286 (and is 0-2 on stolen bases for some reason), but he’s walked 5 times already and struck out only twice.

Shortstop Pedro Florimon is scuffling; .103/.167/.128.

So is Brandon Waring; .231/.273/.442, with 3 HR but only 3 walks to 13 strike-outs.

Zach Britton – my #1 non-Matusz O’s prospect – is off to a good start. He’s still striking out batters (15 in 16.1 IP) and getting groundballs (67%), while showing improved control thus far (just 3 walks). Huge, huge fan.

Former Britton-like/light prospect, Chorye Spoone, is still keeping the ball on the ground pretty well (54% GB rate) but is missing the strike-zone (10 walks in 14.2 IP) instead of bats (4 K’s). I still have some hope for the 24 year-old righty, but he needs to step it up this year.

Steven Johnson – back with the O’s after that temporary freak-out inducing trip via the Rule 5 draft to San Fransisco – is still striking out batters (16 in 14 IP) but isn’t displaying the control (7 walks) that would have encouraged the Giants to give such an extreme flyball pitcher (just 33% GB rate) a chance in the majors this year.

High-A:

Speedster Xavier Avery has more than doubled his walk rate so far this year, and is batting .341/431/.409. For a guy without much pop, good defense and a solid BA/OBP are going to be his ticket to the big leagues.

Ronnie Welty is destroying the ball – .333/.405/.750 with 4 HR – but is also striking out in almost a third of his plate appearances.

LJ Hoes is walking some, but the overall line isn’t great at .255/.340/.277.

Same with Billy Rowell; .200/.368/.367. He’s in his third year at Frederick; is no longer “young for his level”; and – in my mind – a long shot to even make it to Triple-A. It’s not really fair to use hindsight to criticize picking Rowell over Tim Lincecum in the 2005 draft (who went to the Giants one spot after the O’s), but boy does it still rankle.

Richard Zagone has an 11 to 6 K:BB ratio n 14 IP, but is generating quite a few groundballs (56%). The 23 year-old is repeating the level, and is probably no more than a lefty reliever in the end.

Low-A:

Third-baseman Tyler Kolodny has 18 hits, and 12 have gone for extra bases (with 6 HR). Thus the .327/.391/.818 line. If he keeps that up for a full season he might actually be a prospect.

Brian Conley is posting an above 1.000 OPS (.532 + .658) in another manner; hitting .421 courtesy of a .552 BABIP, and walking in almost 20% of his plate appearances. Same thing about the prospect status.

Matt Hobgood is looking better this year, still keeping the ball on the ground (58% GB rate) with a 14 to 6 K:BB ratio in 16.2 IP.

Fellow 2009 draft-pick Ryan Berry (11 K to 3 BB in 15.1 IP, 61% GB rate) is also doing pretty well, as is 2008 selection Jesse Beal (10 K to 4 BB in 16 IP, 50% GB rate).

Jake Cowan is missing bats (18 K in 17 IP) and getting grounders (51%), but still working on the control (9 BB).

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A lot of pitchers with some upside, but the position player front is pretty weak – especially behind the guys in the higher levels.