Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Top 7 Hitting Prospects

Posted by Mike on December 29, 2005

11/07/05

1) Nick Markakis, 21, OF
2005 line:
Fred.- .300/.379/.480
Bowie- .339/.420/.573
Combined- .310/.390/.504

Analysis: Markakis came into the season as the Oriole’s top hitting prospect and then increased his stock throughout the season. He won several of Baseball America’s Best Tools surveys for both the Carolina and Eastern Leagues; including best strike-zone judgement, best hitter, and perhaps best fastball, had he been considered. He earns comparisons to Steve Finley and Brady Anderson. He should develop into either a #2 or #3 type hitter and may see some all-star games. Scouts are divided as to whether he can stretch into a CF or will remain a very good defensive RF’er. Either way, his bat will land him in Baltimore by mid-2006.

2) Nolan Reimold, 22, OF
2005 line:
Aber.- .294/.392/.550
Fred.- .265/.371/.554
Combined- .285/.385/.551

Analysis: Was considered a first-round talent at Bowling Green until slumping in the spring and fell to the Orioles in the second round. He promptly tore the cover off the ball upon his pro debut, even making BA’s draft (college) all-star team. He’s another tweener like Markakis, and will likely be a good RF’er who can play CF occasionally. He is a favorite among statheads and scouts. Look for him to start in Bowie next year.

3) Val Majewski, 24, OF
2004 line (2005 DNP):
Bowie-.307/.359/.490

Analysis: Yeah, I’ll probably get flack for putting him ahead of Brandon Snyder (and maybe I’m stretching it a bit to make a point), but I am very bullish on Majewski. He missed all of 2005 with a torn labrum, but has come back strong in the AFL. If a guy is going to miss an entire season of development you want him to have the work ethic of a chinese laborer, and Majewski does. He needs to refine his plate discipline, but he has worked hard at becoming a good RF’er (who, while not as good as Reimold or Markakis, has also played CF in a pinch). He may even end up at 1B (his position in college), given our glut of outfield talent. With a strong spring, he could start the year in Baltimore. More likely, he’ll get 100 or so AB’s in Ottawa before clamoring for time in the show.

4) Brandon Snyder, 18, C/3B
2005 line:
Combined (Bluefield + 28 AB’s at Aberdeen)- .291/.386/.488

Analysis: Our first round pick this past draft, he has done nothing but meet expectations. He has great athleticism, plate discipline, and power. He drew pre-draft comparisons to Justin Upton at the plate. He has a lot of work to do to become a big-league catcher, but he has athleticism on his side. Should he fail in this endeavor, or should the Orioles try to avoid the offensive stagnation that inflicts all young catchers, Snyder will make a solid 3B. He should play a full season at Delmarva next year with a late promotion to Frederick a possibility.

5) Jeff Fiorentino, 22, LF
2005 line:
Frederick: .286/.346/.508
Baltimore: .250/.277/.364
Combined: .282/.337/.489

Analysis: Despite the Oriole’s woeful handling of Fiorentino, he snapped back to earth late in the year to get his SLG back above .500. He does need to shore up his plate discipline to continue his success at higher levels. No matter what the Orioles brass tells you, he is nothing but a LF’er. He is not a CF’er, nor a catcher. He should start the year in Bowie, and given a full year of development at one level, I expect bigger things than this year’s up and down performance.

6) Walter Young, 25, 1B
2005 line:
Ottawa- .288/.335/.438
Baltimore (33 AB’s)- .303/.378/.424

Analysis: Big Walter Young came back down to earth a little bit after beating Calvin Pickering’s home run record at Bowie in 2004. We all know the weaknesses: he strikes out a ton, he’s streaky, he looks like he couldn’t play first base (he can- even at 300+ lbs). He is ranked sixth on this list for one reason; his ceiling. Walter could turn out any number of ways. He’s earned comparisons from Sam Horn to a poor man’s Ryan Howard to, you guessed it, Calvin Pickering. Next year won’t be a bigger year for anyone, in terms of development, than Walter Young. 2006 should tell us a lot about his future.

7) Nate Spears, 20, 2B
2005 line:
Frederick- .294/.351/.429

Analysis: Nate Spears is an average defender with little patience at the plate and less speed than you’d expect from a guy listed at 5’11” and 160 lbs. However, he has shown the ability to hit for average, even as one of the youngest regulars in the Carolina League. Spears could go in a number of directions, but if he doesn’t start developing patience or power or both, he might end up as a reserve.

Honorable Mentions

Tripper Johnson, Brandon Fahey, Paco Figueroa, Dustin Yount, Arturo Rivas

Conclusion

I stopped after seven prospects because after that there is a big dropoff. Between Markakis, Reimold, Fiorentino, and Majewski, we should be able to develop three outfielders. And, I see no reason they couldn’t all develop into regulars. Brandon Snyder also looks like the real deal. A good year from him in 2006 (while donning the tools of ignorance), could make him a prospect on the level of Markakis. Walter Young and Nate Spears look more like role players to me, but one is a legitimate 80 on the 20-80 power scale and the other is a 20 year old who will be playing full time in AA next year. Either one could surprise us.

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