Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

John Sickels Top 20

Posted by Mike on February 11, 2006

Since we were lucky enough to have Deric McKamey offer some extended commentary in our last post, I thought it might make sense to look at what another popular analyst, John Sickels, has to say about the Orioles minor league system as well. Below you’ll find his top 20 list, graded out. You’ll have to check out his site for the more in-depth version. And I urge you to check out his book for an even more in-depth analysis, complete with an explanation as to what each grade means.


  • Nick Markakis, OF, Grade A-
    Brandon Snyder, C, B+
    Chris Ray, RHP, B+
    Adam Loewen, LHP, B
    Val Majewski, OF, B
    Nolan Reimold, OF, B
    Garrett Olson, LHP, B
    J.J. Johnson, RHP, B
    Brandon Erbe, RHP, B
    Hayden Penn, RHP, B-
    Jeff Fiorentino, OF, B-
    Chris Britton, RHP, B-
    Radhames Liz, RHP, B-
    Dave Haehnel, LHP, C+
    Kurt Birkins, LHP, C
    Brian Finch, RHP, C
    Ryan Keefer, RHP, C
    Blake Owen, RHP, C
    Paco Figueroa, 2B, C
    Wilfredo Perez, LHP, C (reportedly will miss ’06 due to Tommy John surgery)

Some things worth noting:

  • Unlike Deric, you’ll notice that John is higher on Adam Loewen than Hayden Penn. Without giving away too much of his premium (read: you have to pay for it) information, it looks like John is adding onto the pile of people that think Penn would benefit from some time in Ottawa.


  • Most minor league pundits have had no problem vaulting Nolan Reimold, Garrett Olson, and, in some cases, even Brandon Erbe past Brandon Snyder on their lists despite Snyder’s status as the #1 pick in last year’s draft. In no instances has anyone implied this to be an indictment of Snyder, but rather a reflection that the Orioles got some top-shelf talent down into the third round. Sickels, however, remains very high on Snyder. Also note that in a previous post, I mentioned that Sickels has said that Reimold would have ranked #51 on his top hitters list (but it only goes up to 50).


  • I was surprised to see Sendy Rleal left off the list. Sickels seems more inclined to side with younger live arms that may have a higher ceiling than above-average reliever. But who are you going to side with- some schmuck that knows how to use blogger or someone that has worked with Bill James?


  • Right now, Haehnel is graded as a C+. Last year, he was rated a C. He is definitely one that will be interesting to watch as he gets his first crack at AA next year, especially if Deric McKamey’s optimism proves warranted.

5 Responses to “John Sickels Top 20”

  1. Anonymous said

    I never heard of Britton before your last two posts. I’ll be interested to see what he does this year. Will he be in Bowie?

  2. Anonymous said

    you’ll notice that John is higher on Adam Loewen than Hayden Penn…it looks like John is adding onto the pile of people that think Penn would benefit from some time in Ottawa.

    I’m confused by this…Loewen has a LOT to work on in 2006, specifically with his horrific BB rates. I think Loewen has a lot more to learn than Penn does. And Penn is younger and more advanced. Penn has things to address, but he seems a lot more prepared than Loewen to be on the Orioles in 2007. IMO, Loewen has a higher ceiling, though I think Penn has the odds on a more successful career. It sure would be nice if both turn out to be amazing.

  3. Mike said

    Good points about Penn vs. Loewen. This is a real interesting case in the debate about ceiling vs. polish.

    Not that there are any hard and fast rules about rating hitting prospects, but there are even fewer about rating pitching prospects. Pitchers just develop all sorts of different ways. So while it’s impressive that Penn put himself in a position to make his major league debut at 20, no one is going to hold it against Loewen that he is moving along more slowly.

    Most people that like Loewen over Penn think he has a good chance to turn the corner in 2006 and emerge as a potetnial frontline starter. Most who like Penn more don’t think Loewen has enough command to emerge as a potential frontline starter. In either case, I wonder how much their opinions of Penn differ. My guess is not much.

    One final note: I like Penn a lot. I see him doing very well in AAA this year as long as he’s left there and struggling (albeit not as bad as this year) in the bigs as long as he’s there. I mentioned this before and Deric reiterated it in his Q&A– watch the K rate. It will tell us whether he’s a future #2 or #5.

  4. Eddie said

    I like both guys very much. As you mentioned there’s a million ways pitching prospects develop. I don’t blame the Os for rushing him a bit last year. Sometimes moves like that work out, a la Dan Cabrera. In either case, Penn looks like he could start his ML career either as a 21 or 22 year old depending on how patient the Os are…which is not too shabby. Loewen will have to start his ML career as a 23 year old like it or not. Both guys look good to me.

    One thing I’m notcing this year is that depending on the scout doing the projection, this year we have a lot of dramatic shifts in their Top Prospects list for the Os. Some scouts have Penn as their #1 pitching prospect. Some have him at #10. Some have Loewen as the top pitcher. Some have Snyder near the top, some have Reimold there. Erbe seems to move up and down between the 6-10 spots. Some have Majewski in the top 10, some have Fiorentino there. Some guys are high on JJ, some not. Most of them have Markakis at #1 though…not sure what this means…it could mean that a lot of Os prospects are quality prospects enough that many of them could be seen as future good ML players…

  5. Mike said

    I think the fact that the top ten lists are so static is a good sign. It’s about time the O’s had enough potential major leaguers to inspire some debate.

    Markakis at #1 is pretty much a no-brainer at this point. He’s polished, close to contributing, and may one day be an all-star. There are only a handful (20 or so) of guys I’d take over him.

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