Did I happen to say how happy I am to be back in Maryland? I know it probably sounds crazy to some people, but I don't miss Hawaii at all. After all, I could go to Waikiki anytime I wanted, but I couldn't just swing up to Aberdeen to see some of the newest Orioles farmhands now could I? I know... I'm probably not right, but I'll trade the ocean for my baseball any day.
Since coming back to Maryland, I've caught t a game at Camden Yards where I had conversations with Adam Loewen, Brandon Fahey, Ed Rogers and Daniel Cabrera, scouted the Nationals/Rockies game at RFK, caught a game at Bowie, and then got a preview of the Aberdeen club on Monday night. Who needs a Hawaiian sunset? ....OK, I miss the sunsets, but I think you get the point. I'm glad to be back.
Last Thursday night I went over to Bowie to see my first minor league game in almost three years. Unfortunately, I can't really report on any hot Orioles prospects because I didn't see any. Former number one pick and top prospect
Richard Stahl started for the Baysox and to say he's a shell of himself is a understatement. The 6-foot-7 left-hander use to pitch in the 90's and had been known to touch 96-97 MPH. Unfortunately, Stahl now sits in the 86-88 MPH range on the night I saw him and although his fastball gets a little late tailing action, he doesn't have the command to make up for the lack of velocity.
His offspeed pitches were below average although he did make a couple nice sliders to former O's prospect Luis Jimenez, a left-handed batter who chased them low and away. It appears that injuries have derailed this former top prospect and unfortunately, it appears we can scratch him off the prospect scene.
Following Stahl was another former prospect Brian Forystek. Brian is one of my favorite players personally, but he doesn't appear to be all the way back from the bone spur surgery he underwent last year. In his prime Forystek was a 89-91 guy with an excellent changeup, but now sits in the 86-87 MPH range and his offspeed stuff hasn't come back either. Hopefully he'll regain his health and get back to the pitcher that once occupied a 40-man roster spot.
Jason Pearson finished off the night. Pearson has good numbers out of the pen, but his stuff is underwhelming from a scouting standpoint. He's 85-86MPH with an slightly below average curve, but pitches aggressively in the zone. His stuff should work in Double-A though for the most part.
Hitting wise, the only player I really wanted to take a look at was Jeff Fiorentino and he was on the shelf after tweaking his hamstring. Obviously Fiorentino has been scuffling this year, but his manager Don Werner thinks he's starting to make progress. Both he and Field Coordinator/Hitting Coach Julio Vinas had good things to say about Fiorentino despite his struggles. Hopefully the next time I get down there I'll get a chance to see him hit.
Cory Keylor has put up some decent numbers this season despite being his first full season after his hamate bone injury last year. Keylor is getting up in years but he worked extremely hard this offseason and his early success is a result. Werner has noticed Keylor improved his footspeed, and although its still not a plus attribute, it has helped him move around the bases and in the outfield better. Keylor is a little long in the tooth to be considered a prospect at this stage in his career, but if he adds some power in the second half, he could put himself on the radar again.
Another guy I was glad to see in the locker room was Beau Hale. It's probably been four or five years since I've seen the former number one pick and considering all the time he's missed due to injury, it's pretty amazing he has stuck it out and has made it back to Double-A. Hale told me he wasn't going to quit, despite an earlier report that said he was contemplating retirement.
"I would have forced them to release me before I'd quit," Hale explained. He's just happy to be back pitching, but the fact that his velocity is reportedly back into the low 90s means I'll need to make a trip back to Bowie soon to see where he's at.
We got our first look at the Aberdeen team at a Monday workout at Cal Ripken Stadium. Although an afternoon thunderstorm made the outfield too wet to have batting practice, I did happen to catch the catchers throw and the infield take fielding practice.
One interesting player to note was shortstop Jedidiah Stephens, the Orioles 8th round pick in this year's amateur draft. With a 6-foot-2, 190 pound frame, Stephens has good size at short and showed of a good arm. It'll be interesting to see what his range his like and of course how his stick translates to the pro game.
Another interesting first year player is 6-foot-4 215 pound first baseman Chris Vinyard, a 38th round draft and follow signee from the 2005 draft. Vinyard has one of the weirdest throwing motions I've seen in some time where he seems to double-clutch before throwing. Considering he's a big boy, I'm guessing he was signed for his bat, not his ability to throw from first base, so his size alone will make him interesting to watch. I was also told he has a short powerful stroke. Keep an eye on that strikeout to walk ratio.
I also got my first look at catcher Brandon Snyder, as well as my first chat with him. Although it was during a media session, it became fairly obvious that Snyder is a smart, articulate young man. His season has kind of snowballed on him as he's battled a shoulder injury as well as the day to day rigors of being a professional catcher. While watching him throw during infield drills, Snyder showed off a strong arm, but also the fact that his foot work and release need work. The best part is that after our chat, it's apparent that if hard work will solve his offensive woes, they'll be worked out because Snyder has the desire and aptitude to improve.
This is a great move by the organization. By sending Snyder down to Aberdeen, it gives him a chance at a fresh start for the second half of the season and should help him relax a little. The one thing to remember is that Snyder was young for the SALLY League and is still young for the New York-Penn League. He's got a lot of time before anyone should be overly concerned, but I think everyone will feel better if he hits well with the Ironbirds. He'll catch most days unless his shoulder woes return. It will be fairly obvious if that occurs because he'll start showing up as DH everyday.
Nathan Nery has the best fastball of any of the starters in the 89-93 MPH range while left-hander Wilfredo Perez has the best resume before Tommy John surgery slowed his progress. The power arms sit in the bullpen with Fernando De Nabal and closer Luis Lebron. Both have fastball that sit in the mid 90's with Lebron hitting 97 on occasion. Both have struggled with their command in the past so it will be interesting to see how they do in a college league like the NYPenn League.
Overall, it appears this Aberdeen club looks a lot like the last few. The team will probably struggle a bit offensively although their are a lot of wild cards that could make the lineup pretty decent. Center Fielder Danny Figueroa, twin brother to Frederick's Paco Figueroa, will make his professional debut on Tueday night. He'll play center field and bat leadoff, and should be one of the best hitters on the club.
Got a comment? You can always start a thread here and talk about it.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board
Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.