Baltimore Adds Underrated Prospect Mike Belfiore

It’s a small ripple in a very large pond but the Baltimore Orioles front office made another astute move involving a lesser known prospect.

I originally complimented the organization back in the spring when it signed former Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect John Hester (who was later released and is now playing at the big league level with the Angels) and then again when the club acquired former Boston Red Sox catching prospect Luis Exposito (an admitted upgrade over Hester). Both Exposito and Hester represent excellent, cost-efficient second-string catchers for a club that features a strong starting option like Matt Wieters.

The Orioles’ latest move saw the club receive pitching prospect Mike Belfiore – again from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The left-hander is the return that Baltimore receives for former third base prospect Josh Bell who fell out of favor with the organization (for good reason) and was traded to Arizona for a player-to-be-named-later back in late April. Although I favor Belfiore, 23, by a wide margin it’s a decent trade for both organizations as Arizona adds some corner infield depth and can afford to part with a B-level arm thanks to a minor league system that boasts plethora of top-shelf arms such as Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Pat Corbin, and Archie Bradley. Baltimore, on the other hand, desperately needs the pitching depth.

Prior to 2012 Belfiore was an underperforming prospect in Arizona’s system. He was originally a supplemental first round pick (45th overall) of the Diamondbacks out of Boston College in 2009. I thought so highly of the prospect that I ranked him ninth on the organization’s pre-2011 Top 10 prospect list at FanGraphs. He failed to make the Top 15 list prior to the 2012 season.

Belfiore spent the first two years of his pro baseball career balancing decent strikeout rates with solid ground-ball numbers. He was a little too hittable but that tends to happen with ground-ball pitchers in the low minors (thanks to poor defenses and inconsistent fields). The wheels came off in 2011 when he reached the potent California League; his command and control both deserted him while his ground-ball rate settled at an average level causing him to allow 17 home runs in just 79.0 innings (after giving up just six in 126.1 in 2010).

Move to the bullpen in 2012, Belfiore once again found his footing. The southpaw returned to the California League and worked 19.0 innings in 12 appearances prior to the trade. He struck out 28 batters and walked just five. His ground-ball rate, though, continues to sit at an average level.

Belfiore is definitely best suited for bullpen work. He was a closer in college and never fully took to pitching every fifth day. Working out of the ‘pen also allows him to focus on two pitches. He’s a fastball-slider pitcher with a repertoire that also features a changeup and a curveball – both of which show promise but are inconsistent. In terms of velocity, his fastball is slightly-above average for a lefty. If he can find a way to get a better plane on his fastball and command the lower half of the strike zone, Belfiore’s value will increase even further allowing him to possibly see some high-leverage situations.

As mentioned Belfiore’s acquisition is by no means a significant one as far as the average prospect watcher is concerned. Baltimore currently features one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues – but it’s also over-performing and due for some regression. The organization lacks pitching depth in the upper levels of the system and Belfiore could eventually become a very useful arm in the bullpen – and it cost the organization little to nothing to procure his services. This exactly the kind of low-risk move that Baltimore must make as it rebuilds itself from the ground floor up in the tough American League East division.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

19 Responses to “Baltimore Adds Underrated Prospect Mike Belfiore”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s great that they got anything out of Bell. And of course now he is raking it (420/457/638).

    The O’s have done great at stocking up their bullpen for cheap. Darren O’Day was a waiver claim. They traded Mike Gonzalez for Pedro Strop, and Guthrie for Hammel + Lindstrom, both of which look like pretty good deals. Luis Ayala signed for under a million. Stu Pomeranz (minor league contract) has potential. In fact, the highest paid reliever on this team is Kevin Gregg. Don’t pay big bucks for relievers!

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  2. Mike F. says:

    Good call on Kirk Nieuwenhuis in your January preview of the Mets prospects. Your opinion isn’t worth the toilet paper it’s printed on.

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  3. Matt Wieters says:

    After my MLB career is over I’m going to join the WWE. 6’7 catcher? Momma Wieters must have fed me some HGH with my hot dogs and milk.

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  4. TKay says:

    Marc, with Bell out of the way, when will Brandon Waring move up to AAA?

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  5. Marc Hulet says:

    Mike F, thanks for trolling by, I mean strolling by… 1) Small sample so far for Nieuwenhuis with a .431 BABIP and 28.0 K%… plus I said this in my writeup: “…With that said, and with some further development, he could spend a few years playing regularly for a second-division club.”

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  6. Mike F. says:

    You just wrote EIGHT paragraphs about an A-ball relief prospect. Seriously, were there no other topics that crossed your mind before you decided to take this to press?

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    • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

      I agree Mike, Marc just got all excited over the O’s picking up a pitcher who in the best case scenario becomes Allen Embree, and that is unlikely. Perhaps you went a little far with the insult earlier but hey the truth hurts. Fangraphs has become almost Cult like. Any criticism of the articles results in the cultish followers rapidly hitting the dislike button. More and more subpar articles are popping up on this site and the readers seem to defend this crap and villanize anyone who dares question the integrity of these articles. The real trolls are the one who treat any fangraph author like a god and don’t hold these guys accountable for their writings. Look, I love fangraphs and their insights but the influx of biased, unscientific articles is growing as is the addittion of unqualified author’s shallow and useless insights. When I remark that one of Wendy’s articles is below the standards of Fangraphs, I’m not being intentionally mean or sexist. I’m just commenting on the slide in quality and insight I see. As for Marc, I expect better. You are all big boys and girls, please do not take my opinions personally. Take them as a challenge to improve your works to the standards you used to strive for.

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    • Steve says:

      Your refund is in the mail.

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      • I am a Red Sux Fan says:

        Original Steve. I actualy don’t want the refund as I would like to keep my fangraphs +. And regardless whether I pay for anything or not I’m entitled to my opinion. I apologize that my opinion does not leave everyone with a warm fuzzy feeling. You don’t know me but as someone who has contributed to sabermetrics on a high level and care about it’s direction I feel completely entitled to my opinion. Fangraphs often trumpets the cause of scientific process (which is extremely important in this field) yet over the last year their writings have become closer to ESPN in some instances. I also read many well thought out and and well backed articles on the site. I’m just pointing out what is fairly clear to anyone who has any understanding of sabermetrics.

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      • c-c-c-combo breaker says:

        @I Am A Red Sux Fan

        I thought your posts were a little light in specific examples and cast a negative light without really offering any solutions.

        Also, the “you don’t know me/I’m very important in the sabermetrics community” angle is a bit stale. I’m a psychologist (not really, but it’s easy enough to type) and that type of attitude, one where self-importance is inflated against the imagined group think stereotype and is given as a baseline for your own validation, is sociopathic. You may want to seek help.

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  7. Antonio Bananas says:

    I appreciate the effort but a 23 year old in High A? Maybe his spike in BB last year was uncharacteristic of him or maybe his 5.60 SO/BB ratio this year is just due to SSS. Either way, can’t really get too excited about a 23 year old in high A. Especially a lefty reliever. Jesus, you get put in favorable situations, at 23, he SHOULD be dominating High A.

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  8. I am a Red Sux Fan says:

    This was a decent trade by the Orioles but the writeup is a bit much. What makes this a decent trade is that Josh Bell offered them a redundant skill set at the corners as Bell offers light tower power, very high strikeout rates, and questionable defense. And at 26 years old he gives them similiar skills to their existing corner infield options (Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds). Calling Belfiore Depth is about right. Overall he has pitched pretty poorly in the low minors over his short career. And Geez lets not get to excited about his few games in the California league this year (small sample size.) While Bell was a spare part for the Orioles he still may end up having the more impactful major league career. While Belfiore has decent bullpen stuff and K rates he has perhaps a 1 in 4 chance of becoming Allen Embree, a 1in 4 chance at becoming a replacement level big league reliever and a 50 % chance of washing out. Why in the world did you rank Belfiore ahead of Goldschmidt a couple years ago. As a prospect guru you have a vested interest in seein Belfiore succeed cause if he does you can say “told you so.” And since the O’s need any type of pitching depth they can get, it might just happen in Baltimore. Also do not be surprised to see Bell come up this year or next and put up Reynolsesque production. As a BC grad I would love to see Belfiore make it. Better then Wendy’s writings. That’s not mean, that’s just fact.

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    • Captain Obvious says:

      I like the fact that you feel that the above article wasn’t necessary, yet you have now posted three separate times discussing this minor trade and a multitude of other issues.

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  9. Joe says:

    Enjoyed the article a great deal. The fact that someone used this article to liken fangraphs to ESPN is laughable. There arent 3 people who work for ESPN who have heard of Belfiore. I love fangraphs, in part, because its one place where you can get an article about moves such as these.

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  10. Pro Scout says:

    Belfiore is cannon fodder…entire reputation and pro career is based off one college tournament game when an overconfident Texas team got shut down by this kid for something like 9 innings. He did all right in rookie league against players who were cannon fodder for their organizations. When he got to slightly higher level he was no better than average talent.

    Bottom line is this kid is perennial minor leaguer until either he gets tired of not getting on with his life or his velocity slows. He probably would be playing in the local adult league in his hometown now if he wasn’t a lefty.

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