A Minor Review of ’09: Baltimore Orioles

Prospect ranking season is here. Top 10 lists will be arriving shortly and in preparation for that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The series is back for a second year.

Baltimore Orioles

The Graduate: Matt Wieters, C
Wieters did not burst onto the MLB landscape quite as forcefully as some might have hoped, but he had a solid debut for someone with just two years of pro experience. Despite beginning the year in the minors, the catcher still posted a WAR of 1.9 and was worth roughly $8.4 million to the club. Wieters also made improvements as the year progressed. He showed that he’s currently a very good fastball hitter, but he needs to improve against breaking balls (especially sliders). For a rookie catcher, a line of .288/.340/.412 is nothing to sneeze at… and he’s only going to get better.

The Riser: Brandon Waring, 3B
Obtained from Cincinnati in the Ramon Hernandez trade, Waring continued to improve in ’09 and he has hit 20+ homers in all three of his pro seasons. This past year, playing mostly in high-A ball before a seven-game trial in double-A, Waring hit .273/.354/.520 in 473 at-bats. The biggest knock against him entering ’09 was his +30.0% strikeout rates, but he trimmed that to 25.6%, a more reasonable number for a slugger. His walk rate was just shy of 10.0%. Waring isn’t anything special at the hot corner, so he spent 76 games at first base in ’09 where he was OK. He could be the O’s first baseman of the future if Brandon Snyder cannot hack it.

The Tumbler: Billy Rowell, OF
Rowell has officially lost the debate over who was the best high school hitter of the ’06 draft… Rowell or Travis Snider. The Orioles minor leaguer is not even considered a future big-league hitter by some. After a dismal ’08 offensive season, ’09 got even worse (even though he was repeating high-A) with a triple-slash line of .225/.284/.336 in 423 at-bats. Rowell has about zero defensive value, as well. His once heralded power has diminished with his ISO dropping each season from .178 to .153 to .120 to .111.

The ’10 Sleeper: Caleb Joseph, C
When it rains, it pours. The organization already has a top-notch, young starting catcher in Wieters, but Joseph is zooming up the depth chart. He won’t unseat Wieters at the MLB level, but Joseph could be valuable trade bait if the organization does not want to waste his talent by sitting him on the bench for five or six games a week. Playing in high-A in ’09, the 23-year-old Joseph hit .284/.337/.450 with a .166 ISO in 380 at-bats.

Bonus: Brandon Erbe, RHP
I won’t get too in-depth with Erbe here because he’s going to appear on the ’09 Top 10 list for the Orioles. However, he was highlighted in the ’08 series as the sleeper for ’09 and he delivered. With five years of pro experience under his belt, Erbe is still just 21 years of age (He turns 22 in December).

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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What kind of major league upside does Waring have? Seems like his name has been around a lot but he’s never been on any top prospects lists or anything.


I think the question is his fielding. He’ll probably post a solid 800 OPS in the majors with a lot of power and maybe not so much OBP (say, .250/.330/.470) – that’s good for a league average defensive 3B, but not for a Ty Wigginton type player.