The Orioles are a team that has a lot of talent in their minor league system; especially at pitcher. But they suffer from a lack of depth at some premier positions on the diamond.
Brandon Snyder is a possibility to take over first base; he is hitting .365 with four home runs and 21 RBI’s in his first 28 games at Double-A Bowie this season. Snyder is only twenty two and learning how to play first base after being selected in the first round of the 2005 draft as a catcher. I see Snyder more as an everyday designated hitter.
The Orioles 2006 first round pick, Billy Rowell made the transition from third base to right field at the beginning of this season. Of late the twenty year old Rowell has been hot at the dish hitting three homers and eight RBI’s in his last ten games from Class-A Fredrick. While it is nice to see Rowell’s bat finally coming around his move to the outfield leaves the Orioles with a huge hole at the hot corner.
With Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora both becoming free agents the Orioles may have to sign some stop-gap players while they develop replacements on the farm. The only problem is the Orioles don’t have long term replacements in the system currently.
The Orioles are also void of any shortstop talent in the minor league system. Cesar Izturis is signed through 2010 but I highly doubt he is in the Orioles long term plans at the position.
We have some players in lower levels of the system that could help down the line like 21 year old third baseman Tyler Henson who is currently playing for Class-A Fredrick. Henson is an intriguing prospect with good speed and a solid bat but he is at least three seasons away from the big leagues.
Basically you are left with a team loaded with high level pitching and outfield depth but with void of that same depth at the corner infield and shortstop. This is an issue that must be addressed either through trade or the draft.
With the MLB First Year Players Draft less then five weeks away I have decided to look at some college players at those positions who could help in the near future.
Gordon Green, SS, USC
Green is a big shortstop at 6-3 180 pounds but shows good athleticism in the field and should remain at short throughout his major league career. Green will probably be more of a doubles hitter in the majors but he has the potential to be a 15-20 homer guy. He has ample speed and when he is aggressive is a good base stealer. In the field Green is very fluid with good range; he has a plus arm that is very accurate.
Green is the #1 guy that I have had my eye on for the past few months; I think he fills a great need and could be a Stephen Drew type player. If Green is on the board the Orioles should thank whatever God they pray to and draft him immediately.
Rich Poythress, Georgia, First Base
Poythress is a pure masher; he is a giant man at 6-4 245 pounds. Poythress is never going to be a guy who hits for a high average at the big league level but he has forty home run potential. Because of his size Poythress is limited at first base, he makes the routine plays but will never be mistaken for Keith Hernandez.
Poythress is a true “boom or bust” prospect. He could become a Ryan Howard or Frank Thomas type power bat or he could be the next Calvin Pickering. I would be wary at taking this type of player so high in the draft and giving him a huge signing bonus but if the Orioles scouts see something in him they could hit big, literally.
Ryan Jackson, Miami, SS
Jackson is a true shortstop. He possesses great fielding ability that could make him an annual favorite for the Gold Glove in the majors. Jackson’s arm is exceptionally strong from short and is extremely accurate. Jackson is long and wiry at 6-3 185 pounds and doesn’t have blazing speed; he makes up for this with great instincts on the basepaths.
The only question with Jackson is will he hit at the next level. He has an awkward stance and very little pop in his bat. At best Jackson could be a gap hitter who develops into an average major league hitter.
With the fifth pick in any draft a team looks for a dynamic player who can help their team in a multitude of ways; in Jackson the Orioles are getting a guy who only excels at one facet of the game. I think fifth is a bit too high for Jackson but if he fell to the second round he would be a steal.
The sad part of this draft is there isn’t much in terms of advanced bats at the corner infield positions. The positive is the Orioles will likely have another top five pick in the 2010 draft; actually that is very positive.