With one regular season game left in the Orioles 2012 season, the O’s have clinched a playoff berth, and still have a shot at winning the AL East. The last time the Orioles went to the playoffs and won their division was in 1997, with a squad that featured all-time greats Cal Ripken Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson, and B.J. Surhoff. It took nearly 15 years and a group of players including Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, and Chris Davis to return to the post-season promise-land. What a turnaround it has been for Buck Showalter and the 2012 Orioles, and they hope to extend their run deep into the playoffs in their first appearance since 1997.
With the Orioles making headlines with their major league play, their list of Arizona Fall League delegates is but a side note in Baltimore. Let’s take a look at the players the Orioles send to Mesa this fall, and on whom they will rely on the extend their success into the future.
RHP – Clay Schrader (22) – Orioles 2010 10th Round Pick
2012 – Frederick: 1.29 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 20 H, 27 BB, 51 SO in 35.0 IP
2012 – Bowie: 2.74 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 15 H, 24 BB, 17 SO in 23.0 IP
The Orioles delegated right-hander Clay Schrader to the Mesa Solar Sox, joining delegates from the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, and Tigers in the Solar Sox bullpen this fall. Schrader has turned many heads in his two-plus seasons in the O’s system, racking up a career 12.2 K/9 line, and a cumulative 1.78 ERA.
At 22 years old, Schrader is still suffering from problems that plague young ptichers working to earn their way up the ladder. He has a Carlos Marmol-esque walk problem, reaching his worst levels in his most recent promotion to AA. In 19 games with Bowie, Schrader walked more than a batter an inning, 2.5 points higher than his career 6.9 BB/9. It speaks volumes about this kid’s talent that he was able to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA while walking more than a batter an inning. The Orioles know he can miss bats, but now it is time for Schrader to stop missing the strike-zone. The O’s will give him extra time in the AFL to work through the control issues and set him up for long term success.
RHP – Mike Wright (22) – Orioles 2011 3rd Round Pick
2012 – Frederick: 2.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 47 H, 5 BB, 35 SO in 46.1 IP
2012 – Bowie: 4.91 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 71 H, 17 BB, 45 SO in 62.1 IP
The second Orioles righty to join the Solar Sox will be Mike Wright, who most recently was starting games for Orioles AA affiliate Bowie. Wright is a long, powerful pitcher, standing 6’5”, and has the frame to support an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle. He is still only 22, so he has some time to let his body mature into the prototypical big-league starter.
Wright split his time in 2012 between A-Advanced Frederick and Bowie, and ended his season a 10-game winner, with a 4.06 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He features a mid to high-90s fastball, complemented by a sinker. As far as numbers go, Wright is almost the opposite of Schrader. He has given up a lot of hits, while only walking 1.9 batters per nine innings over his two years in the O’s system. That said, his sinker has done a wonderful job of keeping the ball in the park, illustrated by his 0.9 HR/9 mark.
The Orioles would like to see Wright build on the quality of both his pitches and his approach on the mound. Sinker-ballers tend to pitch to contact more-so than power pitchers, and Wright’s numbers suggest he could rely a bit more on his power arsenal to make outs, rather than having the ball put in play. There is a lot of upside in this prospect, so look for him to have a big impact on the Solar Sox rotation this fall.
LHP – Chris Petrini (25) – Signed by Orioles as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2010
2012 – Frederick: 1.88 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6 H, 9 BB, 14 SO in 14.1 IP
2012 – Bowie: 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 59 H, 22 BB, 67 SO in 68.2 IP
Chris Petrini, a southpaw out of Cal, joins Clay Schrader as another Orioles reliever in the Solar Sox bullpen this fall. Petrini is coming off of maybe his most impressive season in the minors, in which he finished narrowly behind fellow lefty Michael Belfiore as the Orioles 2012 minor league reliever of the year.
Though Petrini started some games in his time at Cal, the Orioles have had him coming out of the bullpen throughout his young career. The big reason for that is his high strikeout upside. Through 86 appearances Petrini has struck out 9.7 batters per nine, and has not seen too much of a drop off as he has advanced to higher levels of play. Petrini has suffered from walk problems at points in his time with the Orioles, but his most recent stint with Bowie saw his BB/9 rate drop significantly—a good sign of maturation on the mound. His ability to solve for some of his issues as a young pitcher reflects his choice to attend college before playing professional baseball. Petrini earned valuable experience as a Cal Bear, both in having a few extra years of development after high school, and that he suffered through an elbow injury in college and worked his way back.
Petrini’s power arsenal and maturity are attractive pieces for Baltimore. He may not be far away from getting the call to the bigs, but first he will work to get outs for the Mesa Solar Sox in the 2012 AFL.
LHP – Mike Belfiore (23) – Acquired by Orioles via trade in 2012
2012 – Visalia (Diamondbacks A+ Affiliate): 2.37 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 13 H, 5 BB, 28 SO in 19.0 IP
2012 – Bowie: 2.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 43 H, 21 BB, 50 SO in 47.1 IP
The final pitcher the Orioles send to Mesa is Michael Belfiore, the 2012 minor league reliever of the year. Belfiore began his minor league career as a starter, but transitioned to full-time relief in 2012. He hasn’t looked back since.
Belfiore was acquired in 2012 as the Orioles PTBNL in the trade that sent 3B Josh Bell from the O’s to the Diamondbacks. The lefty may have been a steal for Baltimore. In 2011, his final full season in the Diamondbacks organization, Belfiore posted the worst ERA, WHIP, HR/9, and BB/9 of his career. This turned him into somewhat of a buy low candidate in the Bell trade. He quickly rebounded in 2012, posting a cumulative 2.71 ERA in 40 appearances between Arizona’s Class A-Advanced Visalia and Baltimore’s AA Bowie. He also posted his lowest career WHIP, cut his 2011 walk rate in half, and only allowed a quarter of the homeruns he did in 2011, despite playing in five additional games.
Baltimore seems to have a better beat on the type of player Belfiore will be than did Arizona. He was a closer in his time with Boston College, and has two really strong pitches in his fastball and slider. He does have some off-speed options, but neither are consistent pitches for him. The O’s will use the Arizona Fall League to get a full season’s worth of exposure to Belfiore, and should his number continue to trend as they did in 2012, this 23 year old could make it to the majors in the next couple of years.
C – Brian Ward (26) – Signed by Orioles as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2009
2012 – Bowie: 0.217/.324/.267, 5 2B, 1 HR, 4 SB, 24 BB, 24 SO in 190 PA
It has been a tough 2012 for Orioles catching prospect Brian Ward. In April, Ward failed his second drug test in his four year minor league career, and consequently was suspended for 50 games. His delegation to the AFL was likely in part a result of his missing the bulk of the 2012 regular season. Ward joins backstops Gorman Erickson from the Dodgers and James McCann from the Tigers to round out the three catcher rotation for Mesa.
In spite of his two drug violations, the Orioles have kept Ward around because of his terrific defense and patience at the plate. Ward has thrown out 39% of base stealers in his career, while maintaining a .986 fielding percentage. He is quick behind the plate (lowest pop time ever recorded was 1.71 seconds, though he regularly sits in the 1.79 – 1.82 range), and has great mechanics when blocking errant pitches. Maybe most important about Ward his that he calls good games for his pitchers—a skill that is tough to teach.
He complements his stellar defense with a patient approach at the plate, albeit unexciting. Ward’s career OBP of .337 is about 100 points higher than his career average. He has very little pop, and at best would be a throw in at the tail-end of a lineup. Ward will have a chance to reclaim his 2012 season with the Solar Sox, and at 26 years old with a few big personal mistakes on his track record, Ward will do well to show something special this fall.
3B – Jonathan Schoop (20) – Signed by Orioles as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2008
2012 – Bowie: 0.245/.324/.386, 24 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 5 SB, 50 BB, 103 SO in 555 PA
The kid of the group of seven the O’s delegated to Mesa this fall is 20 year old Jon Schoop. Baltimore scouted Schoop out of his native country Curacao, and signed him to a minor league contract at the young age of 16. He officially joined the O’s minor league system as an 18 year old in 2010, after spending a season in the Dominican Summer League.
Schoop is an exciting young talent at the plate. He absolutely smokes fastballs, but has had some trouble adjusting to off-speed junk at the higher levels. In 1,362 plate appearances since his debut in 2010, Schoop has a .266 batting average, 32 HR, and 197 RBI. He also has some impressive peripheral numbers. He only strikes out in roughly 17% of plate appearances, a fairly low number for a power prospect his age. Rare bat speed has helped him keep that number down. The O’s would like to see him take more pitches and get on-base more, though he has already made positive strides to that end. The one lingering question mark about Schoop’s game is his defensive ability, or should I say inability. He has committed 87 errors between second and third base in 381 games, equating to an error in about 23% of games played in the field.
The O’s hope to see Schoop work on recognizing and reacting better to off-speed pitching, and fluidity and consistency in the field. If Schoop shows steady improvement in these two areas, you will likely see him join the big league club before his 25th birthday.
LF – L.J. Hoes (22) – Orioles 2008 3rdRound Pick
2012 – Bowie: 0.265/.368/.372, 9 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 12 SB, 31 BB, 33 SO in 229 PA
2012 – Norfolk: 0.300/.374/.397, 14 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 8 SB, 34 BB, 43 SO in 357 PA
The most complete offensive player to represent the Orioles in the AFL this fall is L.J. Hoes. This year Hoes has seen several area codes, starting his season with AA Bowie, getting promoted to AAA Norfolk, and finally getting the call to join the big league roster on September 11th. Hoes won the award for top offensive player in the Orioles organization in 2012 after a campaign that saw him post a .287 average and a .382 on-base percentage. He received the honors alongside top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy.
Hoes is a complete player and athlete, not overwhelming with any single skill, but solid across the board. Since his first minor league season in 2008, he has 129 extra-base hits and 81 stolen bases to go along with a career .283 average. Hoes lacks consistent power, but knows how to put the ball in play, and can be relied upon to provide quality at bats in every plate appearance, a rare skill for a 22 year old. Similarly, he doesn’t make many grotesque fielding errors, and has a decent to good arm from left side of the outfield.
Again, no one quality really jumps off the page for Hoes except for his maturity level at such a young age. The Orioles need players like Hoes to maintain the winning mentality they have developed here in 2012, which likely prompted his call-up a few weeks ago for the stretch run. With the Orioles clinching a playoff berth out of the AL East, Hoes is in for a long, long 2012 season. Immediately after the O’s playoff run, he will fly to Arizona to join the Solar Sox—perhaps his last test before a permanent promotion to the majors.
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