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Post-2006 Prospect Review: Baltimore
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

Beginning with today's article on Baltimore's prospects, I will review minor leaguers who could succeed in the majors in 2007 if given the necessary playing time. To simplify this process, I will alphabetically progress through the AL, discussing one franchise each day for the next two weeks. Following our annual November break, I will pick up with the NL in the same order. While I undoubtedly will miss several players who will shoot to the majors next season, I expect to cover most batters and pitchers who will lose their rookie status next year.

Unlike practically every other prospect analyst, I am only looking at the potential of these players for 2007 Rotisserie, Scoresheet, and other fantasy baseball teams. I will not examine defensive-oriented players with few obvious offensive skills, nor will I analyze pitchers with obvious flaws that should keep them in the minors indefinitely.

I only will consider prospects below AA if they appear able to excel in AAA by the second half of 2007 or should possess significant trade value in keeper leagues. Of players who spent all of this year in short-season ball, only a few merit serious attention even in the deepest leagues as everyone else needs at least a full season of development time.

I make no distinction between recognized prospects and likely minor league free agents as long as the player demonstrates fantasy potential, retains MLB rookie status for 2007, and participated in affiliated minor league baseball this year. If you know any decent prospects who missed the entire regular season like Wade Townsend, Bryan Bullington, and Javier Herrera, please e-mail me with their names so I don't accidentally miss them.

Baltimore's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007
Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects
Team Overview and Organization Rankings

Baltimore's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2007

1. Jeff Fiorentino, 23, OF-L
10/39 for .256/.375/.308 with 0 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, 1/1 SB%,
and a 7:3 BB:K.
106/385 for .275/.365/.413 with 13 HR, 62 RBI, 63 R, 9/12 SB%,
and a 53:58 BB:K for AA Bowie(EL).

Progressing plate discipline and defensive versatility virtually ensures an extended career on a big league bench for Fiorentino, but his chance of starting regularly depends on continued quantitative improvement. Given Baltimore's willingness to disrupt his development with summons to the majors, I suspect he will not emerge as a consistent starter on the Orioles. Treat Fiorentino as no more than an endgame option until you see some organization demonstrate a firm commitment to him.

2. James Johnson, 23, RH Starter
0-1 on a 0:3 K:BB in 3 IP over 1 GS
with 9 H, 1 HR, a 6-5 G-F, and a 24.00 ERA.
13-6 on a 124:57 K:BB in 156 IP over 26 GS(27G)
with 165 H, 13 HR, a 1.45 G-F, and a 4.44 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).

Following Hayden Penn's September implosion, Johnson should enter camp with a reasonable shot at a rotation slot barring the addition of multiple free agents. Yes, his decreasing strikeout rate concerns me, as does his overall lack of dominance. However I still see no reason he can't succeed in the majors, especially when considering his consistent progress through the minors and relative youth. Spending a reserve round pick here could pay welcome dividends if he looks strong in the spring.

3. Nolan Reimold, 23, OF-R
106/415 for .255/.379/.455 with 19 HR, 75 RBI, 73 R, 14/22 SB%,
and a 76:107 BB:K for A+ Fredrick(Car).

While I do not anticipate Reimold emulating the meteoric rise of Nick Markakis, the 2005 2nd round pick should debut late next year. His plate discipline alone insures respectable offensive numbers, and although he should not develop into more than a $15-20 player, he appears the safest bet in an unimpressive system. Waiting one more year to roster him is the best plan, but if you see him available at an obvious discount, Reimold's value only should increase over the next couple of years.

4. Radhames Liz, 23, RH Starter
3-1 on a 54:31 K:BB in 50.1 IP over 10 GS
with 55 H, 9 HR, a .81 G-F, and a 5.36 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
6-5 on a 95:44 K:BB in 83 IP over 16 GS
with 57 H, 8 HR, a 1.01 G-F, and a 2.82 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

Dominating the Carolina League in the first half helped Liz catch my eye early this year, yet his failure to maintain any of his skill ratios in the Eastern League slows his timetable for advancement. I cannot truly endorse him for any fantasy league until we see him post better numbers in the upper minors, though if he begins 2007 with a repeat of his early 2006 performance, he will merit plenty of attention by appearing on your free agent lists as soon as early next summer.

5. Garrett Olson, 22, LH Starter
6-5 on an 85:31 K:BB in 84.1 IP over 14 GS
with 78 H, 5 HR, a .98 G-F, and a 3.42 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
4-4 on a 77:19 K:BB in 81.1 IP over 14 GS
with 81 H, 7 HR, a .91 G-F, and a 2.77 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

The 2005 first round pick could challenge for a spot in the Orioles' unimpressive rotation as soon as next spring. However, given his recent stats, spending at least a half-season in the upper minors appears a prerequisite before you consider him in any league. While there's plenty of upside here, do not expect to see positive roto value prior to 2008.

6. Val Majewski, 25, OF-L
84/323 for .260/.344/.381 with 4 HR, 39 RBI, 44 R, 7/15 SB%,
and a 37:72 BB:K for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Majewski failed to rebound to his former level of play after missing all of 2005 with a labrum tear. He now appears headed for no more than a bench spot on the Orioles, and although he could emerge as a regular, he is not worth a significant fantasy investment at this time. Consider spending no more than a buck or two if he breaks camp in the majors.

7. Brian Burres, 25, LH Swingman
0-0 on a 6:1 K:BB in 8 IP over 11 G
with 6 H, 1 HR, a 13-9 G-F, and a 2.25 ERA.
10-6 on a 110:57 K:BB in 139 IP over 26 GS
with 133 H, 14 HR, a 1.01 G-F, and a 3.76 ERA.

Burres surprisingly prospered in the Orioles' bullpen after spending the last three seasons as a starter, progressing to the majors despite generally unimpressive skills. However, I see no reason why he cannot remain successful in his new role, and if Baltimore gives him a long look in 2007, they should find Burres a very useful and wonderfully inexpensive relieve, albeit not one likely to help many fantasy teams.

8. Angel Chavez, 25, 3B-R
58/210 for .276/.317/.476 with 6 HR, 28 RBI, 27 R, 6/6 SB%,
and a 13:41 BB:K for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre(IL).
65/254 for .256/.300/.366 with 5 HR, 33 RBI, 35 R, 9/12 SB%,
and a 17:49 BB:K between AA Reading(EL) and AA Bowie(EL).

Claimed off waivers from San Francisco at the end of spring training and then dispatched to Baltimore as the Jeff Conine PTBN, Chavez's developing power could let him push Brandon Fahey for a spot on the Orioles' bench in camp. While his weak plate discipline could lead to BA problems, I see sufficient quantitative upside here to recommend keeping an eye on him as a possible reserve round picks in very deep leagues.

9. Billy Rowell, 18, SS-R
14/43 for .326/.388/.488 with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 4:12 BB:K for A- Aberdeen(NYP).
50/152 for .329/.422/.507 with 2 HR, 26 RBI, 38 R, 3/3 SB%,
and a 25:47 BB:K for R+ Bluefield(Appy).

The ninth player selected this summer, Rowell possesses as much long-term power potential as anyone from the 2006 draft. He soon should shift to third base to begin his quick march to the majors. You still should not plan to draft him next spring since he will not reach Baltimore sooner than late 2008 at the absolute earliest, but if your league values long-term prospects like Rowell, a late-round pick here at least will give you a decent trade chit.

10. Brandon Erbe, 18, RH Starter
5-9 on a 133:47 K:BB in 114.2 IP over 27 GS(28G)
with 88 H, 2 HR, a .72 G-F, and a 3.22 ERA for A Delmarva(SAL).

An extremely impressive performance for a teenager in his first full professional season, Erbe nevertheless needs at least another full year of development. Even the Orioles' overeager development staff will not push him to the majors in 2007, so unless you play in a ridiculously deep league, just monitor Erbe's progress next summer with an eye toward targeting him in the spring of 2008.

11. Beau Hale, 27, RH Starter
4-6 on a 65:20 K:BB in 95 IP over 12 GS(19G)
with 85 H, 8 HR, a 1.51 G-F, and a 3.22 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
2-0 and 1 Save on a 20:5 K:BB in 21.1 IP over 1 GS(12G)
with 28 H, 1 HR, a 2.83 G-F, and a 3.80 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

The fourteenth overall pick way back in 2000, Hale missed all of 2003 and 2004 due to injury before returning to the Carolina League last year. His reemergence at Bowie this summer reasserts his prospect status, and although I do not expect him to flourish in the majors at any point, he at least appears on track to join a big league bullpen at some point. Do not be surprised if he receives a shot with the Orioles by next fall.

12. Luis Ramirez, 24, RH Starter
8-9 on a 122:42 K:BB in 125.2 IP over 23 GS
with 107 H, 15 HR, a .45 G-F, and a 4.23 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

Ramirez offered a respectable follow-up to the 2.55 ERA and 155:54 K:BB in 162 IP for Delmarva he managed last year. Unfortunately, the combination of his age and poor groundball rate leaves him little margin for error. He needs another solid campaign at AA Bowie in 2007 to retain any prospect status or else risk slipping out of the Orioles' plans altogether.

13. Cory Morris, 27, RH Starter
1-9 on a 63:56 K:BB in 72.2 IP over 16 GS
with 73 H, 5 HR, a 1.52 G-F, and a 4.21 ERA for AAA Ottawa(IL).
1-0 on an 8:4 K:BB in 6 IP over 2 GS
with 3 H, 1 HR, a 1.25 G-F, and a 3.00 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
0-0 on a 6:4 K:BB in 6.1 IP over 2 GS
with 2 H, 0 HR, a 6.00 G-F, and a 0.00 ERA for A- Aberdeen(NYP).

Morris badly faltered only a year after he registered a 3.03 ERA 159:78 K:BB in 143 IP for Bowie, suffering through injuries and control problems all season. I strongly suspect he will continue stagnating unless moved to the bullpen, and given his potential dominance, a role chance could prove quite beneficial. He just appears to lack the necessary control to reach the majors as an effective starter.

14. James Hoey, 23, RH Reliever
0-1 on a 6:5 K:BB in 9.2 IP over 12 G
with 14 H, 1 HR, a 1.38 G-F, and a 10.24 ERA.
0-0 and 4 Saves on an 11:3 K:BB in 9 IP over 8 G
with 9 H, 1 HR, a 1.00 G-F, and a 4.00 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
0-0 and 11 Saves on a 16:5 K:BB in 14 IP over 14 G
with 13 H, 0 HR, a .69 G-F, and a 0.64 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).
2-1 and 18 Saves on a 46:10 K:BB in 28.1 IP over 27 G
with 17 H, 2 HR, a 1.29 G-F, and a 2.54 ERA for A Delmarva(SAL).

Following three unremarkable seasons in the short-season New York-Penn League, Hoey slammed through nearly the entire Orioles' system, dominating both levels of A-ball and remaining effective in the Eastern league before finally stumbling in the majors. At worst he will return to the upper minors in the spring, yet if he remains effective in spring training, Hoey easily could earn a spot at the end of Baltimore's bullpen, as well as possible fantasy consideration as soon as May.

15. Paco Figueroa, 23, 2B-R
98/345 for .284/.358/.380 with 4 HR, 28 RBI, 62 R, 20/33 SB%,
and a 30:46 BB:K for A+ Frederick(Car).

Baltimore likely expected more from their 2005 ninth round pick than this uninspired performance, yet given his defensive acumen and likely future as a utilityman, he still could push toward the majors next summer. Make sure his averages and basestealing effectiveness continue to improve before considering him for so much as an endgame MIF slot.

Roster Filler and Long-Term Prospects

Winston Abreu, 29, RH Reliever
0-0 on a 6:6 K:BB in 8 IP over 7 G
with 10 H, 1 HR, a 6-16 G-F, and a 10.13 ERA.
9-4 and 1 Save on a 78:20 K:BB in 65.1 IP over 46 G
with 54 H, 4 HR, a .75 G-F, and a 2.48 ERA for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Spending this entire decade in the upper minors finally resulted in a brief promotion for Abreu, who unfortunately failed to take advantage of that opportunity. He quickly returned to the minors and may not see a similar chance again. Even considering him roster filler seems generous at this point.

Craig Anderson, 25, LH Starter
0-4 on a 24:10 K:BB in 46.2 IP over 9 GS
with 66 H, 4 HR, a .67 G-F, and a 5.59 ERA.
3-0 on a 35:5 K:BB in 43.1 IP over 6 GS(8G)
with 32 H, 3 HR, a 1.47 G-F, and a 2.28 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).
5-1 on a 37:11 K:BB in 58.1 IP over 11 GS
with 66 H, 8 HR, a .75 G-F, and a 4.78 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

Returning from a year in the independent leagues, the former Mariners' prospect eventually settled back in A-ball as a combination of weak dominance and poor defense limited his effectiveness in the upper minors. I would love to see if Anderson could prosper in relief given his combination of outstanding command and an unimpressive strikeout rate, but I fear that expecting more from him than an occasional foray to AAAA swingman status is a mistake.

Brian Finch, 25, RH Starter
6-12 on an 83:69 K:BB in 145.2 IP over 26 GS(27G)
with 146 H, 18 HR, a 1.66 G-F, and a 3.65 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).

A massive drop in his strikeout rate belies his otherwise respectable AA numbers. Of course, given the superior upside of his fellow Baysox starters, Finch appears far more likely to spend another full year at Bowie than push to debut in the majors. Despite decent long-term potential, nothing here suggests he will emerge as a viable fantasy option in 2007.

Eddy Garabito, 29, IF-S
122/474 for .257/.326/.344 with 5 HR, 46 RBI, 55 R, 19/27 SB%,
and a 47:54 BB:K for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Garabito returned to his original organization this summer after a one-year dalliance with the Rockies. While his averages slumped compared to his previous numbers at Ottawa, he remained a disciplined hitter with decent speed, once again leaving him in line for a mid-season promotion as injury filler and perhaps even a few bucks of roto value.

Anderson Garcia, 25, RH Reliever
1-4 on a 21:17 K:BB in 39 IP over 25 G
with 39 H, 4 HR, a 1.13 G-F, and a 5.54 ERA
between AAA Norfolk(IL) and AAA Ottawa(IL) 3-3 and 1 Save on a 25:6 K:BB in 29.1 IP over 15 G
with 27 H, 0 HR, a 1.47 G-F, and a 1.55 ERA
between AA Binghamton(EL) and AA Bowie(EL).
0-0 on a 3:2 K:BB in 3 IP over 2 G
with 0 H, 0 HR, a 2.00 G-F, and a 3.00 ERA for R Mets(GCL).

Claimed off waivers from the Mets in August, Garcia clearly needs no more time in the Eastern League yet could continue struggling for the Orioles' new affiliate in Norfolk next summer. He certainly possesses the skill to emerge as a useful big league reliever, however I cannot recommend him anywhere until he demonstrates far better command at the AAA level.

Noah Hall, 29, OF-R
119/431 for .276/.371/.445 with 12 HR, 58 RBI, 67 R, 18/26 SB%,
and a 51:64 BB:K for AA Bowie(EL).

Regularly possessing some of the best plate discipline among annual minor league free agents, Hall returned to the Eastern league for the first time since 2003 and compiled another respectable performance. With his chance for an extended big league career rapidly decreasing, hopefully Hall will impress somebody in camp next spring and finally receive a decent shot at contributing as a reserve in the majors.

Kevin Hart, 23, RH Starter
6-11 on a 122:65 K:BB in 148.1 IP over 27 GS(28G)
with 149 H, 18 HR, a 1.38 G-F, and a 4.61 ERA for A+ Frederick(Car).

An eleventh round pick in 2004, Hart's 9.7 K/9 for Delmarva last year hinted at a bright future, but after this unremarkable performance, I suspect we will see him in the bullpen within the next two years. Hart's effectiveness at AA Bowie next summer should determine his likely career path.

Ryan Hubele, 26, C-R
77/312 for .247/.306/.397 with 9 HR, 34 RBI, 40 R, 4/7 SB%,
and a 20:76 BB:K for AA Bowie(EL).

Another stagnating catching prospect on the Orioles, Hubele appears slightly more likely to emerge as a decent backup than Eli Whiteside yet similarly possesses negligible fantasy value. Wait until you see him in the majors before so much as considering Hubele in any league.

Tripper Johnson, 24, IF-R
26/131 for .198/.250/.275 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R, 1/2 SB%,
and a 7:24 BB:K for AA Bowie(EL).
57/187 for .305/.373/.476 with 5 HR, 24 RBI, 32 R, 4/4 SB%,
and a 20:17 BB:K for A+ Frederick(Car).

Demoted to learn more infield positions at A-ball, Johnson finished the year in the Carolina League and now appears more likely to depart the Orioles in minor league free agency than reach AAA with his current club. The former first round pick barely belongs on any prospect list, and unless he can exceed a .450 SLG in the upper minors within the next year or two, he may soon disappear from affiliated ball completely.

Cory Keylor, 27, OF-L
131/446 for .294/.365/.415 with 10 HR, 68 RBI, 58 R, 6/11 SB%,
and a 48:92 BB:K for AA Bowie(EL).

Keylor's second tour at Bowie surprisingly resulted in the best offensive numbers of his career. He finished the year with a batting average nearly forty points higher than his previous best, and coupled with his solid walk rate, he suddenly looks like an interesting prospect. The problem is that he turned 27 in August, does not possess impressive power or speed, and faces plenty of competition in the Orioles' outfield. Only a strong follow-up at AAA Norfolk will keep Keylor on Baltimore's radar.

Nick McCurdy, 26, RH Reliever
4-0 on a 20:8 K:BB in 29.2 IP over 15 G
with 35 H, 3 HR, a 2.43 G-F, and a 3.94 ERA for AAA Ottawa(IL).
1-2 and 3 Saves on a 40:13 K:BB in 49.1 IP over 37 G
with 54 H, 2 HR, a 2.67 G-F, and a 2.37 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).

The combination of good command and a groundball rate over 2.00 should push most pitchers to the edge of the majors, and although McCurdy appears unlikely to develop into a late-inning option, his skill set suggests he could flourish in middle relief. Yet the Orioles returned him to Bowie to finish the season, so despite the upside indicated in his numbers, he may not join Baltimore's bullpen any time soon.

Andy Mitchell, 28, RH Reliever
1-1 on a 49:27 K:BB in 67.1 IP over 1 GS(50G)
with 72 H, 3 HR, a 2.62 G-F, and a 2.27 ERA for AAA Ottawa(IL).

If this performance didn't earn Mitchell a chance with the Orioles in a year where over a half-dozen rookie relievers debuted in Baltimore, he never will receive a fair shot until he switches organizations. Hopefully he will find a club that will overlook his mediocre strikeout totals given his impressive groundball rate and overall effectiveness.

Chris Piersoll, 29, RH Reliever
6-2 on a 57:27 K:BB in 67 IP over 2 GS(42G)
with 65 H, 6 HR, a 1.10 G-F, and a 3.90 ERA for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Like Lynx teammate Andy Mitchell, Piersoll's failure to earn a promotion this summer indicates he will not receive an extended look in the majors any time soon. Despite decent all-around skills, expecting more from him than an occasional appearance as AAAA filler seems unwarranted.

Aaron Rakers, 29, RH Reliever
No 2006 stats.

A torn labrum discovered in spring training prevented Rakers from pitching this summer. While his previous stats still indicate a high likelihood for him to experience some big league success, I strong suspect he needs a change of scenery to see any extended action in the majors. The injury also severely reduces his chance to emerge as a closer some day, so we simply cannot consider him as more than roster filler any time soon.

Keith Reed, 28, OF-R
119/426 for .279/.319/.441 with 10 HR, 66 RBI, 57 R, 14/25 SB%,
and a 19:63 BB:K for AAA Ottawa(IL).

The eight-year organization soldier no longer possesses any upside of note as poor plate discipline continues to sabotage his chance for advancement. Reed offers sufficient potential to help some clubs off the bench, but unless he both switches organizations and takes advantage of his opportunities during camp, he may not receive another shot in the majors.

Marino Salas, 25, RH Reliever
2-6 and 19 Saves on a 46:16 K:BB in 49.1 IP over 44 G
with 39 H, 3 HR, a .73 G-F, and a 2.92 ERA for AA Bowie(EL).

Entering his tenth year with the organization next spring, Salas only reached the upper minors this year, though his work for Bowie will earn him a long look in camp. Unfortunately, with at least a half-dozen comparable pitchers more established on the Orioles thanks to their work this summer, plus at least a couple of veterans certain to join the club, Salas faces long odds against securing more than a promotion to AAA Norfolk.

Esix Snead, 30, OF-S
28/127 for .220/.320/.268 with 1 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R, 15/19 SB%,
and a 19:20 BB:K for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Still one of the best baserunners in organized baseball at age 30, Snead simply cannot maintain a sufficiently high average to remain employed. Of course, a smart team would keep him in the minors just to serve as a pinch-runner every September, but with no team showing any indication of supporting that plan, Snead appears unlikely to post positive fantasy value any time soon.

Eli Whiteside, 27, C-R
77/315 for .244/.278/.413 with 11 HR, 47 RBI, 37 R, 1/4 SB%,
and a 10:73 BB:K for AAA Ottawa(IL).

Signing Ramon Hernandez appears especially wise considering the continue problems encountered by the Orioles' other catching prospects. Atrocious plate discipline now leaves Whiteside unlikely to emerge as more than AAAA injury filler, so despite his respectable power numbers, a weak BA effectively sabotages his fantasy value.

Today's Fantasy Rx: My predictions for today's games(all times CDT):

7:05: New York Mets@St. Louis Cardinals

I expected the Cardinals to hold the advantage tonight, but with the bullpen shot after yesterday's disaster, the Mets appear in a vastly superior position when Tom Glavine and Jeff Suppan inevitably tire. Despite playing at home and starting a slightly hotter pitcher in Suppan, St. Louis will need plenty of luck to carry any momentum into New York.

Team Overview and Organization Rankings

Baltimore recalled nearly every viable big league prospect from the upper levels of their system this year, kept top rookie Nick Markakis in the majors all year, and saw a half-dozen pitchers lose their rookies status, including Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn, Chris Britton, Sendy Rleal, and Kurt Birkins. The refusal of Peter Angelos to deal Miguel Tejada, Rod Lopez, and any veteran aside from Jeff Conine prevented Mike Flanagan from restocking the system. Even the addition of power-hitting teenager Billy Rowell in the June draft and emergence of Radhames Liz and Brandon Erbe merely allowed the club to continue identifying a couple of youngsters as legitimate prospects. With little depth and no high-upside talent set to arrive in the near future, the Orioles should sink to the bottom of the division barring an impressive barrage of acquisitions via free agency and the trade market.

Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2006, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, as well as consideration of the trade value of low-level minor leaguers from each system:

1. Baltimore Orioles(Fiorentino)

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