Following fellow Keys outfielder Kyle Hudson, Ronnie Welty finds himself #45 in our O’s prospect rankings. The 6′ 2″ outfielder registered a .814 OPS with the Keys last season, which included 18 home runs and 32 doubles.
Welt has a strong, athletic build and moves well in the outfield. His foot speed is solid, but not always good enough to bail him out of bad routes, which he can be found taking quite a bit. His arm-strength is above-average.
A free swinger, Welty struck out in 31.5% of his at-bats last season and is caught flailing at changeups quite a bit. Normally a player who strikes out 31.5% of the time isn’t going to hit .282 as Welty did, but his batting average was largely backed by a well above-average BABIP of .380. In most cases you’d say .380 is never going to be sustained from season-to-season, but that was actually Welty’s lowest BABIP of his three year minor league career. Welty has good power for an outfielder and managed to post an OBP of .350 last year, but players who strikeout as much in A-ball as Welty did usually have trouble finding success in the upper levels of the minors.
There is no arguing Welty has been a fairly productive player during his minor league career, but he needs a good season at Bowie to legitimatize his prospect status. Brandon Waring, who has a similar approach to that of Welty, struck out in 22.3% of his at-bats during his MVP season with the Keys. Waring went on to struggle while playing with the Baysox, with his average going from .271 to .239 and his OPS going from .874 to .791. It’s not uncommon for sluggers to experience success playing for the Keys, but it’s the next year with Double-A Bowie — Welty’s likely 2011 home — where they are really going to be put to the test. Unless Welty severely alters his approach, it’s very likely he struggles and produces a season similar to Waring’s 2010.