The Orioles’ 2009 11th round draft pick out of Lakewood Ranch HS (FL), Michael Ohlman signed for $995,000 and made his pro debut in the GCL after signing on August 15th. With fellow catcher Justin Dalles injured at the beginning of 2010, Ohlman was given the opportunity to start at catcher for the Delmarva Shorebirds.
After offensive struggles and a case of the yips, the Orioles demoted him from Delmarva and sent him to extended spring training, where he stayed until the short-season clubs opened. After a few weeks in EST, Ohlman returned to the minors, this time with the Bluefield Orioles. Fans weren’t exactly helpful and were often heard shouting phrases such as “the Orioles want their money back!”
Despite knocking just two balls out of the park throughout all of 2010, Ohlman still has the bat speed and power potential to grow into a true 30+ home run hitter. His primary weakness at the moment is his pitch identification. He has severe issues picking up on curve balls and needs to wait for the ball and let it travel. His future power will rely on his ability to make more contact, thus turning his power potential into actual production — his bat speed will do most of the work once he connects.
With walk rates above 10% at both Delmarva and Bluefield, it’s clear Ohlman is more than willing to take a walk. Trouble with breaking pitches is always going to lead to high strikeout rates but his strong walk rate should help make up for his low average and contact rates by boosting his OBP.
Currently, Ohlman’s primary position is catcher but it’s unclear where he’s going to end up when all is said and done. His footwork isn’t particularly smooth and his blocking skills have a long way to go. He shows an ability to move well side-to-side, but struggles to block balls directly in front of him. He does show soft hands and demonstrates solid ability to frame pitches. Ohlman’s above-average arm strength plays well behind the plate and should enable him to move around the diamond if he needs to move off the plate, which seems likely. First base, and outfield corner, and possibly third base are options if the Orioles want to shift him around defensively.
The Orioles have a number of catchers fighting for starting jobs in the lower minors — including Riley Hornback, Wynston Sawyer and Dalles — so Ohlman may be forced to play numerous positions in order to find some at-bats.
John Stockstill has been aggressive in advancing hitters through the system, so Ohlman returning to Delmarva to open 2011 isn’t out of the question. He’s a smart hitter and there’s no question he has the ability to churn out a strong 2011 campaign. With the yips behind him and a full season under his belt, Ohlman is out to silence the doubters and look like the million dollar catcher the Orioles thought they were getting.