Welcome back to another edition of Almost Prospects. Part 1 is located here. As I said then:
“Every year, some players fall off the prospect radar, whether due to age, poor performance, injury, or some combination of the three. Far more never make it on the radar. Here’s a look at some guys in the Orioles’ system who are lurking just off the fringes of being prospects, and what they can do to improve their standing.”
Hector Veloz, 3B, DSL
Why he’s not a prospect: inexperience (0 professional PA)
Why he’s close: young, plus raw power
Notes: Veloz, 17, signed for a franchise-record $300,000 bonus last July. He hasn’t appeared in any games yet, but with that bonus he has to be one to watch when the DSL starts play this year. At the time of signing, however, he had already failed a test for anabolic steroids, so that raw power that led the Orioles to sign him might not actually appear. Still, he represents the largest investment the O’s have made on the international amateur front to date, and for that alone he merits inclusion on this list.
Tyler Kolodny, OF, Frederick
Why he’s not a prospect: attitude issues, injuries in 2010
Why he’s close: has hit just about everywhere
Notes: Kolodny started 2010 red hot for Delmarva, hitting 10 HR in 41 games (180 PA). However, he was sent back to extended spring training for “disciplinary reasons”, and after a few games at Aberdeen, broke his hamate bone and was out for the rest of the season. So far in Frederick he hasn’t hit as well as he did at Delmarva, but his .387 OBP is very nice and his .346 wOBA, while not optimal, is certainly above average for the level. He by some accounts had issues with the Delmarva coaching staff, though, so attitude may be an issue going forward, and the fact that he needed to be demoted certainly can’t have earned him any points with management. He’s still 23, so there’s hope for him, but he’ll need to start hitting for power again and force the Orioles front office to take note.
Cole McCurry, LHP, Bowie
Why he’s not a prospect: Age (25), lack of consistent results
Why he’s close: Dominant this year out of the bullpen
Notes: McCurry had an excellent year for Delmarva in 2009, striking out more than a batter per inning and posting a 2.71 ERA. However, due to his age and lack of draft pedigree (43rd round, 2007), he wasn’t seen as a prospect then. His walk and HR rates elevated in 2010 and he had a more mediocre year for Frederick and was moved to the bullpen midway through. This year he’s been in the pen from the start, and he’s excelled, allowing just one run in 23.2 innings. His WHIP is a minuscule 0.676 and his K/BB rate is 4.83. As a lefty, he also probably has a better shot of making it in a major league bullpen, and we could even see him in Baltimore this year.
Jason Gurka, LHP, Delmarva
Why he’s not a prospect: age, current role, draft position
Why he’s close: Strikeouts. Lots of them.
Notes: Gurka was the Orioles’ 15th round pick out of Angelina College, a junior college in Lufkin, TX. He got into two games after being drafted in 2008, and immediately showed some potential, striking out five in three innings without walking a batter. He didn’t pitch at all in 2009, but in 2010 he pitched out of the bullpen and struck out 10.8 batters per nine innings at Aberdeen. This year he’s improved those numbers, with an incredible 12.6 K/9. To add to that, he’s only walked two hitters in 20.2 innings, for an amazing 14.5 K/BB ratio. Like McCurry, Gurka is a bit old for Delmarva (23), but he’s a lefty, and he’s already more dominant than McCurry ever was. If he continues pitching like he has at Delmarva, he could be a valuable part of the bullpen in the future.
Tyler Kelly, UT, Delmarva
Why he’s not a prospect: minimal power, way down on the depth chart
Why he’s close: excellent OBP, versatile
Notes: The Orioles’ 13th round pick in 2009 out of UC Davis, Kelly signed quickly and went to Aberdeen. While his hitting there was average (.317 wOBA), his 12.2% walk rate was quite good, particularly for an infielder. At age 21 in Delmarva in 2010, Kelly played 2B and 3B and posted a .336 wOBA, with a continued high walk rate and 30 doubles. He led the Shorebirds in TB and was second among regulars in OBP. Repeating Delmarva this year, he has been moved out of the infield for the most part to accommodate Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, and Mychal Givens. He’s played primarily 3B and LF, with some 2B and RF and a bit of DHing in there as well. All the position switching hasn’t hurt his hitting, though, as he’s got a .398 OBP and .357 wOBA. Actually, as I was writing this post, Kelly was going 5-for-5 with a HR in Delmarva’s win over Lakewood, raising his OPS to .849 if my math is correct. In the month of May, Kelly’s slash line is an amazing .500/.565/.625. While that’s obviously entirely unsustainable, he could have a future as a super-utility guy if he can keep getting on base, as he’s just 22 now.
And now, an update on the five guys I wrote about two weeks ago:
- Kipp Schutz – has raised his wOBA to .439. His batting average is .382. A promotion to Frederick should be imminent.
- Scott Copeland – had two poor starts since the first edition of Almost Prospects was published. His ERA is currently at 4.46.
- Jacob Pettit – had one okay start and one bad one. Last night, when he went 5 scoreless innings before running into trouble in the sixth. His ERA is currently 3.72.
- Justin Moore – has given up just one run in his five outings in the last two weeks, spanning 7.2 innings. He remains on track for a promotion to Bowie next year.
- Jose Diaz – has continued to be lights out as Bowie’s closer. The 300-pound flamethrower still looks like a potential addition to the the Orioles’ bullpen at the major league level.