Bobby Henson- Scouts have mixed opinions of exactly what type of hitter Henson will become, but he has a wide variety of tools. He reminds some of Kieron Pope and the Orioles are hoping he is able to make similar advances in his second professional season.
Eli Whiteside- Whiteside’s offensive value is completely tied up in his above-average power. While you can’t make an out in over 70% of your at bats and be an asset, Whiteside has enough pop to hit 15-20 homeruns in a full season’s worth of at bats.
Jason Fransz- Signed as a minor league free agent after a leg injury, Fransz has done little but hit with authority since coming over to the Orioles’ minor league system. He will be seeing his first taste of the upper minors as a 26 year old in 2007, so he has to move fast to avoid getting buried in the system, but his power is for real.
#10 Jeff Fiorentino- His numbers were down in 2006, but this is still a guy who hit 34 homeruns in his first 638 professional at bats. He makes up for an awkward swing with extremely quick wrists. He should hit around 20 homeruns a year in the majors if given a full-time role.
#9 Mark Fleisher- Despite a decidedly pitching-friendly environment in low-A Delmarva, Fleisher managed 16 home runs and a .449 SLG. Expect those numbers to improve next year, as he takes over first base for the Frederick Keys.
#8 Paul Chmiel- He’s still growing into his 6-5 frame and his power has been in the form of doubles thus far in his career. Nevertheless, there are people within the organization that believe Chmiel has a chance to grow into a formidable power threat.
#7 Val Majewski- Majewski didn’t look like the player that once ranked as one of the Orioles’ top prospects in 2006, but the potential is still there. He makes up for average bat speed with good hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition. With a healthy shoulder, he is a legitimate threat for 25 homeruns annually.
#6 J.R. House- The Orioles are going to give House a lot of time at first base and his bat is going to have to carry him to a role in the majors. That shouldn’t be a problem, as House was among the minor leagues’ top hitters in 2006. He could be a threat for 20+ homers if he can collect enough at bats.
#5 Brandon Snyder- While his 2006 was ruined by multiple shoulder injuries, Snyder could be set for a nice comeback at low-A Delmarva this season. He will stay at first base and DH to protect his shoulder and his days behind the plate are likely over, so his offensive development is now even more important.
#4 Chris Vinyard- Vinyard took the New York-Penn League by storm in his professional debut, knocking 36 extra base hits and tying for the league lead in home runs in 306 at bats. His defense is shaky even at first base, but Vinyard may have a bat that makes up for it. He could be a steal as a 38th round draft pick in 2005.
#3 Kieron Pope- Pope had a tale of two seasons- dominant in the Appalachian League but useless after a promotion to the college-heavy New York-Penn League. His raw power is his best tool and, although he has a lot of work to do recognizing breaking pitches, Pope has elite power potential.
#2 Nolan Reimold- There are few players more fun to watch in batting practice as the well-built 6-4 Reimold. His batting average may never be high, but he has the potential to be a 30+ homerun threat. Reimold even made progress hitting the ball the other way with authority as 2006 wore on.
#1 Billy Rowell- Rowell’s power is still more projection than reality. That’s a testament to exactly how good he could become when you consider that he slugged .503 in his professional debut. At 6-5 and potentially still growing, Rowell is still filling out his huge frame. He has excellent bat speed and an ability to recognize pitches better than most teenagers. The Orioles believe that he is a future #3 hitter and will move quickly for a prep product.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com