In this installment, we will explore position players that are potential breakout candidates. In particular, we will be looking at those pitchers who will begin their season in double-A Bowie or triple-A Norfolk. Don't expect to see Brandon Erbe or Billy Rowell on these lists- most people are already expecting them to do well. Here, you'll find the players with the best chance to take their game to the next level.
#5 Nolan Reimold- Already entering his age 23 season, Reimold is a bit old for a premium offensive prospect that has yet to play in double-A. The Orioles believe that it was only extenuating circumstances related to injuries that kept him from making his Bowie debut last year. With a clean bill of health, Reimold should get off to a quick start against Eastern League pitching. He could be clamoring for big league at bats by September.
#4 Brandon Sing- Once a top prospect in the Chicago Cubs' organization, Sing has thrived with a power/patience approach in the minor leagues. That is, until he suffered from allergy and vision problems in 2006. The talent is certainly still there and frustrated Baltimore fans will tell you that the opportunity is there, as well. It's not out of the question for Sing to re-emerge as a legitimate big league first baseman.
#3 Luis Hernandez- The good thing about a prospect who gets rushed is that he has time to repeat a level if he struggles. That's exactly what Hernandez will be doing after being rushed to the upper minors by the Atlanta Braves. An excellent defender who can help the team in a lot of ways, Hernandez will have to prove he can handle advanced pitching better than his back-to-back .626 and .637 OPS's in the Southern League suggest. Nevertheless, he'll still only turn 23 years old at mid-season and all the tools that once made him a prized prospect are still there.
#2 Jeff Fiorentino- It was clear that he wasn't healthy until late into last season, but many observers were still disappointed in how Fiorentino had adjusted sine an ill-advised call-up to Baltimore in 2005. Meanwhile, lost in his depressed batting average and power output was the fact that he had made advances in his approach at the plate and in the field. By the time Fiorentino got healthy, everything clicked. A red-hot August saved his season and got him a cup-of-coffee in September. He's the type of player that tends to be underrated- having no standout tool but no glaring weakness, either- and his numbers will be dampened by the extreme pitcher-friendly environment in Norfolk, but Fio should still blow past last season's middling .275/.365/.413 batting line.
#1 Val Majewski- It might seem odd to think of a former top prospect as a breakout candidate, but so many fans- and, seemingly, the organization- have lost faith in Majewski that he now qualifies as a sleeper. A labrum injury at the end of 2004 cost Majewski his 2005 season and, frankly, he wasn't even at 100% in 2006. His second half batting line of .311/.392/.424 was respectable, considering how tough it is to hit in Ottawa, but it is clear that the shoulder injury has cost him some power. Turning 26 years old in June, Majewski can not afford another lost season. Known for his strong makeup and unquestionable work ethic, he's a good bet to take a few people by surprise this season. He might even be the long-term answer in left field.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com