Team Preview: Norfolk Tides

Jon Knott provides legitimate right-handed pop

ITW previews the 2007 Norfolk Tides. We take a look at the improved depth at every position, as well as point out some sleepers to look out for on this year's roster.

Pitchers

Rob Bell (DL); Francis Beltran; Kurt Birkins; Brian Burres; Cory Doyne; Steve Green; Jim Johnson; Ryan Keefer (DL); Jon Leicester; Nick McCurdy; Andy Mitchell; Garrett Olson; Hayden Penn; Paul Shuey (DL); Sean Tracey; Todd Williams

Highlights- Much like you'll see elsewhere on this roster, the shift in triple-A locales to Norfolk has proved much more attractive to promising minor league free agents. Garrett Olson and Hayden Penn will front a deep rotation. Penn obviously has a head start, having pitched in the International League last season, but both of these two can expect a call-up at some point this season. Even the Orioles can not withstand a full season of Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel. Jim Johnson will continue to serve as a workhorse and the pitching-friendly confines should do wonders to add luster to his prospect status.

Sleepers- Demoting Todd Williams was a curious decision, given that he has been a hot topic in trade rumors. Francis Beltran and Jon Leicester both have some upside in them after being cast off by the Chicago Cubs. Sean Tracey is better than Ozzie Guillen thinks he is, but the stats have to match the scouting reports at some point. Brian Burres was the unlucky beneficiary of Ramon Hernandez's injury, having previously made the 25-man roster. He will provide nice depth in the case of a major league bullpen injury and is still probably a better bet than Jeremy Guthrie. Birkins and Keefer both have major league potential, but Birkins is hurt by the newfound depth at Camden Yards, while Keefer will spend most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery in January.

Catchers

J.R. House; Eli Whiteside

Highlights- Concerns about his defense aside, J.R. House is the best catcher in the system with Ramon down for the count. Instead of providing right-handed pop for the Orioles, he'll move around the corner infield positions and catcher for the Tides.

Sleepers- Eli Whiteside will return to triple-A with Albert Castillo backing up Paul Bako. He has a great arm and some pop, but the best indicator of what the organization thinks of him is that a 37 year old journeyman got the nod over him for a brief showing in the major leagues.

Infielders

Gera Alvarez; Mike Cervanek; Cesar Crespo; Brandon Fahey; Terry Tiffee; Eider Torres

Highlights- At least Brandon Fahey gets to return to his natural position at Norfolk, where he is a plus defender. He is an adequate backup middle infielder in the show, but with ironmen consistently laying claim to shortstop in Baltimore, he is in the wrong organization.

Sleepers- Terry Tiffee is a former prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, but he has a checkered resume in the minors. Crespo and Torres are fringe major leaguers at best, but they are a good example of the added depth in the upper levels of the system this year.

Outfielders

Jason Dubois (DL); Jon Knott; Luis Montanez; Adam Stern (DL); Ruddy Yan

Highlights- Jason Dubois was very close to breaking camp with the big club. Instead, he got hurt at the end of spring training and the Orioles made the dubious decision to go with 13 pitchers (before the Ramon Hernandez injury). The injury should give Knott a chance to show off and gain some ground as the first in line to provide some right-handed sock that the Orioles will eventually realize they need. He was an undrafted free agent, but he has done nothing but hit as a professional. Adam Stern was an acclaimed Rule 5 pick of the Red Sox two years ago and showed considerable promise in the World Baseball Classic. His ceiling is likely as a defensive-minded fourth outfielder.

Sleepers- Luis Montanez is a former first round pick of the Chicago Cubs. He has a ton of athleticism, but his shift off of shortstop a few years ago puts a lot more pressure on his bat. He struggled in a transition to triple-A last year, but he is only 25 years old and he has his share of believers.

Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com

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