Stock Picks - Edition #1 (April 12, 2013)

Welcome to the 1st edition of Stock Picks on Orioles Observer.  I plan on doing this periodically to provide a snapshot of which players in the organization are making a splash and which ones are seeing their value fall.

In order to keep this exercise relatively simple and streamlined, I will pick a single player from each of the five full season teams in the organization (Baltimore, Norfolk, Bowie, Frederick, and Delmarva) for each category.  Of course there will be times where teams have multiple candidates for each section, but for time constraints I will pick the player that I think stands out the most.  If a team in the organization does not have a player that fits either the “up” or “down” categorization, I’ll simply forgo including a player from that team rather than pigeon-hole someone into a spot.  Therefore each week there will be a maximum of ten players profiled in this feature.

For the first edition I am using prior season performance/perception entering the season as the baseline to determine whether a particular player has seen his stock rise or fall.  Obviously if a player is demoted or promoted, that makes him a strong candidate to appear in one of the two categories.  Going forward, I will use the date of the previous post as my baseline.  However, that will not be a strict baseline.

For example, Eduardo Rodriquez struggled a bit in his first outing of the season for Frederick.  However, it was just one start and there were enough positive signs in that start for me to not seriously consider including him in the bottom half of the list.  If he pitches relatively the same in his next few outings, he might end up on the “down” side of the ledger a few weeks out even though his 2013 performance will have remained relatively steady.  Russ Canzler is off to a hot start.  Maybe he cools off a bit but still hits well the next week.  He could end up as one of the Five Up next week even if his performance this next week is a tick below his first week performance as long as his overall performance was strong enough to consider his stock to be on the rise.

Five Up

Chris Davis (Baltimore, 1B) – Was there any other choice?  Opinions were mixed on the O’s 1B heading into the 2013 season.  He had a strong 2012 season (.827 OPS and 33 HR) but it was not without red flags.  His 30.1% strikeout rate in 2012 indicated he might have a difficult time duplicating his 2012 success when striking out so much and his defense at 1B was also a concern to some.  Davis has handled 1B just fine (only one error and several nice plays) but it is his hitting that is getting everyone talking.  Through nine games, CD has six homeruns and leads all of MLB with 19 RBI.  He also is the league leader in SLG %, OPS, and OPS+.  Davis has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half to 15.8%.  He has a 1/1 BB/K ratio and has been more than willing to take pitches now that opposing teams are working him more carefully.  Davis will cool down eventually but he has set himself up for a very nice season and is on his way to being that middle of the order bat that so many onlookers felt the Orioles should have added this winter.

Jair Jurrjens (Norfolk, SP) – Jurrjens has made two starts for the Tides and has gone a combined 11.1 innings  while allowing just two earned runs on five hits and six walks.  Jurrjens has struck out nine batters is his first two outings of the season.  I caught most of Jair’s outing against Durham on April 12th and he looked sharp.  Jurrjens is a control pitcher that relies on keeping the ball down and hitting the corners.  He generally did a good job of that on Thursday.  His fastball was fairly regularly hitting 90 MPH (88 – 90) and he was locating all of his pitches well.  A couple of hits he allowed were largely a credit to the Durham batters who made solid contact on decent pitcher’s pitches.  Jurrjens struggled when demoted to AAA last year but at least thus far, he has given credence to the idea that he was still pitching hurt last season.  With Steve Johnson still working his way back from the DL, Jair has certainly put himself in-line to be the first starting pitcher called up if a need arises in Baltimore.

Ty Kelly (Bowie, 2B/SS) – Kelly had a breakout season in 2012 splitting time between Frederick, Bowie, and Norfolk with most of his damage coming at Frederick.  The strong season put the 24-year old utility infielder on the radar at the end of the 2012 season.  However, Ty has largely been lost in the shuffle since the end of the season.  With Dan Duquette more or less building the AAA roster with players from outside the organization, Kelly was sent to Bowie to begin the season – a little further down the depth chart then he may have hoped.  Nonetheless, Kelly as come strong out of the gates posting a line of .385/.514/.615 through the first seven games of the season.  Kelly has built on the power he showed in 2012 with three of his ten hits going for extra-bases.  He has also shown good plate discipline by walking seven times in seven games.  If Kelly keeps producing has he has for the past year+ now, it won’t be long before he starts turning a few more heads in the organization.  A solid 2013 season could have Ty positioned nicely for a utility role with the parent club in 2014.

Devin Jones (Frederick, SP) – In the case of starting pitcher Devin Jones, he has tangible proof that his stock is on the rise after being promoted from Frederick to Bowie this week.  Jones – who pitched for both Delmarva and Frederick in 2012 – made one start for the Keys allowing one run on three hits and one walk, while striking out three over 6 innings.  Jones is a groundball pitcher who opened some eyes last season by going 7-1 in nine starts for Frederick after a mid-season promotion.  Jones heads to Bowie as a replacement for injured pitcher Julio Rodriguez but that does not mean the promotion wasn’t earned on merit.  If he can sustain the success he experienced at Frederick against AA-hitters, then it will not be the last time Jones’ name appears on the positive side of the ledger in Stock Picks this season.

Parker Bridwell (Delmarva, SP) – Bridwell entered the Orioles organization in 2010 as a 9th round high school draft pick with good stuff, a lot of projection, and some command issues.  Bridwell reached the Southern-Atlantic League for the first time in 2011 as a 19-year old and spent all of 2012 there.  The results – 5.6 K/9 IP, 5.0 BB/9 IP, and a 5.96 ERA – were less than awe-inspiring.  Now back at Delmarva for a third straight year, it is show time for the 21-year old pitcher if he wants to get back on the path to being a legitimate prospect within the Baltimore organization.  Two starts into the season, it has been so far, so good on that front.  In 10 2/3’s innings pitched (spanning two starts), Parker has allowed 10 hits, struck out nine batters, and most importantly, surrendered only three walks.  The end results have been equally impressive with only two earned runs allowed in the 2013 season to date.  Two starts into the season and there are at least signs that the right-hander has turned a corner and is ready to make the next step his professional career.

Five Down

Steve Pearce (Baltimore, OF/1B/DH) – It is a good sign that there are not too many early season candidates for the “down” position on Baltimore’s roster.  Pearce, however, is a rather obvious choice for the dubious distinction.  In 11 plate appearances Steve has just one walk and no hits, while striking out five times.  After a torrid Spring that earned him a spot on the Major League squad, Pearce has struggled out of the gates and has found himself on the bench for the past three games.  With the Orioles facing a pair of lefties in New York this weekend, the right-handed hitter will likely get some playing time and an opportunity to get things going.  Pearce has shown himself to be a component enough hitter that we should not look too much into the results of 11 plate appearances, but after such a strong Grapefruit League season his slow start to the regular season has dropped his stock (at least temporarily).

Daniel McCutchen (Norfolk, RP) – McCutchen was not sharp in his one outing this season (4 ER in 1 2/3 innings) but that is not the only reason he lands on the wrong half of this list.  McCutchen is currently serving a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League drug testing policy and will miss almost half of the season as a result.  McCutchen – who was coming along nicely with his new ¾’s arm slot delivery – looked to be a frontrunner for a promotion if the Orioles needed right-handed relief help.  The suspension quells those chances for the foreseeable future.

Mike Wright (Bowie, SP) – Wright has always been a fringe starting pitching prospect, but some within the Orioles organization spoke highly of the 23-year old this spring even lumping him in with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman when discussing top pitching prospects that will play at Bowie.  Wright is off to a tough start to the 2013 season.  In two starts he has been knocked out early (7.2 IP total) with eleven hits allowed, seven earned runs allowed, and four walks given up.

Frederick and Delmarva do not have any players that fit the “down” criteria after the first week of games.