Stock Picks - Edition #3 (June 5th, 2013)

Chris Dickerson has secured a bench spot on the 2013 Orioles for the foreseeable future.  

Chris Dickerson has secured a bench spot on the 2013 Orioles for the foreseeable future. 

Five Up

Chris Dickerson (OF, Baltimore) – It appeared as if Chris Dickerson might be lost amongst the Orioles outfield depth at the end of Spring Training.  Sure, the team made him one of the final few cuts but without an immediate need for a left-handed outfielder Dickerson was destined for Norfolk where he would join a host of other potentially major league players battling for a call-up.  Dickerson had to compete with legitimate prospects (L.J. Hoes), younger players with higher upside (Trayvon Robinson), right-handed power hitters with major league experience (Russ Canzler and Conor Jackson), and even players that brought to the table a very similar skillset/resume (Jason Pridie).  All of those guys – Dickerson included – had their work cut out for them to reach the majors.  Despite getting off to a relatively slow start in AAA, Dickerson was the first one of those outfielders called up when Nolan Reimold landed on the disabled listed.  Since then, Dickerson has played well in limited playing time with a slash line of .309/.321/.569 in 56 plate appearances.  Most notable has been Dickerson’s key contributions to two big wins – his two homerun game versus the Yankees and his walk off three run homerun versus the Tigers.  In addition, CD II has played solid defense in both RF and CF and is likely a better backup CF option than Nate McLouth for whenever Adam Jones takes a day off.  Dickerson has for the time being solidified for himself a spot on the O’s 25-man roster.

Jason Pridie (OF) – Jason Pridie has done nothing but hit for the Norfolk Tides this season.  He started the season hot and has not cooled off in route to a .321/.362/.592 slash line in 200 plate appearances.  He has 29 extra base hits (nine homeruns, 17 doubles, and three triples) and is playing a good centerfield to boot.  Unfortunately for Pridie, he fills a role as a left handed outfielder with major league experience which is virtually identical to Chris Dickerson’s qualifications.  With Dickerson entrenched on the major league club for now, there is nothing Pridie can do but sit back and wait for a spot to open up for him.  Pridie is both an example of as well as a victim of the Orioles very good organizational depth .

Henry Urrutia (OF, Bowie) – Hammerin’ Hank has proven to be worth the wait.  The 26 year-old Cuban took nine months to get to the United States after signing with the O’s last summer but he has not disappointed in his first professional seasons in the United States.  Through games on June 4th, Urrutia has a slash line of .353/.419/.554 in 155 plate appearances over 36 games.  Urrutia has been consistent all season long churning out hits (45) and extra base hits (18) at a solid pace.  He appears to be on the cusp of a possible promotion to Norfolk.  Publicly, the Orioles are stating that they are fine with leaving Urrutia right where he is so he can gain more experience and have the challenge of facing teams for a second and third time.  One has to think that the Birds will want to give Urrutia some at bats in AAA before reaching the majors, however, in order to give him at bats versus more experienced and potentially crafty pitching.  Dan Duquette has said all along that they did not sign Henry to play in the minors which also leads one to believe they see him up in the majors sooner rather than later.  I would not be surprised if Henry is moved to Norfolk in the next couple of weeks with an eye on him helping the big league club later this summer.

Eduardo Rodriguez (SP, Frederick) – the 20 year-old Venezuelan was considered the Orioles 4th or 5th best prospect by most publications this winter after a very good 2012 season with Delmarva.  The lefty starter picked up right where he left off in 2012. Rodriguez has demonstrated a solid and improved K-rate (7.0 K/9 IP), a decent walk rate (2.8 BB/9 IP), and dependable groundball tendencies (1.20 GB/FB ratio).  At only 20 year olds, he is young for the Carolina League (Eduardo has faced only 12 batters all season who are younger than he is) which makes his numbers doubly impressive.  There is no need to rush him either given his age so I would expect him to spend most of his season in Frederick.  If Rodriguez can throw in the neighborhood of 140 innings this season (which he is well on his way to doing), it will set him up nicely for 2014 when he will be 21 year-old in AA with no significant innings limit attached to him.

Matt Price (RP, Delmarva/Frederick) – Price was drafted by the Orioles in 2012 out of South Carolina University.  The organization tabbed him as a reliever and like most relievers drafted after four years of college, the Orioles hoped he would move quickly through the system.  Price was handed the role of Delmarva’s closer and earned 8 saves in 16 games this season while pitching to a 2.70 ERA.  The 22 year-old struck 9.4 batters per nine innings before earning a promotion to Frederick this past week.  Price is certainly heading in the right direction but will have to prove that his stuff that played well in the South-Atlantic League plays just as well in the Carolina League.  If it does, Price could be on his way to putting himself into the bullpen conversation for 2015.

Five Down

Jim Johnson (RP, Baltimore) – I don’t want to include Johnson on this side of the ledger but he probably belongs here.  After a remarkable 2012 season and a tremendous start to 2013, Johnson hit a bump – an admittedly ugly bump – in the road this May.  Over the course of twelve days, the usually reliable O’s closer blew four saves.  The games were not all one-run hiccups either as Johnson allowed 2, 5, 1, and 4 runs in those blown save chances.  Johnson had converted a team record 35 straight saves before that so one could certainly say he was due.  When all is said and done, Johnson will still end up a valuable part of this season’s bullpen even if his ERA never truly recovers from that one rough stretch.   During the bad run, Johnson had trouble getting ahead of hitters and keeping his fastball down in the zone which are two elements he controls better when things are going well.

Tsuyoshi Wada (SP, Norfolk) – This might be premature considering that Wada had no prior professional experience in the United States and missed an entire season after Tommy John surgery.  Still, the Japanese left-handed has struggled during his four rehab starts.  Wada currently holds an ERA of 6.11 while allowing a whopping 12.3 BB/9 IP and 12.3 H/9 IP.  Wada deserves the benefit of the doubt – he is likely working through some physical and mental adjustments – but his stock has been slightly downgraded nonetheless.  At one point, Wada looked like a surefire mid-season addition to the Baltimore rotation.  With every less-than-impressive outing, however, it becomes more and more of a question what role Wada might play for the 2013 Orioles (and when).

Tom Boleska (RP, Bowie) – Boleska’s stock is not so much down as it is . . . gone.  Boleska became the third notable Oriole to be added to the voluntarily retired list this season.  Boleska was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft by the Orioles this winter.  After a rocky start for Bowie, the 26-year old journeyman has decided to call it quits and retire from pro baseball.  We wish him good luck with what was most certainly a difficult decision to make.

Jason Esposito (1B, Frederick) – I feel at this point like I am just piling on but Esposito continues to look like a busted 2nd round draft pick.  His slash line stands at .216/.269/.291.  That wouldn’t be as big of a concern for a second year player if not for the fact that Jason will be 23 in July and was drafted as a polished college hitter.  At this rate, it is difficult to see Esposito ending up anywhere in 2014 other than Frederick for a second go around or with another organization entirely. 

N/A for Demlarva