Baltimore Orioles Top 10 Prospects
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Moderator: Will Lingo will begin answering your questions on a much improved Baltimore system at 2 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
If John Maine has a great 2004 season in AA Bowie could he possilby get a september callup?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Welcome to today's chat. Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. Time to get back to our regular schedules now, so the prospect chats will be coming fast and furious again. It must be pleasant to be an Orioles fan again, so let's get right to your questions.

Will Lingo: That's a definite possibility if Maine pitches as well in 2004 as he did in 2003. He has great stuff and great makeup, so it will be fun to see if he is as effective against more advanced hitters.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
Will Nick Markakis start 2004 in A Delmarva or A Frederick?
 A: 

Will Lingo: I would expect him to open the season at Delmarva, but he could move up by midseason if he plays well.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
Could you comment on two pitchers who didn't make the top 10 -- C. Ray and B. Forystek. Thanks
 A: 

Will Lingo: Both guys were very close to the list. Ray is a third-rounder from the 2003 draft out of William & Mary, so I would expect to see him in future top 10s. He has a good fastball and a hard slider. Forystek is a 2000 draft pick who got a chance to pitch in a rotation last season and really emerged. He's a lefty who throws 88-89 mph and has command of three pitches. The organization really likes him and added him to the 40-man, and he should be in the Triple-A rotation in 2004.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
Any sleepers in the O's system -- especially low levels we should keep our eye on?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Not a huge sleeper because he was in the GCL top 10, but Lorenzo Scott could be the best athlete in the organization. He's a linebacker at Ball State, so he could be a total bust as a baseball player, but with his tools and makeup, he could be exciting.

 Q:  Dave from Maryland asks:
What is the update on Don Levinski shoulder injury?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Sorry if this is becoming the Jay and Dave show, but I figure these are questions of interest to all Orioles fans out there. Levinski threw only bullpens in instructional league but is expected to be healthy for 2004. There's some thought that his shoulder problems have been related to his mechanics, so the Orioles have adjusted his arm action to try to get him back to form.

 Q:  Adam F from Warehouse Wannabe asks:
Where will the Orioles minor league talent stack up against the rest of the majors? They will go from zero top 100 prospects to two to four. Will they end up in the third quartile of teams 15-22?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Considering that at least three other people will be participating in our ranking of all 30 farm systems, and that we haven't even reviewed the AL Central and AL West prospect lists yet, I can't say with any certainty where the Orioles will end up. But I will say that they've improved themselves as much as any organization in the game over the last year. I doubt they'll get as high as 15, but they're certainly not in the discussion of the worst systems in the game any longer, and it's been a while since you could say that.

 Q:  Kevin from Kentucky asks:
I was curious to know when you see Dave Crouthers getting called up to the majors?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Keep in mind that he was more of a position player in college, so I think patience is in order even though Crouthers does have an exciting arm. It's possible you could see a callup later in 2004 if he pitches well, but I think 2005 is a more reasonable expectation.

 Q:  Dave from Richmond, VA asks:
What's happend to Bryan Bass? Why hasn't he been able to live up to his potential? His numbers were worse in his 2nd year at Delmarva.
 A: 

Will Lingo: I think it has more to do with maturity and approach than with his tools, which remain strong. For a lot of players who are able to get by on their superior ability as amateurs, it's sometimes hard to adapt to the grind of pro ball, where you have to come to the park and work hard every day to move toward the majors.

 Q:  Jay from Madison asks:
Chris Smith, Richard Stahl, and M. Paradise....will any of these guys see the majors?
 A: 

Will Lingo: It'd be risky to bet on any of those guys at this point. The positive thing you can take from that list as an O's fan, though, is that you're no longer relying on those guys. If they do come through, it's a bonus.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
Will the major league contract that the Orioles gave Loewen hold him back or is he advanced enough to make the big leagues before the team runs out of options?
 A: 

Will Lingo: I think he'll move quickly enough that it won't be a problem. He's motivated to move quickly and has the ability to do so. If that's what it took to get him in your organization, it was worth it.

 Q:  Mike from Orrville, OH asks:
Thanks for the chat. Will Matt Riley nail down a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training or does he need more time in the minors? Also, who is Vlad signing with?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Mike is taking over the question dominance. I think Riley definitely has a chance to win a rotation spot this spring. Our own prospect maven Josh Boyd has been drooling for the past couple of weeks over video of Riley pitching against the Blue Jays late last season. Assuming he keeps pitching anywhere close to that, he's a pretty good bet.

 Q:  Chris from Baldwin, NY asks:
You note that the O's say that Val Majewski's overall makeup couldn't be graded higher. Can you expand on this comment a bit.
 A: 

Will Lingo: Most of that goes to his work ethic, which they say is second to none. But one story I've heard is that in a curfew check during spring training last year, they thought he was out because he no one answered the door when they knocked. Turned out he and his roommate were already asleep and sleeping so hard they didn't hear the knock. Shows you the kind of dedication he has to being ready to work every day.

 Q:  Paul from Philly asks:
Is the fact that Bedard is further down the Orioles prospect chain a good sign that the Orioles system is being rebuilt?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Absolutely. Consider that last year, when we knew he wasn't going to pitch to any significant degree in 2003, he was still their top prospect. And consider that injury-prone Richard Stahl was their top guy the year before that.

 Q:  Eric from Columbia, MD asks:
Denny Bautista has struggled during winter ball, particularly with his control. Is this a bad sign, or is he just tired.
 A: 

Will Lingo: He's actually has some good outings, which is more encouraging to the Orioles than his overall numbers. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

 Q:  Paul from Phladelphia asks:
Where would you put Finch, Ray, Levinski, and Hannaman on the list?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Don't want to give away the secrets of the Prospect Handbook, but I think you'll find those guys in the 11-20 range.

 Q:  Steve from Baltimore asks:
Since the O's haven't made any effort to sign a pitcher like Ponson, do you foresee the possibility that they may rush the young pitchers, or worse, use them as trade fodder?
 A: 

Will Lingo: I think it's still too early to predict what Baltimore's pitching staff will look like. We'll see a lot of signings in the weeks leading up to spring training. With the new O's administration, I think you'll see pitchers handled much more carefully, so they're less likely to be rushed. And if they are traded, the deals are likely to be better. Witness what they got for Ponson and Conine last summer, compared to what the purge of 2000 brought in.

 Q:  Andy Conner from Austin, TX asks:
Do the O's have any position prospects that are really worth getting exited about?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Their hitters are not as good as their pitchers, but I think Nick Markakis and Val Majewski are both legit outfield prospects. Mike Fontenot could be a nice offensive second baseman. And don't forget about Jose Bautista, who could be a good pickup as a Rule 5 pick from the Pirates if he can stick in Baltimore this year.

 Q:  Brian from Saskatchewan asks:
Loewen is a better pitcher than Markakis but is Markakis a better hitter than Loewen ?
 A: 

Will Lingo: This question has been submitted numerous times, but this was the most interesting form, and it's from Saskatchewan! Loewen might be better than Markakis on both counts, but the relevant question from many fans has been where Markakis would be more effective. The main thing I took away from Orioles folks is that he could be a solid pitcher (and might be a slightly safer bet there), but he could be a special hitter. I think the system is pretty stocked with pitchers and lacking in impact bats, so it makes sense from that perspective too.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
It has been said that Loewen is in the same class as Greg Miller, Scott Kazmir, and Cole Hamels. If this is true how fast do you see him moving and what is his eta to the bigs.
 A: 

Will Lingo: He has that type of ability, but let's give him more than 23 professional innings before we put him with those guys right away. I think you'll see him debut in the big leagues in the second half of 2005.

 Q:  Dennis from Orange, CA asks:
What do you think of the trade that the Giants and Orioles (Ponson for Moss, Ainsworth, and Hannaman) made last year? It would seem that the Orioles really ended up with the better of the deal. What do you think of Hannaman, and where would he rank on this year's top 30 list? Also, what do you think of Kurt Ainsworth's future in the major leagues?
 A: 

Will Lingo: As mentioned before, the two deals the Orioles made in trading Ponson and Conine yielded some premium prospects, better than the bushel of suspects they got in 2000 (with only Melvin Mora panning out). Hannaman is just out of the top 10 and could move up if he improves his command. Ainsworth won't be spectacular but should be a solid contributor in the middle to back of the rotation for several years.

 Q:  Dan from New York asks:
With Mike Fontenot seemingly blocked by Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts, do you anticipate one of the three will be traded? Or does it seem more likely that the O's think that only one of the three will pan out into an everyday major leaguer?
 A: 

Will Lingo: Just a guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if Fontenot gets traded. It doesn't make sense to have a stockpile of guys there, and with Tejada at short it's not like you're moving anyone over there.

 Q:  Charles Berg from Houston, Texas asks:
What do the O's think of Tripper Johnson these days?
 A: 

Will Lingo: He had a bad 2003, with disappointing progress in his defensive work and a mediocre year with the bat. He may return to Frederick to start 2004. He needs to bounce back in both areas.

 Q:  Ted from NY asks:
Will, what is your overall take on the O's system, I'm sure it was a bit more exciting to put this list together compared to the last few years - Has the O's system overtaken the Yankees ?
 A: 

Will Lingo: More exciting by a long shot. And judging by the response to the chat this year, more exciting for the fans as well. I think the O's system is better than the Yankees right now, but you can ask Josh Boyd when he has his Yankees chat if he agrees.

 Q:  Danny from Mt. Washington asks:
One thing that stands out on the top 10 is the quality "make up" of so many of the players. Is this a reflection on a new draft strategy and how much does this change BA's rankings?
 A: 

Will Lingo: I think if anything, it's a reflection that those players are responding to the new approach of the player-development staff and thus emerging in the organization. But keep in mind that a player like Matt Riley, No. 6 in the top 10, is also doing well, and he has never been associated with great makeup in the past. Makeup in and of itself doesn't change our rankings, but if it leads to better performance then clearly it helps a player move up.

 Q:  Jason from Providence, RI asks:
Is it time to stick a fork in Ed Rogers, Keith Reed and Bryan Bass because they are 'done' as prospects?
 A: 

Will Lingo: I wouldn't count on any of those guys if you're creating future big league lineups for the Orioles, no. Mostly, I just didn't think we could have an Orioles prospect chat without at least one mention of Ed Rogers.

Will Lingo: I hate to leave with so many good questions still on the board, but I know you guys want to see the Prospect Handbook come out in a timely fashion, so I must depart. Thanks for stopping by. It's clear that you all recognize the positive direction the Orioles have been moving in over the past year or so. You have to be optimistic about the future, finally.