Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Desert Dog Fever...Catch It!

I have always loved following the Oriole prospects in the Arizona Fall League. In past seasons, I have had to endure the watching Oriole "prospects" like Dustin Yount or Brandon Fahey. But this season, all of the Oriole prospects who have showed up to play in Phoenix are worthy of following. And their teammates on the Desert Dogs from other organizations bring some interesting storylines of their own. Here's the rundown with the Oriole prospects listed first:

3B Josh Bell - Bell came over from the Dodgers in the George Sherrill trade and gave the Orioles their best third base prospect since...I don't know, Leo Gomez? He is also the only player listed as a third baseman for the Desert Dogs so he should get plenty of at bats this fall.

RP Eddie Figueroa - The 2008 21st round pick has gone from the rookie leagues all the way to Bowie in under a season and a half of pro ball. Can he keep mowing them down and killing worms (or scorpions) in Arizona?

SP Brandon Erbe - Coming back from injury, Erbe showed signs of life in Bowie over 14 starts. This will be the toughest competition the 22-year-old Erbe has faced in his career...should be a good test.

RP Josh Perrault - The AFL'er most likely to break camp with Baltimore out of spring training. Perrault pitched 32 innings in Norfolk and struck out 33. A good showing in Arizona will go a long way toward getting him a long look in Sarasota this spring.

SP Ryohei Tanaka - The Orioles' forgotten Japanese import. Tanaka put together a nice season in Bowie as a swingman in '09 winning 4 games, saving 3 and posting a 3.00 ERA. Will his junk fool the rest of the AFL? I'm curious to see what kind of stuff he has. Tanaka makes the season opening start for Phoenix today versus Mesa at 2:35 EDT.

1B Brandon Snyder - Last fall, Snyder's good showing led to a white-hot run in Bowie and gained him a mid-season promotion to Norfolk. Will this fall help ignite similar success in AAA?

1B/3B Brandon Waring - The Carolina League MVP. He beat up on the pitchers in A-ball but can he mash against the top pitchers in the minors?

OF Matt Angle - Frederick centerfielder hasn't shown much at the plate except that he can a) get on base and b) steal a lot of bases. If he can do that in the AFL, those skills could play in Bowie and beyond.

OF Adam Loewen - Former Oriole top pitching prospect arrives as an outfielder for the Jays. Loewen hit pitifully in Dunedin so I'm surprised he's here at all. He will either affirm his status as a hitting prospect or get completely exposed.

RP Drew Storen - The top pick of the Nationals in 2009 and heir apparent to the closer job in 2010. Drew dominated minor league hitters in '09 and along with Stephen Strasburg will give Nats fans something to cheer for in 2010.

SP Stephen Strasburg - No player will be more closely scrutinized this fall than Strasburg. The pitcher described by his agent as a "once a generation" talent will have to prove it against the best hitters in the minors this fall. Nats fans will be watching with baited breath while sport writers across the country will be hoping he fails.

2B Jemile Weeks - Ricky Weeks' little brother raked in the high-A California league while stealing bases at will. The Athletics hope he continues that success against tougher competition since they haven't produced an impact position player from their farm system in years.

P Katayama/Mishimura/Yanuki - A trio of pitchers from the Nippon Professional Baseball league will be playing for the desert Dogs in 2009. This is the first time I have seen players unaffiliated with MLB play for teams in the AFL (I have seen them in the Hawaiian Leagues.) There are five total and three will play for Phoenix. They are:

P Hiroshi Katayama - Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

P Ken Mishimura - Hanshin Tigers

P Toshiyuki Yanuki - Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters

I always love to see the NPB players get a shot against North American competition especially since the Orioles seem to have turned their eye toward Japan when it comes to scouting. It's a good way to get a sense of how competitive those guys can be.

I don't know about you but I'm excited! I'll be a die-hard Desert Dog fan for the next two months.

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