After taking a longer break away from O's on Deck than planned, I'm back and ready to go.
Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to take a look at the minor leaguers in the Orioles' system. I'll analyze each position and share my thoughts on the top players.
Last year, if you remember, I ranked the top players for each position in the organization during the 2008 season. You can find all of those breakdowns here.
I'm making a small change to my criteria for ranking the players this year. While I made it a point to not pay too much attention to prospect status in 2008, I've decided that it's going to be a significant part of the new series of lists.
Let's face it – a player's potential to help the Orioles in the major leagues is a big reason why most of the readers continue to support O's on Deck, so I think it's good to include prospect status in the rankings.
With that said, as you'll see below, prospect status wasn't too much of a factor in the first list. It's hard to get a list of five prospects if there aren't that many available at a given position.
While some readers might agree with my picks, the majority of you will likely have a different opinion about a lot of the positions.
Since this is a blog and audience participation is highly encouraged, I'd like for everyone to post a list of prospects for each position as a comment at the bottom of each entry. As long as your comments are clean, I'm happy to approve them to facilitate discussion.
I'll start the rankings today by naming the top five catchers in the Orioles' minor league system.Obviously, it's not as easy to pick the top catchers this year since Matt Wieters successfully headed to the major leagues in May and never looked back.
Based on this season's numbers, as well as the potential that they'll contribute in the major leagues in the future, I'd put the catchers in the following order:
1. Caleb Joseph
2. Justin Dalles
3. Dashenko Ricardo
4. Guillermo Rodriguez
5. Adam Donachie
Despite hitting only .132 after Aug. 1, including an 0-for-14 slump to end the year, the easy choice for the top catcher in the Orioles' minor league system is Single-A Frederick Keys catcher Caleb Joseph.
The 23-year-old catcher batted .284 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs in 104 games for the Keys. Joseph was second on the Keys in home runs, fourth in RBIs, fifth in doubles (23) and sixth in runs scored (50).
Joseph was selected to play in the 2009 California/Carolina League All-Star Game in June, and he was also named to the postseason All-Star team in the Carolina League.
The Orioles' seventh-round selection in the 2008 MLB draft from Lipscomb University threw out 41 of 151 base runners (27%), according to BaseballReference.com, and he also had 11 passed balls.
Although he only batted .225 in 48 games for the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, Justin Dalles gets the nod as the second-best catcher in the Orioles' minor league system in 2009.
Dalles, who the Orioles picked in the sixth round of this year's MLB draft, didn't hit any home runs this season for Aberdeen. The 20-year-old catcher, however, was third on the team with 21 RBIs and fourth with nine doubles.
At two different levels this season, Dashenko Ricardo showed enough promise to earn the third spot in my list of top catchers in the Orioles' minor league system.
Honestly, that speaks more to the lack of depth at the position than his actual performance. Since he is only 19 years old, however, there is still plenty of time for him to improve.
This year, Ricardo batted .234 with nine doubles, 19 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 55 games split between the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds and Rookie-level Bluefield Orioles. He played in six games with the Shorebirds before finishing the season at Bluefield.
At No. 4, I went with Guillermo Rodriguez because he turned a decent season in the minor leagues into a promotion to the Orioles in September. The 31-year-old catcher hit .244 with five home runs and 30 RBIs in 89 games between the Double-A Bowie Baysox and Triple-A Norfolk Tides this year.
Rodriguez also caught 39% of base runners stealing this season – 29 out of 75 – between the two levels, according to BaseballReference.com. He also collected 20 doubles, which ranked second among catchers in the organization behind Joseph.
In the final spot of the catcher rankings, I went with Bowie's Adam Donachie. The 25-year-old catcher batted .215 with five home runs and 33 RBIs in 88 games for the Baysox. Donachie also had 19 doubles and 25 runs scored this season.
How would you rank the catchers in the Orioles' minor league system?
Note that I didn't include Michael Ohlman, the Orioles' 11th-round selection in this year's MLB draft, because he only played in four games this season.
That's not a big enough sample size to get a good idea of his ability, but he did cut down four out of five base runners attempting to steal.