xml:space="preserve">

Before jumping into the list of the top five first basemen in the Orioles' minor league system, let's follow up on the best catchers in the organization.

For the most part, there wasn't much to discuss about my list of top prospects at catcher in the organization.

Advertisement

Mostly everyone agreed that Single-A Frederick Keys catcher Caleb Joseph is at the top of the rankings, and the best other prospects at the position are a pair of 2009 draft picks -- Justin Dalles and Michael Ohlman.

The rest of the catchers listed in my rankings are good organizational players who probably won't contribute much to helping the Orioles in the major leagues.

A few people mentioned Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds catcher Luis Bernardo as someone who should be included in a list of the top players at the position in the organization.

Honestly, I considered adding Bernardo as one of the five catchers in the list. His offensive struggles in the South Atlantic League, however, lead me to believe it's going to be difficult for him to advance to the major leagues.

With that said, it's definitely possible for his defensive skills to put him on a path to the Orioles. Still, keep in mind that the 21-year-old catcher committed 11 errors and had 15 passed balls in 82 games with the Shorebirds this season.

Those numbers will need to improve if Bernardo is going to play in the majors in the future.

While there doesn't seem to be a lot of potential major leaguers at catcher in the Orioles' minor league system, there are several first basemen who could make an impact at Camden Yards.

This position, in my opinion, is arguably the most difficult to rank in the organization because there are more than five candidates who could play in the major leagues at some point in their career.

I've compiled a list of the best first basemen, in my opinion, but I'm pretty sure that there will be several other ways for readers to rank the players. Make sure you leave your rankings as a comment below this entry and we can all discuss them.Here is how I would rank the top five first basemen in the Orioles' minor league system, as well as a few other players who could be in the discussion.

1. Brandon Waring

2. Brandon Snyder

3. Rhyne Hughes

4. Robbie Widlansky

5. Joe Mahoney

Advertisement

At least the first three players could make an argument for the top spot in my rankings, but I decided to go with Brandon Waring due to his impressive season in his first year as a member of the Orioles' minor league system.

After being acquired in the offseason from the Cincinnati Reds in the Ramon Hernandez trade, Waring thrived with his new organization.

The 23-year-old first baseman was selected as the Carolina League Most Valuable Player after hitting .273 with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs in 128 games with the Keys this season.

Waring led the league in RBIs, total bases (246) and slugging percentage (.520), and he finished second in the league in home runs and doubles (35). The Reds' seventh-round selection in the 2007 MLB draft also finished third on the Keys with 74 runs scored.

In eight games with the Double-A Bowie Baysox at the end of the season, Waring batted .292 (7-for-24) with three doubles, one home run and six RBIs. He hit the home run and collected five RBIs in his first game at the Double-A level on Sept. 1 against the Binghamton Mets.

Waring also dropped from 156 strikeouts in 119 games last season to 130 in 136 games in 2009. It's not a tremendous decrease, but the progress is definitely a positive step.

At No. 2, I decided to pick Brandon Snyder over Rhyne Hughes even though Hughes has displayed greater power numbers at this point in his career.

Snyder would have easily been ranked at the top of the list, in my opinion, until he struggled after being promoted from the Baysox to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in June.

The 22-year-old infielder batted .343 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 58 games for Bowie, but he only hit .248 with two home runs and 43 RBIs in 73 games as a member of the Tides.

Depending on what the Orioles do in free agency during the offseason, Snyder is likely going to get an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster next year. However, it would probably be better for the Orioles' 2005 first-round draft pick to start the season in Norfolk and earn his way into the major leagues.

Hughes seems to be a hidden gem who could surprise a lot of people in 2010. He batted .279 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs in 134 games while splitting the season between the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits, Triple-A Durham Bulls and Norfolk.

The 26-year-old first baseman, who the Orioles acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays as the player to be named later in the trade for Gregg Zaun, hit .264 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 20 games for the Tides.

Hughes also hit 35 doubles this season, including two after joining the organization in August.

Frederick's Robbie Widlansky is listed as the fourth-best first baseman in the organization, according to my list. Widlansky qualifies as a first baseman in my rankings because he played more games there than any other position in 2009.

Widlansky captured the batting title in the Carolina League after hitting .340 with seven home runs and 59 RBIs in 86 games for the Keys. The 24-year-old utility player led the team in on-base percentage (.395), finished tied for third in doubles (31) and second in slugging percentage (.506).

Although he is a little bit old for the level, the Orioles' 11th-round selection in the 2007 MLB draft turned some heads with his performance this year. It will be interesting to see how he plays in 2010.

Shorebirds first baseman Joe Mahoney earns the final spot in my list because of his breakthrough performance in his second year with the team.

After hitting .222 with seven home runs and 61 RBIs in 95 games with the Shorebirds last season, Mahoney changed his approach to the game in 2009.

The Orioles' sixth-round choice in the 2007 MLB draft was 29-for-30 in stolen bases with the Shorebirds after he focused on using his speed as an advantage. Mahoney also batted .281 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs in 108 games with Delmarva.

Mahoney was 8-for-30 (.267) with a home run, five RBIs and four doubles in seven games after being promoted to Frederick at the end of the season.

Some other players who narrowly missed the cut on my list were Norfolk's Michael Aubrey, Bluefield's Mike Flacco and David Anderson of the GCL Orioles.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement