Bowie manager Andy Etchebarren says until last month he had seen only two minor-league players he considered "can't-miss" prospects in five years with the Orioles' player development system. The two were Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones and Braves infielder Rafael Furcal.
Add Ed Rogers to that list, says Etchebarren.
Rogers is 18, a native of the Dominican Republic and a smooth-fielding shortstop with an explosive bat - a combination previously unseen within the Orioles' minor-league system.
"He's so smooth," said Etchebarren, who reached his conclusion by watching Rogers play just 13 games before a rib cage pull sidelined him for the remainder of the season. "He glides. He never seems to struggle in the field or at the plate."
Rogers signed on Nov. 1, 1997, for $30,000 with Orioles director of Latin American scouting Carlos Bernhardt, who found him on the rough-hewn diamonds of San Pedro de Macoris, where the Orioles' Dominican developmental program is based.
Rogers was only 16 at the time and has since played for the Orioles' entry in the Dominican Summer League, their Gulf Coast (Rookie) League team and this year at Single-A Delmarva and Double-A Bowie.
Rogers was precocious enough to skip Frederick after batting .274 with five home runs, 42 RBIs and 27 steals in 33 attempts for the Shorebirds.
In his brief exposure to minor-league baseball, Rogers has vaulted over Brian Roberts as the organization's top shortstop prospect.
Etchebarren sees Rogers as a hybrid of Jones and Furcal. "He projects with power. I don't think he's as fast as Furcal or has Jones' power, but he has plenty of both," Etchebarren says.
Scouts who have watched Rogers describe his actions as fluid and unhurried. More impressive is his thirst for improving, says Etchebarren. "He's a great kid. All he wants to do is learn."
"He's got enough power to project at third base," says Orioles director of organizational instruction Tom Trebelhorn. "But he also has the hands, the arm and the agility to stay at short. Right now I wouldn't project him as a [Alex] Rodriguez, [Nomar] Garciaparra or [Derek] Jeter, but when he's 23 or 24 we'll see. He's something special."
Rogers' standing as the club's most exciting position player comes at a time when a series of productive drafts have added teeth to the distinction.
Along with Rogers and outfielders Keith Reed, Ntema "Papy" Ndungidi and Larry Bigbie, Rogers is considered a legitimate option for 2003, if not before.