Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
It was a rough year in Baltimore. Again.
The Orioles changed managers, saw vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette resign and finished 24 games below .500. While there is always hope for next year, the talent Baltimore has in the system isn't overwhelming. There are some bright spots, but it would appear, based on what we saw in 2007, that there are more supporting actors than leading men in this lot.
Here's a closer look at what went on in the Orioles' system in 2007.
Organizational Players of the Year
William Rowell, 3B: We compared Rowell to a young Ryan Zimmerman, boldly proclaiming there would be a big debate in the not-too-distant future as to who is the better third baseman. OK, so maybe Rowell got a little excited when he saw the memo. It's not like he had a bad year, hitting .273 with nine homers and 57 RBIs for Class A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League. He missed the first month and a half with an injured oblique muscle and never really seemed to get in a tremendous groove. He fanned 104 times while drawing only 31 walks. Bear in mind, he turned 19 last month.
Pedro Beato, RHP: The 6-foot-6 native of the Dominican Republic was supposed to make the Mets rue the day they didn't sign him. Well, the Mets didn't have too much to regret after Beato went 7-8 with a 4.05 ERA in 27 starts for Delmarva. He stumbled to the end, going 2-3 with a 7.11 ERA in August while allowing opponents to hit .256 against him overall.
Brandon Tripp, OF: Tripp was a 12th-round pick in 2006 out of Cal State Fullerton and drew almost no attention last season after hitting .221 in the New York-Penn League. He made the jump to Delmarva this year, though, and earned a spot on the South Atlantic League's North Division All-Star team. Tripp hit .288 with 19 homers and 79 RBIs. While he didn't lead the organization in any of the Triple Crown categories, he is a prospect unlike the well-traveled Minor League free agents who dominated those categories for Baltimore.
Radhames Liz, RHP: The youngster followed up a solid 2006 by going 11-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A Bowie, including a no-hitter against Harrisburg in June. He had a pair of complete games, twice was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week and earned a spot on the All-Star team. He also held opponents to a .204 batting average. He jumped right over Triple-A Norfolk and got a taste of life in Baltimore, appearing in nine games (four starts) and going 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA. Liz had a 1.59 ERA in 11 relief innings for the O's.
Climbed the Ladder
Chorye Spoone, RHP: The hard-throwing Spoone, with a mid-90s fastball, continued a steady ascent up the organizational ladder this season at Frederick. He's seen his win total increase from two to seven to 10 since being drafted in the eighth round in 2005. He's also seen his ERA drop from 8.03 (2005 in Bluefield) to 3.56 (2006, Delmarva) to 3.26 this season in 26 games (25 starts). Opponents hit just .200 against him.
Garrett Olson, LHP: Olson was held in pretty high regard before this season and only enhanced his standing after posting a 9-7 record with a 3.16 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk. Although he was 1-3 with a 7.79 ERA with Baltimore, the fact remains that he was with the Orioles for seven starts. If he's back in Norfolk next year, it won't be for long.
Brandon Snyder, 1B: Snyder didn't really have anywhere to go but up after injuries cut into his playing time and limited his production in 2006. He returned to Delmarva this season and had a nice bounce-back year, hitting .283 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs in 118 games.
Kept Their Footing
Billy Rowell, 3B: The injured oblique kept Rowell on steady ground, preventing him from moving up or down in the eyes of many. Obviously, the talent and the promise that comes along with said talent are still there. But he'll need to have a bigger, better and healthier '08 to make the move up a few rungs.
Nolan Reimold, OF: Make that 2-for-2 in the oblique strains complicating a season category. Reimold, like Rowell, missed some time in the first half due to injury, which limited his production. When he did play, he did well, certainly showing enough to retain his spot in the organizational food chain. Reimold hit .296 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 216 at-bats between the Gulf Coast League and Double-A Bowie. A good showing in the Arizona Fall League might lead to a shot with the parent club next spring.
Zach Britton, LHP: The young Texan had a rough first summer in '06, dealing with pitch counts and Appy League hitters at Bluefield. His 5.29 ERA in 11 starts may not be completely indicative of how he pitched, but for the most part, he was simply average. He showed much more promise this season, going 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 15 starts for Short-Season Aberdeen. Though he never pitched more than 5 2/3 innings, he was 2-0 with 1.77 ERA in his final four starts.
Slipped a Rung
Brandon Erbe, RHP: Erbe knows how to keep his composure on the mound, a plus for any young pitcher. And he needed that skill this season in Frederick after struggling to a 6-8 record with a 6.26 ERA in 25 starts. He posted his last victory on July 9, going 0-5 in his final eight starts.
Val Majewski, OF: Don't look now, but the New Jersey native may have fallen off the ladder completely. He was one of the organization's hot prospects in 2004 before tearing the labrum in his left shoulder. He battled back and looked to be turning a corner last year with Triple-A Ottawa. But he spent most of this season with Double-A Bowie and was rather pedestrian (.295 with three HRs and 42 RBIs). He got bumped up to Norfolk and seemed completely overmatched, hitting .210 in 124 at-bats with two homers and 11 RBIs.
Pedro Florimon, SS: Florimon's batting average hovered around the Mendoza line for much of the season, falling below it for the final time after he went 0-for-6 in his last two games. He finished with a .197 average and 107 strikeouts in 371 at-bats. This comes after a promising 2006 that saw him split time between Bluefield of the Appy League and Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League.
On the Radar
Chris Vinyard, 1B: He was a 38th-round selection in 2005 and seemed solid enough after driving in 47 runs with a franchise-record 26 doubles at Aberdeen in 2006. Vinyard began to blossom this year at Delmarva, hitting 16 homers while driving in 82 runs. Though he only hit .269, he began showing some patience by the end of the season, collecting 20 of his 48 walks in August.
Jason Berken, RHP: The Clemson product had a productive first summer as a professional at Aberdeen in '06 and did nothing to hamper his development at Class A Advanced Frederick in '07. He went 9-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) but finished strong, going 5-0 with a 3.51 ERA in his last 10 appearances (nine starts).
2007 Draft Recap
1. Matt Wieters, C: The Georgia Tech product signed at the deadline but didn't play during the regular season. He's currently playing with Honolulu of Hawaii Winter Baseball. The fifth overall pick is a top-flight catcher with a big-time arm -- he's also done some pitching. Expect big things from him in the spring.
2. Tim Bascom, RHP: Bascom began his pro career at Delmarva and went 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 12 starts. He held opponents to a .229 batting average and was bumped up to Frederick for his final two appearances, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in six innings.
3. Jake Arrieta, RHP: The former Texas Christian hurler also signed near the deadline and didn't get into a game this season. He had been selected twice before -- in the 31st round in 2004 by Cincinnati and in the 26th round in 2005 by the Brewers -- before the O's grabbed him in the fifth round this year.
Others of note: Joe Mahoney (sixth round, Virginia) split time between first base, designated hitter and left field at Aberdeen, hitting .269 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. ... CF Matt Angle (seventh round, Ohio State) hit .301 with 34 stolen bases (second in the NY-Penn League) at Aberdeen. ... RHP Shane Matthews (eighth round, East Carolina) was 0-3 with a save in 15 appearances for Aberdeen. He had a 3.01 ERA but walked 18 (one intentionally) in 17 2/3 innings. ... IF Malcolm Crowley (ninth round, Galveston JC) hit .258 with four RBIs in 31 at-bats at Bluefield.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.