The Baltimore Orioles want to see whether Mike Ohlman can be an everyday catcher. To that end, they sent him to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League to see how he handles another six weeks of work behind the plate.
After playing 100 Minor League games this season, the early indication is he's ready for whatever the game's top young players throw at him.
Baltimore's No. 12 prospect -- and top catching prospect -- homered, doubled, walked and scored twice to lead the Surprise Saguaros to a 9-5 win over the Peoria Javelinas on the second day of league action.
After flying out in the third inning and ripping a leadoff double in the fifth, Ohlman broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth. Peoria right-hander Mike Nesseth fell behind Ohlman with a pair of low-90s fastballs before leaving his third offering -- a 91-mph heater -- middle-in and belt-high. Ohlman slugged it over the fence in left-center field between the 379 and 400-feet markers.
"I wasn't trying to do too much," Ohlman said. "I got in a good hitter's count at 2-0 and he left one out over the plate. I put a good swing on it."
Now in his fifth year of pro ball, the catching prospect earned an invitation to the AFL behind a solid offensive season in Class A Advanced Frederick, where he hit 13 homers and 53 RBIs -- both career highs -- in 100 Carolina League games.
He also set personal marks with a .313/.410/.524 slash line for the Keys, after seeing time in the Class A South Atlantic League the previous three seasons.
"I want to work a lot on defense," Ohlman said of his AFL plans. "Our hitting coach [Rich Gedman] used to be a catcher, so that's going to be a big help. I want to perfect my craft. There's always something I can work on. Defense is my main focus."
Named a MiLB.com organization all-star as designated hitter, Ohlman was one of only three full-time Orioles farmhands -- with Henry Urrutia and Travis Ishikawa -- to have a .500 slugging percentage (.524) and a .400 on-base percentage (.410).
"He's really matured as a hitter," Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said last week. "He stayed in the middle of the field, he showed the ability to drive the ball and he learned to get a good pitch to hit.
"His command of the strike zone has improved and he's really matured as a hitter. We have to exhaust all possibilities with him as a catcher. If you have a catcher who can hit, that's a commodity. We need to find out whether he's an everyday catcher."
On Wednesday, Red Sox 2011 fifth-round Draft pick Mookie Betts went 3-for-6 with three runs scored, two steals and an RBI and fellow Red Sox farmhand Travis Shaw smacked a three-run homer in the victory, which helped the team improve to 2-0.
Saguaros starter Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits while striking out three batters over three innings in his first start of the fall. Indians pitching prospect Jeff Johnson (1-0) earned the win in his debut after allowing a run on one hit and a walk over an inning of relief.
"That's a great start to the season, but we've got six more weeks out here," Ohlman said. "I've got to try to remain consistent. We have a lot of fun. It's a good atmosphere in the clubhouse. We're looking forward to winning some more.
"[Rodriguez] looked about as good as he always does. He is very consistent pounding the strike zone. A couple things didn't go his way, but offensively we picked him up and the bullpen did too."
Indians catching prospect Jake Lowery plated two runs and designated hitter Cameron Rupp (Phillies) and Jorge Bonifacio (Royals) both collected a pair of hits for the Javelinas.
Peoria starter Matt Heidenreich issued two free passes over three hitless frames but didn't factor into the decision.