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Bird Watching On The Farm

By Daniel Rifkin

Online Exclusive

Orioles GM Andy MacPhail clearly does not take the words "trade deadline" very seriously. Since it ended, the Orioles have dealt two more veterans for two more young prospects. This week’s Bird Watch takes a look at these newcomers, as well as some of the other prominent names in the farm system.

Here is a look at some Orioles prospects making themselves known in the minor leagues (stats as of August 19):

Justin Turner, Norfolk Tides
Pos: 2B
Resides: Long Beach, Calif.
DOB: November 23, 1984
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 180
Pro Experience: Four seasons
College: Cal State Fullerton

Turner was acquired Dec. 8 along with Brandon Waring and Ryan Freel in the Ramon Hernandez deal. Playing with a major league veteran like Oscar Salazar at Bowie will pay dividends for Turner, who does not do one thing exceptionally well, but does a number of things well enough to give him an edge. While his defensive play is inconsistent at times (six errors), Turner has a .276 batting average in 98 at bats this season.

Recently: Turner has been pretty hot as of late. On Tuesday, he had three hits in four at bats against the Gwinnett Braves. The second baseman has reached safely in fourteen consecutive games. In the month of August, he posted a .333 batting average and a .478 OBP. If only he had more than two total home runs this season.

Zachary Britton, Frederick Keys
Pos: LHP
Resides: Weatherford, Texas
DOB: Dec. 22, 1987
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 172
Pro Experience: Four seasons
College: N/A

Britton was selected by the Orioles in the third round out of high school in Weatherford, Texas in the 2006 draft. He had his best professional season last year, going 12-7 with a 3.12 ERA with Delmarva, good for third in the league in wins and seventh in ERA. With the Shorebirds, Britton struck out 114 batters and walked 49 in 147 and 1/3 innings pitched.

Recently: Britton sparkled again on Friday with a seven-inning, seven-strikeout performance in which he yielded only one run -- but still ended up with the loss. Nevertheless, it was another good outing for the young pitcher who has moved steadily up the ladder in every season since being drafted by the Orioles. He is a shoe-in for Double-A Bowie next year and is starting to make a name for himself in an organization filled with promising young pitchers.

Jeff Fiorentino, Norfolk Tides
Pos: RF
Resides: Pembroke Pines, Fla.
DOB: Apr. 14, 1983
Bats/Throws: L/R
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 185
Pro Experience: Five Seasons
College: Florida Atlantic

Fiorentino has spent a lot of time in the minors since his first stint with the Orioles back in 2005. The speedy outfielder spent most of the 2005 season in Frederick, other than the three weeks he spent in Baltimore in May of that year. In 2006, he started for Bowie, followed by another September call-up. That was the last time Fiorentino was an Oriole. Fiorentino has progressed through the Orioles organization over the last few years and even had a cup of coffee with the Oakland A’s last year. Now, he is back in the Orioles system trying to reach the show again.

Recently: Fiorentino seems to be awakening finally from the August slump that interrupted a stellar June and July. After a stretch of six games in which he managed a single hit, Fiorentino has put together back-to-back multi-hit games in the last two nights. Even if he gets back on track, the right fielder faces bigger issues. Despite a strong hitting performance this season, Fiorentino is stuck behind a lot of good outfielders in the organization and is already 26.

Brandon Snyder, Norfolk Tides
Pos. 1B
Resides: Cape Coral, Fla.
DOB: Nov. 23, 1986
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 215
Pro Experience: Five seasons
College: N/A

As a catcher coming out of high school in 2006, the Orioles drafted Snyder 13th overall and moved him to first base due to injuries. Snyder was impressive last season with Class-A Frederick, hitting .315 with 33 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs and 80 RBIs in 116 games with the Keys. He finished second in the Carolina League in batting average and fifth in hits (137). Snyder can also play third base and is a solid defensive player who can hit for average consistently and occasionally for power.

Recently: Snyder, who was promoted to the Tides this June, is clearly still in the adjustment phase. After a strong start to the month of August, Snyder has slumped a bit, compiling only three hits and two walks over 21 at bats in his past six games, though all three of his hits were doubles. Still, Snyder is batting .308 in August and .301 since the All-Star break. That is pretty good progress for a guy who struggled at first (.227 in June) upon being called up to Triple-A.

Troy Patton, Norfolk Tides
Pos. LHP
Resides: Mignolia, Texas
DOB: Sept. 3, 1985
Bats/Throws: S/L
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 185
Pro Experience: Five seasons
College: N/A

After a torn labrum kept him on the disabled list for all of 2008, one of the players that came over in the Miguel Tejada trade looks to get back to the major leagues after making his debut with the Astros in 2007. Patton went 0-2 that year, with three starts and a 3.55 ERA, including eight strikeouts in 12 and 2/3 innings. The organization does not want to rush Patton to make sure he is completely recovered and to allow more time for development.

Recently: The Baltimore Sun reported this week Patton, who has been suffering from arm fatigue, was put on the Disabled List and probably will not pitch again this season. Patton had major surgery in 2008 and has already pitched 108 innings this year between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He was 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA at Bowie but was a dismal 1-3 with a 6.45 ERA after being promoted to Norfolk. It is unclear how much of his change of fortune was due to the promotion and how much was due to fatigue.

Jake Arrieta, Norfolk Tides
Pos: SP
Resides: Farmington, Mo.
DOB: Mar. 6, 1986
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 225
Pro Experience: Two seasons
College: Texas Christian

Arrieta is another power pitcher in the mold of a Carlos Zambrano-type. He doesn’t throw as hard, sitting mainly at 94-95 mph, but he dials it up when he has to and carries a solid build with him to the mound.

Recently: Arrieta had a solid second consecutive outing for the Tides, giving up two runs over six innings while striking out five and walking two. But it was not good enough for the win. Over his last two outings he has a 3.00 ERA -- a great improvement over the 5.29 mark he put up in July. But he still has not shown the kind of dominance he displayed at Double-A, one the Orioles expect him to one day display in the majors.

Caleb Joseph, Frederick Keys
Pos. C
Resides: Franklin, Tenn.
DOB: June 18, 1986
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 180
Pro experience: Two seasons
College: Lipscomb

With all the attention of the backstop position going to Wieters, it's easy to overlook this second year player. But Joseph has the tools to become a strong back-up catcher in the majors with a few more seasons in the minors, or could possibly switch to another position.

Joseph was drafted in the seventh round of last year's first-year player draft, and had an impressive short-season at Aberdeen, hitting .261 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs. He needs to improve his discipline at the plate (56 strikeouts, 15 walks) in order to move up, but is above average behind the plate (threw out 43 percent of base-stealers in 2008).

Recently: The dog days of summer continue to be cruel for the slumping Joseph. He was hitless in his last five games, bringing his August batting average down to .118. The good news is, before August, Joseph had batted above .300 in every month this season, including a .341 mark in July. Pitchers may have found Joseph's weakness or he may just be in a funk. Either way, it is time to make some adjustments.

Brandon Waring, Frederick Keys
Resides: Columbia, SC
DOB: Jan. 2, 1986
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 195
Pro Experience: Two seasons
College: Wofford

Waring was acquired Dec. 8 along with Justin Turner and Ryan Freel in the Ramon Hernandez deal. He has good power, having hit 20 home runs in his first two professional seasons. Last year he hit .270 and drove in 71 runs in Dayton, Single-A for the Reds. With a possible organizational opening at first base, if Waring continues to hit for power while also hitting for a slightly higher average and cutting down on the 156 strikeouts he had last year, he could progress through the organization.

Recently: Waring has only had two hits in the past four games, but they were both multi-run homers. The slugger now has 23 home runs and 83 RBIs on the year and has put up a torrid .344/.440/.734 line in August. He may also be starting to display more patience at the plate. In the eighteen days of August so far, he has already compiled at least as many walks (8) as he did in all of June or April.

Rhyne Hughes, Norfolk Tides
Pos: 1B
Resides: Picayune, Miss.
DOB: Sept. 9, 1983
Bats/Throws: L/L
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 175
Pro Experience: Four seasons
College: Pearl River CC, MS

Hughes was the "player to be named later" in the trade that sent O's catcher Gregg Zaun to Tampa Bay. Splitting time between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, Hughes batted .282 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs before coming to the Orioles. However, he has struck out 149 times in 440 at-bats between the two leagues.

Recently: Hughes got off to an unimpressive start with the Orioles on Tuesday when he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in his Norfolk Tides debut. Hughes will get more chances to start down the stretch with first baseman Michael Aubrey being called up to the major leagues.

Brett Jacobson, Frederick Keys
Pos: P
Resides: Phoenix, Ariz.
DOB: Nov. 9, 1986
Bats/Throws: R/R
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 205
Pro Experience: Two seasons
College: Vanderbilt

The Orioles received Jacobson from the Tigers in return for first baseman Aubrey Huff. A 22-year-old right-handed reliever, Jacobson was 1-3 with a 3.74 ERA and six saves in 35 appearances for Single-A Lakeland. He was the Tigers' tenth-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

Recently: Jacobson has been sent to the Frederick Keys, the Orioles' Single-A affiliate. He has yet to play for the Keys, but he was excellent in his most recent appearances for Lakeland. He has not given up a run in his past nine games, picking up five saves over 13.2 innings of relief work.

Joshua Bell, Bowie Baysox
Pos: 3B
Resides: Rockford, Ill.
DOB: Nov. 13, 1986
Bats/Throws: S/R
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 235
Pro Experience: Four Seasons
College: N/A

Bell was acquired along with Steve Johnson in the George Sherrill trade. Once billed as the Dodgers third baseman of the future, he is now considered one of the Orioles top power hitting prospects. He slugged 11 home runs for Dodgers Double-A affiliate Chattanooga prior to being traded. He was hitting .296 there.

Recently: A lot of fans were unhappy when Sherrill was traded, but Bell seems to be doing his best to make them forget the reliever. He has batted .372, with a 1.126 OPS since joining the Baysox and has already slugged in four homers in just twelve games with the team. That includes a two-run shot in last night's game against the Akron Aeros.

Posted: August 19, 2009