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Orioles Prospect Hoes Slowly Seeing Progress

May 11, 2011

By Matt Zenitz

(Photos Courtesy of Frederick Keys)
For Orioles second base prospect L.J. Hoes, there was actually a sense of relief when he heard the diagnosis.

For the better part of last May and the beginning of June, Hoes had been searching for answers. Out of nowhere, the then-20-year old found himself having uncharacteristic bouts with fatigue, needing to sleep far for more often than usual, and feeling constantly sluggish, and weak, even when awake. And then the skin started peeling off of his hands, feet and face.

Hoes knew something was wrong, but test after test, and visit after visit to the doctor, produced no conclusive answers.

Hoes feared for the worst, worried that his playing career, or possibly even his life, could potentially be in jeopardy.

So when a test in June finally revealed that Hoes was dealing with mononucelosis, there was a mild sense of relief for the young second baseman, who at that point was playing for Single-A Frederick.

"Once I found out it was mono, it was kind of a relief," said Hoes, the Orioles' third-round pick in 2008. "It was very tough not knowing what was wrong with me. One time, the doctors said it was lyme disease. Another time, they said it was allergies. So once I found out it was mono, I was kind of relieved. But it was still tough because I had to build myself back up and pretty much go through spring training all over again."

What made it tougher was the timing. After a disappointing season at Single-A Delmarva the year before, Hoes found himself in the midst of an extremely hot start to the season with the Keys, and was batting .290 before being sidelined 37 games with the illness.

But while the mononucleosis was a setback, and slowed what looked to be a promising year in his development, Hoes managed to close out the season on a positive note once he returned, and is looking forward to having the momentum from that positive finish carry over to this season.

Hoes finished last year with a .375 on-base percentage, 24 extra-base hits (19 doubles, two triples, three home runs), 44 RBIs and 53 walks during 97 games with Frederick. After returning from the illness, he hit .438 (14-of-32) during a nine-game stretch near the end of the August, with five extra base-hits (three doubles, one triple, one home run) and seven RBIs during that span. He was also 9-for-21 (.429) during his last five games with the Keys in September, before moving up to Double-A Bowie, scoring five runs and driving five RBIs during that stretch.

And after a slow start this season -- he was hitting just .180 through his first 15 games at Frederick -- Hoes is 15-of-43 (.349) during the last 10 games with eight runs scored, two home runs and nine RBIs during that span.

"Things started a little slower than I would have liked," Hoes said. "But I'm just concentrating and staying focused. I've been swinging the bat well and I'm just focusing, working hard and trying to keep improving."

And Keys manager Orlando Gomez is confident that Hoes is going to keep improving, both offensively and defensively, while continuing to establish himself as a legitimate candidate as the Orioles' second baseman of the future, saying that Hoes is "still young, and still learning, but has a chance to play 12-15 years in the major leagues, and is probably going to be an every day player."

Hoes, now 21, entered 2011 ranked as the fourth-best prospect in Baltimore's organization by Baseball America.

"He's really coming around," Gomez said. "And he's going to hit. He's going to be a major league hitter. He just needs to keep working at second base [defensively], and feeling better at that position [after playing outfield in high school]. But his bat is going to carry him a long way."

Posted May 11, 2011