Two Orioles’ Prospects at Norfolk
The Tides are on a brief road trip to Durham; they return to Harbor Park for a brief homestand against the Gwinnett Braves Monday through Wednesday. I’m scheduled to work Monday and Wednesday, so I’ll have some timely thoughts on those games.
The purpose of the Norfolk Tides is developing players for their parent team; now, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are looking to their farm system to provide a first baseman of the future and a third baseman of the future. Conveniently, the Tides have the most major-league-ready prospects at those positions in first baseman Brandon Snyder and third baseman Josh Bell. Many Orioles fans are counting on them to fill the holes and become big-league contributors. Unfortunately, I don’t think either one will be ready soon.
The love prospect watchers have for Brandon Snyder — Baseball America rated him as the #6 prospect in the Orioles system — is inexplicable. At least for those of us who have seen him play at Norfolk. He spent the second half of last season at Norfolk, and he has been very unimpressive. He hasn’t shown any home-run power. He hasn’t been peppering the outfield with line drives. He hasn’t been expert at coaxing walks. Unless he improves, he’s probably not going to score or drive in 100 runs in a season. For a first baseman in today’s game, that’s unacceptable. Think right-handed hitting Casey Kotchman, or Doug Mientkiewicz, without the brilliant defense.
Josh Bell has only been in Norfolk for eight games (seven at Harbor Park), so I’m evaluating him on a limited sample size. I can see why Bell impresses prospect watchers. He’s trim and athletic, “looks good in the uniform.” I’ve been impressed with his defensive range at third base, although he has a knack for stopping hard grounders backhanded and then having the ball drop out of his glove. However, Tides’ hitting coach Richie Hebner needs to work with Bell on his stance and his pitch recognition. Bell, a switch-hitter, has a wide-open stance when he’s batting left-handed. Perhaps as a result, he dives for low, outside pitches, resulting in a lot of swings-and-misses and weak grounders to short. He hasn’t seen many pitches he can drive, so I really haven’t had a chance to see his best stroke. Bell is definitely young enough and has shown enough athletic ability to improve, but right now he’s not a major-league player.