While major league organizations never truly acknowledge the fact, there are two types of prospects. One of those types is the prospect we discuss often, the one who has the potential to reach the major leagues and excel at that level. The other type of prospect is the one who gets a short write-up in a season preview article, and goes unnoticed in prospect rankings; the roster-filler. Many minor league players walk the line between pro potential and just taking up a roster spot.

The Orioles have revamped their system in recent years, mostly through the draft but also through some trades, to include more prospects with major league potential. Today we’ll focus on Caleb Joseph and Brandon Waring. Joseph is a catcher who was drafted in the 7th round in 2008, and has emerged as one of the organization’s top catchers. Waring is a third baseman acquired in the Roman Hernandez trade who has arguably been the most consistent power hitter in the organization over the last three seasons. Both are on the Bowie roster, with this year being their second as teammates. Both Joseph and Waring have shown a lot of potential to make it at the major league level, but with recent additions to the organization and a recent lack of production from the two, they are starting to walk that previously-mentioned “line.”

Brandon Waring has struggled with Double-A pitching after tearing up the lower levels. (Credit Orioles-Nation.com)

Caleb Joseph was a 7th-round draft pick in 2008 out of Lipscomb University in Nashville, and immediately made an impact with Aberdeen, hitting .261 with an impressive 8 home runs in 63 games (238 at-bats). Additionally, Joseph threw out 43% of baserunners in his 2008 season with the IronBirds. After a very strong 2009 season at Frederick, Joseph went to Bowie and struggled to adjust, hitting just .235 with a .301 on-base percentage, and throwing out 26% of baserunners. While he has bounced back this year, Joseph faces an uphill battle as he tries to cut it in the big leagues. Matt Wieters is the cornerstone of the franchise, and has entrenched himself in the starting catcher’s role for as long as he’s in the orange and black, so Joseph would earn a backup’s role at best. Additionally, Joseph has to compete with two other catchers for that backup role. Craig Tatum is the backup to Wieters currently, and has filled in sufficiently when needed. Also, John Hester, currently catching for Triple-A Norfolk, was recently traded to the O’s from the Diamondbacks to complete the Mark Reynolds deal. Hester and Joseph will likely platoon at Norfolk in the next year and a half to decide who would eventually earn the major league call-up.

Brandon Waring is another 7th-round pick out of Wofford, although he was drafted in 2007 by the Cincinnati Reds. Waring was sent to the Orioles as part of the Ramon Hernandez trade, mostly for his powerful bat. Waring has played four full years in the minor leagues, and has hit 20 home runs in each season. With eight already this

Caleb Joseph was a 7th-round pick in 2008 and is gunning for a major league roster spot.

year, he looks well on his way to making that five seasons in a row. (Note: While it is not a confirmed statistic, it seems almost certain Waring would be the only active minor league player to accomplish this.) While he does have the power, Waring has had major struggles with making contact, putting up Mark Reynolds-like strikeout figures each season in the minors. Additionally, he has struggled to keep a high batting average while at Bowie, being exemplified by his miniscule .189 batting average this season for the Baysox. Waring’s power will be the thing that gets him to the MLB, but his struggles with Double-A pitching don’t bode well for his major league prospects, and he may be competing with other guys for the Orioles’ third base job. Mark Reynolds is the current option at the position, and Josh Bell can’t be forgotten about at Norfolk. That’s not to mention Jason Esposito, the organization’s 2nd-round pick this year who will likely ascend quickly through the system, in addition to top shortstop prospect Manny Machado, who could (although it’s not very likely) make a transition to third base as he climbs the minor league ladder.

In the end, the way either of these players will succeed at the major league level depends on whether they can fit into a certain role. Joseph has a better chance of planting himself on the 25-man roster when all is said and done, simply because a dependable backup catcher is always something major league teams look for, and Joseph has a bit more pro potential and raw talent than Hester, his competition for that spot. While Waring has that great power, his high strikeout total hurts his chances, and while he does play a bit of first base as well, his glove is less of a tool for him than it is for Joseph. But don’t write off Brandon Waring just yet, or Caleb Joseph for that matter. Both of these guys have the potential to be major leaguers, the only question is whether they can utilize their tools, make mental adjustments, and settle into a role at the major league level.
Edgar Walker will be covering the Orioles’ farm system, Terps football, and Baltimore-area high school sports for BSR. Follow him on Twitter @Edgar_Walker.