I thought about writing about the Orioles latest loss, but there really anything to be said that hasn’t been said a million times before this season? It’s amazing the difference a couple games can make. In this season where we have all been told that the team has to win, it is all to often that we don’t look past Norfolk in taking stock of the organization. Even beyond that we rarely look at players who Andy MacPhail didn’t help bring in, particularly considering the massive influx of prospects that he has brought into the organization. As the season wears on we will eventually dig back to the minors to take a look at the very talented players who will one day help Baltimore win games (yes, it will happen). I decided to take a quick look at a player who many fans (including myself) had left for dead, and saw that he may yet be part of the future of this organization.
Billy Rowell has not been a popular player, either to the Orioles front office or to fans who have had high hopes unfulfilled for the former #9 overall selection. The 21-year old started 2010 promising a renewed enthusiasm after years of being dogged with claims that he lacked a strong work ethic, that he was a toxic influence to coaches and other players, and that he held a sense of entitlement that kept him from progressing in the minors. The left hander spent 2009 bouncing around the outfield after failing to perform at third base, accumulating enough errors to have some scouts comparing him to the bat-only Jake Fox. The difference was however, Fox can hit. Rowell, despite his reputation for a consistent power stroke, has failed to get it done in the minors and entering this season was riding on his reputation as a first round pick rather than anything he had done in the field. He was left unranked by ever major scouting service in the country, and was on the verge of completely falling off the team’s radar.
Considering that he was also selected before the Orioles brought in Andy MacPhail, there was no one in the front office left to champion his cause- and they had little reason to. Like many athletes who have grown up knowing only greatness, perhaps it was the knowledge that he was falling out of the team’s plans that made him redouble his effort going into this season. After all, Rowell is still only 21 years old, but it was his lack of progression that was bothering coaches and front office folks alike. In 120 games at Frederick last season, Rowell hit a paltry .225 with an abysmal .284 on-base percentage. His 9 home runs gave no indication of the power stroke he was supposed to have. For most players, that isn’t even good enough to stay in the minors for very long. It wasn’t even a slumping year for him- he only hit .248 the year before. Combine that with his fielding percentage- .888 in 2007, .925 in 2008, and .904 in 2009, it was clear that he isn’t going anywhere with his glove.
It seems that 2010 could be different for Rowell. His .284 average and .405 OBP in 30 games so far this season are better than they have ever been since he reached A ball in 2007, with an OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS all almost 100 points or better above their previous highs at Frederick. His 17 walks so far is half of what he had all of last season. After being moved back to third base he is still struggling in the field (.833 fielding percentage), and will more than likely never find a place on the field where he won’t be somewhat of a liability. But it is times like these that Baltimore fans can be grateful that they have the DH (it’s true, no one is hitting but there is someone designated to do so from time to time), where Rowell could likely find himself if he happens to reach the majors. With all of the stories about Oriole prospects not living up to their potential, it is good to see one player who could be returning from nowhere to be part of the Orioles future.