December 2009

Nick Markakis Article

Chris Bitters sent me this article today from  Nice piece on Markakis and his path through the minor leagues.  Of course, he stopped in Delmarva in ’04. 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!  Enjoy the article…

Comparatively speaking, Nick Markakis’ road to Major League stardom was a quick one.

While many players languish in obscurity for the better part of a decade before even getting a whiff of “The Show,” Markakis played only three Minor League seasons before cracking the Orioles’ 2006 Opening Day roster. He accomplished the feat at the age of 22, despite having logged only 33 games above Class A.

“As soon as I got [to Aberdeen], I wanted to go home,” recalled Markakis, who attended Young Harris Junior College in Georgia before signing with Baltimore. “I had only played two years in college and here I was thrown into pro ball with a bunch of people I’d never met. I was homesick and missed my friends and didn’t even know where I would live or who I’d be staying with.”

Compounding the uncertainty and frustration was the fact that Markakis was drafted as a hitter. The Woodstock, Ga., native had excelled on the mound during his high school and college career, to the extent that he was selected as a pitcher by the Cincinnati Reds in both 2001 and 2002 (in the 35th and 23rd rounds, respectively).

“I definitely thought I’d be pitching; getting drafted as an outfielder was the last thing on my mind,” he said. “I missed being on the mound, but I haven’t looked back since.”

Markakis made his pro debut on June 17, going 0-for-3 against the Brooklyn Cyclones at Ripken Stadium.

“It was a big jump from junior college to short-season A-ball, and I was a little intimidated to be playing with guys from huge Division I schools,” he admitted. “And when I went into pro ball, I still had that college swing, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you’ve got to use a piece of wood. There’s only so much of a sweet spot. … But once I got out there and realized I was still playing the same game, I started to feel at home and things got a lot easier.”

The numbers bear that out. After a slow start, Markakis started to produce, hitting .333 in July 2003 and finishing the season with a .283 average and 13 stolen bases in 59 games. His power had yet to develop, however, as he managed just one home run over 205 at-bats.

Despite relatively lackluster numbers, Markakis certainly made an impression on then-Aberdeen manager Joe Almaraz.

“At that point, he was mainly a gap-to-gap hitter. He hit a lot of line drives and sprayed the ball all over the field,” recalled Almaraz, who works as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. “Size-wise, you could tell that he still had some growing to do, but I always thought he was going to be able to hit homers. … I still remember the one home run he did hit that year. It was in Staten Island and it got out of the ballpark real quick.”

Markakis, who played both right and center field that season, also impressed Almaraz with his defensive prowess.

“Aberdeen has a huge outfield, but he had natural instincts and was able to make running catches toward the right-field scoreboard that I never thought he’d be able to,” Almaraz said. “He really made a believer out of me.”

With the trials and tribulations of his first Minor League campaign out of the way, Markakis was ready to hit the ground running with Class A Delmarva in 2004.

“That year was awesome because I was playing with so many guys I knew from Aberdeen,” he said. “I felt some wear and tear playing my first full season, but you learn to pace yourself, and if one thing’s not working you just try another. The game is all about making adjustments.”

Markakis hit .299 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs over 91 games with the Shorebirds, missing the final month of the season to play for Greece at the Summer Olympics in Athens. He found even more success the following season, batting .310 and driving in 92 runs over 124 games between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

By that time, Markakis had established himself as the Orioles’ top hitting prospect.

“I had heard that if I opened some eyes in Spring Training [in 2006], then there would be a possibility I could make the team,” he recalled. “It was something I didn’t believe could happen until it came true.”

Now 26, Markakis has already logged more seasons in Baltimore than he did in the Minors. But he’ll never forget the time he spent in the farm system, particularly where it all began.

“I loved playing in the New York-Penn League because we got to visit great cities and play in front of sold-out crowds,” he said. “That was the beginning of a journey that had some good and some bad, but it was a great experience and a real eye-opener.”

Minor League career breakdown
2003: Markakis is drafted seventh overall by the Orioles and begins his professional career with the short-season Aberdeen IronBirds. The 19-year-old appeared in 60 games, missing 2 1/2 weeks to compete for Greece in the European National Championships.
2004: Spent the season with the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League, where he led the team in RBIs, despite spending the final month playing for Greece at the Summer Olympics.
2005: Split the season between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie, hitting .310 with 15 homers in 124 games. He led all Orioles farmhands with 41 doubles and a .390 on-base percentage en route to being named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year.

Rodolfo Cardona Drafted in Rule 5

2009 Shorebirds utility infielder Rodolfo Cardona was selected in the Triple-A Phase of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday.  He was the second pick in the AAA phase and he is off to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. 

Full Rule 5 draft results are available here:

Drafted By
Drafted From
1 Arismendy Mota RHP Syracuse (WAS) Chicago (AL)
2 Rodolfo Cardona SS Indianapolis (PIT) Baltimore
3 Jose Duran RHP Norfolk (BAL) Houston
4 Brian Horwitz OF Columbus (CLE) San Francisco
5 John Lujan RHP Buffalo (NYM) Chicago (AL)
6 Beau Vaughan RHP Sacramento (OAK) Texas
7 Ruben De La Rosa RHP Las Vegas (TOR) Washington
8 Miguel Sierra RHP Durham (TB) Chicago (NL)
9 Terrence Engles RHP Tacoma (SEA) Washington
10 James Tomlin OF Oklahoma (TEX) Los Angeles (NL)
11 Anillins Martinez LHP New Orleans (FLA) Cleveland
12 Jake Stevens LHP Fresno (SF) Baltimore
13 Matt Meyer LHP Memphis (STL) Cleveland
14 Angelo Sanchez RHP Lehigh Valley (PHI) Minnesota
15 Michael Wlodarczyk LHP Syracuse (WAS) Tampa Bay
16 Marshall Hubbard 1B Buffalo (NYM) Seattle
17 Andrew Jenkins C Oklahoma (TEX) Florida
18 Nicholas Moresi OF Syracuse (WAS) Houston
19 Rolando Valdez RHP Buffalo (NYM) San Diego
20 Winston Marquez LHP Oklahoma (TEX) Minnesota
21 Orlando Lara LHP Buffalo (NYM) San Diego


Nice Article – O’s Minor League All-Stars

Steve Melewski from MASN wrote this article yesterday.  Lots of former Shorebirds made his list of 2009 O’S MILB All-Stars. 
Let’s take a look at the O’s minor leagues today. I present Melewski’s 2009 Orioles minor league All-Star team.

I didn’t consider a player that made the Majors before August 31, eliminating players like Brian Matusz and Matt Wieters. I didn’t consider players that played in fewer than 50 games, eliminating Josh Bell, among others, from consideration.

This isn’t necessarily a listing of the best prospects, just those that had good years at those positions. For the outfield, I did not pick a left, center and right fielder, just three that played in the outfield this year.

Now the team:

1B – Brandon Snyder: In 131 games between Bowie and Norfolk, Snyder hit .289-12-88. He tore it up at Bowie, but struggled at Norfolk. He had a great Arizona Fall League and his stock continues on the rise. I don’t know for a fact, but my hunch is the O’s see him as a better prospect than Aubrey and Hughes.

2B – Miguel Abreu: Abreu gets a slight edge here over Justin Turner. With Bowie he batted .290-4-45 and was durable, playing 130 games. He still can’t draw a walk, just 12 in 130 games, a real issue that may be holding him back.

SS – Pedro Florimon: In 115 games at Frederick he batted .267-9-68. He showed more pop this year and played solid on defense. He’s the current best at a thin position in the O’s farm that perhaps Mychal Givens can help soon.

3B – Brandon Waring: After going .273-26-90 for Frederick he was named the O’s minor league player of the year and Carolina League player of the year. He led all O’s farmhands in homers. He played mostly third in the second half of the season.

C – Caleb Joseph: He was leading the Carolina League with a .328 average on August 1st before a late slump left him at .284-12-60. His defense needs some work but he looks to be clearly the best catcher right now in the system while the O’s wait to see more from guys like Michael Ohlman and Justin Dalles.

OF – Matt Angle: He batted .289-1-32 in 123 games with Frederick with a .370 OBP and led the O’s organization with 42 steals. He also played solid defense in CF and showed a strong arm.

OF – Xavier Avery: He hit .262-2-36 and stole 30 bases at the age of 19 for Delmarva. He’s still learning the game but the O’s were thrilled with his progress this year and some project him as a future leadoff hitter in the Majors.

OF – Ronnie Welty: He batted .290-10-67 with Delmarva and was a post-season South Atlantic League all-star. He led the Shorebirds in most offensive categories.

Others had good years and easily could have made the team in the OF including Jeff Fiorentino, who hit .312 at Triple-A and Jonathon Tucker who was rock solid for Bowie. Danny Figueroa hit .319 in 78 games with Bowie and had an OBP of .444.

DH – Robbie Widlansky: He could have edged out Snyder at first base. After winning the Carolina League batting title, we could not leave him off this team. For the Keys, he hit .340-7-59 in 86 games. This after beginning the year in extended spring training when full-season clubs headed north in April.

Lefty starting pitcher – Zach Britton: If we eliminate Matusz from consideration, who else could this be? He went 9-6, 2.70 for Frederick and was the Carolina League pitcher of the year.

Righty starting pitcher – A tough call, but because he was durable and pitched all year, I’ll give a slight nod here to Jake Arrieta, who went 11-11, 3.40 between Bowie and Norfolk. This also could have been Brandon Erbe or Kenny Moreland who was 10-3, 2.74 between Aberdeen and Frederick.

Lefty reliever – Chad Thall: He kind of quietly had a real solid year at Bowie, going 2-2, 2.69 in 53 games and the league hit just .214 off him.

Righty reliever – Many solid candidates here but I’ll go with hard-throwing Luis Lebron, who between Frederick and Bowie fanned 90 in 60 1/3 and gave up a batting average of just .137. He allowed just eight hits in 27 1/3 with Bowie, amazing.

This could have easily been Eddie Gamboa, who went 11-0, 1.08 between three teams or Pat Egan, Jim Miller or Josh Perrault.

Not on purpose, but there were no short-season players on the squad. I promise this month to present an article or several, looking closely at those teams.