Top prospects

July 06, 1998|By ROCH KUBATKO

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko analyzes the Orioles' top 15 prospects (in order of projected arrival to majors; stats through July 2)

Rocky Coppinger

Age: 24

Team: Triple-A Rochester

Position: Pitcher

Statistics: 1-0, 0.00 ERA

Upside: Coppinger won 10 games in the majors as a rookie, but suffered through an injury-filled 1997 season. His velocity has picked up, with his fastball clocked between 89-92 mph, and his slider and changeup have been sharp. Farm director Syd Thrift was impressed by Coppinger's command at Double-A Bowie, where he went 2-2 with a 4.35 ERA, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts in seven appearances. He threw seven shutout innings in his first start at Rochester, and there's a spot in the rotation waiting for him.

Needs improvement: Coppinger's attitude has been questioned since last season, and his weight remains a problem. Club officials still believe he's too heavy and don't want him back in the majors until he slims down.

Projected arrival: 1998

Danny Clyburn

Age: 24

Team: Triple-A Rochester

Position: Outfield

Statistics: .295, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs

Upside: Clyburn has tremendous power and is very athletic. He hit 83 homers in the previous four seasons and possesses 4.1-second speed from home to first. "He has all the tools," said a club official. He got a late start because of a fractured foot in spring training but is close to being back to form. His first three major-league at-bats came last year, after he hit .300 with 20 homers, 76 RBIs and 14 steals at Rochester. The club thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft.

Needs improvement: Clyburn looked very shaky in left field this spring. His arm has gotten better but it's not real strong.

Projected arrival: 1998

Julio Moreno

Age: 22

Team: Extended spring training

Position: Pitcher

Statistics: None

Upside: Moreno had enough poise last year to move up from Double-A Bowie and win two decisive games for Triple-A Rochester in the International League playoffs. He has good command and throws three quality pitches, the best a hard slider. "He has a feel for pitching," Thrift said. His intelligence on the mound belies his youth.

Needs improvement: Moreno was shut down in spring training because of weakness in his right shoulder, and again after throwing one inning in Sarasota, Fla., because of pain in his elbow. He's still rehabilitating and will have to make up for lost time. He was supposed to be starting at Rochester. A quiet demeanor doesn't always suit him well on the mound.

Projected arrival: September 1998 (if healthy)

Radhames Dykhoff

Age: 23

Team: Double-A Bowie

Position: Pitcher

Statistics: 2-2, 2.25 ERA

Upside: Dykhoff received a surprise promotion to the Orioles and stayed for 12 days, getting into one game. He's been noticed. The left-hander has been moved into the Baysox's rotation to get more innings. He had thrown 44 in relief, allowing 31 hits, walking 23 and striking out 54. Dykhoff has added about 5 mph to his fastball, reaching 90. He also throws an unusual four-seam sinker. The plan is to bump Dykhoff to Triple-A Rochester before he dons an Orioles uniform again.

Needs improvement: He'll have to adapt to being in the rotation after pitching almost exclusively in relief as a professional. He also needs to work on his off-speed stuff.

Projected arrival: 1999

Chris Fussell

Age: 22

Team: Double-A Bowie

Position: Pitcher

Statistics: 2-5, 3.92 ERA

Upside: Fussell has an above-average fastball and curve. He's pitched in tough luck this season, as his record indicates, but Orioles manager Ray Miller has mentioned Fussell as a possible call-up this year. Other members of the organization first would like to expose the right-hander to Triple-A competition. He was 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his first three starts at Bowie last year, then set a Baysox record with eight consecutive defeats before going to Single-A Frederick.

Needs improvement: One club official said Fussell needs to work on self-discipline, which comes with maturation. He has to keep focused.

Projected arrival: September 1999

Calvin Pickering

Age: 21

Team: Double-A Bowie

Position: First base

Statistics: .279, 11 HRs, 51 RBIs

Upside: Referred to by one club official as the best hitting prospect in the organization. A plus-hitter with plus-power. He hit 43 homers the previous two seasons. He was dominant at lower Single-A Delmarva last year and has adapted well to the jump to the highly competitive Eastern League. Though known for his tape-measure home runs, Pickering impressed Miller in spring training with his ability to take a pitch the other way. He is surprisingly agile for his size. His future here depends largely on whether the club re-signs Rafael Palmeiro.

Needs improvement: With 15 errors this season and 27 last year, Pickering won't win any Gold Gloves, especially until he improves his throwing. He also must keep his weight down. A three-week stay at Duke's Diet and Fitness Center showed he's taking the matter seriously.

Projected arrival: September 1999

Ryan Minor

Age: 24

Team: Double-A Bowie

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