Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prospect Report: Jerome “L.J.” Hoes

In this fourth installment… Windsor is M.I.A. Apparently he has too much work today catching up from his week off to fulfill the beloved Thursday Prospect Report. As such, the highlight of this blog falls to me this week (hold your applause, please). Don’t worry though, Windsor sent me a mountain of opinion and information to make me appear much smarter than I am, so we should be in good shape. I will struggle valiantly to give you some insight into a player who could become a staple of the Orioles lineup in 3 or 4 years.

While much attention has been paid to O’s pitching (or lack thereof), fans should remember way back to April, when the emphasis was 4 or 5 years down the road. Does anyone remember that? It seems so quickly that the fan base has gotten back into the “reload” mentality, and forgotten that what we give up now will benefit us far more in the future. One such player in that bright future is Jerome “L.J.” Hoes.

So, who is L.J. Hoes? Hoes is a 6’0”, 190 lb. high school player out of Bowie, MD and was drafted by the Orioles in the June MLB draft with the 5th pick in the 3rd round. Though he played the outfield almost exclusively in high school, the Orioles project Jerome as a second baseman down the road. He is considered a player with all the tools necessary for a superior infielder, and was thus announced as a second baseman (but if he is athletic as advertised I would predict he may wind up at shortstop). More than anything else, LJ’s bat projects perfectly at second base. The difficulty with high school stats are that they are far overblown and a terrible predictor of future success, but nevertheless a .524 avg. with 32 stolen bases in a high school season is nothing to sneeze at. He has begun his young career with the GCL Orioles, and has not appeared to be affected with the transition to the minor leagues (though rookie stats can also be very misleading). Through 38 games Hoes has hit .306 with only 1 HR, but with one very welcome surprise. Hoes sports 27 walks contributing to a .428 OBP, indicating patience at the plate, which is surprising for a position player of his age.

Strengths: Speed and hitting. Hoes has a similar mold to Brian Roberts at the plate- he is patient, draws walks, and can turn a single into a double with ease. He has the speed to run out ground balls and steal bases, and could be a very reliable lead-off man down the road. Jerome has struck out only 18 times in 124 at-bats, impressive for a player of his inexperience. It is clear that he has a very mature understanding of pitchers and does not press for a hit when it isn’t there. Had Hoes not signed with the Orioles he likely would have wound up at the University of North Carolina, one of the top baseball programs in the country. He has certainly shown why at the plate this season.

Weaknesses: Fielding. Although Hoes is said to have all the physical tools necessary to make plays in the field, he has committed 11 errors already this season, averaging to more than one every 4 games and ranking him second on the team for highest number of errors. Much of this can be attributed to Hoes changing positions, and will likely work itself out as he takes some more time with coaches in the instructional league in the offseason to better learn how to field the position.

Projection: This is part of that 4-5 year plan, and L.J. will likely be one of the last pieces to be added. As he works his way through the minors he will certainly be a player to watch. He has said he would not have signed with any team but the Orioles (that may be the first time I’ve heard that in 10 years), and his attitude towards this franchise has translated into an exceptional work ethic and a discipline not found in many position prospects in the Orioles system. I anticipate he will see Delmarva to start next season and be kept there for the duration if he turns around his fielding some. After that it become a bit murkier- high school players, even those as promising as Hoes, are difficult to project. However, the very earliest we might see him in Camden Yards would be the tail end of 2012 or more likely midway through the 2013 season.

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