Will Little Jerome put up some big stats this year for the Frederick Keys?
So far this season, the Keys 20-year-old second baseman, Jerome Hoes, is well on the way to doing that.
In 26 games, Hoes is batting .309-1-17.
Hoes was the Orioles third-round pick out of St. John's High in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Most of his life his friends and family have known him as L.J.
"My dad has the same name, he's Jerome too. He's probably 60 pounds bigger than me, so they call him Big Jerome and me Little Jerome. My whole family calls me L.J."
Hoes is from Bowie and his games at Frederick have become somewhat of a family affair for him.
"It's great, my father comes up every night, my little sister comes to watch me play. On the weekends, my grandparents come to support me no matter how I am doing."
Hoes is doing just fine. In fact, after he picked up two hits in Frederick's loss to Winston-Salem on Wednesday night, he is 10 for 22 (.455) during a six-game hitting streak.
But here's a stat that gets your attention. Last year at Delmarva, Hoes drew just 23 walks in 119 games. With the Keys, he has drawn 20 walks already to lead the league. And his on-base percentage of .435 is 4th best in the Carolina League.
"It's because I'm just more relaxed at the plate. I have two speedy guys in Avery and Hudson hitting in front of me. I need to read and see pitches and have a plan at the plate. Last year, I didn't have a great plan up there. Sometimes the walk is what you need to get going," the right-handed hitting Hoes said.
"I am a gap-to-gap hitter. That is how I was in high school. I think the power will come as I get stronger. Right now I need to get the contact part down and start driving the ball in the gaps. As I get older and bigger, some of those balls will go out," said Hoes, who has batted third and fifth in the Frederick lineup.
Spend a few minutes with Hoes and it becomes clear that he is a very smart player that realizes he will need more than just raw talent as he makes his way up the O's minor league ladder.
"That is what sets people apart, those that can think the game. Everyone has good ability here. The little things like the mental side of the game and the way you approach the game, set people apart.
"There is always something you can learn. You can be 3 for 4, but still do other things to help your team. You always have to keep working and learning.
"It's the way I was brought up. My father played baseball, my uncle played before he passed away. My grandfather played and baseball has always been in my family. I've always picked the brains of older people, it's how I was brought up on the game."
Hoes is batting .387 vs. left-handed pitching and .375 with runners in scoring position.
But, as he points out, there is more to the game than your batting average. He is working on his defense too.
"I need to work on my first step, that's the difference sometimes between getting to the ball or not. Want to work on my range and my double play turns have improved a lot."
Hoes is a player mature beyond his years and you just get the feeling he is always looking to get an edge that will help him get better.
It's almost hard to believe this is a just a 20-year-old young man, showing this maturity and playing nightly vs. older players.
"Sometimes (my age) it hits me. But I also think we all out here have the same dream of making the Major Leagues one day. I want to have fun and keep getting better. We all grew up loving this game."