The Orioles, like any organization, would like to create a situation where they have solid depth throughout their minor leagues with prospects at both the lower and higher levels.
While some fans right now would question the Orioles’ minor league depth and may well be right about that, at certain positions the Orioles are becoming well stocked.
Center field is one of those positions.
When the 2011 season began last week the O’s had a center fielder that will be batting leadoff at each of the team’s four full-season affiliates. Each player has some decent skills with speed and a chance to move up the minor league ladder.
Matt Angle is playing the position at Triple-A Norfolk, with Xavier Avery in Double-A Bowie, Kyle Hudson at Single-A Frederick and Trent Mummey with Single-A Delmarva.
Hudson also played at Frederick last year. Some fans might wonder why he didn’t move up to Bowie. With Avery slated to start at Bowie, the O’s would rather have Hudson playing with a club where he can bat leadoff and be the center fielder. Were he at Bowie, with Avery, one of them would likely be playing left field and not batting leadoff every night. The O’s would rather a player like Hudson go back to Frederick and continue to learn how to be a leadoff hitter and get his defensive reps in center.
Mummey probably could have moved to Frederick to start the year, but the same applies to him with Hudson ahead of him by a level.
Sometimes, having the players get the playing time and continuing their development at a specific position like center is more important that pushing them up a level and having them play out of position.
Angle, 25, who is on the O’s 40-man roster, has struggled early on, going just 1-for-14. But he batted .278 at two levels last year, including Triple-A, with a .351 on-base and 29 steals.
The 21-year-old Avery had a very solid year in 2010 between Frederick and Bowie. He batted .271 with seven homers, 66 RBIs, 83 runs and 38 steals.
Hudson batted .260 last year with the Keys with a .348 on base and 40 steals and Mummey hit .266 at Short Season Single-A Aberdeen last summer while hitting three homers with 24 RBIs and six steals over 49 games.
Now all four can play every day at the position they are best suited for and gain experience as a leadoff hitter as well. If there comes a time later this year when Angle moves to Baltimore, the others could move up as well, if they appear ready.
All four players were drafted in round seven or lower. Angle was taken in round seven of 2007 from Ohio State, Avery in round two out of a Georgia high school in 2008. Hudson was drafted in round 4 in 2008 out of Illinois and Mummey last year in round four from Auburn.
Four affiliates, four players and one position in the field and batting order. The O’s feel good about their center field position on the farm.