Orioles minor leaguer LJ Hoes could not quite contain his excitement this week. He got an important phone call Wednesday morning and before long posted this via his Twitter account:
"Just got the best news ever God is good...Big league Camp here I come."
Hoes will join Xavier Avery as O's farmhands that are getting an invitation to the Birds' major league spring training camp, where they join the big leaguers in the clubhouse and on the field.
"I'm just very excited," Hoes said by phone from the Washington Wizards game Wednesday night. "I'm anxious to get down there and be around the big league guys. I've always had dreams of playing in the big leagues since I was a young kid. I felt I had a great season last year and I just want to build off that and hopefully being in big league camp will help me get started to do that."
After a slow start last year with Single-A Frederick, Hoes moved to Double-A Bowie and his bat began to heat up. In 95 games with the Baysox, he hit .305 with 17 doubles, six homers, 54 RBIs, a .379 on-base percentage and OPS of .792.
It was a solid year, considering he spent most of the summer as a 21-year-old batting third in the Eastern League. He was the Orioles' minor league Player of the Month for July, when he hit .373 and had a 1.121 OPS.
Hoes hit six homers with Bowie and all came during a nine-game stretch from July 26-Aug. 2. He showed much more pop in his bat with an .861 OPS after the All-Star break, compared to a mark of .711 before the break.
His winter workouts have been geared somewhat to continuing the power increase he began to show last summer.
"Just building off what I did at the end of last year. The power numbers were starting to come. We changed my swing some and I worked hard at staying behind the ball, being strong and being able to drive the ball. Hopefully, I can now hit with more power and drive in more runs," he said.
Hoes spent a lot of time working last summer with Baysox hitting coach Denny Hocking. Earlier in the year, Hoes' body was drifting slightly forward when he was ready to swing at a pitch. Hocking helped him get more quiet in his stance and build a stronger base at the point of contact.
The Orioles' third-round draft pick out of St. John's High in Washington, D.C., in 2008, Hoes was scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League after last season ended, but an injury to his right index finger kept him from playing in the AFL.
"I actually got hurt in instructional league (in September) about two days before I was going to leave for the fall league. I got hurt in one of the games down there. I stretched a tendon a little bit, but it was not torn. I rested it a little bit and now I feel great. My hand is 100 percent," Hoes said.
On defense, after some struggles at second base, where he played for most of his first three seasons, Hoes spent much more time in the outfield with Bowie last season. He made 67 starts in left field and 10 in right field.
It appears that Hoes is more an outfielder than infielder at this point, although he said that is not definite yet and he's not sure at which position he will start the 2012 season.
"I don't know yet. They said I may still get my reps in at second base and at third base. Pretty much right now, just play wherever they want me," he said.
Hoes has seen just about every level of the O's organization, beginning after that 2008 draft in the Gulf Coast League and making Bowie last year. He is hoping a stop in Norfolk for him is in the not-too-distant future.
"The ideal situation would be to be in Triple-A, but if I'm in Double-A, I just have to play hard because the only thing I can control is how I play," Hoes said. "Some guys go from Double-A to the big leagues, but if I go to Bowie, I just want to pick up where I left off last year."
One thing is for sure: His season is already off to a great start now that he knows it will begin in the Orioles' major league camp. He will report to Sarasota early and plans to arrive next Wednesday.
"I'm just anxious to get around the guys. A guy like Adam Jones has been one of my favorite players since he came to the Orioles. I'd like to watch him and pick his brain and also watch a guy like Nick Markakis. It will be a great experience for me," Hoes said.
Orioles minor league leaders, batting average in 2011:
.297 - Buck Britton
.296 - Kyle Hudson
.290 - Jonathan Schoop
.285 - Hoes
.284 - Ryan Adams
Orioles minor league leaders, RBIs in 2011:
72 - Kipp Schutz
71 - Hoes, Schoop, Brandon Snyder
69 - Joe Mahoney
Even more on Kim Seong-min: I must say the last day or two has provided me with a better education than I ever expected to have on the Korean Baseball Organization. Reaching out to several reporters in Korea via the magic of Twitter, I had a few respond to my questions and they have been helpful to me in providing information on the situation involving the Orioles and the club's signing of 17-year-old Korean pitcher Kim Seong-min.
The Orioles are expected to release a statement about the situation later today. O's officials have been in touch with Major League Baseball officials this week.
One of the reporters that has provided me with information and access to some of his stories and interviews is Jee-ho Yoo from Yonhap News Agency, the largest news agency in Korea.
He spoke with Jeong Geum-jo, the head of baseball operations in the KBO and sent me quotes from Geum-jo last night on the matter. Here they are:
"As far as status checks go, we give MLB fairly basic answers - for instance, if a player is a student-athlete or a professional. With Kim Seong-min's case, we could have told them that he is entering his final year in high school and will be eligible for the KBO draft in 2013. So we could have said, please refrain from engaging him.
"With the status check, it's not something we can't simply reject and say, 'No, we can't give you the information.' And it's not as though MLB teams already don't know about the players that they're pursuing. It's a mere formality that is in the agreement. Beyond that, it doesn't carry much significance.
"The problem with Baltimore is that they violated the agreement. Whether it's an amateur or a pro player, you have to check with us first. They not only contacted the player, but signed him. So it's a big problem.
"Having filed our complaint, we're counting on four things. First, don't violate the agreement again. Second, MLB should penalize the violating team. Third, don't just tell us you're going to punish the team, but tell us how. Finally, we want to revise the agreement.
"Actually, Kim Seong-min is someone who has nothing to do with professional baseball. He is a student, after all. We can't really stop him from going wherever he wants to go. It's up to the Korea Baseball Association (KBA) to sanction the player and all. What we do is to deal with violation of the agreement and with asking MLB to penalize the offending party.
"The MLB side told us that they would take a close look into this and give us a response. I think some changes could be made if we keep pushing."