O’s minor league batting coach on Kelly, Schoop and more

Mike Boulanger has completed his first season as the Orioles’ minor league hitting coordinator. I spoke with him recently to review how things went in 2012 for O’s minor league batters overall.

We talked about that in articles that were published earlier here and here. I also asked Boulanger to comment on a few specific players.

Ty Kelly, in 133 games between three clubs, batted .327 with 11 homers, 70 RBIs and an OPS of .892.

“He was third in the organization in runs, RBIs and batting average,” Boulanger said. “He was really first in average depending upon where you want to cut off plate appearances. In productive team plate appearances, Kelly was No. 1 and he was No. 1 in on-base percentage.

“That is quite a few categories and that is doing pretty darn good. He has great hand-eye coordination and finds the barrel of the bat a lot. He’s a little better from the left side. He could do a little better job with some off-speed stuff.

“He has to improve his defense and that is what is going to have to pick up because he can hit. You have to look ahead at what possible position could he play one day in the major leagues, not the minors. But he had a great season offensively.”

LJ Hoes hit .287 this season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk with five homers, 54 RBIs and a .759 OPS.

“He’s a very good hitter,” Boulanger said of Hoes. “Controls the strike zone and uses the whole field. What type of hitter could he be in the big leagues? That is still evolving. His power numbers I know will get better as he gets a little older and stronger, and a little more experience about looking when to do this and when you can’t do that off a certain pitcher and when to take a chance on a ball. I’d much rather have a hitter batting .300 with a lot of doubles then be concerned about him hitting 10 more home runs.

“We see (more pop) in batting practice every day. You learn and he will pick his spots. There may be times, off certain pitchers, where the count goes 2-1 or 3-1 and you might want to jump ship on that pitch. But you have to pick your spots. He’s just a good baseball player.”

At Bowie this year, Jonathan Schoop hit .245 with 14 homers, 56 RBIs and a .710 OPS.

“He started out scuffling,” Boulanger said of Schoop. “He’s still such a young guy. You know he could still be a sophomore in college. When you think about it that way, what if he was playing at Georgia Tech? He’d be a No. 1 pick.

“He got better as the season went on. He made some adjustments. He’s done well in the (Arizona) Fall League. He’s a prospect if there ever was one.

“Strikeouts have to go down and walks go up. Can’t swing and miss that much. It got better as the season goes on, but he knows and is working hard on it. He’s a good-looking prospect.”

Boulanger also talked about three players that are a little older and don’t often get labeled as top prospects, but put up good numbers in 2012: Brandon Waring, who led all O’s minor leaguers with 24 homers, Aaron Baker, who hit 22, and Robbie Widlansky, who was second in batting average at .316 and first in RBIs among O’s farmhands with 83.

“Waring at Triple-A hit over .300 the last 35 or 40 games or so,” Boulanger said. “He made some changes and he can really turn around a good fastball. He played good at third for Norfolk. He hits the ball like a man when he hits it.

“Robbie can really hit and he was hitting before I showed up here. Aaron Baker, don’t make a mistake on him. He drove in 76 runs and might have driven in 90 or so if he didn’t get hurt.”

Winter Meetings coverage: The meetings officially begin tomorrow, and Roch Kubatko and I will be reporting from Nashville through Thursday for MASNSports.com. Check our blogs and Twitter accounts for the latest on what the Orioles are doing in Nashville.

Dan Duquette may be meeting with Baltimore reporters there later today, so some stories with a Nashville dateline could be coming your way later today. Needless to say, check in here often over the next few days.

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