Bell, Snyder making strides in Arizona
O's prospects could see time in Majors next season
The $8 million club option on third baseman Melvin Mora's contract likely won't be picked up, and first base is currently wide open, so the Orioles will probably be in the market for some corner infield help this offseason.
But a long-term solution -- or two -- could be found within their own organization in Arizona.
That's because, as the autumn leaves continue to fall, the stock value of Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder continues to rise while each of them light it up for the Arizona Fall League's Phoenix Desert Dogs.
Snyder, a first baseman, currently leads the AFL with 15 RBIs, and Bell, a third baseman, is second in the league with a .464 batting average.
Whether or not Bell and Snyder are ready to step into a Major League roster for the first time next season is still in question -- a question that could be answered in Spring Training -- but Orioles director of player development David Stockstill likes what he's seen from his two highly touted prospects thus far.
The switch-hitting Bell, who came over to the Orioles in the deal that sent reliever George Sherrill to the Dodgers in July, has hit at every level and continued that when he batted a combined .295 with 20 home runs and 76 RBIs in the Dodgers' and Orioles' Double-A affiliates this season.
So far in the AFL, the 22-year-old is 13-for-28 with a home run and nine RBIs.
"Josh Bell has outstanding power, especially from the left side," Stockstill said.
Stockstill also praised Bell's strong throwing arm, but said he'd like to see him improve on his footwork and range at the hot corner -- something he said Bell made strides in this summer -- and added that he could use a little more work as a right-handed hitter.
But Stockstill loves Bell's bat.
"He has light tower-type power -- he has a bat that really explodes on contact," Stockstill said. "Right-handed, he hits the ball all over the field, a little bit less power than he has left-handed. Left-handed, he uses the whole field, but he also hits more gap-to-gap -- left-center to right-center."
But Stockstill isn't jumping the gun on Bell's readiness for the Majors.
"We feel like we took him to the Arizona Fall League to try to put him on a fast track to getting to the Major Leagues as soon as possible," he said. "There are definitely things to work on, and I think it's too early to say that, yes, he'll be ready for next year. You have to let him work, see what he does out there, see what he does in Spring Training, and then make the decision at the proper time."
Snyder, also 22, finished his fifth professional season this summer -- one that included a promotion to Triple-A, along with a collective .289 batting average and 88 RBIs.
Snyder was a shortstop when he was taken as the 13th overall pick by the O's in 2005 but was quickly converted into a catcher. Injuries then removed him from behind the plate to the corner infield spots before assuming a full-time role at first base.
"He's made progress at first base and played well at first base in Double-A and Triple-A this year," Stockstill said. "But his main tool is the bat. He hits gap-to-gap, hits the ball consistently hard. I don't know that he's going to be a big home run hitter, but I believe he'll be a big RBI producer."
Will he be a big RBI producer for the Orioles in '09? Like Bell, the rest of this fall and the upcoming spring will be the determining factor for Snyder.
"I think he needs to get as many at-bats and as many plays as possible before he's up in the Major Leagues, and that's another reason for him to be in the Arizona Fall League," Stockstill said about his right-handed-hitting top prospect, batting .400 (14-for-35) with three homers in the AFL.
"Get more at-bats, get more experience, bring him into Spring Training next year, and we'll see where he's at and see what the club needs at the end of Spring Training."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.