Prospect Retro: Nick Markakis
Per reader request, here is a Prospect Retro for Nick Markakis
Nick Markakis was an outstanding player at Young Harris Junior College in Georgia, earning JC Player of the Year honors in both 2002 and 2003, though primarily due to his pitching. Drafted by the Orioles in the first round in '03 (seventh overall), he played for Greece in the European Baseball Championships, then signed with the Orioles for $1.85 million. Most teams liked Markakis better as a pitcher due to his 90+ fastball, but the Orioles liked his athleticism and offensive potential and preferred him in the outfield.
There was some question about his power potential, but everyone liked his athleticism, above average speed from a 6-1, 175 pound frame, and defense. He hit .283/.395/.372 in the New York-Penn League after signing, swiping 13 bases and showing good plate discipline. I gave him a fairly conservative Grade B- in the 2004 book, noting that some people were concerned that he might end up as a "tweener," lacking the power for a corner position but losing enough speed to have problems in center as he aged.
Markakis moved up to Delmarva in the Sally League for 2004, hitting .299/.371/.470 with 11 homers, 12 steals, 42 walks, and 66 strikeouts in 355 at-bats, limited to 99 games by playing for the Greek Olympic Team. His numbers for Delmarva were good (OPS +14 percent), but not spectacular, though I was impressed with his strike zone judgment and improved power. Defensive reviews were also good. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2005 book, ranking him as the Number 38 hitting prospect in baseball.
Moved up to High-A Frederick in '05, he hit .300/.379/.480 in 91 games, then .339/.420/.573 in 33 games after being promoted to Double-A Bowie in late July. He combined for 15 homers and 41 doubles, while drawing 61 walks in 474 at-bats. He began to lose a bit of running speed and was less aggressive on the paths, swiping just two bases, but the improved production in other ways more than compensated for that. His hitting actually got better against tougher competition, and I wrote "you don't need any fancy sabermetric measures to know that such an upward production slope is a good sign." Scouts reported that he was murdering fastballs and making big strides against breaking stuff. I gave him a Grade A- and ranked him as the Number 16 hitting prospect in baseball.
Markakis unexpectedly made the Orioles roster in spring training 2006, and while there was some concern that he was being rushed, his final numbers were .291/.351/.448, highly impressive for a 22-year-old rookie with 33 games of Double-A under his belt. He followed that with .300/.362/.485 in '07, .306/.406/.491 in '08, and .293/.347/.453 in '09, averaging 20 homers and 45 doubles per season. His fielding gets good reviews, though his overall WAR values have been up and down a bit: 2.1 in '06, 4.2 in '07, 6.2 in '08, but back down to 2.2 in '09.
With 21 comps you have three Hall of Famers (Yaz, Kaline, and Winfield), two borderline candidates in Baines and Oliva, a bunch of very good players, and a couple of disappointments. I don't think Markakis will reach the maximal potential outcomes, but he seems likely to be a very good player for a long time; he's not going to Greiveout on us.
Remember, this is a guy that most teams preferred as a pitcher in college. The Orioles correctly assessed that Markakis' strength and athleticism would translate well into being a position player. This was a great example of proper player identification and analysis.