Rookie Review: L.J. Hoes, OF, Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles promoted outfield prospect L.J. Hoes to the major league roster on Tuesday. He hasn't appeared in a game yet, and his presence is intended to help cover for the injured Nick Markakis. Here's a profile.
Jerome O'Bryan "L.J." Hoes was born March 5th, 1990 in Washington, DC. Scouts observing him in high school weren't sure what his position was going to be long-term. They also felt he lacked big power and might become a tweener, but overall they liked his bat and his approach to hitting.
The Orioles drafted him in the third round, giving him a $490,000 bonus to skip college ball at North Carolina. The fact that he was a local talent from the DC/Baltimore area was a nice extra. He performed well in rookie ball, hitting .308/.416/.390 with 30 walks and 10 steals in 10 attempts in 159 at-bats, showing an intriguing patience/speed mixture. I rated him a Grade C "with higher potential" type pending more data.
Hoes played regularly for Low-A Delmarva in 2009, hitting .260/.299/.318 with 20 steals in 25 attempts, drawing 23 walks against 80 strikeouts in 431 at-bats. He used his speed well, but his offensive game lacked power, and he suffered a sharp decline in patience/OBP against better pitching. He also struggled defensively at second base, making 28 errors and showing poor range despite his athleticism. I still had him as a Grade C entering 2010, though young enough to improve.
Hoes showed that improvement in '10, hitting .278/.375/.368 with 53 walks and 70 strikeouts in 353 at-bats, restoring some patience to his approach, although his stealing ability dropped off. He made some progress at second base, although not enough to calm concerns that he'd have to shift to the outfield. I did move his grade up a notch to C+.
He got off to a slow start in High-A in '11 (.241/.297/.342 in 41 games), but improved after a promotion to Double-A, hitting .305/.379/.413 for Bowie with 43 walks and 56 strikeouts in 344 at-bats. He also began the process of conversion to the outfield. I gave him another C+.
2012 began similarly: a fair start at Bowie (.265/.368/.372 in 51 games), then a hotter bat after moving up to Triple-A (.300/.374/.397). Overall he hit .287/.372/.388 this year in the high minors, with 23 doubles, five homers, 65 walks, 76 strikeouts, and 20 steals in 32 attempts over 513 at-bats.
A 6-0, 190-pound right-handed hitter and thrower, Hoes is a good overall athlete with solid but non-spectacular tools. His speed is a bit above average but he needs to refine his stealing technique. His arm is also average and fits best in left field, though he's also seen time in center field and right. He hasn't played the infield at all this year and the Orioles seem to have given up on the idea of using him there, though he could always be deployed at second base in an emergency.
Hoes is a contact hitter with good plate discipline, willing and able to take a walk. His level, compact swing can produce some doubles and triples, but he is not a home run hitter and isn't going to turn into one without a drastic (and likely counterproductive) change in his approach. He is your basic tweener-type outfielder, lacking the big bat to thump his way into a regular corner job, but not running or throwing quite well enough to play center field regularly for a good team.
Overall, although I don't think he'll be a regular, Hoes has some skills that could be useful on a major league bench.