Sunday, August 15, 2010

2011 Sleeper Candidate: Felix Pie OF Baltimore Orioles

posted by Unknown
One of my many bad habits is falling in love (in a macho, manly sorta way) with certain players. Years ago now I fell for Felix Pie and he's starting to love me back. It is interesting that I was also once enamored with Corey Patterson who is also showing signs of life with the Baltimore Orioles.

Pie and Patterson both came up through the Chicago Cubs system. They both left as disappointments. But at least in the case of Felix Pie, that conclusion was probably premature. The Cubs never really gave Felix Pie an extended opportunity to become accustomed to the majors. He was constantly being pulled in and out of the lineup, up and down from the minors, and suffering from an assortment of injuries. He never received more than 194 plate appearances with the Cubs and even those came haphazardly spread out across the 2007 season.

In January 2009, Pie was traded by the Cubs to the Baltimore Orioles for Hank Williamson and Garrett Olson. Although the trade seemed to signal an ending of sorts for Felix Pie it was likely the best thing for his career. It is easy to blame the Cubs for mishandling Pie as a prospect, they done that quite a bit. However, teams in contention, or in the case of the Cubs, in constant desperation to be in contention, needs players to perform or get out of the way. It is the same reason that so many Yankee prospects see more success on other teams.

Last season the Orioles allowed Pie to spend the entire season in the major leagues. He received a career high 252 at-bats and showed signs of the player he has the potential to become. He achieved his major league best walk rate (8.5 percent) and ISO (.171) and improved plate discipline. That led to his opportunity in Spring Training. He beat out the power hitting Nolan Reimold and began this season on fire. Then he got hurt and was out of the lineup for months.

The good news is that upon his return to the majors, especially since the hiring of Buck Showalter as the Orioles manager, Pie is again on fire. As of this writing, Pie has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, batting .392 and showing power and speed on the bases and real effort on defense. In such a small sample size it is difficult to know whether Pie has continued his development or has just experienced a couple of nice hot streaks. However taken together with the evidence of progress during the 2009 season, it looks pretty good.

Fantasy owners should definitely have Pie back on their radar. He had incredible tools and the potential to become a 30/30 type player. At just 25-years old Pie could still be a star in the major leagues. He is with a team that has nothing to lose by giving him that opportunity.

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