By JAY LeBLANC
The offseason trade that sent catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for since-departed utility man Ryan Freel and minor leaguers Justin Turner and Brandon Waring was noteworthy at first glance primarily because it cleared Matt Wieters‘ path to the majors. But while Freel’s tenure with the Baltimore Orioles was brief and forgettable, the 24-year-old Turner is playing well enough in Triple-A to warrant consideration for a future in the Orioles’ infield and Waring, 23, has emerged as the power-hitting corner infield prospect the organization so sorely lacked.
Waring missed most of his sophomore season at Wofford with a broken wrist, then burst onto the scene as a junior in 2007 by finishing second in NCAA Division I with 27 home runs. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound South Carolina native hit .311 with another 20 homers in 68 games for Rookie-level Billings that summer after the Reds made him a seventh-round pick and followed that up with a .270/20/71 line last season for Class A Dayton. But with Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion at first and third respectively and corner infield prospects Yonder Alonso, Neftali Soto and Juan Francisco in the fold, the Reds decided Waring was expendable when they found themselves in need of a catcher.
Waring appears destined to make the Reds regret that decision. He’s currently hitting .292 for the advanced Class A Frederick Keys and ranks seventh in the Carolina League in both home runs (8) and RBI (33). Waring played mostly third base in the Reds organization but has made a smooth transition to first base this season, with a .993 fielding percentage in 43 games there. He still gets the occasional start at third, however, and has made just one error in 11 appearances at the hot corner. Waring’s biggest weakness at this point is his propensity to strike out. He has fanned 45 times in 185 at bats this season after racking up 156 strikeouts in 441 at bats last season.
I had the chance to speak with Waring on Tuesday night after his Keys lost 6-1 to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates-affiliated Lynchburg Hillcats at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, Md.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned you’d been traded from the Reds to the Orioles?
A: At first I was surprised - it kind of came out of nowhere. But everything happens for a reason. I was excited about the new opportunity with the new club. The Reds were kind of stacked at the corner positions and the Orioles weren’t quite as deep, so I was excited about it.
Q: Could you talk about your experience in transitioning from one organization to another so early in your pro career?
A: Heading down to spring training I was excited and anxious at the same time; I didn’t really know what to expect. But everything went smoothly. It’s the same game, the same goal of getting to the big leagues. All the guys were nice - I met some good friends early and all the coaches took to me, and it’s been good since.
Q: Do you generally step up to the plate with a plan, or do you just trust your reactions?
A: I usually have a plan in mind according to the situation - how many outs, where the runners are and whatnot - and then just try to see a ball up in the zone that I can hit.
Q: You played mostly third base in the Reds organization but you’ve played mostly first base this season for Frederick. Where do you think you’ll end up in the long run?
A: I played a little bit of first base last year, and then this year they called me and told me I was going play the majority [of the time] at first, just because [the versatility] makes you more valuable down the road. They’re not taking third base away from me; I think I’m playing [Wednesday] night at third. I’m getting more comfortable [at first] as it goes on; I feel good over there. But I still feel like I can play some third too, so hopefully my future will be both positions, wherever I’m needed.
Q: What are some of your goals for this season?
A: Just to continue what I’m doing. I think I’m off to a pretty solid start. [I want to] just stay consistent and bring my game every day to the park - don’t let any pitch go by in any at bat, don’t waste at bats - and hopefully get moved up by the end of the year.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: I’d say Derek Jeter. He’s a leader, makes the routine plays, makes the big plays and gets the clutch hits.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Orioles?
A: That’s not up to me, but if I play my game, hopefully within the next two years. I’m excited about it, and excited about being here.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:
2009 - Jack McGeary, Nationals; L.J. Hoes, Orioles; Jordan Danks, White Sox; Mike Moustakas, Royals; Danny Duffy, Royals; Kyle Skipworth, Marlins; Xavier Avery, Orioles; Ryan Kalish, Red Sox; Derek Norris, Nationals; Zach Britton, Orioles; Pedro Alvarez, Pirates; Robbie Grossman, Pirates.
2008 - Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.