The Baltimore Orioles spent their first
round draft pick (#26 overall) in 1998 on one of the top high school
sluggers in the country in Rick Elder. A 6 foot 6, 230 pound left hander
out of Marietta, Georgia.
Once he was signed, the 18 year old began his professional career for
the Orioles Gulf Coast League team where he worked on and made a nice
adjustment to learning to play the outfield. Throughout high school, Rick
had played 1st base. He season ended with solid numbers, including .340
average (36-106), 3 HR's, 26 RBI, 3 steals, 19 runs scored, 5 doubles, 4
triples, 12 BB's and 20 K's. He proved the scouts wrong who had considered
him just a one-tool (power) player by showing some speed in the extra base
hit numbers and also showed a willingness to take the walk, often not seen
in a power hitter at his age. Plus Rick played well in the field,
especially when considering that playing the outfield was a learning
experience. However, his 1998 season came to an end early due to a sore
arm which was believed to be caused by fatigue.
In 1999, Elder began at Rookie-level Sarasota where he went 6-10 with 2
HR's and 4 RBI before a promotion to Rookie-level Bluefield. In 158 AB's
here, Rick hit , .329 to go with 10 HR's, 40 RBI, 35 runs scored, 8
doubles, 4 triples, 30 BB's, 57 K's, and 2 steals. Because of the arm
problem, Rick spent this past season playing his old position, 1st base.
He lead the team in HR's and was second in both RBI and average (100+
AB's). This showing helped Rick earn a late season jump to Delmarva where
he hit .083 (7-36) with 2 HR's, 4 RBI, 10 BB's,and 15 K's. I'm not too
concerned about the arm problem, especially since 1st base is an option or
a more drastic measure would be a move to the DH spot. I don't feel he
will ever be a gold glover no matter what position he ends up playing,
instead it's his bat that will keep him in the majors.
Rick is your classic "high ceiling" type of player that could be a
dominating power force in the middle of your batting order. I have heard a
comparison regarding Rick that he the build of a young Dave Parker and the
attitude of a Kirk Gibson. Often these high ceiling players don't work
out, but Rick is one that I feel will develop into the player that he can
be. In 2000, Rick will most likely start at Delmarva, where I feel the
Orioles will not rush his progress. Elder is a few years away, but for the
Orioles, it will be worth the wait.