Orioles’ outfielder Felix Pie was once thought to be the next great five-tool, impact player after the Cubs landed him in their minor league system in 2001 at the age of 16, but has never posted those mind-blowing and staggering statistics that the organization and fans hoped he would provide.
“Outstanding speed, plus arm, plus defender, he’s hit his entire minor league career and he’s won at almost every place he’s been,” McPhail told MASN. “I know the kid. He has great makeup, a great work ethic. He’s devoted to becoming the best player he can be. And we’ll give him every opportunity to see if he can hit in the majors, which we think he can.”
The Orioles’ president Andy McPhail provided this quote for an ESPN trade report article after the Orioles acquired Pie from the Chicago Cubs in January of 2009 for LHP Garrett Olsen and minor league pitcher Henry Williamson.
In his time with the Birds over the last two and a half seasons, Pie’s appeared in 260 games, but has only compiled 743 plate appearances and 687 at-bats (If he were consistently start games for the Orioles in left field, he should have around 1,000 plate appearances at least- assuming he would appear, on average, four times per game).
I think the problem that has plagued Pie throughout his entire major league career has been lack of consistent playing time and this dates back to his time with the Cubs. Pie has never really had a chance to prove what he can do, and not only are the Cubs to blame, but the Orioles haven’t given him much of a shot either.
Scouts raved about Pie and believed that he would be the next all-around amazing athlete. The 6-2, 185 pound Dominican could motor down the line and he would be a major threat on the bases. Not to mention he could hit with the best of the minor league sluggers as he consistently hovered around the .300 in his Cubs minor league career.
In his five and a half seasons before being called up to the majors from 2002-2007, Pie sported a .301 batting average as he collected 654 hits in 2174 at-bats with the various minor league affiliates, while crushing 51 homeruns over that stretch. Not to mention, he swiped 107 bases in 170 chances, which averages out to be 62.9% stolen base percentage.
Baseball America ranked Pie as the top prospect in the Cubs’ farm system in both 2006 and 2007. In 2006 with Triple A-Iowa, Pie appeared in 141 games and accumulated a career-high 158 hits in a single season, not to mention he clocked 51 homeruns and drove in 57 RBIs that season, which were both career-highs as well.
The Chicago Cubs
In his career-year in 2006, he batted 300 more times and only hit six more homeruns and drove in 16 more RBIs. If Pie were to stay with Iowa the entire season, he was on pace for about 22 homeruns and 103 RBIs.
The now 26-year-old Pie debuted for the north side ballclub when he was only 22 years old on April 17th, 2007 and recorded his first major league hit, a double, off of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and he scored his first major league run on an RBI off the bat of former teammate Derrek Lee.
Pie played in 87 games for the Cubs in 2007, but only batted 177 times, so this tells us that he was used more as a pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner late in games. He only batted .215, while hit his first two major league homeruns and drove in just 20 runners.
Pie began the 2008 season with the Cubs and remained on the roster for the first month and a half of the season. Before being optioned to Triple-A in mid-May, Pie was hitting at a .220 clip with only 13 hits in 59 at-bats and one homerun and seven RBIs (all coming in April) over 27 games.
In his three months with Iowa in 2008, over 85 games he hit .287 in 335 at-bats as he crushed 10 homeruns and drove in 55 runners. Again, Pie shown no signs of struggling at the minor league level; but, he was never really given an opportunity at the major league level.
The Cubs recalled Pie as one of their September call ups and he performed much better than at the beginning of the season as he hit .300 in 13 games no homeruns and three RBIs.
The Baltimore Orioles
In his first season with the Birds, he appeared 101 games on the season, so you’re probably expecting around 400 plate-appearances or so, but again, as was the case with the Cubs, he only appeared at the dish 281 times.
In 252 at-bats on the season, he compiled 67 hits, good for a .266 batting average. Although he didn’t impress the Birds with his average, Pie did show off some power by knocking nine homeruns, which averages out to a homerun every 28 at-bats. If he were to play a complete season, as he did in the minors, he’d average around 20 homeruns a year.
Pie struggled early on in the season, and was eventually removed from the starting position in left field due to his misfortunes at the plate. But, after injuries to both Nolan Reimold, who replaced Pie, and centerfielder Adam Jones, he took full advantage and played more regularly.
In August of 2009, Pie was able to appear in 23 games, the most in a single month all season, and it proved to be his best season with the Birds thus far. He hit at a .333 clip over his 63 at-bats and recorded 21 hits for the month, but cooled off again in September and October when he didn’t play as often.
In his second season with the ballclub, he began the season eight for his first 20 (a .400 average) with two doubles, four runs and a homerun, but was quickly sidelined due pain in his left shoulder and he landed on the 60-day disabled list. He missed most of April and all of May and June.
Pie returned to the lineup in July, and struggled, but to be fair, he did just return from the DL. Throughout July, he hit only .222 with 16 hits in 72 at-bats in 19 games played because he returned on July 6th, and the All-Star break cut a few games out of the month.
In August, like the season before, he began raking the ball and put together quite a month. Pie hit at a .308 clip as he collected 32 hits in 28 games and he jolted three homeruns and drove home 11 Orioles.
But, again, Pie struggled over the last month and week of the season as he hit just .235 in 23 games. Here again the trend continues. When Pie plays on a more consistent basis like August 2009 and August 2010, he hits better and helps the team more.
This season has been a struggle for Pie as he’s only hitting .218 in only 147 at-bats on the year. Pie has appeared in 77 games for the Birds, but has only started 33 games. Only one time has Pie started at least four games in a row this season and it was from July 14th to the 18th, with a day off on the 17th.
There was something very special about Pie and the Cubs organization saw it. I think the Orioles need to figure out how to help him realize and harness his potential because Pie could be a fixture in the Birds’ outfield for years to come, he just needs an opportunity.