Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ranking the Orioles top pitching prospects

If you follow the Orioles minor league teams at all, you know that there is a wealth of pitching talent making its way through the system right now. Trying to come up with a list of ten, I had to extend it to 12, and ranking them based upon the impact they might have in Baltimore's rotation in the future. Only looking at guys who are currently pitching in the minors.

12 - Jacob Renshaw - The biggest indication that the Orioles have a lot of minor league pitching depth is probably this guy acquired in the Steve Trachsel trade. He won twelve games in the Cubs chain last year and he was generally thought of as the Cubs top pitcher headed to Adv-A this year. Going into the spring he was probably thought of as the #4 or #5 on the potential Frederick roster. Not as dominating as many of his peers, but he has continued his winning ways and is a solid starter. He's 5-2 in Frederick and likely to stay there all year. Ceiling is probably a 4 or 5starter in the bigs, but an interesting guy to watch develop.

11 - Hayden Penn - I've just about lost all faith in Hayden Penn. And the thing is I think the Orioles are pretty much with me. Mixes a good start into the mix every now and again at AAA-Norfolk, but he's still allowing more than a hit per inning. Not sure what the future brings for him. But at the moment, I don't expect too much. Still he only turns 25 in the offseason, so maybe he's a late bloomer. I just don't read it that way

10 - Radhames Liz - I still think his future is out of the bullpen. He's got a great fastball, but has trouble with everything else. Got a cup of coffee with the Orioles last year, but still needs to develop. Question will become can he generate something other than the fastball which will allow him to get hitters out more consistently.

9 - Pedro Beato - Part of the talented rotation at Frederick. Is highly thought of, but some of his early season struggles have pushed him down on this list. Still with all the talent that he has, he just can't be ignored. But has to be careful that not too many people pass him in the Orioles view.

8 - Brandon Erbe - Former top pick of the Orioles. The Baltimore schoolboy has sort of stalled out at Adv-A Frederick. Good life to the fastball and his changeup is probably his best pitch. But he struggled a good bit in Frederick last year, so only 20, turns 21 on Christmas, the Orioles decided to have spend another year with the Keys. Started the season well, but has tailed off of late. ERA sits at 4.82 (almost a run and half better than last year) and he still is allowing about 1.20 baserunners an inning. More potential then a lot of guys on this list, but the results haven't shone through recently.

7. Zach Britton - A little lefthander the Orioles drafted out of high school by the Orioles a few years ago. He is productively making his way through the system and is now in his third year. Just 20, he's holding his own at A Delmarva. He's 3-2 with a sub-3.00 ERA. Isn't overpowering but he does get people out. Probably never going to be a Major League ace, but if he keeps working hard, he could be a valuable part of the rotation at some point.

6. David Hernandez - Upside is enormous here. Yet, he's never really performed in the minors, but he has started the year very well for Bowie. A strikeout pitcher, who has a nasty slider but sometimes lacks command. Was better with it last year, but still some issues this year. Could become an ace, may never materialize. A huge unknown.

5. John Mariotti - This is as high as you'll probably see him on anybody's list. But I like last year's 18th round pick, because he gets guys out. He's only at A Delmarva, but he's allowing just about 3/4 of a baserunner an inning. That is very good. I'd like to see what he could do at Frederick and we might see that later this year.

4. Cory Spoone - Some arm issues have elevated his numbers this season, and have kept him from elevating on this list. Highly thought of both within the organization and out. Keep an eye on him as the season wears on and we find out if his arm has recovered.

3. Brad Bergesen - A huge surprise to be this high, but has dominated first at Frederick and then Bowie this year. The report I got back from New Hampshire after his first start clearly indicates that he is capable of this much upside.

2. Jake Arrieta - The Orioles said that this 2007 draftee may rise through the ranks quickly. So far he hasn't disappointed and a bounce to Bowie for the second half of this season seems likely. If that occurs and he pitches well, he might be competing for a slot in the rotation next spring. That's best case scenario of course, as he was just the Carolina Pitcher of the Week last week.

1. Chris Tillman - Good fastball, plus curve, likely to end up being the guy most remembered out of the Erik Bedard trade. Just 20, he drew rave reviews in spring training, and has followed it up with a good beginning at Bowie. He's on the hill right now, and he's thrown five shutout innings versus Erie. Still very young, without a lot of innings, he's probably not a real contender for the rotation next year, although if he continues to impress that could change. He has now completed the sixth today, and he fanned nine and allowed only 3 hits. His ERA on the season is about 2.40. A true top of the rotation prospect.


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