Baseball America has just released their annual pre-season top 100 prospects list. Some of our more casual fans may not know what this is or even know these players, and I say shame on you. This team is going to get better by developing talent in-house from our minor league system, so you better start learning about it. We are going to briefly discuss the list here, because I am a baseball nerd, and these lists make my pee pee feel all funny.
BA recently rated the O’s minor league system at 8th overall in MLB, which is vastly improved from recent years.The BA list included 4 Orioles players, which is above average. On the list were Brian Matusz(5), Josh Bell(37), Zach Britton(63), and Jake Arrieta(99). We have a good chance of seeing all of them but Britton in 2010.
We have seen a glimpse already of what Matusz brings to the table and by the end of his showing in the majors last season it was very apparent why he is regarded as one of the best prospects in all of baseball. Matusz combines good stuff with good command and is probably our best pitcher overall going into the season despite retaining his rookie status. He is potentially a big time candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Josh Bell’s rating was a bit of a nice surprise, I knew he would be on the list but I did not expect him to be this high and I also did not expect him to be the highest ranked third baseman on the list (Brett Wallace is listed as a third basemen, but is expected to move to first). Josh Bell will likely make his debut at some point this season, though that is not a given with Miguel Tejada’s durability at third the O’s may not be able to find him enough at bats to bring him up. There is a chance however that Tejada struggles or that Bell forces their hand with a good showing in Norfolk.
BA had recently dropped several hints that they were beginning to come around on left hander Zach Britton. Britton had flown under the national radar until now, though the Orioles made it known they liked him a lot before this past season. Britton had a very good showing in Frederick in ’09 and will most likely start this season in Bowie. He could potentially skyrocket to the bigs at some point this year but I see it as unlikely. There is a lot of young pitching talent in front of him on the depth chart but if he is dominant enough he could get some time late in the year. He should see some significant time in 2011 however if he continues to progress. Britton throws a very heavy sinker which is his best tool and that allows him to post ridiculous groundball rates while putting up solid strikeout rates. He is a very exciting prospect and we should keep an eye on him in 2010.
Jake Arrieta’s rating this season was a surprise as well, but in the opposite fashion as Bell. Coming into last season, Arrieta was ranked in the 30-40 range on several publication but he almost fell completely off of the list this year. Yes, Arrieta did not dominate AAA and had some struggles there but he is young and he didn’t embarrass himself either. I have seen him pitch a few times and his fastball is definitely his best tool, it wows you with the amount of bad looking swings it gets and he pops the mitt. It is almost definite that we will see Arrieta at some point this season, and I am looking forward to it. I don’t think the question with him is if he will be a productive major league pitcher, I think the big question with him is whether he will be a good starting pitcher or a dominant reliever. It will be fun to find out.
While the list is mostly good news for Orioles fans, there was some disappointment to be found in it. While our drafts have been pretty solid over the last few years, many fans and insiders did not like last year’s first round pick of Matt Hobgood at number 5 overall. It is waayy too early to call it a bad pick already but I was one that did not like it at the time. You may remember a post I did at the time of the draft where I recommended the O’s take a high school lefty Tyler Matzek. Matzek is on this list at number 23, Hobgood is nowhere to be found. There are several other players the O’s may have had interest in the draft also on the list in shortstop Grant Green(52), college lefty Aaron Crow(40), and high school righty Zack Wheeler(49). This in no way confirms that the Hobgood pick was a reach and the O’s were looking to save money but it certainly isn’t great news.
In finality, let’s keep an eye on these guys this year so we know about them before they get their call. I don’t want to hear any questions about who they are from Orioles “fans” as I do every year we call up prospects. While in the last decade we haven’t had many good ones, our current crop are nationally known…let’s get with the program.