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The Orioles felt like they got a bargain when they took Matusz with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft and signed him to a major league contract worth $3,472,500. He did nothing but reinforce that opinion in his pro debut, going from the University of San Diego to pitching in Yankee Stadium in a year. After signing too late to pitch in 2008, Matusz opened at high Class A Frederick and dominated in 11 starts, then pitched even better at Double-A Bowie to earn an eight-start trial in Baltimore to wrap up the season. His 1.91 ERA between his two minor league stops ranked fourth overall in the minors. He ranked as the top pitching prospect in the Carolina League, and would have done the same in the Eastern League if he had enough innings to qualify for Baseball America's rankings. Matusz was the fourth-highest pick out of the 2005 draft not to sign, turning down the Angels in the fourth round out of an Arizona high school to spend three years at San Diego, where he set the school's career strikeout record (396) and led NCAA Division I in whiffs (146) during an All-America junior season in 2008. He went 12-2, 1.71 that spring. He was the highest-drafted player in Toreros history and the first pitcher drafted that year. Matusz has three (and potentially four) above-average pitches and advanced command of his entire repertoire, yet most people say that his best trait might be his makeup. Team officials describe him as a winner and admire the way he made adjustments in his first pro season. He's both intelligent and determined, with a great feel for pitching and a strong will that allows him to deal with adversity and never give in to hitters. When an Orioles official told him that his changeup wasn't as good as it needed to be early in the year at Frederick, he went out and threw more than 20 times in his next start, commanding it and using it in a variety of counts and situations. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball, touching 95 mph, and complements it with both a curveball and a slider. The slider rates as the more effective pitch at this point. His changeup is the best in the system and could be well above-average in the future as he masters his command of it. He has a clean delivery and repeats it well. While his command is advanced for his level of pro experience, sharpening it will be Matusz's final task. He has great control and usually is able to keep the ball low and work both sides of the plate at will, so he just needs more experience against big league hitters to develop the pinpoint command he'll require to get them out consistently. A No. 1 starter isn't always the guy who has the best pure stuff. And while Matusz's pure stuff is plenty good, it's what's between his ears that could make him the Orioles' ace within the next couple of years. Having gotten his feet wet in Baltimore last season, he'll be expected to win a spot in the major league rotation in spring training as the Orioles fill in homegrown studs behind newsly acquired veteran Kevin Millwood.
Bell's prospect status had dimmed a bit with the Dodgers, but he got himself into better shape and had a bounceback season, becoming the key player in the deadline trade that sent reliever George Sherrill to Los Angeles. He showed no ill effects from a knee injury that had bothered him in 2008, and ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the Arizona Fall League after the season. In a system lacking in impact bats, Bell fills a huge need. He has above-average power and a good approach, showing the ability to work counts to get on base. While he's a below-average runner, Bell has worked hard to become an average defender at third base, with smooth actions, improved footwork and an above-average arm. Bell is a switch-hitter, but his lefthanded swing is much smoother and he has severe splits, batting .193 with one home run in 135 at-bats against lefthanders last year, and .339 with 19 homers in 313 at-bats against righthanders. He has shown enough promise that the Orioles will allow him to continue switch-hitting for now. The Orioles think they have found their third baseman of the future, and with Melvin Mora not returning the future could come soon. Garret Atkins will keep the position warm while Bell gets at-bats in Triple-A, but Bell should take over at some point in 2010.
When talking about elite pitching prospects in the Orioles organization, it's time to add Britton's name to the discussion. He was the pitcher of the year in the Carolina League last season, and his 2.70 ERA ranked second in the league. The Orioles shut him down a bit early with shoulder fatigue when he hit 140 innings, but he'll be at full speed for spring training. Britton seems like the typical sinker/slider pitcher, except that his fastball touches 94 mph. His velocity improved last season, and he usually works in the 88-92 range with his sinker, adding a four-seam fastball to go with it. His slider has become an effective weapon against lefthanded hitters, and his already-solid changeup improved as well, in part thanks to tips he got from Brian Matusz. Britton's command has improved and he does a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone, but he still needs to throw more strikes with his fastball and get himself ahead of hitters. His 55 walks led the Frederick staff, and his 21 wild pitches led the Carolina League. Britton is another Orioles pitcher who earns high marks for his makeup, and he could get a lot more attention in 2010 if he moves up to the Bowie rotation and pitches well.
After leading the Carolina League in ERA and pitching in the Olympics for Team USA in 2008, Arrieta pitched his way to Triple-A in 2009 and led the organization (both major and minor leaguers) with 148 strikeouts. The Orioles signed him for a $1.1 million bonus in 2007. Arrieta is a bulldog who is willing to challenge hitters in the strike zone. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, and has the action to generate swings and misses. His slider has become a solid second pitch and is plus at times, while his changeup is solid but needs the most improvement. He also occasionally throws a curve to lefthanded hitters. While Arrieta can throw strikes with all his pitches, he needs to do it more consistently and better command his pitches in the strike zone. His 56 walks last season were the most in the farm system. The Orioles worked to shorten his stride last season to give his pitches a better finish and keep them down. Arrieta's pure stuff compares with any of the Orioles' elite young pitchers, but his command puts him a notch behind them. While some scouts think that could eventually send Arrieta to the bullpen, the Orioles see him as a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher who can pile up 200 innings a year with no problems.
The Orioles surprised some people when they made Hobgood the first high school pitcher drafted last June, taking him No. 5 overall. Most clubs rated him as a mid-firstround talent and he signed quickly for a slightly below-slot $2.422 million, but Baltimore insists he was the player it liked best. He began his pro career in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and finished as the league's No. 4 prospect. Hobgood is a big, burly power pitcher who has drawn physical comparisons to Goose Gossage and Curt Schilling. He was a two-way player in high school with plus power in his bat. With a 90-96 mph fastball, backed by a curveball and changeup that also could become plus pitches, his future clearly was on the mound. His frame and clean, repeatable mechanics should bode well for his durability. Hobgood still needs to refine his secondary pitches and command. His body is already mature, so there's not a lot of projection left. He topped out at 91 mph in instructional league, but the Orioles say he was just tired. It may take Hobgood some time to refine his arsenal, but the raw stuff is there. He'll get a chance to win a spot in the low Class A Delmarva rotation in spring training, though he could open the year in extended spring
The son of former big leaguer Brian Snyder, Brandon signed for $1.7 million as the 13th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He looked like he might wash out after shoulder problems limited his at-bats and forced him to move from behind the plate, but he has proven over the last two seasons that he can be a major league hitter. His .343 average would have led the Eastern League in 2009 had he stayed around long enough to qualify, and he further boosted his stock by batting .354 in the Arizona Fall League. Since Snyder got his swing and approach dialed in during the 2008 season, he has been productive at the plate. He's hitting more with his hands now, staying inside the ball and working it up the middle, as well as driving it to the opposite field more often. His defense at first base has improved significantly, and he shows good hands, footwork and arm strength for the position. Snyder doesn't have prototypical power for a first baseman, projecting to hit 15-20 homers per season, though some scouts think he could add more power down the line. He had trouble getting ahead in the count following his promotion to Triple-A last June. He's a fringe-average runner. Snyder struggled enough at Norfolk to show that he needs more experience against quality pitching. He'll open the season back in Triple-A and prepare himself for a major league opportunity. He looks like he'll profile as a righthanded-hitting Sean Casey.
The Orioles have taken a patient approach with Erbe because they've had do. After a strong 2008 when he led the Carolina League with 151 strikeouts, Erbe missed nearly two months last year with shoulder tendinitis. He returned to action in June and made three starts in the Arizona Fall League, and the Orioles added him to the 40-man roster. When he returned to action, he worked at 91-92 mph and touched 94 with good, hard late life down in the zone. He has thrown harder in the past. His slider should be an above-average pitch in time, and he made strides with his now-average changeup as well. Fastball command and durability remain the tipping points that will determine how good Erbe can be. He tends to pitch up in the strike zone, leaving him vulnerable to homers and walks. The Orioles smoothed out his mechanics a couple of years ago and will give him every opportunity to remain a starter. Erbe will compete for a spot in the Norfolk rotation in spring training. Because of his track record and the large group of starter candidates in the organization, it seems likely that he'll end up in the bullpen long-term.
Though he'll play most of the 2010 season at 26, Mickolio is young in terms of his experience and his arm. He didn't play baseball until American Legion ball in 2001, before his senior year of high school in Montana, then he attended college in Utah for four years before the Mariners drafted him in 2006. He came to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard deal in February 2008 and has pitched in the majors in each of the last two seasons. Mickolio has a pure power arsenal and is an intimidating presence on the mound, driving fastballs down on a steep downhill plane. His fastball sits around 95 mph and peaks at 97-98, and he was much more consistent with his slider last season. He even had enough confidence in his changeup to throw it in the big leagues on occasion. The Orioles try to walk the line between tweaking his funky crossfire delivery and letting him do what works for him. He was shut down the last two Septembers with a tired arm. He needs to sharpen his command and must do a better job of understanding hitters and how to attack them. His changeup still grades as below-average. Mickolio has the stuff to pitch in the back of a major league bullpen, and if he develops a better feel he could be a closer. He should win a spot in the big league bullpen this spring.
Givens jumped into the national amateur spotlight early and played in both the Aflac and Under Armour All-America games before his senior year of high school, and he was regarded as one of the best two-way prospects in the 2009 draft class. Eventually most scouts thought he would end up as a reliever on the mound and saw him more as a shortstop--as did the Orioles, who signed him for $800,000 as the 54th overall pick. Givens signed too late to make his professional debut last summer, but in instructional league he showed the athleticism the Orioles were looking for, with agility, balance, speed and strength. He has good bat speed and should be able to hit for power as he matures. He shows good actions at shortstop and has a plus arm, touching 97 mph when he was a pitcher. The Orioles expect Givens will need a good number of minor league at-bats and will need to tweak his swing to take advantage of his strength. He'll need repetitions at shortstop as well. While Givens has played a lot of baseball, he'll need refinement as a shortstop and hitter after spending a good bit of his high school career as a pitcher. He'll debut at a short-season stop after a stint in extended spring training.
When Joseph had a strong debut at Aberdeen in 2008, the Orioles jumped him a level and he spent all season at Frederick, finishing up as the catcher on the Carolina League's postseason all-star team. He wore down as the season went on and hit .156 in August, but still finished eighth in the league in batting. The more you see Joseph, the more you like him, and that seems to go for everyone from scouts to managers to pitchers, who love working with him. His tools grade out as average across the board, but his performance is consistently above-average. He understands his swing and knows how to hit, consistently centering the ball and hitting it where it's pitched. He's a good athlete and blocks and receives well. He has an average arm. Joseph's swing can get long and funky, and he'll have to hit with more power to stay out of the lower part of a batting order. He has to work on his footwork, and his release time is a bit slow. He'll need to get stronger to handle catching every day. Joseph has all the skills to be an everyday, workingman catcher. Unfortunately for him, the Orioles have Matt Wieters, who has all the skills to be a star catcher. A decision about his long-term future is still a couple of years away, though, so for now Joseph will move up to Double-A.
Lebron made just seven pro starts in 2005 before the Orioles figured out his power arm worked best out of the bullpen, and he subsequently made quick progress until an elbow injury knocked him out for most of the 2008 season. He returned last season and put up the best numbers of his career, making the Carolina League all-star team before getting added to the 40-man roster after the season. His .137 opponent average ranked second among all minor league relievers last year, and his 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fifth. Lebron has lightning in his arm, with a fastball that sits at 94-96 mph and touches 97, but he's more than just a hard thrower. His slider is also a plus pitch and looked sharper than ever last year. His changeup even looked like a potentially above-average pitch after he never had shown any confidence in it in previous seasons. He generates a lot of swings and misses but needs to tighten up his command to avoid walks. Lebron showed the stuff to work at the back of a major league bullpen last season, and he should do that if he stays healthy and throws strikes. He'll likely open 2010 in Triple-A but will be an early candidate for a callup.
Florimon may have been the most improved player in the system last year, putting his tools into action much more consistently and winning a spot on the 40-man roster after the season. A career .222 hitter entering 2009, he earned a spot in the Carolina League-California League all-star game by batting .310 in the first two months of the season, and team officials said he showed better pitch recognition and plate discipline than ever before. He fell back into bad habits in June and July but recovered to hit .312 in August. Florimon started to string together good at-bats last year, hitting the ball where it was pitched and using his hands to stay on pitches better. He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts. He's a switch-hitter with some pop and has gotten stronger in the last couple of seasons. He's an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases. Florimon's calling card remains his strong defense. He has plus range and arm strength, and he shows soft hands and fluid actions at shortstop. He also reacts well to to the ball off the bat. He has agility, quickness and an accurate slingshot throwing motion. He has to get more consistent on both offense and defense, and a player with his tools shouldn't have led the Carolina League with 35 errors last year. The Orioles were excited by his progress and would love to see him play his way into the big league picture with a good year in Double-A in 2010.
Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan loves athleticism and strong makeup, and Avery offers plenty of both, which is why he received a $900,000 bonus as a second-round pick in 2008. Also a standout football player in high school, he didn't put up good numbers in his first full season, but Baltimore was impressed with how hard he worked all season and started to see flashes of his ability translate into baseball performance. He's a tough young man who wants to be successful, and he told one Orioles official during the season, "I love baseball because it's so hard to be good." He's an exciting player who drew comparisons to Carl Crawford as an amateur and got Kenny Lofton comps last season because of his body and his speed. Avery's speed is at the top of the baseball scale, though he's still learning how to use it. His routes and angles are a bit shaky but he covers a lot of ground in center field. His arm is slightly below average now, though it could be average as he gets more baseball experience. He's also learning the technique of stealing bases, though he swiped 30 in 40 tries last year just on pure speed. Avery doesn't understand how to hit yet, with pitch recognition his main challenge. He swings defensively for now, though as his approach improves, his strong hands and bat speed could produce power. His ideal role is as a top-of-the-order hitter, where any pop would be a bonus. Baltimore says Avery exceeded its expectations by jumping to low Class A and holding his own last year. He'll take the next step to Frederick this season.
When the Orioles unloaded Miguel Tejada to the Astros after the 2007 season, Patton was regarded as major league-ready and the most promising of the five players they got in return. But he dealt with shoulder problems that spring and had surgery to repair a labrum tear, missing all of 2008. When he returned last year, Baltimore's only real goal was to have him complete a healthy season, which he did by compiling 108 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He dominated at Bowie but seemed to wear down at Norfolk, and his command wasn't sharp enough to get Triple-A hitters out consistently. Getting his pinpoint command back is the most important part of Patton's recovery, as he has always relied on moving his pitches around and keeping hitters off balance. The Orioles thought his command was good for his first year back. He pitches in the low 90s with his four-seam fastball and the high 80s with his two-seamer, and he also uses a slider and changeup. The Orioles expect to get their first real look at Patton this year, and he'll open the season in Triple-A with the expectation that he'll contribute in the big leagues at some point.
While the Orioles signed 2009 first-round pick for less than MLB's slot recommendation, they made huge investments in late-round picks Ohlman ($995,000 in the 11th round) and Cameron Coffey ($990,000 in the 22nd). Ohlman draws comparisons to Jayson Werth, who had a similar build when Baltimore made him the 22nd overall pick in 1997. Like Werth, who moved from behind the plate to the outfield before he found major league success, Ohlman may not be able to stay at catcher long-term. He's long and slender and has limited experience behind the plate, so he'll have to make big strides with his blocking, footwork and ability to frame pitches. After instructional league, the Orioles believe he can make those improvements. He does have strength in his body and a plus arm, so the tools are there if he dedicates himself to getting through the steep learning curve. Ohlman has a good feel for hitting and above-average raw power, so if he can't make it behind the plate, he could have the bat for an outfield corner. He's athletic and a solid runner. Ohlman got just a handful of at-bats in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing late last summer, but Baltimore will give him a shot at making the Delmarva roster in the spring. His placement will also depend on where 2009 sixth-round pick Justin Dalles ends up, because the Orioles will want both to catch regularly.
When the Tigers went looking for a veteran bat to try to keep their sinking ship afloat last September, the Orioles were happy to oblige, sending them Aubrey Huff in exchange for Jacobson. His power repertoire always has been intriguing but has never added up to dominant results, which explains why he lasted until the fourth round in 2008 and why Detroit was willing to deal him just a year later. Jacobson's fastball runs from 89-95 mph, and he sits more at 92-95 when he's at his best. He throws straight over the top, giving hitters a different look and creating a good downward plane when he's on, but he left the ball up too often last year and had trouble repeating his delivery. His hard curveball offers a nice contrast to his fastball, and he uses his changeup against lefthanders. His changeup has sink and he throws it with good arm speed. Jacobson always has seemed best suited for a relief role, and kept ending up in the bullpen when he tried to start at Vanderbilt. He didn't work much on his secondary pitches while with Detroit, so Baltimore had him focus on those pitches and was impressed by his work ethic. He has the pure stuff to close games but probably profiles best as a setup man. He'll work in the Bowie bullpen to open 2010.
Cooney slogged through the college ranks, never putting together a strong season at Broward (Fla.) CC or Florida Atlantic. He turned down the White Sox as a 33rd-rounder in 2004 and the Cardinals as a 20th-rounder two years later before signing with the Orioles for $1,000 as a 30th-round afterthought in 2007. Baltimore discovered he had a shoulder injury after signing him, but rest and rehab got Cooney back to full strength without surgery. The Orioles sent him to the bullpen in 2008 to keep his innings down, and he pitched so well in relief that they decided to keep him there. He converted 22 of 25 save opportunities between two Class A stops in 2009. Cooney is a big, intimidating presence on the mound, and he usually dials his baseball to 93-96 mph with heavy sink. He had a 2.1 groundout/airout ratio and gave up just two homers in 59 innings last season. He has flashed a slider that could be an above-average pitch, but it still needs a lot of work. He also needs to sharpen his command. Things finally seem to be coming together for Cooney, as he's staying healthy and has found a role he can thrive in. He's 24, so the Orioles won't hesitate to move him aggressively if he continues performing well. He'll could start 2010 as the closer in Bowie.
The Orioles unloaded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds before the 2009 season to clear the way for Matt Wieters, getting Waring, Ryan Freel and Justin Turner in return. Waring provides a power bat in an organization in need of them, and he led Baltimore farmhands with 27 homers and 96 RBIs in his first season in the system. He added two more homers in a nine-game stint in the Arizona Fall League. Waring's raw power is well aboveaverage and he can drive the ball out of the ballpark in all directions. He also piles up a lot of strikeouts and will have to shorten his swing and adjust his approach to hit enough at higher levels. He needs to improve his pitch selection and understand game situations and counts better to avoid being an all-or-nothing hacker. He played mostly at first base last year so that Tyler Henson could play third at Frederick. While Waring has experience at the hot corner and has the arm to play there, concerns about his range and footwork may keep him at first base. He's a slightly below-average runner. If Waring can't change his approach to handle more advanced pitching--his primary task this year in Double-A--he'll wind up as no more than a power bat off a big league bench.
Coffey rode an incredible roller coaster in 2009, and at the end of the ride he found himself cashing a check for $990,000. He was regarded as nothing more than a solid college prospect in the summer before his last year of high school, when he threw in the mid-80s and committed early to Duke. But he touched 94 mph in a scrimmage last spring, then sat at 92-93 and hit 95 in his first game. That didn't last long, as he felt discomfort in his elbow and struggled to pitch in the mid-80s the next time out. The pain got worse and Coffey had Tommy John surgery in March. Teams still inquired about him, and the Angels reportedly offered $500,000, but he turned them down and seemed destined to end up at school when Baltimore took him in the 22nd round. Area scout Rich Morales had followed Coffey closely and the Orioles rated him as a top-two-rounds talent, so they broke the bonus record for a draftee coming off reconstructive elbow surgery, surpassing the $710,000 the Angels gave the late Nick Adenhart as a 14th-rounder in 2004. Based on the track record of pitchers like Adenhart, Baltimore invested in Coffey's talent, poise and projectable frame. In addition to a plus fastball, he has a solid breaking ball, though he'll have to work on a changeup. His rehabilitation has gone well and the Orioles expect him to be healthy in spring training, though they'll take a slow approach and send him to a short-season affiliate after time in extended spring.
Hudson hails from Mattoon, a small town in central Illinois that's a hotbed for youth baseball, having hosted numerous regional tournaments as well as the Cal Ripken World Series for 11- and 12-year-olds. Hudson was a four-sport standout in high school: football, basketball, baseball and track, where he won the 2004 state high jump. He first drew attention in college as a wide receiver at Illinois. He led the Illini in receiving yards as a freshman and sophomore, but as his role on the football team diminished, he focused more on baseball, breaking out in 2008 with a .398/.498/.482 season that put him among the national leaders in several offensive categories. The Orioles took him in the fourth round that June and signed him for $287,000, but he played in just 11 games because of a broken finger. Hudson is faster than any player in the organization besides Xavier Avery, the kind of player who can hit a ball four steps to the side of an outfielder and have a double. He's an above-average defender in center field with a slightly below-average arm. Hudson looked much stronger at the plate last season, and the ball started to jump off his bat. He has become a good bunter and stays inside the ball well with a short, line-drive swing. He just needs to cut down on his strikeouts so he can let his speed put so much pressure on defenses. If he continues to make strides at the plate, he clearly has all the tools to be an everyday center fielder. He'll advance to high Class A this year.
Baltimore took Hoes in the third round of the 2008 draft and signed him away from a North Carolina commitment, making a $490,000 bet on his advanced bat. A pitcher and outfielder in high school, he immediately moved to second base as a pro because his bat didn't profile for an outfield corner and his average speed wasn't enough for center field. He never had played second base before and continues to learn the position, from improving his footwork around the bag to working on turning the double play. He led low Class A South Atlantic League second basemen with 28 errors last year, and his .939 fielding percentage was the worst in the league among anyone who played at least 50 games at the position. But the Orioles rate his actions, range and arm as average, and they think he'll be able to hold down the position with experience. Hoes has a good swing and should be able to command the strike zone and hit for average, though he didn't produce good numbers at Delmarva in his first full season. Like Xavier Avery, though, Hoes jumped from Rookie ball to low Class A and the Orioles just liked seeing him battle every day. He needs more instruction and tons of innings as he refines his game, but Baltimore still believes in his as an offensive second baseman. He'll move up to high Class A in 2010.
The Orioles may have pulled off a steal when they got Drake near the end of the 2008 draft. He had been impressive in his first two seasons at Navy, but many teams apparently didn't know he was draft-eligible as a sophomore. Fewer still realized that if he dropped out of the Naval Academy he could bypass his military commitment, which has sidetracked the career of his former teammate Mitch Harris with the Mariners. Midshipmen don't make their five-year commitment until they start their junior year. Drake had a relationship with area scout Dean Albany and played for his team in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate League, going 4-1, 1.00 in the summer after he was drafted before signing with Baltimore in July for $100,000. Drake has a nice feel for pitching, with a fluid motion and good life on his pitches. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph touches 92, and he complements it with a slider that's an above-average pitch at times. He's working on his changeup. Drake throws strikes and works quickly, and he still has some projection left in his big frame. The Orioles were pleased with his first full pro season and think he could take a big step forward in high Class A this year.
The Orioles are getting more aggressive in the later rounds of the draft as they are in the first few rounds, investing a lot of money and scouting resources in finding talent. They spent a slightly over-slot $175,000 to sign Cowan in the 10th round of the 2009 draft. The Red Sox made Cowan a 14th-round pick out of a Georgia high school in 2007, but he headed to Virginia instead. He transferred to San Jacinto (Texas) JC as a sophomore and led the Gators to the Junior College World Series for the sixth time in eight seasons, throwing a one-hitter in the regionals and then striking out 13 as San Jac beat Santa Fe (Fla.) JC to finish third in the tournament. Cowan usually pitches in the low 90s, but he worked in the high 80s for much of the spring and missed four weeks with elbow tendinitis. He didn't have any structural damage and his velocity bounced back a bit after he signed, though Baltimore handled him carefully. Cowan's fastball has late boring action, and his slider and changeup both have the potential to be plus pitches. He also has thrown a curveball, and the Orioles will make him choose one breaking ball to focus on this season. Scouts love the way Cowan competes, even without his best stuff, and think he could add velocity as he gets stronger. Baltimore is excited to see what he can do in the Aberdeen rotation in 2010.
At the start of last year, Berry's performance compared to that of any college pitcher not named Stephen Strasburg, but a strained shoulder muscle kept him out of action for five weeks in the middle of the season. He still put up a 7-2, 2.42 performance and returned to form in the postseason with a two-hitter against Alabama- Birmingham in the Conference USA tournament. He threw 126 pitches in a loss to Kansas State in regional play, then closed the Owls' regional-clinching game against the Wildcats two days later. Pro teams already take a hard look at Rice pitchers based on their history of elbow and shoulder problems as professionals, and Berry's shoulder woes and his herky-jerky delivery gave teams pause. Undaunted, Baltimore took him in the ninth round and signed him late in the summer for $417,600. Berry's fastball sits at 89-91 mph and touches 93, and his best pitch is his knuckle-curve. He also threw a slider and changeup in college. Berry's mechanics concerned some scouts because they appear to put stress on his arm, but the Orioles like the way the ball comes out of his hand and think he does a good job of repeating his delivery. He gets good life on his pitches and throws strikes. One club official compared him to Turk Wendell, who built a long major league career as a reliever, and that could be Berry's eventual role as well. He'll open his pro career in the Delmarva rotation.
Angle is the Orioles' most polished outfield prospect and put himself on the verge of major league consideration by advancing to Double-A and playing in the Arizona Fall League last year. He batted just .237 in the AFL, though he was focusing on improving his bunting and approach at the plate. Defense is Angle's strong suit, and most scouts think he could play defense in the major leagues now. He also has an above-average arm for a center fielder. Angle knows his game and embraces the leadoff role. He has a short swing and uses the entire field. Angle has above-average speed and good baserunning instincts, and he stole 42 bases last year while getting caught just 12 times in 2009. His only truly deficient tool is power, but if he can be a leadoff hitter that won't be a problem. He might not get the opportunity to be a big league regular in Baltimore, where the outfield is stacked with talented young players. Angle will open 2010 in Double-A and wait for an opportunity.
Adams put up the numbers to back up his projection as an offensive second baseman in 2008, but he followed it up with an injury-plagued 2009 season in which he was limited to 215 at-bats. He dealt with an abdominal strain and was bothered by a groin injury all year. He still has plenty of fans in the organization, though, who like his bat and all-around ability. Adams has strong hands at the plate, producing mostly doubles power. His plate discipline has improved consistently but still needs more work. He has solid speed and can steal an occasional base. Adams has backers who believe he can be a solid-average defender with good range, hands and arm strength at second base. But he struggles with his throwing, which could prompt a move to left field. Adams is a good athlete and an enthusiastic workout guy, though he may be wound too tight at this point. While he has been criticized for his mental approach in the past, he likes to work and takes instruction well. He'll probably return to high Class A to open the season, with some club officials predicting that 2010 will be his breakout year.
The Orioles were encouraged by the progress of Pedro Florimon last year, and they see a similar player in Rosa, who just completed his second season in the United States. He was sent to Delmarva to get a couple of weeks of game action but stepped down to Aberdeen when the New York-Penn League season opened. Rosa's defensive tools are the equal of any player's in the system, including Florimon, with outstanding hands and actions at shortstop. He has good range and a strong arm, though he plays out of control at times and committed 14 errors in 64 games at Aberdeen. His progression will depend on how he comes along with the bat. Rosa has a good body to go with a quick bat and strong hands. He has easy power, even to center field, and he can sting fastballs. He has trouble with pitch recognition, though, and can't handle breaking balls. He cheats on fastballs because he has no Plan B, so his focus is on making more contact. Rosa needs to refine pretty much every aspect of his game, but the tools are there to make a big leap. He'll open 2010 in low Class A.
Spoone went from an unknown at a Maryland junior college to one of Baltimore's best pitching prospects in less than three years. Now he'll have to overcome a more significant obstacle--shoulder surgery--to complete the saga. After rest and rehab didn't work, he had an operation to repair a small tear in his labrum after the 2008 season. He saw only limited action last year as he worked his arm back into shape. The Orioles were cautious and focused on getting him through the season healthy, and they accomplished the mission as he had no setbacks. He throws a 93-95 mph fastball with good movement, a power curveball and an average changeup when he's healthy. Command never has been his strong suit, and the shoulder trouble led to even greater struggles. Baltimore expects to see a much truer indication of his velocity and command in 2010. Spoone didn't go to instructional league but is expected to be fully healthy for spring training. He's slotted for the Bowie rotation, and if he doesn't prove able to handle the rigors of starting he could take his two power pitches to the bullpen. The Orioles kept him on the 40-man roster despite their pitching depth, an indication that they still believe in his arm.
Gamboa doesn't have the same ceiling as most of the other pitchers on this list, but he's a great bet to get the most out of his ability. A 21st-round pick in 2008 as a fifth-year senior out of UC Davis, Gamboa is a durable pitcher who throws strikes. He jumped into full-season ball last year and blazed through the system, reaching Double-A and compiling a 1.08 ERA between three stops. He has walked just 31 batters in 146 pro innings and rates as the best strike-thrower in the system. Righthander Pat Egan has a similar profile, but Gamboa's stuff is a notch better. He has an 89-91 mph fastball with good life, also throws a changeup and has worked on both a curveball and slider as a pro. He relies heavily on his fastball, challenging opponents to hit it, and so far they haven't. He's athletic and fields his position well, and he has a good pickoff move. The Orioles love his makeup. Gamboa profiles strictly as a reliever, and at age 25 there's no reason to hold him back. He could open 2010 in Triple-A and get his first big league opportunity later in the year.
Rowell was the first high school hitter selected in the 2006 draft, but he has struggled to fulfill expectations since signing for $2.1 million as the ninth overall pick. His average has gotten progressively worse each season, dipping to .225 when he repeated high Class A last season. Rowell has consistently been one of the youngest players in each league he has played in, and he has compounded his youth with immaturity. The Orioles would make recommendations on his swing, stance and bat path, but he always would revert to his old ways. As he continued to struggle last year, he finally realized he needed to make adjustments and began implementing instruction better. Though Rowell has as much raw power as anyone in the system, he never has shown it in games. He has a smooth swing and should be a good hitter, but he puts too much pressure on himself and doesn't let his ability take over. Baltimore finally decided to move him to the outfield in 2009 after he struggled at third base for three seasons. He has some athleticism and his plus arm should play in right field, but he's still learning the position. He's an average runner. Rowell hasn't earned a promotion, but the Orioles may send him to Double-A just for a change of scenery. He had a good instructional league and needs to carry that over into 2010 because he's running out of opportunities to prove himself.
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