Baltimore Orioles: Top 10 Prospects

Baltimore Orioles

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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1. Matt Wieters, c
2. Chris Tillman, rhp
3. Brian Matusz, lhp
4. Jake Arrieta, rhp
5. Nolan Reimold, of
6. Brandon Erbe, rhp
7. Billy Rowell, 3b
8. Troy Patton, lhp
9. Brandon Snyder, 1b
10. Kam Mickolio, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Matt Wieters
Best Power Hitter Matt Wieters
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Matt Wieters
Fastest Baserunner Xavier Avery
Best Athlete Tyler Henson
Best Fastball Kam Mickolio
Best Curveball Brian Matusz
Best Slider David Hernandez
Best Changeup Brian Matusz
Best Control Brad Bergesen
Best Defensive Catcher Matt Wieters
Best Defensive Infielder Blake Davis
Best Infield Arm Bill Rowell
Best Defensive Outfielder Matt Angle
Best Outfield Arm Nolan Reimold
Catcher Matt Wieters
First Base Brandon Snyder
Second Base Brian Roberts
Third Base Billy Rowell
Shortstop Luis Hernandez
Left Field Nolan Reimold
Center Field Adam Jones
Right Field Nick Markakis
Designated Hitter Aubrey Huff
No. 1 Starter Chris Tillman
No. 2 Starter Brian Matusz
No. 3 Starter Jake Arrieta
No. 4 Starter Jeremy Guthrie
No. 5 Starter Radhames Liz
Closer George Sherrill
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Matt Riley, lhp Dodgers
2000 Matt Riley, lhp Dodgers
2001 Keith Reed, of Newark (Atlantic)
2002 Richard Stahl, lhp Out of baseball
2003 Erik Bedard, lhp Mariners
2004 Adam Loewen, lhp Orioles
2005 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2006 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2007 Bill Rowell, 3b Orioles
2008 Matt Wieters, c Orioles
Year Player, Position 2008
1999 Mike Paradis, rhp Out of baseball
2000 Beau Hale, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Chris Smith, lhp Out of baseball
2002 Adam Loewen, lhp Orioles
2003 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2004 *Wade Townsend, rhp Rays
2005 Brandon Snyder, c Orioles
2006 Bill Rowell, 3b Orioles
2007 Matt Wieters, c Orioles
2008 Brian Matusz, rhp Orioles
* Did not sign
Matt Wieters, 2007 $6,000,000
Adam Loewen, 2002 $3,200,000
Brian Matusz, 2008 $3,200,000
Beau Hale, 2000 $2,250,000
Chris Smith, 20001 $2,175,000
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Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles must feel like they're running to stand still.

There are signs of hope. Catcher Matt Wieters was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year and may be the best prospect in baseball. The trade of Erik Bedard to the Mariners was a steal, giving Baltimore not only its closer (George Sherrill) and center fielder (Adam Jones) but also its best pitching prospect (Chris Tillman) and a couple of other young prospects who could contribute. Aubrey Huff had a bounceback year, and Nick Markakis looks like he'll occupy right field in Camden Yards for years.

But there was at least as much bad news. The young pitchers the Orioles were counting on either weren't ready for prime time or got hurt. Radhames Liz (6.72 ERA in 17 starts) and Garrett Olson (6.65 ERA in 26 starts) took their lumps in Baltimore. Troy Patton, a key part of the Miguel Tejada trade with the Astros, went down with a torn labrum during spring training. Adam Loewen, who signed for $3.2 million bonus as the No. 4 overall pick in 2002, officially washed out as a pitcher after continued elbow problems. The Orioles decided to try Loewen as a position player and removed him from the 40-man roster after the season, with plans to re-sign him, but he decided to join the Blue Jays instead.

And in fact, the Orioles aren't even standing still. They're dropping back, falling into the cellar in the American League East for the first time since 1988. Baltimore's 68-93 record left it 17½ games out of fourth place and marked its 11th straight losing season.

Things aren't going to get any easier in the AL East. The Rays look like they'll be good for at least the next several years, and the Red Sox and Yankees will continue to be the Red Sox and Yankees. Even the Blue Jays finished 10 games above .500 and have a farm system that's showing improvement.

The Orioles are making progress in player development as well, with an influx of top-end talent in the last few years. Wieters is a legitimate cornerstone player, and the system's top three arms (Tillman, 2008 first-rounder Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta) all look like legitimate big league starters.

If they're to make a significant jump in the big league standings, Baltimore particularly needs its young pitchers to come through. The Orioles ranked 13th in the AL in ERA (5.13) in 2008 and head into 2009 with no proven big league starters behind Jeremy Guthrie, who's better suited for the middle or back of a rotation than the front.

At least with team president Andy MacPhail now at the helm of the baseball operations, there's a feeling the franchise has a direction and someone with the patience to execute a plan. Spending $10.6 million to get Wieters, Arrieta and Matusz in the last two drafts should pay big dividends, and the trade Seattle gave the rebuilding effort a huge boost. And owner Peter Angelos has been out of the headlines.

MacPhail recognizes the Orioles don't have the depth of talent to compete in the East, but he has assembled several pieces that could help them take a step forward. Getting back in the playoffs remains a mountain that seems too high to climb right now.

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