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. Brian Matusz, lhp
2. Josh Bell, 3b
3. Zach Britton, lhp
4. Jake Arrieta, rhp
5. Matt Hobgood, rhp
6. Brandon Snyder, 1b
7. Brandon Erbe, rhp
8. Kam Mickolio, rhp
9. Mychal Givens, ss
10. Caleb Joseph, c
Best Hitter for Average Brandon Snyder
Best Power Hitter Brandon Waring
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Matt Angle
Fastest Baserunner Xavier Avery
Best Athlete Mychal Givens
Best Fastball Kam Micklio
Best Curveball Brian Matusz
Best Slider Jake Arrieta
Best Changeup Brian Matusz
Best Control Brian Matusz
Best Defensive Catcher Caleb Joseph
Best Defensive Infielder Blake Davis
Best Infield Arm Mychal Givens
Best Defensive Outfielder Matt Angle
Best Outfield Arm Billy Rowell
Catcher Matt Wieters
First Base Brandon Snyder
Second Base Brian Roberts
Third Base Josh Bell
Shortstop Mychal Givens
Left Field Nolan Reimold
Center Field Adam Jones
Right Field Nick Markakis
Designated Hitter Brandon Waring
No. 1 Starter Chris Tillman
No. 2 Starter Brian Matusz
No. 3 Starter Zach Britton
No. 4 Starter Jake Arrieta
No. 5 Starter Matt Hobgood
Closer Brandon Erbe
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Matt Riley, lhp Out of baseball
2001 Keith Reed, of Out of baseball
2002 Richard Stahl, lhp Out of baseball
2003 Erik Bedard, lhp Mariners
2004 Adam Loewen, lhp Blue Jays
2005 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2006 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2007 Billy Rowell, 3b Orioles
2008 Matt Wieters, c Orioles
2009 Matt Wieters, c Orioles
Year Player, Position 2009
2000 Beau Hale, rhp Out of baseball
2001 Chris Smith, lhp Out of baseball
2002 Adam Loewen, lhp Blue Jays
2003 Nick Markakis, of Orioles
2004 *Wade Townsend, rhp Rays
2005 Brandon Snyder, c Orioles
2006 Billy Rowell, 3b Orioles
2007 Matt Wieters, c Orioles
2008 Brian Matusz, lhp Orioles
2009 Matt Hobgood, lhp Orioles
Matt Wieters, 2007 $6,000,000
Adam Loewen, 2002 $3,200,000
Brian Matusz, 2008 $3,200,000
Matt Hobgood, 2009 $2,422,000
Beau Hale, 2000 $2,250,000
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Baltimore Orioles

The 2000s were a decade to forget for the Orioles. But they finally can see enough legitimate big leaguers in place or on the horizon to believe there's hope for the future.

Since Baltimore won the American League East and went to the AL Championship Series in 1997, the team not only hasn't returned to the playoffs but also hasn't finished above .500—and it hasn't even been particularly close. If not for the complete ineptitude of the Royals and Pirates, more people might have noticed that the Orioles just completed their 12th straight losing season. They finished fourth in the AL East nine times in 10 years before bottoming out in last place over the last two seasons.

The Orioles were able to keep their heads above water before the all-star break in 2009, but the second half was a disaster. They endured a 13-game losing streak in September, the third-longest in franchise history, on the way to a 64-98 record, the third-worst in baseball. Their offense and defense were middle of the road, but their pitchers put up the worst numbers in baseball, with a 5.16 ERA and 876 runs allowed.

And yet it's on that young and often overmatched pitching staff that the seeds of a turnaround have been planted. Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, Baltimore's top two pitching prospects coming into 2009, made their major league debuts, taking their lumps but also showing flashes of their talent. Matusz now ranks as the system's top prospect, while Tillman no longer qualifies.

Several other pitching prospects graduated to the majors, including Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio. Others such as Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Troy Patton are expected to reach Baltimore soon. Not all of those pitchers will pan out—Berken's numbers in particular were ugly last year at 6-12, 6.54—but the volume of arms with legitimate promise finally gives the Orioles margin for error.

While the rookie position players couldn't match the pitchers in volume, their results were even more encouraging. Organization cornerstone Matt Wieters didn't put up overwhelming numbers in his big league debut, batting .288/.340/.412, but he showed enough that he's still expected to be one of baseball's best catchers in the near future. A more pleasant surprise was the performance of Nolan Reimold, whose 15 homers led AL rookies. With him, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, the Orioles look set in the outfield.

Baltimore also found a building block for its infield at the trade deadline when it sent closer George Sherrill to the Dodgers for third baseman Josh Bell (as well as righthander Steve Johnson, who was lost in the major league Rule 5 draft). Bell, whose prospect star had dimmed in the previous two seasons, got in better shape this year and really impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall League. He easily ranks as the best upper-level hitting prospect in the system.

Beyond Bell the ranks of position players are a bit thin, however, as the Orioles have emphasized pitching as the way they're going to become a contender again. They did shell out their second- and third-largest bonuses to sign shortstop Mychal Givens and catcher Michael Ohlman in last year's draft, but used the fifth overall pick on high school righthander Matt Hobgood and spent big money on several pitchers in later rounds.

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