The Baltimore Orioles have a very deep minor-league system. At every level, there are some talented prospects. In Triple A, there are guys like Chris Tillman and others who have already earned the promotion to the majors, like Matt Wieters, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, and David Hernandez.
In Double A, Troy Patton, Jake Arrieta and Brandon Snyder are dominating the competition. At Single A Frederick, the most notable prospect is easily left handed pitcher Brian Matusz, while Tim Bascom, Billy Rowell, Zach Britton, and Brandon Waring are names to remember.
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At Single-A Delmarva, virtually every game is a pitchers duel, as Rick Zagone, Cole McCurry, and Oliver Drake highlight a strong rotation.
The O’s are pitching rich in the minors right now. Three of the top four O’s prospects are pitchers. Chris Tillman is the No. 2 overall prospect, and he is dominating Triple A Norfolk, with a 5-1 record, 1.88 ERA, has allowed just one home run, and struck out 48 in 43 innings.
Brian Matusz, the No. 3 overall prospect and No. 2 pitching prospect, has dominated. In 11 starts, he is 4-2, has a 2.16 ERA, has held batters to a .225 opponent’s batting average, and has struck out 75 in 66.2 innings of work.
That brings us to Jake Arrieta, the No. 4 overall prospect and third pitching prospect.
The Farmington, MO native has dominated this year. In 10 starts, he is 5-3, has a solid 2.94 ERA, has held batters to a .219 average, and has struck out 65 while walking just 23 in 52 innings.
His best start was on May 16, in a victory over the Erie Seawolves, when he pitched seven innings, allowed one hit, no runs, walked three, and struck out 10. One noticeable thing about Arrieta is his build.
At 6’4″, 225, he is a very big presence on the mound. Rick Kranitz noticed that about Arrieta immediately, saying: “He’s a big, strong guy. That’s the biggest thing about him when I saw him was his size.”
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He has an attractive “bulldog” mentality. He goes right after hitters, pounding with a 97 MPH fastball, along with a plus slider, good curveball, and changeup that left handed hitters have troubles with.
On MLB.com, he’s the 36th overall prospect in baseball. Despite the high ranking, I believe this right hander is underrated. We all see the hoopla surrounding the O’s No. 1 overall prospect, Matt Wieters.
He’s not only praised by Orioles fans and coaches, he receives praise all over the baseball world, and Peter Gammons even touts him as a “Joe Mauer with power.”
Then, there’s Chris Tillman. Tillman, a right hander who was acquired via trade from the Seattle Mariners, has ace potential, and is dominating at Triple A for the Norfolk Tides. He is the No. 16 overall prospect in baseball. The worst case scenario for Tillman is that he’s a “middle of the rotation workhorse”. Then, there is, of course, Brian Matusz.
Some project Matusz to be the O’s future ace, even myself. Some compare him to a Cole Hamels, who combined to finish 29-15 during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. So, as you can imagine, Arrieta is overshadowed by Wieters, Tillman, and Matusz, all guys who play in the same farm system.
On Wednesday’s, MASNSports’ Jim Hunter ran a feature on the success Arrieta has had. In it, Hunter spoke with Arrieta’s teammate, Brandon Erbe. Erbe, like many, has been impressed by Arrieta’s start, saying: “Just the way that he makes sure he has control of the game and attacks hitters is awesome. It probably won’t be too long until he’s on TV.”
Arrieta is an interesting case. He has the bulldog mentality, as I said, and loves to attack hitters, and who wouldn’t with a 97 MPH fastball? However, his command is surprisingly good, as his average start consists of seven strikeouts, compared to just two walks. Arrieta has always had a dominant fastball.
Scouts, however, were concerned with the development of his secondary pitches; his changeup, curveball, and slider. However, all three of those pitches showed dramatic improvement last season, when he posted a 2.87 ERA, won Carolina League Pitcher of the Year, and even represented the USA in the Olympics.
This season, all of his pitches have been sharp, as shown by his command.
O’s pitching coach Rick Kranitz was very high on the stuff this kid has, saying: “When you walk into a ballpark and he’s on the mound, you know that this guy is a major league pitcher. His stuff is second to none to most of the guys in this league.”
To say the least, Arrieta is an accomplished minor league pitcher. In 2008, he was 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA, was a midseason All Star, was a Futures Game selection, and Carolina League Pitcher of the Year. Not only can Arrieta manhandle the opposition in Single A and Double A, he has proven he can handle major league hitters as well.
In an Arizona Fall League game, he struck out Evan Longoria, who is very much in the running for American League MVP this year.
Now, we know one strikeout of Longoria doesn’t mean the world. But the O’s certainly wanted to see what he had, and gave him an invitation to Spring Training. He only pitched one inning, but breezed through it, striking out a batter and not allowing a baserunner.
This was definitely an encouraging sign. However, Arrieta, in my opinion, doesn’t get the praise deserved. We see the credit given to Matusz and Tillman, and it is deserved, but Arrieta deserves some, if not more.