Orioles' 2010 organization preview
Southpaw Matusz looks like Rookie of the Year favorite
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a comprehensive look at the farm systems of all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent Draft picks.
The Orioles' 10 Prospects to Watch for 2010 is skewed slightly towards the pitching side, with six of those spots filled by young arms, highlighted by American League Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Matusz as the southpaw barely retained his eligibility after an impressive August callup.
The other four spots are filled by infielders, so the list is a bit lopsided, bereft of outfielders and catchers. It's not that the Orioles don't have catching talent, but rather that it would be a stretch to put one in the Top 10 with the big league presence of Matt Wieters.
Three of the players on the list are former first-rounders and two were taken in the 2009 Draft, one in which the club did a fine job bringing its picks into the fold, signing its first seven and 13 of its first 14, though many of that group will be making their pro debuts in '10.
The big league team has suffered through 12 losing seasons in a row in a tough division, but by building from within with an emphasis on pitching, that could change before long. All four full-season farm teams, as well as its highest short-season club at Aberdeen, are within an easy drive of Baltimore, so at least hardcore fans can follow the prospects' progression first-hand.
Jake Arrieta, RHP
A fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Texas Christian who made his pro debut in '08, Arrieta has lived up to billing in his two pro seasons, leading the Carolina League in ERA (2.87) in his debut and continuing to impress between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk last summer. Working with an explosive fastball, and an improving curve and changeup, he led the system in '09 with 148 strikeouts and could be one of the first callups in '10 if he doesn't break with the club.
Brian Matusz, LHP
With 44 2/3 innings in the big leagues in 2009, Matusz just barely retained his rookie status and with that, heads into '10 as a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. In his pro debut in '09, the '08 first-rounder out of San Diego showed his poise and command of a four-pitch repertoire that highlights a fastball, plus curve, slider and fine changeup. With good mechanics and delivery, his 1.91 ERA in the Minors ranked fourth among all full-season starters there before being brought up from Double-A Bowie in early August. He may not see the Minors again after going 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight big league starts, getting better as time passed.
Kam Mickolio, RHP
The big 6-foot-9, 255-pound reliever from Montana was taken by Seattle in the 18th round of 2006 out of Utah Valley State and came over in the Erik Bedard trade, the gift that just keeps on giving. Though he didn't start focusing on baseball until his senior year of high school, he's already seen some big league time in both 2008 and '09 and is continuing to refine an impressive repertoire highlighted by a fastball that touches the upper 90s and an improving slider. He should make the bullpen this spring barring an unexpected meltdown and could be the closer of the future.
Caleb Joseph, C
In most organizations, the 2008 seventh-rounder out of Lipscomb would have a good shot at cracking the Top 10. But most organizations don't have a Wieters ahead of him. The 23-year-old skipped past Class A Delmarva for his full-season debut in 2009 and made the Carolina League All-Star team with Frederick, hitting .284 with 12 homers and 60 RBIs to rank in the league top 10 in batting. A hard worker with great makeup, Joseph is a keeper.
Justin Turner, IF
Turner, known as "Red" (and if you saw him without his cap on, you'd know why), was acquired from Cincinnati in the 2008 offseason trade for catcher Ramon Hernandez. A seventh-round pick in '06 out of Cal State Fullerton, he has a live bat with some pop, infield versatility, and great makeup. He's hit .310 in three pro seasons and could fit into a utility role soon after hitting .300 at Norfolk.
Brandon Waring, 3B
Waring, like Turner, came over from Cincinnati in the Hernandez deal and earned Carolina League MVP honors in his Orioles debut, hitting .273 with 26 homers, 90 RBIs and 35 doubles at Frederick. The power numbers were nothing new for the seventh-round pick in 2007 out of Wofford. He also led the league with a .520 slugging percentage and had six RBIs in eight games after a late promotion to Double-A Bowie, where he will likely open 2010.
RHP Matt Hobgood (first round), the fifth overall pick out of high school in California, made his pro debut at short-season Bluefield, going 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA in eight starts and striking out 16 in 26 2/3 innings while walking eight. The National Gatorade High School Player of the Year throws a heavy fastball and repeats his delivery with clean mechanics. ... SS Mychal Givens (second round) was a high school star in Tampa who could have chose to go pro as a pitcher with a 97 mph fastball, but instead opted for the offense. He will make his pro debut in 2010. ... 1B Tyler Townsend (third round) was hindered in his pro debut by a sore wrist which limited him to a .143 average in 31 games at short-season Aberdeen, though he added four homers and 16 RBIs. RHP Randy Henry (fourth round) lost his senior year of high school to Tommy John surgery, but, now healthy, has a mid 90s fastball and will make his pro debut this spring. ... RHP Jacob Cowan (10th round) posted a 2.25 ERA at Aberdeen, limiting hitters to a .179 average and striking out 27 in 24 innings. ... C Michael Ohlman (11th round) was an above-slot sign as one of the best young catchers in the Draft. The Bradenton, Fla., high schooler hit .182 in just four games in a brief Gulf Coast League debut.
Hitter of the Year -- Josh Bell, 3B
Hitting a pair of homers in his big league Spring Training debut with the Orioles certainly didn't hurt the first impression he made on manager Dave Trembley, but the odds remain that Bell will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk to continue to refine his game. But the heir apparent to the third base spot should be making plenty of waves with the Tides in the meantime. Acquired late in '09 from the Dodgers, look for plus power and a strong arm from this switch-hitter.
Pitcher of the Year -- Zach Britton, LHP
Britton came on strong in 2009, earning Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors as the southpaw posted a 2.70 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 140 innings at Advanced A Frederick. The third-rounder in '06 out of high school in Texas limited hitters to a .232 average. With his heavy sinker and slider, look for continued success at the higher levels this year.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.