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10/10/08 10:00 AM ET

Orioles better than they look on paper

Despite winning percentage, O's system boasts prime-time prospects

Before the 2008 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big-league team's Minor League system. Now it's time to recap and analyze all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent Draft class.

With a .472 organizational winning percentage and only one Minor League affiliate in the playoffs in 2008, it might not seem all that exciting for the Baltimore Orioles farm system.

Looks can be deceiving.

There's a lot to like in the Orioles system these days. A lot of it was in Bowie this year, where top prospect Matt Wieters led the team to the postseason with a host of good pitching prospects. But it's not just all in one place. There's some legitimate talent throughout the organization and the addition of players from the 2008 Draft should only add to the potential impact players already making their way up the system.

Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Matt Wieters, C: We stated in the preview that sometimes you have to go with the obvious choice, and clearly Wieters didn't disappoint. The 2007 No. 5 overall pick hit .355 across two levels, slugged .600 and finished with a 1.053 OPS. Oh, and he threw out just over 40 percent of would-be base stealers in his first season as a pro catcher. He's not just the O's Player of the Year. He's a serious candidate for MiLB.com's top award, as well.
Spotlight on Wieters

Chris Tillman, RHP: We said that this season the O's would get to know just how good the top prospect they got in the Bedard trade was, and they weren't disappointed. Pitching all year at age 20 in the Double-A Eastern League, Tillman went 11-4 with a 3.18 ERA. The Eastern League All-Star finished fifth in the circuit in ERA, tied for sixth in wins and second to teammate David Hernandez with 154 Ks. The only down side may have been his 65 walks, but don't color us too concerned.

•  Monday, Oct. 6: Washington Nationals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 7: Seattle Mariners
•  Wednesday, Oct. 8: San Diego Padres
•  Thursday, Oct. 9: Pittsburgh Pirates
•  Friday, Oct. 10: Baltimore Orioles
•  Monday, Oct. 13: Atlanta Braves
•  Tuesday, Oct. 14: San Francisco Giants
•  Wednesday, Oct. 15: Cincinnati Reds
•  Thursday, Oct. 16: Colorado Rockies
•  Friday, Oct. 17: Detroit Tigers
•  Monday, Oct. 20: Kansas City Royals
•  Tuesday, Oct. 21: Oakland Athletics
•  Wednesday, Oct. 22: Texas Rangers
•  Thursday, Oct. 23: Cleveland Indians
•  Friday, Oct. 24: Arizona Diamondbacks
•  Monday, Oct. 27: Florida Marlins
•  Tuesday, Oct. 28: Toronto Blue Jays
•  Wednesday, Oct. 29: St. Louis Cardinals
•  Thursday, Oct. 30: Houston Astros
•  Friday, Oct. 31: Minnesota Twins
•  Monday, Nov. 3: New York Yankees
•  Tuesday, Nov. 4: New York Mets
•  Wednesday, Nov. 5: Los Angeles Angels
•  Thursday, Nov. 6: Chicago White Sox
•  Friday, Nov. 7: Milwaukee Brewers
•  Monday, Nov. 10: Chicago Cubs
•  Tuesday, Nov. 11: Boston Red Sox
•  Wednesday, Nov. 12: LA Dodgers
•  Thursday, Nov. 13: Tampa Bay Rays
•  Friday, Nov. 14: Philadelphia Phillies

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Matt Wieters, C: His .355 average was sixth-best in the Minors; his .454 on-base percentage was third; his .600 slugging percentage was 10th. Need we say more?
Wieters erupts for six RBIs

David Hernandez, RHP: He and Tillman had fairly similar years, but Hernandez gets the nod thanks to his lower ERA (2.68, third in the Eastern League). He led the league -- and the organization -- with 166 strikeouts (good for second overall in the Minors) and his 10.60 K/9 ratio was fourth among all full-season pitchers. He also held hitters to a .217 batting average against.
Hernandez punches out ninth batter in four innings

Climbed the Ladder

Jake Arrieta, RHP: He didn't literally climb, since he spent his first season at one level, but boy did he live up to -- and exceed -- expectations. Arrieta did just about everything right in his first pro season, leading the Carolina League in ERA (2.87) and ranking fourth in strikeouts (120) in 113 innings. He held hitters to a .199 average, started for the Carolina League in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game, went to the Futures Game and won his start in the Olympics with six shutout innings.
Arrieta mows down seven via strikeout
Around the Minors chats with Arrieta

Lou Montanez, OF: He's come a long, long way from being the third overall pick of the 2000 Draft as a young shortstop with the Cubs organization. The 26-year-old won the Eastern League Triple Crown, which led to his Major League debut and a 38-game stint in the bigs. He hit .295 in 112 at-bats, showing, perhaps, that it's wrong to give up on guys too quickly.
Montanez makes history hitting for the cycle

Chris Tillman, RHP: See above, but one of the biggest things that stands out is that his final month was his best. Tillman went 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in August, holding hitters to a .192 average against while striking out 51 and walking just 11 in 35 innings.
Tillman gets his 11th strikeout of the game

Matt Wieters, C: Let's see. He got promoted and hit better after moving up to Double-A, all while learning how to call a game for the first time. Not bad for a debut, huh?

Kept Their Footing

Brandon Erbe, RHP: It wasn't perfect, but it certainly was a nice bounce-back year for the right-hander, after an awful 2007 campaign. Repeating the level in the Carolina League, Erbe was twice the league's Pitcher of the Week and struck out just over a batter per inning (his 151 Ks topped the league), while hitters managed just a .216 average against the 20-year-old.
Erbe gets 12th on strikes

Radhames Liz, RHP: It was definitely a bit of a roller-coaster season for the right-hander. After beginning the year with a 4.55 ERA in April, Liz turned it around with a much better May, though his command was still off. That led to his spending two months in the bigs (not great results, but the reason he's "climbed the ladder"). Upon his return to Triple-A, Liz posted a 2.67 ERA over his final four starts and was virtually unhittable, which allowed him to get back to Baltimore for five uneven September starts. He still has a ways to go to establish himself, but 84 1/3 big-league innings should help him learn.
Liz sets down his eight strikeout victim

Nolan Reimold, OF: The biggest thing for the soon-to-be 25-year-old is that he was healthy all year, really for the first time since being drafted in 2005. So it's no surprise he set career marks in games played, at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs with Double-A Bowie. It's decision time for the Orioles in terms of finding room on the 40-man roster for him, but it's hard to imagine that it will be a tough call.
Reimold racks up three longballs in one game

Brandon Snyder, 1B: Using a fine campaign in Hawaii last offseason as a springboard, Snyder had a terrific year with Class A Advanced Frederick. Shaking off a .229 April, Snyder improved his average every other month of the season, earning Carolina League Player of the Month honors after hitting .388 in August. His .315 average was good for second in the league and he placed sixth with 80 RBIs. Now it's on to the Arizona Fall League for the 2005 first-rounder.
Snyder's solo shot knots the score

Slipped a Rung

Pedro Beato, RHP: The knock on Beato last year was that he wasn't ready to pitch every five days over the course of a full pro season. But the hope was that with his terrific stuff, he'd start to come around. Didn't happen. He finished off a 4-10, 5.85 ERA season by losing his last six decisions for Frederick.

Bob McCrory, RHP: McCrory seemed poised to make the leap to the big leagues. He's backed by a big-time fastball and slider and was headed to Triple-A largely to work on a third pitch so he could be a multi-inning reliever. He got his first chance at the end of April, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning and was sent down just one outing later. A shoulder injury shelved him for more than a month, and he did get a second shot in the bigs in September and gave up eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Billy Rowell, 3B: The No. 9 overall pick in the 2006 Draft, Rowell did play all year in the Class A Advanced Carolina League at age 19. But he hit just .248 with a .683 OPS, striking out 104 times in just 375 at-bats. He did finish with a solid .297 average in August and he's far too young to be very nervous about, but he hasn't yet shown the ability to make adjustments and improve over time.

Chorye Spoone, RHP: An "Under the Radar" guy at the start of the season, Spoone's campaign was derailed by a shoulder injury. He hit the DL in the beginning of May, came back to make four June starts, then got shut down again after one start in July. He ended up needing shoulder surgery in September and that is likely to keep him out until at least midseason next year.

On the Radar

Brad Bergesen, RHP: Wins can be vastly overrated as a statistic to measure success, but the fact that Bergesen finished tied for third in all of the Minors with 16 wins can't be completely overlooked. His 3.22 ERA was good for sixth in the Eastern League, and while he wasn't a strikeout pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, his 1.15 WHIP wasn't too shabby.
Bergesen picks up his sixth strikeout

David Hernandez, RHP: To go from "Under the Radar" to the organizational Pitcher of the Year? Not too bad. Hernandez has always been able to make hitters miss, as evidenced by his 10 K/9 inning ratio heading into this year. Not only did he keep that up, at 10.60 in 2008, he did it while making the leap to Double-A and posting an ERA this season nearly two runs lower than his career mark heading into the year. He still walks a few too many -- 71 in 141 innings -- but he's looking more and more like a future big-league starter.

Kam Mickolio, RHP: Mickolio came out of nowhere in 2007 with the Mariners, then found himself changing addresses via the Bedard trade. The 6-foot-9, flame-throwing reliever was so-so to start the year in Double-A Bowie (4.70 ERA, but struck out more than a batter per inning), then got a lot better with a promotion to Triple-A (1.80 ERA, .173 batting average against), earning him a look up in Baltimore. Aside from one truly bad outing in which he gave up three earned runs without allowing a hit, he pitched well, and definitely has gone from being under -- where we had him at the start of the season -- to on the radar for the O's big-league bullpen next year.
Mickolio's 97 mph fastball nets a K and a save

Draft Recap

1. Brian Matusz, LHP: The top left-hander -- if not college pitcher, period -- in the Draft class, Matusz signed too late to get in any pro innings. As the Orioles did with Arrieta a year ago, though, Matusz will be at the Arizona Fall League, which could be a springboard onto a fairly fast track to the big leagues.

2. Xavier Avery, OF: The toolsy high school outfielder from Georgia had a pretty solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .280 in 47 games while going 13-for-16 in stolen-base attempts. He hit .317 in July, though with 10 walks and 51 Ks it's clear he'll need to work on his approach some, not a big surprise for a teenager with his skill set.

3. L.J. Hoes, 2B: The Orioles stayed local here, taking the Washington D.C. area product and it's looking like a good move based on early returns. Hoes hit .308 in the GCL and his .416 OBP (30 BB, only 22 Ks in 159 ABs) was sixth best in the Rookie-level league. He also was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen-base attempts as the team's second baseman.

Others of Note: LHP Rick Zagone (6th round) was eighth in the New York-Penn League with a 2.89 ERA, tied for fourth in strikeouts with 79 and finished tied for fourth with seven wins. ... The Orioles gave Bobby Bundy $600,000 to sign out of the eighth round. He only got two GCL innings in this summer. ... 20th rounder Ronnie Welty (OF) finished 10th in the Appalachian League with a .314 average. ... RHP Pat Kantakevich (22nd round) held Appalachian League hitters to a .127 average while posting a 1.29 ERA and collecting three wins and three saves over 21 relief innings. ... The O's took a chance by drafting sophomore-eligible RHP Oliver Drake out of Navy in the 43rd round, but they were able to sign him and he gave up just two earned runs in 22 innings (0.82 ERA) across two levels. He had a .190 batting average against, walked three and struck out 24.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.