This is basically the globe of lottery balls from which the Orioles will select their future starting rotation. All of these dudes have been drafted recently, some even by the O's scouting staff! Dave Tremblay noted at the beginning of the season that "the cavalry is coming" and he's lookin' prophetic right now. Most of these guys will get a whiff of Camden grass this year or next so let's get further acquainted with Baseball Jesus' future disciples, shall we?
Leading the pack is future ace Chris Tillman, who is treating triple-A like Carl Lewis in the special Olympics. Beyond the stats, Baseball Prospectus 2009 notes that that, “scouts and opposing hitters say he has it,” which I think is slang for “The Force”. He should be up with the Birds by the end of the season and in the rotation for good early next year; he projects as a #1 frontline starter.[image via MLB.com]
#2 Prospect Jake Arrieta was called up to AAA Norfolk last week and killed it in his debut, striking out 6 and allowing just one run on 2 hits. He started slowly in AA Bowie this season but had dazzled on the mound more recently, and looks every bit a future top 2-3 starter. If he continues his momentum in AAA the Orioles would be thrilled to give him a shot this summer, but the safe bet is on the O's taking it slow with these kids. Expect Arrieta to start in AAA next season.[image via SI.com]
The Orioles 3rd best pitching prospect is currently plying his trade in single-A, Brian Matusz. When the O's took him 4th overall last June he was considered the safer pick due to his consistency if not domination at UC-San Diego. His upside is Cole Hamels, downside is a solid lefty arm which is always helpful. After a brief pro-level adjustment period he's come on of late and will be in AA Bowie soon. He'll hopefully start next year in AAA Norfolk and if all goes smoothly will get a shot with the O's. [image via College Baseball Prospects Blog]
David Hernandez, who has led single-A, double-A and triple-A in strikeouts, has never been considered an elite prospect because he relies on a deceptive delivery to mask average stuff (source: Baseball Prospectus 2009). He shined brightly in his big league debut a few weeks ago, but has flattened out a bit in his last two outings. Major League hitters figured out Hideo Nomo and his tornado wind-up pretty quickly so hopefully that's not happening to Hernandez already (cough, Dontrelle Willis, cough...some puke just came up). I think if we keep our expectations low here, we could be pleasantly surprised. We'll see if he has starter stuff. [image via baltimoresun.com]
The fifth pitcher of interest is Troy Patton, who was acquired in the Tejada trade and appeared in two games with Houston in '07. The O's have been more patient with him, and he just made the jump to AAA with Arrieta but hasn't pitched in Norfolk yet. He's projected more as a Jamie Moyer type (a "crafty mid-rotation lefty."), especially after having missed all of '08 with a labrum tear. If he can quell injury concerns he could debut with the O's as soon as this summer. [image via masn.com]
AA Bowie prospect Brandon Erbe was projected by baseball Prospectus 2009 as a future relief pitcher due to having only 2 pitches, and that projection looks pretty good now that Erbe has been sidelind with “shoulder fatigue” after only 20 innings pitched. Shoulder problems at that age are troubling, so hard to see him not moving to the pen this season where he could begin to compete for the future closer role.
The last pitcher I will mention has not been a big name in talks of prospects, but he's the O's Lebron. Literally. His name is Luis Lebron, and I am feeling good about my ‘find’ here. He's been moved to the 'pen, but looks ready for a promotion to AA Bowie this season.
Pitching prospects are notorious for being ‘hit and miss’, but it is hard to see the Orioles not getting a great rotation out of these nine: Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Hernandez, Patton, Hobgood and a Random Free Agent Fill-In. Then again, it was hard not seeing Ben McDonald becoming the next Jim Palmer in 1989 - at least the odds are better this time around. I think. I have to lie down now after banging my head on the wooden desk as hard as I could.