2009 Top 5 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles

December 5, 2008

The Baltimore Orioles have been quietly building a fantastic base of young players in their organization over the past few years. The most impressive part is that it hasn’t been on just one front. They have been doing a great job cultivating their young talent (Nick Markakis and Jeremy Guthrie), acquiring it through trades (Adam Jones and Chris Tillman) and even through drafting (Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz). Adding this stellar crop of youngsters to their base of strong veterans (Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts) and we have seen a nice shift in the way the Orioles do business. They know that in order to compete in the best division in baseball that they have to do things the way the Tampa Bay Rays did it and beat the Red Sox and Yankees into submission with their young talent. With that being said, here are the top five prospects in the Baltimore Orioles system:

1.) Matt Wieters
Position: Catcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #1
Bats: Both | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 230
Scouting Report: Wieters is not only the best Orioles prospect, but he’s the best offensive prospect in all of baseball for 2009. The switch hitting catcher has the tremendous ability to hit for average and power (better hitter from the left side and more power from the right). While he’s only an average catcher at best, if he can improve on his footwork and receiving skills a little more he should be ok. Otherwise a move to another position might be a good idea both defensively and to help preserve his bat. Based on his position and from what Wieters has shown thus far his ceiling looks to be a much more powerful Joe Mauer. That’s how special he is.

2.) Brian Matusz
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: NR
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 200
Scouting Report: The Orioles have two of the best pitching prospects in the game today with this youngster edging out Tillman. Matusz has a quick, live arm and fantastic command of his stuff. While his fastball can reach the mid-90’s, what makes him so dominant is how he keeps hitters off balance by mixing in a strong change up, power curve and a deceptive 3/4 arm slot. He also throws all three of these pitches for strikes on both sides of the plate which just adds to his effectiveness. The fact that he has harnessed all of these traits at such a young age displays what a strong presence he has on the mound. Look for him to get better and better and become a front line starter for the O’s.

3.) Chris Tillman
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #2
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 195
Scouting Report: Acquired last season in the Erik Bedard trade, he quickly jumped up to number two on my list in 2008 after joining the Orioles organization. But after the O’s drafted Matusz he gets bumped down a slot here in 2009. Right now Tillman looks to be a power pitcher with a fastball that sits 90-94 mph while at times reaching 96 mph. He also has a plus overhand 12-to-6 curve that falls in the mid-70’s with a nice sharp, late break on it. While Tillman does have a nice frame and mechanics, he will only be able to succeed in the Majors if he can begin to gain a little more control and command of his plus pitches. If he is able to continue to grow and develop in this area, he looks to be a solid number two starter or even a possible ace someday. Very impressive especially considering his age.

4.) Jake Arrieta
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: NR
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 225
Scouting Report: Arrieta has shown himself to be a very aggressive and dominating pitcher. This stems from the excellent command he possess of his fastball which tickles 97 mph. His secondary pitches include a solid slider and a developing curve. If he continues to solidify these pitches he can be a good number two starter for the O’s down the road. Arrieta is often overshadowed with Matusz and Tillman garnering most of the attention but if he can harness his control he has a very high ceiling.

5.) Nolan Reimold
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #4
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 207
Scouting Report: Reimold looks to be a solid corner outfielder of the future for the O’s with a big bat to boot. While it may not be perfect, he posses a very nice swing and a keen eye at the plate. This coupled with a powerful bat will make him a nice addition to the Orioles before too long. Look for a potential 25-30 homers from this kid if he can keep some protection around him in the lineup. My only fear is that he is getting a bit old for a prospect now (he turns 26 next fall) and has still yet to find his place in the Majors. Hopefully he can make an impact and make the club out of spring training.

2008 Rankings: (1) Matt Wieters, (2) Chris Tillman, (3) Troy Patten, (4) Nolan Reimold, (5) Billy Rowell

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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