2009 Top 5 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles

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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6 Responses to 2009 Top 5 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles

  1. S.R. says:

    Matt,

    I haven’t read elsewhere of Wieter’s questionable long-term tenure behind the plate. My impression (based only on reading Sickles and Baseball America, among others, but not on first-hand experience or knowledge!) is that he’s perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball because he can stick at catching. Time will tell.

    Thanks for the interesting update!

  2. There’s no doubt he can stick behind the plate long term but as someone who is a diehard Twins fan here in Minnesota I know that the subject of moving Joe Mauer out from behind the plate is brought up every season. Despite the fact that Mauer is a fantastic catcher people still want him moved out so that his career can be extended and bat preserved.

    As a former catcher I hated talk like this but when you are the franchise player for your team behind the plate, many will want to find another less painful place to play.

    I personally would like him to stay back there but who knows. Bottom line is he is a special player.

    Thanks S.R.!

  3. Mike says:

    Hey Matt-

    Seems strange to be speaking so glowingly of anything the Orioles do…One note- Guthrie wasn’t homegrown, he came from the Tribe. I’m glad you made the note about Reimold. Seems like he’s been around since Brooks and Palmer…Question- If Patton were coming off a healthy season, would he be in your Top 5?

    Looking forward to more, especially about my A’s and 2011 MVP Cliff Pennington…

  4. I know it feels odd writing anything good about the O’s but they do have a nice young base from which to build on.

    As for Patten I would have definitely added him if the guy could just stay healthy! I even ranked him #3 last year and said this about him:

    If Troy Patten can fight off the injuries and his seemingly annual bout of arm fatigue, he will make a very good Major League pitcher. Patten brings his solid stuff and great command of his pitches (two fastballs, slider, and a change) to the Orioles as part of the Miguel Tejada trade with Houston this winter. If he can stay healthy and strong Patten looks like he could iron out to be a solid middle of the rotation type guy that is in high demand these days.

    It’s too bad and I do hope he can turn things around.

  5. Oh and about your Guthrie mention, I had only said they were doing a good job helping guys like him and Markakis grow. Thanks for the catch though!

  6. Butch says:

    Hey Matt,

    Have you heard anything about one of your prospects in the farm system named “Matt Tucker?”

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