Friday, January 29, 2010

Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects -- Where the O's Fit In...

Keith Law came out with his 100 top prospects list on ESPN's website yesterday and the good news is that there are a few Orioles on the list.

The names listed are Brian Matusz (#11), Zach Britton (#25), Josh Bell (#61) and Jake Arrieta (#90).

It's an interesting list that he's compiled. You have to be part of ESPN's Insider to view it; however, I copied the salient items for the Baltimore Orioles.

His thoughts on Matusz: Matusz barely qualifies for this list, falling just 5.1 innings short of the 50-inning cutoff (teammate Chris Tillman is over the line and thus no longer a rookie in 2010), but the added experience might give him a leg up on the AL Rookie of the Year race in 2010. Matusz is a true four-pitch pitcher, but unlike most pitchers of that breed, all four of his pitches project as above-average or better. Matusz sits in the low 90s and will touch 94 with his fastball, although its lack of movement limits its potential as an out pitch and I expect Matusz to end up using his fastball less often than a standard pitcher with that velocity. His best secondary pitch is an 11-5 curveball with tight rotation and good depth, and he has excellent arm speed on his lively changeup. His command has improved steadily since his sophomore year in college, and -- as predicted here last year -- he raced through the minors on the strength of his off-speed pitches. He's not the prototypical No. 1 starter with a big fastball and an easy delivery, but his ability to miss left- and right-handed bats in different ways gives him a chance to lead a staff, regardless.

His thoughts on Britton: Britton is a true sinker/slider pitcher with enough velocity to work as a starter and a potential out pitch in the slider to miss bats when he's not getting ground balls. His sinker has solid-average velocity with legitimate plus sink, and he'll flash a four-seamer up to 94. His slider -- although not as consistent -- flashes plus, and he's willing and able to backfoot it to right-handed hitters, then throwing the sinker away to get a weak grounder or just a swing and miss. His changeup improved over the course of the season to the point that it's an average pitch or better, eliminating a major concern for sinker/slider guys -- a typical weakness against opposite-side hitters. Britton's arm works well with high hand separation and a short arm path, and he's a good athlete with some room to fill out up top. His control remains below-average and his command of all pitches and feel for the slider need to improve, as well, but he would slot in very nicely as a No. 2 starter behind Brian Matusz, or as an outstanding No. 3 behind Matusz and Chris Tillman.

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