Brent Allar- Although he has been clocked as high as 97 MPH, Allar rarely has an idea where it is going. His arm strength, lack of secondary stuff, and bad body make it likely that he will end up as a reliever. There, he’ll have a better chance of succeeding with his pure arm strength approach.
Beau Hale- He was mostly in the high-80’s as he season wore on, but Hale gets a mention because 2006 marked the first time he touched the low 90’s since injuries derailed his career in 2002.
James Johnson- JJ has an average fastball in terms of velocity at 89-92 MPH. What makes him stand out is that he is one of the few prospects in the system that looks like he has a good chance to be able to sustain that velocity over a 200+ inning season. He was equally strong throughout the 2006 season.
David Hernandez- Like Johnson, Hernandez mostly works at 89-92 MPH. He can, however, dial it up as high as 94 MPH when needed. If Hernandez can find a way to keep it low in the zone more consistently, he could emerge as a top prospect.
#10 Blake Owen- A 6th round pick in 2005, Owen is a reliever all the way. He tops out around 93 MPH, but the pitch has good downward action, which helps him induce groundballs when he is brought in with men on base.
#9 Brian Finch- One of the most infamous examples of the O’s former emphasis on psychological testing was the decision to promote Finch directly to double-A Bowie after some success at low-A Delmarva. Predictably, he was overmatched, but he has managed to re-establish himself as a prospect anyway. Although his strikeout rate certainly doesn’t reflect it, Finch has a power sinker that sits in the low-90’s.
#8 Chorye Spoone- Spoone will remain a starter for the time being, but, because his fastball is way ahead of his other pitches, he may move to the bullpen. He sits at 93-95 MPH and can go a notch or two higher when needed.
#7 Fredy Deza- Like his teammate Paco Figueroa told ITW, “He’s got, I think, the nastiest stuff in the league. He’s got a fastball that runs in on your hands at 93, 94 [MPH].” That fastball was on full display at spring training, complete with running movement.
#6 Zachary Britton- Britton worked mostly in the upper-80’s in his professional debut, but he was sitting at in the low-90’s during his senior year of high school. The Orioles feel his drop off in velocity was just a case of an 18 year old getting tired in his longest season to date. With plenty of athleticism and a good pitcher’s frame, Britton should be back to having plenty of velocity for a lefty this season.
#5 Pedro Beato- Already a Tommy John survivor, the 20 year old Beato has returned to baseball with no apparent ill effects. His fastball might only be one of the six pitches Beato claims to throw, but it is his best. He sits in the mid-90’s with good command and downward movement.
#4 Luis Lebron- Lebron, who is generously listed at 6-1, is fun to watch pitch. He generates incredible arm speed and routinely throws in the mid-90’s, but he can approach three digits when needed. He likes to challenge hitters up in the zone, but that won’t work as well in the upper levels of the minors.
#3 Jim Hoey - 2006’s feel-good story, Hoey actually came back stronger after Tommy John surgery in 2004. Although he was tiring by the time he got a look in Baltimore, Hoey is consistently in the high-90’s with his fastball and touched 100 MPH several times on minor league ballpark radar guns. It can sit flat in the zone at times, but it still projects as a plus-plus pitch.
#2 Radhames Liz- Liz often relies on his fastball for extended periods of time, which got him in trouble in double-A when he tried to overpower everyone up in the zone. He sits in the mid-90’s and touches 97 MPH a few times in most starts. The scary part is that he may gain a notch or two if his lack of secondary pitches forces him into a bullpen role.
#1 Brandon Erbe- Still just 19 years old, Brandon Erbe already ranks among the elite pitching prospects in the game. That’s in no small part due to a fastball that already sits in the low-to-mid-90’s and can touch 97-98 MPH. As he continues to mature physically, it is possible that he will approach 100 MPH- and that’s with command of both sides of the plate.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com