In this installment, we will explore pitchers that are potential breakout candidates. In particular, we will be looking at those pitchers who will begin their season in rookie-level Bluefield, short-season Aberdeen, low-A Delmarva, or high-A Frederick. Don't expect to see Brandon Erbe or Billy Rowell on these lists- most people are already expecting them to do well. Here, you'll find the players with the best chance to take their game to the next level.
#5 Fernando De Nabal- A raw 22 year old with a power arm out of the Dominican Republic, De Nabal has been limited by his spotty control. His lone plus pitch is a heavy fastball that sits in the mid-90's, but that is a great foundation for the high-leverage relief role that he could one day fulfill.
#4 Zachary Britton- His fastball jumped several notches to 92-93 MPH in his senior year of high school, but it dropped to the upper-80's as his 2006 season wore on. Britton's arm strength should stabilize in his first full professional season and the Orioles are confident that some mechanical adjustments will help iron out his raw secondary offerings. At this point, it is unclear if he will crack low-A Delmarva's rotation or stay in extended spring training until short-season leagues begin, but you can definitely expect better results than his 5.29 ERA at rookie-level Bluefield in 2006.
#3 Chorye Spoone- Although some expressed some makeup concerns about Spoone prior to the 2005 amateur draft, the Orioles felt comfortable using an 8th round pick on the local product and signing him for above slot money. Despite middling peripheral numbers in 2006, Spoone throws a heavy fastball that touches 94 MPH. This year at the minor league spring training facility in Sarasota, Spoone was also showing off an improved curveball. He may be destined for a bullpen role anyway, but Spoone's two promising pitches should be enough to get the job done.
#2 Wilfredo Perez- A very, very slight build makes many scouts question Perez's durability. Coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2006, Perez has done little to prove them wrong. His stuff, however, is plenty enough to keep hitters off balance. He works in the 88-92 MPH range with his fastball, a potentially plus breaking ball, and an improving changeup. At this point, it is all up to his elbow. When Perez has been able to pitch, he's been good.
#1 Bob McCrory- A 4th round pick in 2003, injuries have kept McCrory from fulfilling his considerable potential. In fact, he toiled in short-season Aberdeen as a 24 year old, despite a mid-90's fastball and a nasty power slider. If McCrory is able to stay healthy for a full season, he has the potential to be Jim Hoey Part II.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com