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 double-A Bowie or triple-A Norfolk. 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 David Haehnel- OK, so I might be cheating here. Haehnel has been both dominant in the past and might very well start the year back in high-A Frederick. After struggling in an ill advised switch to the rotation last year, the 24 year old will try to get his career back on track as a reliever. He was zooming through the system before, so it should just be a matter of him regaining his confidence. He has an outside chance of a September cup of coffee.
#4 – Brian Finch- After being jerked around in his first full professional season, Finch has settled in as a solid starter the past two years. It may take a move to the bullpen, but his power arsenal has not been accurately reflected by his middling strikeout rates.
#3 Nick McCurdy- After a solid minor league season, McCurdy looked spectacular in a brief stint in the hitter-friendly AFL. He has a power sinking fastball that tops out around 92 MPH and he has a knack for adding and subtracting a few MPH's to set up opposing hitters. He resembles Todd Williams in both his approach and his results and he should have few problems in the pitching-friendly confines in Norfolk.
#2 Fredy Deza- With a fastball that tops out at 94 MPH and runs in on the hands of opposing right-handers, Deza can be downright difficult to hit. He has had trouble setting up his fastball in the past, which is reflected in his middling strikeout rate. Nevertheless, a little work on his pitch sequencing could go a long way towards moving him up the organizational depth chart.
#1 Beau Hale- It's been a long, long road for the big Texan that the Orioles selected in the first round of the 2000 draft. While his days of throwing in the mid-90's are over, 2006 marked the first time Hale was working in the low 90's since 2002. The Orioles were understandably conservative in handling Hale, limiting him to 116.1 innings. There is some depth ahead of the 28 year old at this point, but he still has the ability to force his way into a big league career.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com