Top 14 Prospects: Starting Pitchers

Liz was the organization's Pitcher of the Year

With Joe Jordan at the helm, the Orioles have stockpiled some talented pitchers in recent drafts. With plenty of left- and right-handed talent on the mound in the system, fans should be excited with both the depth and impact talent stowed away in the minor leagues. Inside, ITW ranks the Top 14 Starting Pitchers.

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1) Radhames Liz - (Bowie Baysox) - (25 G, 25 GS, 137 ip, 3.22 ERA, 161 K, 70 BB, 13 HR, 0.71 GO/AO)

Liz proved this season that he has the durability to be a starter and he looked brilliant at times for the Baysox. His fastball is still is only dominant pitch and most scouts feel that he'll end up as a closer-worthy reliever in the major leagues. His curveball flashes signs of being a plus pitch, but his slider and changeup still rate as below-average. If he can improve his command a tick, he could start dominating major league hitters as soon as 2008.

2) Garrett Olson - (Norfolk Tides) - (22 G, 22 GS, 128 ip, 3.16 ERA, 120 K, 39 BB, 13 HR, 1.11 GO/AO)

Despite his up-and-down showing in the Baltimore, Olson is easily the most polished pitcher on this list. He profiles more as a #3 than a front-of-the-rotation type, but he is also a safe bet to get there. He should have a rotation slot in the majors out of spring training. He has a fastball that sits around 90 MPH and a plus breaking ball. Olson told ITW ""[I use] my breaking ball, especially in a tight situation or with runners in scoring position. I like to stay hard with it and then move my fastball around."

3) Chorye Spoone - (Frederick Keys) - (26 G, 25 GS, 152 ip, 3.26 ERA, 133 K, 67 BB, 8 HR, 2.88 GO/AO)

Spoone exploded onto the prospect scene with an incredible second half this year. He pounds the strike zone with his low-90's sinker and his breaking ball showed dramatic improvement this year. He might make a showing in Baltimore as soon as September 2008 and he profiles as a good #3. His manager, Tommy Thompson, told ITW "Spoone's got three good pitches, from a breaking ball, changeup and a sinker and a four-seam."

4) Brandon Erbe - (Frederick Keys) - (25 GS, 25 G, 119.1 ip, 6.26 ERA, 111 K, 62 BB, 14 HR, 1.21 GO/AO)

Although his season was very much a disappoinment, it wasn't for a lack of stuff. Erbe maintained his velocity; it was his command that took a step backwards. However, he won't be able to legally drink until next off-season, so some perspective is needed. His future might be as a high-leverage reliever if he can't make strides with his changeup and command next season, but no one doubts that he has the makeup to become a top prospect again.

5) Jake Arrieta - (DNP)

The former Team USA ace got an advanced posting to the AFL after signing for late-first round money this summer. The reports have been glowing, as he seems to have regained his 93-94 MPH velocity from his sophomore campaign. He's a good bet to make this ranking seem conservative in a year's time.

6) Zach Britton - (Aberdeen Ironbirds) - (15 G, 15 GS, 63.2 ip, 3.68 ERA, 45 K, 22 BB, 1 HR, 2.38 GO/AO)

Britton isn't among the best known of the O's farmhands but his ceiling is sky-high. Joe Jordan told ITW "The only thing Zach Britton needs, right now, is time. He has gotten stronger, and our game reports show he's up to 92 [MPH] and he's touched 93 [MPH], but if he pitches 88-92 [MPH] with command and a changeup, we gotta get him a slider, or something… he needs a third pitch. He'll be fine. I'm happy with where he's at."

7) David Hernandez - (Frederick Keys) - (28 G, 27 GS, 145.1 ip, 4.95 ERA, 168 K, 47 BB, 16 HR, 0.70 GO/AO)

After leading the Carolina League in strikeouts by a whopping margin (over teammate Chorye Spoone), Hernandez isn't going to sneak up on anybody. He lacks consistency and, at times, confidence, but he has a high ceiling if everything comes together. He has an explosive low-90's fastball and a promising breaking ball.

8) Pedro Beato - (Delmarva Shorebirds) - (27 G, 27 GS, 142.1 ip, 4.05 ERA, 106 K, 59 BB, 10 HR, 1.55 GO/AO)

Beato's performance was just so-so in the pitcher-friendly Sally League and his scouting reports weren't as flattering as they were a year ago. His fastball sat in the low-90's for most of the season and he had a suspicious lack of dominant outings. The good news is that he has a good work ethic and plenty of time on his side. His ceiling is still huge; he just has to iron out some mechanical inconsistencies.

9) Tim Bascom - (Delmarva Shorebirds) - (12 G, 12 GS, 67.1 ip, 3.74 ERA, 55 K, 24 BB, 6 HR, 1.18 GO/AO)

Bascom was drafted by the Padres in 2006 and the contract fell through after he failed his physical. Bascom told ITW after being drafted that "having the knee injury and not being able to work out for a while gave me a chance to build up my upper body, so I'm stronger than I've ever been before. Now that my knee is 100% and I'm stronger than ever before, I'd say that I'm closer to 120% than I was to 100%."

He works in the low-90's and has a nasty spike-curveball, which helped him rack up K's in his professional debut. He should be on the fast track in 2008.

10) Bradley Bergesen - (Delmarva Shorebirds/Frederick Keys) - (25 G, 25 GS, 150.2 ip, 3.52 ERA, 108 K, 26 BB, 7 HR, 2.17 GO/AO)

Bergesen made a rapid ascent into prospectdom and should help Jeff Fiorentino carry the flag for the 2004 draft class. He has a lively low-90's sinker an command of all three of his pitches. He'll start out next year in high-A Frederick, but it wouldn't surprise anybody if he makes his way up to Bowie. He has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter if everything comes together.

11) Jim Johnson - (Norfolk Tides) - (26 G, 25 GS, 148 ip, 4.07 ERA, 109 K, 48 BB, 15 HR, 1.47 GO/AO)

Often overshadowed by flashier teammates, Johnson has made a steady rise through the O's system. He has a low-90's fastball that bores in on hitters and a nice curveball, but he may have to settle for a spot-starter/middle-relief role with the growing influx of talented young arms in the system.

12) Jason Berken - (Frederick Keys) - (27 G, 26 GS, 151 ip, 4.53 ERA, 124 K, 49 BB, 12 HR, 1.37 GO/AO)

Berken relies on his knack for pitching and bulldog mentality and profiles as a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater. His stuff could still take another step forward after TJ surgery three years ago, but that won't be necessary for him to still profile as a major league pitcher. Tommy Thompson told ITW "His makeup, his stuff- he knows how to pitch. And when you're playing at a baseball powerhouse school, you learn how to pitch quick or you just get beat. He's adjusted to the wood bat, he's adjusted to the level of competition, and he's done a nice job also."

13) Fredy Deza - (Bowie Baysox) - (36 G, 16 GS, 124 ip, 4.43 ERA, 101 K, 43 BB, 22 HR, 1.37 GO/AO)

The Orioles thought enough of this 24 year old righty to add him to the 40-man roster shortly after this season. He works with a low-to-mid-90's fastball, solid slider and a changeup. Because of some command issues, he still profiles as a reliever, but the Baysox utilized him as a starter this season.

14) Kyle Schmidt - (Delmarva Shorebirds) - (23 G, 23 GS, 131 ip, 3.37 ERA, 145 K, 38 BB, 12 HR, 1.08 GO/AO)

At 24 years old, Schmidt has been old for his level of play the past two seasons, but he has impressed nevertheless. He has low-90's heat and a nice curveball, so his strikeout rate is no fluke. He'll have to move quickly to profile as a major league pitcher, but he just might do it in 2008.

Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehous.com

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