By JAY LeBLANC
The Baltimore Orioles’ youth movement continued in July as 21-year-old right-hander Chris Tillman joined rookies Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez and Jason Berken on the big league roster. Down on the farm, lefty Brian Matusz continued to overwhelm Eastern League hitters and Brandon Erbe returned to the Bowie rotation after completing his rehabilitation from shoulder fatigue. The trade of closer George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers brought two more promising young players into the fold in third baseman Josh Bell and right-hander Steven Johnson, the son of broadcaster and former O’s pitcher Dave Johnson.
Please note: Players with big league experience are ineligible for inclusion in these rankings. July rankings are in parentheses.
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Brian Matusz, LHP, Bowie (1)
Matusz has started seven games for Bowie and won all seven. He’s allowed only eight earned runs, six of them in his lone poor Double-A start on July 16 in Akron. He’s arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk (3)
Arrieta got off to a decent start after his promotion to Norfolk but hit a rough patch in July, posting a 5.29 ERA in six starts. Between Double-A and Triple-A the 23-year-old is 9-7 with a 3.58 ERA and 119 K’s in 110 2/3 innings.
3. Zach Britton, LHP, Frederick (5)
Britton issued 26 free passes in his first 47 2/3 innings but has walked just 17 in his last 61 1/3 frames. He’s pitching deeper into games of late, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per start since the Carolina League All-Star break.
4. Brandon Erbe, RHP, Bowie (7)
Erbe has looked strong in his last two starts, allowing two runs in six innings July 25 and two in 6 2/3 frames July 30. Command remains an issue for the 21-year-old, who has a 35-to-18 K-to-walk ratio in 39 2/3 Double-A innings.
5. Brandon Snyder, 1B, Norfolk (4)
Eastern League pitchers proved no match for Snyder but the 2005 first-rounder hit a wall upon his promotion to Triple-A. He has really come on recently though, with a .368 average and nine RBI in his past 10 games.
6. Matt Hobgood, RHP, Bluefield (6)
Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, is just beginning to get his feet wet in Rookie ball after signing for a $2.42 million bonus. He allowed two earned runs, fanned four and walked three in his first three innings.
7. Caleb Joseph, C, Frederick (8)
Carolina League pitchers can’t figure Joseph out, and he’s not providing any clues. He’s hitting .345 against left-handers and .329 against righties; .333 at home and .338 on the road; .316 in day games and .341 at night.
8. Josh Bell, 3B, Bowie (NR)
Bell, the key piece in the George Sherrill trade, has loads of power potential but may lack the range to remain at third base in the long run. The 22-year-old was hitting .296 with 11 homers for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.
9. Xavier Avery, OF, Delmarva (10)
Avery endured a terrible slump in early July but came on strong toward the end of the month, hitting .333 in his last 10 games. The 19-year-old speedster has been gunned down just once in his past 15 stolen base attempts.
10. Steven Johnson, RHP, Bowie (NR)
Johnson, 21, came over from the Dodgers along with Bell in the Sherrill trade about a week after being promoted to Double-A. He struggles with command at times but has a 3.61 ERA and 117 K’s in 107 1/3 innings this year.
BEST OF THE REST
11. Tim Bascom, RHP, Bowie (13)
12. Kyle Hudson, OF, Delmarva (16)
13. Brandon Waring, 1B/3B, Frederick (9)
14. Chorye Spoone, RHP, GCL Orioles - Rehab (14)
15. Wilfrido Perez, LHP, Bowie - 7-Day DL (11)
16. Joseph Mahoney, 1B, Delmarva (17)
17. Justin Turner, 2B, Norfolk (18)
18. Luis Lebron, RHP, Bowie (12)
19. Bobby Bundy, RHP, Bluefield (15)
20. Oliver Drake, RHP, Delmarva (20)
21. L.J. Hoes, 2B, Delmarva (NR)
22. Matt Angle, OF, Frederick (25)
23. Ronnie Welty, OF, Delmarva (NR)
24. Pat Egan, RHP, Frederick, (NR)
25. Brandon Cooney, RHP, Delmarva (NR)
WELCOME TO THE SHOW:Chris Tillman, RHP (2)
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.