By JAY LeBLANC
Three of the Baltimore Orioles‘ elite prospects moved a step closer to the big leagues in June as right-hander Jake Arrieta and first baseman Brandon Snyder were promoted to Triple-A Norfolk and lefty Brian Matusz joined Double-A Bowie. Meanwhile, righty Brandon Erbe - who missed about two months with shoulder fatigue - began a rehab assignment with short-season Class A Aberdeen, and right-handed pitcher Matt Hobgood, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2009 draft, agreed to a deal that included a $2.42 million bonus and was assigned to Rookie-level Bluefield.
Please note: Players with big league experience are ineligible for inclusion in these rankings. June rankings are in parentheses.
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Brian Matusz, LHP, Bowie (1)
Matusz got a promotion after two-plus dominant months in Frederick and won his first two Double-A starts, allowing just one earned run and fanning 15 in 11 1/3 innings. He also got an invitation to the Futures Game.
2. Chris Tillman, RHP, Norfolk (2)
Tillman went 0-5 in June but posted a solid 31-to-8 K-to-walk ratio in 34 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old has a 2.97 ERA and 75 K’s in 72 2/3 innings this season. He’ll join Matusz at this month’s Futures Game.
3. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Norfolk (3)
Arrieta moved a step closer to the big leagues in June, earning a promotion to Triple-A after going 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA and 70 K’s in 59 Double-A innings. He went 1-2 with a 3.57 ERA in his first four starts for Norfolk.
4. Brandon Snyder, 1B, Norfolk (4)
Eastern League pitchers breathed a collective sigh of relief when Snyder was promoted to Norfolk after hitting .343 with 10 homers and 45 RBI in 58 games for Bowie. He’s hitting .227 with eight RBI in 12 Triple-A games.
5. Zach Britton, LHP, Frederick (5)
Britton posted a sterling 1.61 ERA in June and now ranks second in the Carolina League with a 2.14 mark. He’s also second in strikeouts with 75 in 75 2/3 innings and showed better command in June (28-to-8 K-to-walk).
6. Matt Hobgood, RHP, Bluefield (NR)
Hobgood, the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, features two plus pitches - fastball and curveball - but needs to develop a changeup to complement them. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder turns 19 on Aug. 3.
7. Brandon Erbe, RHP, Aberdeen - Rehab (6)
The 21-year-old is getting back on track with short-season Class A Aberdeen after missing two months with shoulder fatigue. He had posted a sterling 0.90 ERA and fanned 19 in his first 20 innings for Double-A Bowie.
8. Caleb Joseph, C, Frederick (7)
The 2008 seventh-rounder’s breakout season continued in June as he hit .338 to raise his Carolina League-leading average to .328. The 23-year-old backstop is making a strong case for a promotion to Double-A.
9. Brandon Waring, 1B/3B, Frederick (12)
Waring hit just .226 in June but slugged six homers to bring his season total to 14 - good for second-best in the Carolina League. The 23-year-old also ranks fourth in the circuit with 50 RBI through 73 games.
10. Xavier Avery, OF, Delmarva (8)
Avery, a 2008 second-rounder, made good on 10 of his 11 steal attempts in June after starting the year 11-for-19. The 19-year-old has held his own against the mostly older and more experienced competition in Class A.
BEST OF THE REST
11. Wilfrido Perez, LHP, Bowie (9)
12. Luis Lebron, RHP, Frederick (11)
13. Tim Bascom, RHP, Bowie (25)
14. Chorye Spoone, RHP, Frederick - 7-Day DL (13)
15. Bobby Bundy, RHP, Bluefield (18)
16. Kyle Hudson, OF, Delmarva (14)
17. Joseph Mahoney, 1B, Delmarva (15)
18. Justin Turner, 2B, Norfolk (23)
19. Blake Davis, SS, Aberdeen - Rehab (21)
20. Oliver Drake, RHP, Delmarva (17)
21. Rick Zagone, LHP, Frederick (10)
22. Ryan Adams, 2B, Frederick (20)
23. Pedro Florimon Jr., SS, Frederick (NR)
24. Cole McCurry, LHP, Delmarva (24)
25. Matt Angle, OF, Frederick (NR)
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.