The future success of every Major League team lies
largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering 2011 being eligible.
It's hard to think of a year going any better than 2010 did
for lefty Zach Britton.
The 2006 third-round pick did, after all, pitch at the two
upper-most levels of the Orioles' farm system, went to the Futures Game
and led the organization in ERA while finishing second in
wins and strikeouts. Those results landed him at No. 19 on
MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list and No. 3 among all
left-handed pitching prospects.
"I was happy with what I did last year," Britton said. "I
felt like I did what I wanted to do coming into Spring
Training 2010. I wanted to focus on my changeup and pitching
more with a game plan rather than just throwing my sinker. I
felt like I accomplished that."
The sinker was still a pretty good weapon for Britton last
year, and he finished with a 2.94 groundout-to-airout ratio.
Beyond that, he showed he could throw all three of his
pitches at any point in the count with better command. His
ability to do that last year made what can be a difficult
leap to Double-A and Triple-A seem relatively simple.
"At the higher levels, I am a little bit surprised," the
23-year-old said about his success last year. "I don't feel
there's that much of a difference between Double-A and
Triple-A, compared to high [Class] A. I know that's just personal
opinion, but I don't feel like there's a huge difference. I
would say I'm a little bit surprised of how well I've done,
but I knew I could do it."
Britton now sits on the precipice of joining a young nucleus
of relatively homegrown starters in Baltimore. He's seen
Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta go from O's draftees to big
leaguers, and he can't wait to join them -- seeing them not only
as role models because of their success, but by how they
handled the adversity that's sure to come his way.
"Those guys have come up in the past couple of years and
have done a good job," Britton said. "Especially with Jake --
he kind of struggled early on, but he actually finished
really [well]. That gives me some hope -- knowing you're going
to go through some struggles up there, but you can turn it
around quickly like he did.
"With us being in camp all
Together, [it] is going to be really beneficial, just learning
from each other, picking each other's brains."
Don't mistake Britton's confidence for arrogance. He knows
he needs to continue to work if he wants to have success
at the highest level. But he knows he's very close --
tossing nine scoreless innings to start his Spring Training
didn't hurt -- and wants to do what he has to for whenever
that call comes.
"I'm just getting myself prepared for whenever they give me
the opportunity -- whether it's out of Spring Training or a
couple of months into the Minor League season," Britton said. "I'm preparing myself mentally and also getting my
If he can do that, 2011 just might trump 2010 after all.
Orioles' Top 10
1. Britton, LHP: Even if Britton doesn't start
the year in Baltimore, it seems more and more likely he'll
finish it there. The ground-ball machine commands three
pitches well and is very durable. It's a question of if, not
when, he joins Matusz, Arrieta and Co. in the young O's
2. Manny Machado, SS: The top high school position
player in last year's First-Year Player Draft, Machado came in at No. 24 on
the Top 50 list and topped the shortstop prospect rankings
as well. He should hit for average and power, and even with
his size (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), can play an excellent shortstop. He's ready to hit
full-season ball when the 2011 Minor League season
3. Xavier Avery, OF: The 2010 season is when Avery
really started turning potential into performance. He played
at two levels, reaching Double-A for the first time. He
has plus speed and should continue to steal bases, and he
plays a very good center field. While he still strikes out
too much for a leadoff type, he did improve on the plate-discipline front. A return to Double-A Bowie appears to be in the
cards for the 21-year-old speedster.
4. Joe Mahoney, 1B/OF: MLB.com's choice for O's Minor
League Hitter of the Year, Mahoney led the system in batting
average, finished fourth in homers and third in RBIs as he
played across two levels. Standing 6-foot-6, 240 pounds,
he's kind of hard to miss, and it looks like he's finally
tapping into his raw power. A member of the 40-man roster, he
could be ready to play first in Baltimore by next season.
5. Ryan Adams, 2B/3B: The 2006 second-round pick made
the jump to Double-A in 2010 smoothly, hitting for average
and showing plenty of extra-base pop (58 extra-base hits).
He played third exclusively in the Arizona Fall League after
having played second all year, and a future as an
offense-minded super-sub might be in the offing. For now,
he'll look to move up to Triple-A.
6. L.J. Hoes, 2B: Before mononucleosis derailed his season in
Class A Frederick, Hoes looked very much like a future
top-of-the-order type. He hit .290 with a .413 on-base percentage in the
first half of the season -- the kinds of numbers that might be
expected of the 21-year-old as he progresses. He's still
learning how to play second, and that will continue to be a
work in progress as he moves up to Double-A this season.
7. Dan Klein, RHP: The second time was a charm for
the Orioles, who drafted Klein out of high school in 2007,
then again in the third round last June. He was a closer for
UCLA, but it looks like Baltimore will let him develop as a
starter because of his four-pitch mix and his ability to
command it. He had shoulder surgery in college, and the O's
will likely bring him along slowly, knowing they can always
shorten him up and get him going quickly in the bullpen.
8. Mychal Givens, SS: A thumb injury ended Givens'
2010 season nearly before it began, so the 2009 draftee will
be more or less making his debut this season. He's got a
good approach at the plate and should have extra-base power
as he develops. The big question is where he's going to play
defensively. He's got the tools to play shortstop, but
there's also that Machado fellow, so Givens might slide over
to second so the pair can play together.
9. Jonathan Schoop, SS: The native of Curacao had a
very solid United States debut, giving the Orioles yet
another intriguing prospect up the middle. Last summer, Schoop
showed solid ability with the bat and should continue to
grow into some power. He has good actions defensively, but
with Machado and Givens, along with Schoop potentially
outgrowing the position, he could have a move to third in
10. Brandon Snyder, 1B/OF: The 2005 first-rounder
hasn't taken the most direct path to the big leagues, but
he's finally just about there, despite a subpar 2010 at
Triple-A. He still has a good bat from the right side and
can play a decent first base. He also has Derrek Lee in
his way, so the O's have had him catching to make him more
Under the Radar
Ryan Berry, RHP: Berry slid to the ninth round of the
2009 First-Year Player Draft because of a shoulder injury and
less-than-eye-popping stuff. Still, he finished second in
the organization with his 3.22 ERA during his debut last
year, pitching at both Class A levels. He doesn't hurt himself
with walks and had a nifty 2.10 GO/AO ratio. There isn't
much margin for error for him, so it will be interesting to
see how his stuff plays at higher levels this season.
Brandon Waring, 3B/1B/OF: He can play three
positions, though perhaps not any one of them every day. He
strikes out a lot (179 times in 129 games in 2010), but the
power is legit, with at least 20 homers for four straight
seasons and a career .504 slugging percentage. If he can make contact
just a bit more, he could be a solid power threat off the
bench in Baltimore.
Hitter of the Year -- Machado
Why stray from the obvious when the obvious makes so much
sense? Machado will top the organization in average in his
first full season, perhaps even getting a bump up to
Frederick at season's end.
Pitcher of the Year -- Klein
With Britton likely to spend a good amount of time in
Baltimore, it's time to pass the torch. In 2011, Klein will
take the baton. Even if his long-term role is as a reliever,
this season he'll do just fine starting, competing for the
organization's pitching triple crown.
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.