Baseball America released its annual Top 100 Prospects list on Tuesday and, despite the graduations to the majors of 2009 No. 1 prospect Matt Wieters and No. 22 prospect Chris Tillman, the Orioles are well-represented. Baltimore is one of 10 teams with four players on the list; only the Rays, with seven, and the Cubs and Indians, with five, have more.
Leading the way for the O's is No. 5 prospect Brian Matusz, who retained his rookie status despite breezing through the minors and making eight starts for the big-league club last summer. The 23-year-old southpaw is the second-highest-ranked pitcher on the list, slotting three spots behind much-hyped Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg. He ranked 25th on Baseball America's list last year, before he had thrown a single professional pitch.
Coming in at No. 37 is switch-hitting third baseman Josh Bell, who came over from the Dodgers in the deadline deal that sent left-hander George Sherrill to Los Angeles. Bell, 23, didn't make Baseball America's 2009 list but improved his stock significantly last season by improving his conditioning and defense and displaying the ability to hit from his weaker right side in the Arizona Fall League. Bell should make his big-league debut at some point this summer.
Also appearing on Baseball America's list for the first time is lefty Zach Britton, who checks in at No. 63 after earning Pitcher of the Year honors in the advanced Class A Carolina League last season. The 22-year-old has used his fastball/sinker/slider combination to post a 3.25 ERA in three-plus minor league seasons but must improve his command as he moves up the minor league ladder. He's ticketed for Double-A Bowie in 2010.
A mediocre showing in Triple-A dropped Jake Arrieta's stock somewhat, as the right-hander slid from No. 67 on Baseball America's 2009 list to No. 99 on the list released on Tuesday. The soon-to-be 24-year-old right-hander will look to sharpen his command in his return to Triple-A Norfolk this season and will likely get his first big-league opportunity this summer when the need arises. He projects as an innings-eating middle-of-the-rotation starter.
If there is a negative aspect to the list from the Orioles' standpoint, it's that 2009 first-round pick Matt Hobgood failed to crack the Top 100. Some considered the right-hander a budget-conscious reach at No. 5 overall, and 15 players selected after Hobgood made the list, including high school pitcher-draftees Tyler Matzek of Colorado (No. 21), Jacob Turner of Detroit (No. 26), Zack Wheeler of San Francisco (No. 49) and Chad James of Florida (No. 78). Of course, it's only a list compiled by a magazine/website, and the 19-year-old - who has made just eight pro appearances - has plenty of time to validate his draft slot.