The Tides may have the best all around team in the Orioles system for 2010. They feature a rotation filled with some of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects, and the two best bats in the organization.
Jake Arrieta will return to Norfolk and lead the rotation. After dominating at Bowie last year, his performance regressed once he reached Norfolk. His walk rate actually decreased, but his strikeout rate went down as well. Some people believe Arrieta doesn’t have the command or control to become a mid rotation starter in the big leagues, he’ll try to prove them wrong this season.
Like Arrieta, Troy Patton also dominated at Bowie but really struggled once he joined the Tides rotation. Patton told me he believes the hitters he faced while with Bowie struggled to hit his changeup. He believes the hitters he faced at Norfolk were more experienced and wouldn’t bite at his changeup. Patton has always been a guy who relies more on command and moving the ball around the zone, not a guy who blows hitters away. We’ll see if his command improves this season. Hopefully he can get back to where he was after coming over from the Astros.
I was extremely surprised when I heard that Brandon Erbe would start the 2010 season in the Norfolk rotation. He pitched just 73.1 innings at Bowie and I was almost certain he’d return. I do believe Erbe is ready to handle Triple-A hitters but some more Double-A experience couldn’t hurt. Erbe needs to pitch more consistently this season and decrease his walk rate. He has a lot of potential and could eventually become a #2 starter. He’ll have to refine his command and really improve if changeup if he wants to stick as a starter and stay away from the bullpen.
He’s not a prospect, but let’s not forget about Chris Tillman. After David Hernandez earned the Orioles final rotation spot, Tillman had to move down to Norfolk. He’s already dominated at the Triple-A level and I expect him to do the same again in 2010.
The Orioles’ third baseman of the future, Josh Bell, will be the main attraction at Norfolk this year. Bell vastly improved almost every aspect of his game in 2009, most importantly his defense. It’s no longer a huge concern whether Bell will be able to stick at third, as he got rid of most of the doubts last season. After batting just .198 from the right side, Bell still needs to establish his bat from that side of the plate. If he starts struggling from the right side right out of the gates, I can’t wait to see how the Orioles handle it. If I were the Orioles, I’d give him some at-bats as a left handed hitter against a left handed pitcher and see how he handles that.
After dominating at Bowie in the first half of the season, Brandon Snyder will be out to prove he can handle Triple-A. Snyder’s has a true line drive swing and I expect him to improve at Norfolk this season, really improve. He had a dominating performance at the AFL and if that’s any indication to how he’ll play at Norfolk, it’s an excellent sign.
Everyone that I discussed in this preview should reach the big leagues at some point during 2010. Tracking their status and success in the majors is one of the most exciting things for me.
Well, that wraps up my season preview series. Check out the previews for the other three full season teams: