Surprisingly, a lot of readers agreed with me in the discussion about Hayden Penn.
To be honest, I thought it was too optimistic when I projected Penn to win 10 games for the Orioles in 2009. Several readers, however, agreed with me and echoed the sentiment that he'll be successful in the major leagues this season.
Not everyone expected the 24-year-old right-hander to collect that many wins, but I think we all can agree that it will be a giant step forward if Penn, who has been hindered by injuries in his career, is able to stay healthy for the entire year and make a contribution in the majors.
Since the Orioles recently agreed to terms with free-agent pitcher Koji Uehara, Penn's role in the organization could change for the upcoming season. Uehara is another player who will compete with Penn for a spot in the rotation, so it will be interesting to see how the roster develops in spring training.
I'm sticking by my prediction for now, but it may need to be modified before the season starts.
Let's dive back into the pool of promising pitching prospects and discuss left-hander Brian Matusz today.
The Orioles selected the 21-year-old starting pitcher from the University of San Diego in the first round of last year's MLB draft. Matusz was named the Pitcher of the Year in the West Coast Conference in 2008. He was 12-2 with a 1.71 ERA and three complete-game shutouts in 15 games (14 starts) as a junior for the Toreros. In 105 innings, Matusz had 141 strikeouts with only 22 walks.
Matusz was 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 123 innings during the 2007 season. As a freshman in 2006, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound pitcher was 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 89 innings. He had 93 strikeouts that season.
After signing with the Orioles, Matusz worked out with the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, but he wasn't on the team's active roster. He also represented the organization as a member of the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. In seven games (six starts) for Surprise, Matusz was 2-4 with a 4.73 ERA. He had 31 strikeouts and walked seven hitters in 26 2/3 innings.
Nothing is official yet, but it looks like the Single-A Frederick Keys will be the first destination for Matusz in 2009. If he performs well with the Keys, Matusz could be moved up to the Double-A Bowie Baysox by the All-Star break.
I'm expecting Matusz to make about 15 starts with Frederick before earning a promotion to Bowie. He should collect at least eight wins with a 3.25 ERA as a member of the Keys. For the Baysox, I think he will win six games and have a 3.75 ERA. Look for him to have around 125 total strikeouts between the two levels.
What are your thoughts about Matusz for the upcoming season? Do you think it would be a mistake if the Orioles start him in Frederick, or is it good if they take a patient approach? When do you think he'll be pitching for the Orioles?
As always, tell me if you think I'm completely wrong with my predictions. Feel free to include your projections for Matusz over the length of his entire career.
Check out previous installments of "Predict the future" by clicking on the links below: