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Earlier this week, we discussed our thoughts on David Hernandez. For the most part, Orioles fans seem to believe he's going to play in the major leagues at some point in his career.

Some people think Hernandez will be a solid contributor in the starting rotation, while others consider him a better fit in the bullpen, potentially as a closer. Everyone agrees that Hernandez needs to improve his control in order to have a successful career.

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As a couple readers pointed out, the organization should give Hernandez an opportunity because of the high amount of strikeouts that he's collected in four minor league seasons. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher has 535 strikeouts in 473 innings in the minor leagues.

It's good to have a pitcher who is capable of overpowering hitters, but he also needs to be able to minimize the number of base runners allowed. That's why it's important for Hernandez to reduce the amount of walks before he's called up to the major leagues.

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Let's talk about another Orioles pitching prospect today – McDonogh graduate Brandon Erbe.

It seems like the list of promising young pitchers in the Orioles' minor league system never ends, which is a good thing for an organization that desperately needs to strengthen its pitching staff.

The Orioles selected Erbe in the third round of the 2005 MLB draft, but he hasn't lived up to expectations so far in his career. In four minor league seasons, Erbe is 18-22 with a 4.55 ERA. Since he's still young and possesses a solid repertoire of pitches, the 21-year-old right-hander remains high on the list of pitching prospects in the Orioles' minor league system.

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound pitcher was 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 28 starts for the Single-A Frederick Keys last season. Erbe led the Carolina League with 151 strikeouts, and he issued 50 walks in 150 2/3 innings. Erbe also surrendered 21 home runs, however, which was the most in the league.

Last season was Erbe's second consecutive year as a member of the Keys. He was 6-8 with a 6.26 ERA in 25 starts for Frederick in 2007. Erbe had 111 strikeouts and gave up 14 home runs in 119 1/3 innings during that season.

The Orioles have taken a patient approach with Erbe's development during his time in the organization. He'll probably begin the 2009 season with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. With the influx of several other pitching prospects, it's important that Erbe starts to emerge as a leader, or he could be lost in the shuffle.

Erbe likely will spend the entire season in Bowie. I think he'll probably have 10-12 wins and an ERA around 3.75. Look for Erbe to be among the leaders in the Eastern League in strikeouts and home runs allowed. He decreased the amount of walks last season, and I believe that trend will continue in 2009.

The high amount of strikeouts are definitely one of Erbe's strongest selling points, but he allows too many home runs at this stage of his career to be projected as a potential player in the major leagues. Erbe still has a lot of room for improvement, but there's also plenty of time before the Orioles should give up on him. He doesn't fit into the team's immediate plans, but there is hope for the future.

What are your predictions for Erbe during the 2009 season? Do you think he'll step forward as a leader among the Orioles' pitching prospects, or will he fade into anonymity as another draft pick who didn't work out for the organization? Is it still too early to tell?

Let me hear your thoughts about Erbe for the upcoming season, as well as your long-term expectations.

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Check out previous installments of "Predict the future" by clicking on the links below:

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