Top Ten Prospects: Relief Pitchers

The Orioles have a ton of relief talent in their system, making last season's shopping spree even more misplaced. Pitchers like Radhames Liz and Brandon Erbe may end up as high-leverage relievers as well, but this list only deals with pitchers who are already relievers. Check out inside to see who ranks as the Top 10.

1) Jim Hoey - (Bowie Baysox/Norfolk Tides) - (40 G, 0 GS, 45.2 ip, 0.79 ERA, 69 K, 14 BB, 1 HR, 0.94 GO/AO)

Despite an up-and-down showing in Baltimore at the end of the season, Hoey is ready for the show. He can dial his fastball up close to three digits with a plus breaking ball, as well. Hoey followed up on his breakout 2006 season with another fine showing and he's now among the top relief pitching prospects in baseball. With Chris Ray on the shelf for at least the beginning of 2008, Hoey is a dark-horse candidate to assume the closer's role in Baltimore next year. By 2009, it could be argued that he is the front-runner for that role-- yes, even over a healthy Chris Ray.

2) Bob McCrory - (Frederick Keys/Bowie Baysox) - (44 G, 0 GS, 45 ip, 2.60 ERA, 44 K, 28 BB, 1 HR, 2.00 GO/AO)

McCrory is the rare relief pitcher with four different pitches. In addition to sitting at 95-97 MPH with his fastball, he throws two good breaking balls and a changeup that he hasn't had to use much. His command isn't at a major league-ready level yet, since he's missed several years to injuries, but a consolidation year at Norfolk should put him in position to be a solid set-up man for years to come.

3) Luis Lebron - (Delmarva Shorebirds/Bowie Baysox) - (48 G, 0 GS, 57.2 ip, 4.99 ERA, 90 K, 56 BB, 1 HR, 0.69 GO/AO)

With 14.2 K/9 this season, it's obvious that Lebron has a ton of potential. He can hit in the high-90's with his fastball and also shows off a promising power breaking ball. He works up in the zone with phenomenal arm action, but can be his own worst enemy sometimes. Lebron has serious work to do with his command, but is one of a few guys in the O's system with the chance to be a legitimate big league closer one day.

4) Wilfredo Perez - (Delmarva Shorebirds) - (27 G, 8 GS, 81 ip, 1.67 ERA, 108 K, 28 BB, 3 HR, 2.11 GO/AO)

Perez is a very slight left-hander who has already come back from TJ surgery. He works with an 88-92 MPH fastball with good movement, a good curveball and a solid changeup. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to move fast. Perez has a chance to be one of those very valuable left-handed relievers who you don't mind leaving in against good right-handed batters. If it weren't for his size and injury history, he could probably be a solid mid-rotation starter.

5) Cory Doyne - (Norfolk Tides) - (42 G, 0 GS, 44.1 ip, 2.23 ERA, 49 K, 16 BB, 0 HR, 1.02 GO/AO)

In addition to being named the International League's relief pitcher of the year, Doyne also set a Tides franchise record with 29 saves. He works around 92-93 MPH with his fastball and also has a solid slider. After the year he had, Doyne could certainly be a useful piece in the 2008 bullpen.

6) Jim Miller - (Bowie Baysox/Norfolk Tides) - (52 G, 0 GS, 66.1 ip, 3.39 ERA, 79 K, 41 BB, 3 HR, 0.70 GO/AO)

The main prize in the Rodrigo Lopez trade, Miller was largely overshadowed by Hoey this year, but he had a fine season in his own right. He's a shorter right-hander, but he can get his fastball into the mid-90's. He also has a solid curveball. His upside is as a quality 7th inning reliever, despite pronounced flyball tendencies. Miller is also known as a quality clubhouse presence and is generally the loudest guy in the locker room.

7) Fernando De Nabal - (Delmarva Shorebirds/Aberdeen Ironbirds) - (22 G, 4 GS, 47.2 ip, 5.66 ERA, 51 K, 49 BB, 1 HR, 0.94 GO/AO)

De Nabal's composite line doesn't show that after a rough start in low-A Delmarva, he was much more effective in Aberdeen. He routinely dials his fastball up into the mid-90's, but his command of the pitch is poor. Similarly, he lacks consistency with his power breaking ball. However, his upside is as high as his velocity and the O's will be patient with him.

8) Jason Burch - (Frederick Keys/GCL Orioles) -(20 G, 0 GS, 24.2 ip, 2.92 ERA, 27 K, 9 BB, 1 HR, 1.65 GO/AO)

The other half of the Rodrigo Lopez trade, Burch works primarily with an 87-91 MPH sinker. He also has a solid slider and a fringe changeup, but his sinker is his bread-and-butter. He gets tons of groundball outs and profiles as a 6th or 7th inning type. Burch could get a look as soon as late next season, if he can stay healthy.

9) Brent Allar - (Frederick Keys/Aberdeen Ironbirds/Delmarva Shorebirds) - (28 G, 0 GS, 30 ip, 5.70 ERA, 33 K, 24 BB, 1 HR, 1.15 GO/AO)

Allar is an extremely raw right-hander with a fastball that gets into the mid-90's. In addition to command issues, some are concerned that he doesn't appear to take his conditioning seriously. He's not quite Chris Britton's size, but he's also not as svelt as his listed 230 lbs. He'll get a crack at full-season ball next year and many observers will be looking at what shape he shows up in at spring training.

10) Ryan Stadanlick - (Aberdeen Ironbirds) - (16 G, 0 GS, 27.2 ip, 27 K, 15 BB, 0 HR, 1.89 GO/AO)

As an amateur, Stadanlick was better known as a power/speed outfielder. So, you'll have to forgive the 23 year old if he is still pretty raw. He has a fastball that he works in the low-to-mid-90's and a slider that sits around 80 MPH. He gets a good downhill plane and, despite an unattractive ERA this season, could be a breakout candidate next season.

Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com


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