Carolina League batting champ hungry for more success in 2010 (plus prospects note)

Almost no matter how you look at it, Robbie Widlansky had a remarkable season in 2009. One that began with disappointment in April and ended with a Carolina League batting title.

For an encore, he'll try to put up numbers this year at Bowie as he's likely to start the season in the Double-A Eastern League.

The lefty hitter, an O's 11th-round draft pick in 2007 out of Florida Atlantic, struggled in spring training last year. When time came for full-season clubs to head north in April, he was held behind by the O's at extended spring training.

"You work hard all off season and want to make a roster come April. It was frustrating but you just have to keep working and it paid off," Widlansky said.

"Last spring I felt good and thought I played well, but there are a lot of good players in the O's system now. I went to extended spring and played well there and luckily got the chance in Frederick."

Just hoping to make Delmarva's roster last April, he joined the Keys in late May and wound up batting .340-7-59 with 31 doubles and an OPS of .901 in 86 games.

Widlansky got off to an amazing start with Frederick and, after 40 games, was hitting .404. He ended the year a few plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title, but won the title due to baseball rule 10-22A.

It states that if a player can add at bats at the end of the year to reach the required number and is still the league leader even without any additional hits, he can win the batting title.

The 25-year-old Widlansky became the 4th Frederick Key to ever end the year topping all league hitters.

"I was just seeing the ball well and hitting it hard. I don't know, I don't think it was one specific thing. We had a lot of good hitters at Frederick and it helped being surrounded by good hitters.

"It's exciting. There were some ups and downs last year. There are some really good hitters in that league so if you look at it like that, it's really exciting because you can hit with the best of them."

There were rumblings that when he didn't make a team out of spring training last April, that Widlansky was thinking about quitting the game.

"No, I never thought about quitting. I was frustrated at times and you start questioning some things. You know you can play and you just have to go out and play hard every day and get better. I feel like I can play with all these guys. I didn't get down, I knew I'd get my chance."

Widlansky, who played first base and outfield at Frederick, hit a scorching .396 with runners in scoring position and went 4 for 8 with the bases loaded. But it was his .366 average vs. left-handed pitching that really helped keep his overall average up.

Now the player that struggled in his first pro season, hitting just .181 in 2007 at Aberdeen, is ready for another spring training. It should end better than last year and he's likely to break camp with the Baysox.

Widlansky batting average by season:
.181 - 2007 at Aberdeen
.222 - 2008 at Delmarva
.279 - 2008 at Aberdeen
.340 - 2009 at Frederick

Four Frederick Keys have won the batting title:
1989 - Luis Mercedes hit .309
1994 - Harry Berrios hit .348
1997 - Rick Short hit .319
2009 - Robbie Widlansky hit .340

Meanwhile, Baseball America released its list of baseball's top 100 prospects today and rated Brian Matusz 5th, Josh Bell 37th, Zach Britton 63rd and Jake Arrieta at number 99.

Coming tomorrow - Baseball America Co-Editor Will Lingo talks about the four on this list and the Orioles farm system.

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