Baseball America released its 21st annual top 100 Prospects list on Tuesday, the publication's ranking of the best talent in baseball among minor leaguers or players with less than 130 Major League at bats, 50 innings or 30 big league appearances.
Four Orioles made the list with Brian Matusz at number 5, Josh Bell at 37, Zach Britton at 63 and Jake Arrieta at 99.
Co-Editor Will Lingo was one of four that selected the list. I talked with Lingo about the list, the O's on it and the Orioles farm system overall. All the quotes in the story are from Lingo.
After the O's promoted so many young players into the Majors last year, is getting four on the list this year a good number for Baltimore?
"It's a good representation of how far the system has come in the last few years. I know Oriole fans are still looking for the success in the big leagues and that's the goal and the hardest step to make. But the talent coming through the system now is at a pretty good level so there is reason for hope in the next couple of years."
What factors are used in selecting this list?
"It's the culmination of everything we do in the offseason. Once the minor league season starts winding down we start talking to managers and scouts and do our minor league prospects lists and organization lists.
"We talked to people in every organization. After we do our organization lists we start to see some clubs separate themselves. We have more than 900 scouting reports in our prospect handbook.
"The top 100 list is the collection of the guys with the absolute best tools in the minor leagues. The guys with standout skills and tools tend to be the best Major Leaguers by and large. We like to think our top 100 list is the best gathering of those kinds of players."
Matt Hobgood was rated 5th on Baseball America's list of the top ten O's prospects. Does that mean he was the next closest Oriole to making your top 100?
"I think that is right. I don't have the raw list in front of me. It doesn't exactly correspond to our top ten lists because we have multiple people voting on our lists."
Here is Lingo's take on each O's prospect listed in the top 100.
Brian Matusz: "He is one of the best pitching prospects in the minor leagues. I think we have him ranked only behind Stephen Strasburg on our list among pitchers. He has the total package and should step right into the Major League rotation. He should have success right away and then in the next few years be among one of the better pitchers in baseball."
Josh Bell: "He didn't have great years the previous couple of seasons but started to put it all together this past season. The trade maybe rejuvenated him a little bit. We rated each players' best tool when we did the list and power ranks as his best tool. He's also shown he will be an above average hitter. When you have above average power with a guy who can be at least an average to above average hitter, that's a pretty strong combination."
Zach Britton: "We had two guys on the top 100 whose sinker rated as their best tool. From scouts we talked to, most think Britton's sinker is probably the best in the minor leagues with the late, heavy life it has and the way he uses it. We rated it a 65 on the 20 to 80 scale. That is somewhere between above average and well above average, so that's a strong pitch. He started to emerge last year in the eyes of a lot of people. He could really be a guy this year who becomes one of the more prominent pitching prospects in the game."
Jake Arrieta: "He's always been kind of a personal favorite of mine, I just think he's a bulldog on the mound. His overall polish is not up there with Matusz, but I think his stuff is, his raw stuff is nearly as good. Some people think he could end up as a reliever but I think he'll stay in the rotation."
There is some debate among O's fans as to whether Matt Hobgood was the right pick at number five in last June's draft. What is your take on that?
"It's hard to tell at this point. They said they weren't trying to save money with the pick, but it did seem like they were. Then again, a lot of people underrated Matt Hobgood going into the draft, including us.
"I think it was a legit pick. High school pitching is so tough, though, it's really hit or miss. I really think it's too early to tell. I think he's a legit guy and a lot of people may have underrated him."
How well are the Orioles doing overall on the farm and in producing prospects?
"They've had good drafts in recent years and they have established a more coherent philosophy and good continuity in the front office. It seemed like in some past years scouting and player development were not always on the same page.
"Sometimes there were guys drafted that scouts liked and player development either didn't see the same skills or used them in a way that maybe the scouts hadn't envisioned when they drafted him. Now they are drafting better and developing better. That's a much better combination for the organization, obviously.
"Winning in the Major Leagues is the goal and that's the toughest last step. I think this is a year we'll start to see if that's coming together now."
Click here for more info on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list.