Tim Kurkjian of ESPN has covered baseball long enough to know when the scouts are buzzing about a player, he should take note of said player.
A few weeks back in Florida he ran into a scout.
“Have you seen Zach Britton pitch yet?” the scout said to Kurkjian. “If you haven’t, go see him.”
Kurkjian, a one-time O’s beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, has now seen Britton in person to confirm what that scout had said with his own eyes.
“There was an at-bat that Buck Showalter told me about where he struck Ryan Howard out,” Kurkjian said. “It wasn’t just that he struck out a really good hitter. It was the kind of pitch he threw that I don’t think Howard saw was coming. And, then his reaction afterwards. Instead of pumping his chest, he just kind of looked the other way like this is my job to get people out.
“The future is really bright for this kid. I’m not just saying that because the Orioles are telling me that, I’ve heard that from all sorts of people across Florida. I think this kid will be a mainstay in the rotation, maybe not right away, but for many years to come.”
Kurkjian said recently during an ESPN broadcast that Britton could eventually be the best pitcher in the O’s rotation.
“I think so,” he said. “I’m not suggesting for a second that it’s going to be this year. The baseball learning curve takes a long time generally. The apprenticeship in baseball is like no other sport. I’m not suggesting he’s going to be the ace of the staff this year or even next, I’m just saying down the line enough people have told me ‘keep an eye on this kid.’
“It’s very encouraging for the Orioles that they have a few guys in the rotation that you can look at long term and say ‘wow.’ Brian Matusz, ‘wow,’ Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, there is some real potential here and Zach Britton is right with those guys.”
Kurkjian spent many nights over the last few years on the ESPN Baseball Tonight set along with O’s manager Buck Showalter. He talked with Showalter recently about Britton.
“He likes him a lot and not just his stuff. He likes his demeanor on the mound, which is half the battle for a young pitcher. All sorts of young pitchers have great stuff, more than don’t. But it’s the way you command it and the way you use it and react out there. He just looks a little beyond his years.”
Kurkjian does caution that any player that has never been in the majors yet is just a prospect until he has big league success. But Britton has impressed a lot of people this March, no doubt.
Kurkjian expects Britton to likely begin this season in the minors. He said the O’s would be right to try and push Britton’s free agency back another year by keeping him in the minors at least for a few weeks.
“Almost every team goes that route. The Rays did it a few years ago, whether they will acknowledge it or not, with Evan Longoria. They left him in the minors for two weeks and then brought him up. If the Orioles were to send Britton out, it would be standard operating procedure and they should not take significant heat for it,” he added.
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