In an interview, Baseball America's Jim Callis talked about Zach Britton's readiness to pitch in the major leagues. But Callis believes the Orioles' best move is for Britton to begin this season back in the minor leagues.
"I think he is ready for the big leagues. He has no obvious weakness and did get in 12 starts last year at Triple-A and pitched well," Callis said. "That said, the Orioles have no shot at contending this year, so from a team standpoint, I don't think it makes any sense to bring the guy up until you know you have delayed his arbitration and free agent clock by a year.
"It stinks, but that's the way it is. I don't see what the benefit is to the Orioles in bringing him up in April, rather than June," Callis added. "You just might make him a free agent or arbitration eligible player earlier than you need to. There is no real gain.
"Maybe he would pitch 50 innings in the minors then have 100 or so in the majors over the last four months. It stinks for fans to hear that, but it's the way the system is right now. Unless you are contending, there is no incentive to call-up a guy like that at the beginning of the season."
Baseball America released its latest list of the game's top 100 prospects today and ranked Manny Machado 14th and Britton 28th.
Callis remains very high on Britton and rated him 17th on his personal list of the top prospects.
"I think Britton is the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minors, although on our list he is sixth. I think he can even be underrated a little bit.
"I still think he has the best sinker in the minors. He's throwing in the low 90s consistently with unbelievable sink. His slider got a lot better. It just seems like he gets better every year. He holds his stuff deeper into games and keeps improving his command and secondary stuff. Personally, I see him as the top lefty pitching prospect in the game," he said.
As for Machado, he ranked ninth on Callis' personal list of the top prospects and he expects the 18-year-old shortstop to begin this season with Single-A Delmarva.
"That is what I've heard and that's my expectation, that they let him go out there and tear up low A ball this year," he said.
Could Machado make it to Single-A Frederick at some point this season?
"I think you see how he does. I am probably more cautious than most and think it's a lot easier to hurt someone's confidence then rebuild it. I'd be shocked if he moved up before half season. They'll let him dictate that by how he plays.
At such a young age, Callis said it's possible Machado struggles some during his first full minor league season, but with his talent, he could also take off with a big year from the start as well.
"He could take off, but with any high school kid, he's never seen pitching like that on a daily basis. There will be adjustments to make. Anything is possible. If he tore it up it wouldn't surprise me. But if he struggled, you could chalk that up to being young. It wouldn't alarm me that much, unless he struck out like 180 times or something."
Baseball America compiled its top 100 list from a vote of six of its editors who first produced their own lists of the top 150 players. The top 100 is a compilation of that. Callis said the only other player getting any mention for the list was outfielder Xavier Avery. He was ranked 149th by one of the writers.
"Xavier Avery is a talented athlete, but he's got a long way to go as a baseball player. It's a top heavy farm system. The Orioles have the best shortstop prospect in baseball and they've got the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball in my mind, but they don't have a whole lot else ready to step into the big leagues," Callis explained.
Finally, I asked Callis which players he would be most interested to track and follow on the O's farm this year.
"One guy who I think hasn't had a chance to do anything yet and maybe some people don't give him credit for being as good as he is, is Dan Klein.
"He's a guy that was on arguably the best pitching staff in college baseball last year. Klein was in that (UCLA) bullpen but he has enough stuff to start, more than enough stuff. It would not surprise me if he emerged as the third-best prospect in the system.
"Another guy who, I think hasn't been 100 percent and they brought him along kind of easy last year is Bobby Bundy. He was an eighth-round pick that got $600,000 to sign out of high school in 2008.
"He had a knee injury initially and that held him back some, but it would not surprised me if he took a big step forward this year. He's finally healthy and may be a guy that is impressive this year," he said.