Brandon Erbe, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz get a lot of attention in the Baltimore Orioles system, but David Hernandez could beat them all to the big leagues. The 23-year-old, right-handed hurler was recently added to the club’s 40-man roster and he could claim one of Baltimore’s vacant starting rotation slots sooner rather than later. In 2008, Hernandez spent the year in Double-A and allowed 112 hits in 141 innings of work. He posted rates of 4.53 BB/9 and 10.60 K/9, while also keeping the ball in the park by allowing just 10 home runs (0.64 HR/9). Obviously the control needs to improve if he is going to have long-term success in the big leagues, but the potential is there once things click. He features a repertoire that includes an 89-93 mph fastball, a curveball and a change-up.
Right-handed Chorye Spoone was on a similar path before shoulder surgery ended his 2008 season after just nine starts. He will miss the majority of 2009 as well, but that did not stop Baltimore from protecting him on the 40-man roster. When healthy, Spoone features a 91-95 mph fastball, plus curveball and change-up.
Brad Bergesen‘s 2008 numbers at Double-A look better than Hernandez’ on the surface with a record of 15-6 and an ERA of 3.22. His walk rate was also a nifty 1.64 BB/9 but his strikeout rate was troublesome at 4.38 K/9. Despite not striking out a lot of batters, the right-hander allowed just 143 hits in 148 innings. Bergesen can dial his fastball up to 93-95 mph but he commands it better in the low 90s. He also has a slider and change-up.
Wilfredo Perez (or Wilfrido, depending on whom you speak with) is a left-handed reliever who split the 2008 season between High-A ball and Double-A. The 24-year-old fanned 92 batters in 79.2 combined innings. Like the pitchers above, though, Perez struggled with his control and posted walk rates of 4.79 at High-A and 3.09 at Double-A. After beginning his career by being very good against left-handed hitters, the southpaw has actually had more success against righties in the past two seasons (.244 versus .165 in 2007, .253 versus .192 in 2008).
The only non-pitcher added to the 40-man roster this off-season was outfielder Nolan Reimold, a former second round draft pick out of Bowling Green University. His prospect stock has been up and down since he signed in 2005 but he rebounded in 2008 at Double-A. He hit .284/.367/.501 with an ISO of .217 in 507 at-bats. The 25-year-old has big-time power but it remains to be seen how well he’ll hit for average against Major League pitching. In his career, Reimold’s slugging percentage is almost 100 points higher against southpaws (.572 versus .482).
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