The Baltimore Orioles have multiple reasons to thank the Seattle Mariners, and right-hander Chris Tillman is one of the top gifts that the club received in the Erik Bedard trade prior to the 2008 season. Tillman’s minor league numbers were nothing special prior to the 2008 season, but he was a second-round pick out of a California high school in the 2006 draft.
Tillman posted a 5.26 ERA in High-A ball for the Mariners in 2007, but his FIP was significantly better at 4.43. He allowed 107 hits in 102.2 innings with rates of 4.21 BB/9 and 9.20 K/9. The right-hander jumped to Double-A for the 2008 season with the Orioles and Tillman allowed just 115 hits in 135.2 innings. He also posted rates of 4.31 BB/9 and 10.22 K/9.
Once Tillman’s control improves, he could be absolutely dominating with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a curveball with plus potential. The change-up is still developing. Tillman performed well against both right-handed and left-handed hitters in 2008, although he allowed a HR/9 rate of 0.93 against RH batters, as opposed to 0.29 HR/9 against LH batters.
Tillman has a couple of fellow pitching prospects who will serve as competition for starting roles, including right-hander Jake Arrieta and southpaw Brian Matusz, the club’s top pick in 2008. The good news is that there are not many – if any – pitchers currently in the big club’s starting rotation that are secure in their roles (expect perhaps Jeremy Guthrie). Radhames Liz and David Hernandez are two other pitchers to keep in mind for rotation spots as well, and Liz already had a taste of the Majors.
If all goes well for the Orioles (But when does it with young pitching?), all five pitchers could be in the club’s MLB starting rotation by the end of 2010, and Tillman should be near the top of the list. As for this season, keep an eye on Tillman in the spring to see where he falls on the depth chart for a possible mid-season call-up. If he does hit the Majors this season, he could struggle a bit because of his control issues and inexperience. Expect about six wins, 100 innings pitched and 110 hits allowed, as well as rates of 4.50 BB/9 and 7.25 K/9.
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