Minors: Britton ready to help Orioles 

July, 29, 2010

The Baltimore Orioles' vaunted young starting pitching staff of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta has been underwhelming this season, to say the least (Matusz in particular has been maddeningly inconsistent, and Tillman has been treated like a yo-yo, bouncing up and down to the minors), but they still have a bright future. The team also has another one to add to the mix in 22-year-old southpaw Zach Britton.

Britton has a 2.43 ERA in 114 2/3 innings this season, and hasn't missed a beat in five starts since being promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. He's struck out 85 batters in 114 2/3 innings, walked 37, and allowed just four homers all year.

A third-round pick in the 2006 draft, Britton was a projectable high-schooler from Texas who has gained about 25 pounds since being drafted and added a few ticks to his fastball. He has touched as high as 96 mph with his four-seamer, but velocity is not his game. Instead, he fires arguably the best sinker in the minors. It's a really heavy ball in the low-90s that induces grounders by the truckload, and his career ground-ball percentage is over 60 percent. (Comparatively, only Tim Hudson and Justin Masterson are over 60 percent among major league starters this season.) Being able to dial up to the mid-90s to get swings and misses when needed is just a bonus and gives Britton a very intriguing profile.