19 July 2007

Below the Surface: Minor League Spotlight

Brandon Erbe, P
Frederick Keys

One may remember my column on Pedro Beato. I mentioned how he was no Brandon Erbe. I still believe this to be true, even though Erbe has looked dreadful this year.

Some background . . . Erbe is a Baltimore boy. He pitched for McDonough and I was fortunate enough to work in an office building right on the other side of the school. I am not a scout, but he looked good. His mechanics were a little off, but he looked good to me. This means little as I have little understanding of biomechanics.

Anyway, we drafted him and threw him into Bluefield. At age 17, he averaged more than 2 K's per inning. After 23 innings of him blowing away dreadful and overmatched players, he recieved a call up to Aberdeen. He proceeded to get wailed on in three appearances, but kept his K rate up at about 11 per 9 inn. The following season, at age 18, he pitched the whole season for Delmarva in the Salley League. The O's kept him to a low inning total (116) which was within the realm of reason for an 18 year old. He kept a high K rate (10.4 per 9 inn), a somewhat low walk rate (3.7 BB/9), and an amazingly low HR rate (0.16 HR/9). This was done against talent about a year or two older than him. Quite a good season.

His K rate has dropped to 8.0K/9, which is troubling. His BB rate has risen to 5.0BB/9. His HR rate has increased to 0.94HR/9. Now, he is just 19 and playing against competition slightly older than him. These hitters are also light years above Rookie and low A ball, but he sure has been hit. May 16th he was tagged for 12 runs in 3 innings. Two days ago, he was cranked for 8 runs in 2 and a 1/3. Now, he has mixed in a gem or two (i.e., June 5th, 8 innings, 0 ER, 11 Ks, 1BB). Though he has really ranged between above average and awful more so than brilliant. He also seems to fall apart on the road.

Am I worried?
No, not at all. He is 19. This is not a 21 year old Mark Prior flying through the minors. It is also not a Matt Riley rush job. Erbe seems to be a good kid, but he is going through a rough patch. He should right himself up and the O's should keep him in Frederick for the rest of the year. He should only start about 7 more times before shutting him down for the year. They may have had some AZL dreams this offseason, but it looks like he should develop more and end this season on a high note.

He is still the Orioles best prospect.

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