Tag: Zachary Britton

Should the Orioles Sell High on Uber-Closer Zach Britton?

Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton didn’t win the American League Cy Young Award. He didn’t even finish among the top three, much to the consternation of his skipper.

“It’s shocking,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Britton‘s snub, per MASN’s Roch Kubatko.  

Here’s another shock that could hit Orioles nation: the sight of Britton leaving via trade.

Kubatko recently floated the notion, though he added O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette “is adamant” Britton isn’t going anywhere.

So take what follows with the requisite grain of salt, and don’t mash the panic button if you’re a Baltimore fan and an ardent Britton booster.

Still, the idea has merit. Designated hitter/outfielder Mark Trumbowho signed a one-year deal, $9.15 million deal with the Orioles last season and proceeded to lead MLB with 47 home runsfigures to have multiple suitors. Catcher Matt Wieters is likewise a free agent.

The Orioles plan to hang back and let the market develop, as Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reported, and don’t seem likely to be in on the handful of high-impact players.

That means if they want to get better, a trade is the path to take.

Moving Britton would sting—no argument there.

The 28-year-old left-hander had one of the best seasons ever by a relief pitcher, posting a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings with 74 strikeouts and 47 saves.

His season ended on a sour note when Showalter left him languishing in the bullpen in the Orioles’ crushing 5-2, 11-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card Game.

Other than that and the Cy Young rebuke, however, virtually everything came up Britton

So why would Baltimore dream of letting him go?

For one, the Orioles have a deep pen that features right-handers Brad Brach (2.05 ERA, 79 innings, 92 strikeouts) and Mychal Givens (3.13 ERA, 74.2 innings, 96 strikeouts), each of whom has the stuff and results to slot in as a closer.

And they have a farm system Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked No. 29 in the game. A package that included MLB-ready talent and younger, developing studs could boost the O’s in 2017 and, more importantly, set them up for success down the road. 

Remember, they compete in the AL East, where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox not only have deep pockets, but also the No. 1 and No. 4 farm systems, per Reuter

Granted, there are multiple top-shelf closers available via free agency, including Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon.

Britton, though, is set to hit the market after the 2018 campaign and his agent is Scott Boras, which means he will be angling to swim in money, Scrooge McDuck style. 

He’s been excellent for a few seasons, posting ERAs of 1.65 and 1.92 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and making two straight All-Star teams.

This could be his sell-high moment, however. Relievers are notoriously mercurial creatures—brilliant one year, mediocre the next. 

As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney noted, “the relief market has exploded so much that Baltimore should at least go through the due-diligence process of asking other teams what they’d give up for Britton.”

Baltimore can hold out for a gaudy package. Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers lose Jansen and are willing to part with a top pitching prospect such as Jose De Leon. Or perhaps the Yankees whiff on Chapman and dip into their MiLB reserve (that’s doubtful, given the division rivalry, but possible).

The safe money is on Britton staying put. There are enough free-agent options to satiate closer-starved contenders, with names like high-upside reclamation project Greg Holland and solid veteran Brad Ziegler also available.

Baltimore needs to pick up the phone, though, and maintain an open mind. Sometimes, you have to give up something great for the greater good.


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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From a Fractured Skull to Baseball’s Best Closer: ‘It’s a Real Miracle’

Watching on television, through the eye of the center field camera, the pitch looks unhittable.

Standing at home plate, with a bat in your hands, it looks just about the same.

“A devastating pitch,” Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. “Really hard, and with tremendous sink. It looks straight until it gets to the plate, and then it goes down.”

Zach Britton throws it, game after game, pitch after pitch. Hitters pound it into the ground, or they just whiff. According to FanGraphs, their batting average against it was .154, the slugging percentage was .197, and nearly 30 percent of the time they swung, they missed, through Sept. 24.

The average velocity: 96.3 mph.

“It’s the best left-handed sinker I’ve ever seen,” said one American League scout with decades of experience watching thousands of pitches.

“He’s kind of like the modern-day Mariano Rivera,” Longoria said. “Basically just one pitch, but it’s a devastating pitch.”

The pitch—call it a turbo sinker or, in the words of Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, “a sinker with a trap door on the way to the plate”—has helped turn Britton into baseball’s best closer.

Brandon Crow, Luke Elliott, Tommy Kimmerle and the other kids from the 2003 Canyon High freshman team watch and marvel. That’s their buddy, their onetime teammate. That’s the kid they remember from that awful day at Bouquet Canyon Park, lying on the ground, screaming in pain after he ran head-on into a light standard.

Even now, 13 years later, Crow can remember details from that day. Even now, Elliott says that day sticks in his mind more than anything else from his high school baseball career.

They remember the sound, the “thwack” as Britton collided with the standard. They remember the scene, the blood and the medics arriving to take Britton to the hospital.

They remember, and then they think of what that 15-year-old kid has become.

“It’s a real miracle, to be honest,” Crow said.

Britton is the one guy who barely remembers the details of that day in Santa Clarita, California. One minute he was chasing a fly ball, thinking he had a chance to catch it. The next thing he knew, he was in an ambulance, in pain.

Then he was in a hospital bed, with a fractured skull, a fractured right collarbone, a separated shoulder and a doctor telling his parents he had bleeding in his brain. If the swelling didn’t go away, they would need to drill a hole in his skull.

“That’s when I knew it was serious,” he said.

The freshman team at Canyon practiced at Bouquet Canyon Park, across town from the school. The varsity team got the main diamond, and the junior varsity squad had a park closer to campus.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was what they had, and they were freshmen and they weren’t going to complain. They’d grown up together, some playing in the Canyon Country Little League and others, such as Britton, playing in the nearby Hart Little League.

“I remember Zach pitching against us when we were eight or nine years old,” Crow said.

Britton was the best player on the Canyon freshman team, the Most Valuable Player when the team handed out postseason awards. But the team wasn’t winning its league, and on that late-spring day, coach Mike Newman decided to have a little fun.

Instead of a normal practice, the kids would play over-the-line, a baseball-like contest popularly played by kids on California streets. Newman divided the group into two teams, and the game began.

Britton played the outfield on days he didn’t pitch, and he was standing in the outfield that day when Crow was at the plate. Newman was pitching, and Crow swung and hit it foul down the left field line.

“Everyone else peeled off,” Crow said. “But Zach kept running. He wanted to get the ball.”

Crow and Britton‘s other Canyon teammates say that was just Zach. He went all-out after everything. He always had.

“My dad had me play Pop Warner football one year,” Britton said. “He thought maybe I’d get some of the energy out by hitting people on defense.”

The light standard was just off the main field, on a berm that several players described as looking like the center field hill at Houston‘s Minute Maid Park. And it wasn’t just any light standard. It was huge, like something you might see on the side of a freeway.

“One of those monster light standards,” Britton said.

The ball kept going, and Britton did, too.

“I was watching the ball, the pole and Zach all coming together,” Crow said.

As they reconstructed later what they had seen, some of the kids figured Britton might have lost his balance as he ran up the berm chasing the ball. They all remember hearing the sound, although some at first thought it was the ball hitting the light standard.

It wasn’t the ball.

Britton went into the standard with enough force to fracture his skull and collarbone. He’s still not sure exactly where he hit, because there’s no scar (and no memory).

He hit the post, and then he hit the ground. And then he tried to get up.

“He got up, and he went right back down,” Elliott said. “It went from ‘ooh’ to ‘oh, wow’ to ‘I hope he’s all right.'”

Some of the players went right to Britton, who was screaming and covered in blood. Any touch brought on louder screams. Other players went to an elementary school across the street in search of ice bags. The park medics came quickly, and so did Britton‘s mother, Martha.

“I remember thinking this is bad,” Elliott said.

The Britton family was well-known in the Canyon High School baseball community. Zach’s older brothers, Clay and Buck, were both starting players on the varsity team, Martha Britton was active in the booster club, and Greg Britton helped get the field ready for games.

“We knew Zach was going to be all that and more,” said Adam Schulhofer, the varsity coach. “He was the best athlete in the program.”

Schulhofer wasn’t at Bouquet Canyon Park, but when Zach was at Henry Mayo Hospital, he went to visit.

“I went and saw him, and he was flanked on both sides by his parents and brothers,” Schulhofer remembered. “It may have been a little tense at the time, but luckily it all worked out.”

It was more than just a little tense.

“It was really one of the worst days of our lives,” Greg Britton told Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore Sun for a 2011 story. “When we were in the hospital, the doctors showed us his scans, and he had a bubble on his brain about the size of a quarter. They told us: ‘If this doesn’t go down in a day or so, we’re going to have to drill through his skull to relieve the pressure. And if we do that, it may affect his motor skills.’

“At that point, you just drop to your knees and start praying.”

Zach still remembers the look on his parents’ faces as the doctor spoke. He remembers doctors testing his ability to speak and his sense of taste.

“I remember them giving me math stuff to do,” he said. “I was just like, ‘I’m not good at math, anyway.'”

He could tell his left from his right and knew he was fortunate the broken collarbone was on his right side. The collarbone remained sore for a full year, but because he threw left-handed, he was able to return to pitching later that year.

Britton returned to Canyon High before the school year ended. His arm was in a sling and his neck was in a brace, but by then, doctors were confident he had avoided any serious damage to his brain.

His teammates were thrilled to see him but couldn’t resist one question: “What were you thinking going after that ball?”

“I don’t know,” Britton told them.

He knew one thing. He was lucky it wasn’t worse.

“I got pretty fortunate,” Britton said. “It could have been something pretty serious.”

The journey from hospital room to the title of baseball’s best closer wasn’t always smooth, but the obstacles had little to do with the injuries Britton suffered that day at Bouquet Canyon Park.

He was back to playing baseball later that year after the family moved from California to Texas. He was a third-round draft pick three years later and a highly rated prospect who made the Opening Day rotation in 2011 with the Orioles.

He had already shown off the signature sinker, a pitch Britton stumbled on in 2007 in Aberdeen, Maryland, when coach Calvin Maduro was trying to teach him to throw a cutter. Instead of cutting, the ball sank.

“It was doing the opposite of what we wanted it to do,” Britton said. “He said, ‘OK, well just keep doing it.’ Over the years, I started doing a few different things, throwing it harder.”

It seems a little funny now. The closer Britton is compared to the most is Rivera, who made his career throwing basically one pitch—a cutter he said appeared when he wasn’t trying to throw one.

Like Rivera with the New York Yankees, Britton struggled to find consistency as a starter. He was sent back down to the minor leagues in July 2011, and while he spent parts of the next two seasons in the Baltimore rotation, he also found himself pitching in Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2012, and at Norfolk again in 2013.

By the time the 2013 season ended, he was out of options and still without a guaranteed job. And just as spring training began, the Orioles spent $50 million on Ubaldo Jimenez, filling what had been the only open spot in the rotation.

But something else happened that winter, something that would have just as big an impact on Britton‘s career.

The Orioles hired Dave Wallace as their pitching coach and Dom Chiti as bullpen coach. Before their first spring training began, Wallace and Chiti flew to California to work with Britton and two other Orioles pitchers in person.

They had both watched Britton on video, and Chiti had seen him quite a few times in person while scouting for the Atlanta Braves. They met Britton at the baseball field at UC Irvine, and they brought along their ideas.

“It was let’s just go back to being simple again [with the delivery],” Britton said. “And they wanted me to only throw the sinker in the spring and focus on commanding it to both sides of the plate. They felt that was going to be the way to stay in the big leagues and be successful.”

It became more than that. The Orioles don’t think of Britton as a one-pitch pitcher, but since going to the bullpen, he has thrown the sinker more than 90 percent of the time.

He stayed in the big leagues. And he was so successful that he made back-to-back All-Star teams and has a chance to win the Cy Young Award.

When spring training began in 2014, the Orioles still weren’t sure what Britton would become or even what role he would fill. But Wallace and Chiti saw quickly he had picked up what they gave him.

“Zach bought it,” Chiti said. “He listened and made it his own. And halfway through spring training, it was like, ‘Here it comes!'”

Britton began the season in the bullpen, but not as the closer. The Orioles went with Tommy Hunter in the ninth inning. Britton was still thinking that if he pitched well enough, he’d get another chance at starting.

Instead, a month into the season, manager Buck Showalter made him the closer.

Showalter still wasn’t sure how it would work. Then came a sequence of games in late June.

Called on to protect a 3-1 lead at Yankee Stadium, Britton gave up a three-run, walk-off home run to Carlos Beltran. It wasn’t his first blown save, but it was the first really bad one.

They wondered how he would react. Here’s how: It was almost a month before Britton allowed another run.

When he converted his next save opportunity without trouble, Showalter turned to Wallace and said, “We may have something here.”

They had something, all right.

Britton converted 37 of 41 save opportunities that season and 36 of 40 in 2015. He still hasn’t missed one in 46 chances this year, and in 43 appearances between May 5 and Aug. 22, he didn’t allow a single earned run.

He’s almost certain to get votes for the Cy Young Award and probably for Most Valuable Player, as well. He’s unlikely to win either one, simply because many voters believe awards like that shouldn’t go to someone who appears in just 60-70 innings a season.

Showalter disagrees.

“You don’t think he’s valuable?” Showalter asked. “Try winning without him.”

There are other things Britton does that you don’t notice. Showalter talked about the work he has done on his defense, which is necessary because his sinker induces so many swinging bunts.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone improve as much defensively,” Showalter said.

Chiti talked about how much of a leader Britton has become in the bullpen.

“Zach does a lot of things to let the other guys in the bullpen know how important they are,” he said. “To me, that’s a sign of people who are better than good.”

As for Britton, he has found that the bullpen suits his personality in a way pitching out of the rotation never seemed to fit him.

The hidden truth is he always preferred hitting and that, as a kid, he was very good at it. Flint Wallace, who coached Britton at Weatherford High in Texas, said Britton was the best hitter he has ever coached.

“That’s what I wanted to do was hit,” Britton said. “I wasn’t completely sold on pitching. There’s something about being able to play every day that I really wanted to do.”

As a closer, he has found the next best thing. Unlike a starter who gets in a game once every five or six days, Britton has to be ready nearly every day.

He pitches one inning a night, but he can go all out. He’s always done that.

He did it as a kid, and he did it on that awful day at Bouquet Canyon Park. No one else was going to keep chasing a foul ball in a simple game of over-the-line.

Zach Britton did it, and years later, the other kids who were there that day say they’ll never forget it.

The memories come back, and because it all worked out, they don’t try to suppress them. They think of Britton, and then they see an Orioles game or an All-Star Game, and there he is.

“Every time I see him on TV, I think, ‘We almost killed the kid,'” Crow said. “Now look at him.”

Now look at him. He’s the best closer in baseball, with the best pitch in baseball.

It is a real miracle.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Zach Britton Can Be MLB’s First AL Cy Young Reliever Since 1992

Someone is going to win the 2016 American League Cy Young Award. That much we know.

After that, things get messy.

The Junior Circuit is flush with very good starting pitchers, solid starting pitchers and serviceable starting pitchers. But there isn’t that guythe one with consistently dominant results and eye-popping stats across the board.

Notice we said “starting pitcher.” Paging Zach Britton.

It has been more than two decades since an AL reliever won the Cy Young. The Oakland Athletics‘ Dennis Eckersley did it in 1992 and grabbed an MVP trophy as well.

Now, the Baltimore Orioles‘ Britton has a chance to break the streak.

He might not be the unequivocal front-runner, simply because it’s so unusual for bullpen arms to score any hardware. (We’re not counting consolation prizes such as the now-defunct Rolaids Relief Man Award.)

At the moment, however, Britton’s case is compelling. 

Entering play Tuesday, he owns an absurd 0.54 ERA. He’s struck out 59 in 50 innings while yielding 16 walks and 25 hits. He’s surrendered one home run all season, and opponents are hitting .145 against him.

He even has a shot at breaking Eric Gagne’s all-time single-season saves streak of 55. Britton is a perfect 37-for-37 in saves so far with 45 games remaining. When Gagne set the mark with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, he became the last reliever to win a Cy Young.

Even if Britton doesn’t catch Gagne, he’s enjoying a season for the ages. 

He’s doing it, as FanGraphs’ Corinne Landrey noted Aug. 11, with a diabolically straightforward approach:

Britton has built upon the extraordinarily successful formula he’s developed in recent years: destroying opponents with an entirely unfair mid-90s sinker. He’s using the pitch more than 90% of the time for the third consecutive season and the whiff and ground-ball rates illustrate why. According to the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards, Britton’s sinker is generating a league-leading 40.3% whiff/swing rate — Jeurys Familia‘s sinker is a distant second at 28.3% whiff/swing — while the ground-ball rate on the pitch also leads the league at 80%.

“He just doesn’t give in,” manager Buck Showalter said of his ninth-inning weapon on Aug. 4, per Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun. “He knows who he is.”

OK, here’s where we unfurl the wet blanket. If you go by wins above replacement, Britton faces an uphill battle.

Britton’s 1.8 fWAR is tied for No. 34 on the AL leaderboard. It’s the nature of the stat. Starters log more innings. They have more chances to do things that help their teams win games. 

However, Britton isn’t even the top reliever by fWAR. The New York Yankees‘ Dellin Betances (2.7), Houston Astros‘ Chris Devenski (1.9) and Cleveland Indians‘ Andrew Miller (1.8) have him matched or beaten.

Of course, WAR isn’t the only measure of a player’s value. And it’s certainly not always predictive in awards races.

According to ESPN.com‘s MLB Cy Young Predictor—which is based on a formula created by Rob Neyer and famed statistician Bill James—Britton is the second-most likely candidate to claim the prize, behind the Toronto Blue Jays‘ J.A. Happ.

Here’s a look at the eight AL starters who made ESPN.com’s top 10 (in ranking order) and their stats so far:

Chris Sale and Corey Kluber boast the highest strikeout totals. Kluber, in particular, jumps out as the fWAR leader and a guy who’s pitching for a postseason contender. Aaron Sanchez, Happ and Cole Hamels sport sub-3.00 ERAs. And Steven Wright has the knuckleball novelty factor.

Again, though, there isn’t any starter who’s in the midst of a monster seasonno one who’s set to blow past 200 innings with a minuscule ERA. Fair or not, those are the benchmarks voters often use.

In a way, with so many starters bunched together in that strong-to-solid range, Britton could benefit from being a reliever. At least it distinguishes him from the pack. And the O’s are in the playoff mix.

This race will be won or lost on what happens in the season’s final month-plus. If Kluber, Sale or anyone else reels off a crazy streak of shutdown starts and mixes in a no-hitter, that could be the difference.

Likewise, all it will take is one or two rough outings to blow up Britton’s ERA and his award chances. So far, though, rough outings haven’t been in his lexicon.

Someone is going to win the AL Cy Young. For the first time since the dawn of the Bill Clinton administration, that someone could hail from the bullpen.


All statistics current as of Aug. 15 and courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Zach Britton Injury: Updates on Orioles Pitcher’s Ankle and Return

Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton suffered an ankle injury in the Orioles’ 8-7 loss Saturday to the Chicago White Sox, per ESPN.com

Continue for updates.

Britton Nearing Return to Mound

Tuesday, May 3

Britton left after fielding a bunt by White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton:

On Sunday, he said the ankle had improved, but he remained in a walking boot, per ESPN.com:

I think I’d be surprised if I had to go on the [disabled list]… It feels pretty good compared to yesterday, how it feels this morning, but it’s still some tenderness in there and obviously I’m not walking great. I think you’ve got to walk fine before I can even start pitching again. Hopefully, it’s just a few days and I can maybe throw a bullpen or something, or at least run on it and see how it feels.

It looks as though the left-hander will get his wish after MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli reported the results of an MRI showed only inflammation in his injured ankle. Ghiroli added he’ll start playing catch Tuesday with the goal of returning within the week.

Britton had big shoes to fill when he assumed ninth-inning duties in 2014. Jim Johnson saved a combined 101 games between 2012 and 2013, leading the league in both seasons. Replicating that success would be hard enough for the most experienced reliever, let alone somebody who made two appearances out of an MLB bullpen to that point in his career.

The 28-year-old subsequently recorded 37 saves in 2014 and 36 a year ago. It might be a stretch to call Britton an elite closer, but he has brought stability and consistency to the Orioles bullpen:

Baltimore will need Britton to continue delivering in 2016 if it hopes to make the playoffs coming out of what should be an even better American League East.

Darren O’Day blew the save in Saturday’s game after replacing Britton, but he’ll likely handle any ninth-inning duties until Britton returns. O’Day has been an excellent setup man since arriving in Baltimore in 2012, and during that time, he has saved 12 games.

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Baltimore Orioles: Injured Birds Who Will Make the Team Even Stronger

The Baltimore Orioles‘ fantastic start to the season is even more surprising when one considers the injuries they have had, but with several key players set to return sooner rather than later the Orioles could improve on their already impressive record.

A few players the Orioles were counting on to have big seasons have yet to even suit up for Baltimore this summer. Other key contributors started the season healthy but ran into problems early.

It doesn’t really matter when they got hurt but one thing is clear, the O’s are winning without them so who knows how good they can be with them.

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MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Mark Trumbo Bursts onto the Scene

The Grapefruit and Cactus circuits are both well underway and prospects all over the league are starting to establish themselves while others have watched their stock slip.

With the spring training schedule at its halfway point, the time to impress coaches and management is now for many of these youngsters. With roughly three weeks to go until teams head north for the summer months, many of the prospects listed below have very limited time to unseat the seasoned veterans ahead of them on the depth chart and onto your fantasy baseball team.

Lets take a look at who made big moves this week and others that fell off.

1) Jeremy Hellickson – TB  (LW:1)

The young Rays flamethrower maintains his firm grasp on the top spot this week. Hellickson finally made his first appearance of the spring on Friday, tossing a perfect inning against the Pirates. With a nagging hamstring injury seemingly behind him, the young lefty can really start to lay a nice foundation for himself over the next few weeks and instill some trust from the coaching staff. The plan is to stretch him out over the next couple starts with the ultimate goal of having him ready to take a spot in the rotation once the season begins. Whether that be as the 5th starter or something higher in the rotation remains to be seen.

2)   Kyle Drabek – Tor  (LW:2)

Drabek is really coming into his own early on in the spring and has many in the organization incredibly excited about this youngster’s future. Over his first six innings of the grapefruit league campaign, Drabek has retired seven batters via punch-out and only allowed two earned runs. He has also yet to walk a batter in those first six innings, which lends credence to early scouting reports that claimed he would have excellent control of his arsenal.

3)   Freddie Freeman – Atl  (LW:3)

The young man expected to hold down first base for the Braves and possibly your fantasy baseball team this coming season also maintains his spot from last week. With a .364 average in his first five games this spring, Freeman looks more than capable of handling everything that might come his way in his rookie season. The 21 year old Freeman has also compiled three doubles and four RBI already this spring and has dispelled any doubts he wont be ready to assume his role on a team with championship aspirations.

4)   Mark Trumbo – LAA  (LW:NR)

Bursting onto the scene this spring with numbers that just cant be ignored is this young slugger who is tearing up the cactus league. Trumbo has already mashed four homeruns in his first 36 at-bats with 11 RBI to boot. He does have the propensity to strike out with alarming regularity and still needs to establish his defense, but he could still force his way into the lineup with his hot start. With Kendrys Morales uncertain to return to the Angels lineup for opening day, Trumbo may make it very difficult for manager Mike Sciosca to leave him behind in Arizona.

5)   Jake McGee – TB  (LW:4)

A slight drop for McGee this week, but make no mistake about the fact that he still looks poised to steal the closers gig away from a group of established veterans this spring. He has yet to allow a run over his first four innings this spring and his ratios have some people in the organization ready to anoint him the go-to guy in the 9th. McGee has yet to issue a walk this spring which is a good sign for a guy trying to lock down one of the most vital spots on any major league roster.

6)   Zach Britton – Bal  (LW:9)

Another young gun who has made great strides this spring is Zach Britton. Britton has yet to allow a run his first five spring innings and has looked incredibly sharp in doing so. The impressive young lefty hasn’t been blowing people away with fastballs this spring and instead has taken this time to learn how to effective locate all his other plus pitches. He was originally slated to begin the season down in AAA, but if he continues to show out like this he may very well be a part of this young and talented Orioles squad after all.

7)   Danny Espinosa – Was  (LW:6)

Espinosa is still in a heated battle to make the Nationals opening day roster, but at this point it may be a foregone conclusion. His .407 average in 27 at-bats this spring has been unexpected and he is unlikely to continue that pace. On the other hand, his 2 homeruns and 11 RBI are very real and exactly what Washington figured they were going to get when they gave him the chance to win the second base gig. Expect this prospect to break camp with the big boys and hold down his spot for the foreseeable future.

8)   Lonnie Chisenhall – Cle  (LW:NR)

Here is a name to file away and keep tabs on. Lonnie Chisenhall faces an uphill battle to wrestle away the third base job from one of the mediocre holdovers presently found there, but hes making a strong case. His defense still needs to show improvement, but his bat has been rather impressive already. With 11 hits in his first 23 at-bats and a couple long balls his bat has proven to be quite potent. Like any young prospect he will need to show a bit more plate discipline going forward, but there is no doubt the talent is there.

9)   Madison Bumgarner – SF  (LW:NR)

I was hesitant to include Bumgarner in this discussion since he is no longer eligible for the rookie of the year award after hurling 100+ innings last season, but facts are facts and this kid is legit. Many in the Giants organization are hoping he takes his new appointment as a full time member of the rotation and runs with it. Expecting him to slot right into the third spot in the rotation behind Lincecum and Cain is not far fetched by any means. Bumgarner has the arsenal and the makeup to bulldog his way through an entire MLB season with ease. This young power pitcher is ready to shine and he plans to do just that beginning this season.

10)   Michael Pineda – Sea  (LW:7)

I left Pineda just inside the top 10 this week despite a shaky outing last week against the Indians. He still has some fairly inspiring numbers early in the spring with some real nice peripherals, but will need to show more consistency quickly in order to break camp with the parent club. Pineda will be given a few more starts to show he belongs and the Mariners are hoping he flashes the dominance many in the organization knew he possessed when they drafted him out of the Dominican back in 2006.

Dropped Out:  Chris Sale (CHW), Domonic Brown (Phi), Desmond Jennings (TB)

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