It's been a long strange road, but the Orioles Top 30 prospects, my little "rip-off" of Baseball America's version, has finally come to a close.
And without a doubt, there is no better prospect to top it all off than Brian Matusz. Don't let those 45 innings he pitched last season fool you, the lanky lefty still qualifies as a rookie.
This means the Orioles have their first legit full-season Rookie of the Year contender since who knows how long.
Let the dissection of Matusz begin!
The last time the Orioles gave a Major League contract to a draft pick, his name was Adam Loewen. Clearly, that didn't work out.
Clearly, Matusz is an entirely different story.
Regarded as the most Major League ready pitcher in the 2008 draft, Matusz shot through the system and made his Major League debut less than one year after signing a $3.5 million ML deal.
Along his way to Baltimore, Matusz dominated hitters at High-A Frederick, limiting opponents to a .225 batting average. He struck out 75 in only 67 innings and had a top five ERA (2.16) in the Carolina League.
Upon his promotion to Double-A Bowie, Matusz shone even brighter. In only eight starts he compiled a 7-0 record and notched a complete game.
He struck out 46 batters in the same number of innings. And his ERA was a microscopic 1.55.
And if posting an 11-2 record, 1.91 ERA, and 121 strikeouts in only 113 innings wasn't enough, Matusz graduated to Baltimore, joining fellow pitchers Chris Tillman, Jason Berken, Brad Bergesen, and David Hernandez in making his big league debut.
While the results were mixed for most of that group, Matusz pitched well...as in well beyond his years.
He finished his eight game stint with a 5-2 record, an ERA in the mid four range (4.63), and an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio for a guy making most of his starts against teams with playoff hopes.
The O's eventually shut down both Matusz and Tillman, rewarding them with some much needed rest after long seasons for both.
The only thing more impressive than Matusz's statistics as a pro and college player are his tools.
Teammates will tell you he's one of the most intelligent individuals they've ever met. On the mound he is fearless.
He lets little things like home runs and men on base faze him little. And with his repertoire of pitches, why wouldn't he?
It all starts with his fastball, which he can run up to 95, but sits in the low 90s. When his fastball is on, which has been most of the time, Matusz can seem un-hittable.
He partners his fastball with a curveball which rates as a slightly above-average pitch, and a slider, which has the potential to be a well above- average pitch.
If you had to pick a go to pitch for Matusz, though, it would be his changeup. A true out pitch, Matusz will throw the change on any count, against any hitter, and most of the time it ends with a swing and a miss.
So far, Matusz's command has been spectacular. In the 158 combined innings that he pitched last year, he issued only 46 walks, compared to 159 strikeouts.
In case you hadn't noticed, Matusz is currently with the big league club in Sarasota, fighting for a spot in the rotation. He is pretty much assured a spot, most likely the third or fourth spot.
With Matusz and Tillman, the O's have the makings of the finest young duo in the game.
If both pitchers can produce 10 wins apiece, and provided Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie steady a oft-off kilter rotation, the O's could have a contender.
Either way, both figure to be in the rotation for a very long time.