Pre-season rank: 6
The Orioles took a major gamble with their first-round pick in last year's draft, when they tabbed California right-hander Matt Hobgood.
Yeah, Hobgood was the Gatorade National Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of A-Rod, Justin Upton, Rick Porcello, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Casey Kotchman. And yeah, he posted an 11-1 record and a 0.92 ERA, striking out 101 batters in only 68.1 innings of work. And on top of that, he also knocked 21 home runs while batting .475 as Norco High's slugging first-baseman. Yet, somehow, there was still concern in baseball's inner circles that Hobgood was a dreaded "money pick."
And if Hobgood didn't have enough going against him, check out the pitchers who were taken along with him in the top ten: Stephen Strasburg (already one of the top five pitchers in the majors), Mike Leake (went straight from college to the big leagues), Mike Minor (one of the best pitchers left in the minors), Drew Storen (already in the bigs). The only two others who haven't set the world on fire are Zack Wheeler, who was chosen for the Future's Game, and Jacob Turner, the Tigers top prospect.
The Orioles, however, stand by their conviction that Hobgood was the most big league ready high school arm available, and that he has the capability to be an innings-eating number three starter. And after a rough start to the year, it looks like Hobgood might finally be settling into pro ball.
Hobgood posted decent enough numbers in April (a 4.57 ERA with a .215 average against), but struggled in May (4.70 ERA and 17 walks in 30.2 innings). His June wasn't too much better as he lost both starts before being shut down with shoulder tendinitis.
Now Hobgood is back, and presumably healthy, and the Orioles are trying to ease him back into things. He went three innings in his first start, allowing one run on three hits. His next outing saw him go one inning longer, giving up just two hits and an unearned run. He only issued one walk over the seven combined innings, so maybe he's finally starting to show the command that he hasn't necessarily had this year.
Hobgood is an easy target for O's fans, who were completely thrown for a loop when the team called his name on draft day, but you can't forget the fact that he hasn't even turned 20 yet, and he's pitching in low-A ball.
That in itself is quite impressive.