The first month of the MLB season hasn’t been what Orioles fans expected, but last night Chris Tillman provided some excitement—and hope. Facing the Gwinnett Braves, the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, Tillman struck out six batters, walked just one, threw 63 of his 105 pitches for strikes, and gave up zero hits.
Before the season Tillman was expected by most to be in the Orioles starting rotation. Following an average spring notable for his lack of control he did not make the opening day roster. Starting in the minors was seen as a slight setback and left a question of when Tillman would be called up to the big club. After three starts to begin the season Tillman’s ERA sat at 8.38, and some fans were quick to wonder if he would ever reach his top prospect hype.
Relax. Wannabe General Managers shouldn’t be so quick to give up or trade him after three starts. The Orioles have been pitching-starved over the past decade, watching top pitching prospects fail. Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn, Daniel Cabrera, Radhames Liz—just some pitching prospects over the past handful of years that O’s fans desired to help turn the franchise into a winner again. I understand the skepticism after watching a farm system churn out busts, but to already write off or dream up trades for a young pitcher with this talent is just ridiculous.
Tillman turned only 22 exactly two weeks ago, is pitching in Triple-A, and made some impressive starts last year in Baltimore at the age of 21. He pitches around his fastball, and has been working on adding a cutter to his repertoire. While no longer technically a prospect, he was ranked as the Orioles number two prospect by Baseball America heading into last year ahead of Brian Matusz and behind only Matt Wieters. We all see how Matusz is pitching so far, and I think Tillman can be almost as good. Last night he showed his potential to be a fine pitcher, and will fit in nicely behind the ace Matusz in the Orioles rotation for the future.