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Minor League Week in Review

Minor League Week in Review

Admit it. You hear the words "Baltimore Orioles prospect" and you immediately think "Matt Wieters."

But the Orioles' catcher of the future, currently sidelined with a "tight" hamstring at Triple-A Norfolk but expected back shortly, isn't the only top prospect in the system.

The organization is deep with upper-level pitchers who should be pairing up with Wieters before long. And with the big league staff sporting a 6.49 ERA through April 18 and their five starters combining for an 8.10 mark, it may not be as long as you think before we see some of them.

Here's a brief look at '09s hot starters:

At Norfolk (Triple-A):

Chris Tillman, RHP: Acquired from Seattle in late 2007 in the deal for southpaw Erik Bedard, the just-turned-21-year-old has a 2.25 ERA and has fanned nine in eight innings, limiting International League hitters to a .179 average. In his season debut he tossed four innings of no-hit ball.

David Hernandez, RHP: Hernandez's 166 strikeouts in 141 innings at Bowie last summer ranked second in the Minors, as he posted a 2.68 ERA for the Baysox. He struck out nine over 4 2/3 innings of two-hit ball in his season debut with a 2.08 ERA in two starts and 15 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings so far. His 15.58 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in the Minors in the early going.

At Bowie (Double-A):

Jake Arrieta, RHP: The fifth-round pick in 2007, who won the Advanced A Carolina League ERA title last summer with a 2.87 at Frederick, has allowed one earned run in nine innings in his first two starts at Bowie, fanning 12.

Brandon Erbe, RHP: A local product taken in the third round of 2005 out of high school in Baltimore also has a 1.00 ERA in his first two starts, allowing one hit over nine innings for an .034 average against, best in the Minors.

Troy Patton, LHP: Acquired from Houston in the deal for Miguel Tejada, he missed all of 2008 with a shoulder injury but opened 2009 with 11 shutout innings including a six-inning stint on April 16 in which he fanned six without walking a batter.

At Frederick (Class A Advanced):

Brian Matusz, LHP: The club's top pick and fourth player selected overall last summer out of San Diego, he has struck out 10 in nine innings in his pro debut with the Keys and should be at Bowie before long.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Iowa Cubs first baseman Jake Fox didn't sulk when he was dispatched to the Minors out of Spring Training. He simply made it a point to show the parent club why they should think about bringing him back. The former catcher, who moved to the outfield in 2007 and over to first this spring, was leading the Minors in nearly every offensive category.

He'd hit safely in all 10 of his games so far, with a string of five multi-hit games in a row through April 18. Hitting .488, he led the Minors in homers (six), RBIs (20), total bases (44), slugging (1.073) and hits (20). His plate patience had increased as well. After drawing just two walks in 117 at-bats after his promotion to Iowa late last summer, he already had four in 41 at-bats this spring.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: With three teams still undefeated through a week and a half of Minor League action, we'll give the nod to the defending International League champion Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Manager Dave Miley's crew were certainly outperforming their big league brethren, blasting out to a 10-0 start in which they outscored their opponents 79-33.

The team's offensive leader has been Cuban-born first baseman Juan Miranda who was the first IL Player of the Week of the season and was batting .361 with three homers and 13 RBIs. The club lost him for a day when he was summoned to New York as insurance for hobbling outfielder Hideki Matsui but Miranda returned to the club a day later to take the roster spot of reliever Anthony Claggett who was called up to make his big league debut.

Also worth noting were the Visalia Rawhide, the Diamondbacks' entry in the Class A Advanced California League (10-0) and the Fort Wayne TinCaps (9-0), the Padres' Midwest League club. Both teams took on new names this season (having been the Oaks and the Wizards respectively).

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT: It was a rough first week for injuries in the Minors, notably in the Double-A Southern League as two top prospects were lost for what look to be significant amounts of time.

Seattle shortstop prospect Carlos Triunfel of West Tenn (No. 30 on the MLB.com pre-season Top 50) is expected to miss the season after breaking his left fibula and damaging ankle ligaments sliding into second base on April 10, just his second game of the season. Triunfel, 19, underwent surgery on April 15 and is not expected to resume baseball activities for at least four months.

The news is a little better for Florida Marlins first base prospect Logan Morrison, last year's Florida State League MVP when he won the batting crown hitting .332 with 13 homers and 74 RBIs at Class A Advanced Jupiter. Morrison fractured a bone at the base of his thumb/wrist when he collided with a base runner, also on April 10, and initial reports suggest he could miss two months.

NOTES OF NOTE: RHP Alfredo Figaro of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) tossed seven innings of no-hit ball in a 3-0 win against Altoona (Pirates) and has opened the season with 12 2/3 shutout innings. ... RF Mike Bianucci of Hickory (Rangers) had a six-hit game including two homers and seven RBIs in the Crawdads' 16-6 win against Asheville (Rockies) April 17. ... SS Marcus Lemon, of Double-A Frisco (Rangers) was leading the Minors with a .586 average and a .613 on-base average. The 20-year-old son of former big league great Chet Lemon had hit safely in all eight games so far, including six multi-hit games. ... With the Yankees big league bullpen getting hit for a 7.50 combined ERA in 12 games, don't be surprised to see the call go out soon for closer-of-the-future RHP Mark Melancon. In four games at Scranton so far, he's allowed one hit in 7 1/3 innings, walking four and fanning 14.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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