Orioles closer Zach Britton could return to the mound as a starter in 2018, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com says. Britton suffered an unexpected setback earlier this week after rupturing his right Achilles tendon and will likely spend between 4-8 months recovering from surgery. How that affects his marketability as a trade chip remains to be seen, but Kubatko notes that the team is highly unlikely to release him before he hits free agency next year and might consider reassigning him to the rotation, pending a full recovery.
Britton, 30, got his start with the Orioles as a starting pitcher back in 2011. Over three seasons, he racked up an 18-17 record in 46 starts and a 4.86 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 in 250 innings. By 2014, the southpaw had made a full conversion to the bullpen, where he assumed the closing role and quickly became one of the club’s most valuable relievers.
Given Britton’s history of injuries, including the latest blow to his Achilles, the Orioles may not want to put additional strain on his right leg by increasing his workload when he returns next summer. Still, Kubatko insists that the possibility of converting the left-hander back to the rotation is one that has been floated by the team in recent months and one that Britton “wasn’t adamant about resisting,” though it’s clearly not the role he’d prefer. For the time being, however, the Orioles are more likely to focus their efforts on retaining Britton and may even be entertaining the idea of an extension for the oft-injured closer.
ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.
After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”
Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.
Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.
For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.