Zach Britton, LHP
BNH Prospect Rank: #18
Overall (61): B+
MLB Comparison: Jarrod Washburn
The Orioles drafted Zachary Britton in the third round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. Now three years later, the Orioles have just added Britton to the Major League 40-Man Roster. Since being drafted, Britton has made two All-Star teams, has pitched in a Futures Game (2010) and has seen his stock rise radically. Now considered one of the top left-handed pitchers outside of the big leagues, Britton is poised to make his Orioles debut this Spring, and could even find a spot in the team’s rotation.
Strengths: (2-Seam Fastball, Slider, Pitching Intelligence)
Britton’s sinking fastball has developed in to one of the best pitches in the minor leagues. His two-seamer features great sink and arm-side tail, and he throws it comfortably between 90-93 mph. He uses the pitch to generate tons of groundouts, and he posted a near three-to-one groundout/fly-out ratio in 2010. While his fastball is known for its movement, he can throw his two seamer as high as 93-94 mph at times, and can fire his four-seamer in the mid 90s when he needs to.
Beyond his plus-plus sinker, Britton has also developed a plus slider with good tilt, sitting firmly in the mid 80s. He uses his slider to neutralize lefties, and can back-door it against righties when he needs to.
Britton’s command and control have developed from a weakness in to a strong point. After working on smoothing out his delivery and spotting his fastballs, Britton has above-average command of all of his pitches, and he pounds the zone with hard sinkers from the beginning of his starts until the late innings. He’s a smart pitcher, and he can modify his pitching approach from inning to inning , batter to batter, smoothly.
Weaknesses: (Changeup, Average Command, Small Repertoire)
While his ceiling isn’t that of Brian Matusz or even Chris Tillman, Britton is a well-rounded pitcher with few weaknesses. His changeup is new to his game-repertoire and he has spent much of the past two seasons improving the pitch. It lags well behind his other offerings, but with more improvement, it should become an MLB-average, or at least a reliable third-offering.
Britton’s a smart pitcher and is comfortable on the mound. He’s improved his efficiency while avoiding home runs as he’s climbed the Orioles’ system, but his overall command isn’t any better than Major League average. He maintains his control well but his mechanics can still cause his command to waiver. He employs a somewhat violent finish to his delivery, and can run in to trouble spotting his moving pitches; this could become a more serious issue in the MLB if he doesn’t develop a more reliable changeup.
Overall: Although some scouts still believe Britton’s future resides in the back-end of an MLB bullpen, he’ll look to prove his remaining doubters wrong with another strong showing in 2010—probably spending a large chunk of the season with the Orioles. His power sinker, plus slider, and his general well-roundedness will make him a very reliable pitcher in the MLB, and he has the chance to develop in to a good American League number-two or number-three starter. While his repertoire is similar to former Oakland Athletic’s starter, Mark Mulder, his build isn’t nearly as hulking. If he reaches his ceiling he could be the Orioles version of Jarrod Washburn. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll at least be a nice set-up man.