BALTIMORE -- The Orioles' farm system, which has churned out the likes of budding stars Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz in recent years, still has some top talent left. Starting pitcher Zach Britton and shortstop Manny Machado were both honored as part of MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects, ranked 19th and 24th, respectively, in Tuesday night's unveiling aired live on MLB Network.
Britton, the organization's top pitching prospect and its Minor League Pitcher of the Year last year, went 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in his first 15 starts at Double-A Bowie. After being promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, he went 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 12 starts with the Tides. This spring, the 23-year-old will be in big league Spring Training for the first time.
A sinkerball specialist who has gained improved command of his changeup, Britton was the third-best lefty listed by MLB.com, behind only Aroldis Chapman (Reds) and Mike Montgomery (Royals). Although it's unlikely Britton, a third-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, will start the 2011 season in the Orioles' rotation, he should make his Major League debut at some point during the year.
Machado, the top shortstop on MLB.com's list, is one of the youngest prospects, but he has considerable promise. Selected by the Orioles with the third overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, Machado was considered one of three standout talents, and he received a $5.25 million signing bonus, the second-largest figure -- trailing only Wieters -- in franchise history.
A 6-foot-2, 180-pound shortstop out of Brito Private High School in Miami, Machado has drawn raves for his smooth footwork, quick hands and solid arm strength. A right-handed-hitter, Machado batted .639 (55-for-86) with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs in his senior season for Brito, and in 2009, he helped lead USA Baseball's 18 and Under team to a gold medal in Venezuela in the Pan American Junior Championship.
Given his late signing, Machado appeared in just nine games, finishing the season with short-season Class A Aberdeen, but he should get an opportunity to start at a full-season affiliate in 2011. In an organization sparse on middle-infield prospects, Machado is a bright spot that some project could be in Baltimore as early as 2012.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.