The Orioles list is strong at the top but begins to taper off quickly after the Top 4 players. The system boasts a fair bit of up-the-middle position talent (especially in the outfield) and strong pitching. There were another three or four prospects that could have easily slide into the 11-15 range and just narrowly missed the list.
There’s not much to be said about Bundy that hasn’t already been written about a hundred times. Just 19 in 2012, he carved through the minors and reached the majors in his first full pro season. Bundy possesses mid-to-high-90s velocity on his fastball and he also features a plus changeup and a curveball that shows plus potential. He also has a cutter that he hasn’t thrown much as a pro.
I asked a scout familiar with Bundy about the other aspects of the young phenom’s game. “His mechanics are clean and he’s a good athlete with very good body control which allows him to repeat his delivery for solid-average to plus command and he’s got a good feel for what he’s doing,” the talent evaluator said. “His make-up is off the chart. He’s the most driven and focused young man that I’ve every seen and he’s a good character guy. As far as what Dylan needs to work on. I would say he needs to refine his repertoire and learn the finer points to using his pitches.”
The fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft, Bundy made just three starts above A-ball in 2012 so he could return to double-A or triple-A in 2013. With three potentially-plus pitches and plus make-up, Bundy has true No. 1 starter potential. Only an injury appears capable of derailing this once-in-a-generation talent.
A top amateur talent since his high school days, Gausman went fourth overall to the Baltimore Orioles during the 2012 amateur draft. The Louisiana State University alum made just five regular season appearances after signing but also appeared in the double-A playoffs. The right-hander features a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a plus changeup. His breaking ball still needs work but it should become at least an average pitch.
He has a nice frame for a pitcher and is athletic, which helps him field his position. Gausman, 22, could open 2013 in high-A ball to shield him from the colder, rainier weather in the Eastern League but should reach double-A in short order. He could be in the majors, with fellow top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy, by the end of the season. The pair could form a dangerous 1-2 punch at the top of the Orioles’ starting rotation for years to come and will hopefully make up for some of the failed pitching prospects of the recent past.
Schoop, 21, is a promising offensive player, although his numbers may not suggest it. The young infielder has been pushed aggressively through the system and spent the 2012 season in double-A. He hit just .245 with 103 strikeouts in 124 games. He shows raw power but has yet to fully tap into it in game situations.
The Curacao native is a natural shortstop but he was shifted to second base in deference to Manny Machado, who is now manning third base at the big league level. Schoop moved back to shortstop after Machado was promoted to Baltimore but is probably a long-term third baseman. He didn’t hit well in double-A but a solid Arizona Fall League performance — if followed up with a good spring — could open the season in triple-A. Schoop should be ready to permanently join Machado in Baltimore in 2014.
A projectable southpaw with plus velocity, Rodriguez has the highest ceiling in the organization behind the big three at the top of this list. His first full-season assignment came in 2012 as a teenager and he made improvements by leaps and bounds.
The Venezuela native showed above-average command for his age and experience level but his command still needs work and that, along with improved secondary pitches, will help his strikeout rate increase over time. His fastball sits in the 89-94 mph range and his second-best offering is his slider but the changeup is not too far behind. Rodriguez should spend most of 2013 in high-A ball and is a step or two behind fellow pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
A 2008 third round draft pick, Hoes reached the majors for the first time in his pro career and split the minor league system between double-A and triple-A. The 22-year-old prospect also appeared in the Arizona Fall League. He makes excellent contact, has patience and uses the whole field. He has speed but is still learning the nuances of base running.
A former second baseman, Hoes made 130 starts in the outfield in 2012 and played all three spots. If he doesn’t stick as a full-time player, then the Washington, DC native could end up as super-sub capable of handling both second base and third base, as well as the outfield. There isn’t a spot for Hoes in the O’s starting outfield and there also likely isn’t a spot on the bench so he should head back to triple-A until an opportunity arises.
When he was drafted, it looked like Delmonico might become a left-handed hitting catching prospect but he balked at the move and spent 2012 playing on the right side of the infield. He doesn’t have the pure actions to be more than an average second baseman and it remains to be seen if he’ll develop enough in-game power to be an impact player at first base.
He held his own in A-ball during his pro debut in 2012, although he struggled to hit for average before going on the disabled list with a knee injury. He appeared in just one game after July. Delmonico will likely move up to high-A ball in 2013 and should spend most, if not all, of the season there. He could arrive in Baltimore around 2015 and looks like a future average corner infielder.
After nabbing Kevin Gausman (Louisiana State U) with their first pick of the 2012 draft, the club went back and grabbed another promising college arm in Kline. The University of Virginia alum has a projectable frame and spent time as a reliever in college so he’s a little more of a project if he’s going to continue to develop as a starter.
The right-hander and Maryland native made just four starts after signing but showed off his 89-94 mph fastball and promising slider. His changeup remains a work-in-progress. His delivery has been tweaked in an effort to get him on top of the ball more and help him induce more ground-ball outs.
Kline, 21, will move up some short-season ball to A-ball in 2013. It’s possible that he could skip over Delmarva and head directly to high-A Frederick, where he grew up. Either way, he’s about three years away from reaching the majors with his overall ceiling being a No. 3 or 4 starter or high-leverage reliever.
A former second round draft pick out of Georgia, Avery was aggressively pushed through the Orioles system despite modest results at each level. He’s an impressive athlete but the left-handed hitter is still somewhat raw after five seasons in pro ball.
His best tool is his plus speed but he still approaches the game like a power hitter, at times. He needs to improve his pitch recognition and make more contact. He also still has polishing to do on his base running and he gets thrown out too often while trying to steal bases. His best skill right now is his defense in center field and he’s likely to end up as a fourth outfielder.
Avery has a chance to break camp on the Orioles’ big league bench but, at the age of 23, he’s more likely headed back for more seasoning at the triple-A level.
A personal favorite of mine, Davis moves up a bit from his No. 12 ranking on last year’s list. The speedy outfielder split 2012 between two A-ball levels flashing his potential but also showing that he still has a fair bit of work to do.
A scout I spoke with said Davis’ blazing speed was the first thing that he noticed when he saw the prospect play. “His speed was the biggest and best tool I saw and liked… We had him anywhere from 4.00 to 4.15 down the line from the Right side as an amateur. That combined with a lean athletic body that had room for strength were the biggest things. But I also saw a guy with average arm strength and some feel to hit.”
Davis could develop into a solid fourth outfielder but he has a chance to become a regular outfielder thanks to his speed. He’ll likely move up to double-A in 2013 and there are a few guys ahead of him on the depth chart — L.J. Hoes, Xavier Avery — so there is no need to rush him.
Added the scout, “I think he just needs to refine all aspects of his game and continue to gain experience playing the game which will help with his instincts at the plate, on the bases, and in the outfield. Number one, he needs to work on his swing and pitch recognition and make more consistent hard contact. He also needs to continue to improve his defense, but he has made great strides…”
Although he doesn’t get a lot of press, Wright is one of the better arms in the Orioles system and reached double-A in 2012. The right-hander also pitched in the Arizona Fall League but struggled in seven starts. He looked like a future reliever when he was drafted out of college in 2011 but he’s make significant strides as a starter in pro ball over the past two years.
Wright has a strong pitcher’s frame and does a solid job of getting a downward plane on his pitches, which helps him induce ground-ball outs. He’s also improving his secondary pitches — a slider and changeup — which should help him induce more strikeouts. His fastball sits in the low-90s and touches the mid-90s. Wright, 23, should return to the double-A level in 2013 but he could see triple-A — and even the majors — later in the season. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Originally pegged as a guy that would follow through on his commitment to the University of Miami, the Orioles got a feel for the Florida native’s signability and popped him in the third round. He’s not flashy in the field but Marin should be able to stick at shortstop thanks to solid range, an average arm and good actions.
Although he’s just 6’0”, Marin has some projection because he has such a slender frame. He has room to add muscle/weight to his frame, which could help improve his gap power, although he’ll never hit for much power. His game needs to be built around his above-average speed and, as a result, he needs to keep his strikeouts in check. It would also be nice to see him be a little more patience.
Despite making his debut as a teenager, Baltimore challenged him with a late-season promotion from rookie ball to A-ball. He will likely return to that level in 2013 but should spend the whole season with Delmarva in the South Atlantic League.
Baseball is a funny game. The Orioles have arguably gotten more value out of Berry — the club’s 50th (and final) round selection of the 2009 draft — than any other pick in that draft, including first rounder Matt Hobgood. In fairness, though, Berry was a promising high school pitcher who hurt his elbow before the draft and had a strong commitment to the University of Oregon. The organization was able to sway him to sign a pro contract with a $125,000 bonus.
Berry, 21, pitched at two A-ball levels in 2012 and finished the year with a September start at double-A. He will likely return to that level in 2013. The California native features an average fastball in the 87-92 mph range and flashes a curveball with plus potential. His changeup should be at least average. Berry needs to improve his consistency, as well as his command and control. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter and has projection remaining.
A 26th-round draft pick out of an Arizona high school in 2011, Davies was given an above-slot contract to forego his college commitment. The undersized right-hander is athletic and also played shortstop in high school so he hasn’t focused entirely on pitching for that long.
He shows average fastball velocity but features a four-pitch mix (slider, curveball, changeup) and works down in the zone, which helps him induce a large number of ground balls. Davies started out the 2012 in the bullpen in A-ball but moved into the starting rotation in May and pitched quite well.
Davies will move up to high-A ball in 2013 and will need to add some weight to his slender frame if he’s going to hold up to a starter’s workload. He could end up being a swing man at the big league level but he could develop into a very useful arm if he can stay healthy and continue to make adjustments.
Bridwell, 21, is one of my favorite arms in the Orioles organization but, like too many pitchers in the system, has struggled to realize his potential. A Texan with an impressive pitcher’s frame, the right-hander posted a 5.98 ERA in 22 A-ball starts. He struggled mightily with his fastball command in 2012 and also needs to tighten up his control.
Bridwell is still working to improve his secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup. A scout I spoke with sees potential in the young pitcher. “This kid is only going to get better with time. He has a projectable frame that is going to get stronger and with some delivery polish has a chance to be a mid-90s guy with two solid-average secondary pitches,” he said. “His biggest issues so far have been with being consistent with his delivery. He’s young and is still growing into his body and he needs some time to refine his delivery and build up his arm strength.”
He’ll probably receive every opportunity to start but Bridwell may end being better suited to the bullpen as a late-game reliever who can focus on two pitches. He might be given a change to move up to high-A ball in 2013, if he looks OK in spring training. Bridwell has a low floor, but a high ceiling.
Johnson was an important contributor late in the season during Baltimore’s surprising 2012 run. He was a swing man for the club — appearing in 12 games, including four starts. His overall numbers were skewed by some extreme good luck (check out the BABIP and strand rate) but also shows potential as a valuable bottom-of-the-rotation starter or swing man going forward.
Johnson is a right-hander with fringe-average fastball velocity but he manipulated it well during his MLB debut. Overall, though, his command and control are both in the need of further improvement. His fastball works up in the zone too often, leading to a very high fly-ball rate during his MLB debut and throughout his career. His best pitch is a plus changeup that comes out of his hand looking just like his fastball but is 8-10 mph slower. He also features both a slider and curveball. The slider flashes at least average potential.
There is a lot of modest-ceiling pitching depth on the Orioles roster but Johnson has a good shot at making the opening day roster based on the strength of his 2012 season, as well as his ability to come out of the bullpen or make some starts.