February 15, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Baltimore Orioles Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “Two of us wearing raincoats, standing solo in the sun. You and me chasing paper, getting nowhere. We're on our way home. We're on our way home.”
The Top Ten
1. Dylan Bundy
What Happened in 2012: After signing, Bundy did things to Low-A hitters that would make the hardest of prisoners weep like school children.
Strengths: Elite combination of stuff and pitchability; plus-plus arm strength; excellent arm action; excellent delivery; from high ¾ slot, creates good plane; fastball is near elite pitch; works 94-98; explosive life; very easy; curveball has intense late bite/tight rotation; 12/6 shape; plus pitch; changeup comes from fastball arm; good deception; future plus pitch; best secondary pitch not used in minors; 8 potential cutter; devastating pitch; velo/late glove-side cut; feel for pitching; dangerous power arm.
Weaknesses: Good control, but command within the zone is still loose; needs to finish delivery and work down; curveball thrown for strikes, but often high in the zone; changeup is more deception than action; can get too firm.
Overall Future Potential: High 7; no. 1 starter
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; reached majors in first season; has arsenal and feel for the mound to be special.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to develop into one of the best arms in baseball, with all the numbers that come with that distinction.
The Year Ahead: There were a few sources that felt Bundy could have started his professional career at the major-league level and held his own, which is an insane outcome for a high school arm. Despite having little to prove in the minors, Bundy might have to crush a few more minor-league hopes and dreams before he gets the call back to the majors. Once he arrives in the rotation, he will be there to stay, with a potent combination of stuff, pitchability, and confidence, the latter being just as vital to his future success. Bundy is a stud, he knows he’s a stud, and pretty soon, major-league hitters will know as well. He will need to stay over the ball and work down, and the secondary stuff could use more refinement, but it’s not going to take long for Bundy to become must-see-MLB.tv.
Major league ETA: 2012
2. Kevin Gausman
What Happened in 2012: The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, many talent evaluators had Gausman rated as the top prospect available in the entire class.
Strengths: Excellent size/present strength; arm is very loose and live; fastball is plus-plus table-setter; can pound the zone at 93-97 mph; slider has plus potential; thrown with velocity and extremely sharp tilt; changeup can work plus; excellent arm speed with good arm-side fading action and some weight; efficient pitcher; can hold velocity.
Weaknesses: Still finding command over the slider; can overthrow; likes to challenge hitters up; more stuff than pitchability at present.
Overall Future Potential: 7; number two starter on a championship level team
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; limited professional experience; stuff to survive even if pitchability limits ultimate upside.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to develop into a high-impact arm in the rotation; should log innings, rack up wins, and miss a lot of bats.
The Year Ahead: Like Bundy, several evaluators thought he was ready to jump to the major-league level fresh from the amateur ranks. With excellent size and three pitches that will eventually grade out in the plus range, Gausman is built to be a major-league starter for a very long time. Refining his command and overall secondary execution can push him forward in 2013, and it shouldn’t take long for the 22-year-old to make a name for himself in the Orioles rotation. Going forward, Bundy and Gausman have the potential to form one of the most potent one-two punches in the game.
Major league ETA: 2013
3. Jonathan Schoop
What Happened in 2012: His Double-A debut was hit and miss, but his 21-game stint in the Arizona Fall League gave evaluators a taste of his future promise.
Strengths: Good athlete; good size; shows game skills; loose swing; good overall feel for hitting; has some pop; can use the gaps; punishes left-handed pitching; good fundamentals on defense; 5 glove; arm is plus and can play on left-side; versatile.
Weaknesses: Questions about hit utility against high-end pitching; swing can get long; will extended early; crushes balls out over the plate, but struggles on the inner half; chewed up by arm-side stuff; power “only” projects to average; below-average run; lacks the range for shortstop at major-league level; good glove at second, but lower half can look stiff; footwork can be clumsy.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular at second base
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; questions about bat; already played at Double-A level; shows ability to adjust.
Fantasy Future: Has the ability to stick at second; can provide solid-offense from position; ~.275 avg/15 HR pop;
The Year Ahead: Schoop is a top 101 prospect in baseball, but often gets mentioned as a potential impact talent at the major-league level, and sources are mixed as to that eventuality. Most see the young infielder as a future major leaguer in some form --be it as a starting second baseman or perhaps at third --but the offensive output will make the player and reports on the bat are diverse; some believe in the power potential and overall hittability, while others are concerned about his arm-side struggles and ability to stay back on quality offspeed stuff. 2013 is a huge year for Schoop, as he can position himself for a major-league job in 2014, or he can fall victim to his weaknesses in the upper minors.
Major league ETA: 2014
4. Eduardo Rodriguez
What Happened in 2012: In his full-season debut, the fastball matured throughout the season, ending up as a plus pitch and propelling the young lefty up prospect lists.
Strengths: Projectable body/stuff; repeats delivery; arm is fluid and fast; fastball can work in the 88-92 range; touches higher in bursts; shows some arm-side life; changeup plays well off fastball; good arm speed and action; slider shows above-average potential; can throw strikes; shows pitchability.
Weaknesses: Needs to continue to add strength; find comfort/utility in enhanced stuff; questions about ability to maintain velocity deep into games; secondary arsenal is still more flash than fire.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 3/4 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; questions about sustainability of stuff; long road ahead.
Fantasy Future: Lots of unknowns, but Rodriguez could end up with three solid-average to plus pitches, all from the left side. Needs to get stronger, but could develop into mid-rotation arm at full maturity.
The Year Ahead: As with most prospects that see their stuff tick up throughout a season, the jury will still be out until that stuff shows back up again the next season. Reports on Rodriguez were very positive, but the didn’t contain the type of glowing language that makes your heart skip a beat. Put Rodriguez on your follow list and pay attention to his progress in 2013. If he proves to be the real deal, the velocity will hold steady and the secondary stuff will remain sharp. He’ll be a 20-year-old in High-A, and as the production starts to catch up to the stuff, the prospect status really could jump.
Major league ETA: 2015
5. Mike Wright
What Happened in 2012: Fast moving third round pick from 2011, Wright finished the season with 12 starts at the Double-A level before heading to the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League.
Strengths: Excellent height; lean/athletic frame; some room to add strength; good delivery; pounds the zone with a low-90s fastball; can touch mid-90s; some sink in the lower zone; shows an average slider that can flash a little better; effective against RH; can execute an average changeup; has some action; holds fastball velocity into games.
Weaknesses: Secondary arsenal is average; slider can get slow and slurvy; changeup can get deliberate in the delivery; throws strikes, but often lives over the plate; some think he profiles better as a reliever.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; already pitched at Double-A level; average-to-solid average now arsenal; some room to refine.
Fantasy Future: Body to log innings; could be league-average type that makes 30 starts and keeps it close; lacks impact potential as a starter; could fall into bullpen role where stuff could play up.
The Year Ahead: Wright isn’t a flashy prospect, and his ceiling isn’t going to strain anybody’s neck. But he’s a long-limbed pitcher that can pound the strike zone with a heavy low-90s fastball and compliments it with two playable secondary offerings. Reports on the mechanical profile and command are solid, and if he can push one of the secondary offerings beyond a 5 grade, he can miss more bats and improve his odds of sticking around in a rotation.
Major league ETA: 2013
6. Nick Delmonico
What Happened in 2012: Making his professional debut, Delmonico jumped straight to the full-season level, where he showed an advanced approach and good pop in the Sally League.
Strengths: Solid athlete; good present strength; projectable hitting ability; potential for 5/5 hit/power; mature approach for age; tracks well; has a plan at the plate; solid arm; gamer type.
Weaknesses: Future tied to bat; lacks plus tools; glove/range not ideal at second base; most likely a corner defensive player; chewed up by arm-side pitching
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; good approach, but lacks plus tools; has to maximize on offense to have value
Fantasy Future: As a second baseman, a .265-plus hitter with 15-plus HR home run potential is a very nice player, but the same production doesn’t offer much if he has to move to first base down the line.
The Year Ahead: With only one season under his belt, there are still more unknowns about Delmonico’s game than knowns. The bat will have to play, and several sources were high on the potential, as the 20-year-old shows the ability to put the stick on the ball and make loud contact. Everybody seems to have an opinion about his future defensive home, be it as a fringe third baseman, fringe second baseman, or perhaps even a catcher, but the most likely home will be at first base, where the bat will need to exceed expectations to offer much at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2015
7. L.J. Hoes
What Happened in 2012: A return trip to the Southern League sparked a journey that found him at the major-league level in late September, a destination he’d like to call home in 2013.
Strengths: Good baseball skills; can put the bat to the ball; can work counts; can run the bases; very good fundamental/situational player; glove is solid-average; good reads and routes in the outfield; arm plays; 5 all-around defender; good overall feel for the game.
Weaknesses: Lacks impact tools; hit tool is average at best; power is below average; speed is fringe; exposure to advanced pitching could limit opportunities as a major league regular
Overall Future Potential: Low 5; fourth outfielder/second-division player
Explanation of Risk: Low; has the baseball skills to play in the field; approach and contact ability to make a pitcher work
Fantasy Future: Hoes is unlikely to emerge as a major-league regular, but he does have some contact ability and some secondary skills at the plate; despite fringe speed, is a good baserunner.
The Year Ahead: Sources are mixed on the player that Hoes can become, but most agree that he is more likely to contribute as a bench player than a regular. The profile is the problem, as the defensive skill-set is better served in left but the bat looks better up the middle. If he can hit for average and develop more power than we’ve projected, he has a chance to be a second-division starter. If not, the floor is a valuable role player with valuable versatility, and that’s not a bad player to have on the 25-man.
Major league ETA: 2012
8. Branden Kline
What Happened in 2012: Drafted in the second round, Kline made only four starts in the New York-Penn League but showed bat missing ability and a deep arsenal.
Strengths: Excellent size; shows a fast arm; good extension; low-90s fastball; touches higher in bursts; multiple breaking ball looks; slider could be solid-average offering; can turn over a changeup; could see stuff step up to impact level out of the bullpen.
Weaknesses: Mechanical inconsistencies; can lose his delivery; fastball shows velocity, but can lose movement; lacks knockout secondary offering at present.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter/reliever
Explanation of Risk: High risk; short-season resume; lacks impact stuff (at present).
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to find a home at the back of a rotation, with a deep arsenal and a body built to log innings. In relief, stuff would play up and could have late-inning potential.
The Year Ahead: As a starter, Kline could develop into a solid but not spectacular back-end type (and maybe more), with a plus fastball and several average-to-solid average secondary offerings. He has some feel for pitching, but the delivery can get out of whack and his raw stuff can play down, especially in longer stints. Several sources thought his ultimate role would come out of the bullpen, a role he was familiar with in college. It’s still early in the process, but 2013 will tell us a lot about Kline and the developmental path he is set to take going forward.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Adrian Marin
What Happened in 2012: The third-round pick spent most of the short-season at the complex level, but he did dip his toes into full-season water with a six game sample of Sally League baseball.
Strengths: Instinctual player; has the raw tools to handle shortstop; arm is solid with quick release; glove and actions are solid-average; good range; plus run; has some hitability; not an empty contact swing; can drive the ball; lots of room to improve.
Weaknesses: Some sources don’t think the arm strength is ideal for the left side of the infield; mixed reviews of the glove; lacks impact tools at the plate; if moved to second base, bat will need to exceed expectations.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; complex league resume; questions about defensive profile and bat.
Fantasy Future: If he reaches his potential, could be a .~270 hitter with good speed and extra-base hit ability; should be able to swipe a few bases; won’t hit for many balls over the fence.
The Year Ahead: Marin is ready to jump to the full-season level and put his prospect status to the test. If he can stick at shortstop, he’s a completely different kind of prospect, one that will no doubt move up this list. The bat has question marks as well, but he will play the 2013 season as a 19-year-old, so the future is still very cloudy. He shows some bat-to-ball ability and has the legs to force the issue, so he has the potential to hit for average. Again, it comes back to his defensive profile, as that particular skill-set is very valuable at the highest level, even if the bat underperforms.
Major league ETA: 2016
10. Josh Hader
What Happened in 2012: A local kid popped in the 19th round, Hader surprised many by showing better-than-expected stuff at the complex, missing 35 bats in only 20 innings of work.
Strengths: Highly projectable; very long and athletic; shows some pitchability; arm has some life it in; fastball can work low-90s; projects to be plus offering; very good late arm-side life; curveball will flash plus potential; good spin; some feel for changeup.
Weaknesses: Still physically underdeveloped; needs to add strength; needs to hold stuff once he moves into rotation; limited looks beyond short burst; hard to gauge true nature of stuff.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; limited professional experience; big gap between present/future
Fantasy Future: This kid is only 18 and has only pitched out of the bullpen in short-season ball, so its hard to say what he could develop into; mid-back rotation arm based on the initial projections.
The Year Ahead: Hader is a high-risk arm that could develop in a number of different ways, including taking a step forward in ’13 that would put him on the prospect map. He has size and the physical projection to add strength, his fastball can already work in the low-90s, and he can spin a quality breaking ball. We shall see what happens when he logs more innings and throws more pitches, but you have to like the ingredients the Orioles have to work with. Could be quite the steal in the 19th round.
Major league ETA: 2016
Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Zachary Davies: A 26th-round draft pick in 2011, Davies might not look the part, but he is most certainly a pitcher to keep an eye on. The stuff isn’t crazy, but his feel for pitching and deep arsenal should allow him to keep minor-league hitters off balance and off the pedestrian fastball.
2. IF Hector Veloz: A 19-year-old Dominican that showed legit pop in his stateside debut, Veloz could jump up the prospect queue in 2013 with a strong short-season campaign in the New York-Penn League. He’s not likely to make a name for himself defensively, but if the hit/power develop to projections, Veloz’s bat will play anywhere. In a system thin on power bats, Veloz could emerge as the most intriguing.
3. RHP Brady Wager: Working in the low-90s out of the rotation and hitting the mid-90s out of the bullpen, Wager is a likely candidate to climb the prospect rankings in 2013. He will mix in a mid-80s slider and a changeup, with the former showing above-average potential at times. Most likely a bullpen arm, Wager could move quickly if deployed in that role.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. OF Xavier Avery: A player with vocal supporters and even louder critics, Avery failed to make the cut on the top 10 list, but should leave his mark at the major-league level in 2013. In his 32-game exposure last season, Avery’s bat fell short, which is the main question mark in his skill-set, and one that could make him a major-league regular or relegate him to a bench role.
2. LHP Mike Belfiore: Relievers that profile as arm-side specialists don’t make sexy prospects, but when they can offer a cheap service at the major-league level, the value rises. Belfiore isn’t there yet, having only reached the Double-A level in 2012, but with a lively low-90s fastball and a functional secondary arsenal (that includes a good slider), his ability to disarm lefty bats could come in handy at the major-league level at some point in 2013.
3. RHP Steve Johnson: With a deep arsenal and strong pitchability, Johnson has found a way to get outs without big stuff. It’s not even close to be sexy, but getting outs is the name of the game, and the 25-year-old righty finds a way to make it work, mixing his pitches, changing sight lines, forcing weak contact and even missing bats. He’s most likely a no. 6 starter, but if he can continue to baffle hitters at the major-league level, the Orioles will find a way to utilize his arm.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
While the minor-league system remains thin, the Baltimore Orioles are in a position to have as many as the top six names on this list contributing at the major-league level by the start of 2014. Over 51 games, 20-year-old Manny Machado held his own at the plate while showing flashes of plus defense at the hot corner. He’ll return to third base in 2013 and, along with shortstop J.J. Hardy, should provide defensive stability on the left side of the infield. Machado projects to an above average offensive profile, though he’ll need to continue to make at-bat to at-bat adjustments.
L.J. Hoes and Xavier Avery could each see some time in the outfield in a reserve role, with Hoes still potentially projecting as a second-division starter, long term. Jonathan Schoop will likely return to Double-A Bowie with a shot at a late-season call-up, and will play all of 2013 as a 21-year-old.
On the bump, Baltimore will look for Chris Tillman to build off of last year’s performance as the former top 20 prospect continues to work towards his no. 2 ceiling. Tillman showed improved consistency in his pitch execution during the second half of the summer, which aided in his ability to more successfully sequence. Zach Britton missed a chunk of 2012 due to shoulder soreness and will have to prove that off-season strengthening efforts were successful. He retains no. 2/3 upside, but needs to show he’s healthy and capable of implementing his sinker with more precision, particularly down in the zone.
Steve Johnson could contribute from the pen or eat innings in the rotation depending on the team’s needs throughout the summer, while Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman should be capable of providing positive value at the major-league level this summer if needed. With continued development, both Bundy and Gausman could be fixtures at the front of the rotation in the near future. –Nick Faleris
A Parting Thought: While players like Rodriguez and Schoop are exciting and have respectable projections, this relatively weak system is supported by the enormous ceilings of Bundy and Gausman.