December 11, 2013
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Baltimore Orioles Top 10 Prospects
The Top Ten
1. Kevin Gausman
What Happened in 2013: Gausman was on the professional rollercoaster in 2013, making stops in Double-A, Triple-A, and several trips to the majors.
Strengths: Elite arm strength; good delivery; repeats well; fastball works 95-98; touches 100; good arm-side life; good command; total package pitch; multiple changeup looks; plus-plus offering in the 84-86 range with splitter movement; knockout pitch to both LH/RH; slider shows above-average potential; good overall feel for strike throwing.
Weaknesses: Fastball can be visible; some crossfire in delivery; struggles with hard contact when he elevates; slider comes and goes; shows sharp tilt and good depth but can flatten out and become a hard slurve; pitchability still needs work.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 6; no. 2/3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; ready for major leagues
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Projection be damned, Gausman is staring down a rotation spot to start the 2014 season. And don’t let those 2013 MLB raw stats fool you, he had a 3.99 FIP (and 3.04 xFIP, if you’re into that sort of thing). He’ll always be at a slight disadvantage pitching in Baltimore, but this is a pitcher who can make very strong contributions in all four categories regardless—and, at his ceiling, projects to be a guy you can get away with as your fantasy ace if you have a strong staff.
The Year Ahead: Gausman is a beast, with a near elite fastball, a plus-plus changeup, and the makings of a plus slider. If the command stays sharp and the slider takes a step forward (in confidence and consistency), Gausman has all the necessary ingredients to be a frontline starter. The stuff can be a little visible, and he’s hittable when he throws too many strikes and not enough good strikes (control vs. command), but the floor is obnoxiously high, and the ceiling suggests he could be one of the better arms in baseball very soon.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013
2. Dylan Bundy
What Happened in 2013: Thomas Edward John Jr.
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
Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; Tommy John on resume
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Among all prospects, it seems that Bundy has been on the move most in dynasty leagues this offseason—and it comes down to two things: owners trying to cash out ahead of the risk and owners buying into the remaining ace upside. That second group sounds good to me. Tommy John recovery is no cakewalk, but his kind of fantasy upside doesn’t grow on trees. In fact, it’s second to only one pitcher in the minors right now. Trade him away at your own risk.
The Year Ahead: Bundy is a workout freak with work ethic and makeup for days, so there is a very good chance that he not only comes back at full strength, but a better version of himself. Bundy could be a no. 1 starter, with a plus-plus fastball, an elite cutter that some think could possess religious properties, a very good curve and change, and the pitchability to bring everything together. He’s going to shove.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2012
3. Hunter Harvey
What Happened in 2013: Harvey only made eight starts at short-season levels after signing, but it was enough to send scouts away salivating at his upside.
Strengths: Good present size; physical projection; athletic; easy release; fastball works 91-95; late life; some natural cut; could end up a plus-plus pitch with improved command and velocity spike; curveball is legit power breaker in the upper 70s/low 80s; tight rotation and hard vertical action; could be monster offering; changeup flashes above-average potential, with arm-side fade.
Weaknesses: Command is below average at present; some arm slot inconsistency; more thrower than pitcher; more deliberate on changeup; slows arm/loses deception.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The overwhelming odds are that the person who takes Harvey in your dynasty draft this offseason is a BP reader. However, I still would not take him in that first or second tier of players available this offseason (after the top seven, if Tanaka is posted, it’s a free-for-all). But if you can snag him with a pick outside the top 10, he could be a huge boon as he has the potential to be a high-strikeout pitcher with strong ratios.
The Year Ahead: Harvey’s ceiling is just a tick below Gausman and Bundy, thanks to his athletic delivery and easy release and impact potential arsenal. He comes at a much higher risk and the ceiling could lower as the developmental process exposes some of the realities of his skill set, but right now, Harvey looks the part of a future frontline prospect. Despite below-average command at present, Harvey has the stuff to move quickly through the lower minors, and could find himself in Double-A by 2015. He won’t be a “sleeper” for much longer. He’ll be a featured player in most national top 50 lists.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
4. Eduardo Rodriguez
What Happened in 2013: The 20-year-old pitched his way to Double-A, and even made five starts in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, setting himself up for a major-league opportunity at some point in 2014.
Strengths: Sturdy build; good delivery; repeatable; creates good angle; fastball is plus offering; works 90-94; can touch higher; can move the ball around; changeup flashes above-average; works 82-84 with arm-side run and some sink; slider is sharp two-plane breaker in the 81-84 range; could end up a bat-missing plus pitch; good pitchability.
Weaknesses: Fastball can lack movement; more control than command; can slip to the side on the slider and lose bite/depth; tendency to cast changeup; throw it too hard; lacks true knockout secondary pitch.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited Double-A experience
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s easy to overlook Rodriguez with the other arms ahead of him in this system, but just because he doesn’t have that lofty upside doesn’t mean he’s worth shrugging off. With strong across-the-board potential, he can put up the type of numbers that Chris Tillman did in 2013—and Tillman was nearly a top-30 starter.
The Year Ahead: While scouts seem to agree that Rodriguez is a future major-league starter, the ultimate projections vary source to source, as some don’t see the high-impact upside that the production/stuff might suggest. The stuff is solid-average to plus, but he lacks true wipeout stuff, and without sharp command, its hard to see Rodriguez developing into a frontline arm. But a no. 3/4 starter under team control is a very valuable commodity, and it shouldn’t take Rodriguez long to make that projection a reality.
Major league ETA: 2014
5. Jonathan Schoop
What Happened in 2013: Up and down year for Schoop, who struggled in Triple-A, sat on the shelf for a few months with a back injury, and oddly enough found himself called up to the major-league level for a five-game taste.
Strengths: Wiry strength; good athlete; good hands; shows bat speed at the plate; good bat control; strong wrists and barreling ability; shows power potential; average glove; strong arm; baseball skills; versatile skill set on defense.
Weaknesses: Struggles against quality arm-side stuff; can get tied up inside and above the hands; swing has some length; looks to extend early; approach can get aggressive/will lose counts; footwork can get a little sloppy in the field; stiff lower half.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average major-league regular
Realistic Role: 5; second-division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Judging Schoop by his minor-league stats is not a great approach, as he was pushed pretty aggressively during his minor-league career. Assuming he stays middle infield eligible, he projects to be a consistently above-replacement player, who retains more value in deeper leagues. Schoop may top out as a Neil Walker-type second baseman with decent average, near 20-homer pop and a couple of steals sprinkled in.
The Year Ahead: Schoop could use a full season in the upper minors to refine his approach and adjust to quality secondary stuff. Because of the back injury, Schoop missed valuable developmental time and never found his footing at the plate; in fact, the 22-year-old infielder hasn’t found any consistency at the plate since the 2011 season, when he was at the A-ball level. It’s easy to see the potential in Schoop, from the body to the athleticism to the easy swing and power potential at the plate. But the pieces have yet to come together against quality competition, and my scout sources are very mixed when it comes to his ultimate role.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013
6. Mike Wright
What Happened in 2013: Strong season for the 23-year-old righty, making 27 starts (26 at the Double-A level), and logging a workhorse-like 150 innings.
Strengths: Tall, with a strong, durable body; good delivery; arm is clean and quick; fastball works low 90s with good weight; good angle to the plate; hard slider in the mid-80s; good tilt; can miss bats; changeup plays well off fastball with some fade; shows slow curve in lower 70s; feel for strike throwing.
Weaknesses: Throws too many strikes; finds barrels; stuff is more solid-average than plus; lacks electric secondary arsenal; could struggle to miss bats against better competition.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; mature arsenal; 27 starts in upper minors
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Here’s where I’d put the line of demarcation on this list, as I’d rather take a chance with a high upside, unproven arm in short-season ball over a guy like Wright. In deep leagues, he’s worth a look (as he may have some value this season), but as a guy who doesn’t keep the ball on the ground very well in a park that binges on homers, expectations should be kept in check.
The Year Ahead: Wright has the frame, delivery, and arsenal to pound the zone as a league average workhorse type, a number four or five starter. He lacks impact stuff, although the fastball can work in the low-90s and touch higher, and the slider will flash the potential to miss barrels. While its most certainly not a sexy profile, a league average starter capable of logging innings has a lot of value, and without much risk involved, Wright could step into the back of a major-league rotation at some point in 2014.
Major league ETA: 2014
7. Tim Berry
What Happened in 2013: A solid but not spectacular Carolina League campaign culminated in a very strong Arizona Fall League performance, where Berry was able to miss some bats and hold the prospect-heavy lineups to a .212 average.
Strengths: Projectable body; loose arm; smooth and easy; fastball is solid-average at present; routinely works low 90s with fastball; some arm-side movement; good feel for curveball; flashes above-average with big depth; changeup is another average offering with above-average potential; good arm-speed deception and some fade; can throw strikes.
Weaknesses: Lacks overpowering stuff; fastball can be hittable and he doesn’t always hold velocity well; curveball can get big and visible, especially when the fastball doesn’t set up the swing; finds too much of the plate; command needs grade improvement.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter/long relief
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; yet to pitch at Double-A level; TJ on resume
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There is fantasy potential here, but he’ll need to improve upon his relatively low strikeout rates, in order to be much more than a waiver-wire type guy in shallower leagues. And for that to happen, his secondary pitches are going to have to progress to bat missers at the major-league level.
The Year Ahead: Berry is a lefty with solid-average stuff, and if you project the body a little bit more (added strength), you can see a tick more on the gun. He has some pitchability, and with improved command, Berry has mid-rotation potential. The stuff is unlikely to blow anybody away as a starter, but lefties with a three-pitch mix of average or better stuff and some feel for craft find a way to stick around for a long time. Berry will face a strong test in Double-A, but if he adds strength and continues to refine, he should set himself up for a major-league job in 2015.
Major league ETA: Late 2014
8. Zachary Davies
What Happened in 2013: After making 17 starts in his debut season, Davies took a step forward in the Carolina League, making 26 starts and logging 148 innings, despite concerns about his limited size.
Strengths: Athletic; smooth delivery; nice arm action; fastball is average, but works all zones and has some sink; changeup is solid-average offering with more in the tank; plays well off fastball; good deception and fading action; shows two breaking balls; can throw strikes; plus pitchability.
Weaknesses: Limited size; has to work down in the zone to create angle; fastball is pedestrian and relies on location more than velocity; has to hit his spots to be effective; breaking balls are average at best; lack plus projections.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; yet to achieve Double-A; small margin for error with stuff.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Probably not a whole lot. This isn’t the type of player you want to own on your minor-league roster, as he likely tops out as a replacement-level guy unless you’re playing in an AL-only format.
The Year Ahead: Davies is a small right-hander with small stuff, but a strong competitor with excellent feel for pitching and the ability to change speeds and hit his spots with a deep arsenal. The ceiling is limited, and I don’t see a lot of projection in the arsenal, but with plus command potential the 20-year-old Davies has a chance to make it all work. The big test comes in Double-A, where big boy hitters are going to feast on upper-80s fastballs, especially if they arrive on a flat plane served on a platter. Davies will need to continue to refine his already strong command, and mix his offerings to keep hitters off balance and off his average-at-best fastball.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Chance Sisco
What Happened in 2013: A second-round pick in the 2013 draft, Sisco is a dual-threat catcher that could be a household name at this time next season.
Strengths: Good body to work with; athletic; arm is strong (solid-avg); strong feel for baseball; new to catching but shows highly projectable skills; good hands; projectable bat; shows bat speed and good extension; can drive the baseball; power potential down the line with added strength; gamer.
Weaknesses: Still new to catching; receiving needs work; arm isn’t big weapon; quick swing but questions about power upside; might be more average across the board than impact.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: High 4; backup catcher/below-average regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme risk; limited professional experience; dual-threat development.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s a tough bar to clear to be a catching prospect with potential mixed league fantasy relevance, but Cisco has the tools to stay above that fray. The second-rounder is a sneaky endgame pick in deep league dynasty drafts, and even more so in OBP/points leagues, due to potentially strong plate discipline numbers.
The Year Ahead: Sisco has a very long way to go, much like fellow high school draftee Josh Hart, but his overall feel for the game and impressive developmental steps forward in a very short amount of time are highly encouraging. The defensive profile isn’t of the high-impact variety, with a solid-average arm and decent quickness, and the bat doesn’t project to middle-of-the-order production, but a solid-average all-around catcher can represent a lot of value. It might take several years, but Sisco has a chance to develop into a very legit prospect, despite not possessing a cache of plus tools.
Major league ETA: 2018
10. Josh Hart
What Happened in 2013: Taken 37th overall in the 2013 draft, Hart is a prototypical center fielder/leadoff type, with more athleticism than baseball skills at present.
Strengths: Plus athlete; good body; easy plus run; very good range potential in center; glove could get to plus; swing built for steady contact; quick to the ball; good control; body to add more strength and pop to the offensive profile.
Weaknesses: Raw baseball skills; big upside but long developmental path; reads/routes need work in center; arm is fringy; bat is more weak contact than line drive; slappy at times; power could play well below average.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; major-league regular
Realistic Role: High 4; bench outfielder/below-average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional record; wide gap between present/future grades.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Now this is a more interesting fantasy stash. Hart’s speed makes all the difference here, as he was one of the most interesting players in the 2013 draft class from a stolen base perspective. He won’t contribute much else outside of steals and average, but if he can rob 30-40 bases, he doesn’t have to.
The Year Ahead: Hart is a long-term project, but the ceiling is an above-average player at a premium position, with plus speed that could affect the game on all sides. The swing and setup need work, from the trigger, to the balance, to the bat speed. He has the potential to develop into a high contact hitter, one that can bring his best attribute (speed) into the equation. With a refined approach, he could develop into a leadoff threat down the line, but he could spend several years in the lower minors, struggling at the plate, before he is ready to take a big step forward.
Major league ETA: 2018
Prospects on the Rise:
2. LHP Daniel Ayers: Big over-slot signing in the 2013 draft, Ayers is a (relatively) mature lefty with a good fastball, good curveball, and the feel for an average potential changeup. It’s not a flashy profile—more of the solid-average variety—but lefties with solid-average stuff can go a very long way, and Ayers should jump into the top 10 next season with a strong full-season debut.
3. LHP Stephen Tarpley: A third-round pick in the 2013 draft, several sources pushed for Tarpley in the top 10, mostly on the back of his strong lefty fastball, plus potential slider, and solid curveball. He has some rough edges, particularly in the delivery—high leg, loses balance, struggles to finish—but lefties with good stuff find homes on prospect lists, and a strong season in 2014 will push the 20-year-old up the rankings.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
2. LHP Jason Gurka: Diminutive lefty with a 90-91 mph fastball and a good curve, Gurka might not have a high-leverage bullpen role in his future, but if he can spot his heavy fastball down in the zone and miss bats with his two-plane breaker, he has a chance to contribute to the major-league bullpen in some capacity in 2014.
3. LHP Michael Belfiore: A former supplemental first-round pick of the DBacks in 2009, Belfiore finally got a taste of the major-league level in 2013, and looks to carve out a larger role in 2014. Armed with a lively low-90s fastball and quality slider, Belfiore might lack the upside of a late-innings arm, but could find a home as a situational reliever.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/88 or later)
In a division like the American League East, where their rivals have the means to routinely lure the top free agents on the market, it’s been important for the Orioles to develop a pipeline of talent that can impact, supplement, and refuel the major-league roster. While the overall system isn’t overly deep, this list features some impressive young talent at the front who can anchor the Baltimore franchise into the next decade.
The debate began right off the bat for the placement at the top. Manny Machado made an All-Star game and won a Gold Glove at the hot corner in his first full season in the bigs, accomplishing those feats while turning only 21 in the middle of the season. His star is extremely bright, with another step of offensive growth well within his reach. Right-handed starter Kevin Gausman, though, narrowly edged out Machado for headlining this list. The Louisiana State University product’s arsenal of a high octane fastball, disappearing changeup, and hard biting slider point toward a front-of-the-rotation arm as he gets his feet firmly on the ground in the bigs. It’s a package that should hold opposing hitters at bay deep into games for seasons to come.
The next three slots highlight the O’s potential for a shutdown rotation over the long run and ability to consistently make things difficult on opposing lineups. While right-handed starter Dylan Bundy succumbed to Tommy John surgery in 2013, the 21-year-old is on the comeback trail, and with a return to prior form can challenge Gausman for Top Dog status. That ceiling placed him in front of Chris Tillman, who after years of teasing with potential put things together and led Baltimore’s rotation this past season. He’ll be tasked with proving he can follow it up and emerge as a consistent middle-of-the-rotation arm. The 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey showed an impressive feel for pitching, while flashing legit plus stuff in his debut after signing. The feel here is that Harvey proves no match for A-Ball hitters next season. The relative risk and need to see how the stuff holds during the marathon of a professional season right now keeps him below Tillman.
Left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez is a name to keep an eye on in the sixth slot. He doesn’t get the press of his peers in front of him, but in other systems without this type of potential front-line pitching depth would be closer to the top. The package is entering the finishing stages, and can slot in well after Gausman, Bundy, and Tillman in the near future to lengthen the rotation. The list begins to quickly tier down after Rodriguez, but Jonathan Schoop, Tim Berry, Mike Wright, and Zachary Davies are prospects who offer potential profiles of average big leaguers. Schoop has the most upside out of the latter portion of this list, and could get an extended chance at some point in 2014 to show whether the skills can translate to the production of a regular at second base. —Chris Mellen
A Parting Thought: The top four arms in the Orioles system can stand with (and above) any pitching quartet in the minors, but the depth that follows is more solid than ceiling, and after the inevitable graduations of Gausman, Bundy, and Rodriguez, the system is woefully thin with impact talent.