It is very easy to like the top of this Orioles prospect list and it would be even more impressive if shortstop and super-prospect Manny Machado had maintained his prospect eligibility. That said, I applaud the Orioles for using Machado when they were in contention, rather than worrying about service time or other factors. He was needed and they called him up. Good move. In addition to Bundy and Gausman, there are some quality mid- to back-of-the-rotation pieces and a few guys with the potential to play everyday, but by and large, the depth disappears quickly in this system.
1. Dylan Bundy – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 2)
Expectations for Bundy were out of control entering his first pro season. Even my tempered expectations were huge. Somehow, despite being restricted in workload, Bundy managed to exceed all expectations, reaching the big leagues for a brief time at the end of the season. Bundy is arguably the top pitching prospect in the game and his ceiling is through the roof. With a tremendous array of average to plus, and even better pitches, good feel for his age and solid command projection, Bundy looks every bit the top of the rotation monster.
2. Kevin Gausman – RHP (2)
Gausman was the second overall pick last summer and you’re looking at one of his biggest believers. I rated him as the #2 prospect in the entire draft with the potential to develop into a fantastic number two starter. Gausman has the potential to move very quickly through the system and could be teaming with Bundy atop the O’s rotation in very short order, possibly as soon as 2014.
3. Jonathan Schoop – INF (3)
There may be open questions about what position Schoop ultimately plays at the big league level, but he has the tools to profile at a number of positions. Moved off shortstop in deference to uber-prospect Manny Machado, Schoop looks the part of a future third baseman, but has the athleticism and hands to handle second or short as well. His offensive game is raw but he own plus power potential and some feel for hitting. Schoop still needs time to polish his game in the minor leagues but could be ready sometime in 2014.
4. Eduardo Rodriguez – LHP (12)
Though he is only 19-years old, Rodriguez shows surprising polish for his age and the solid stuff necessary to profile as a mid-rotation starter. Rodriguez’s fastball is a plus pitch for a left-hander, reaching 94 mph when he needs it. His secondary pitches aren’t as developed, but he shows the potential for a quality slider and a solid change-up that can help keep right-handed hitters off his other two pitches. Rodriguez won’t come as quickly as the top two pitchers on this list, but he could be an option in 2015.
5. LJ Hoes – OF (11)
While Hoes profiles as a bit of a tweener right now, there are scouts that believe his power could still be unlocked, helping him profile better in a corner spot where his defense fits better. He will be stretched in center field long term, but can handle the position right now. Offensively, Hoes is an excellent contact hitter with the strength to drive the ball to the outfield. He works counts deep and consistently puts himself in a position to get pitches he can handle. Hoes has the potential to be a solid regular if he develops just solid gap power with 10-12 home runs a year.
6. Mike Wright – RHP (10)
Wright is a bit of an unheralded prospect and one that could continue to exceed expectations. His fastball works consistently from 91-93 mph with heavy sink and can reach 95-96 mph when he reaches back for more on his four-seamer. A classic sinker-slider guy, Wright will show an above-average slider that can miss bats on occasion. He mixes in a curveball and change-up as well, though both pitches lag behind his slider. With a pretty solid four-pitch mix and extreme competitiveness, Wright could be a third or fourth starter down the line.
7. Branden Kline – RHP (NR)
The Orioles popped Kline in the second round last summer and he made four starts with short-season Aberdeen after signing. His fastball can work consistently in the 92-94 range and will touch 95 at times, with good life that can help him miss the meat of the bat. His slider is an intriguing pitch that will occasionally look like a plus strikeout pitch. Kline’s change-up is a well below-average pitch and may never be more than a show-me offering. Amateur scouts were mixed on his future in the rotation and having seen him in both college and the NYPL, I lean more toward a future as a power setup man.
8. Nicky Delmonico – 1B (8)
I’m a bit skeptical of Delmonico’s profile but his feel for the game and offensive projection is keeping him relatively high on my radar right now. There is average raw power in Delmonico’s bat and he has a good feel for the strike zone and for hitting, both of which should help him develop into a .270-.280 hitter with on-base skills and 15-20 home runs a year. That won’t support a first-base profile, which is where he is heading right now, but some scouts believe he could move across to the hot corner, which would help buoy his prospect stock.
9. Tim Berry – LHP (NR)
Lefties with both feel and raw stuff are the type of prospect I’m a sucker for. Berry is raw but has the ingredients to become a solid number four starter. His fastball is his best pitch at present and sits at 91-92 mph, touching 94 at times. He shows the ability to spin a quality curveball but the pitch is very inconsistent. His change-up represents a potentially solid third pitch and he already knows how to mix his pitches and work through a lineup. Berry will head back to Double-A in 2013 and could use another year of polishing before reaching the big leagues the following year.
10. Xavier Avery – OF (14)
Avery is a very good athlete with raw baseball tools that could make him an interesting top-of-the-lineup option. Describing his baseball tools as raw really doesn’t begin to do them justice. Avery struggles to make consistent contact and will often chase out of the zone. He is still learning as a base runner and a defender, but he shows the potential to be a threat in both areas. Ranking Avery at this level is purely an upside play based on his athleticism and tools, but even without complete actualization, he could be a solid fourth outfielder and bench option.
11. Adrian Marin – SS (NR)
Marin is the rare high school talent that projects to stay at shortstop thanks in large part to his premium athleticism. He has quality range, good hands and a strong arm, all lending to a potential above-average defender at short. Marin has a natural feel for the barrel, allowing him to flash solid hitting potential. His power will be his weakest tool and while he should pop some doubles, he will never be much of a home-run threat. Marin will need time to develop and he could move in a more traditional manner, stepping up just one level at a time, starting with Low-A in 2013.
12. Hector Veloz – 3B (NR)
Veloz is an extreme long shot, but the power-hitting third baseman has some raw tools that are tough to find in the minor leagues today. He is a physical 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and could continue to thicken up a bit as he reaches physical maturity. Veloz’s raw power is impressive, earning easy plus grades from scouts and there is still some projection remaining. He is an aggressive hitter that likes to swing the bat. His knowledge of the strike zone is solid but his pitch recognition lags behind. Defensively, scouts are pessimistic about his ability to stick at third, with his only other destination being first base.
13. Torsten Boss – 3B (NR)
Hailing from Michigan State, Boss was the O’s eighth round pick in 2012. He is a compact, physical guy with tons of strength and above-average athleticism. He has power in his swing, though it’s more of a brute-force/strength swing than a bat-speed swing from the left side. He could hit 20+ home runs down the line, assuming his approach is maintained and his average bat speed doesn’t become a problem. Boss struggles with his actions at third base but he has the athleticism and arm strength to handle the position if given the developmental time.
14. Lex Rutledge – LHP (NR)
Rutledge’s profile is a difficult one but it is almost impossible to ignore the raw stuff he shows in short spurts. With spotty command and control, Rutledge hasn’t shown well as a starter, falling behind batters and walking far too many. His fastball can work in the mid-90s out of the bullpen and his curveball shows tighter rotation and harder break in that role as well. Rutledge will have to improve his stamina and durability to pitch multiple times a week but he could be a high-leverage lefty reliever or setup man.
15. Parker Bridwell – RHP (5)
I was too aggressive with Bridwell a year ago, dreaming about what he could become rather than focusing on his present warts and the massive developmental steps he must take to become a serious prospect. Bridwell has the building blocks – excellent physicality and good arm strength – to be a quality pitching prospect, possibly in the mid-rotation mold. He struggles to repeat his delivery, which impacts the quality of his off-speed stuff and consistent quality of his fastball. He may take a while, but with the raw ingredients Bridwell has, he won’t be easy to ignore even if he continues to struggle on the field.