U.S. Futures All-Star Manny Machado #3 of the Baltimore Orioles takes an at bat during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Baltimore Orioles Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Manny Machado, SS, Grade A: He wasn't quite the same after the knee injury and he was rushed to High-A, but I am still very impressed with the overall balance of skills and tools, and he's still just 19.
2) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Grade A-: Number One starter potential, but I'd like to see how his talent translates into pro ball before going with a higher grade. As high school pitchers go, I am very confident in him, but until we see him pitch in pro ball I'll go with position-player Machado.
3) Jonathan Schoop, INF, Grade B: Borderline B+. We will have to see where he settles in positionally. I think the bat is going to develop even more than people currently anticipate. Might go with the straight B+.
4) Jason Esposito, 3B, Grade B-: Excellent defender at third base, could win gold gloves if he hits enough to play regularly. Has power, but approach/plate discipline are questionable.
5) Robert Bundy, RHP, Grade B-: Doesn't have as much talent as his younger brother but a solid prospect, could develop into number three or four starter/workhorse type, or perhaps a power reliever if changeup gives trouble.
6) Dan Klein, RHP, Grade B-: Knows how to pitch, good stuff, persistent shoulder problems are the issue here. If he stays healthy it is plausible he could make the team out of spring training if given the opportunity.
7) Nick Delmonico, 3B, Grade B-: Excellent power potential, but he didn't hit as well in high school as he should have and glove at third base will need work. Potential to rank several spots higher next year if he adapts properly.
8) Parker Bridwell, RHP, Grade C+: High-ceiling arm, scouts love his ceiling and projectability but still learning how to pitch and integrate his secondary pitches with sinking fastball.
9) Ryan Adams, 2B, Grade C+: He has some flaws (strikeouts), but he's also got pop and the ability to handle second and third base. Not a star, but I expect a long career.
10) Glynn Davis, OF, Grade C+: Bold ranking for me, but there is something about this guy I like. Local undrafted talent signed for $100,000. Blazing speed, somewhat raw at the plate but will already take some walks, and 6-3, 170 body offers power projection. NY-P sources were very impressed.
11) L.J. Hoes, OF, Grade C+: Hits for average, make contact, can swipe a base, but lacks the power for corner outfield. Some people like him better than this but he looks like a tweener-type to me. Less risk than Davis and closer to the majors but not as much upside.
12) Clay Schrader, RHP, Grade C+: One of several high-ceiling relief arms with big strikeout numbers but control issues.
13) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Grade C+: We need to see him at a higher level than the Gulf Coast League, but he's deceptive and well ahead of most 18-year-olds in pitchability.
14) Oliver Drake, RHP, Grade C+: Nice fastball/slider combination, could develop into workhorse starter or more likely a reliever, added to 40-man roster.
15) David Baker, RHP, Grade C+: Live arm, secondary pitches coming around, performed well in Low-A, under-the-radar sleeper due to limited innings but a breakthrough candidate.
16) Mike Wright, RHP, Grade C+: Nice power sinker, good slider, another guy who could be an impressive reliever or a less-dominant-but-workhorse starter.
17) Trent Mummey, OF, Grade C+: Forgotten man due to missing season with injury, but when healthy I think he has a broader range of skills than Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson, his competitors in "future fourth outfielder" contest although they will get chances before he does.
18) Kyle Simon, RHP, Grade C+: Ground ball expert from 2011 draft, former University of Arizona ace.
19) Joe Mahoney, 1B, Grade C: He's proven he can mash Double-A pitching, but he turns 25 in May and some scouts still doubt that he'll be anything more than a Quadruple-A slugger.
20) Gabriel Lino, C, Grade C: Strong defensive catcher, hit well in the GCL but 78 at-bat sample is small. Orioles sources regard him as a major sleeper. I might bump him up to a C+ which would put him ahead of Mahoney and maybe higher.
OTHERS: Matt Angle, OF; Matt Antonelli, 2B; Xavier Avery, OF; Roderick Bernadina, OF; Zach Davies, RHP; Jaime Esquivel, RHP; Pedro Florimon Jr, SS; Mychal Givens, INF; Matt Hobgood, RHP; Trent Howard, LHP; Connor Narron, 3B; Wynn Pelzer, RHP; Ashur Tolliver, LHP; Tyler Townsend, 1B; Sebastian Vader, RHP.
This isn't a great system and there is a distinct lack of star potential once you get past the top three, but it is NOT empty and progress has been made in recent years. There is good depth in Grade B-/C+ types, and some of them (and some of the Grade Cs) are young and/or projectable enough to rank higher next year with proper development.
The ranking of the C+ guys is problematic. Everything #10 and later is quite fluid, and you are going to see a lot of variation in Orioles prospect lists beyond the top few.
I am particularly interested in the development of arms like Bridwell, Schrader, Rodriguez, and Baker. Sebastian Vader is also a prospect to watch although we need to see him outside the GCL and non-Orioles sources aren't as intrigued as Baltimore fans or sci-fi geeks. Vader's batterymate Lino is also quite interesting as a potentially strong defender with power in his bat. Also keep track of young pitchers Jaime Esquivel and especially Zach Davies.
There are several role players ready or almost ready for the majors, with Adams, Klein, Hoes, Drake, Mahoney, Angle all plausible contributors in the next year or two. None of them are going to be cornerstones, but they can all do something. The ranking of Glynn Davis is aggressive. He's risky, but has upside, my intuition is binging positive on him and word-of-mouth is good.