Baltimore Orioles Top 20 Prospects for 2014
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grade A: Borderline A-. He was rushed to the majors, but his fastball and changeup are outstanding pitches, the makeup is excellent, and I am optimistic that the breaking stuff will come along just fine.
2) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Grade A-: Basically we have to wait around and see how Tommy John recovery goes.
3) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Grade B: Velocity seems to rise a notch each year and he finished very strong in Double-A. He doesn’t turn 21 until April and I think he needs another year in the high minors, but he could become a mid-rotation starter.
4) Hunter Harvey, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+: OK now that looks weird, having Harvey behind Rodriguez but with Harvey having a “borderline” notation that Rodriguez doesn’t get. This is because I am undecided here frankly. I am certain that I am going to rate Rodriguez as a B. But Harvey I am undecided on, and if I go with B+ he will move a notch ahead of Eduardo. The thing here is that Rodriguez is more proven, but I think Harvey may have a higher ceiling. I’ll revisit this when I work on the Top 50 pitchers list.
5) Henry Urrutia, OF, Grade B: Borderline B-. Aggressive grade for someone who turns 27 next month, but I think his power is going to blossom this year and I already like his pure hitting skills.
6) Jonathan Schoop, INF, Grade B-: Very good glove at second base, throwing arm is good enough for short although range there isn’t as good. I think his power will increase as well although this is not a guy who is going to hit .300.
7) Michael Ohlman, C, Grade B-: I love this bat. Although I don’t see him hitting .300+ at higher levels, I expect the power to maintain, if not increase. Questions about ultimate position and desire to see him hit in Double-A prevent a higher grade at this time.
8) Mike Wright, RHP, Grade B-: Eats innings and throws strikes with solid-but-not-spectacular stuff. I don’t see why he can’t be a good fourth starter if he continues to throw strikes. Think Jeff Suppan as a possible outcome.
9) Chance Sisco, C, Grade B-: Scouting reports indicate that he should hit for average with OBP skills and potential for moderate power, which is backed up by the early rookie ball numbers (.371/.475/.464). Defense has potential as well. Could rank much higher next year.
10) Tim Berry, LHP, Grade C+: Although scouting reports are more enthusiastic this year, Berry’s ’13 season was not much different performance-wise than his ’12 as his component ratios remained very similar. FIPs were virtually identical and he was pitching at the same level. Ability to throw strikes with fastball/curveball/changeup makes him a potential fourth starter.
11) Parker Bridwell, RHP, Grade C+: Don’t be deceived by 4.73 ERA in Low-A: he made a lot of progress in ’13, with large improvement in strikeout ratio and much better command in last few starts, 37/10 K/BB in last 36 innings. Has always thrown hard and if command is coming around, he’ll take a large step forward in ’14.
12) Zach Davies, RHP, Grade C+: Another potential fourth starter type, very similar statistically to Wright but three years younger and six inches shorter. Excellent pitchability, posted 132/38 K/BB in 149 innings in High-A at age 20. Does not have Bridwell’s physical upside but more polished.
13) Branden Kline, RHP, Grade C+: University of Virginia product missed most of season with leg injury. When healthy, can get up to 95 MPH and has a good slider. Potential number three starter although some scouts prefer him in relief.
14) Stephen Tarpley, LHP, Grade C+: Very athletic, live-armed lefty posted 2.14 ERA with 25/3 K/BB in 21 innings in rookie ball after being drafted in third round from Arizona community college. Good upside if other factors don’t get in the way.
15) Adrian Marin, SS, Grade C+: Borderline C. Excellent defensive shortstop with range, arm strength, and reliability all standing out. Not a great hitter at this point, .265/.311/.356 in Low-A, but he is young at age 19 and he could develop into an Adam Everett type and have a long career.
16) Josh Hart, OF, Grade C+: Borderline C. Supplemental first round pick from Georgia high school shows excellent speed and makes an effort to work counts, although .218/.302/.286 line in rookie ball shows that there is a lot of work to do.
17) Christian Walker, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Polished University of South Carolina product ripped A-ball pitching, hit .300/.362/.453 overall despite Double-A slump. Scouts wonder if he’ll have enough power for a big league first baseman.
18) Drew Dosch, 3B, Grade C: Showed fine pure hitting skills at Youngstown State leading to selection in seventh round, but didn’t make pro debut due to knee injury. Home run power is questioned, but he’s expected to hit for average and get on base at a good clip.
19) Tyler Wilson, RHP, Grade C: Prototype Grade C pitching prospect, throws strikes with average stuff, non-great but not terrible numbers in Double-A (4.09 ERA, 118/47 K/BB), eats innings. Fifth starter or relief option.
20) Trey Mancini, 1B, Grade C; and Conor Bierfeldt, OF, Grade C: A tie, which I’ve never done before but what the hell. College hitters from ’13 draft, Mancini from Notre Dame and Biefeldt from Western Connecticut, both hit extremely well in the New York-Penn League with wRC+ marks of 160 and 161. We need to see at higher levels but the NY-P is not the Pioneer League and both performed well enough to qualify as sleeper prospects. You could make a case to slot most of the “other” guys here, but I wanted to point out these two.
OTHERS: Michael Almanzar, 3B; Dariel Alvarez, Of; Michael Belfiore, LHP; Steven Brault, LHP; Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP; Oliver Drake, RHP; Jason Gurka, LHP; Jon Keller, RHP; Francisco Peguero, OF; Luc Rennie, RHP; Lex Rutledge, LHP; Travis Seabrooke, LHP; Sebastian Vader, RHP; Mike Yastrzemski, OF.
Another middle of the pack system I think. The Orioles have developed some very intriguing pitching depth. You have two potential number one starters in Bundy and Gausman, then a large group of arms that could fit in the middle or back of a rotation or provide some bullpen help. If Harvey pans out, he could join Bundy and Gausman among the Grade A-elite types within the next year.
As the history of the recent past in Baltimore shows, having good pitching prospects is not the same thing as having good major league pitchers. You have to get them over the hump, but the arms have to come from somewhere and it looks to me like the scouts are doing their job finding the raw material.
Hitting depth is much less impressive. While there are some intriguing bats, all of them have a question of some kind: will Urrutia show more power? Can Schoop get on base enough? What about Ohlman’s glove? They’ve made an attempt to bring in some polished college bats but will these guys handle upper-level pitching? Are there any Matt Carpenters or Paul Goldschmidts in this group?
Overall while there are still weaknesses that have to be addressed, I’d say the Duquette Administration has made progress.
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