Working our way through the American League East division, next up is the Baltimore Orioles. The graduation of right hander Kevin Gausman and second baseman Jonathan Schoop weakened the system, but obviously for the better. Schoop showed good pop for the position while working on a number of holes in his swing and Gausman showed why he was such a highly regarded player coming through the system. Apart from the two high cieling pitchers at the top, the Orioles don't look to have another impact position player on the horizon. There looks to be a few regulars there though.
For how I grade prospects and what I like to call my "secret sauce", click here for a more detailed breakdown of the process.
The Grading System
My grading system will be familiar to those who keep up with college football recruiting or played the MLB2K video game series as I use a star rating system from one to five stars with half grades in between. An outline of what each level would represent looks like this, but remember these are examples and not definite.
The cream of the crop. A five star rating is reserved for the elite talents of the minor leagues. These players do not have a glaring weakness and if there is a blemish on their record, it is miniscule. Don't expect to see many of these, as this is reserved for players with the best chance to become super stars or top of the rotation stalwarts. Call this a 75-80 or A rating.
The rest of the elite. A 4.5 star rating encompasses players that are still elite, but not the potential mega stars a five star player would have. Receiving a 4.5 star rating means the player has all-star caliber potential with a good chance of being in a contending team's starting line up and have a long career. A 4.5 star pitcher could be generalized as a future #2 or 3 starter. Equal to 65-70 or A-/B+ type.
Garnering a four star rating means the player has the potential to be a productive major leaguer with an all-star season or two in his career. Four star players should develop into regulars in the lineup, dominant relief arms or a mid-rotation starters. This kind of player may have a true talent level higher but injuries may hold him back from reaching their full potential. Similar to a B/B+ or 55-60 rated player.
A player receiving 3.5 stars projects to see time as starters in the majors, but more than likely on a team out of the playoff picture where a below-average season once in awhile won't kill them. Innings eating strike throwers would fall into this category, as would set up men and defensive-oriented starters. This would be a 50 or B-/C+ type of player.
Three star players are your 4th outfielders and relievers with live arms and control problems. Hitters who may lack enough tools to hold down a starting gig, futures as a platoon players, and swing men types capable of spot starting would be three star players. Recent IFA's with little or no track record usually are included here as well. A 45 grade or C+/C type player would fall here.
Not every one gets to collect MLB paychecks, but some get them every once in awhile. 2.5 star players are your up and down guys who shuttle between the big leagues and AAA. September cups of coffee cielings fall here, as are the injury replacements and players riding the waiver wire. These players aren't expected to make any serious impact. 40 grade players and C type or lower organizational filler.
Anything below 2.5 stars is someone who doesn't project to be a major league player, therefore they are not mentioned.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are the Top 20 Prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. All ages are for the upcoming 2015 season and the affiliates mentioned are where I project them to begin the year.
Previous Rankings and #1 Prospect
Atlanta Braves - 2B Jose Peraza
Miami Marlins - RHP Tyler Kolek
New York Mets - RHP Noah Syndergaard
Philadelphia Phillies - SS JP Crawford
Washington Nationals - RHP Lucas Giolito
1. RHSP Dylan Bundy - 22 years old, AA Bowie
Photo courtesy of Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports
2014 stats -
Back in 2011, Dylan Bundy was one of three right handed prep pitchers from the state of Oklahoma to be selected in the first round of the draft, along with Archie Bradley and Michael Fulmer. Bundy was the first off the board, going 4th overall, which was three picks before Bradley and 40 spots before Fulmer. The Orioles locked down Bundy by giving him a Major League contract worth $6.225M, and a $4M signing bonus on the heels of him being named the Baseball America High School Player of the Year. He breezed through three level in the minor leagues (A, A+, and AA) during his first full season in 2012, finishing the year with a pair of bullpen appearances in Baltimore as a 19 year old. The following spring, he felt some elbow soreness and was shut down. The Orioles tried the rest and rehab route to no avail, finally scheduling his Tommy John surgery in late June of 2013.
The stout 6'1, 195 pound right hander made his way back on the mound in 2014, making three starts with A- Aberdeen and six more with A+ Frederick. He only threw 15 innings for the IronBirds, striking out 22 (39.3%) while walking three (5.4%) and allowing 10 hits. Bundy posted a 1.11 FIP and 0.60 ERA to go with a 0.87 WHIP. Some of the more advanced metrics (and some of the less advanced ones as well) can't really tell you anything from a sample that small, like his 92.3% strand rate and .323 BABIP. After his promotion to Frederick he threw 26.1 more frames with less inspiring results like a 4.78 ERA, a 3.97 FIP, and just 15 strike outs (12.8%) to 13 walks (11.1%). He also gave up 28 hits and posted a 1.56 WHIP. His strand rate was a bit low at 66.7%, and his BABIP was a bit elevated at .318, and he also induced 1.07 ground balls for each fly ball.A lat strain in August cut his season short as the organization didn't want to risk further injury.
His stuff was not all the way back to pre-surgery form, but was still enough to overpower hitters in A ball. Before he went under the knife, he was everything you expect out of an ace caliber arm. He showed a double plus fastball that sat in the mid to upper 90's, a double plus cutter he didn't even throw in games, a plus curve and another plus pitch in his change up. All that was paired with impeccable make-up and work ethic, a sturdy frame, and excellent command. Bundy even made it back on the mound less than a calendar year from when he had the surgery which points to the exceptional make-up and work ethic.
From the handful of starts he made in 2014 though, he didn't have all of that back just yet. The velocity was down in the low 90's, reaching its apex at 96 mph. He struggled to find his release point consistently with the hook, and he once again did not throw his cutter in an effort to develop his other offspeed pitches. The change up was also inconsistent, but all of these issues are common in pitchers returning from Tommy John. I still think Bundy is the same ace he was before going down with injury.
2015 Outlook -
I expect the Orioles to send Bundy to AA Bowie after spring training which was the inital plan in 2013 before the elbow went kablooey. He will begin the year nearly two years removed from his surgery and should only require the removal of some rust to get back to the pitcher he used to be. With only one option remaining, Bundy will make his return to the big leagues at some point this year, and should stick from then on.
2. RHSP Hunter Harvey - 20 years old. A+ Frederick
Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt
2014 stats -
Hunter Harvey was the 22nd overall selection in the 2013 draft out of Bandys High School in North Carolina. He showed no inclination of going to college, and received a $1.947M signing bonus soon after the end of the draft. The Orioles were able to get a little over 25 innings in for Harvey before the end of the year, including three at short season Aberdeen. He struck out 33 to just six walks and was primed to take on his full season debut as a teenager.
Harvey made 17 starts with Low A Delmarva this past season, posting excellent strike out rates while limiting hits, especially of the extra base variety. His control still needs refinement with 3.4 BB/9, but what 19 year old's doesn't? The BABIP and 68.9% strand rate are both in line with league averages while Harvey also posted a 0.96 GO:AO ratio and a 42.3% ground ball rate. With all the positives in his statistical profile, I'm not as worried about his 22.8% line drive rate which was 4.5 points higher than the South Atlantic League average. In late July, Harvey was shut him down for the season in an injury. What the injury was exactly his hard to tell as its been reported from major news outlets as either a flexor mass muscle strain in his forearm, a shoulder strain, or elbow soreness.
The slender 6'3, 175 pound right hander pitches off an excellent low to mid 90's fastball that has been clocked as high as 96 mph with natural cut to it. His cheese is so easy it could come out of an aerosol can, but he struggles to maintain it the higher the pitch count. Right now he leans pretty heavily on the fastball which is more than good enough to dominate Low A hitters. He's aggressive with it and he is not afraid to climb the ladder with it. His hook is the money pitch though, showing big two-plane break in the high 70's to low 80's with tight rotation. At present, its a well above average pitch, but not quite plus yet, but when he peaks, this could be a double plus hammer that results in a whole lot of strike outs. The only thing keeping him from that his the stamina to go later in games, and finding the right release point consistently. Baltimore insisted he throw his change up more this past season and it went from a raw pitch with promise to at least an average one. He shows plus make up with excellent poise on the mound and pitchability beyond his years. The likely ceiling here for Harvey is as a mid rotation arm, but I wouldn't anoint top of the rotation status on him just yet. There are too many variables in play like how he bounces back from the injury, if he can maintain velocity late, and him proving he can hold up over 150-200 innings.
2015 Outlook -
3. RF Dariel Alvarez - 26 years old, AAA Norfolk
4. C Chance Sisco - 20 years old, A+ Frederick
5. 1B Christian Walker - 24 years old, AAA Norfolk
6. LHSP Brian Gonzalez - 19 years old, Low A Delmarva
7. LHSP Tim Berry - 24 years old, AAA Norfolk
8. RHSP Zach Davies - 22 years old, AAA Norfolk
9. RF Mike Yastrzemski - 24 years old, AA Bowie
10. 3B Jomar Reyes - 18 years old, A- Aberdeen
11. RHSP David Hess - 21 years old, Low A Delmarva
12. RHSP Pat Connaughton - 22 years old, Low A Delmarva
13. CF Josh Hart - 20 years old, Low A Delmarva
14. RHP Jason Garcia - 22 years old, MLB Baltimore Orioles
15. RHSP Mike Wright - 25 years old, AAA Norfolk
16. 3B Drew Dosch - 23 years old, A+ Frederick
17. RHP Jon Keller - 22 years old, AA Bowie
18. LHSP Mitch Horacek - 23 years old, AA Bowie
19. C Jonah Heim - 20 years old, A- Aberdeen
20. RHSP Tyler Wilson - 25 years old, AAA Norfolk
Honorable Mentions (other 3 star players) - SS Adrian Marin, 1B Trey Mancini, C Alex Murphy, RHP Branden Kline, RHP Sebastian Vader, RHP Derrick Bleeker, RHP Ofelky Peralta
Team Codes - AAA - Norfolk Tides, AA - Bowie BaySox, A+ - Frederick Keys, A - Delmarva Shorebirds, A- - Aberdeen IronBirds, R - Gulf Coast League Orioles, DSL1 - Dominican Summer League Orioles1, DSL2 - Dominican Summer League Orioles2, DNP - Did Not Play