Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects: Who's Hot and Who's Not, May 12
In a near unprecedented run of success, two of the Baltimore Orioles' minor league affiliates (Norfolk and Frederick) currently sit atop the standings in their respective divisions.
And while the two other squads (Bowie and Delmarva) are struggling to reach the .500 mark, this season is shaping up to be one of the most successful that the Baltimore organization has had in at least a decade.
Factor in the big league squad's 22-15 record and the case could be made that the Orioles currently have the most successful organization in baseball, top to bottom.
The past month has been chock-full of highlights down on the farm.
Former first-rounder Kevin Gausman has slowly rounded into form and has looked as dominating as any pitching prospect, Christian Walker has continued his assault on South Atlantic League pitching and L.J. Hoes and Jonathan Schoop have turned into one of the better bottom-of-the-lineup combos in all of baseball.
Let's check out who's been hot and who hasn't during the past month of Orioles minor league baseball.
Obligatory Dylan Bundy Update
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The most recent update on Bundy, easily the Orioles' top prospect, comes from Steve Melewski, of MASN Sports:
Dylan Bundy has started his prescribed six weeks of rest after getting a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last Monday in his right forearm/elbow area from orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
An MRI on Bundy's right elbow came back clean. PRP is blood plasma that has been enriched with platelets and stimulates the healing of bone and soft tissue.
The six weeks is really six weeks of no throwing, being shut down and that is pretty standard. If you look at Bundy's case, they shut him down in late March, did an MRI and that didn't find anything substantial and then he had some rest and started to resume his throwing program with some light tossing.
You could be looking at another month of a throwing program after that or a couple of months. The longer the down time, in addition to working your way back through a throwing program, you have to build up the endurance of the arm. It makes it hard to put a date on it and you likely won't see the team do it. Too many variables there.
Best-case scenario seems to be that Bundy won't see the mound again before the All-Star break. Worst case, he's headed for surgery.
Either way, he's not likely to help the Orioles this year.
Hitter of the Month
For most Orioles fans, it seemed like Cuban defector Henry Urrutia would never make it onto the playing field.
After signing with the club last July, Urrutia was expected to make his minor league debut as early as August, but visa issues kept him stuck in Haiti until just a few months ago.
After an impressive showing in the team's extended spring training, the 26-year-old was assigned to Double-A Bowie, where he has shown incredible promise, hitting .349/.414/.587.
Not bad for a guy who hasn't played competitively since starring for Cuba's national squad against Japan back in 2010.
Even more impressive is how consistent Urrutia has been. He's racked up 22 hits in just 16 games, half of which have been of the extra-base hit variety. He's shown incredible patience, posting a 7-to-12 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and while he's shown more power in batting practice than in actual games, he's already rapped nine doubles to go with two homers.
His 15 RBI rank third on the roster, despite the fact that he's played in nearly half as many games as the rest of the regulars.
Urrutia was at his best during a stretch from May 3 to 6. In those four contests, he went a combined 8-for-16 with five doubles and seven RBI. Those performances boosted his May line to .429/.467/.643.
Pitcher of the Month
It was only a matter of time before Kevin Gausman caught fire and made Orioles Nation forget all about that Dylan Bundy guy.
Okay, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but there's no denying that Gausman's performance the past month has lightened the mood of an Orioles front office struggling to deal with the uncertainty surrounding Bundy.
Since giving up 10 hits and six runs (five earned) in an April 16 start, Gausman has been one of the hottest pitching prospects in the minors.
In four starts since that rough outing, the right-hander has allowed just five runs in 23.2 innings, good for a 1.90 ERA. In that same period he has racked up 20 strikeouts and issued just three walks.
His most dazzling performance came on April 28 against Harrisburg. Gausman went a career-high 7.2 innings, allowing just five hits and one earned run. He struck out eight.
As if the performances haven't been enough, Gausman was clocked in the 95 to 97 mph range in his last start, and one radar gun recorded one fastball at 100 mph.
Looks like you've got company in that club, Mr. Bundy.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
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After a strong April, in which he posted a .282/.361/.388 line and drove in 17 runs in 22 games, L.J. Hoes has looked as good as ever in May. His .300/.432/.400 line stands out as an incredible mark for one of the youngest regulars in the International League, and is a testament to why he is so highly valued among the front office brass. Hoes simply knows how to get on base.
Despite a .287 average on the year, Hoes ranks inside the IL top 20 in on-base percentage, thanks to his 16 walks.
Given the struggles of the Orioles at the designated hitter spot, Hoes could find his way to Baltimore sometime in the next few weeks.
Another player who could be joining Hoes is infielder Jonathan Schoop, who also has been on a tear as of late.
After a rough opening month (.222/.315/.321), Schoop has rebounded to hit .317 in 10 May contests. Given the fact that he's a year-and-a-half younger than Hoes, and factoring in the spring training at-bats he lost due to his participation in the World Baseball Classic, and it's no wonder Schoop got off to a rocky start.
The 21-year old has five multi-hit performances in his last nine games.
Left-hander Jake Pettit has quietly gone 26-12 with a sub-3.50 ERA the past three seasons, establishing himself as easily the most underrated pitcher in the system. This season, he's continued to impress, winning two of his first six starts for Double-A Bowie, before a promotion landed him in Triple-A for the first time in his career.
The 26-year-old former 42nd-round selection made the most of the opportunity, tossing 6.1 innings of two-run ball, striking out seven and picking up his third win of the year.
Combined, he's now 3-0 with a 3.70 ERA in seven starts.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
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Many wondered how Xavier Avery, who spent a decent chunk of time with the big league club last year, would handle a demotion to Double-A Bowie to start the season.
After a reasonable adjustment period, it appears Avery is back on track and once again wreaking havoc atop the lineup. After hitting a respectable .277 during April, Avery has boosted his average another 12 points thanks to a .333/.438/.333 line during May.
Always known for his speed, Avery already has four steals in just seven contests this month, after mustering only four steals in 24 games in April.
With eight steals, he could be on his way to challenging his career high of 38, set in 2010.
Long relievers rarely get much credit, but the work 25-year-old southpaw Jason Gurka has done during the past month deserves some mention.
In addition to not allowing an earned run since April 8, a streak of 15.1 innings and six appearances, Gurka has racked up 20 punchouts and allowed just eight hits.
For the season, he's got a 1.42 ERA and batters are hitting a paltry .212 off of him.
One would think that the impressive performance of former Orioles farmhand Pedro Florimon Jr., who could barely hit his weight in the O's minor league system, at the big league level in Minnesota would force the front office to reevaluate some players with similar abilities.
Enter Garabez Rosa, who once held great promise as a defensive wizard with a lightning-quick bat, but who has since failed to hit at just about every stop. This year, Rosa's first above High-A ball, has been yet another struggle. Posting a .250/.257/.308 line is respectable for a 23-year-old making his debut in Double-A, but as of late, the wheels have been coming off.
Over his past 10 games, Rosa is hitting a paltry .211 with just one extra-base hit and 10 strikeouts in 38 at-bats.
Seasoned minor league vet Ty Kelly got off to a great start, hitting well above .400 just weeks into the season, but has since experienced a massive slump that has dropped his season line to .235/.356/.345. Over his last 10 games, the 24-year-old is hitting .194.
On the bright side, during that same 10-game period, five of his seven hits have gone for extra bases, and he's walked seven times, compared to just five strikeouts.
So much for Devin Jones' promising start to the 2013 season. After pitching well enough in his season debut to warrant a promotion to Double-A, Jones has been hit every which way during a five-start stint with the Baysox.
In 25 innings, he's surrendered 23 runs (17 earned) on 32 hits. In just two May starts, he's given up 11 runs in 9.1 innings. He's also failed to make it through the sixth inning since April 12.
High-A Frederick Keys
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Zane Chavez, who?
Time for an introduction to the newest, and arguably hottest hitting, member of the Baltimore organization.
Chavez came in off the streets, signing a contract with the O's on February 1, but since joining Frederick, the 26-year-old is hitting. 301/.436/.430 with six doubles, two homers, 18 RBI and a 23-to-19 BB:K ratio.
So where did he come from exactly?
Try the El Paso Diablos of the Independent League, where he appeared in just 200 games since 2009. Upon receiving his first meaningful playing time last year, Chavez hit .339 with 23 doubles and 51 RBI in just 263 at-bats. He also made a name for himself behind the plate, tossing out 34 percent of runners in his four-year stint.
Over his last 10 games, Chavez is hitting .368 with 13 RBI and a 14-to-8 BB:K ratio.
It seems fair to say that Jason Esposito has hit rock bottom.
After mustering just two fewer hits (19) than strikeouts (21) during April, the former Vanderbilt star has managed only three hits in 29 at-bats (.103) in May. And he's already racked up 12 strikeouts.
For his career, Esposito has now struck out in a quarter of at-bats, and his average is hovering just above the Mendoza Line.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
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After hitting .360 with seven extra-base hits and 16 RBI during April, Christian Walker has continued to prove himself as the most consistent hitter in the organization during May.
Through seven contests, the former two-time champion at South Carolina has put up a .333/.355/.367 line. He had back-to-back three-hit performances on May 5 and 6 that boosted his season line to .353/.420/.474.
He currently ranks fifth in the South Atlantic League in batting average and base hits and eighth in on-base percentage.
As it currently stands, he's easily the leader for the organization's hitter of the year honors.
Walker's former college teammate, Matt Price, has also adjusted well to pro ball. He's picked up four saves in his last seven outings and has allowed just one earned run since April 11.
In that same period, spanning 10.2 innings, Price has racked up 10 strikeouts.
For the season, Price has five saves and a 2.84 ERA.
The O's have brought Branden Kline along slowly, allowing him only five starts so far this season, each spaced out by six or more days. While the results have been inconsistent, the right-hander appeared to find his form in his last start.
Coming off arguably his worst outing (5 IP, 10 H, 5 ER), Kline responded by tossing six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. He tied a career high with five strikeouts and issued a single walk.
The strong start ended a stretch of three consecutive starts in which Kline had surrendered at least five runs.
Last, but not least, how about a hand for Matt Hobgood.
The former first-round selection began his career as a reliever this year, and so far the results have been encouraging. His most recent outing saw him go a season-high 4.1 innings, allowing just a single hit while striking out three. And for just the second time all season, he failed to issue a walk.
Even more impressive than the results, is word that Hobgood's velocity has returned. After hitting 95 to 98 mph during his senior year of high school, the right-hander dipped into the 88 to 91 range the past few seasons. He was clocked as high as 94 mph during his most recent outing.
Adrian Marin is another player who came out of the gate on fire, only to fall back to earth.
As one of the youngest players on the roster, it's no surprise that Marin hit a paltry .214 during May. At least he showed flashes of brilliance, both at the plate and in the field, where many think he might force Manny Machado to stay at third base long term.
During May, however, Marin has bottomed out. He has just five hits, all singles, and 10 strikeouts in 27 at-bats.
His season line is .206/.248/247.