It's been a tough year for the Baltimore Orioles prospects.
Top overall prospect (according to MLB.com) Dylan Bundy has yet to make an appearance and recently underwent Tommy John surgery, shelving him for at least a year.
No. 2 guy Kevin Gausman dominated in the minors before being recalled to Baltimore, where he got shelled. He's currently one of several on the daily shuttle that runs back and forth from Triple-A Norfolk to Camden Yards.
No. 3 prospect Jonathan Schoop missed nearly two months with a stress fracture in his back.
Branden Kline, the No. 8 prospect, has made just seven starts, missing time with a fracture in his leg.
That doesn't even begin to cover the prospects who have gotten off to terrible starts, including:
- Xavier Avery (No. 7): .254, 92 K in 342 AB
- Glynn Davis (No. 10): .234, 11 SB in 51 G
- Devin Jones (No. 14): 4-4, 5.65 ERA
- Parker Bridwell (No. 19): 6-8, 5.24 ERA
For all of the disappointments, there have been just as many pleasant surprises, such as 20-year-old right-hander Zach Davies.
Davies was an under-sized and under-weight pitcher who dropped all the way to the 26th-round in the 2011 draft, in part because of a commitment to Arizona State. The O's went over-slot to sign him and have been rewarded with a strong performance.
He posted a 3.86 ERA in 25 appearances (17 starts) last season for Low-A Delmarva and this season he's putting together one of the best campaigns in the High-A Carolina League. His 3.35 ERA ranks 11th in the league, and he's 13th in strikeouts and third in innings pitched.
There's an outside chance that Davies could find his way to Double-A as a 20-year-old before the end of the season.
As good as Davies has been, he's not the top pitcher in the organization. Heck, he's not even the top right-handed pitcher.
Seeing as how we're at the halfway point of the MLB season, it seems appropriate to take a look at the O's top prospects by position.
It's a good thing the Orioles have two-time All-Star and Gold Glove-winner Matt Wieters at the big-league level, because the organization's catching prospects aren't much to speak of.
And it's not for lack of effort.
The O's drafted the offensively gifted Caleb Joseph out of Lipscomb several years ago, but his bat seems to have stalled at Double-A. Brian Ward is a fine defensive catcher, but he doesn't offer much at the plate. They just spent four of their top 11 picks in this year's draft on backstops, trying to reinvigorate the depth at the position.
As of right now, however, the top catcher in the system is 22-year-old Michael Ohlman.
Ohlman has seen his fair share of highs and lows since joining the O's out of the 2009 draft class. He signed for $995,000 (big-time high) in '09 but drew a 50-game suspension for drug abuse (big-time low) and missed all but 59 games due to a shoulder injury sustained in a car accident last year.
While the shoulder injury has limited Ohlman to just 23 games behind the plate this season, his bat sure has come alive. His .330 average would rank second in the Carolina League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify and he's ninth with 10 homers. He was named the organization's player of the month for June after posting a .356/.449/.656 line with 17 RBI, and he won back-to-back Carolina League player of the week honors (6/17-6/30).
Among catchers in the organization, he ranks behind only Joseph in terms of doubles, home runs and RBI, but he gets the edge in both batting average and walk-to-strikeout ratio. Here's a quick comparison of the top two catchers in the system right now.
As a 22-year-old in High-A, Ohlman is a tad old for his competition, but when you take into consideration his injury and off-the-field issues, he's on a faster track than Joseph.
As noted above, Ohlman has spent the majority of the season at DH, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep up the offensive production while logging some serious time behind the plate. He has the tools to succeed back there, though, possessing a strong arm and quick movements for a guy his size (6'4'', 205 lbs).
Despite the fact that he's performing at such a high level so far this season, the O's will likely keep Ohlman at Frederick for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Runners-up: Caleb Joseph (AA), Chance Sisco (GCL), Alex Murphy (GCL)
Walker earned an unlikely honor this past week, getting named as an injury replacement to the U.S. squad in the upcoming Futures Game, a contest that pits the top prospects from all over the world against the best from the States.
Walker's inclusion says more about the lack of true first baseman prospects in the minor leagues right now than it does about his greatness, but he's easily the top player at his position in the organization. He's been showcasing the tools that made him a second-round pick last year for both Delmarva and Frederick this season.
He hit his way out of Low-A by tearing up South Atlantic League pitching to the tune of a .345 average. He drove in 20 runs in just 31 games and showed good patience and a mature hitting approach. He scuffled for about a week after getting the bump to High-A Frederick but has since found his form and boosted his line to .288/.345/.481 in 54 games with the Keys.
For the season, Walker has posted a .311/.372/.479 line with 22 doubles, 11 homers and 54 RBI.
He's posted some pretty interesting splits at both levels, hitting a meager .158 against lefties in Low-A, a number that has since flipped to .316 in High-A. Strangely, he also went from hitting .381 against righties to .288 against them at Frederick.
Strange splits aside, Walker is the top first baseman prospect in the system because of his even hitting approach and his incredible power. Defensively he's no slouch, either, although he'll likely never win any Gold Gloves for his performance.
Among current big-leaguers, Walker best compares to Mike Napoli, although he offers significantly more defensive value and he doesn't strike out as often.
Runners-up: Hector Veloz (SS-A), Trey Mancini (SS-A), Drew Dosch (N/A)
While he didn't get much attention after signing with the O's in late-2008, Jonathan Schoop exploded onto the stage as one of the top infield prospects in all of baseball the past two seasons.
He opened some eyes within the organization in 2010 but shined for all to see the following year, hitting .290 with 13 homers and 71 RBI while splitting time between Delmarva and Frederick. At times he even outperformed former first-round pick Manny Machado both in the field and at the plate. The two formed an impressive double-play combination at both levels.
Pushed aggressively to Double-A to start the 2012 season, Schoop responded by hitting a career-high 14 homers, although his average did dip to .245. He continued to show incredible plate discipline, however, and set a personal best with 50 walks.
Schoop kicked off the 2013 campaign by taking the field for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He performed incredibly well against some of the best players in the world and carried that momentum into his fifth professional season. He had boosted his average to .268 in 33 games with Triple-A Norfolk before being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back. The ailment kept him on the DL for most of May and June and he's just now working his way back (no pun intended) to Norfolk.
Prior to the season it seemed an inevitability that he would see some time with the big-league club before the end of the year, but now it seems that the front office would be content to see him finish out the year at Norfolk.
As evidenced by his performance early this year as a 21-year-old in Triple-A, Schoop's bat is incredibly advanced. He offers good pop (15-20 HR annually) and should hit for an average in the .270-280 range, while not striking out too often. Think of him as a poor man's Jurickson Profar.
Defensively, he's also a premium prospect. He's played second base, shortstop and third base during his career, but due to the presence of Machado he'll likely end up at either second or third. He has a great arm, impressive footwork and soft hands, so he should be an above-average defender wherever he plays.
Runners-up: Buck Britton (AAA), Torsten Boss (A), Jeff Kemp (SS-A), Yariel Vargas (GCL)
If you thought the Orioles were lacking depth at catcher, then skip right past this slide.
Shortstop is easily the weakest position in the entire system. It's a good thing, then, that the O's have two All-Stars (J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado) at the big-league level capable of handling the duties, and especially good that one of them is young.
There really is no competition for the top spot, as the tools offered by 2012 third-round pick Adrian Marin put to shame every other middle-infielder in the system.
Marin showcased his ability last year in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .287 with three triples and six steals in 47 games. The O's gave him an aggressive promotion to Delmarva this season and he's responded by holding his own as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.
Through 76 games, he's hitting .272 with 12 doubles, 33 RBI and seven steals. Not exactly awe-inspiring numbers, but they're impressive enough for a 19-year-old in Low-A ball. He's gotten more comfortable as the season has worn on, hitting .315 in June and .324 so far in July.
One thing that Marin isn't producing is extra-base hits. In 129 professional games, he has only 20 doubles, five triples and a single home run. At 6'0'' and 160 pounds, he's clearly still growing into his body, so it wouldn't be a total shock for that to continue until he puts on some more weight.
For now, we'll have to settle for him being a slap-hitter with good speed.
In time, the O's will view Marin as a similar product to Machado: a balanced hitter with the tools to handle shortstop.
Runner-ups: Niuman Romero (AAA), Jared Breen (SS-A), Justin Viele (GCL)
Delmonico should have been the O's breakout player of the year in 2012.
The former sixth-round pick was hitting .249 with 11 homers and 54 RBI before a knee injury forced him to the DL, putting a damper on an otherwise sensational campaign. His performance is all the more impressive when you consider that Delmonico played the majority of the season as a 19-year-old.
The fact that he was so good with the bat didn't surprise the O's front office, however, and was the main reason they shelled out more than $1.5 million to sign him two years ago.
This season, Delmonico has been healthier, and at the plate he's looked even better than ever. In 52 games for High-A Frederick, he's hitting .263 with 11 doubles, 13 homers and 30 RBI. Not exactly Miguel Cabrera numbers, but not bad for a guy who just turned 20 on July 12.
Delmonico isn't as polished defensively.
He played mostly catcher in high school and has seen time at both first and third base as a pro. He profiles best at third base, where he has a strong enough arm and quick enough feet. If he loses a step he can always shift across the diamond.
As long as Delmonico can stay healthy, he should have no problem hitting his way through the minors, reaching Baltimore sometime around 2016.
Runners-up: Jason Esposito (A+), Brandon Waring (AA), Joel Hutter (A)
In any other organization, Hoes likely would have gotten a shot in the big leagues already.
Unfortunately, the Orioles are well-stocked with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and the platoon of Nate McLouth/Nolan Reimold, meaning Hoes is biding his time at Triple-A until an injury or some other unforeseen event befalls one of the current outfielders.
There's little else Hoes can do at the Triple-A level.
Since being promoted midway through last season, he has played roughly one full season (170 games) and has put together this impressive stat-line:
.302, 36 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 77 RBI, 109 R, 84/94 BB/K, 14 SB
You'd be hard pressed to find another player who's put up those kind of numbers in the same span.
As evidenced by his line above, Hoes does a little bit of everything. He's an expert at making contact and is as patient a hitter as the O's have in their system. He's not afraid to draw a walk, and when he gets on base he's got better wheels than his six steals this season indicate. He's stolen at least 20 in three of the past four years.
In the field, he's an asset. His arm is plenty strong and can be a definite weapon in left field. He has the speed to get to balls that Reimold can't.
The only thing missing from Hoes' game is power. He had a stretch a few years ago at Double-A where he tapped into some power, but he hasn't shown much since. With power hitters at multiple positions, including center field, first base, shortstop and catcher, the O's could use an on-base percentage guy like Hoes.
Runners-up: Mike Yastrzemski (SS-A)
The newest member of the organization, Hart was selected in the competitive balance round that took place after the compensation round, which took place after the first round.
Hart signed relatively quickly and is already taking cuts with the O's Gulf Coast League squad. Through eight games and 30 at-bats, he's hitting .267 with a double, seven RBI and four steals in five tries. It's early but he's shown good discipline at the plate, walking five times compared to six strikeouts.
The O's considered taking Hart with their first-round-pick and were stoked to get him with the 38th overall selection.
The front office saw him as a five-tool player who offers great speed and excellent defensive value. He has the size and athleticism to stick in center field and has a strong enough arm to make all the necessary throws.
At the plate he's shown some good raw power, but his game will be all about getting on base and using his wheels. As with most raw high school prospects, it's anyone's guess as to how well his bat will develop. But it isn't wrong to expect him to be a more polished version of Xavier Avery.
Runners-up: Glynn Davis (A+), Xavier Avery (AAA), Kyle Hudson (AA), Gregory Lorenzo (A)
With each passing day, the clamor for Urrutia to be recalled to Baltimore grows louder.
The former Cuban League star is nearly ready to make good on the statement he offered up during his introduction to the media this spring:
"My idea was to come to the States to come to the big leagues."
After decimating Eastern League pitching to the tune of a league-leading .365 average and 37 RBI in 52 games, Urrutia has responded well to a promotion to Triple-A. In 15 games, he's hitting .367 with four doubles and six RBI and recently posted his first 5-for-5 performance.
Across two levels, he's hitting .365/.427/.531 with 20 doubles, seven homers, 43 RBI and 45 runs in 67 games.
Clearly, hitting is his specialty.
Fielding...not so much.
He's seen time in both left and right field and while he hasn't shown great prowess, he should be an average outfielder given more experience.
The O's don't currently have a need for Urrutia's offensive production, and it makes sense for him to be getting everyday at-bats as opposed to platooning in left field with the big league club. But once rosters expand in September, he'll likely be one of the first players up.
Runners-up: Roderick Bernandina (A)
Excluding both Dylan Bundy (injury) and Kevin Gausman (currently in majors), the top right-handed starting pitcher in the organization is this year's first-round pick, Hunter Harvey.
The son of a former big leaguer, Harvey is pretty polished for a high schooler. He was so ready to tackle professional ball that he didn't even bother committing to a college, and he took last summer off in order to rest his arm.
The gamble paid off, and the O's, who considered taking Josh Hart, snatched up Harvey with the 22nd overall pick. Luckily, they were also able to get Hart 15 picks later.
Unlike the last two first-round pitchers whom the O's have selected out of the high school ranks (Dylan Bundy and Matt Hobgood), Harvey still has some room to grow; and as he adds some bulk he may also add some velocity. He's already been clocked as high as 96 mph.
Harvey's curveball is his No. 2 pitch, and while he didn't have to use a changeup much in high school, he's shown good feel for it.
Harvey's debut is set to come this week, and if he follows the recent trend of O's pitchers he should start 2014 with Low-A Delmarva.
He should be on track to reach the big leagues by 2017.
Runners-up: Zach Davies (A+), Mike Wright (AA), Parker Bridwell (A), Eddie Gamboa (AAA), Tyler Wilson (AA), Oliver Drake (AA)
Fresh off of an impressive performance at the Futures Game, Rodriguez is set to take his place as one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball.
Just a few years ago, the scrawny Rodriguez was a soft-tossing lefty. He's put on some pounds and added a few ticks to his fastball since signing back in 2010 and has turned into arguably the top pitcher in the Orioles' system.
Rodriguez opened some eyes last season, posting a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts for Low-A Delmarva, but his performance this season has brought all sorts of attention his way. He began the year with High-A Frederick and went 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts before earning a well-deserved promotion to Double-A.
His first start (5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) with the Baysox showed he still has a ways to go, but his second (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 7 K) showcased an ability to dominate hitters with a 90-94 mph fastball that has a ton of sinking movement.
The O's have had luck with groundball pitchers in recent years, including Zach Britton and Jim Johnson, and it appears that Rodriguez has a good chance to join them on the big league roster by the end of next year.
Runners-up: Josh Hader (A), Jake Pettit (AA), Tim Berry (A+), Mitch Horacek (SS-A)
The O's have been insistent on trying Kline out as a starter, and while they'll probably stick to that line for the next few years, Kline's best bet to reach the majors will likely come as a reliever.
Relieving isn't new to Kline, who was born in Frederick, home of the O's High-A affiliate. He was a valuable piece of Virginia's bullpen in 2010 before emerging as the Cavs' closer in 2011. He saved 18 games that year and struck out 56 batters in 43 innings.
The departure of the team's best starters—including Tyler Wilson to Baltimore—necessitated a return to the rotation during Kline's junior season, and he was good there (7-3, 3.56) but there's no doubt that his stuff (mid-90s fastball, above-average curveball) would play better in the bullpen.
Once they do move him back to a relief role, expect Kline to move fast.
Runners-up: Tim Bascom (AA), Matt Price (A+), Matt Hobgood (A), Dylan Rheault (SS-A), Jimmy Yacobonis (SS-A), Mark Blackmar (A)
How does a guy who walks 83 batters in 104 innings hold down a 1.73 ERA over the course of two seasons?
Well, holding them to a sub-.150 average doesn't hurt.
That's what Clay Schrader has done over the past two seasons for the Orioles Single- and Double-A affiliates, establishing himself as the top relief prospect in the organization.
This season, 23-year-old Schrader has finally hit a rough patch. Through 20 games, his ERA stands at 4.91. He's walked 25 batters in 33 innings, so it seems as though his high walk rate may finally be catching up to him. He's also served up four homers, a career high. He had never before given up more than two in any single season.
Luckily, he's still striking out more than a batter an inning, and batters are only hitting .200 off of him. His velocity is still elite (94-97 mph) and his slider is still an above-average offering.
Schrader now has 39 appearances at Double-A under his belt, so it shouldn't be long before he gets the bump to Triple-A, and then he's only one injury away from getting called up.
If he doesn't get a shot before the end of next season, I'd be surprised.
Runners-up: Trent Howard (A+), Lex Rutledge (A), Ashur Tolliver (A+)