Ranking the Orioles' Best Minor League Bargaining Chips
With August quickly approaching, the question remains whether or not the Baltimore Orioles will be active at the trade deadline.
While they have already made a key acquisition, acquiring Cubs starting pitching Scott Feldman, the O's still have plenty of minor league trade bait they could still use if general manager Dan Duquette decides to be aggresive in his trades.
Since Duquette's arrival late in 2011, the Orioles have been keen on keeping their top prospects and not falling into the "win now" trade attitude, despite being a winning team for the first time since the late 1990s.
One example of this is their recent acquisition of Feldman.
The O's could have traded for the more valuable Cubs' starter, Matt Garza. However, according to Buster Olney of ESPN and Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles' were not willing to part with top prospects Eduardo Rodriguez and Jonathan Schoop.
Instead, they traded for Feldman and lost only pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, both of whom had all but played themselves out of Baltimore.
So, if the Orioles decide against trading some of their more valuable minor league talent, it would neither be shocking nor necessarily a bad thing.
Nonetheless, here are their top minor league bargaining chips if they decide to be major trading deadline buyers.
There are a few players who, despite being top prospects, are simply untouchable and thus off the rankings board.
All of Baltimores' recent draft picks, including Hunter Harvey and Josh Hart, while not necessarily untouchable are unlikely to be traded at the deadline. After a year or two of some minor league experience, they'll become more valuable trade bait.
Then there's the list of players that the Orioles could be willing to part with given the right deal. However, their value as a bargaining chip isn't really top caliber.
5. Caleb Joseph
Team: Double-A Bowie Baysox
Caleb Joseph really hasn't gotten a chance with the Orioles yet, and you could argue that he never will.
He's been stuck in Double-A since 2010, only reaching Triple-A for about a month in 2012. As long as Matt Wieters is in Baltimore, the Orioles probably won't be calling for Joseph anytime soon.
While the 27-year-old hasn't put up huge numbers in the minors, they're more than adequate for a catcher and he has improved at the plate each season. His arm is also impressive behind the plate, as he has thrown out 33 percent of runners trying to steal over his career.
Joseph is currently platooning as a DH, with the lack of wear and tear as a part-time catcher seemingly paying off as Joseph having a career year. Through 89 games this season, his line stands at a solid .282/.336/.493 along with 16 homers and 67 RBI. He also won this year's Eastern League Home Run Derby.
The Orioles really don't have any room for Joseph, who probably deserves a promotion. While he's not the most valuable bargaining chip, if the O's make a trade with a team that wants a catching prospect or a prospect with solid power who could possibly be ready for the majors, Joseph could be the player chosen.
4. Nick Delmonico
Team: Advanced-A Frederick Keys
The biggest issue with Nick Delmonico seems to be staying on the field. He has already missed time this season after sitting out parts of last season as well with a multitude of injuries.
The 21-year-old has also been somewhat disheartening in the field this year. In 42 games at third base, he has made 14 errors and has a forgettable .867 fielding percentage. In his defense, this is the first time he has played professionally at third base.
Perhaps his power has been the most impressive part of Delmonico's game this year. Through 55 games, he has 13 homers and 30 RBI. His line stands at a respectable .256/.361/.498.
That plus-power, along with his impressive batting eye and potential, is what makes Delmonico a top prospect as well as a good bargaining chip come the trade deadline.
3. Christian Walker
Team: Double-A Bowie Baysox
The former South Carolina Gamecock has perhaps been the most impressive Orioles' prospect this season. Not only did he play in Sunday's Futures Game, he was promoted to Bowie on Monday in his second promotion of the year.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, Christian Walker has hit whereever he has gone this year. In 86 games between Single-A Delmarva and Advanced-A Frederick, the 22-year-old has hit .311/.370/.477, belting 11 homers while driving in 55 runs.
At the beginning of the season, MLB.com listed Walker as the Orioles' 16th-best prospect. With the season Walker is having, he'd easily be in the top 10 if those rankings were taken again.
The Orioles are set at first base for the foreseeable future with Chris Davis, but Walker could always become the O's DH if necessary. However, if the Orioles look to make a deal, Walker could be seen as top trade bait.
2. L.J. Hoes
Team: Triple-A Norfolk Tides
At the plate, L.J. Hoes is already major league-ready. He doesn't have much power, but a line of .308/.405/.413 in Triple A this year speaks for itself.
The issue is that the Orioles are already set in the outfield, and with Henry Urrutia hitting .350-plus whereever he goes, it may be a long time before Hoes gets a real shot in the majors.
Any team that is rebuilding and looking to add some young talent while shipping out a veteran would love to acquire a player like Hoes. He's young and seems to have a batter's eye similar to that of Nick Markakis, as his 51-to-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 90 games this season attests.
1. Eduardo Rodriguez
Team: Double-A Bowie Baysox
Other than Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez is easily the Orioles' top pitching prospect.
Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun tweeted that Rodriguez was part of the deal-breaker in the proposed trade for Cubs starter Matt Garza, which shows the reluctance the O's have in trading him. However, if they want to go after a big-name player, the O's would most likely have to part ways with the left-handed Venezuelan.
The 20-year-old Rodriguez is listed by MLB.com as the Orioles' fourth overall prospect and he has had a good year to back up that ranking. Prior to his promotion to Bowie, Rodriguez was 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts with Advanced-A Frederick. That performance earned him a spot in the Futures Game, where he pitched a scoreless inning.
He's only had two starts since being promoted to Double-A, the first of which he got roughed up a bit. However, that doesn't hurt his status as the Orioles' top bargaining chip.