Though Baltimore’s system is thin on positional talent, its decision to draft high-ceiling pitching prospects in the first round in each of the last three years could produce one of the best homegrown, major league rotations by late 2016.
After climbing from Low-A to the major leagues during his 2012 professional debut, Dylan Bundy’s promising career hit a bump in the road last season when an elbow injury forced the right-hander to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in May. Though he likely was ticketed for the minor leagues to open the 2013 season, Bundy was expected to emerge as a staple in the team’s starting rotation by the All-Star break (if not earlier).
Depending on when he returns to the mound in 2014, the 21-year-old could conceivably reach the major leagues by season’s end. However, all expectations regarding his performance need to be tempered, as is the case with any young arm coming back from elbow surgery.
Because Bundy hasn’t thrown a pitch professionally in over a year, right-hander Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranks as the organization's top prospect for the upcoming season. Rushed to the major leagues early last season, Gausman struggled as a member of the starting rotation before settling into a bullpen role in September.
However, with outstanding command of a plus-plus fastball/changeup combination and a slider that could represent another plus offering at maturity, the 23-year-old has the realistic ceiling of a front-of-the-rotation starter and has only begun to scratch the surface of his ultimate potential.
Meanwhile, 2013 first-rounder Hunter Harvey has impact starter written all over him. The projectable right-hander opened eyes during his professional debut last summer with an electric fastball/curveball combination, as well as a feel for pitching that could have him in the major leagues ahead of schedule.
Baltimore's prospect pool is essentially a collection of high-floor prospects beyond their prized right-handers. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has surpassed expectations as a younger player at advanced levels in each of the last two years, and he should provide a nice contrast to the team’s power arms in its future rotation.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop received his first taste of the major leagues in late 2013, announcing his arrival with a home run in his first career start. While he’s unlikely to break camp as the team’s second baseman, especially following the offseason acquisition of Jemile Weeks, the 22-year-old could carve out a role as a utility infielder next season.
One prospect to keep an eye on in 2014 is Chance Sisco, the team’s second-round draft pick last June. The left-handed hitting catcher is still new to the position and will require considerable refinement in the minor leagues, but his across-the-board tools and mature baseball skills suggest a breakout full-season debut is on the horizon.
Here’s a look at the Baltimore Orioles’ top 10 prospects for 2014.