Kevin Gausman only scratched the surface of his potential in 2013.
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.
DOB: 12/14/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 215 pounds
Drafted: 11th round, 2009 (Lakewood Ranch HS, Fla.)
Michael Ohlman battled injuries during first three professional seasons and served a 50-game suspension in 2012 after a second positive test for a drug of abuse; bat has come on strong since returning; coming off breakout 2013 campaign; right-handed batter has above-average raw power that plays in games; consistent feel for power-oriented swing; above-average bat speed; gets excellent extension through the ball and uses the whole field; bat path can get long and leads to some swing-and-miss; advanced approach allows him to remain patient and work deep counts.
His large 6’5”, 215-pound frame can be an impediment behind the plate; fringy blocking will need to improve to remain at position; he’s a decent receiver who worked hard to improve in 2013; slightly better-than-average arm strength is greatest defensive asset; offensive ceiling could warrant a look at first base in future seasons.
Projection: Backup catcher/first baseman
DOB: 02/07/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 150 pounds
Drafted: 26th round, 2011 (Mesquite HS, Ariz.)
Undersized right-hander with athletic, 6’0”, 150-pound build; fluid and repeatable delivery; smooth arm action; demonstrates good feel for four pitches, though none project to be more than average; consistent strike thrower with plus pitchability; changes speeds effectively to keep opposing hitters off-balance.
He commands his upper-80s fastball down in the zone; aggressive with the pitch despite lack of velocity; inability to create downhill plane forces him to rely on command and movement; mixes in a curveball and slider; comfortable throwing both pitches in any count; changeup grades at best secondary offering; good speed differential and deceptive arm speed.
Projection: No. 5 starter
DOB: 02/24/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190
Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Santiago HS, Calif.)
ETA: Late 2017
Sisco’s 6’2”, 190-pound frame is projectable and ideal for adding strength; excellent athlete; dual-threat catcher with potential for four average or better tools at maturity; left-handed batter’s strong wrists produce good bat speed; quick swing; already uses the entire field; generates impressive extension after contact that suggests power will come; advanced plate discipline considering inexperience; approach could help drive future grade of hit tool.
He has only been a full-time catcher for roughly one year; already shows feel for speed of the game; solid-average arm strength; demonstrated ability to make swift adjustments with blocking and receiver during professional debut; possesses the tools, secondary skills and baseball savvy to rank among the team’s top five prospects at this time next year.
Projection: First-division catcher
DOB: 03/18/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180 pounds
Drafted: 50th round, 2009 (San Marcos HS, Calif.)
Tim Berry has a projectable 6’3”, 180-pound frame and could still add some strength; lanky southpaw lacks overpowering stuff but shows a good feel for three average or better offerings; fastball registers in the low 90s with good arm-side action.
The changeup is his best secondary offering, and could be above average at maturity; turns it over consistently to generate fade; pitch plays up due to his fastball-like arm speed and solid-average command; curveball has good depth and pace; potentially to be slightly better than average; gives right-handed batters too good of a look and will need to improve the command of his three-pitch mix to be successful at higher levels.
Projection: No. 5 starter
DOB: 01/09/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 215 pounds
Drafted: Third round, 2011 (East Carolina)
ETA: Late 2014
Mike Wright is a 6’6”, 210-pound right-hander with a physical and durable frame; innings eater; consistent and repeatable delivery; uses height to create downhill plane toward plate; clean arm action; pounds the zone with low-90s fastball that features sink and slight arm-side run.
His slider flashes above-average potential in the mid-80s and represents his best option for missing bats; mixes in a curveball and changeup, the latter showing average potential with good fading action; knack for throwing strikes can detract from overall effectiveness; lacks a plus pitch but demonstrates a consistent feel for a mature arsenal.
Projection: No. 4 or 5 starter
DOB: 10/16/1991 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2008 (Curacao)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
Schoop is a good athlete with a physically strong, 6’2”, 210-pound build but isn’t a physical player; versatile defender capable of playing multiple infield positions; above-average glove with plus arm strength; footwork can be choppy and stiff but doesn’t detract from overall defensive package.
Right-handed hitter with above-average bat speed and moderate power potential; aggressive approach; attacks the ball with his hands; advanced barrel control allows him to square the ball with consistency; generated more backspin carry last season; tendency to bar his front arm and wrap the bat; vulnerable to same-side velocity on his hands; overall package suggests future as an everyday regular.
Projection: Second-division second baseman
DOB: 04/07/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 pounds
Signed: January 2010 (Venezuela)
ETA: Late 2014
6’2”, 200-pound frame is highly projectable with plenty of room to mature physically; wiry arms and upper body create deception in his unique delivery, which he was able to repeat with more consistency last season; love how his arm works; ball jumps out of his hand with ease.
Fastball sits in the low 90s and will occasionally pop 94 to 95 mph; secondary pitches are understandably raw and lag behind his heater, though both flash the potential to be above-average offerings. Slider is difficult to recognize out of the hand and is sharper when he throws it with velocity; changeup came along in a big way last season; now throws pitch with more confidence.
Projection: No. 3 or 4 starter
DOB: 12/09/1994 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 175 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2013 (Bandys High School, N.C.)
Highly projectable 6’3”, 175-pound frame with room to add considerable strength; lean, athletic build; stays tall throughout delivery to create downhill plane; pauses at the height of his motion to gather momentum; glides front leg towards plate rather than stepping over, which limits explosiveness of front side; works from high three-quarters arm slot; mechanics are consistent but will need to be cleaned up moving forward; fast, fluid arm action; does a good job of working low in the zone.
Fastball sits 90-94 mph; can reach back for a few extra ticks; demonstrates impressive command to both sides of the plate for a player of his age and experience; velocity stands to increase once he adds strength and gets slight mechanical issues ironed out; throws pitch on downhill plane with some late life.
Curveball is currently his best offering; potential plus-plus out pitch at the next level; fast arm helps generate tight rotation and late bite; can get on the side of it at times and give it more lateral break, though the variation has been equally effective; he does have a changeup, but the right-hander has rarely had to use it; will be vital toward overall development at the next level.
Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter
DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 pounds
Drafted: First round, 2011 (Owasso HS, Okla.)
ETA: Late 2014 (Debuted in ’12)
2013 Stats (DNP—Tommy John surgery)
The 6’1” right-hander is physically strong; broad shoulders; utilizes lower half and core strength; finishes well out front. Minimal effort; repeats delivery; durable; quick arm; hard to pick up out of hand; poised from the stretch. Possesses a feel for his mechanics well beyond his years.
Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run; blows hitters away with a four-seamer that reaches the high 90s; breaking ball is a hammer and plus pitch; tight rotation; still developing command of the pitch; occasionally leaves it up in the zone; changeup is his most consistent secondary pitch; potential to be another above-average offering; also has a slider but primary breaking ball is the curve.
Projection: No. 2 starter
DOB: 01/06/1991 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Louisiana State)
ETA: 2014 (Debuted in ’13)
Gausman has a power frame at 6’3”, 190 pounds, and still has room to fill out; plus athleticism allows him to repeat active delivery; maintains balance throughout and knows how to use his lower half; doesn’t rely on pure arm strength as he once did.
Right-hander boasts huge velocity, with a four-seam fastball that registers consistently in the mid- to upper 90s; two-seamer registers a few ticks slower but features more arm-side run; holds velocity deep into starts; changeup is a legitimate plus-plus pitch in the low to mid-80s with devastating, splitter-like drop; made noticeable strides improving his slider over the last year; development of the breaking ball will be crucial to his success moving forward; viable third pitch to complement his fastball-changeup combo could make him a front-of-the-rotation force for years to come; electric arsenal and plus command profile give him an insanely high ceiling; poised to take a huge step forward in 2014.
Projection: No. 2 starter