Breaking Down Baltimore Orioles' Top 10 Prospects to Start the 2014 Season
The Baltimore Orioles' 2014 season is officially underway and although we are just one game in, it's not too early to look into the near future and beyond regarding the team's top prospects.
The Orioles, who boast the 12th-best farm system according to Baseball Prospectus, have prospects scattered throughout multiple positions, most notably in the pitching department. Per Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com, the Orioles have four pitchers in the top 43 of ESPN senior baseball writer Keith Law's top 100 prospect list for 2014.
Here is a breakdown of the Orioles organization's top 10 prospects according to Baseball America, some of which have already reached the major league level or could debut in the show for the first time this summer.
Stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.
10. C Chance Sisco
Selected in the second round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft as the 61st overall pick, Chance Sisco represents a depth choice for the Orioles in the event that veteran catcher Matt Wieters does not sign an extension with the team before he hits free agency at the end of the 2015 season.
Although Sisco has limited experience behind the dish, his batting numbers are what enticed the Orioles to select him well above where he was projected to go off the board. Sisco hit for a .467 batting average and slugged .747 as a senior at Santiago High School (Corona, CA), which warranted him as a fifth- or sixth-round projection by Baseball America.
Last season, Sisco batted a triple slash line of .363/.468/.451, hitting just one home run over 102 at-bats. Sisco spent the majority of his season with the Orioles' Gulf Coast League team, but did see two games worth of action with the Low-A Aberdeen Ironbirds.
Sisco will most likely begin the 2014 season with the Ironbirds, honing his defensive craft behind the plate while working to improve his power numbers as he matures physically.
9. C Michael Ohlman
Having spent the first five seasons of his professional career climbing the Orioles' minor league ladder, Michael Ohlman is well deserving of being the team's top catching prospect.
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Lakewood Ranch High School (Bradenton, FL), Ohlman has been steadily improving up to this point in his professional career. Throughout his Rookie League and Single-A seasons, Ohlman posted a meager batting average of just .237, yet turned things around last season, producing an impressive .313./.410/.524 triple slash line given the increase in the level of competition.
The Orioles rewarded Ohlman for his quick turnaround with a promotion to Double-A Bowie, made official last week.
8. RHP Mike Wright
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles as an early third-round pick in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Mike Wright skyrocketed through the Orioles' minor league system and reached Triple-A Norfolk in just his third professional year.
Credit that to his well above-average K/9 ratio of 8.5 and Eastern League-leading ERA of 3.26 amongst pitchers with at least 140 innings pitched in 2013.
Despite suffering from right elbow tendinitis in spring training, Wright should be fully healthy to begin the 2014 season as a member of a loaded Norfolk Tides rotation.
7. OF Henry Urrutia
Cuban defector Henry Urrutia enters the 2014 season as the Orioles organization's top outfield prospect. Even though Urrutia did not break camp with the major league club, he certainly remains in the Orioles' future plans as incumbent outfielder Nick Markakis enters into what may be his final season with the O's, barring a team option for the 2015 season.
Urrutia's small taste of the majors hasn't been much to write home about, having only produced a below-average on-base percentage of .276 and a very weak .310 slugging percentage in 2013.
His minor league numbers tell a whole different story, though. Prior to being called up by the major league club in 2013, Urrutia averaged a .396 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .490 throughout his stint in Double-A and Triple-A.
Urrutia will begin his season at Triple-A Norfolk, but as long as he continues to develop his power, you can be sure he'll receive a call once an injury to an outfielder or designated hitter opens up a hole on the 25-man roster.
6. LHP Tim Berry
A 50th-round pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Tim Berry could be one of the biggest draft steals in recent years for the O's.
After debuting at the ripe, young age of 19 for the Orioles' Gulf Coast League team, Berry has improved his numbers year after year. After experiencing difficulty in his first full professional year with Single-A Delmarva in 2011 (5.17 ERA), Berry managed to put up personal bests over a full season in both ERA (3.85) and WHIP (1.289) last year at High-A Frederick.
Per Eduardo A. Encina of BaltimoreSun.com, the organization believes he could move quickly through the farm system, but Berry has managed to keep it all in perspective:
Obviously, I’m glad they view me highly,” Berry said. “It’s kind of irrelevant. If I can take care of what I need to take care of and progress how I feel like I’m progressing, it will work out. That’s really what I’m excited about more than anything, that I feel myself progressing, especially in the second half of last year and in the fall league. I feel like I’m taking steps forward. I’m more excited about that than what anybody else thinks about how I’m doing."
Despite only appearing in two spring training games with the major league club, Berry held opponents to a batting average of just .182.
Berry will start the 2014 season as part of the Double-A Bowie rotation.
5. 2B Jonathan Schoop
Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles' top hitting prospect, has already taken his first cuts as a member of the Opening Day roster, collecting his first hit of the season off of Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
The late 25-man roster addition had Oriole fans buzzing all throughout last weekend, as it was the final move that cemented the Orioles win-now stance.
Schoop provided a jolt of excitement to a usually dull month of the year for baseball fans, by putting up very impressive numbers in March for someone so raw. Over the course of 22 spring games played and 39 at-bats, Schoop produced a very impressive triple slash line of .385/.432/.667. These numbers were a huge contrast to his recent body of work in the minors. In fact, Schoop hasn't even hit for .270 over the course of a full season at High-A ball or higher.
4. RHP Hunter Harvey
Hunter Harvey, selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is the fourth RHP to be taken by the O's in the first round in the past five years.
Harvey's first professional season in 2013 was an overwhelming success. Splitting time with the Orioles' Gulf Coast League team and Low-A Aberdeen, Harvey put up astounding numbers in several pitching columns. Over eight games started, he totaled an ERA of just 1.78, a WHIP of 1.066 and an elite SO/9 ratio of 11.7.
Harvey has a lot of tools in his back pocket, particularly his curveball, which is a potential plus-plus out-pitch.
If he can build up arm strength and continually dominate the competition throughout his minor league ascent, there's no doubt we'll see Harvey at Camden Yards in a few years.
3. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Signed out of Venezuela as an amateur free agent by the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, Eduardo Rodriguez is the Orioles' top LHP prospect to begin the 2014 season.
Rodriguez debuted with the Orioles' Dominican Summer League team in 2010 when he was only 17 years old. Within three years, the Venezuelan has progressed with ease through the club's minor league system, having accumulated 366.1 professional innings and achieved low numbers such as a 2.85 ERA in High-A Frederick in 2013.
BaseballProspectNation.com projects Rodriguez to be a three or four starter at his peak, stating that while he's never going to miss a ton of bats, he should be competitive and keep his team in games.
Rodriguez will start the 2014 season in the Double-A Bowie rotation and will most likely improve upon the numbers he put up in the second half of last year at that level.
2. RHP Kevin Gausman
The fourth overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Kevin Gausman did everything in his power this spring to break camp with the major league club, yet wasn't chosen to be a member of the 25-man roster.
While Gausman may possess the best pitching tools in the organization, the front office clearly believes that Gausman will benefit from extended action at the Triple-A level in order to build up confidence and fine-tune control of his pitches.
Through four spring training appearances and 11 innings pitched, Gausman produced an excellent 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and struck out 13 batters. He also held batters to an average of just .179.
BaseballProspectus.com profiles Gausman as a future ace for the Orioles ballclub, stating that he has the pure arsenal to succeed right away and can maintain his stuff deep into starts and deep into the season. The Orioles haven't had a true innings-eater since the days of Jeremy Guthrie, and even he wasn't considered a true ace.
Expect Gausman back up in Baltimore early this summer, proving that his numbers from his 2013 debut season (5.66 ERA, 1.343 WHIP) are a thing of the past.
1. RHP Dylan Bundy
Dylan Bundy, the fourth overall selection by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is the organization's top overall prospect, and along with fellow RHP Kevin Gausman, its future ace.
Bundy made his professional debut in the Orioles organization in 2012 at the age of 19. After making quick work of the low minors, Bundy was fast-tracked all the way to Double-A Bowie and even made a two-game major league appearance in his first season. The righty started 23 games that year, pitching to a ridiculous 2.08 ERA and striking out 119 batters over 103.2 innings pitched in the minors.
But, alas, Bundy wasn't able to carry his momentum throughout the 2013 season, as the phenom underwent Tommy John surgery that summer after being treated for and dealing with pain earlier that season.
Bundy is recovering nicely, though, as he has already resumed throwing.
Per Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com, Bundy, as well as the Orioles, are hoping he can be ready to pitch by May or June:
I want to throw harder, but I know I’m not supposed to. They say right now it’s a touchy stage because people feel really good about their arm, and they throw harder, but if they keep at 75 percent, they should be fine
Even though the Orioles are in win-now mode, they should be patient in how they handle Bundy because, let's face it, there are plenty of reinforcements.