Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado and the Top 10 Baltimore Orioles Prospects
No doubt about it, the Orioles have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.
Aside from two very talented prospects at the top, the system is lacking in just about every way imaginable. Their top power-hitting prospect is Brandon Waring, who has slugged at least 20 home runs in five consecutive seasons. He is also 25 years old, still playing in Double-A ball, and has a career .234 average in games played above High-A ball.
Their top speed guy is arguably Kyle Hudson. Yes, the former Illinois wide-receiver made his big-league debut this past season, but he has only logged 46 extra-base hits (and zero homers) in 389 minor league contests.
Not exactly awe-inspiring talent.
Luckily, the two guys at the top, right-hander Dylan Bundy and shortstop Manny Machado, are arguably the top performers at their respective positions in all of the minors. Unfortunately for new team president Dan Duquette, it takes more than two players to rebuild a farm system, no matter how talented they happen to be.
So without further ado, let's delve into the heart of the Orioles farm system and see if we can come up with 10 players worthy of attention.
Ladies and gentlemen, the top 10 Orioles prospects.
1) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Bundy's high-school exploits in Oklahoma are the thing of legends.
His average start during his senior year looked like this: one-hit, zero walks and at least 11 strikeouts.
He was practically a no-hitter waiting to happen. His team ended up losing in the state championship game to fellow first-rounder Archie Bradley's squad, but that didn't stop Bundy from earning Gatorade National Player of the Year honors.
All you have to know about Bundy's tools is that he earned a major league contract from the O's. Those are about as rare for high school picks as $10 million bonuses are for anyone in the draft. The common belief among baseball experts is that Bundy could be in the majors before almost anyone else from the '11 draft class, save for Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Danny Hultzen, all polished college products who are one-to-three years older.
Much like Bauer, Bundy has a vast repertoire of deadly offerings. His fastball is about as fast as they come and can top triple digits at times, although it sits more comfortably in the 95-98 mph range. His curveball is an above-average pitch, and that, combined with his fastball, would have been enough to make him a first-rounder.
He also features a changeup, which is by far the worst of his pitches. Still, it is at least average, and his cutter, which he introduced this past season, has become one of his most devastating pitches. To hitters, that is.
He's an incredible athlete and a workout warrior. Feel free to YouTube his workout video if you need proof of the latter. He has earned very high praise, specifically from the draftniks over at Baseball America for being better than anyone in the '11 class at landing his foot in the same place repeatedly. That's the primary reason that he has such epic command for an 18-year-old.
The Orioles have many talented young pitchers like Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and further down Daniel Klein and Dylan's older brother Bobby, but until they inked Dylan to to a $6.225 million deal, they lacked a true ace.
2) Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles
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Machado jumped out to such a hot start that many were wondering if both the Nationals and Pirates made a mistake choosing Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon instead of the 19-year-old shortstop from Miami in last year's draft.
He tripled in two runs in his first game, stole a base in his second and got walked four straight times in his third.
Machado got dinged by a couple of injuries (including a dislocated kneecap), missed some time and when he finally returned to the field, it took him some time to get readjusted. He earned a promotion from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Frederick after just 38 games, in which he hit .276 with eight doubles, two triples, six home runs, 24 RBI and a 23:25 BB:K ratio.
He got off to a slow start with Frederick, but bounced back with a strong July in which he hit .317 with seven doubles, 12 RBI, five steals and 10 walks.
Machado ended his season with a sterling run in the Carolina League playoffs. He won championship series MVP honors and helped Frederick to their first league title since 2006.
It's been a long time since the O's had a shortstop of the caliber of Machado. In fact, you'd have to go back to the days of Cal Ripken, who despite his Hall of Fame credentials, had nowhere near as much all-around talent coming out of high school as Machado does.
As he continues to fill out (he's still just 185 pounds) he'll likely gain more power. He'll also continue to field questions about whether or not he can remain at shortstop. The O's have several prospects capable of handling the position, but even if he has to move to third base, his bat will be good enough to make him a perennial all-star.
3) Jason Esposito, SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles
Esposito didn't have the amazing season that many expected of the former Vanderbilt infielder. Still, he .359, slugged 12 homers and drove in a team-high 64 runs and earned his way into the second-round, where Baltimore happily scooped him up. They inked him for $600k, a relative steal considering he turned down $1.5 million out of high school from the Royals.
One of the reasons the Orioles desired Esposito's services was because he is incredibly versatile. He played every infield position during his time at Vandy, including shortstop. He's likely a third baseman now that he's with the Orioles, seeing as how they have Manny Machado, Jon Schoop and several other talented players whose true positions are the same as Esposito's.
Esposito's best tool is arguably his fielding.
Much more athletic and graceful in the field than his predecessor (Pedro Alvarez), Esposito has all the skills of a top-notch third baseman. He has a great arm, one that's capable of reaching the low 90s on the mound. He has soft hands and his footwork has improved to the point where he could be one of the top defensive third basemen in the minors.
At the plate he’s no slouch either.
He grades out as an advanced hitter who focuses more on getting on base than driving the ball out of the park, but you can tell that the power is there, and he should develop into at least average power.
And did I mention he can run?
He led the Commodores with 20 steals his freshman season, and repeated last season, swiping 31 bags.
Esposito isn't going to be the prototypical third baseman, one with tons of power, but he has 20-20 potential.
4) Jonathan Schoop, INF, Baltimore Orioles
The fact that Schoop performed as well as he did in Low-A ball was astounding.
That he struggled in High-A was to be expected, but the fact that he rebounded to finish as one of the Keys top hitters as a 19-year old might mean the O's have something special in the Curacao native.
Schoop began the year as an afterthought, a backup to top prospect Manny Machado at shortstop. Sure enough, though, he forced his way into the lineup with his bat, and it wasn't long before he was getting regular starts at second base. By May he was outplaying the team's top prospect.
In 51 games with Delmarva, Schoop hit .316 with 12 doubles and eight home runs, three fewer than Machado hit the entire season. He showed incredible plate discipline for a teenager, drawing 20 walks to just 32 strikeouts. He even showed some decent speed, legging out three triples and stealing six bases.
By the time June rolled around, there really wasn't a reason NOT to promote Schoop, despite his age and inexperience (six games above rookie-ball coming into 2011).
He struggled, understandably, hitting just .250 during June and .214 during July, but he rebounded during August and was the team's hottest hitter during the month, hitting .336 with eight doubles, four home runs and 21 RBI. He slumped a bit in September, but it didn't matter. He clinched the Orioles minor league player of the year honors by the time August was half-through.
Schoop performed so well at second base, that he's now considered the team's long-term answer there. With the health of Brian Roberts one of the biggest uncertainties in baseball, the only players standing between Schoop and the job are Ryan Adams and Robert Andino.
At the plate, Schoop should hit for a decent average and according to Baseball America's scouting report on him should offer at least "average home run power as he gets stronger."
The real key for Schoop will be avoiding a slump in 2012. With another strong season, he could boost his prospect status greatly and could be considered one of the top young infielders in baseball.
5) Daniel Klein, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
It's easy to forget because he was lost to an injury in June, but Daniel Klein was arguably the top pitcher in the organization this season.
The 23-year old was a sensation in his first full season with the club, reaching Double-A Bowie after just seven appearances in High-A ball. At Frederick, he was dominant, allowing just nine hits and two runs in 15.2 innings. He struck out 21 and walks just three. Both runs came on solo homers.
After a promotion to Bowie, he was even better. Again, he only allowed two runs, this time in nine outings covering 16.2 innings. He again walked just three batters, while striking out 16. He also picked up three victories in relief.
The real shame about Klein's season is that his injury, a SLAP tear in his right-labrum, negated the argument about whether or not the pitcher would earn a spot in the Orioles bullpen by the end of the 2011 season.
Klein's stuff is good enough to warrant consideration as a No. 3 starter in the big-leagues, thanks to his ability to throw four pitches, each with great command. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he spots it well. His curveball is by far his best pitch and his changeup is one of the best in the system.
The timetable on Klein's return is unknown, but it's unlikely that we'll see him again before next year's All-Star break, and even more unlikely that he'll return in a starting role, as many expected him to this year.
Given the holes in the O's bullpen, it might make the most sense to keep Klein in a relieving role.
6) L.J. Hoes, OF, Baltimore Orioles
One of the youngest members of the O's Double-A squad, Hoes had a sensational season, showing he can handle the level's pitching with aplomb, while tantalizing the organization with brief bursts of power that make many think he actually has a long-term future with the club.
Hoes has always been a solid hitter. He hit .308 in his debut campaign with the GCL Orioles and hit .260 during his first full season as a 19-year old. Last year he hit .290 over three levels. He started slowly this year with Frederick, hitting just .241 in 41 contests, but again showed a good enough batting eye that the O's promoted him to Double-A Bowie.
It was there that he proceeded to take off. Over the final four months of the season, Hoes hit .311 with six home runs, doubling his career total, and 51 RBI. Hoes was so good during one stretch in late July/early August that he earned Eastern League Player of the Week honors and a spot on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet.
Overall, Hoes set career highs in runs, hits, home runs and RBI, while tying highs in doubles and steals.
More importantly, Hoes made a long-expected move to the outfield, a position he played exclusively in high-school. He showed incredible athleticism and a strong arm, although a corner spot is likely in his future. His bat doesn't profile as well there, as he projects to be a hitter similar to Nick Markakis: plenty of doubles, few home runs.
7) Xavier Avery, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Avery had long tantalized the front-office and fans alike with his impressive skill-set. He has arguably the best pure speed in the system and is easily the most impressive athlete. At different times in his career he has been compared to a young Carl Crawford.
Through it all, however, Avery continues to show the same raw skills that remind everyone that he was a one-time Georgia Bulldog football prospect. True, Avery hasn't been a full-time baseball player for half a decade, but the O's would like to see more progression from the now 21 year old. Especially at the plate.
No one expects Avery to actually hit like Crawford, but he has the bat speed and plate discipline to be better than a career .265 hitter. His average dipped to a career-low in 2011 (.259) and he posted his lowest on-base percentage since 2009. He also set a career-high with 156 strikeouts.
The Orioles will stress, when discussing Avery, that he's still just 21 years old (22 in January) and that he has made great strides as a pro player. He's developed into a doubles machine, rapping 31 in consecutive seasons, and his blazing speed has certainly been put to use (three consecutive 30-steal seasons).
He also took a giant step forward this year with his play in the Arizona Fall League, which has pitted him on an everyday basis against older and more experienced players. He has more than held his own in 30 contests, hitting .288 with 21 runs, four doubles and nine steals in ten attempts. He leads the AFL with five triples.
Hopefully, his experience in the AFL will give him a boost of confidence and he'll show some more aggressiveness during the 2012 campaign, which he'll likely spend a good chunk of at Triple-A.
8) Nicky Delmonico, INF, Baltimore Orioles
Don't let the fact that Nicky Delmonico slipped all the way to the sixth-round make you think that he's not incredibly talented. In fact, in the months leading up to the 2011 MLB Draft, Delmonico garnered tons of support as one of the top catchers from the high school crop. Heading into his senior season at Farragut High in Tennessee, he was on many scouts' shortlist for the first round.
So what happened that allowed him to slip to the 185th pick?
Well, for starters, he had a terrible senior season. Not so much terrible, as not what was expected. Scouts projected Delmonico to have slightly above-average power, but that power was nowhere to be seen as a senior. As a junior, however, he was a home run machine. In fact, it was his two-run homer that won the state championship for his HS squad back in 2010, their second consecutive title.
He also opened some eyes with a 447-foot bomb at the Power Showcase.
Power isn't Delmonico's only tool though. He's also a phenomenal athlete, capable of playing multiple positions. He played shortstop, first base and catcher at Farragut, but the O's drafted him and plan to develop him as a corner infielder. He'll likely call third base home in 2012, giving the O's yet another talented offensive specialist at the hot-corner.
Like the Bundy boys, Delmonico comes from a baseball family. His older brothers are both catchers, Tony in the Dodgers system, and Joey, at the University of Georgia.
9) Tyler Townsend, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Like many Orioles prospects this year, Townsend was plagued by hamstring issues. Unfortunately, they have become somewhat of a curse for the 23-year old, limiting him to just 83 games in two seasons before this year.
He played in a career high 72 games this season and put up great numbers, but failed to stay healthy long enough for them to count among qualified hitters in the High-A Carolina League. Still, his season was impressive nonetheless, especially for an organization long deprived of any legitimate talent at first base.
Townsend hit .317 with 26 doubles and 14 home runs, proving to be a capable hitter for both average and power, something the O's haven't had since Rafael Palmeiro. He drove in 58 runs, 50 of which came during his time with the Keys.
What is remarkable about Townsend, other than the fact that he doesn't seem to be plagued by any other sort of ailment besides those relating to the hamstring, is that he's been able to hit for such a high average while striking out a good amount and walking very little.
He drew only 14 walks all season and three of those came during a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League.
If he can make it through an entire season healthy, he might find his way further up the O's depth chart. Townsend is already 23 years old and has yet to see any playing time above High-A, so he's going to have to shine at Double-A in 2012 to garner any long-term support within the organization.
10) Bobby Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
As it was in the beginning it was in the end. Begin with a Bundy...and end with a Bundy. The alpha and the "O"mega.
Make no mistake, the elder Bundy isn't on the same level as young Dylan as a prospect, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Bobby has no big-league aspirations. The 21 year old right-hander had a career year and was robbed of organizational pitcher of the year honors. Finally healthy for the first time, Bundy won 12 games and posted a 3.51 ERA.
He posted career-highs in innings and strikeouts and reached Double-A for the first time. He performed poorly for the Baysox (1-3, 9.60 ERA), but some of that can be attributed to the fact that he remained in the rotation all season long and threw 20 more innings than ever before. While at Frederick he went 11-5 with a 2.75 ERA and a 100-to-31 K:BB ratio.
He was at his best around the same time that his younger brother joined the organization.
According to the scouting report from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook:
"Bundy is built to eat innings, with a strong, sturdy frame and a fastball that he can dial up to the mid-90s. He more frequently pitches at 88-92 mph with good sink. He throws both a curveball and slider...but both pitches need to be tightened up. His changeup shows promise, flashing above-average potential."
Bundy's consistent velocity pales in comparison with his brother, as does the maturity of his secondary pitches. Still, he is a few years older and has experience on his side. He'll be a 22 year old pitching at Double-A in 2012 and with another strong campaign he could challenge for a spot in the rotation in spring training of 2013.