Baltimore Orioles' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 6, 2015

Baltimore Orioles' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Baltimore’s 2013 prep draft picks made a strong impression last season at Low-A Delmarva, as right-hander Hunter Harvey led the way on the mound—before he was shut down for the season with an elbow injury. Meanwhile, his catcher Chance Sisco paced the South Atlantic League with a .340 batting average.

    First baseman Christian Walker, a fourth-round pick in 2012, took a huge step forward between the Double- and Triple-A levels behind a career-best 26 home runs, and the Orioles rewarded his progress with a call-up to the major leagues in late September.

    Top prospect Dylan Bundy continued to work his way back from 2013 Tommy John surgery and reached High-A Frederick before succumbing to a lat strain. The 21-year-old right-hander’s numbers were encouraging in his highly anticipated return to the mound, although reports suggested his velocity was yet to return to pre-surgery form. The Orioles also had a few pitchability guys take a step forward in 2014, as left-hander Tim Berry and right-hander Zach Davies headlined a strong rotation at Double-A Bowie.

    Unfortunately, the Orioles were forced to part with 21-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect, at the trade deadline. They sent him to Boston in exchange for reliever Andrew Miller.

    However, it’s worth noting that they have a few promising southpaws on the rise in Stephen Tarpley and Brian Gonzalez, the Orioles’ respective third-round picks in 2013 and 2014, as well as right-hander Pat Connaughton, who will finish his basketball career at Notre Dame this winter before joining the organization full-time later in the year.

    Here are the Baltimore Orioles' top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age versus level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present versus future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach, strike-zone management, pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present versus projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery, arm speed, release point
    • Age versus highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present versus future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    1. Jomar Reyes, 3B
    2. Stephen Tarpley, LHP
    3. Drew Dosch, 3B
    4. Tyler Wilson, RHP

10. Mike Yastrzemski, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 08/23/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: 14th round, 2013 (Vanderbilt)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A/A+/AA): 129 G, 596 PA, .288/.346/.490, 41.6 XBH%, 14 HR, 18 SB, 6.9 BB%, 19.1 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmGlove
    5045555555

    Scouting Report

    Yastrzemski opened eyes last year in his first full professional campaign by hitting for both average and power across both A-ball levels. However, the 24-year-old was challenged following a midseason promotion to Double-A Bowie, as evidenced by his drop-off in production against more advanced pitching in the Eastern League. 

    Yastrzemski lacks a standout attribute, but he’s a well-rounded player with the broad set of tools and secondary skills needed to carve out a role in the major leagues. His defensive versatility and bat currently have him pegged as more of a “tweener” than everyday player, though that could change next season with a strong showing (more consistent contact and improved power frequency) in the high minors.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (average major league regular) – Medium risk

9. Pat Connaughton, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/06/1993 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2014 (Notre Dame)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (SS): 6 G/4 GS, 14.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .228 BAA, 0.0 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6.1 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60505045

    Scouting Report

    A two-sport star at Notre Dame, Connaughton was selected by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and agreed to a deal that’s allowing him to rejoin the Fighting Irish for this winter for his senior basketball season.

    On the diamond, the right-hander uses his 6’5” frame to create downhill plane toward the plate and generate sink on his low-90s fastball. The 21-year-old’s athleticism should allow him to make quick strides once he shifts his focus to a full-time career in baseball, as he currently lacks fastball command. Connaughton’s curveball is highly raw and may never develop into anything more than a fringe-average offering, though he does show an early feel for a changeup.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 4 starter) – Extreme risk

8. Josh Hart, CF

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    Position: CF

    DOB: 10/02/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Parkview HS, Ga.)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (Rk/A): 91 G, 378 PA, .249/.294/.283, 9.1 XBH%, 13 SB, 5.8 BB%, 23.2 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4530604565

    Scouting Report

    Hart's carrying tool will always be his plus speed, which makes him a potential threat on the basepaths and a rangy defender in center field. However, while his wheels translate cleanly on defense, the 20-year-old is a raw base stealer and lacks both the contact and on-base skills to consistently utilize his premier tool. Hart’s lack of strength and line-drive-oriented swing make him unlikely to offer any power, but he should start to find the gaps more often and tally his share of doubles and triples.

    Hart is likely to remain a work-in-progress for the next several years, as he’ll need time to mature physically and shape his baseball skills. The 20-year-old’s plus speed and ability to stick in center field for the long term may ultimately give him some utility in the major leagues, but it’s hard to envision him emerging as an everyday player without making huge strides at the plate.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (average everyday player) - High risk

7. Mike Wright, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/09/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2011 (East Carolina)

    Last Year’s Rank: 6

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (AAA): 26 GS, 142.2 IP, 4.61 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .281 BAA, 0.6 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 6.5 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5540555050

    Scouting Report

    Wright took home the (Double-A) Eastern League ERA title in 2013 and finished the season with a taste of the Triple-A level. However, the 25-year-old didn’t fare well last season in his return to the International League, as advanced hitters exploited his shaky command and lack of a dominant pitch.

    At 6’6”, 215 pounds, Wright is a durable right-hander who has the makings of an innings eater at the highest level. He has a consistent and repeatable delivery, using his height to create downhill plane toward the plate to pound the zone with low-90s fastball.

    His slider flashes above-average potential in the mid-80s and represents his best option for missing bats, and he also mixes in a curveball and changeup, with the latter showing average potential with good fading action.

    However, Wright’s knack for throwing strikes can detract from overall effectiveness, as he tends to work in the zone too often rather than forcing opposing hitters to expand the zone.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 5 starter) – Low risk

6. Tim Berry, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 03/18/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: 50th round, 2009 (San Marcos HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 7

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (AA): 23 GS, 133.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .249 BAA, 0.8 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    55555550

    Scouting Report

    Berry, a 6’3”, 180-pound left-hander, lacks overpowering stuff but has a good feel for three future average-or-better offerings. The 23-year-old’s fastball sits in the low 90s with arm-side life, and he complements it with a potential solid-average changeup that has late fading action and plays up due to his deceptive arm speed.

    Berry’s curveball also projects to be a solid-average offering. It's usually thrown down in the zone with good depth and pace, though at times he can give right-handed batters too good of a look at the pitch. Overall, his handedness and strong command of three pitches should get him to the major leagues at some point during the 2015 season, either as a back-end starter or long reliever.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter) – Low risk

5. Zach Davies, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/07/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 150 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 26th round, 2011 (Mesquite HS, Ariz.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 9

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 21 G/20 GS, 110 IP, 3.35 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .249 BAA, 0.7 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.9 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5050456055

    Scouting Report

    Davies continued his ascent toward the major leagues in 2014, turning in an under-the-radar breakthrough performance at Double-A Bowie, followed by an equally strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

    An undersized right-hander at 6’0”, 150 pounds, he has clean and repeatable delivery to go along with fluid arm action. The 21-year-old demonstrates good feel for four pitches, though none project to be more than average. He’s a consistent strike thrower with plus pitchability, changing speeds effectively to keep opposing hitters off balance.

    Davies commands his upper-80s fastball down in the zone, relying on command and movement to compensate for a lack of velocity and lack of downhill plane toward the plate. The right-hander mixes in both a curveball and slider and is comfortable throwing either pitch in any count, though his changeup grades as his best secondary offering, with good speed differential and deceptive arm speed.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter) – Low risk

    Davies doesn’t jump off the page in terms of his size or stuff, but the 21-year-old has a distinct feel for his craft and simply knows how to execute a game plan. His future role will depend on both his durability and overall effectiveness, but Davies should be able to achieve his ceiling as a back-end starting pitcher.    

4. Chance Sisco, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 02/24/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 193 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Santiago HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 8

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (A): 114 G, 478 PA, .340/.406/.448, 23.5 XBH%, 5 HR, 8.8 BB%, 16.5 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550405050

    Scouting Report

    A second-round draft pick in 2013, Chance Sisco hit the crap out of the ball this year in his full-season debut at Low-A Delmarva en route to a South Atlantic League-leading .340 batting average.

    Sisco has the makings of for four average or better tools at maturity, highlighted by a potential solid-average hit tool. The left-handed batter’s strong wrists produce good bat speed as well as a quick swing that allows him to comfortably use the whole field. On top of that, his impressive extension after contact suggests power should come as he gains strength and adds some leverage to his swing.

    Although he became a full-time catcher upon turning pro, Sisco has shown a good feel for the speed of the game and an ability to make swift adjustments as a blocker and receiver. His arm grades out as at least average but has the potential to play up with improved footwork and transfer skills.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average everyday catcher) – High risk

    Sisco’s bat is ahead of his defense, which isn’t normally the case with young catchers, and he’ll need time to thoroughly develop behind the plate. However, the 19-year-old’s barrel awareness and knack for squaring up the ball have the potential to carry him a long way—even more so if he can tap into his raw power.

3. Christian Walker, 1B

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    Position: 1B

    DOB: 03/28/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 220 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2012 (South Carolina)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 139 G, 599 PA, .288/.357/.489, 34.6 XBH%, 26 HR, 9.4 BB%, 22.0 K%

    2014 MLB Stats: 6 G, 19 PA, .167 BA, HR, 9 K

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmGlove
    5555354550

    Scouting Report

    Christian Walker took a huge step forward last season at the plate, hitting for both average and power between the Double- and Triple-A levels as well as the major leagues. Specifically, the September call-up finally learned to tap into his raw power and hit a career-high 27 home runs—an enormous improvement on the 11 long balls he hit in 2013 in 103 games.

    While he’s always been known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, Walker also made strides last season against right-handers, with an .865 OPS batting and 19 home runs in 416 plate appearances.

    Walker will always be limited to first base defensively, but he projects to be at least average at the glove at the position and should be able to stave off a relegation to designated hitter.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average first baseman/designated hitter) – Low risk

    Walker’s power surge helped get him to the major leagues late last season and has him firmly on the Orioles’ radar heading into 2015. The 23-year-old is likely to receive considerable playing time next season following the departure of Nelson Cruz, even more so if Chris Davis fails to return to something close to his 2013 form.

2. Hunter Harvey, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/09/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Bandys HS, N.C.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 3

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A): 17 GS, 87.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .209 BAA, 0.5 HR/9, 3.4 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60706060

    Scouting Report

    Few pitchers in the low minors were as impressive as Harvey last season, as the then-19-year-old had dominated hitters in the South Atlantic League with his fastball-curveball combination. Unfortunately, Harvey was shut down in late July, not long after his eye-opening appearing in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, after suffering a right elbow strain.

    At 6’3”, 175 pounds, Harvey’s frame is incredibly projectable and should allow him to add considerable strength with physical maturation. The right-hander works from a high-three-quarter arm slot to create good plane toward the plate on his fastball, which currently sits in the 90 to 94 mph range with more velocity to come. Harvey also demonstrates an advanced feel for pounding sides of the plate with the pitch, and he doesn’t shy away from attack hitters.

    Harvey’s curveball is currently his best offering, as it’s a potential plus-plus out pitch with tight rotation and late bite. He can get on the side of it at times and give it more lateral break, though the variation has proved to be equally effective. He does have a changeup, albeit rarely used, which will be vital toward his development at more advanced levels.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (No. 2 starter) – High risk

    Assuming he’s healthy, the right-hander should open the 2015 season at High-A Frederick, with the potential to reach Double-A before the halfway point. Like many of the Orioles’ other top draft picks in recent years, Harvey should be able to move quickly through the minor leagues compared to his peers.

1. Dylan Bundy, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Owasso HS, Okla.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 1

    ETA: Debuted in 2012

    2014 Stats (SS/A+): 9 GS, 41.1 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .250 BAA, 0.0 HR/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades

    FastballCutterCurveballChangeupControl
    7075607060

    Scouting Report

    Bundy flew through the Orioles system in 2012, his first professional season, pitching at three full-season levels before making two appearances out of the big league bullpen as a September call-up. However, his career was put on hold the following spring when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.

    Bundy, 22, finally returned this summer to make six starts at High-A Frederick after a series of dominant outings with short-season Class A Aberdeen.

    The 6’1” right-hander is physically strong with broad shoulders, and he understands how to utilize his lower half and core strength throughout his delivery. Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a dynamic fastball; he throws a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run as well as a four-seamer that reaches the upper 90s. He also has an outstanding cutter, a potential grade-70 to -75 offering, with late slicing action to his glove side.

    However, it’s worth noting that Bundy’s velocity was down compared to his pre-surgery form, as Pat Stoetzer of the Carroll County Times (via The Baltimore Sun) reported Bundy topped out at only 89 mph while at Frederick.

    Bundy’s curveball is a hammer and another plus pitch, thrown with tight rotation and late biting action, but he’s still developing command of the pitch and occasionally leaves it up in the zone. The 22-year-old’s changeup has good fading action, and he sells it with a fastball-like arm action, making it another potential plus offering at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 1 or 2 starting pitcher) – Medium risk

    There was a slight chance Bundy would be ready to rejoin the Orioles last September and pick up where he left off in 2012, but his recovery was unfortunately derailed by a lat strain suffered in early August, per MASN Sports. The Orioles will proceed cautiously with Bundy, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he spent most of 2015 in the high minors, with a late-season call-up to the major leagues. But as long as he stays healthy, it shouldn’t be long until the right-hander is once again viewed as a future ace.

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