Even though they played just about a half-season each last year in the Carolina League, it sure seems quite possible that the Orioles' top two minor league position players could begin the 2012 season with Double-A Bowie.
The Orioles have to decide if they will start the dynamic, young double play combo of 19-year-old Manny Machado and 20-year-old Jonathan Schoop in the Eastern League with Bowie after the duo played at both Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick last year.
While the stat sheet might indicate that both young players could stand to go back to Frederick - where they helped the Keys win the Carolina League championship in September - the Orioles seem very open to a bump up for the pair come opening day.
In 63 Frederick games last year, Machado hit .245 with a .692 OPS in 237 at-bats. Schoop hit .271/.704 over 77 games and 299 at-bats. Both were tremendous in the playoffs, with Machado batting .344 with an OPS of 1.010 to Schoop's .314/.826. In addition to their hitting, they turned several highlight-reel double plays during the playoffs with Machado at shortstop and Schoop at second.
One cause for concern in making this decision is the experience level expected early in the season of some of those Double-A pitching staffs. Some of those organizations, like the Orioles, have a glut of pitching at the higher minor league levels and the majors and that forces some Triple-A quality pitching back to Double-A in the early weeks of a new season.
Do the Orioles want to put Machado and Schoop up against some Triple-A caliber arms early on?
The conservative route would be to send the pair back to Frederick to start the year. They could then move quickly up to Bowie if they get off to fast starts as they did last April with Delmarva.
While both Machado and Schoop are natural shortstops, Schoop quickly took to playing second base last summer. For now, they are likely to stay together as a DP combo wherever they begin the year.
Meanwhile, one instructor that was very helpful to the pair in the minors last year, former Oriole Mike Bordick, is expected to spend some time with them again this season.
Bordick recently took a job as a MASN Orioles analyst, but his TV schedule provides him a few segments of 10 to 14 days where he will not be working broadcasts. During that time, the Orioles plan to have Bordick spend some time with the minor leaguers, handling various special assignments.
Bordick has quickly gained respect for his work last year with some of the young talent and the Orioles clearly will have him spend some of his time with Machado and Schoop again this summer to build on what they started last year.
Worth noting: Orioles minor leaguers LJ Hoes and Xavier Avery were added to the list of O's spring training invitees yesterday and will report soon to major league spring camp. Earlier, a list of 14 non-roster invitees was announced.
Of that list of 16 total players, Hoes and Avery are the only players originally drafted by the Orioles. Catcher Brian Ward was signed by the O's, but was originally with the Braves.
Only six of the players - Hoes, Avery, Ward, Steve Johnson, John Hester and Wilie Eyre - spent any time last year in the Orioles' organization. This is another sign that a new man is in charge in Dan Duquette with no ties to players that were here when he took over.
Law's top 100: The Orioles have three players among the top 56 prospects in baseball, according to rankings released this morning by ESPNs Keith Law. He ranks Machado at No. 4 up from 26 at this time last year. He ranks Dylan Bundy No. 11. He was not ranked last year because he was in high school then. He ranks Schoop as No. 56 and he was not ranked by Law at this time last year.
His player comments are part of Insider only content but he did say Machado's bat was even more advanced then his biggest fans believed. He said if Machado is eventually moved to third base, he'd still be an All-Star, but as a shortstop, when he reaches his mid-20s, he could be among the best players in the game.
Law suggests the Orioles be aggressive with Bundy this year and possibly even move him as high as Double-A during the season.