I see that several fans are expressing the opinion that the Orioles should be starting their top pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy, at Single-A Frederick and not Single-A Delmarva, where he is going to begin the season.
I think the Orioles are doing exactly the right thing with Bundy in sending him to the Shorebirds right now.
The fans' expectations are that Bundy will dominate from the start and blow through the South Atlantic League like a hot knife through butter. That could happen, but it wouldn't surprise me if it didn't work out exactly that way.
Bundy has never thrown a professional pitch in a regular season game. He has to learn the pro lifestyle, get used to riding the buses for the long trips in that league and learn to pitch every fifth day and not once a week as he did in high school. Plus, he'll face more good hitters in a pro lineup than he ever did at Owassa (Okla.) High. Bundy should handle all of this well and everyone is anxious to see him move quickly through the organization. But right now, what's the rush?
He could always be moved up to Frederick at some point early in the year if that proves to be the move to make. It is always better to have your best young players with constant upward movement, rather than starting them at one level and later having to send them back down.
When Zach Britton was drafted out of a Texas high school in the third round in 2006, he pitched that summer at Rookie League Bluefield and the next summer for short-season Single-Aberdeen. He made 26 starts between those two teams before he ever arrived at Delmarva in 2008 in his third pro season.
While most high school pitchers would not pitch for a full-season club in their first season, Bundy will and that is a fast track in itself - even if it is not fast enough for some fans.
I keep going back to the case of high school pitcher Jameson Taillon, who probably would have been an Oriole had not Pittsburgh taken him second overall, one spot ahead of the Birds, in the 2010 draft. Taillon, taken one pick after Bryce Harper and one before Manny Machado, was drafted two spots higher than Bundy. Like Bundy with the Orioles, Taillon got over $6 million from the Pirates.
I've had some fans insist to me that Bundy is a lot better than Taillon, but while Baseball America ranks Bundy at No. 10 on their top 100 prospects list, Taillon is No. 15. They are both elite talents.
Taillon began his pro career in 2011 in the same league where Bundy will start and went 2-3 with an ERA of 3.98 in 23 starts. Over 92 2/3 innings, he allowed 89 hits with 22 walks, 97 strikeouts and a .249 batting average against. The Pirates may have stayed on the somewhat conservative side with their prized young right-hander in keeping him in that league all year while closely monitoring his innings. In fact, he began last year in extended spring and didn't make his first Sally League start until late April.
Taillon's ERA was 1.80 after his first four starts, 3.71 after eight and went up to 4.64 in August. He pitched to an ERA of a not-so-great 4.68 over his last 13 starts of the 2011 season.
The scouts still raved about his fastball and curveball and said the scouting reports were just fine on the kid and to not get caught up in the stats from his first pro season.
Bundy will get to Frederick in due time, probably this season, and maybe at some point pretty early in the year. Starting at Delmarva is just fine for now for this 19-year-old flamethrower.
Meanwhile, as I have written several times before, it appears that Bundy will be limited to 120 to 130 innings this year. His outings in spring games have been shorter ones so far and when the Delmarva season starts, he may pitch just two or three innings each in his first few games.
The Delmarva team, by the way, should have the biggest collection of young prospects, at least early in the season, among O's farm clubs. Parker Bridwell is likely to join Bundy there to lead the pitching staff, which could include more players taken in last year's draft and perhaps some young hurlers moving up from short-season ball like Miguel Chalas and Eduardo Rodriguez.
Jason Esposito, Nicky Delmonico and Connor Narron will all likely start with the Shorebirds. They all play third base but Delmonico could also see time at first and second base and Narron may also play some left field.
Glynn Davis and Johnny Ruettiger, two good young outfield prospects should start with Delmarva along with Gabriel Lino, one of the organization's top young catchers. It looks like Mychal Givens, the O's second-round pick in 2009, will begin the year as the Shorebirds' shortstop.
Here are where some other position players may begin the season, even though the minor league rosters are not final yet.
Norfolk: Joe Mahoney, Ryan Adams, Matt Antonelli, Steve Tolleson, Blake Davis, Zelous Wheeler, Josh Bell, Scott Beerer, Jamie Hoffman, John Hester and Xavier Avery. The club still could add a Triple-A outfielder or two that bumps Avery back to Double-A. Josh Barfield could wind up at either Bowie or Norfolk, playing in both the infield and outfield.
Bowie: LJ Hoes, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Brandon Waring, Tyler Townsend, Robbie Widlansky, Buck Britton, Caleb Joseph.
Frederick: Trent Mummey, Kipp Schutz, Matt Sweeney, Tyler Kolodny, Mike Flacco, Aaron Baker, Ronnie Welty, Garabez Rosa, Ty Kelly, Bobby Stevens, Justin Dalles and Joe Oliveira.
Some pitchers that should stay in extended spring training when the season begins include Brandon Erbe, Dan Klein, Ryan Berry, Ryan O'Shea and Jesse Beal. Berry could join an affiliate not long after the season starts and Beal could be with a club in early May. Klein is still looking at getting to an affiliate possibly around June 1st.
For the first time, the Orioles will hold a full extended spring training in both Sarasota and at their facility in the Dominican Republic and 50 or more players could be at each camp. Games begin for the O's extended spring training club on April 9, but don't look for box scores or standings as they are not kept for those more informal games.
In June, the Orioles will need to set rosters for their Dominican Summer League team along with a Gulf Coast League squad and the Aberdeen IronBirds.
Coverage this week: I will be on the road starting tomorrow and I will be covering the Delmarva Shorebirds media day Tuesday, plus the Shorebirds game at 7 tomorrow night against Salisbury University. On Wednesday, it's on to Norfolk, where I will file reports from the Orioles' exhibition finale against the Tides from Harbor Park.
I know I will be Camden Yards on Friday for the season opener and could make it four games in four days in four different cities if I cover Bowie's season opener Thursday night. As the 1989 Orioles said, why not?
Update: I have heard that Aaron Baker is now on the Frederick roster, so I moved him from Bowie to Frederick. It also appears that two pitchers drafted last year will begin the season in Frederick's rotation in Mike Wright (round 3) and Kyle Simon (round 4). One of that pair could be Frederick's opening night starter at home Friday against Salem.