Back in mid-December, Baseball America released its list of the top 10 prospects in the Orioles’ farm system. Later this week, MLB.com will release its list of the sport’s top 100 overall prospects. Baseball America’s top 100 list will come out in February or March.
The Orioles should get somewhere between three and five players on those lists. Four seems quite possible.
For now let’s take a look back at the top 10, I’ll share the comments I made earlier on the player’s rankings and add today where I predict they begin the 2014 season.
1. Pitcher Dylan Bundy: Even after the Tommy John surgery, he remains No. 1, but it was pretty close. Some forget how good he was in 2012 and the success rate of that surgery is high. Still bullish on Bundy.
Prediction: It’s a pretty safe bet that Bundy will begin the 2014 season in extended spring in Sarasota continuing his rehab until he can pitch in games somewhere likely in the middle of the season. I think it’s asking a lot for him to make it to Baltimore this year, but with this kid, you don’t rule it out.
2. Pitcher Kevin Gausman: If you ranked Gausman No. 1 over Bundy, you would not get an argument here. As I said, it is close. Gausman showed better velocity last summer than he had at LSU.
Prediction: If the Orioles add a starting pitcher, I think Gausman begins at Triple-A. If they don’t, I think he has a good chance to be the fifth starter out of camp. His season innings total could be working against him a bit. After pitching 130 last year, the O’s likely can’t push him too close to 200 this season.
3. Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez: What a 2013 this kid had, topping off with that strong showing in the Arizona Fall League championship game. He’s on the rise and close to being ready.
Prediction: I’ll guess the O’s will start him at Double-A Bowie, but it won’t be long before he works his way to Triple-A. Baltimore seems a stretch, but this kid is coming fast.
4. Pitcher Hunter Harvey: He had a strong first season in limited innings. He showed talent and poise, and looked the way a first-round pick should.
Prediction: Bundy began his first full season at Single-A Delmarva and later advanced to Double-A. I see a slower pace this year for Harvey as he gets used to pitching in the pros and they slowly build up his arm and innings. Maybe he ends the year at Single-A Frederick, but he could always begin to move faster later.
5. Infielder Jonathan Schoop: The back injury set him back some in 2013, but there remains a lot to like here. He’s the best infield defender on the farm with a strong arm and developing pop in that bat.
Prediction: After he posted modest stats at Double-A and Triple-A and was injured last year, it appears that he’ll begin as the second baseman at Norfolk. It’s time for Schoop to put up better numbers and I bet he does. He is still very much in the O’s future.
Update: Schoop today was ranked as baseball’s No. 6 second base prospect by MLBPipeline.com
Here was the writeup on Schoop: Like Andrelton Simmons and Jurickson Profar, Schoop is a talented middle infielder from Curacao, and he joined them on the Dutch team at the World Baseball Classic last year. Schoop is an aggressive hitter and produces solid power. He is a versatile infielder, but has settled in at second base. His tools are good enough to soon make him an everyday player in the Major Leagues.
6. Pitcher Tim Berry: This is a lofty ranking for a former 50th-round draft pick. Berry showed good stuff in the AFL and had a career-best walk rate in 2013. His stock is clearly rising.
Prediction: Berry should start in the Bowie rotation. He’s made steady progress and if that continues at Double-A, he’ll live up to this ranking and club officials will become even more exciting about his future.
7. Outfielder Henry Urrutia: Hank put it all together at the plate in the AFL and plenty of scouts are high on his bat. Several in the O’s organization feel the defense will become good enough for him to be a regular player at some point.
Prediction: Urrutia has a chance to start in Baltimore. His bat was coming fast and he showed good pop in the Arizona Fall League. His bat is pretty much ready, so do the O’s call on him now or let his defense begin to make improvement in the minors?
8. Pitcher Mike Wright: A big, strong and durable right-hander, he was the club’s top minor league pitcher, winning the Jim Palmer Award. He made gains in 2013 with his secondary pitches and command.
Prediction: Scouts seem somewhat divided as to whether Wright can be a rotation guy in the future. He should get the chance to prove he can with a good year at Triple-A. He gets overshadowed a bit by pitchers ahead of him on this list. Maybe this year he proves that might be a mistake.
9. Catcher Michael Ohlman: He had a big year at Single-A Frederick, has hit over .300 in two straight years, has power and is now on the 40-man roster. He shows a solid, average arm behind the plate and calls a good game.
Prediction: Ohlman should start at Bowie and if he has a solid year and continues to improve his defense, he could be the guy in line to replace Matt Wieters if he leaves via free agency. This is a big year for him.
10. Catcher Chance Sisco: The O’s knew he could hit and he batted .371, showing a mature approach beyond his years in the Gulf Coast League. Some in the organization were surprised at his strong catching skills since he just moved to the position as a high school senior.
Prediction: The O’s have some decisions to make about playing time for the three high school catchers they drafted last June. At this point, it appears that Sisco would be most likely to go to Single-A Delmarva and get a lot of starts. He could get reps at extended spring and/or in short-season ball, but he seems ready to make the full-season jump.
Most analysts feel the O’s top 10 is respectable and many organizations would be excited to have four pitching prospects heading the list that all have top 100 talent.
We also know that most feel the O’s talent base drops off a lot after their top 10 or 15 prospects. They still need to build depth on the farm and the organization is clearly lacking in position player prospects and prospects with power.
But this list of 10 can hold its own with many other clubs’ and it will be exciting to watch this year to see how many of them can take a step forward and improve their stock even more during 2014.