After putting together the Orioles' top 10 prospects list this winter for Baseball America, the question I was asked the most was about ranking Dylan Bundy as the club's No. 1 prospect with Kevin Gausman No. 2.
Some fans wondered how close it was between the two pitching prospects.
First of all, keep in mind the editors at Baseball America - as they certainly should - make up the final list and have the final call. I certainly stand fully by the decision to rank Bundy No. 1.
That list is about prospects, but it is also about projecting down the road about how good a player can be if he reaches his ceiling, as they call it in prospect talk. I think it comes down to this: If both players do reach their ceilings, Bundy may be a touch ahead of Gausman, and the difference there is razor thin for me.
If some other publication or individual has a list with Gausman No. 1 and Bundy No. 2, that is understandable to me. Among the many people in the game I talked to in researching this list, there was some sentiment that Gausman should be No. 1.
But we should not forget how good Bundy was before the Tommy John surgery. He went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA at three levels of the minors in 2012, reaching Double-A. In 103 2/3 innings, he fanned 119. Bundy even became the fourth player from his draft class to reach the big leagues, as well as the fourth 19-year-old to pitch in the majors in the last decade, when he made two September relief appearances for the Orioles.
He was ranked No. 2 overall on the top 100 last year by Baseball America, ahead of players like Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez, Gerrit Cole, Xander Bogaerts, Byron Buxton and Taijuan Walker. Plus, the success rate for that surgery, combined with his work ethic and drive, not to mention all that talent, keep Bundy atop the O's prospect list. I saw him make starts during 2012 when he pitched at times in the high 90s, showed a hammer curveball and a real solid, improved changeup.
There is plenty to like about Gausman, too. His fastball/changeup combo is strong and that slider is coming fast as his third pitch. I think fans discounting him based on his 2013 stats are making a mistake. They want results, I know - and soon enough, they are going to get them.
The O's have two elite pitching prospects here and whichever you like atop the club's list is fine with me. It is a close call.
If the dreams of many fans are realized, these two will live up to the hype and head up the O's rotation for many years to come. Then the debate can rage on about which player is better.