The Orioles had three players ranked among baseball's top 100 prospects by MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com in the list released last night. Pitcher Dylan Bundy was ranked No. 20, pitcher Kevin Gausman No. 31 and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was ranked No. 68.
When this list was released last January, Bundy was ranked No. 2 and Gausman No. 37 by MLB.com and Rodriguez was unranked as the O's had just those two players on the list.
On the MLB.com list from last summer, Gausman was No. 14, Bundy No. 15 and Rodriguez was No. 85.
MLB.com's Jim Callis said he thought the O's would get three players on this year's list.
"In recent years, their system has stuck out more for blue-chip guys at the top of the system than for depth and this kind of reinforces that," Callis said. "I think they've got one of the best combinations of pitching prospects of any organization in the game. Those three are far and away their three best prospects."
Bundy went 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA at three levels of the O's minors in 2012, reaching Double-A. In 103 2/3 innings, he fanned 119.
Even though Bundy is now on the comeback trail from his June 27 ligament-reconstructive surgery, Callis said he remains confident he'll still prove to be an impact big league pitcher.
"I am confident in that," Callis said. "He still has to come back from this, but I don't think anyone doubts he'll do what he needs to do.
"We're talking about a guy that had a well above average fastball and curveball with an above average changeup and cutter with above average control. While it's not 100 percent, the track record of that surgery is good and his work ethic is off the charts. That is why I put Bundy ahead of Gausman. He still has to do it, but I have faith he'll be able to do it."
Gausman went 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA for the Orioles last year. In the minors between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, he went 3-6 with a 3.51 ERA.
Callis knows Gausman had some modest major league stats for the Orioles, but still sees him as a top-of-rotation talent.
"There is a lot to like about Kevin. It would be foolish to look at what he did in the majors and hold that against him," Callis said. "He got to the big leagues pretty quick and got knocked around a bit. His numbers were pretty good for a rookie except for home runs allowed and I think those will come down.
"But he threw strikes and missed bats with a well above average fastball and very good changeup and he has very good command, too. The key for him is just refining that breaking ball to where it's a consistently reliable pitch. He pitched very well in the minors and I still think he's a frontline starter."
Rodriguez enters this list after a season where he went 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. He went 3-0 with an 0.36 ERA over his last four Bowie starts. He also pitched in three All-Star games including the Futures Game and was the winning pitcher with three scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League championship game.
"I don't know that he has a signature pitch that you say, 'Wow,' but he's left-handed with three solid pitches," Callis said. "His fastball, changeup and slider on any given day can be his best pitch. He has a chance to be a very steady No. 3 starter.
"He definitely could (push for big league time in 2014). My guess is, if he doesn't start at Triple-A, he'd get there pretty quickly and then he is one step away. I would expect we'll see Rodriguez in the big leagues by the end of the year."
The Orioles next highest-rated prospect after those three is pitcher Hunter Harvey, according to various publications. But he didn't make this top 100.
"We didn't take the list down past 100 and rank them," Callis said. "He and (fellow 2013 draft pick) Josh Hart are interesting. They could be on this list a year from now. Typically with high school guys that just came out, you want to give those guys more time to play. Neither of those guys was a top 15 overall pick, so you want to see more of them before you put them on the list."
Baseball America ranked Bundy as the Orioles' No. 1 prospect on its O's top 10 list, which came out last month, and MLB.com has Bundy ranked just ahead of Gausman as well.
"I was very torn between the two guys," Callis said. "I think Bundy has a little higher ceiling. But he is also coming back from surgery and he may not do a whole lot in 2014. It's a tough call.
"If you are lining up the Orioles' future rotation, Bundy is probably No. 1 and Gausman No. 2, but it's really more No. 1 and No. 1A."