Parks on prospects: O’s pitching crop can hang with any in baseball

Baseball Prospectus today ranked five Orioles among its top 101 prospects in baseball. Kevin Gausman was No. 10 with Dylan Bundy No. 15, Hunter Harvey No. 58, Eduardo Rodriguez No. 61 and Jonathan Schoop No. 82.

Jason Parks, the national prospect/player development writer for Baseball Prospectus, authored the list compiled with his prospect team and is quite high on several of the O’s young players, as those rankings reflect.

The BP list ranked Gausman considerably higher than (10th compared to 31st) and had Harvey and Schoop on its list when ranked just three O’s, with Bundy No. 20, Gausman No. 31 and Rodriguez No. 68.

“I think they are an under-appreciated system,” Parks said this morning. “I don’t think they have a ton of depth, but when you can boast arguably two of the top 20 arms in baseball in the minors in Gausman and Bundy, you have the foundation for something that could be pretty special.

“If you are going to judge a farm system on what it produces, that could produce a legit No. 1 or No. 2 starter. That can change the landscape, that can change a franchise.

“You move onto a guy like Rodriguez, who is underrated as a prospect. He is probably going to pitch in the majors for 10, 15 years. Hunter Harvey is a guy that people will look back at the 2013 draft and wonder why he fell so far. Schoop doesn’t have the same shine as a younger prospect because he’s already played in the upper minors and you got to see some of the warts, but he’s still a top 101 player and he still will be a major league contributor for a long time.”

Baseball Prospectus is obviously pretty bullish on Harvey, the high school right-hander the Orioles took with the 22nd pick in Round 1 of the draft last June. He turned 19 in December and is one of just 12 teenagers on this list.

Harvey went 0-1 with a 1.78 ERA over eight starts between the Gulf Coast League and short-season Single-A Aberdeen in 2013. If you count five no-hit innings Harvey pitched in a New York-Penn League playoff game on Sept. 7 for Aberdeen, he gave up 21 hits with six walks and 40 strikeouts over 30 1/3 innings last season.

“I think he is a steal in this draft,” Parks said. “He doesn’t have a lot of innings yet and needs to add strength to his frame so he can hold velocity deeper into games. But he’s going to have an easy plus fastball, maybe a plus-plus fastball.

“I love his curveball. I think his curveball is a difference-maker pitch, it’s an out pitch and could be a well above average major league pitch. And he’s got a feel for a changeup and you don’t see that a lot in high school power arms. But he has some nuance, some pitchability and some feel and he could be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.”

Parks is aware of the history in Baltimore and that some O’s fans shudder when they hear the words “pitching prospect,” but he is pretty confident in what this current crop will be able to do.

His publication released its O’s top 10 prospects in December and the list featured pitchers in seven of the top eight spots with Gausman, Bundy, Harvey, Rodriguez and Schoop the top five and three more hurlers after that in Mike Wright, Tim Berry and Zach Davies.

“I think that the Orioles’ player development can get a bad rap,” he said. “A lot of it comes down to the talent you are working with and sometimes you are working with a player that looks better than he actually is.

“I really, really believe in Kevin Gausman. We ranked him 10th. He was yo-yoed a bit (between the minors and majors) and he struggled as a young pitcher without a lot of minor league experience. But struggling can be good for some players - they come back stronger.

“Gausman has frontline potential and Bundy is the same way. You are not going to find a kid with better makeup or who works harder. I wouldn’t be surprised if by 2015, you can pencil both those guys in at the top of the rotation with Rodriguez at the three or four slot. It will be an exciting rotation for the Orioles for a long time.”

Parks feels the O’s current crop of pitching prospects can hold its own with just about any other organization in the game right now.

“I think this is one of the best pitching crops that any farm system in baseball has,” he said. “I really, really believe in it. Now on the position side, it’s thin. But if you can develop Gausman, Bundy, Rodriguez and get a wild card with Harvey, you’d take that all day long. Any team in baseball would take that.”

Click here for the BP top 101 list.

Click here for a breakdown of the list by position, age, organization, etc.

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