For the fourth year in a row, pitcher Dylan Bundy has been ranked the Orioles’ No. 1 prospect by Baseball America, which released its latest list of the top 10 Orioles prospects today. You can read the full list here (subscription required).
Last year, the top four prospects were all pitchers; this year, after the top two pitchers, the next three are position player prospects.
Here is a look at the list with a brief comment on each player:
1) Bundy: He had a healthy year with no setbacks and the velocity was ticking up later in the summer. His vast potential that we saw during the 2012 season is still there.
2) Pitcher Hunter Harvey: He ended the year with a flexor mass muscle strain that the O’s and Harvey say will not need surgery. This kid’s combination of smarts and poise, with a fastball and curveball that are clear plus pitches, make him a special prospect.
3) First baseman Christian Walker: His power increase from 11 to 26 homers was exciting and his defense at first made solid strides in 2014, as well. He made the big club in September and homered off Boston’s Rubby De La Rosa.
4) Catcher Chance Sisco: He hit .371 in 2013 in the Gulf Coast League and this year won the South Atlantic League batting title, hitting .340 at 19 for Single-A Delmarva. Impressive. The O’s also are committed to keeping him behind the plate on defense at this point. The arm strength is there.
5) Outfielder Dariel Alvarez: The combination of his bat, solid defense and very strong arm make him the club’s most exciting prospect according to some in the organization. He hit .300 at Double-A and Triple-A, and one scout said he has the best outfield arm in the organization, including those playing in the majors.
6) Pitcher Zach Davies: He has the best changeup in the farm system and a smooth, polished delivery. With such a slender frame, he does face some questions about durability. He pitched against the Orioles in the exhibition at Triple-A Norfolk and struck out J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis.
7) Pitcher Tim Berry: Had a solid year for Double-A Bowie and pitched to a 2.53 ERA his last eight starts. His changeup made big gains this year and he will likely start next season in the Triple-A rotation.
8) Pitcher Mike Wright: He’s a big, strong guy with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s with sink. Despite modest stats, his strong finish (0.76 ERA in August) at Triple-A showed what he is capable of.
9) Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski: He filled up the stat sheet, performing better than a player with so-called average tools. The O’s may have found a steal in the 14th round.
10) Infielder Jomar Reyes: A surprise in the top 10, he had a very solid year at 17 in the Gulf Coast League. He hit .338 in August and has a plus arm and plus raw power. There is big, big upside here.
Last year, the Orioles’ top 10 featured six pitchers, while this year, there are five pitchers and five position players. It’s a little better balance, according to Baseball America writer/editor J.J. Cooper.
“I do think so,” Cooper said. “It has been a system that has been pitching-heavy in recent years. They do have a number of guys now that, I don’t think there are a lot of guys you would say are high-end premium position prospects, but there are definitely a number of guys that qualify as potentially very useful big leaguers as position prospects, and if everything breaks right, maybe they end up better than that.”
Bundy and Harvey are expected to be the only two players on this list to make the top 100 lists when national publications start releasing them.
But Cooper said the rest of this list features some interesting and intriguing players to watch.
“You take a guy like Reyes,” he said. “If it all breaks right, he could really be something. But the likelihood of that just where he is right now, you have to consider low since he is so far away. Then take a guy like Mike Yastrzemski. The likelihood he is going to be at least a somewhat useful big leaguer is pretty high.
“But there is a pretty big gulf between fourth or fifth outfielder and everyday regular. That is still kind of the question with Yastrzemski. You have guys that have lower ceilings but less risk like Yastrzemski. Reyes is a high-ceiling, but high-risk guy.”
Bundy still tops this list. He was scouted this year more to see him healthy than produce a certain level of results. But the huge potential remains for the player the Orioles selected with the fourth overall pick in 2011.
“Bundy wasn’t as spectacular as he was before the injury, but there were no massive concerns either,” Cooper said. “Before the surgery, he was a guy that was pretty close to the big leagues. Now the Orioles are probably hopeful for him early in the year, but he’s probably further away right now than he was at the end of September two years ago. Now he probably needs a little more work to get to that point.”
While Harvey’s season-ending injury will produce lingering concerns until he can pitch and prove his health during the 2015 season, the right-hander who turns 20 on Dec. 9 certainly had a strong first full season in pro ball for Single-A Delmarva.
“If you saw him this year on the right night, you saw something pretty special,” Cooper said. “But you talk to scouts who wish he was a little stronger. This (injury) doesn’t alleviate that concern. We have to go somewhat under the assumption that he will be OK. I would expect we will see him ready at the start of the year.
“He has plus stuff and a very good understanding at his age in how to set up hitters. But scouts just want to see him get stronger and go out and really you are not expecting 200 innings yet, but see him throw 140-150 and be able to say he was as strong at the end of the year as he was at the start.”