June 25, 2012; Omaha, NE, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks runner Christian Walker (13) throws his helmet during the game against the Arizona Wildcats in the first inning of championship finals game two of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles top prospects list represents the best and worst of the farm system. A top-heavy list loaded with top draft picks at the top quickly runs into lower ceiling players and lacks overall depth. The Orioles are not yet at the place where holes at the major league level can be filled by quality prospects in waiting. However the crop of young pitchers at the top of the list all have high projections that should give Orioles fans hope for the future rotation. The folks at birdswatcher.com do a great job covering the Orioles year round and all Orioles fans should check them out. They may do their own list but this was done independently of them.This list gives a snapshot of where the system stands as of now. Future trades, signings, injuries, etc. could lead to this list getting shuffled but on the whole it fairly reflects the top talent of the organization.
2013 was year two of the Dan Duquette regime. Despite losing several top prospects to the majors and trades, the Orioles retain several high ceiling players. However, as in the past the overall depth of the system is weak. Duquette’s first two drafts have yielded some good young players who should continue to move up the ladder in 2014. This list was created using Major League Baseball rookie eligibility requirements. That means that Kevin Gausman is included because he pitched 47.2 inning this year just shy of the 50 inning limit. This list also includes former Cuban professionals Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez. The both still qualify as Major League rookies. As with any organization the talent in the 16-18 range is not significantly superior to that of players in the 13-15 range. That means that some players not included should be mentioned with those whom are on the list. So while Jason Gurka, Branden Kline, or Francisco Peguero are not on the list, they do deserve to be mentioned as players who have a chance to impact at the Major League level either this year or in the future.
Triple-A: Norfolk Tides (International League)
Double-A: Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
High-A: Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Class-A: Delmarva Shorebirds (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Aberdeen Ironbirds (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Orioles (Gulf Coast League)
Stephen Tarpley – LHP
Date of Birth: February 17, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 3
Analysis: After being drafted in June, Tarpley saw limited action in the Gulf Coast League. Starting all seven games he appeared in, Tarpley threw 21 innings for the Rookie League Orioles. His most advanced pitch is a fastball that reaches 95 mph while his other pitches (slider, curve, and change up) are still developing. Tarpley rang up 10.7 K/9 showing he was ahead of many of the GCL hitters.
2014 Prognosis: Tarpley will pitch next season at 21 years old and a full season assignment may be appropriate. Left-handed pitchers who throw in the mid-nineties can move fast. If he can keep his command while developing his off speed pitches, Tarpley will have a chance to be a top 5 to 10 prospect by the end of the year. With few advanced southpaws in the system Tarpley has a chance to stand out from a mediocre group.
Dariel Alvarez – OF
Date of Birth: November 7, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: Alvarez signed with the Orioles in July for $800,000. After playing in professionally in Cuba, Alvarez was unknown to most Major League fans. Alvarez has a plus arm and flashes of power. His future might be a first division right fielder if the bat makes enough contact. Alvarez played 22 games over 3 levels during the season and never had a chance to get settled. It’s unclear what his disappointing Arizona Fall League season with no homers and a .238 AVG is going to tell us.
2014 Prognosis: Alvarez should benefit from getting consistent at-bats a one level. I think an assignment to Bowie would be a fair challenge for the 25 year old. If Alvarez can get make regular contact his power should come out. In the 2010-2011 Cuban season, Alvarez hit 20 homers in 344 at-bats. That type of production would be a high side projection with 20 homers over 500 at-bats more likely.
Christian Walker – 1B
Date of Birth: March 28, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’0” 220
Acquired: 2012 Draft Round 4
Analysis: A successful collegiate first baseman from the University of South Carolina, Walker didn’t miss a beat in his transition to pro ball. After getting drafted in 2012, Walker was supposed to have his first full season in 2013, but injuries limited him to 103 games. Despite the missed time he batted .300 and moved up two levels during the course of the season. While not a masher Walker does have 20 HR potential. His real strength lies in his overall hit approach which should lead to high on base percentages and high batting averages.
2014 Prognosis: Staying healthy will be the key for Walker in 2014. After finishing the year in AA Bowie, Walker will probably start there next year. If he continues to hit like he did last season he could get a promotion to AAA Norfolk and/or a September call up. Walker was selected to the Futures Game in 2013 and similar accolades could continue. Defense will never be his strength but Walker does need to prove he can play 1B at a major league level.
Tim Berry – LHP
Date of Birth: March 18, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 180
Acquired: 2009 Draft Round 50
Analysis: Berry is a true long shot after being a 50th draft pick in 2009. However his 2013 season has moved him into the prospect category. Making a career high 27 starts the lefty had his first season as a starter with an ERA under 4.00. His work in the Arizona Fall League against better hitters is what left a lasting impression. In 14.2 inning Berry had a 0.95 WHIP while allowing only 11 hits and 0 HRs. He throws a low nineties fastball as well as a curveball and changeup. Berry has decent control but none of his pitches project as swing and miss pitches in the Majors.
2014 Prognosis: Berry should get a shot to start the season at AA Bowie. If he picks up where he left of in Arizona, Berry should have a chance to get 25+ starts in AA with a chance for a September call up. His secondary pitches need to improve so his fastball can play up. That being said lefties who throw in the nineties with control find a way into the majors.
Chance Sisco – C
Date of Birth: February 24, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 193
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 2
Analysis: Sisco, a converted shortstop, was the first of four catchers the Orioles drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2012 draft. Athletic but very raw behind the plate, Sisco’s quick bat stands out in his game right now. Has the tools to become a decent defensive catcher and should add power with the bat as he grows. Only 124 PAs in 2013 but batted .363 over two levels. Chance Sisco also leads my list of best baseball/move star cowboy names in the Orioles system.
2014 Prognosis: Sisco should be a prospect that Oriole fans pay attention to in 2014. With a lack of catching depth a few years ago the system has added at least 10 new catchers since last year at this time. Sisco should get a chance to play at Aberdeen with some extended spring training work to start the season. If he continues to grow defensively his bat could be ready to move by mid-late season. He is another player who could be a top 5-10 prospect by next year.
Jul 26, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Henry Urrutia (51) reaches second base on a throwing error by Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey (not shown) in the sixth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Red Sox 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Davies – RHP
Date of Birth: February 7, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’0” 150
Acquired: 2011 Draft Round 26
Analysis: Like Chance Sisco, Davies played shortstop in high school. He is a small right hander who has drawn Mike Leake comparisons with plus command and an advanced feel for pitching. Davies is a fastball-change up pitcher who also has developing breaking pitches. Davies’ low HR rate and high K/BB rate allow him to pitch better than his pure “stuff”.
2014 Prognosis: Davies has been on a one year one level course his first two seasons with the Orioles. After making 26 starts at Delmarva Davies will most likely get the promotion to AA Bowie in 2014. The level of competition is far superior and this could create a good test for Davies and the Orioles. He will only be 21 for the season and that might allow the Orioles to let him start the season at Delmarva and pitch his way up. Davies’ ceiling is lower than other players on this list but his plus command and chance for a strong change up could allow him to be a setup man at the Major League level down the road.
Josh Hart – OF
Date of Birth: October 2, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 1s
Analysis: Hart is the rare athletic outfielder in the Orioles system. Similar to former Oriole Xavier Avery, he is from Georgia and his game is all speed with no power. Hart does seem to be a more advanced contact hitter than Avery was out of high school. Hart has great hand eye coordination but his overall game is pretty raw. He has the tools to project as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter but might be limited to left field because of his arm.
2014 Prognosis: Hart is young and will probably be in development mode for his first full season in the minors. The Orioles like his potential but know that they must invest the development time to allow Hart to reach that potential. If he is not rushed like many people thought Avery was, he could spend this year on a short season team with extended spring training time to start the year.
Michael Ohlman – C/DH
Date of Birth: December 14, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’4” 205
Acquired: 2009 Draft Round 11
Analysis: After a tumultuous 2012 season, Ohlman rebounded to have a breakout 2103 campaign. The power hitting righty set career highs in almost every major offensive category. Also, for the first time Ohlman played more than half of his games as a DH. Assigned to the Arizona Fall League, Ohlman finished tied for second on the team in HR and 8th in TB while have the fewest ABs of the 17 hitters on the roster. His future will be based upon his bat; his .410 OBP shows signs of the high ceiling many people believe Ohlman can reach. Detractors are concerned about lack of a true position and concerns about his swing against upper level pitching. Ohlman was added to the Orioles 40-man roster this off season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
2014 Prognosis: The bar has been raised once again for Ohlman. He will probably start the season back at Frederick if the Orioles want him to work out at 1B. However, a promotion to Bowie would not be a surprise based upon the momentum he has coming out of 2013. A high on base hitter who needs to continue to grow his power. Ohlman is not as universally loved as other players in the system but might be underrated heading into 2014.
Henry Urrutia – OF
Date of Birth: February 13, 1987
Height/Weight: 6’5” 200
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: Urrutia is the oldest player on this list as a result of having played professionally in Cuba before defecting. Tall and lanky, the left-handed hitter finished an arduous route to the Majors by playing in four leagues (Eastern, International, Arizona Fall, Majors) during the 2013 season. Known as a contact hitter with limited power, Urrutia seemed rusty in the field and on the bases. Despite all of that, “Hammerin’ Hank” was named to the Futures Game as well as the AFL Top Prospects team and showed improved power in the AFL while playing mostly DH due to an injury.
2014 Prognosis: Some people feel that Urrutia deserves a chance to compete for the DH or LF jobs with the Orioles. Realistically the Orioles would prefer to let him play every day at AAA and let his game continue to improve. Needs to show he can be counted on in LF defensively and will have to show better patience at the plate. Urrutia could be a boom or bust player once he gets more at bats against top tier pitching. Urrutia should be the everyday LF at Norfolk to start the season.
Mike Wright – RHP
Date of Birth: January 3, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’6” 215
Acquired: 2011 Draft Round 3
Analysis: Wright, 23 has the big frame of a classic workhorse. His fastball is his best pitch sitting in the low-mid nineties, also throws average change up and slider. Innings eater who’s stuff is not quite as good as his build and mechanics. 2013 Jim Palmer Award Winner for best minor league pitcher in the Orioles System. Made all but one start for AA Bowie. The other start was an end of season call up to start for Norfolk on last day of the season. Pitched strong 6.2 shutout innings with no walks. Not intimidated at all in most important pro start.
2014 Prognosis: Wright is an advanced pitcher who should start the year in AAA Norfolk’s rotation. If he continues to progress a major league call up in 2014 is not out of the question and he should benefit from better defense at upper levels. Wright needs to focus on pitching down in the zone since his K/9 should decline at the major league level and if he can get 25-30 starts with sub 3.75 ERA and sub 1.25 WHIP, that would be a very good year for Wright. Jim Duquette of MLB Radio recently said that some people in the Orioles front office like Wright better than my #3 ranked prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez.
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Schoop – 2B
Date of Birth: October 16, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2” 210
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: An athletic infielder, Schoop had high hopes for 2013 but spent most of the season battling injuries. After a strong 2012 as well as starting for Curacao in the World Baseball Classic, 2013 was supposed to have Schoop on the Top Prospect fast track. Unfortunately, thumb and back injuries limited him to 81 games in the minors, almost all at AAA Norfolk. Still Schoop received a September call up and had 15 PA including his first Major League HR. Schoop played in the Arizona Fall League but by most accounts seemed fatigued from the season. He is known as a solid defender at 2B, SS, and 3B.
2014 Prognosis: Health is the key word for Schoop in 2014. There appears to be an open competition for the second base job in Baltimore, but the Orioles hope to start more veteran players than Schoop. He should get a chance to play every day at AAA Norfolk. When healthy he shows good power for a middle infielder as well as reaching base at a high rate. He could get another shot for a late season promotion and should be a contributing regular at the Major League level in the future.
Hunter Harvey – RHP
Date of Birth: December 9, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3” 175
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 1
Analysis: It’s not often a first round pick surpasses expectations after just 8 starts but that is exactly what Harvey did in 2013. Showing a fastball that sat consistently in the low-to-mid 90s as well as an advanced curveball and changeup, Hunter looks like someone who should have been drafted higher than number 22 overall. His frame looks like it can handle more weight which leaves Harvey’s projection as a top of the rotation starter. The son of former Major League pitcher Brian Harvey, Hunter showed more poise than you expect from an 18 year old on the mound.
2014 Prognosis: Harvey should have the chance to pitch in the rotation for short-season Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League where he made his final three starts of 2013. Harvey will only be 19 next season and will get a full season in the Orioles development system and will benefit from their strength and conditioning programs. With good natural movement on his fastball, Harvey will need to work on command of that and all his pitches. It would not be a surprise to see Harvey reach Delmarva or even Frederick by the end of the season. He should move faster than most high school pitchers.
Eduardo Rodriguez – LHP
Date of Birth: April 7, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: Rodriguez is the top LHP prospect for the Orioles. He shows a good fastball that touches the mid-90s as well as a slider that can be thrown effectively to lefties or righties but his changeup and curveball are still developing. Rodriguez can dominate at times and finished the year strong in his final 4 starts for AA Bowie. Rodriguez also got the win in the Arizona Fall League Championship. Due to Dylan Bundy’s injury and Kevin Gausman’s almost untouchable status, many people consider Rodriquez as the most likely top prospect to get traded if the Orioles make a move this off season.
2014 Prognosis: Rodriguez is most likely to start the year at AAA Norfolk unless an abundance of starters force him to AA Bowie. Either way Rodriguez should have a chance to get a call up in 2014 and compete for the major league rotation in 2015. After having higher K/9 and higher BB/9 after being promoted to AA, Rodriquez will have to show consistency in his motion and command this season. The Orioles hope that he hits is ceiling as a#3 starter.
Dylan Bundy – RHP
Date of Birth: November 15, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’1” 195
Acquired: 2011 Draft Round 1
2013 Stats: Did not play
Analysis: The 2012 legend of Dylan Bundy was replaced by Tommy John Surgery in 2013. After missing the start of season due to arm soreness Bundy had finally had surgery in June. Before the surgery, Bundy showed plus pitches across the board along with a legendary work ethic that should help in his rehab. Bundy is considered an elite prospect who dominated in his only pro season of 2012 after signing for $4 million coming out of high school. He was considered to be a top 5 overall prospect heading into 2013.
2014 Prognosis: Bundy is ahead of schedule according to early December reports which will leave him a few months behind the other pitchers in 2014. A healthy return and strong second half of the season should put Bundy on track to contribute at the Major League Level in 2015. The biggest question mark only seems to be confirming his health after his rehab. Still only 22 years old for the 2014 season, Bundy has top of the rotation future projection until proven otherwise.
Kevin Gausman – RHP
Date of Birth: January 6, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 190
Acquired: 2012 Draft Round 1
Analysis: After selecting Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick in 2011 the Orioles nabbed Kevin Gausman with the fourth overall pick in 2012. A draft eligible sophomore out of LSU the Orioles made Gausman the first college pitcher selected in the 2012 draft. Gausman has had an elite fastball since college but his changeup and slider have gotten much stronger since being drafted. Gausman pitched 82 minor league innings in 2013 but also pitched 47.2 innings in the majors. He is most successful when he keeps the ball down and throws his fastball for strikes early. While in the Majors, Gausman struggled to throw strikes at the same rate he did in the minors; major league hitters had success when they could sit on his fastball and ignore his breaking pitches. That being said, he has a plus-plus fastball, a plus changeup and a slider with plus potential.
2014 Prognosis: Gausman has a chance to make the Orioles out of spring training. His stuff is so good that the Orioles have used him out of the bullpen because he was harder to hit than many of their 2013 relievers. Ideally he would be able to fine tune his secondary pitches in AAA and force his way up later in the season. He has the potential to be a true number one starter. His pure stuff is so good that his floor would still be a number 3 starter or strong late inning reliever / closer. Gausman and Bundy could be ranked 1 and 1a but edge goes to Gausman because he has stayed healthy and has more experience both from college and the majors. The two have the chance to be an elite top of the rotation pairing for Baltimore.