|Original Published Date: November 25, 2014|
The Orioles farm system has two potential stud pitchers in Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey and then the talent starts to fall off quickly. By deciding to dip into the free agent market, the Orioles did not pick until the third round of the 2014 draft and that hurt the system. Trading Eduardo Rodriguez for Andrew Miller also hurt the system as Rodriguez is arguably a Top 100 prospect. Of course, these decisions helped the Orioles in their drive to the World Series. Miller was a critical arm in the bullpen, Nelson Cruz hit 40 home runs and was arguably the Orioles best hitter and Ubaldo Jimenez; well two out of three ain’t bad.
After Bundy and Harvey, the Orioles have two positional players in Christian Walker and Dariel Alvarez who are nearly big league ready. Walker is in particular intriguing as he could be the in-house solution if Chris Davis decides to part for free agency after the 2015 season. Chance Sisco is another interesting prospect with the chance to be an offensive first catcher, but just turns 20 in February and is likely two to three years away from seeing Baltimore.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #1 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
For those of us who thought Dylan Bundy would fly back from Tommy John Surgery and be pitching meaningful innings in the big leagues in 2014, well…we were a little over optimistic.
It’s been a long journey back for the 6-foot-1 Oklahoman with plenty of positive signs as well as setbacks. While the arsenal is still elite, the velocity is off from when he blew onto the scene in 2012 as a 19-year-old. In the outing I saw, his fifth start, he was sitting 91-93 MPH and hit 94 twice in five innings. I expect his velocity to continue to tick up as he regains some of his arm strength but perhaps the days of sitting 96 MPH and touching higher are over. That’s ok, because he was commanding his fastball very well during that outing and getting plenty of movement.
His secondary pitches also looked sharp. He threw five cutters with nasty boring action (maybe the Orioles gave up trying to limit him from throwing that pitch). The curve ball was also sharp with his change-up just behind that. It was four well above-average pitches that he was able to command. From other reports, not all of his games went as well with inconsistent control and command the primary culprit. That’s to be expected and part of the recovery process.
The mechanics are also very strong and while I had heard he had altered them to try and reduce the stress on his arm, it was not easily noticeable. Then again, I thought his mechanics prior to the injury were excellent.
The ceiling of Bundy is still that of an ace. I do expect the velocity to tick up so that he’s sitting 93-94 MPH. The secondary pitches will miss plenty of bats and the command should stabilize. Will that occur in April, June, August, or 2016? I’m not sure, but when it does, he’s going to be scary good.
Fantasy Impact: Patience will payoff for Dynasty and Keeper League owners who have held onto Bundy. While nobody knows the timing of his return, his work ethic is unquestionable and expecting 100 plus solid major league innings from him in 2015 is not out of the question.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 175||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
Hunter Harvey pulled off a pretty good 2012 version of Dylan Bundy. While he doesn’t quite have the upside of Bundy, Harvey has the ceiling of a solid number two starter and the chance to be one of the better pitchers in baseball.
Harvey looks like he was cut out of a starter kit for pitchers. He has the perfect projectable body at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, although he already looks to be heavier than his stated weight. The arsenal is high quality with a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH with a lot of arm-side run. The pitch is a serious swing and miss offering because of the movement and his ability to command it. While it’s possible that he could add some velocity as he continues to fill out, it’s a plus pitch already.
His secondary pitches are also very good with a hard curve that sits 78-80 MPH and a change-up that he throws 82-84 MPH. Both pitches have future plus potential with the curve ball possibly being very special.
The pitching mechanics are very clean with nice arm action. He does throw across his body and that adds some deception to his delivery. While he walked only 3.11 batters per nine, there is still upside because of his ability to repeat his delivery. A mid two walk-rate-per-nine is not out of the question.
So, Harvey will fly through the minors, right? Well, unfortunately he was shut down with a strained flexor mass in his pitching elbow in early August. The Orioles downplayed the injury and I’m hoping that it’s nothing serious, but given the state of pitching elbows, there has to be worry.
Fantasy Impact: Despite the concern with his elbow, Harvey is a top 10 pitching prospect. His ceiling is a strikeout per inning with excellent ratios. I won’t go as far to say he has ace potential because he lacks a true plus-plus pitch, but he’s going to be very, very good.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling:Solid-Reg|
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 195||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
As a 19-year-old in full-season Low-A, Chance Sisco had quite an impressive year. In 426 at-bats, he posted an .850 OPS with a 79K/42BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. His OPS ranked 16th in the Sally League and demonstrates the kind of offensive upside the Orioles thought they had when they took him in the second round of the 2013 draft.
Not only does Sisco have a mature approach with excellent plate coverage, he also has plus bat speed. While plus bat speed and strength many times point to future above-average power, Sisco’s swing path is more line drive oriented and its’ debatable how much future power he will develop. However, he does show excellent pop during batting practice with pull-side power.
Sisco’s offensive game is currently ahead of his defensive profile, partially because he’s new to the position. He was moved off shortstop in his senior year of high school and is clearly still learning the nuances of the position. I believe he has enough athleticism and arm strength to eventually profile as at least an average defender. When you combine that with his offensive profile, the ceiling is that of a first division starter.
Fantasy Impact: Young players who demonstrate a mature approach and contactability usually find their way onto my Dynasty team. While there is a question on how much future power Sisco will eventually develop, I believe 12 to 18 home runs is a very realistic ceiling. When you factor in a potential above-average if not plus hit-tool, the ceiling is a Top 15 fantasy catcher. I’m investing.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht:6-0 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
The South Carolina Gamecocks won back-to-back College World Series Championship led by center fielder, Jackie Bradley Jr. and first baseman, Christian Walker. While JBJ has gotten most of the prospect hype, Walker is finally getting his due with a breakout season that ended up in a September call-up to Baltimore.
During the 2012 draft, there was concern about how much power Walker would eventually develop as he only showed modest pop in college. However, the Orioles saw enough in his bat to take a gamble on him in the fourth round and were rewarded as he slugged 26 home runs across Double and Triple-A in 2014. While he only has average bat speed, he gets very good strength and leverage from his swing but also has enough hand-eye coordination to make decent contact. This should all translate to above-average power with at least an average hit-tool. It’s not a stretch to see Walker hit 20 home runs with a .265 to .275 batting average. If his power continues to develop, the home run totals could obviously continue to project higher.
Defensively, Walker has enough athleticism and foot work to profile as an above-average first baseman.
Chris Davis is signed through 2015 and it’s unlikely the Orioles will have the finances to re-sign him. With another uptick in production in 2015 at Triple-A, Walker could lay claim to being the starting first baseman for the Orioles entering the 2016 season.
Fantasy Impact: Rostering minor league first baseman on your Dynasty League can be a dicey proposition. Unless that player has no doubt plus home run power, it’s best to move elsewhere. Walker is a borderline case. If he produces 15 to 20 home runs annually, he’s only rosterable in deeper fantasy leagues. However, if he can push the total to 25 or more, hitting in the middle of a lineup, he’s a must-own. I’m betting on the over.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 195||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016|
While the Dodgers, Cubs, and White Sox have been signing the elite Cuban émigrés, the Orioles have been targeting the next group. The two most notable players have been Henry Urrutia, who made our Top 10 list last year but was been slowed by injuries in 2014 and Dariel Alvarez.
The Orioles signed Alvarez in 2013 and he made quick work of the minors posting an .820 OPS in 611 at-bats since signing. I had a chance to see him in a series against Erie in May where he looked like the best player on the field by far. He showed excellent bat speed and the ability to make hard contact to all fields. To complete the picture, he even made an outstanding leaping catch in center field to rob Steven Moya of a surefire double.
I believe Alvarez is a big leaguer – maybe not the all-star that he looked in my first scouting trip, but a solid regular contributor. While he has bat speed and makes excellent contact, he’s also a very aggressive hitter that managed only 21 walks in 538 at-bats. He also can get pull-happy with his swing but doesn’t have the power profile of a slugger. I would like to see him stay a line drive hitter with the upside to hit 10 to 12 home runs annually.
At 26-years-old, there is little projectability left and at this juncture, Alvarez is what he is – a potential solid-regular contributor with the floor of a fourth outfielder. I would expect him to break camp with the Orioles in 2015 or be a call-up shortly after the season begins.
Fantasy Impact: Alvarez could make a nice fifth outfielder on your fantasy team assuming he gets consistent at-bats. That will come down to playing time and unless there is an injury, that is not guaranteed in Baltimore. The upside is 10 to 12 home runs with a .280 plus batting average but a low on-base percentage.
|2015 Age: 23||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
When looking at the minor league statistics of Parker Bridwell, it’s easy to question why he’s on a Top 10 prospect list. In 479.2 minor league innings, he has a 4.45 ERA, has repeated Low-A, and turned 23 in August. While the statistical line is not impressive, there continues to be something very enticing about the 6-foot-4 Texan.
Bridwell has very good stuff with a fastball that sits 92-93 MPH and a curveball and change-up that both can miss bats. When Bridwell can throw strikes, he can be dominating, as he was in his August 25th contest against Potomac. In eight innings, he gave up one hit, struck out 13 and didn’t walk anyone. The contest before that, he only lasted two innings, giving up five earned runs, walking five.
His control problems can be traced back to his mechanics. While his momentum is very good, his balance is poor with a pronounced fall-off to first base. This is causing him to miss his release points and not only struggle to throw strikes but throw poor quality strikes when he does hit the zone. Everything is exasperated as he rushes his delivery. The good news is that he has the size and athleticism to eventually right the ship as he did against Potomac.
The Orioles will likely start Bridwell in Bowie to begin the 2015 season. They will continue to have him work on his mechanics and throwing quality strikes. It’s going to take time, but I’m still betting that Bridwell becomes a legitimate big leaguer as either a number four starter or possibly a high-leverage bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: I always bet on athletic pitchers and that still gives me hope with Bridwell. However, he’s difficult to own in a Dynasty League given the competition for precious roster spots. The upside is a high strikeout reliever or number four starter with potentially higher ratios than you would like.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015|
When taking their final selection in the 2009 first year player draft (50th round), the Orioles took a low risk gamble on California prepster Tim Berry. Berry was recovering from Tommy John Surgery but the Orioles liked his upside so much that they invested $125,000 in the 6-foot-3 lefty. So far, the risk seems to have paid off.
Berry’s arsenal is solid with a fastball that sits 89-91 MPH, but can touch higher when he needs something extra. He also has an above-average curve ball that is very difficult to pick-up especially for left-handed batters. To complete the arsenal, he also throws a change-up that didn’t have a lot of deception and movement when I scouted him the Arizona Fall League in 2013.
The result of his arsenal and lack of keeping right-handed batters at bay is a .212/.263 batting average spilt. However, the real story is in the difference in slugging. Left-handed batters slugged an anemic .263 against Berry but right-handed batters slugged .439.
Berry should start 2015 in Triple-A and could see Baltimore later in the year. He’s likely a lefty specialist but if he can improve his change-up and add some deception in his delivery, he still has a chance to be back-of-the-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: Berry does have some fantasy upside but unless you are in a Dynasty League that rosters 350 plus minor league players, he should be ignored.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: #5 starter|
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 150||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Zach Davies keeps defying the odds as he works his way through the minor leagues. He’s 6-feet tall and a listed 150 pounds (looks slightly heavier), has a fastball that sits 89-91 MPH, but struck out nearly a batter an inning while walking 2.62 per nine in 110 innings in Double-A.
When you watch a lot of minor league games, you see pitchers with Zach Davies profile all the time – undersized, average stuff, but really knows how to pitch. It’s the last element that people forget about as we all fall in love with velocity and spin. However, Davies cuts through lineups by setting batters up with his ability to spot his fastball and then gets a strikeout with his change-up or curve ball. However, in the end, you still need the stuff to get the best batters out in the world and ultimately this puts his ceiling as a middle reliever or swing pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: While Davies likely has a ceiling of a swing pitcher, he could also be one of those pitchers who dominates the first time through the league. He’s tough to pick-up, throws strikes and that allows his arsenal to play-up. I don’t think he’s rosterable in a traditional Dynasty League, but if he gets the call, remember the name and consider streaming him in the early going.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: 4th OF
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2017|
Taken in the supplemental round of the 2013 draft, Josh Hart is an athletic outfielder with plus speed and 30-grade power. While he’s not small at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, he has a quick twitch body instead of one that will be able to put on weight and mash. The swing is simple and compact and while he only had a contact rate of 74%, that should improve as he develops. However, two years of slugging .286 gives Hart the ceiling of a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Hart has 70-grade speed but it’s not yet showing up in stolen bases. If it does, he could have some fantasy value for Only-League formats.
|2015 Age: 24||Ceiling: Extra Bat
|Ht:5-11 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2015-16|
With a surname of Yastrzemski, you have to ask the question…is he related to Boston great, Carl Yastrzemski? The answer is yes…he’s his grandson. By the way, writing that made me feel really old.
While Mike doesn’t have the upside of his grandfather, he had a very good season showing natural bat-to-ball skills and excellent hand-eye coordination. In nearly 600 plate appearance across three levels (Low-A, High-A, and Double-A), Yastrzemski posted an OPS of .836. His year was inflated due to his tenure in Low-A, where at 23-years-old, he was old for the league and that showed.
While Yastrzemski makes contact and has an approach, his power and speed is limited and therefore his ceiling is likely a fourth outfielder. That said, he does have the skill that trumps all others and that’s the ability to hit, so I could be light on the upside.
Fantasy Impact: Dynasty League owners ran to the waiver wire to snatch up Mike Yastrzemski in April and May as he was putting up impressive statistics. He’s a sell high candidate for me and you might even be able to get a premium for an owner who is a huge Boston Red Sox fan. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen this happen many times.
2015 Emerging Prospect:
Jomar Reyes doesn’t turn 18 until February, but more than held his own in the GCL in 2014. He posted a .758 OPS in 186 at-bats with a 38K/15BB strikeout-to-walk ratio. His carrying tool is plus raw power that he generates from plus bat speed and simple raw strength that he gets from his 6-foot-3, 220 pound frame. In reports that I received, what actually generated the excitement was his swing. While he definitely likes to dip his shoulder for leverage, the swing is fairly compact with the hope that he could have an average or even above-average future hit tool. While he’s very young and is likely not finished growing, Reyes is a kid to keep your eye-on.