Baltimore Orioles

Original Published Date: November 24, 2015

I just don’t like the setup for the Orioles.  In 2013 and 14, they had one of the best teams in the major leagues but were not able to capitalize in either year.  In 2015, they regressed and now with several pending free agents and a minor league system not deep in talent, or at least healthy talent, there could be some challenging years on the horizon.

The key to the Orioles might indeed be health.  If he were healthy, Dylan Bundy has a chance to be an impact arm in the major leagues.  However, elbow issues and now a shoulder problem has added a cast of doubt on when Bundy might become an effective big league pitcher.  Unfortunately, Hunter Harvey, the Orioles other impact prospect could be following a similar path.  He missed the entire 2015 season with a broken leg and a barking elbow.  He’s been cleared with the dreaded, “No structural damage” diagnosis.  Hopefully 2016 will be a good year for the power righty.

After Bundy and Harvey, the system drops off substantially.  Chance Sisco and Trey Mancini have a chance to be solid everyday players as does Christian Walker.  Walker is nearly big league ready and could get his chance next year if Chris Davis leaves Baltimore.

With an excellent Blue Jays team, an underperforming Red Sox team that should only get better and of course the Yankees, I just don’t like the setup for the Orioles.  It could be tough sledding for the next several years.

1. Dylan Bundy (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #1 starter
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 200 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2012
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA 22.0 21 9 10 2.05 10.23 3.68 1.18

As a Dylan Bundy fan and owner of him in several Dynasty Leagues, I’m really frustrated.   We saw the meteoric rise of him through the minors after being selected number four overall in 2011.  It took him only 102.2 innings before the Orioles decided he was ready for the show as a 19-year-old.  His time in Baltimore was brief, only an inning and two-thirds, but it looked like there was no stopping the Oklahoma native.   He was going to be the ace for the Orioles, the best pitcher that the organization had developed since Mike Mussina.

It’s now three years later and Dylan Bundy’s major league stat line still shows, 1.2 IP.  First there was Tommy John surgery in 2013 that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season and half of 2014.  Then, after looking like the “old Dylan Bundy” to begin the 2015 season, he developed a shoulder issue and was shut down in late May and didn’t pitch again.  While elbow issues are bad, shoulder problems are worse and have derailed many promising careers.

He did truly look like the old Bundy in his eight starts for Bowie.  The Orioles brought him along slowly, limiting his innings and he responded.  In 22.0 innings, he struck out 25, walked only five while giving up 21 hits.   If only it would have continued.

What are the next steps with Bundy?  The good news is that he was cleared to pitch on August 31st pitching in the Fall Instructional league and the AFL.  From all reports, he had no setbacks.  Hopefully the injuries are behind him and he’ll report to Spring Training healthy and will see Baltimore next year.  However, given his history, that’s far from a certainty.

Scouting Report:  I had a chance to scout Bundy in an early May start and here’s what I observed.

I’ve now seen Bundy twice since he has returned from surgery and he is nearly back to the form he was pre-surgery.  The arm strength has almost fully returned as his fastball is sitting 93 to 94 MPH and topping out at 96.  His secondary pitches also looked sharp with his cutter in particularly showing a lot of swing and miss.

When he’s healthy, the stuff and mechanics still scream a number one starter.  Hopefully, he will still fulfill that ceiling.

Fantasy Impact:  If you own Bundy in a Dynasty League, you have to continue to hold onto him.  If we are still having the same conversation this time next year, it will be time to drop him.  I wouldn’t double-down, in other words, trade for him, but if he were on the waiver wire and I had room, I would be a buyer.

2. Hunter Harvey (RHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 DNP

It sure seems like Hunter Harvey is following the same path of Dylan Bundy.  After exploding onto the scene as the Orioles 2013 number one overall draft pick (pick 22), he’s had a series of injuries dating back to last August.  First, it was a flexor mass strain in his right forearm.  While that diagnosis many times leads to something very serious, the Orioles contended that there was nothing structurally wrong with his elbow.

After an offseason of rest, Harvey declared himself healthy and that his “elbow feels great.”  Then on March 21st, he broke his leg on a comebacker that caused him to miss two months.  During his rehab process, he felt elbow tightness again and after rest and evaluation was shut down and sent to see Dr. James Andrews.  As with Bundy, we all are hoping for the best but preparing for the inevitable.

It’s frustrating as the Orioles were hinting that Harvey could have seen time in Baltimore this year.  Instead, he’s lost a year of development and if he needs Tommy John Surgery, will lose a second year.

The optimist in me says that even if he misses all of next year, he’ll still only be 22-years-old when he starts pitching again.  Assuming a normal recover period, he could be pitching in the big leagues at 24-years-old.  However, as we’ve seen with Bundy, life doesn’t always follow a spreadsheet perfectly.

Scouting Report:  Assuming Harvey is healthy, he has top-of-the-rotation potential. The arsenal is high quality with a fastball that sits 92 to 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 to 80 MPH and a change-up that he throws 82 to 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.

Fantasy Impact:  You’re pretty much in the same situation in a Dynasty League with Harvey that you are with Bundy.  If you own him, you need to hold onto him until his elbow situation resolves.  Even if he needs Tommy John surgery, the success rate of that surgery is extremely high.  We still have his ceiling as a number two starter but the risk has clearly gone up.

3. Chance Sisco (C)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: 1st Division
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A+,AA 337 39 4 26 8 .297 .376 83.7 10.9 .338

The Orioles nabbed Chance Sisco in the second round of the 2013 first year player draft (pick 61).  The Orioles have been very aggressive with the 6-foot-2 catcher, pushing him to Double-A for the final two weeks of the season.  Before that, he batted .308 in 75 games in the Carolina League as the tenth youngest player in the league.

After three professional seasons, one thing is very clear.  Chance Sisco can hit.  In 242 games, he’s slashed .326/.402/.436 with an 82% contact rate.  He hasn’t shown a ton of power yet, but from all indications, that’s coming.

Scouting Report:  I scouted Sisco in a Wilmington series over the summer and was left very impressed.  He’s got a really live bat with premium bat speed and a nice smooth lefty swing.  He’s load is very quiet and then he explodes through the zone.  The swing is very level but given his swing mechanics, I think he’ll learn to add some loft with back spin and develop at least average future power.  He’s a below average runner so I’m not sure where the eight stolen bases in High-A came from.

Defensively is where the challenges are for Sisco.  He’s just not a quality defender.  He has an average arm but is a below-average defender behind the plate.  I don’t see a major league catcher but I didn’t see a major league catcher with Kyle Schwarber either.  While Sisco is not the same offensive player, the calculus might be similar.  The Orioles might be best served to have him split time between left field and catcher in order to get his bat to the majors.  Now that he’s in Double-A, he could be exposed defensively very soon.

Fantasy Impact:  If Sisco can maintain catcher eligibility, he could be an impact asset in a fantasy league.  The ceiling is a .280/.350/.420 slash line with 12 to 18 home runs.  While he’ll still be a useful player as a full-time outfielder, the impact drops considerably.  While there is risk, there’s enough upside that I’m taking Sisco in a Dynasty League draft and hoping he stays behind the plate.

4. Trey Mancini (1B)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 A+,AA 533 88 21 89 6 .341 .375 82.6 5.4 .379

Signed in the eighth round of the 2013 first year player draft, Trey Mancini has done exactly what he did at Notre Dame – hit.  In 341 games in professional ball, the 6-foot-4 first baseman has posted an .834 OPS with 34 home runs.  Last year in Double-A, he let the prospect world know that he was a bit more than a eighth round draft pick, slashing .359/.395/.586 in 84 games in Double-A.

While right-right first baseman are tough to project as impact big leaguers, Mancini is trying to convince the Orioles that he in fact can be an impact player at the highest level.  If he continues to hit like he did this year, he just might.

Scouting Report:  Mancini’s best tool is his ability to hit.  He makes very good contact at the plate with excellent hand-eye coordination and a nose for barreling the ball.  He has natural raw strength but does not sell out for the power.  However, there is plus future power in the bat and I think it will eventually come.

His game took a significant step up when he changed his batting stance after working with Oriole great, Brady Anderson.  Anderson got Mancini more upright and that unlocked his ability to stay on the ball and what will eventually allow him to hit for power.

Mancini, can get aggressive at the plate and needs to continue to stay within himself and work counts.  He’s a below average runner, so stolen bases will not be a big part of his game.

With Chris Davis likely leaving for free agency in 2016, Mancini should be considered as a legitimate first base option for the Orioles.  He’ll likely start the 2016 season in Triple-A and assuming he continues to rake, he could see a mid-season promotion.

Fantasy Impact:  While first base only prospects get very little love in National prospect rankings, we care very much about them in our fantasy game.  Mancini could be a 20 to 25 home run threat with a .270 plus batting average hitting in the middle of a lineup.  There’s a lot to like here from a fantasy standpoint and I would be rostering Mancini in all fantasy leagues with 125 or less minor leaguers.

5. Jomar Reyes (3B)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018-19
2015 R,A 325 38 5 48 2 .277 .336 76.0 5.6 .351

The Orioles signed third baseman Jomar Reyes in 2013 from the Dominican Republic and paid him a $350,000 signing bonus.  Reyes is a big boy at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.  Given that’s he turns 19 in January, there’s a good chance that he’s not finished growing, particularly his weight and that is something the Orioles will have to monitor closely.

The Orioles challenged him to a full season assignment in Delmarva and he played well slashing .278/.334/.440 in 84 games.   While he has plus raw power, it has yet to show up in games as he only hit five home runs during the year.  However, the raw power is there in batting practice and should emerge as he learns to control the strike zone better.  As with many power hitters, there is swing and miss in his game as was evident by his 22% strikeout rate.

Scouting Report:  Reyes carrying tool is plus raw power that has yet to emerge in games.   However, his size, strength, and swing mechanics point to plus future power potential.  However, there is concern that he will hit enough to get to it.  Reyes is also very aggressive at the plate but the Orioles have not worked with him on developing better pitch selection and have instead, been working with him on making hard contact.

Defensively, many observers believe that Reyes will outgrow third base.  He’s already listed at 220 pounds and is still a teenager.  If he is forced to move to first, it will put even more pressure on his fledgling hit tool.

Fantasy Impact:  Power is in short supply in the fantasy game and therefore Reyes should be on all Dynasty League owner’s radar.  He should only be rostered in leagues with 300 or less minor league roster positions.

6. D.J. Stewart (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 230 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
2015 SS 238 25 6 24 4 .218 .288 78.2 8.6 .250

The Orioles drafted D.J. Stewart in the first round of the 2015 first year player draft (pick 25) after a stellar three year college career at Florida State.   In 177 games in college, he posted a 1.051 OPS with 27 home runs, 24 stolen bases while walking more than he struck out (147/117).

Once he signed, the Orioles sent him to the New York Penn League where he played well but posted a poor stat line primarily due to a .250 BABIP.  He made good contact (78%) and demonstrated a good approach at the plate.  However, as an advanced college player, most observers expected more.

Scouting Report:  Stewart is tough to get a good read-on.  He’s a polished hitter with good strike zone awareness but the swing doesn’t work for me.  He has a wide stance and gets low to the ground and has trouble with anything hard and up.  I don’t know if he’s trying to shrink the strike zone, but the Orioles need to get him more upright.

The same situation existed with Trey Mancini and Brady Anderson worked with him to get him more upright.  The process worked for Mancini and it could work with Stewart as well.

Defensively, Stewart profiles best in left field.  However, this will put a lot of pressure on his bat.  He does have solid-average power and enough raw strength to project to hit 18 to 22 home runs annually.   He’s an average runner but has good instincts on the base paths and could add a handful of stolen bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  While I believe there is upside with Stewart, he’s a hold in most Dynasty League for me.  I want to see his swing improve before I start buying-in.  If I miss out on a potential 20 home run, 8 stolen base outfielder, I’ll live with the consequences.

7. Christian Walker (1B)

2016 Age: 25 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2015 AAA 534 68 18 74 1 .257 .324 74.5 8.3 .311

After winning a couple of Championship with Jackie Bradley Jr. and the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Orioles drafted Christian Walker in the fourth round of the 2012 first year player draft.  He’s played well through his minor league career and the Orioles rewarded him again with a September call-up.

In 402 minor league games, Walker has an .801 OPS, 57 home runs with a 78% contact rate and an 8.6% walk rate.  He’s a nice player and with Chris Davis likely leaving town during the off-season, he could be in-line for playing time in Baltimore next year.

Scouting Report:  Walker is a good player with above-average power and an approach that should allow him to be an average big league hitter.  While it’s not a star profile, he could hit 20 to 25 home runs batting in the middle of the lineup.

Walker is a good first baseman with above-average athleticism.  He has nimble feet and is able to save plenty of errant throws.  He’s a 30-grade runner, so speed is not part of the equation.

Fantasy Impact:  Walker is a classic second tier first baseman but has enough upside that fantasy owners need to keep him on their radar.  Plus, he’s nearly big league ready and should be targeted for deep fantasy leagues next year.  The upside is a 20 to 25 home runs and a .260 batting average.

8. Parker Bridwell (RHP)

2016 Age: 24 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA 97.0 96 43 7 3.53 8.63 3.99 1.38

Things might be finally starting to click for Parker Bridwell.  Drafted in the ninth round of the 2010 first year player draft, Bridwell has been making slow and steady progress through the minor leagues.  While he looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he’s never been able to control his quality arsenal and therefore his stat line has always been below average.  In 110 lifetime starts, he’s posted a 4.82 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

In 2015, Bridwell started to control his stuff better and posted the best walk rate of his career.  His 3.53 walk-per-nine rate was nearly a walk better than his career average and if that continues, Bridwell could become a solid mid-rotation starter in the big leagues.  However, as with Bundy and Harvey, he hit the DL with an elbow injury and didn’t pitch in the second half.  He also had the dreaded PRP injection so clearly there is some tearing in the elbow. At this juncture, it’s rest and rehab and hopefully he will be healthy to begin the 2016 season.

Scouting Report:  Bridwell has very good stuff with a fastball that sits 92 to 93 MPH and a curveball and change-up that both can miss bats. When Bridwell can throw strikes, he can be dominating and that happened more in 2015 than in his previous five years in the minors.  The Orioles worked with Bridwell to slow down his arm and that has helped him to better repeat his delivery.  He still gets great extension on his pitches and that in combination with his size, makes him very difficult to hit.

Fantasy Impact:  Assuming he’s healthy, Bridwell should be on all fantasy owner’s radar.  He has good stuff and with his improving control, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.  The Orioles will likely start him Norfolk to begin the 2016 season with an excellent chance to see Baltimore at some point next summer.

9. Mychal Givens (RHP)

2016 Age: 26 Ceiling: Closer
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 210 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA 57.1 38 11 1 2.51 12.40 1.73 0.94

The Orioles signed Mychal Givens in the second round of the 2009 draft as a shortstop but after posting a .642 OPS in 255 games, the Orioles moved him to the bump to see if pitching could be his ticket to the major leagues.  Good move!  On June 24th, Givens made his major league debut in relief against the Boston Red Sox and looks like he’s going to have a big league career as a power arm out of the bullpen.

Scouting Report:  Givens throws hard with his fastball averaging 95.31 MPH according to PitchFx data.  He throws sidearm and is really tough on right-handed batters.  In 138 plate appearances in Double-A, right-handed batters hit .132 against him while slugging .182.  In the major leagues, hitters did not fare much better, hitting .190 against him while slugging .349.

Givens also throws a slider that has a good tight break but his change-up is a well below average pitch.  He doesn’t throw it that often and given his arm slot and premium fastball/slider combination, can survive in short burst with just those two pitches.

Fantasy Impact: While Brad Ziegler has been successful this year as a closer, sidearm pitchers in general are better used as a “righty specialist” and that could be the ultimate fate for Givens.  However, his fastball/slider combination is good enough to buck that trend and therefore I’m buying Givens as a potential closer of the future in Baltimore.

10. Ryan Mountcastle (SS)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 R,SS 196 23 4 19 10 .296 .325 76.5 4.3 .362

The Orioles drafted Ryan Mountcastle in the Supplemental First round of the 2015 first year player draft.  They assigned him to the Gulf Coast League where he played very well, slashing .313/.349/.411 in 43 games.  The Orioles were so pleased with his progress that they promoted him to the New York Penn League for the last two weeks in August.

Scouting Report:  Mountcastle has a chance to be an above-average offensive player.  He has plus bat speed, great hand-eye coordination and the ability to square up a baseball.  His approach needs work as he swings at everything, but hopefully that will come with time.  He’s also an average runner and should be able to steal low double-digit stolen bases annually.

While he was drafted as a shortstop, most observers do not believe he will stay there.  The arm is weak and the footwork is sloppy.  Second base or leftfield seem to be a better fit.  If that happens, the bat will have to play in order for him to be an impact player at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  Mountcastle is a name to remember in a Dynasty League but should be ignored in all leagues that roster less than 400 minor league players.

2016 Emerging Prospect

Lazaro Leyva (RHP)

In keeping with their tradition to sign “B-Level” Cuban players, the Orioles signed Lazaro Leyva in 2014 for a $750,000 signing bonus.   Lazara signature pitch is a double-plus fastball that he can routinely hit 100 MPH on the radar gun.  He also throws a slider that flashes plus, but is still a pitch that needs work.  The Orioles will likely start Leyva in Low-A to begin the 2016 season and given his stuff, he could move quickly through the system as a power reliever.

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