SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 01: Can the Orioles develop me? Was I named after a Luke Perry character? (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of Earl Weaver is his affinity for tomatoes and more specifically for actually growing them at Memorial Stadium. Three thousand miles away and many years later, I just planted some blueberry bushes. Why is this relevant? Because apparently they will take at least 3 years to actually produce blueberries, if they produce at all. And looking at my immediate landscape, many of my plants would tell you I'm notorious for killing them. And so, my blueberries are prospects, much like some of the kids we'll be following this year. So, I will keep you posted on my blueberries. Thankfully it's rained every day this week, so I haven't had to do much in terms of trying not to kill them.
Despite some reports to the contrary, the Baltimore Orioles are not exactly stacked with minor league talent. But that does not mean that the system is empty after the top 3. As the season is about to begin, I thought it would be a good time to examine a few issues among some of the minor leaguers.
More below the jump!
The talents of Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado have been well chronicled. I hate to be pessimistic, but I worry if the Orioles will somehow manage to retard Dylan's development. I would love to believe he is going to be the guy that BA thought was the #1 pitching prospect in the 2011 amateur draft. But you have to worry about the Orioles developing him. And of course, if the Orioles actually manage to not screw him up, there is always the risk of injury. But maybe that's just 14 years of losing talking. Reports around the internet indicate that Dylan will start in Salisbury, so from my view this is good to see.
Machado and Schoop, born just 8 months apart, were quite the tandem in Salisbury and Frederick last year. It is somewhat noteworthy that Schoop actually posted a better OPS at both stops, though Machado projects to be the better major leaguer. I think it's pretty clear that both have yet to master the Carolina League. Yet both are apparently moving onto the Eastern League.
And this is where the consensus ends. Fangraphs ranked Tyler Townsend as the 4th best Orioles prospect. BA ranked him 24, and John Sickels also had him out of the top 20. I'm going to defer to Baseball America while looking at the rest of the top prospects. I really can't recommend purchasing BA's prospect handbook enough.
#4 sits Parker Bridwell. I am really curious to see how the 20 year old fares in Delmarva this year. The 20 year old Texan stands 6' 4". He struggled in Delmarva last year. BA described him as a "right handed Zach Britton." So we'll have to pay special attention to his GB rates this year.
LJ Hoes finds himself at #5. If he can't play second base, I'm not sure what the Orioles have here. He has displayed strong on base skills, which is great and of utmost importance, but if he can't play second than he needs more power to be a corner outfielder.
Nicky Delmonico is #6 which I think is more a commentary on the Orioles system than anything else. He is 19 and a left handed hitter, drafted in the sixth round of last year's draft and signed for $1.5 M at the now old 8/15 deadline. It will be interesting to see if he starts the year in Delmarva. But it's also true that a guy like him would benefit from the Appy League, but no crying over spilt milk I suppose. Again, reports are he'll be in Delmarva.
Ryan Flaherty is Baseball America's 7th best Oriole prospect. A guy the Cubs, overrun with talent themselves, left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. The knock on Flaherty is his lack of defensive skills. On the Orioles he'll fit right in.
Jason Esposito is #8 on BA's list. He was last year's second round pick, and at the onset of the 2011 season, there was some talk of him being a first rounder. BA mentions that there are "questions about how he will fare against pro pitching." So there's that.
At #9 is Xavier Avery, or Xaviery as he is better known. It is true that he just turned 22 this year. It's also true that his OPS was under 700 in AA last year. He can run like the wind. BA states that he "doesn't recognize pitches well" but it's also true that he's more of an athlete, and so we can hope that he can improve upon this as the season develops. Whether or not the Orioles are the organization that can do this remains to be seen.
Dan Klein is the 10th best prospect in the system and he's had two shoulder surgeries in three years. Steve Melewski just reported that Klein is going to have his shoulder examined again.
But given that I'm a fan of Ronnie Welty, there are some other players that I'm actually excited about, and will be following in the weekly Around the Minors segments this year. (I will certainly try to do them more often, but like everybody else, life gets complicated sometimes!)
There is a really sweet story about Mike Wright, who BA ranks #11. Apparently his sister and him were tracking the draft online, and his sister had a better internet connection. BA writes that "when she screamed, he knew he was an Oriole." He is 6'5" and 22 years old. He was rock solid as a starter in Aberdeen, so we will see how he does in Salisbury. For some reason, the Orioles are challenging him and apparently starting him in Frederick.
Clay Shrader quickly became a guy I tracked last season because of his 15.5 K/9 in Delmarva last year. On the down side of the ledger is that he got injured at the end of the season, and the sad truth is that the minor leagues are littered with guys who post gaudy K/9 numbers in the minors as reliever and amount to Brad Pennington. So while I want to see Craig Kimbrel, for now I see the guy who once threw a fastball to Ken Griffey Junior that has yet to land.
Kyle Simon came in as the #18 top Oriole prospect coming into 2012. While the right hander lacks a 90 MPH fastball, he does have a ridiculously heavy sinker and his GB/FB ratios of 4.57 in only sixteen and two thirds last year. He will be in Frederick this year.
Glynn Davis is a local kid, hon. I def recommend reading some of Melewski's articles on him if you haven't already. The Orioles may have found a little gem not too far from Camden Yards. The 20 year old will be one to watch due to his OBP and speed. He should start the season in Delmarva as well.
Tyler Townsend comes in at #24 on BA's list, as mentioned previously. Townsend has huge power, limited on base skills and struggles to stay healthy. The Eastern League will tell us a lot about him.
Oliver Drake took a big step forward in his age 24 season last year, so much so that he is on the 40 man. He profiles as an "innings eater" if he can get his "breaking ball figured out." He will be in AA this year, and it seems like the Orioles might soon present him with some innings to eat.
Perhaps the off-the-radar-guy I am most excited about is Trent Mummey who comes in on BA's list #27. Now 23, the left handed hitting OF plays with reckless abandon, though maybe he would be wiser to ease up, since he has been injured in 2010 and 2011. He does have decent power and decent OBP skills so far. In some way, I'm kind of surprised he hasn't ranked higher on some of these lists, though on the more stats friendly site like fangraphs he comes in at #9. He should start 2012 in Frederick.
So...what story lines are you anticipating this year?
NOTE: I think I'll do a short season preview before those seasons start.
Edit: for more on 2012 placements, Melewski posted this article.