Forecasting the Orioles Top Prospect in 2014

Buck imparts words of wisdom on the young Padwan. Or maybe just a dumb joke. I don't know for certain. - Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Putting some odds on the chances for a variety of Baby Birds to head the minor league system in 2014

The Orioles enter the 2013 season with perhaps the strongest minor league system that they've had in years. Much of this is due to the immense ceilings of the top two prospects, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. However, things could (and likely will) look much different come this time one year from now. Bundy and Gausman may well be helming the major league rotation at that point, and the consensus third overall prospect in the system, Jonathan Schoop, could make his way to the majors in that time as well. So what could the system look like on the Vernal Equinox of 2014? Here I wanted to give my view of the odds of who will be the veritable Grand Marshal in the O's parade of prospects come the 2014 season.

Jonathan Schoop: 3 to 1

Schoop has established himself as one of the top 2B prospects in the minors. However, this isn't as exciting as it may seem. 2B prospects are generally not particularly well regarded since due to their being 2B prospects it means they've already been moved off the more valuable position of Shortstop. If they can't manage to handle the defensive requirements of 2B they will generally have to move to a corner position (either infield or outfield) and such a move would apply significant pressure on the player's bat to carry them forward to the majors as corner positions generally require greater offensive output.

While he has handled himself quite well against generally much older competition, he has yet to truly dominate at any level as the O's have aggressively promoted through the system. The recent rumors have indicated that Schoop may see yet another promotion to start the 2013 season. This time from AA Bowie, where he spent all of 2012, to AAA Norfolk. Such a posting would indicate to me that the O's feel Schoop is close to major league ready and that they may continue with their aggressive and confident handling of him by potentially promoting him to Baltimore at some point in the 2013 season should a desperate need arise at 2B; similar to how the club treated Manny Machado last year. But I still feel this is a long shot. Schoop still has significant development to undergo in order to be major league ready in my eyes. And I can't foresee him making such huge strides in a couple of months at Norfolk. So I peg him as the favorite to sit atop the O's prospect rankings come 2014.

Eduardo Rodriguez: 4 to 1

ERod earned some praise after a solid first go 'round in full season ball in 2012. The 6'2" lefty tossed 107 innings of 3.70 ERA ball as a 19 year old in the Mid-A South Atlantic League. Keith Law even placed him on his Top 100 list. He'll likely start his 2013 campaign as a 20 year old in High-A Frederick. If he can continue to progress as a pitcher as well as fill out his listed 175 lbs. frame, he could rocket up prospect lists heading into 2014. Caution is needed though. He is still very young and quite raw. And though it's just one level above where he pitched last season, he'll be facing significantly better competition in the Carolina League.

Kevin Gausman: 6 to 1

He has stormed onto the scene this spring training. His fastball is sexy. His change up is downright filthy, causing many and undies to have to be changed. He may well be the O's best starter right now. But he's almost certainly going to begin the year in the minors, possibly forming a formidably fearsome duo with Dylan Bundy in the Bowie rotation. How long he remains in the minors is a question subject to the same variables as Dylan Bundy's time frame: when and how will a rotation slot open up for him in Baltimore? I give him slightly lower odds than Bundy because he has shown thus far that he is probably ahead of Bundy in terms of development as a pitcher. His stuff is crisper and his control and command are better. I think he has the better shot of forcing his way up to Baltimore this year.

Dylan Bundy: 8 to 1

By now you ought to be well aware of who and what he is. Simply put, he's a stud. He has already been optioned back to AA Bowie, where his minor league journey left off last season. He will get some time to refine his game and work on aspects of his pitching such as fastball command and time to the plate. Chances are strong that he will ascend to the majors for good at some point in 2013. However, it is important to remember that he is still but 20 years old. With a rather full rotation at the moment I think Bundy would have to just obliterate the minors and force his way up to Baltimore. He's not just going to be handed a rotation slot as a result of the hype and pedigree. Duquette and Buck seem intent on exhausting all possible outcomes with the tattered remnants of the once vaunted 'Cavalry'. I could well envision a scenario where the likes of Tillman, Arrieta, Matusz, and / or Britton pitch acceptably enough to maintain the 4 or 5 slot in the rotation between them all season. This would result in Bundy having to spend the full year in the minors, and he could be eligible as a prospect again in 2014. But I may be his biggest fan. And I think there is a very good possibility of him putting on a veritable 'Sherman's March' type of performance between AA and AAA. If he does the Warehouse brain trust will have to make room for him.

Parker Bridwell: 12 to 1

Man...if this kid figures it out, look out. He has a great arm one can dream on, and he is still just 21 years old. He spent the off season working out with the Bundy bros at their Oklahoma compound. Hopefully he learned some things and comes out guns-a-blazin in 2013. I imagine he will start the year by repeating at Mid-A Delmarva again. But with a quick start he could be in line for a promotion to High-A Frederick within a couple of weeks. One good season and he'll assuredly rocket up prospect lists.

Nick Delmonico: 12 to 1

The next best position prospect in the organization after the aforementioned Mr. Schoop. Nick was having a pretty good season in 2012 before injuries cut his season short. Reports indicate that he is fully recovered, and that the org. will give him the opportunity to play at 3B in 2013. This will slightly lighten the load that his bat has carry compared to when he was stuck playing at 1B last year. He should have the range to handle the hot corner, the question will be more about his arm. If he can hack it there, and his bat continues to develop some more, this 20 year old stands a decent chance to be at the vanguard of the O's positional prospects in 2014.

Player Traded For during 2013: 15 to 1

As previously mentioned, the major league rotation is currently over capacity. There are 10 to 12 guys who could probably handle a rotation slot. This will give Duquette a healthy stockpile from which to trade should he feel the inkling or need arise. Throw in other potential trade chips such as J.J. Hardy, Jim Johnson, any of the bullpen arms, or other prospects and the O's could very well acquire a player who could be their top prospect come 2014. If the club is in contention then Duq could trade any of these guys and bolster the major league roster for a run at a playoff berth. But if they are not in contention he could use such players as a means of improving the club going into the 2014 season or beyond. But it would take quite a package in order to land a player that could slot in as a top prospect.

2013 Draft Pick / International Signing: 30 to 1

One of the side effects of making the playoffs is that your club drafts much later the following year. The O's, staples of picking in the top 10 for the past decade, won't make their first selection until the 23rd overall pick in 2013. Combine this with what is regarded as a draft lacking in high-ceiling depth, and it's unlikely the O's will land a player who will sit atop their prospect lists going into 2014. It's not impossible though, if one can imagine all of Bundy, Gausman, and Schoop ascending to the majors while ERod, Bridwell, and Delmonico stagnate. But this would be a pretty fatal blow to the farm system if it were to unfold in such a manner.

Furthermore, all amateur international signings are subject to bonus pool limitations now. So the O's can't just go and throw a ton of money at a hot shot kid from Curaçao or the Dominican Rep. There are limits to the total amount of money clubs can spend in this market. You can spend however much you wish on international free agents though. So players who seek to come to MLB from Japan's NPB for instance are not subject to such spending limits. And we all know how much Duquette loves signing Asian players. But I am not sure if there is a truly impact talent such as Yu Darvish who could be coming stateside after the 2013 season.

Brendan Webb: 50 to 1

What can I say? I love him. I love to dream on his potential tools. He can't hit worth a damn though, so it's all likely to be moot. He has reached the point now where his age advantage has all but dissipated. He needs his tools to manifest or he will slip into org-filler limbo.

So, where would you put your money? Me, personally, I'd take the value of Bundy at 8 to 1. I just feel there is a solid chance he spends the entire season in the minors and joins the O's out of spring training in 2014. Perhaps you'd want to wager on someone I left off the list? Others I considered include: Henry Urrutia, Bobby Bundy, Hector Veloz, Brandan Kline, and Adrian Marin.

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