2014 Bowie Baysox season preview

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with our look around the Orioles' minor league affiliates, today we take a look at the Bowie Baysox, which will open the season with many of the O's most heralded prospects.

The Bowie Baysox went 71-71 in 2013, with Mike Wright leading the pitching staff, Eduardo Rodriguez seeing a mid-season promotion from the Keys, and Kevin Gausman, Eddie Gamboa, and Henry Urrutia graduating to Norfolk and/or the majors. As is common for the Orioles' farm teams, the 2014 roster features more interesting pitchers than hitters, but we'll take a brief look at both.

Pitchers

Eduardo Rodriguez (SP): Rodriguez isn't in the same tier as Gausman or Dylan Bundy, but he's been placed as the next-best prospect for the O's on most lists this offseason. In 2013, after making fourteen starts with a 2.85 ERA in Frederick, he was promoted to Bowie and pitched for another eight starts, posting a less impressive 4.22 ERA but striking out 59 batters in 59.2 innings. Rodriguez is in his age 21 season now, so the lefty is young for AA. That makes some bumps in the road (like last night) inevitable, but he has an above-average fastball already, potential for above-average offspeed pitches, and a lot of time on his side. Depending on how he progresses, we could see Rodriguez in Baltimore before the season closes.

Dylan Bundy (SP): After losing the 2013 season to Tommy John surgery, Bundy is on the disabled list to start the season, but hopes to get back to game action in June, if not earlier. It's a testament to his tremendous ability that despite the injury and Gausman's promising MLB debut, he's still rated number one on some O's prospect lists. If his rehab continues to go well, and if he picks up right where he left off stuff- and command-wise, Bundy could even see time with the O's down the stretch.

Tim Berry (SP): Berry's a lefty who's gotten a nice boost in his prospect ranking thanks more to positive scouting reports than improved minor league numbers. He started 27 games in Frederick last year with similar strikeout and walk rates to what he posted in 2012, but was significantly less hittable, throwing 23.1 more innings but allowing just six more hits. Hopefully, that's a result of improving stuff and command, rather than just luck. Berry has an average fastball and potentially plus curve, but needs to continue developing his changeup to have more success against right-handed batters.

Zach Davies (SP): Davies comes in below Berry on most prospect lists, but has a similar ceiling, as a number four starter. He likely ranks lower because, listed at six feet tall and 150 pounds, he's considered undersized. (Six feet tall is undersized? Baseball is funny.) Davies is just two months older than Rodriguez and thus is also young for AA, but he's shown tremendous improvement over his two minor league seasons ('12, low-A: 7.2 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9; '13, high-A: 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9) to justify a promotion each year. Davies features a classic four-pitch mix with only an average fastball, but reportedly induces lots of groundballs and has good command and pitchability.

Hitters

Michael Ohlman (C): Ohlman broke out in a big way last year, posting a .313/.410/.524 batting line with Frederick in 2013 after hinting at improvement in 2012. At 6'5", the same height as Matt Wieters, Ohlman is quite tall for a catcher, and unsurprisingly, there are some questions about his ability to stick at the position. Most reports buy into his bat, though, so he needs to continue to hit while polishing his defensive skillset at catcher. It's a tall order, but this year could be a big one not just for Ohlman, but for the Orioles: another solid year could make the O's much more comfortable with letting Wieters walk after the 2015 season.

Honorable Mentions

Dariel Alvarez (OF): Alvarez was signed out of Cuba in July of last year and played just 22 games, hitting well enough to get promotions from the Gulf Coast League to Frederick and finally Bowie. He hasn't ranked high enough on any prospect lists to get a lot of scouting info, but he's one of the more interesting Bowie bats nonetheless.

Christian Walker (1B): Walker advanced rapidly in 2013, moving from Delmarva to Frederick to Bowie. The second promotion was probably a bit aggressive, and his power fell off at AA, but he's just old enough (23 now) that the O's probably felt the need to push him a bit. He looks like a so-called AAAA player, a too-common fate of already-polished college products, but Camden Depot sees a little more potential than most.

Buck Britton (2B), Bobby Bundy (SP), and Sharlon Schoop (SS): Each of these three is the older brother of a guy who's made it to the Orioles. That's pretty cool, but since none rate on prospect lists these days, I imagine the situation is rather bittersweet for them.

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