The last group of Orioles pitching prospects may have largely failed, but there's another one on the way. That's according to Baseball Prospectus, who unveiled their Top 10 Orioles prospects (list is free, full article requires subscription) on Wednesday. The quartet of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, and Eduardo Rodriguez head up the list.
That Harvey, the first-round pick in 2013, ranks so high is probably equal parts exciting and frustrating. It's exciting because his future potential is #2 starter. It's frustrating because in a perfect world, the Orioles would have more prospects closer to the big leagues that were good so Harvey wouldn't be ranked as high. Still, we've got to make the most of what we've got, and the player who inspires this for "strengths" is good to have in the stable:
Good present size; physical projection; athletic; easy release; fastball works 91-95; late life; some natural cut; could end up a plus-plus pitch with improved command and velocity spike; curveball is legit power breaker in the upper 70s/low 80s; tight rotation and hard vertical action; could be monster offering; changeup flashes above-average potential, with arm-side fade.
Of course, prospects strengths always make them sound like the next Cy Young, and this often is not the case. However, there seems to be widespread agreement that Harvey belongs in the top 50 prospects in all of baseball. That's not bad for the 22nd overall pick out of high school in the most recent draft.
Harvey is almost by himself an argument against signing a free agent who will cost a draft pick. If the Orioles have the opportunity to get their next third-best prospect with the #17 pick in the 2014 draft, they need to think long and hard about giving up the pick for a player like Nelson Cruz, or anyone else who's left on the market. We see this off-season how hard it is to fill significant holes in the team through free agency.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop rounds out the top five on the list, followed by pitchers Mike Wright, Tim Berry, and Zachary Davies, catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder Josh Hart. Sisco and Hart were both also 2013 draftees, with Hart being selected in the first competitive balance pick round (between rounds one and two) and Sisco being selected in the second round.
The Orioles will not have the kind of pick that netted them Hart this year; their 2014 competitive balance pick was traded to Houston in the Bud Norris trade.
Though Gausman's major league debut was rocky, BP remains high on him, calling him "a beast, with a near-elite fastball, a plus-plus changeup, and the makings of a plus slider." His future potential is #2 starter and BP says a more realistic role might be #3 starter, but that's not a bad floor.
Bundy is below Gausman, perhaps only because of uncertainty due to his having undergone Tommy John surgery. He gets even more glowing praise for his potential, considered a possible #1 starter "with a plus-plus fastball, an elite cutter that some think could possess religious properties," and a curveball and changeup that scouts also like.
What do you think that religion would be called? Are you a Bundyterian? Perhaps an Episcutterpalian?
There is the question of whether Dan Duquette's previously-expressed anti-cutter doctrine will hamper this development; if Bundy's best pitch is labeled heretical, that keeps him from being his best. Bundy won't be providing much help in 2014, but that assessment of his potential sounds exciting for the future, don't you think?
Rodriguez is characterized as more of a potential #3/4 starter who "lacks a true knockout secondary pitch", which means he basically fits in perfectly with the Orioles rotation already. All joking aside, he's a 20-year-old lefty who's already made it to Double-A, and developing your own back-end starters is still valuable because that means you don't have to give $24 million to Phil Hughes.
The best position player in the system, Schoop, saw a brief appearance at the MLB level in 2013 and figures to be in the conversation to play a lot of second base for the O's in 2014. He was hampered by a back injury and may still need more minor league time. BP does not think of him as a future star, with his best potential being "above-average regular."
Wright "could step into the back end of a major league rotation in 2014", which is probably his ceiling as a pitcher. He's a favorite of fellow Camden Chat writer Matt Shaffner. Berry, a soon-to-be-23-year-old lefty, has yet to pitch above High-A, but the former 50th round pick could make a big league appearance in late 2014 or 2015, according to BP. His time in the Arizona Fall League helped enhance his prospect reputation.
Davies is described as "a small right-hander with small stuff" who is in for a key test when he hits Double-A with upper-80s fastballs. It is an uphill battle, though not an impossible one, for soft-tossers. He will turn 21 in February.
Sisco and Hart were both high school draftees. As a catching prospect, Sisco is described as having the potential to turn into a future solid-average all-around catcher. Among his strengths is "gamer". I, too, am a gamer, though I doubt Sisco is rolling 20-sided dice in his free time. For those who eyeball Sisco as a future Matt Wieters replacement, he's not projected to hit the big leagues until 2018, so there would have to be another bridge to Sisco.
The left-handed Hart is the latest in a line of toolsy Orioles outfielders who may never develop into anything. If all goes right, he could be a "prototypical leadoff/center field type"; if not all goes right, his ultimate value to the Orioles could be to be traded for someone who sucks as much as Michael Morse - if that. He is another player you can expect to see in 2018 even in the most optimistic of scenarios. If he makes it to the big leagues, I hope the team greets him with a Damn Yankees-inspired number - "You've gotta have Hart!"
As the Winter Meetings draw to a close, with the flurry of recent signings in MLB leaving the Orioles with fewer impact free agent options, it's fun to think about prospects who might help the Orioles now and in the future. More look to be "future" rather than "now', but the "now" prospects are exciting enough on their own. Here's hoping this cavalry works out better than the last. Let's just ignore that the full title of Baseball Prospectus' prospect series is "Prospects Will Break Your Heart."