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A review of 2012's Top Twenty Oriole Prospects

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As Oriole fans dream on this year's batch of top prospects, I thought a timely review of last year's top 20 made some sense. How did the lesser knowns perform last year?

Remember when I was on last year's list?  Good times!
Remember when I was on last year's list? Good times!

Driving home the other day pondering how Eduardo Rodriguez and Nicky Delmonico will fare in Frederick in 2013, I started to wonder about 2012. From 1998 to 2011 it was entirely understandable to follow the farm more than the big league squad, especially if you chose not to be a glutton for punishment. Though in reality a big reason for the failures of the big league club was the barren farm system. Of course, one of things about dreaming on the farm can do is delude you about prospects. But when your team is comically folding under the watchful eye of a manager you don't want to remember, it's probably just a coping strategy. So as we head into 2013, I thought it might be a worthy project to review a few of the lesserknowns of the top 20 heading into 2012. All rankings are per the BA prospect handbook.

Some guys who won't be covered here for obvious reasons: Dylan Bundy (1), Manny Machado (2), Jonathan Schoop (3), Ryan Flaherty (7), Joe Mahoney (13), Matt Angle (16) and Kyle Simon (18).

Parker Bridwell came into 2012 as the Orioles #4 prospect. He was described as a "right handed version of Zach Britton." Bridwell was absolutely torched in 2012, with an ERA close to 6 and a K/BB ratio of 71/63 in 114 innings, and GB/FB ratio of 0.98. Obviously stat lines in the lower minors have limitations, but I am not seeing much to get excited about it. I'm not sure if his #4 ranking was more a reflection of how top heavy the system was (is?), but nonetheless it was a tough year. You almost wonder if it's not time to put him in the bullpen to see if his allegedly strong stuff profiles better as a reliever.

LJ Hoes came into 2013 as #5. There big question was to see whether or not Hoes' power would develop in 2012. Across 2 levels last year, his ISO was 101. He OPSed 759. BA ranked him as the #6 prospect coming into 2013, which I find a little curious. The average ISO in MLB last year for a corner OF was 178.

Nicky Delmonico came in as #6 coming into 2012. His writeup in the handbook was pretty generic, and there was not any data from 2011. The SALLY is very far from the big leagues, but considering Delmonico went from high school ball to Delmarva, I thought he more than held his own, with an ISO of 162 and K/BB of 73/47 in 338 at bats. There are definitely some things to like, and BA ranked him as the #4 prospect coming into 2013.

Jason Esposito entered as #8, after being picked in the second round of the 2011 draft. He had an OPS of 537 in Delmarva and turned 22 last summer. I wondered if I was more disappointed in him or Bridwell in 2012.

Xavier Avery came in as #9 last year, with BA commenting that he needed to work developing a better approach, and expressed concerns about "weak contact." 2012 was a mixed bag for the talented Avery. I understand that a walk ratio is a crude attempt to understand approach, but I think it says something, and Avery continued to show some hope here, drawing 51 walks in 458 plate appearances in Norfolk. His ISO was 120 last year. For reference the average ML CF had an ISO of 153 in 2012. For 2013, Avery comes in as #7, which is compelling because it seems like there is slightly more to like about him than there is on Hoes, but this likely personal preference.

Dan Klein came in as #10 on last year's list and he went in for TJ last year. Again. His surgery last year was in April of 2012.

Mike Wright was #11 last year, as the Orioles took him in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft (after Bundy and Esposito), with BA noting that he is a "strike thrower" and had mid-rotation potential. 2012 was also something of a mixed year, as he posted an 80/22 K/BB in 108.2 innings across Frederick and Bowie (mostly Bowie), but struggled as he went from Frederick and Bowie and was completely torched in Arizona. Still though, BA ranked him as #8 coming into 2013.

Clay Schrader was #12 last year, with BA noting that the Orioles liked his swing and miss stuff but there were some concerns about his command. In 2011, he posted a K/BB of 73/32 in 46 innings. The Orioles concerns about his command seem to be well founded, his K/BB ratio was 68/51 in 58 innings across Frederick and Bowie. He did not fare much better in Arizona, posting a K/BB of 7/12 in 10.2 innings.

Aaron Baker came in at #14. In 2011, after coming over from the Pirates, he had an awesome fortnight in Frederick with a Bondsian OPS. He struggled in Bowie to finish out the 2011 campaign over the last 2 weeks of the season. He returned to Frederick rather than going to Bowie in 2012, and as a 24 year old posted the following line in Frederick: 350/549/898 with a K/BB of 77/36 in 319 at bats.

Ryan Berry was #15 last year, after coming back from an injury in 2011. Once again, Berry was in the Keys bullpen for vast majority of 2012, having something of a pedestrian season, with a K/BB of 43/21 in 67 innings. In 2010, also in Frederick, he posted a K/BB of 63/25 in 71 innings. It's true that he was coming back from an injury, but I'm not sure that he misses enough bats to be a major leaguer.

Bobby Bundy was #17 last year, and "profiled" as a middle of the rotation starter. 2012 was a lost season for Bundy, frankly. Bundy finished with a 6.25 ERA and a 64/35 K/BB ratio in 80.2 IP, with a FIP of 4.36. He was shut down with bone spurs in his right elbow.

Glynn Davis came into last year as the #19 prospect in the system. BA moved him up to the top 15 for this season due to his "game changing speed" and Lingo described him as a "singles hitter," which may be understating it as evidenced by an ISO of .048 in Delmarva and Frederick. For the season, his line was 253/345/301/646, stealing 37 out of 47 bags and a K/BB of 116/63 in 479 at bats. BA stated that he could be a fourth outfielder/pinch runner type.

Tim Berry came in at #20 last year. In his write up, it was noted that the now 22 y/o lefty needed to improve the "consistency and command of all of his pitches." Across Salisbury and Frederick last year, Berry held his own, posting a FIP under 3.85 with a K/BB of 109/39 in 128.2 innings. He finished just out of the top 10 Oriole prospects going into 2013.

NOTE: taking the list out to the top 30 does reveal one more important player: Eduardo Rodriguez (30) though he fell outside the scope of this relatively arbitrary exercise.

Some thoughts:
Lately I have come around to the belief that the point of a minor league system is to develop stars most importantly, and then depth to fill a roster or to use as trade chits. Of course, both would be nice. I look at guys like Machado and Bundy and it is not hard to see them playing big parts on a good 2014 Oriole team. But really, how many guys from last year's top 20 list are relevant just a season later? It doesn't *feel* like many, though again, how much that matters is unclear to me. I could make an argument that only seven guys of last year's top 20 could even potentially be projected to actually impact the Orioles in a meaningful way (Dylan Bundy, Machado, Schoop, Delmonico, Flahrt, Avery and Tim Berry). Is that assertion correct to begin with? If so, does it matter?


Baseball America top 10 prospects for 2013

Steve Melewski interviews Wil Lingo