MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo is something like the Mel Kiper Jr. of baseball prospects. His list of top 20 Orioles prospects is out. These rankings are based off the same that were unveiled last week to rank the top 100 prospects in all of baseball - which featured only two Orioles prospects, Dylan Bundy at #2 and Kevin Gausman at #37. Manny Machado surely would have ranked high, were he still eligible.
Before we dive into Mayo's rankings, or any prospect rankings, it's worth remembering the reality that most prospects generally either don't have a high ceiling or will not reach their high ceiling. Even the professionals who do this all the time - be they Keith Law, Baseball America, Mayo or anyone else - can churn out a top 100 list with total whiffs. No less than Billy Rowell was once the #47 prospect according to Baseball America. Brian Matusz sat at #5 prior to the 2010 season. For most, even some of the most highly-touted, the sharp knife of a cruel reality slices into the dreams of a baseball career.
Fans of the Orioles or any other team can only hope that with solid scouting, good player development, and a healthy bit of luck, their team's front office can beat the odds. Right now, the Orioles system is mostly Andy MacPhail/Joe Jordan draftees and signees, but it's going to be Dan Duquette's people who will be trying to mold them into players who can contribute to the Orioles, whether they are big leaguers or trade chips.
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Kevin Gausman, RHP
Bundy is one of the three best prospects in the game on everyone's list and Gausman is highly-touted. They are top-of-the-first-round pedigree. Then again, so was Matt Hobgood. The cavalry is not what we hoped. Perhaps Bundy and Gausman will be more like the paratroopers.
3. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
A sleeper prospect from Venezuela heading into the 2012 season who showed some signs of waking up. In 22 starts at Delmarva, he allowed only four home runs. Easy to see why you can dream about a lefty ground-ball pitcher in front of a big league defense, as opposed to who knows what he pitched in front of for the Shorebirds. He turns 20 in April.
4. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
ESPN's Law ranks Schoop #50, and Rodriguez slips in at #100, so it's interesting that Schoop is below Rodriguez here. Is Mayo high on Rodriguez or down on Schoop? The Orioles are high on Schoop. The Curacao signee was invited to Fanfest. He batted .245/.324/.386 in a full season in Bowie in which he was one of the youngest players in the league.
5. Nick Delmonico, IF
Mayo writes, "It's his bat that will move him up the ladder." A knee injury kept him from playing a full season. One thing you have to like is his 47 walks in 397 plate appearances. Having that kind of eye for pitches will never hurt Delmonico. When he was drafted, we heard about his power potential. Maybe we will see some of it this year.
Back at the July trade deadline, when the Orioles were considered suitors for Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres, both Rodriguez and Delmonico were rumored to be players coveted by the Padres, along with Jake Arrieta. Duquette heard their offer and decided he'd just call up Machado instead.
6. L.J. Hoes, OF
7. Xavier Avery, OF
Drafted in consecutive rounds in 2008, these two may seem like the same player competing for the same spot, but they aren't. Avery was a Jordan special, the raw, toolsy outfielder. Hoes was originally a second baseman, but now is in the outfield. Avery is left-handed and Hoes is right-handed. Maybe they're the outfield platoon of the future! For each, the biggest question will be hitting at the big league level. Hoes had a good 82 games in Norfolk, batting .300/.374/.397. Avery had 32 games of big league action, but in 102 games at Norfolk he hit .236/.330/.356. Hoes has the advantage at the plate for now.
8. Branden Kline, RHP
You have to like this sentence: "Growing up in Maryland with parents who are Orioles fans, he has a chance to pitch for his hometown team." The dreaded phrase "lack of command" also appears in his scouting report. Well... good luck, Branden.
9. Mike Wright, RHP
Who doesn't like a 6'5" righty who throws 95 mph? Well, when people write that your slider and changeup "have the chance" to be MLB average, that's less promising. On the other hand, a farm system can do worse than churn out inexpensive relievers, or inexpensive non-first round picks (3rd round, 2011) that never turn into anything.
10. Glynn Davis, OF
The rare undrafted free agent signee who makes it onto prospect lists. Davis and I have this in common: we went to college in Catonsville at CCBC. The similarities end there. Davis is one of those speedy projects who can take a walk but maybe not hit. 63 walks in 563 plate appearances: we like that. .301 slugging percentage, not so much.
His name is unfortunately similar to Glenn Davis, but maybe Glynn will make us forget all about Glenn. The odds are not in his favor, but you never know.
I would be doing a disservice to you, and to my own credibility, by pretending I could say something remotely original about prospects 11-20. Again, consider the prospect odds: you're lucky if your five best prospects in a given year ever contribute at the big league level. Dan Klein was the #5 prospect in the O's organization before the 2011 season, according to Baseball America.
The positive spin could be that the Orioles have acquired better talent since then, which is probably true. The negative spin is that the odds aren't good even for Delmonico.
Check out Mayo's 11-20 for yourself.
11. Adrian Marin, SS
Remember when I said I'd have nothing to add about 11-20? I was actually wrong, because Marin is the perfect example of why I can't get wrapped up in prospects. When he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he was immediately tweeting about how excited he was to be a part of the Orioles. I think his Twitter icon was a picture of him and his girlfriend (at whom he also seemed to tweet a lot) at prom.
He was also so excited to be in the Orioles organization that he tweeted a picture of himself signing his contract before the Orioles were ready to officially announce the signing. And why shouldn't he be? He dreams of being a big leaguer, and it might happen.
All of that youthful excitement - he was drafted out of high school - is hard to not get swept up in a little.
Mayo's capsule says, "If he can improve his approach at the plate and his on-base skills, he could be a future top-of-the-order hitter."
So the reality is he'll be lucky if he is some day the next Robert Andino, and most likely his journey to MLB will peter out somewhere along the way, because that's life. Still, good luck to Adrian.
Josh Hader (#13, LHP, 19th round pick in 2012) is from Millersville. I do love a local kid.
Speaking of local kids, Steve Johnson (#14) ... he still counts as a prospect? On one hand, it says a lot about #14 organizational prospects that a 13th round pick in 2005 still lingers; on the other hand, the story of the fringe prospect who grinds it out into some kind of big league career - just like his dad, and for the same hometown team! - is always cool.
Michael Belfiore (#18, LHP) was acquired for Josh Bell, which tells you what Arizona thought of Belfiore. Then again, look at this offseason's trades by Arizona. He is on the 40-man roster and lefties hit .160 off of him in 2012. LOOGY territory, perhaps, but a good LOOGY is an asset (though a mediocre one is not).
Michael Ohlman (#19, C) had a rough year, considering he hurt his shoulder in a vehicle accident during spring training, got suspended for 50 games for a "drug of abuse", which probably means he took some bong hits, and in the 51 games he did play at Delmarva, he batted .304/.411/.456 and threw out 38% of baserunners. Hang on, that last part doesn't suck. Ohlman was drafted back in 2009. Some people are late bloomers, but most never bloom at all. Still, he'll get a chance at Frederick and maybe beyond this season.
Parker Bridwell (#20, RHP) had a 5.98 ERA at Delmarva last year. He threw 114.1 innings and had 63 walks in that time. Ouch. This is the path of the projectable righty. He was drafted out of high school in the 9th round of the 2010 draft. Sometimes they don't project. Most times they do not. But you can always dream about the stuff.
By the way, if you ever tweet about Parker Bridwell, his mom will find you. If it's something nice, she will favorite your tweet. She may be reading this right now. I'm sorry, Mrs. Bridwell. I hope Parker succeeds.