Top Prospects Update

ITO looks in-depth at the top prospects in the Orioles farm system and evaluates them.

The season is still young but it may not be too early to check in on the Orioles farm system to see how things are progressing with the Baby Birds. I have compiled a list based upon current performance. Probably the most significant part of this report is which player did not make the list. Among them, Brandon Snyder, Josh Bell Mychal Givens, Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry. Zach Britton has established himself at the major league level, so he is not on this list either. Snyder and Bell are getting too old to carry the prospect tag but they could still figure into the Orioles future plans, they just have to play well to do it. Bell did not lay claim to third base in last year's try out for the position and as a result is still working on his game in Norfolk while Mark Reynolds toils in Camden Yards. As of today, he has a batting average of .262, OBP of .292 and OPS of .736. At age 25, he is at the upper end of the age range for triple A. On the plus side, he has hit 8 homeruns this year. Brandon Snyder is working to play his way into the Orioles plans. After being asked to learn other positions this spring, which looked to be a confirmation that he was no longer a prospect, he was and is hitting the ball well in Norfolk and seemed to be making himself into a player who might become valuable to the big team in the future. Snyder's current line is .283/.344 and a respectable .813. However, he could not translate this into success at the major league level. After a brief call up to Baltimore, where he hit .212 in 9 at bats, he returned to toil in Norfolk. Mychal Givens still has the strong arm and other tools the Orioles saw when they drafted him, but his stick will have to come around for him to be more than a player with tools and a strong arm. Reportedly, he can hit 97 MPH with his fastball, so barring an injury; he may make his way to Baltimore as a relief pitcher if his offense does not come around. Hitting .180 at Delmarva does not stand out. He has also been pushed to second in favor of Manny Machado and Jon Shoop. Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry are dealing with injuries, but both still have upside. So if I were going to rank the Orioles youngsters right now based upon performance this is how I would do it.

#1) Bobby Bundy; Right handed starting pitcher. So what's not to like about a power pitcher who is striking out almost a hitter an inning at age 21 in Hi A? Bundy throws his sinking fastball in the low to mid 90's and compliments it with an outstanding curve and changeup. Still a work in progress, but it seems he is on his way to a breakout season in Frederick. Let's not forget that he is only 21 this season and still has a lot to prove before he makes it to Camden Yards. Might be a good candidate for a mid-season promotion to AA Bowie. He is breaking out this year.

#2) Dan Klein; Right handed relief/starting pitcher. Started the year at Hi A Frederick and has moved to AA after one month. Klein came to the Orioles as a third round pick in the 2010 draft. After battling shoulder soreness in 2009 he became one of the best college closers in the country. The jury is still out as to his future role with the Birds, but right now he is building innings this year as he progresses through the system. Klein has a four pitch arsenal that he can unleash for strikes. At Frederick, he fanned better than a batter an inning and has shown only a slight drop off in this rate after his promotion to Bowie.

#3) Manny Machado; Right handed batting shortstop. Injury to his knee aside, Machado was doing his best to fulfill his potential for the Orioles. At Lo A Delmarva, his line was .333/.450/1.061 after 90 at bats in 25 games. Included in this are 5 home runs and 6 doubles. Machado was also striking out less than he was walking. What's not to like when he is on the field and playing. Sadly, he has lost a month of development time this season, but he is only 19 years old so there will be plenty of time for him to hone his skills. Machado has a nice, level swing that should translate to hard hit balls in the future. Continued success at higher levels will tell us what the Orioles really have on their hands.

#4) Xavier Avery; Bats left, throws left plays center field. The X Man has the tool that cannot be learned….speed! Still a raw talent, the Orioles thought enough of Avery to send him to the Fall League last year where he played against AA talent. His hands are fast and he can stay back on breaking balls. Though still very much a work in progress, Avery has to get on base to use his speed successfully. He also needs to cut down on the strike outs. His power potential is minimal due to his size. Presently at AA Bowie, Avery should continue to stay at this level for the remainder of the season so he can continue to develop his skill set.

#5 Tyler Townsend; First baseman of the future? Maybe! He is a bit old for Hi A ball, but he is putting up good numbers at Frederick. Currently hitting .308 with a .333 OBP and OPS of .889. He has hit 8 home runs so far this year along with 14 doubles. Has good size for a first baseman. He doesn't take many walks but he is hitting the ball. His power numbers are up from previous seasons, but so are his strikeouts. I would like to see him in Bowie before the season is over.

#6 Jon Shoop; Shortstop/ third baseman who is handling the bat well. Playing at Delmarva at age 20, Shoop is still a man-child. Yet he is hitting the ball well. His line is .305/.362/.860 with 7 home runs and 12 doubles so far this season. Shoop started the year at third base to make room for Manny Machado but returned to short when Machado went down with a knee injury. So who is this Mychal Givens guy anyway?

#7 Trent Mummey; Outfield. .291/.377/.891. Currently injured. Mummey is a speedster who can get on base and has some pop in his bat. He probably doesn't have the upside of Xavier Avery, but he may turn out to be a solid major league outfielder if he can get on base as he progresses through the organization. I would like to see him stay healthy and play.

#8 Ryan Adams; Second Base. Maybe. No doubt Adams can hit, but how is his defense? He is 24 years old and finally made it to the big league team this year. Though he is not hitting well in Baltimore, he is not playing either. Perhaps he should be getting more of a shot with the big team so they can decide if he is part of the future or not. Last year he played third base in the Fall League and did a credible job of it. Maybe another year in the Fall League will provide the reps he will need to stick in Baltimore.

#9 Joe Mahoney; 1B. After having a solid spring training, Mahoney has been plagued with the injury bug. Currently rehabbing in Sarasota, he is losing valuable development time. An under the radar prospect, Mahoney will find himself in the mix for the first base job in Baltimore next year if he can get healthy and produce like he has in the past. His 34 at bats in Bowie were not outstanding by a long shot and at age 24, he has to produce when he gets back.

#10 Wynn Pelzer; Right Handed relief pitcher. Pelzer is a power pitcher who needs to harness his control to be effective. Might be the Orioles closer in waiting if he can cut down on the walks. Pelzer brings the heat in the mid 90's. He makes this list primarily because of the thunder in his arm.

#10A Caleb Joseph; He is producing at the plate. But if he has a future in Baltimore, it will be at another position as Matt Weiters seems to have the job wrapped up for a while. Steve Johnson; You have to like him. But he has to perform better above AA. You could put Chris Tillman on this list as well due to his age, but the drop off in velocity gives question to him. He did seem to be improving a bit in Baltimore, but it is much better to have him learn in Norfolk than Camden Yards.

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