2014 Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Baltimore Orioles

Patrick Smith

The prospect staff at Fake Teams kicks off their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Baltimore Orioles.

The prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2014. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below.

Review Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(10/14)

Chicago
(10/31)

Houston
(11/18)

Atlanta
(12/5)

Chicago
(12/23)

Arizona
(1/9)

Boston
(10/17)

Cleveland
(11/4)

Los Angeles
(11/21)

Miami
(12/9)

Cincinnati
(12/26)

Colorado
(1/13)

New York
(10/21)

Detroit
(11/7)

Oakland
(11/25)

New York
(12/12)

Milwaukee
(12/30)

Los Angeles
(1/16)

Tampa Bay
(10/24)

Kansas City
(11/11)

Seattle
(11/28)

Philadelphia
(12/16)

Pittsburgh
(1/2)

San Diego
(1/20)

Toronto
(10/28)

Minnesota
(11/14)

Texas
(12/2)

Washington
(12/19)

St. Louis
(1/6)

San Francisco
(1/23)

Organizational Overview
by Brian Creagh (@briancreagh)

2013 left the Baltimore Orioles' farm system in the same position as we left them at the end of 2012: Ace-caliber arms lead the way, followed by a plethora of back-end rotation arms, and toolsy positional players trying to make it click. Not to mention we're still awaiting the rotation debut of Dylan Bundy after missing all of 2013 to Tommy John Surgery. The O's minor league organization ranks in the bottom half of the league and while they've done nothing to drastically advance up the rankings, they aren't lacking for impact players at the top of the system.

Hunter Harvey, their first round pick in this year's draft, forms a triumvirate of righties with Bundy and Kevin Gausman that should sit atop the Baltimore rotation for multiple seasons. Outside the three-headed monster on top of the rankings, Baltimore has a closet full of interesting arms - most projecting to the back end of a rotation or possibly as relievers, but all likely to have role in the big leagues. Josh Hart, a supplemental pick in this year's draft is an impact power/speed combo fantasy contributor if he reaches his potential. The caveat is that his potential remains miles away from reality at the moment, but the upside is there. Hart and Schoop represent the only impact potential fantasy players from the offensive side of the diamond.

The Orioles philosophy has been to move prospects fast through the system, regardless of age, if they prove worthy of a promotion. Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, and Jon Schoop are evidence that the O's aren't afraid to stick a 20-year old in the big league lineup. In addition, Baltimore has been successful in adding talent to their major league club without sacrificing the top talent in their farm system. Mike Morse for Xavier Avery (this didn't really work out); Scott Feldman for Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta; Bud Norris for L.J. Hoes; and Francisco Rodriguez for Nick Delmonico, almost all of these worked out in the Baltimore's favor and they only gave up players you would've seen on the back end of a Top 15 list.

Baltimore's minor league organization has a bit of international flavor as investments in Curacao (Schoop), Taiwan (Chen) and Venezuela (E. Rodriguez) appear to be paying good returns on investments. The graphic below maps the birthplaces of all players rostered by a Baltimore minor league affiliate in 2013 (data courtesy of baseball reference).

Bal_map_medium

2013 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time prior to September 1st of this year.

T.J. MacFarland

Major League Opportunities in 2014

by Brian Creagh (@briancreagh)

Baltimore has an excellent offensive core in place that should be able to withstand the lack of impact offense in the farm system. Machado, Wieters, Markakis, Davis, and Jones are all back in 2014 and all but Markakis are signed for 2015. With the exception of Davis, these players all came up through the Baltimore system and were highly regarded during the process. These success stories bode well for the development of Josh Hart, Jon Schoop, Michael Ohlman and others.

Jason Hammel and Scott Feldman are free agents this offseason, opening up possible rotation slots for Gausman if Dan Duquette so chooses. I suspect they will push to re-sign one or maybe both as Bundy waits to fully recover and Gausman is given more time to develop.

Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts will also be free agents this year, making the organization's two best offensive graduates, Jon Schoop and Henry Urrutia, natural replacements. In a standard 12-team league, I believe Gausman and Bundy, for possibly the second half, are the only prospects primed to make an impact in 2014. Their value will be limited given the potent offensive potential of the AL East contenders, but I expect Gausman to take a big step forward and be firmly entrenched in fantasy rotations across the virtual diamond.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

By Jason Hunt (@jasonsbaseball)

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors prior to September 1st.

20120301_jel_ah6_025.0
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA Today Sports

#1 Dylan Bundy (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

0

0

0.00

0.00

0

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

0

0.00

0.00

0.0%

0.0%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

21

R/R

On 40 man (3 options)

DNP

Coming off his first full pro season, during which Dylan Bundy reached the Majors as a 19 year old, the expectation had been for Bundy to return to the Majors this year and play a key role in the Orioles' starting rotation. The pitching prospect with the clean, repeatable delivery struggled at the outset of the season with his health, and was shut down early on as they tried to rest him toward a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, the rest did not help him, and he ended up needing Tommy John surgery in late June. His time frame is not completely clear as of now, although he was hoping to be ready between May and August, as he told Roch Kubatko of MASN back in August. Obviously, that's a pretty wide window, but it gives us a little insight on what is possible.

Regardless, the ceiling for Bundy remains higher than any other prospect in the Orioles' system, as he still has the potential to be a top of the rotation starting pitcher with true fantasy ace potential. The question with Bundy now surrounds his health, and how he returns from the surgery. It has become substantially more likely that any given pitcher will rebound to a similar level of performance after the surgery, but there are no guarantees with this, as Daniel Hudson will tell you. Until we start getting reports about Bundy's throwing sessions and also against live batters, we really aren't going to know what he can still be. He is hoping to be back with the major league team during next season, but I personally am not expecting him to provide much fantasy value to owners.

Bundy is a player that, if I were in the middle of a rebuild, would be at or near the top of my target list. There's a distinct possibility that you can get Bundy for a discount, especially if he is owned by a team that is going for the championship in 2014. If he can return to full health, he can be a #1 or #2 fantasy starting pitcher in nearly all formats, providing elite level strikeouts and ratios. I would anticipate him providing more impact for fantasy teams in 2015 as opposed to 2014.

20130222_jel_ah6_023
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA Today Sports

#2 Kevin Gausman (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

6

0

4.303

1.218

131

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

129.2

0.833

1.35

5.0%

24.5%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

23

R/R

On 40 man (2 options)

AA, AAA, MLB

Gausman was the Orioles' top draft pick in the 2012 draft, and despite throwing just 15 innings in the minors that season, he started the 2013 season at AA and was brought up in late May when the Orioles needed starting pitching help. The numbers from this season aren't necessarily reflective of what Gausman can be, as he was a bit unlucky in terms of strand rate (64%) as well as HR/FB (18.6%). The numbers you want to see from a pitching prospect were still excellent, as he struck out over a batter per inning, walked about 2.5 per 9, and got groundballs at a 43% clip.

Gausman's repertoire includes a fastball which sits in the mid 90s and is considered a plus offering, a changeup which is expected to be plus, and slider which remains a work in progress but has shown potential. There are enough questions about Gausman's breaking ball that it can potentially have an impact on what his ceiling could be. He gets good plane on his pitches, and his delivery appears repeatable from his time in the big leagues.

Your opportunity to buy low on Gausman may not last long, but it's entirely possible a fellow owner will look at his ERA and his WHIP from this year and think he can't get better. Take advantage of them, as I see Gausman as having the potential to be a top 30 fantasy starter as soon as 2014, and can provide his owners with a sub-4.00 ERA, a sub-1.25 WHIP, and nearly a strikeout per inning.


#3 Hunter Harvey (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

0

0

1.777

1.066

33

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

25.1

0.00

1.50

6.0%

33.0%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

19

R/R

Not on 40 man (Protect After 2017)

R, A-

Harvey was the top draft pick for the Orioles, and was able to pitch for both of the Orioles' short-season affiliates before the end of the season. Harvey has a baseball lineage as well, as he is the son of former Angels and Marlins closer Bryan Harvey. After a stint in the Gulf Coast League, he finished the year in the New York-Penn League, including a dominant playoff start where he struck out 7 across 5 perfect innings.

Despite only pitching at the short-season levels, I was able to see one of his starts on MILB.tv. He features a fastball which sits in the low 90s, as well as a curveball and changeup. All three offerings have the potential to be above-average, and his overall profile points to a high-end starting pitcher. His delivery looked easy and loose in that start, and appears to have the potential to be easily repeated. The reports on Harvey after his debut have been more glowing than expected, and it will be interesting to see how he fits on top prospect lists this offseason given the dominant results to match.

As a high school draftee, Harvey is likely 3-4 seasons away from a major league roster, and carries the usual caveats of risk for fantasy owners as a result. I believe he can be a top 30 starting pitcher for fantasy if he reaches his ceiling, and my own personal reason for having him behind Gausman is really just his proximity compared to Gausman's. I don't expect to even hear about him possibly reaching the Majors until at least 2016, with 2017 seeming more likely.

20130222_mje_ah6_134
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

#4 Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

10

0

3.41

1.241

125

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

145

0.6

1.14

8.12%

20.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

L/L

Not On 40 man (Protect after 2014)

A+, AA

Rodriguez emerged after his excellent 2012 campaign at low-A, with mentions as a potential top 100 prospect and a mid-rotation ceiling. The team sent him to High-A Frederick to start the year, and after 14 starts there was promoted to AA. He improved his strikeout rate this year, but also saw his walk rate jump at the AA level as well.

Rodriguez features a repertoire of 3 pitches: fastball, changeup, and slider. Reports on him point to all three pitches having the potential to be average to above-average, and his physical profile points to him being durable enough to fill a rotation spot as well. He is considered to have a feel for pitching more advanced than his age or experience would indicate at first glance.

Overall, the opinion on Rodriguez does not appear to have diminished after his performance this year. His ceiling still looks like that of a mid-rotation starting pitcher, which will slot nicely in behind Bundy and Gausman very soon. He should be interesting for fantasy owners, as he will likely start the season at AA again this year, and could be in line for a call up at some point should the team need a starting pitcher. I believe that in a full season, Rodriguez can provide a decent ERA (3.90-4.00), a solid WHIP (1.25-1.30), and about 7 strikeouts per 9 innings. Given that he has to be protected after the 2014 season, I think we see him make at least a few starts in the Majors next year.

More on Rodriguez: Prospect Preview (May 2013)


20130222_mje_ah6_123
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

#5 Jonathan Schoop (2B)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

.278

47

14

52

1

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

351

.330

.461

6.0%

18.2%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

On 40-Man (3 Options)

AAA, MLB

Schoop debuted with the Orioles in September this year after missing nearly two months due to a stress fracture in his back. Originally signed as a shortstop, Schoop moved across the diamond to second base once Manny Machado was in the organization, and looks to be in line for a shot at the starting second base job in spring training. There had been previous reports that he might end up at third base long term, but it seems, for now at least, that these have quieted, especially given the organizational need elsewhere. His defense is considered to be above-average, so in terms of his real-life prospect status, there is less pressure on his bat to provide value.

With that in mind, Schoop is still anticipated to be at least an average fantasy contributor, in the 10-15 range at his position. He has shown solid power, and the ability to make solid contact in the past, and while he has stolen double digit bases in previous years, it doesn't seem likely to be a major part of his game going forward. To me, he seems like he will be a solid contributor at a position looking for more depth. He's not likely to hit for a very high average, but a .265-.275 hitter with 15-20 home runs a season seems like a relatively reasonable likelihood if given a full season of at bats. He isn't likely to provide any value in the stolen base category, and his walk rate could lead him to have additional value in leagues where OBP is one of the categories.


20130222_jel_ah6_019
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle - USA Today Sports

#6 Mike Wright (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

11

0

3.11

1.31

138

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

150.1

0.5

0.91

6.0%

21.2%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

23

R/R

Not On 40 Man (Protect After 2014)

AA, AAA

Wright came into the season starting his first full season at AA, having been promoted there about halfway through the 2012 campaign. He pitched substantially better there this time around, and was promoted to make the last start of the season for the Orioles' AAA team. A 3rd round pick out of East Carolina back in 2011, Wright was named pitcher of the year within the Orioles' organization this season.

Wright features a three-pitch repertoire with a fastball, changeup, and slider, but has also been working with a curveball as well. He had thrown the curve while at East Carolina, but went to a slider initially as a professional. If everything works out as hoped, he could end up with three average offerings, which would give him a solid chance of being a mid-rotation starting pitcher. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, has an easy throwing motion, and his height appears to help him get good downward plane as well.

His performance this year has definitely helped to raise his floor closer to that mid-rotation ceiling, but questions still remain regarding his consistency. If he can't shake those concerns, he's more likely a middle relief profile, which would essentially kill off his fantasy value. He's worth a flier in extremely deep leagues for 2014, as he seems reasonably likely to get a shot at starting at some point during the season, but I wouldn't expect him to be owned except in deep AL-only and the extremely deep mixed leagues that are available.

#7 Branden Kline (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

1

0

5.86

1.557

32

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

35.1

1.00

1.77

8.7%

19.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

Not on 40 man (Protect After 2015)

A

Branden Kline was drafted by the Orioles in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft out of Virginia after being a 6th round pick back in 2009 of the Red Sox. Given his first full season assignment, Kline's performance this year was inconsistent from game to game, and his season was cut short due to surgery to help repair a right ankle/fibula fracture. The injury was expected to keep Kline out for 6-8 weeks, but he did not pitch again after May 17th. He did finish on a high note in May, striking out 13 in 5 2/3 innings pitched against Hickory, but it's hard to take a lot from that given just how often the Hickory team ended up striking out this year.

Kline features a fastball which is his best pitch, and then a work in progress changeup as well as a slider and a curveball. How well he is able to harness these pitches will likely determine his long term role in the Majors, as he could end up as a back-end starting pitcher, but seems a bit more likely at this point to end up in a bullpen role. Kline did close in college, but that sounds like it had more to do with the other pitchers around him. He is pitching in the Arizona Fall League this year, and seems likely to return to Low-A for the start of the 2014 campaign.

#8 Josh Hart (OF)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

.218

14

0

9

11

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

150

.302

.286

9.3%

18.0%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

18

L/L

Not on 40 man (Protect After 2017)

R, A-

The Orioles' supplemental first round pick this year was easily the most divisive prospect as we looked at the team, simply because it's hard to get a good read on what he can be for fantasy owners. A center fielder, Josh Hart was a bit overlooked in his home state due to the presence of Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows because he doesn't fit into the same profile as them. The biggest difference right off the bat stems from the fact that Hart isn't expected to hit for a lot of power as he matures, instead hitting line drives and utilizing his above-average speed.

Hart is expected to be a top of the order hitter, hitting for a good average and providing speed while playing a premium defensive position. The statistics don't really tell us much about what he could do, but a full season assignment in 2014 could give us a better idea of what is possible. I think that realistically we could be looking at a .275-.285 hitter with 70-80 runs scored and 20-30 stolen bases, but even that may be a bit more than a wild guess at this point in his development. If we were preparing a overall top 10 prospect list rather than a fantasy specific one, Hart would likely be much higher than this, but his profile just doesn't fit as well for our purposes. I would anticipate him being owned in most deeper AL-only dynasty formats, but in shallower leagues he is a player that you can probably wait on and make another decision next year.

#9 Zach Davies (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

7

0

3.69

1.231

132

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

148.2

0.6

1.35

6.14%

21.3%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

R/R

Not on 40 man (Protect After 2016)

A+

Davies was drafted by the Orioles in the 26th round of the 2011 draft, and given a well over slot bonus to keep him from attending Arizona State University. After a full season in 2012 at Low-A Delmarva, the Orioles moved the 20 year old up to High-A Frederick, and the results were much improved. He reduced his walk rate, while also improving his strikeout rate and continuing to keep the ball in the park and on the ground.

Davies throws from a high 3/4 arm slot, and has what appears to be a very easy and repeatable delivery. His repertoire includes a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider, but overall his pitches do not tend to flash the potential to be above average. Davies relies on excellent command as well as what has been referred to as a "high pitchability", simply meaning that he tends to get more from his offerings than you would necessarily expect from a pitcher his age.

It remains to be seen whether Davies will continue to improve enough to reach a back-end starter ceiling, and as a result of his overall profile is probably worth a shot only in deeper AL-only leagues, and specifically leagues where you might have 300-400 prospects rostered at a given time. If it comes together, he seems like he could be slightly better than a streaming option in those deep leagues. That said, he is likely to be a prospect that will need to keep proving himself again each year as he moves up.

20120301_jel_ah6_001
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle - USA Today Sports

#10 Michael Ohlman (C)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

.313

61

13

53

5

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

424

.410

.524

13.21%

21.9%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

23

R/R

Not on 40 Man (Protect After 2016

A+

Ohlman is an interesting study in why you don't give up on prospects when they struggle. An 11th round draft pick back in the 2009 draft, Ohlman managed to have his "best" season of his first three in 2011, when he hit just 4 home runs and posted an abysmal .224/.320/.307 slash line in 105 games for Low-A Delmarva. Fast forward to 2012, when his season was marred by two different events. Ohlman was invited to Major League Spring Training in 2012, and while driving on March 6th was sideswiped and flipped over in his truck. Before his injuries had healed from this event, Ohlman was suspended by MLB for 50 games for violating the drug policy with a "drug of abuse." Regardless of the reasons, they appear to have helped Ohlman turn the corner and improve at the plate.

Ohlman finished with solid numbers in the 51 games he ended up playing at Low-A in 2012, and built upon that performane in 2013 with an even better one at High-A. The biggest questions surrounding Ohlman's long-term outlook stem from his defense, and whether he can specifically stick behind the plate. Ohlman appeared as the designated hitter in more games than behind the plate this year, and it sounds an awful lot like he will have to move to a corner, either third base or more likely an outfield spot. This is going to put more pressure on his bat to return some of that positional value, but if he can continue the performance he showed this year, he might be able to pull it off. The Orioles are in a tough spot on Ohlman, as he will need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason despite not playing about High-A yet.

Other Interesting Prospects

By Jason Hunt (@jasonsbaseball)

These prospects fell outside of our top 10 for the organization, but we think they are worth a mention as they could be interesting for fantasy owners. This section may not be completed for every team, as some teams simply don't have more than 10 really interesting fantasy prospects.

Stephen Tarpley - Tarpley was the Orioles' 3rd round draft pick this year after transferring to a junior college after a season at USC. In 21 innings in the Gulf Coast League, Tarpley posted a 25:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and early reports on him point to having a very interesting repertoire. He could be a name to watch, as a solid first full season could vault him near the top of these rankings.

Luc Rennie - A 16th round pick in the 2012 draft, Rennie's name doesn't really jump out on most prospect radars, but he had a solid season between Low and High-A, striking out 40 and walking 13 in 53 innings pitched. It's not clear what his ceiling really could be at the moment due in part to a lack of reports available, but John Sickels did mention him last year as a deep sleeper from that year's draft and the few reports out there seem to point to him having some potential.

Parker Bridwell - Bridwell was the Orioles' 9th round pick back in 2010 and has slowly been making his way up their system. He was sent to Low-A for a second straight season this year, but had drastically improved results, including a lower walk rate and improved strikeout rate. He will need to be protected from the rule 5 draft after the 2014 season, so how he does at High-A Frederick will be key to that decision.

Henry Urrutia - Urrutia debuted in the Majors this year, hitting .276/.276/.313 this year in 24 games. His numbers between AA and AAA jump off the page with a .347/.406/.506 line with 9 home runs in just 81 games, but there are legitimate questions about his age versus level (he will be 27 this year), and whether or not he can hit enough to profile as a regular in a corner outfield spot. He will likely get a shot at a starting job this season, but it's hard to see him providing a ton of fantasy value to most owners in shallower formats.

For more on the Orioles, be sure to check out SBNation's Camden Chat. For more on the minor leagues and prospects in general, check out SBNation's Minor League Ball.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects.
Follow him on Twitter

Andrew Ball is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score and Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
Camden Chat
Fangraphs
Vimeo
Youtube

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