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Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Baltimore Orioles

We continue our minor league series with a look at some of the more relevant prospects within the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Greg Fiume

Over the coming weeks, Jason and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there. Jason got us started with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.

System Overview

The Orioles made waves this season going from an also-ran 69-93 to a Wild Card winning 93-69. Their minor leagues haven't seen quite the same turnaround, but have benefited from their consistently poor finishes prior to 2012. They've already seen two of these picks reach the majors and one crack their playoff roster. The Orioles entered the season with a top heavy minor league system and that's how they've ended it. There is some star power at the top but Charm City is lacking in depth or any real trade fodder. They could struggle to repeat their breakout 2012 season despite some recent and anticipated graduations from their farm.

Graduates in 2012

Ryan Flaherty (INF), Miguel Gonzalez (SP), Manny Machado (SS/3B), Pedro Strop (RP)

AAA or Higher in 2012

These are prospects who either reached AAA Norfolk or the Majors during the 2012 season. Generally, they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.

Dylan Bundy (BBref Statistics)

The 4th overall pick in the 2011 Rule IV draft, many were hoping for an aggressive pace with Bundy, a prep product who was often touted as having college level polish. They didn't get what they wanted with new Baltimore GM Dan Duquette opting to send him to Lo-A Delmarva and restrict his innings count early in the year. "So how did he end up in the category of Triple-A or higher with a conservative plan and a Lo-A starting point?" you're asking. A confluence of utter domination by Bundy at the lower levels (30 IP, 40 K, 2 BB, 5 H at Delmarva), a late season run at the AL East crown, and some scheduling issues forced the Orioles' hand, with Bundy receiving his call up on September 19. Bundy never saw a start and pitched a mere 1.2 innings in his brief stint in the majors.

Bundy bypassed Triple-A and wasn't statistically impressive in 16.2 Double-A innings, until you account for the fact that he was 19 and pitching in Double-A. He pitched the entirety of his time in the minor leagues with what was by all accounts his best pitch on the shelf. Bundy's cutter was said to be a major league quality out pitch coming out of the draft, but whether the Orioles asked him to shelve the pitch in an effort to improve his other offerings or because an organizational philosophy (with little merit) has yet to be determined.

All this is to say, whether Bundy is allowed to throw his best pitch certainly matters to us as a fantasy perspective. He might be the best pitching prospect in baseball without the cutter, but he's a better prospect with it. Barring injury, Bundy will see the majors in 2013, though it's hard to know exactly when. He's likely to see time in the minors to make some small refinements, but should also be the first pitcher the Orioles turn to in case of injury. When he receives the call, I'd anticipate lots of strikeouts, a bump in walks from his minor league numbers, and a lot of swooning. So go get yourself a sittin' chair and a lemon water. Enjoy.

AA in 2012

These are prospects who reached AA during the 2012 season, playing for the Orioles' Eastern League affiliate in Bowie. These players could see time in Baltimore in 2013, but generally will be more likely to appear in 2014.

Jonathan Schoop (BBref Statistics)

Schoop (pronounced Scope) was aggressively promoted (along with graduate Manny Machado) to Double-A Bowie to begin 2012 after splitting 2011 between Lo- and Hi-A. While his statistics aren't much to fawn over, and his scouting report pales in comparison to Machado's, Schoop is an interesting prospect in his own right. At 20-years old and in Double-A, Schoop's numbers need to be put into context. His swing is solid but is unlikely to produce a high average, though he should produce enough power to be above-average at second base and average at third base. One would think that a sub .400 slugging percentage for a power prospect would be damaging, but given his age, it's unlikely that Schoop is done developing his power and the advanced pitching he faced likely stymied him from putting it to use in games.

Despite playing in Double-A all of 2012, I wouldn't expect to see Schoop in the majors in 2013. He's still raw as a prospect and was moved aggressively last year. I think exposing him to more advanced pitching that forces him to adjust instead of letting him feast on weaker arms will benefit him in the long run, but we may not see those benefits in 2013. He hasn't lost any luster as a prospect, but we also aren't any close to seeing him in Baltimore. When he does get there, look for a .260s type hitter with above-average power and the ability to play multiple infield positions. He's not a top tier prospect, but he's exactly the type of depth guy that the Orioles are otherwise lacking. While we would normally expect a player who spent all of 2012 in Double-A to break into the majors within the next couple years, I don't think Schoop entrenches himself before 2015 at the earliest.

Schoop was sent to the prospect laden Arizona Fall League where he is performing quite well (leaderboard here). Duquette's regime has shown a propensity for moving prospects aggressively, but Schoop could still begin 2013 at Double-A though there's a non-zero chance he starts at Triple-A.

High A in 2012

These are prospects who reached the Orioles' Carolina League affiliate in Frederick. These players are most likely at least 2 full seasons from reaching the Majors.

Kevin Gausman (BBref Statistics, Profile from June)

Another 4th overall pick the Baltimore, Gausman only compiled 15 innings in his pro debut, splitting them between Lo- and Hi-A. 15 pro innings isn't enough of a sample size to tell us anything of value. What we do know is that he can run his fastball up to 98 MPH and hold that velocity deep into games. His change up gives him another plus pitch, though he has yet to develop a consistent breaking ball. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start 2013 at Double-A with a strong spring showing, but wouldn't overrate any successes he may have without a solid breaking pitch. He's not merely a change up specialist but it usually takes three pitches to overcome upper level bats. Gausman was only a sophomore at LSU when drafted but he is already 21, so don't expect the Orioles to take it slowly with him. Depending on the health of their rotation, we could see him as early as next year.

Others of Note

Xavier Avery (OF) - Avery's season long line isn't much to look at, as it's his third consecutive season with an OPS in the 600s. However Avery started off the year on fire, and earned a look in Baltimore. He didn't do much with it aside from steal a few bases, but if he gets playing time he could be someone to look at in a pinch when in deeper leagues.

Nick Delmonico (1B) - Delmonico garnered attention when he signed at the deadline in 2011 for an above-slot $1.525 million as a sixth round pick. As he signed too late to play last summer, 2012 represented Delmonico's pro debut for the Orioles who skipped him straight to full season ball in Lo-A Delmarva. While Delmonico didn't flourish statistically, it's important to note that prep players aren't usually sent to full season ball immediately, so this was an aggressive assignment. Delmonico acquitted himself well, and his progress is something to keep an eye on in an otherwise top heavy system.

Christian Walker (1B) - Walker was rated the best pure hitter and best power hitter in the Orioles 2012 draft class by Baseball America, though that might be damning with faint praise as the team focused on pitching early. A third round pick out of South Carolina, Walker can definitely hit, but he's going to have to rake to be much of a prospect as he is limited to 1st base defensively.