Top-5 Check-In: Baltimore Orioles

Now that we’re a month in to the 2013 minor league season, it’s a good time to check in on how the top prospects in each of the organizations are faring. It is way too early to get overly excited or overly depressed about anyone’s performance thus far, but it’s never too early to dig into the data and results that each prospect has added to their resume. For the purposes of these check-ins we will be using Baseball America’s rankings unless otherwise noted.

Since the start of the 2012 season the Baltimore Orioles have put together a 112-82 record and last year they were one of baseball’s biggest surprises. While there were more than a few (including myself) who questioned their ability to continue their winning ways in 2013, they’re putting the skeptics in their place thus far. 32 games in, Baltimore appears to have the necessary staying power to contend for the AL East title once again. Their minor league system is ranked in the middle of the pack, but some of their top prospects are ready or nearly ready to step up and contribute in the majors leagues if they are called upon.

#1: RHP – Dylan Bundy (20)

Injured – Has not pitched yet in 2013

Bundy allowed just 1 earned run in 8.0 spring training innings. Despite issuing 6 walks to go with 5 strikeouts it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he’d spend much of his second professional season in the major leagues. Then came the news before Opening Day that he was dealing with elbow tightness and would hold off on throwing for a few days. Those days turned into weeks. An MRI came up clean but Bundy requested to see Dr. James Andrews at the end of April. The result of that consultation was an injection of platelet rich plasma to help accelerate the healing process in the elbow of the Orioles’ top prospect. Now classified as an elbow strain, Dr Andrews has recommended six weeks of rest. It will no doubt be six anxiety filled weeks for the organization and prospect fans everywhere.

With Bundy nursing his elbow injury, Gausman must carry the O’s prospect banner. (Photo Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports)

#2: RHP – Kevin Gausman (22)

Bowie (AA): 3.53 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 37 H, 1 BB and 32 SO in 35.2 IP (6 GS)

Bundy’s 2013 season may have been delayed, but Gausman, the 4th pick overall in last June’s draft, is doing his part to carry forth. He threw just 15 innings after signing last summer but that didn’t stop the Orioles from dropping him in Double-A to start his first full season. Of course Bowie isn’t a foreign location for the young right hander since he pitched in the Eastern League playoffs last fall. Gausman has been a little up and down in the early going but the overall numbers are strong and the 32-1 SO-to-BB is flat out ridiculous. In his last two starts (4/28 and 5/5) he’s tossed a combined 14.2 innings with 11 H, 3 ER and 0 BB and 11 SO.

#3: 2B – Jonathan Schoop (21)

Norfolk (AAA): 0.250/.333/.344, 6 2B, 1 HR, 1 SB, 9 BB and 18 SO in 108 PA

Schoop played 2B and SS last year with his time at the latter increasing after Manny Machado was called up to the majors. With 16 games at SS and 11 at 2B in the early going he continues to see significant time at both middle infield spots. Schoop is getting his first taste of Triple-A competition and he’s held his own in the early going. Despite the jump in level, he’s kept his K% steady and his BB% has taken only a slight downturn while getting at least one hit in 14 of his last 16 games played. Not far from the major leagues at this point, Schoop should make his major league debut this summer if he stays on track. Big league playing time this year will likely come in a bench role – barring injury – but he has a future as an everyday player, perhaps as soon as 2014.

#4: INF – Nick Delmonico (20)

Frederick (A+): 0.325/.471/.600, 5 2B, 2 HR, 11 BB and 11 SO in 51 PA

Baltimore’s 6th round pick in the 2011 draft, Delmonico spent the 2012 season (his first as a professional) playing 1B and 2B. This season the hot corner has been his home and many regard 3B as his best position in the long term. His bat will be his calling card regardless of his position and it was speaking loudly in the early going with at least one hit in 9 of his first 11 games. Unfortunately he suffered a concussion sliding into second base on April 18th and was placed on the 7-day disabled list the following day. No stranger to the DL, Delmonico missed a decent chunk of his 2012 season with a knee injury and he’s already been out longer than anticipated this time around.

#5: LHP – Eduardo Rodriguez (20)

Frederick (A+): 3.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 27 H, 8 BB and 28 SO in 30.o IP (5 GS)

As a 19-year old pitching in the SAL, Rodriguez took a big step forward last year. The Venezuelan lefty looks to be doing it again in 2013. He’s maintained his already strong walk rate (2.4 BB/9), cut his WHIP and most importantly has started to miss more bats. In 2012 he finished with a 6.1 SO/9 but through 5 starts this season he’s upped that to 8.4 SO/9. His start on May 1st (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO) was his best of the year though his start on 4/21 was nearly identical. Sandwiched between those two 7.0 inning gems, was his worst start of the year during which he issued five of his eight walks on the year. Rodriguez already elevated his stock based on what he did last season which makes what’s he’s done in the early stages of 2013 all the more intriguing.

Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Nick Delmonico

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