The Baltimore Orioles top prospects list represents the best and worst of the farm system. A top-heavy list loaded with top draft picks at the top quickly runs into lower ceiling players and lacks overall depth. The Orioles are not yet at the place where holes at the major league level can be filled by quality prospects in waiting. However the crop of young pitchers at the top of the list all have high projections that should give Orioles fans hope for the future rotation. The folks at birdswatcher.com do a great job covering the Orioles year round and all Orioles fans should check them out. They may do their own list but this was done independently of them.This list gives a snapshot of where the system stands as of now. Future trades, signings, injuries, etc. could lead to this list getting shuffled but on the whole it fairly reflects the top talent of the organization.
2013 was year two of the Dan Duquette regime. Despite losing several top prospects to the majors and trades, the Orioles retain several high ceiling players. However, as in the past the overall depth of the system is weak. Duquette’s first two drafts have yielded some good young players who should continue to move up the ladder in 2014. This list was created using Major League Baseball rookie eligibility requirements. That means that Kevin Gausman is included because he pitched 47.2 inning this year just shy of the 50 inning limit. This list also includes former Cuban professionals Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez. The both still qualify as Major League rookies. As with any organization the talent in the 16-18 range is not significantly superior to that of players in the 13-15 range. That means that some players not included should be mentioned with those whom are on the list. So while Jason Gurka, Branden Kline, or Francisco Peguero are not on the list, they do deserve to be mentioned as players who have a chance to impact at the Major League level either this year or in the future.
Triple-A: Norfolk Tides (International League)
Double-A: Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)
High-A: Frederick Keys (Carolina League)
Class-A: Delmarva Shorebirds (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Aberdeen Ironbirds (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Orioles (Gulf Coast League)
Stephen Tarpley – LHP
Date of Birth: February 17, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 3
Analysis: After being drafted in June, Tarpley saw limited action in the Gulf Coast League. Starting all seven games he appeared in, Tarpley threw 21 innings for the Rookie League Orioles. His most advanced pitch is a fastball that reaches 95 mph while his other pitches (slider, curve, and change up) are still developing. Tarpley rang up 10.7 K/9 showing he was ahead of many of the GCL hitters.
2014 Prognosis: Tarpley will pitch next season at 21 years old and a full season assignment may be appropriate. Left-handed pitchers who throw in the mid-nineties can move fast. If he can keep his command while developing his off speed pitches, Tarpley will have a chance to be a top 5 to 10 prospect by the end of the year. With few advanced southpaws in the system Tarpley has a chance to stand out from a mediocre group.
Dariel Alvarez – OF
Date of Birth: November 7, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180
Acquired: International Free Agent
Analysis: Alvarez signed with the Orioles in July for $800,000. After playing in professionally in Cuba, Alvarez was unknown to most Major League fans. Alvarez has a plus arm and flashes of power. His future might be a first division right fielder if the bat makes enough contact. Alvarez played 22 games over 3 levels during the season and never had a chance to get settled. It’s unclear what his disappointing Arizona Fall League season with no homers and a .238 AVG is going to tell us.
2014 Prognosis: Alvarez should benefit from getting consistent at-bats a one level. I think an assignment to Bowie would be a fair challenge for the 25 year old. If Alvarez can get make regular contact his power should come out. In the 2010-2011 Cuban season, Alvarez hit 20 homers in 344 at-bats. That type of production would be a high side projection with 20 homers over 500 at-bats more likely.
Christian Walker – 1B
Date of Birth: March 28, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’0” 220
Acquired: 2012 Draft Round 4
Analysis: A successful collegiate first baseman from the University of South Carolina, Walker didn’t miss a beat in his transition to pro ball. After getting drafted in 2012, Walker was supposed to have his first full season in 2013, but injuries limited him to 103 games. Despite the missed time he batted .300 and moved up two levels during the course of the season. While not a masher Walker does have 20 HR potential. His real strength lies in his overall hit approach which should lead to high on base percentages and high batting averages.
2014 Prognosis: Staying healthy will be the key for Walker in 2014. After finishing the year in AA Bowie, Walker will probably start there next year. If he continues to hit like he did last season he could get a promotion to AAA Norfolk and/or a September call up. Walker was selected to the Futures Game in 2013 and similar accolades could continue. Defense will never be his strength but Walker does need to prove he can play 1B at a major league level.
Tim Berry – LHP
Date of Birth: March 18, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’3” 180
Acquired: 2009 Draft Round 50
Analysis: Berry is a true long shot after being a 50th draft pick in 2009. However his 2013 season has moved him into the prospect category. Making a career high 27 starts the lefty had his first season as a starter with an ERA under 4.00. His work in the Arizona Fall League against better hitters is what left a lasting impression. In 14.2 inning Berry had a 0.95 WHIP while allowing only 11 hits and 0 HRs. He throws a low nineties fastball as well as a curveball and changeup. Berry has decent control but none of his pitches project as swing and miss pitches in the Majors.
2014 Prognosis: Berry should get a shot to start the season at AA Bowie. If he picks up where he left of in Arizona, Berry should have a chance to get 25+ starts in AA with a chance for a September call up. His secondary pitches need to improve so his fastball can play up. That being said lefties who throw in the nineties with control find a way into the majors.
Chance Sisco – C
Date of Birth: February 24, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 193
Acquired: 2013 Draft Round 2
Analysis: Sisco, a converted shortstop, was the first of four catchers the Orioles drafted in the first 10 rounds of the 2012 draft. Athletic but very raw behind the plate, Sisco’s quick bat stands out in his game right now. Has the tools to become a decent defensive catcher and should add power with the bat as he grows. Only 124 PAs in 2013 but batted .363 over two levels. Chance Sisco also leads my list of best baseball/move star cowboy names in the Orioles system.
2014 Prognosis: Sisco should be a prospect that Oriole fans pay attention to in 2014. With a lack of catching depth a few years ago the system has added at least 10 new catchers since last year at this time. Sisco should get a chance to play at Aberdeen with some extended spring training work to start the season. If he continues to grow defensively his bat could be ready to move by mid-late season. He is another player who could be a top 5-10 prospect by next year.