The Baltimore Orioles have made some waves with a couple of recent free-agent pitching signings but what do those signings mean for a trio of top pitching prospects? On February 17, word leaked out that the Orioles had reached an agreement with Ubaldo Jimenez in what is believed to be a four-year, $48 million deal (or thereabouts). Given that the Orioles have also signed Korean free agent Suk-Min Yoon, Baltimore is now eliminating opportunities for its three top pitching prospects.
The starting five for the Baltimore Orioles will feature Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez for sure while Yoon, Bud Norris and Zach Britton are likely candidates for the fifth spot. So what does this logjam in the starting rotation do to the three prospects who all made Keith Law’s Top 50 and MLB.com’s Top 100?
Two of these pitchers figure to make their presence felt in 2014 with Kevin Gausman being the closest. Gausman added more minor league experience to his taste of the show in 2013 and is considered to be a Top-20 prospect by just about every organization that comes out with a list. Gausman has been outstanding in the minor leagues, finally facing some stiffer competition when facing Triple-A hitters. He still maintained high strikeout rates, high ground ball rates and was very successful in keeping the ball in the ballpark. With a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a plus changeup, Gasuman is still refining his slider and his command and will likely be able to do that at his own pace with the added depth in the Orioles’ rotation in 2014.
Another Top-20 prospect, Dylan Bundy, is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is said to be ahead of schedule in his rehab and is throwing pain free already. Bundy, who makes scouts drool even more than Gausman, has a high-90s fastball and plus potential from his cutter and curve. His biggest question marks remain his health and the fact that he hasn’t pitched since 2012. He is looking to come back to game action in May and could get a couple of months in Double-A and possibly even some time in Triple-A before joining the big league club again in September.
The third member of this trio is Eduardo Rodriguez. Not as well known as either Gausman or Bundy, this lefty’s fastball is no slouch, hitting the mid-90s and he has two potentially above-average pitches to go along with it in his slider and changeup. His control still needs to be refined as he walked 9.5% of batters in almost 60 Double-A innings last season and kept the rate above 9% when pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Rodriguez could make big strides in 2014 and has been invited to major league camp despite still being just 20 years old.
While the way to the majors has gotten more difficult for this trio of young pitchers, they provide enough upside that, when they are ready, the Orioles could clear their paths to give them their shot.