Guest Post by Cody Colston. You can follow him at @The_OtherCody.
Sitting at the Bowie Baysox home opener, watching Kevin Gausman throw 98 MPH against an unsuspecting Akron Aeros team made me realize something. That something is how much I am actually excited about the future of the Orioles organization.
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about the ball club they have now but the future has never looked as bright as it does now. For years the Orioles drafted poorly and tried to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox by signing “big name” free agents, an experiment that destroyed the minor league system. Now, under Buck and Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ minor system is flourishing with depth and good young talent.
Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the talk of the town and they have every right to be. Bundy was the top prospect in the nation, but was beat out by Jurickson Profar for those honors, he is now number two. Bundy posted a 9 and 3 record with a 2.08 ERA in 23 starts and 103.2 innings in his first full year in the minors. Impressive is an understatement of that stat line. He made major league debut in September last year in 2 scoreless relief appearances. His fastball, changeup, curveball combo (the Orioles have not let him throw his cutter as repeated use of it tends to decrease the velocity of other pitches) has had him compared his Nolan Ryan.
Kevin Gausman, on the other hand, is the 37th overall prospect in the nation and is in the process of pitching his first full year. Gausman’s 98 MPH Fastball and his Mid-80’s Changeup has had people compare him to Pedro Martinez. Both pitchers are future stars for the Orioles and top of the rotation guys. Gausman seems to be the favorite to get called up first since he pitched at LSU, making him a bit more seasoned than Bundy and Bundy has had some setbacks with injuries.
Dan Duquette’s motto since being the GM of the Orioles has been, “pitching wins ball games” and almost every move he has made shown that. Taking lefty T.J. McFarland in the Rule 5 draft, exchanging Luis Ayala for Chris Jones, and drafting Kevin Gausman to name a few.
This has led to the likes of RHP Brandon Kline and local prospect LHP Josh Hader. Kline has a mid-90’s Fastball and a good slider and changeup. Hader, an Old Mill graduate, has a low-90’s Fastball and an average curveball and changeup, which, put together with his body type, draws a comparison to Jake Peavy. Other arms in the organization shouldn’t be dismissed; LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP Mike Wright, and RHP Parker Bridwell are the most notable.
Rodriguez has silently and quickly climbed the ladder to become one of the Orioles most valued prospects. He posted a 3.70 ERA and WHIP of 1.243 in 22 starts and 107 innings last year at Delmarva. Him, Bundy and Gausman are looked at as future pieces of the Orioles rotation. The stats don’t blow you away but it definitely shows potential and, as Pete Rose said, “If he’s a lefty and breathing, he’s got a shot.”
Wright and Bridwell are two more low key guys. Wright, a righty, and Bridwell, a lefty, both throw a fastball-slider-curveball-changeup combo and while Wright is a power arm, hitting 95 MPH on his fastball, Bridwell is more about using the movement on his pitches to fool hitters. It will be very interesting to see how both their careers play out.
Last but not least of the Farm arms, Matt Hobgood, the 2010 1st round draft pick. Hobgood, who missed the 2012 season with rotator cuff surgery, has looked good so far. In 7 innings of relief, he has not given up a run at Delmarva. I would like to see him have a shot at contributing to the Major league club in the future.
Finally the hitters, outfielders Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes both had shots to contribute to the major league club last year. Avery’s most notable trait is his speed, which, combined with the solid contact he makes, makes him a prototypical lead-off hitter. Avery hit .236 with 34 RBIs, 8 HRs, and 22 Stolen Bases last year at Norfolk.
Hoes, a well-developed fielder, has little more pop to his bat than Avery and makes just as much contact. Those traits combined with his above average speed make him a great future 2-hole hitter. Hoes hit .287 with 54 RBI, five home runs, and 20 stolen bases at Norfolk and Bowie. Hoes was placed on the Norfolk at the end of Spring Training, which, to me, means the Orioles see him as a potential call-up if the outfield is plagued with injuries.
The more notable infielders include Second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman Nick Delmonico. Delmonico is seen as a power-hitting first baseman but a project player. In his first year at Delmarva, he hit .249 with 54 RBI and 11 long balls. Delmonico is a future middle-of-the-order bat if he can prove himself in the field. A proven fielder, Schoop is seen as the future Second Baseman for the Orioles and another top-of-the-order hitter. Schoop hit .245 with 56 RBI and 14 home runs at Bowie last year. Like Hoes, Schoop was placed on the Norfolk roster, which, I think, the Orioles could look at him as a call-up if Roberts stays injured and Flaherty and Casilla are hurt and/or underperform.
Two players, to me, that are flying under the radar are outfielder Glynn Davis and second/third baseman Ty Kelly. Davis is reported to be the fastest base runner in the organization but, his bat needs much work. If his bat improves I can see Davis being a very capable 9-hole hitter/utility outfielder. Davis hit .253 with 29 RBI and 37 stolen bases at Delmarva and Frederick. Kelly has been one of the big surprises in the organization.
Kelly is a line drive, power hitter that hasn’t really found his position yet. Kelly has mainly played at 2nd and 3rd but has also played Left field and even shortstop, which has shown his versatility. Kelly could turn into a capable cleanup hitter/middle-of-the-order guy. I’m also waiting for the “Machine Gun Kelly” nickname to rear its head. Kelly hit .327 with 70 RBI and 11 homers last year.
The future of the Orioles is a bright one for sure, on both sides of the ball and pitching. I keep finding myself dreaming of many of the prospects making it to the big leagues, and even though it might not be as quick as I wish, it looks like it is most certainly possible. With all this depth in the organization, it’s safe to say the birds are here to stay and hopefully for a long time.