To the right you can see the 2012 top 10 Orioles prospects as ranked by Baseball America.  While they are only prospects, and as we know with guys like Adam Loewen and Billy Rowell that even top round draft picks don’t always pan out, the top tier of players in the Orioles system have come out to some solid starts in 2012, ranging from just about perfect to injured and on the bench.

To give you an idea of how the farm system has progressed, the top three prospects at the beginning of the 2011 season (per Baseball America) were Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Xavier Avery.  Machado only went down to the two slot because of the crazy potential Dylan Bundy has shown out of high school on the mound, not because of any performance issues, as he is still highly touted and ranked in the top 15 prospects overall in baseball.  Britton is now in the major leagues, and Avery dropped down six spots most likely because of his inconsistent 2011, where he showed a lot of raw ability and speed, but his plate discipline showed weak as he struck out 156 times (in 557 ABs).

In this piece, I will be touching on each of the top three prospects; RHP Dylan Bundy, SS Manny Machado, and SS/2B Jonathan Schoop.

1) Dylan Bundy: When I say that there are some prospects that have started out just about perfect this season, I was basically speaking of just Bundy.  And when I say perfect, he literally has almost been perfect.  To quote myself from my report after Bundy’s 3rd start this past Tuesday:

“Through three starts for the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds, Bundy has pitched 9 almost perfect innings, losing that “perfect” term last night in his home debut versus the Hagerstown Suns when he issued a walk in the 3rd inning of the game.

Other than that, Bundy has been a machine.  He struck out 6 batters a piece in each of his first two starts, and currently holds a ridiculous statline of 15 K/9 and a 15:1 K:BB ratio.”

While Keith Law may not like how the Orioles are handling Bundy, I surely am glad to see the easygoing process they are putting the 19 year old through to bring him up efficiently through the system.  We will see how the organization handles him throughout the rest of this year and beyond in the minors.


2) Manny Machado: After getting the bump to AA Bowie to start the season, Machado started off the year with a literal bang, booting the first pitch he saw as part of the Baysox over the left center field wall for a solo home run.  His bat has since cooled down a bit, currently hitting .273 through 14 games, but the scouts always say that making the jump to AA is the toughest of them all.  He is seeing his first live pitching against guys who have major league caliber stuff or have even pitched in the bigs before.  With an .804 OPS and 6 extra base hits in 55 at bats so far, Machado is on his way to a very solid season, still at the age of 19.  Reports also continue to say that despite his tall and broad figure, Machado has shown great capability in playing shortstop and making not only all of the routine plays, but projecting quality range at the middle infield spot.


3) Jonathan Schoop: Machado’s double play partner at Bowie, Schoop really came into the spotlight last season after hitting .290 for his second consecutive minor league season with the Orioles.  Getting the callup to AA with Machado, Schoop continues to play second base even though his natural position has always been shortstop.  While some scouts say that the Orioles would have been wise to put Machado and Schoop at two different levels, therefore giving each the chance to see time at short, the plan has so far worked this year, as Schoop has really found his own at second base and despite a slow offensive start (.227/.320/.364/.684), still has the capability to put up some really good numbers in his age 20 season.

While the overall numbers may not look too pleasing, Schoop has shown that he can southpaws, hitting .333 with a .935 OPS in 21 at bats vs. lefties.  Where Schoop is struggling is when he steps in the box against right handed pitching where he has a .130 average (3-23).


Follow Avi Miller on Twitter @AviMillerBSR for up to the date Orioles news and daily farm system updates.