06 July 2012

Midseason update: Shadow System Rankings

Over the All-Star break we will provide an updated ranking of the top 25 Orioles prospects.  For the time being, we thought it would be fun to recap our Shadow System and provide a snap shot as to where the Orioles's system would be were Jon and I in charge of making decisions to draft/sign amateur talent over the past four or five years.

As a recap, each year since 2008 we have made a "shadow" selection at each point that the Orioles have had a draft pick in the first ten rounds (only the first five rounds for 2008).  As far as international signings are concerned, we have generally just gone along with Baltimore's signings.

In our most recent piece touching on Baltimore's international efforts, we mentioned that Camden Depot has only strongly endorsed going after two high profile international prospects -- Miguel Sano (signed with Twins) and Ronald Guzman (signed with Rangers). In the case of Sano we would have offered more than he ultimately received; the opposite was true for Guzman. 

One reader pointed out to me that by not having Sano included in our Shadow System, we were essentially letting ourselves off the hook if he turns out to be a bad investment, but allowing ourselves to bring him up so long as he performs well.  Fair enough point -- he will now be included in our system with a price tag of $3.6 MM (he signed for just over $3.1 MM, so the extra $.5 MM should cover the "price" of buying him away from a system that is, at least on the surface, a bit more inviting to Latin American talent).

Below is a summary of our selections, and Baltimore's actual selections, since 2008.  Where necessary, we have noted spots where our spending on our picks would have prevented going overslot for picks after the first ten rounds (and those players have accordingly been left out of our Shadow System).

History of selections
We will update this table once the 2012 amateur draft signing period has ended. 


There are two decisions of note that account for the discrepency in spending: 1) the signing of international free agent Miguel Sano in 2009, and 2) the conscious decision to try and max out on draft haul in 2011, which was simultaneously one of the deepest draft classes in recent history and the last "free market" opportunity for the draft, with new rules rolling into place in 2012.  Outside of those decisions, we attempted to stay in line with what we thought would be a reasonable budget for Baltimore's acquisitions.

Prospects of note that we missed out on; prospects of note we grabbed
The big two in the O's system right now -- Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado -- are easily the best players currently in the Orioles system but not in our Shadow System.  Camden Depot passed on Machado in 2010, selecting Karsten Whitson (rhp, Chipola HS, Fla.) instead.  Whitson decided to forgo the start of his pro career in favor of three years at the University of Florida.  Camden Depot received a comp pick for use with the third overall pick last year.  That pick was used to grab the top player on our board: Anthony Rendon (3b, Rice Univ.)

Rendon has struggled to stay healthy over the past 18-months, but was easily the best offensive talent in the historically gifted 2011 draft class.  He is again on the disabled list, on while there is plenty of time for him to realize his emmense potential, the early nod has to be given to Machado and his solid showing at Double-A Bowie this year as a 20-year old.

Our second pick last year we passed on Bundy (who we had rated as a top 5 talent in the class) in favor of Derek "Bubba" Starling (of, Gardner-Edgerton HS, Kan.).  Starling was in extended spring training and working out at Kansas City's complex prior to joining up with the Burlington Bees (KC's Appy League team).  Starling has only played in seven Appy League games and currently sports a .321/.472/.607 triple-slash with 5 BB, 7 SO, 1 3B and 2 HR over his first 36 plate appearances. A solid showing, but again you have to give the nod to the Orioles's actual selection, Dylan Bundy, who is just two months older than Starling and more than holding his own at Advanced-A Frederick.

So, has the Shadow system been a failure on the Starling/Rendon : Bundy/Machado comparison alone? Not exactly.  We scored big when we selected Zack Wheeler in 2009 (now a top 15 prospect in all of baseball) while Baltimore appears to have swung and missed with Matt Hobgood.  Additionally, our decision to invest $3.6 MM in Miguel Sano may or may not work out long term, but the young Dominican slugger is currently showing perhaps the best raw power in all of Minor League Baseball (albeit with a "work-to-be-done" hit tool).

Other names we like in Baltimore's system include LJ Hoes, Clayton Schrader, and Xavier Avery, all of whom we have touted since their drafting by the O's.  Avery has broken through to the Majors this year, and Hoes looks to be not far behind.  Schrader is a high risk/solid reward arm that has progressed to Bowie off the strength of a plus 1-2 punch in his fastball and power curve.  How he handles control and command issues will determine his ultimate worth to the big club.

There are a number of names of note that we feel we did well to grab, though most of them remain in the low minors as high school picks out of the draft.  Ty Buttrey and Dillon Howard may wind-up in the pen, but carry with them #2/#3 upside in a rotation if things click.  Garin Cecchini, Todd Glaesmann, Tanner Rahier, Avery Romero (provided he signs), and Jake Cave are high upside offensive talents at A-ball or lower, but could be five-ninths of an impressive upper-minors squad at Double-A within two years. 

Josh Rutledge has nowhere near the upside of Machado, but gives the Shadow System a Double-A shortstop that has a chance to be an above-average offensive producer at a middle-infield position by 2013 (even if he has to slide over to second base).  Roger Kieschnick has exploded in the Pacific Coast League this year, already dropping 14 bombs through his first 50 games, but is only a fringe prospect because of the swing-and-miss in his offensive game and his corner profile.  Josh Elander (c, TCU) could turn out to be a steal in the 6th Round of this year's draft -- he should see time in A-ball this year and could be ready to tackle Double-A as early as next year if he shifts out from behind the plate to right field.
Top 25 prospects for the Camden Depot Shadow System
For purposes of this list, we are assuming Gausman and Romero both sign before next Friday. To the extent they do not, we'll update the list when we run our comparison piece on the updated O's top 25 and the updated Shadow System top 25.  All ages listed are as of July 1, 2012.

1. Zack Wheeler (22y1m, Double-A)
2. Kevin Gausman (21y6m, 2012 Draft)
3. Bubba Starling (19y11m, Rookie)
4. Miguel Sano (19y2m, Class A)
5. Anthony Rendon (22y1m, Class A-Adv.)
It's a very nice top 5 as far as upside is concerned, but Starling and Sano carry with them a good amount of risk associated with their respective hit tools and refinement.  Rendon is as safe a bet as you will find on the field, but he needs to show he can actually stay on the field.  Gausman and Wheeler both have front-end upside but need to continue to refine their command.  These five could all be on an All-Star team in four years, but this upside comes with both risk and a heavy financial investment (about $25 MM total).

6. Jonathan Schoop (20y9m, Double-A)
7. Garin Cecchini (21y2m, Class A)
8. Josh Rutledge (23y2m, Double-A)
9. Dillon Howard (20y0m, Rookie)
10. Ty Buttrey (19y3m, 2012 Draft)
A very solid second-half of the top ten, providing offensive upside with Schoop and Cecchini, some offensive production up-the-middle with Rutledge, and two power arms that could grow into top 20 prospects or eventually find their way to the pen.  Rutledge and Schoop could make an interesting tandem up-the-middle, though both might best fit as second basemen.

11. Tanner Rahier (18y9m, 2012 Draft)
12. Avery Romero (19y2m, 2012 Draft)
13. Todd Glaesmann (21y8m, Class A)
14. Josh Elander (21y3m, 2012 Draft)
15. Roger Kieschnick (25y5m, Triple-A)
Both Kieschnick and Glaesman have seen hiccups in their development but have enjoyed a successful start to their respective 2012 seasons, totaling 26 homeruns through a combined 127 games.  Both have struggled to overcome some holes, offensively, but could project as product corner outfielders with some pop.  The trio of 2012 draftees all carry their value in their bats, with Rahier and Romero likely to tackle short-season ball this year and Class A next year.  Elander is advanced enough with the bat to jump to Class A-Advanced, but might be eased into pro ball at the Class A level so that he can continue to work on his receiving behind the plate.

16. Brody Colvin (21y11m, Class A-Adv.)
17. Logan Verrett (22y0m, Class A)
18. Bobby Bundy (22y6m, Double-A)
19. Lex Rutledge (21y0m, 2012 Draft)
20. Eduardo Rodriguez (18y3m, Class A)
Colvin was an expensive oversign back in 2009 who has struggled to harness his stuff through his first two-plus seasons of pro ball.  Colvin retains his mid-rotation upside but is more likely to provide value as a late-inning power arm.  Verrett has been eased into pro ball but is old enough, and has shown enough success at Class A, to start moving up the chain. He tops out as a #3 but, like Colvin, might fit best in the back of a pen.  Bundy is a workhorse that struggled to start the 2012 season but has seen a steady lowering of his FIP over the last three months. He projects as a back-end innings eater but will need to find the breaker he had pre-draft to stick as a starter. Rutledge is a power arm best suited for relief, where his stuff plays much better than it does as a starter.  He could be an 8th-inning guy. Eduardo Rodriguez is surviving Delmarva at a young age, but his stuff looks to project better to the back end of a rotation.

21. Cody Kukuk (19y3m, Extended ST)
22. Jake Cave (19y8m, Extended ST - Injury)
23. Ian Krol (21y2m, Class A-Adv.)
24. Tim Melville (22y10m, Double-A)
25. Glynn Davis (20y8m, Class A)
Kukuk has yet to leave extended spring training but should make a short-season appearance this summer and tackle full-season ball in 2013.  He profiles as a potential mid-rotation or back-end arm but is a ways away.  Cave has tools for miles but has been slowed due to minor surgery early in 2012. He could make a big jump after he gets a year or so of pro ball under his belt.  Krol has been slowed by an elbow injury and some off-field antics costing him playing and development time.  He could be back-end starter, but has some growing up to do.  Melville was a seven-figure investment in 2008 but has struggled to find consistency in mechanics and stuff. Like Krol, the bullpen is the most likely point of entry to the Majors.  Davis remains a speedy athlete with a solid feel for the game but needs to get much stronger in order to avoid having the bat knocked out of his hand at the upper-levels. He profiles as a potential 4th outfielder. 

It's not an elite system, but there is big upside at the top and lotto tickets sprinkled throughout the 11-25 range.  After we unveil the updated Orioles Top 25 list next week we will examine whether, as of today, this collection of players is worth the additional $9 MM-plus of investment over the crop currently in Baltimore's system.

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