This is the fourth and final part of our midseason update on the state of the Orioles system. Through parts 1 through 3, we looked at a revised Orioles top 25 prospect list (1 - 10 / 11 - 20 / 21 - 25). We conclude the series with a comparison against the Shadow System that Camden Depot has assembled over the past five drafts. For a recap on the Shadow System, you can click here for all of our entries tagged "Shadow System".
Summary of top 25 prospects, Orioles vs. Depot
The grades in this table are a loose tiering, with Tier 1 being potential impact talents, Tier 2 being potential everyday contributors, and Tier 3 being fringe MLB contributors.
Baltimore will, by most accounts, have two of the top 10 prospects in in minor leagues come "prospect ranking season" this winter -- Dylan Bundy (rhp, Class A-Adv. Frederick) and Manny Machado (ss, Double-A Bowie). These two players represent the largest financial investments Baltimore has made in the draft during the Camden Depot Shadow Draft/Shadow System project. The returns on these two investments have been solid thus far, and each look poised to potentially start adding some MLB value as early as 2013.
Conversely, we went a higher-ceiling/lower-probability talent in Derek "Bubba" Starling (of, Rookie Burlington), who is currently raking in the Appy Rookie League, but remains a good three years away in all likelihood. Our "safe" high ceiling selection of Anthony Rendon (3b, Class A-SS Auburn) started the season with Class A-Adv. Potomac but lasted just two games before being sidelined for most of 2012 with another injury. When healthy, Rendon is a potential monster and advanced enough to quickly move up the ranks. The question remains whether he can stay on the field long enough to realize his immense upside. Finally, our international "big fish" Miguel Sano (3b, Class A Beloit) has shown some of the best power in the minors, but remains a number of evolutions away from being ready to tackle upper-level pitching.
In short, the Bundy/Machado vs. Starling/Rendon battle has just started, but the Orioles duo is comfortably ahead at this point. Time will tell if the additional investment in Sano turns out to be a nice pickup for the Depot, or just the next in a growing list of international bonus babies that fail to provide a worthy return on investment.
Zack Wheeler (rhp, Triple-A Buffalo) was promoted last week and now sits one phone call away from breaking through into the Majors. Our selection of Wheeler in contrast to Baltimore's selection of Matt Hobgood (rhp, Unassigned) is a clear point to the Depot's process. Wheeler may not get a cup of coffee this year, but seems ready to compete for a spot in the Mets rotation next April.
Looking at the Tier 1 talents in each system, the Depot has a little more volume up top, which spreads some of the risk of attrition that is generally found even among top prospects. Bundy and Machado are currently the top two talents of the eight listed, but having a little more depth probably frees up the Depot system to include a Tier 1 talent or two in trade without striking a heavy blow to the overall quality of the system.
Finally, the Depot system appears a little deeper in Tier 2 talent. This is not a huge deal, but it does accomplish the same things that the Tier 1 depth accomplishes, on a slightly smaller scale. First, it is a weapon against general prospect attrition, particularly on the pitching side. Second, it frees up pieces to potentially be included in trades, with system depth an issue sure to be discussed come this winter when the Orioles are looking to acquire talent for a 2013 run.
For Baltimore, Xavier Avery (of, Triple-A Norfolk) has already received his first taste of big league action this summer. He and L.J. Hoes (of, Triple-A Norfolk) should be in a position to compete for a spot on the 25-man roster in 2013. Both can be fringe regulars, with Hoes having the better chance at growing into a true first division starter off the strength of his bat. Outside of those two, Baltimore is looking primarily at relief arms as the next most likely to reach The Bigs -- Mike Wright (rhp, Double-A Bowie) and Mike Belfiore (lhp, Double-A Bowie) are probably closest, with Clayton Schrader (rhp, Double-A Bowie) capable of making the jump next year provided he finds a little more consistency.
On the Depot side, Brandon Crawford (ss, San Francisco Giants) is in the midst of his first full season at the MLB level, serving as essentially a glove-only shortstop. Over 161 total Major League games, Crawford has amassed 1.7 rWAR and 1.2fWAR. Earlier this month, Josh Rutledge (ss, Colorado Rockies) received his first call-up the Majors, and has been highly productive since arriving. Through 71 plate appearances over 17 games, Rutledge has a triple-slash line of .382/.394/.706, with 12 of his 26 hits going for extra bases. His on-base percentage will likely be driven by average, but his bat-to-ball skills are solid enough to make it work (and he will certainly walk more than he has thus far).
Waiting in the wings for the Depot are Zack Wheeler (discussed above) and Roger Kieschnick (of, Triple-A Fresno). Outside of those two, the Depot's talent is probably another year away from contributing at the MLB level, with the note that Rendon has the ability to break-in during the 2013 season if he stays healthy (though it's doubtful Washington would push him that hard). Overall, Wheeler is the best soon-to-be-promoted prospect between the two lists. Rutledge gets a small edge over Avery and Hoes as an up-the-middle talent with the bat to start and the glove to stick at a middle-infield position. Kieschnick and Crawford each slot in slightly behind the Hoes/Avery duo.
Investment delta; comparison moving forward
As noted in our earlier examination of the Shadow Drafts, and the current Shadow System Top 25, the Depot spent about $5.7 MM more in the draft over the past five seasons than did the Orioles. Additionally, the Depot signed Miguel Sano for $3.6 MM, bringing the total investment delta up to about $9.3 MM, or $1.14 MM more a year on average in the draft between 2008 and 2012, and a lump payment of $3.6 during the 2009 off-season.
With Avery, Hoes, Crawford, Rutledge, Wheeler, and Kieschnick all likely to get significant MLB time next year, and the younger draftees accumulating more of a track record in the minors, 2013 should be the first year where we can sit down and start to really compare returns on investment.
As we try to note this as often as possible, the concept of a Shadow Draft and Shadow System is not to try and determine whether our process is better or worse than the process in Baltimore. It is simply an attempt to put into practice the ideas we put forth on this website. Hopefully, we do okay for ourselves, and along the way are able to provide some hard evidence as to why you might put some weight into our thoughts on prospects moving forward.
In any event, we hope you enjoy following the Shadow System with us, and encourage you to share your thoughts on what we've done over the past five drafts.
Midseason update: Top 25 Orioles Prospect Links
1 - 10 / 11 - 20 / 21 - 25 / vs The Depot