18 July 2012

Midseason update: Top 25 Orioles Prospects (1 - 10)

As promised, today we begin our updated top 25 prospects for Baltimore, post-2012 draft signings.  We'll tackle 1 through 10 today, 11 through 20 tomorrow, and 21 through 25 plus five more names to know on Friday. Over the weekend, we'll compare the completed list to our Shadow System. 

For now, here's the list with quick notes on each player (all ages as of 7/15/2012):

1. Dylan Bundy (rhp, Class A-Adv. Frederick) / Age: 19y8m / Prev. Rank: 1
Not the generational talent portrayed on fan sites (and even some mainstream media sites) during his breeze through Class A Delmarva, but certainly among the best arms in the minors. He has all the makings of a front-end starter, save for traditional size. Class A-Adv. Frederick appears to be a solid fit for the uber-talented Bundy, putting him in line for an opening series start for the Birds in 2014, and perhaps a debut some time next summer.

2. Manny Machado (ss, Double-A Bowie) / Age: 20y0m / Prev. Rank: 2
Like Bundy, the hype outdistanced Machado's OFP (overall future potential -- scouting scale) early in his career, but the young phenom is gradually refining into a future impact player on the left side of the infield. His retention of agility as he adds strength has been a bonus, and the next twelve months will help determine where on the diamond he breaks in with Baltimore (likely at some point in 2013).

3. Kevin Gausman (rhp, unassigned) / Age: 21y6m / Prev. Rank: N/A
Baltimore's first round selection in the 2012 draft (fourth overall selection) has an impact arsenal and has shown a proclivity for absorbing instruction over the past two years at LSU. His progression is unlikely to be linear, but the finished product could be a legit #1 or #2 starter. He should have limited pro exposure this summer, and will likely start 2013 with Class A-Adv. Frederick.

4. Jonathan Schoop (2b, Double-A Bowie) / Age: 20y9m / Prev. Rank: 3
Last November we noted that the distance between Schoop and Machado is smaller than the distance between Bundy and Machado. While Machado's defense has surpassed our expectations, we stand by the statement...for now. Schoop has the chance to round into an above-average offensive-minded second baseman and, like Machado, could make his first appearance with the O's as early as next year.

5. L.J. Hoes (of, Triple-A Norfolk) / Age: 22y4m / Prev. Rank: 5
Hoes was a top 10 Orioles prospect for the Depot after being drafted, and while we were met with some raised eyebrows then our faith in his bat seems to have been well placed. Hoes has fringy coverage for a center fielder -- particularly in a park like OPACY, and most likely fits in as a left fielder at the Major League level. He profiles as a solid regular and a fringe-starter on a tier one team. While the ceiling is limited, the probability is high.

6. Nicky Delmonico (1b, Class A Delmarva) / Age: 20y0m / Prev. Rank: 6
Delmonico very much remains the player he was when drafted -- high power potential, some aptitude with the hit tool, solid athleticism at the corner, and probably not quite enough arm to play clean across the diamond. If limited to first base, the former Tennessee prep star will need to continue to hone his plate coverage and discipline so as to allow the raw power in his stick to manifest. He is still a long ways off, but there is some upside here.

7. Xavier Avery (of, Triple-A Norfolk) / Age: 22y7m / Prev. Rank: 11
Avery took a very nice step forward this year, offensively, showing a more disciplined approach at the plate that appears to be a product of a little more comfort and a tighter swing plane allowing the ball to travel a little deeper. He can still take less-than-optimal routes in the outfield, but has the footspeed to cover lots and lots of grass. The hit tool is still a question, but if he can continue to grow the delta between batting average and on-base percentage, he could develop into an every day player. Currently, he still projects as a fourth outfielder, but the flop risk seems to have dissipated.

8. Branden Kline (rhp, complex ball) / Age: 20y10m / Prev. Rank: N/A
Kline is a tough player to project, given we aren't quite sure what Baltimore has in store for him. Public statements from the front office indicate that he is to be made a starter, which obviously lengthens his developmental curve. It will be interesting to see how the Peterson program is implemented with regards to Kline, who currently sports the standard "UVA-crouch" delivery. As a starter, Kline could be a mid-rotation arm if things break right. Out of the pen he has the raw stuff and fortitude to handle late-inning work.

9. Torsten Boss (of, Class A-SS Aberdeen) / Age: 22y7m / Prev. Rank: N/A
Boss was announced as a third baseman on draft day -- we were dubious. Thus far in Aberdeen he has been roaming the outfield, which is a much better fit for the former Spartan. He profiles as a pinch hit/fourth outfield type that will hit will a little bit of pop and provide positive value on the basepaths, more due to ability than pure speed (which is average). He was potentially the biggest bargain landed by Baltimore in the 2013 draft class.

10. Bobby Bundy (rhp, Double-A Bowie) / Age: 22y6m / Prev. Rank: 4
Bundy's ranking as the #4 prospect in the system last November said a little more about the questions surrounding the other O's prospects than it did about Bundy's OFP. Still, the elder Bundy is owner of a solid average arsenal that includes a heavy, groundball-inducing fastball, as well as a big innings-eater body. His 2012 got off to a rough start, but each month has seen positive movement in FIP and he remains a solid probability guy that could land in the back of a rotation or provide middle-work in the pen.

Midseason update: Top 25 Orioles Prospect Links
1 - 10 / 11 - 20 / 21 - 25 / vs The Depot


Bret said...

Not sure what you mean by Machado's OFP in terms of what people are expecting but if anything I'm more encouraged after watching him this year. Go look up Derek Jeter's numbers at age 19 - 56 errors in A ball and a .770 OPS which is almost exactly Machado's OPS except Machado is in AA. Machado will be in the big leagues before his 21st birthday, that is pretty elite company for a SS - Larkin didn't. Ripken and Jeter barely did, Arod did. To me his OFP is Hall of Famer, anything short of that will be major letdown.

Jon Shepherd said...

You will be let down.

Bret said...

Not sure if your analysis is based on scouting him in person or analytics or both but I have seen him in person multiple times. I think his swing is great. He has some pop now (.155 ISO)and solid plate discipline (10.5% walk rate). He is obviously not even close to filled out and once he puts on weight the power will go up. His arm is good, range is good his defense has been shoddy at times in terms of errors but most SS go through that including Jeter. I think it is just kind of lazy to say oh he is overrated without showing work. Same with Bundy. What is the red flag I'm missing with Machado, and since Keith Law has him ranked #3 on current prospects he must be missing something also.

Jon Shepherd said...

Nick does the scouting and has the credentials to do it. I do not. His name is in the byline. This post is an update of the preseason reports, which can be found to the left. If you search for his name, then you will find a series of reports that include him.

Joel said...

Nick, it seems you are lower on Bundy than most. Is it a case of overblown hype/expectations, or are you seeing something different than others?

Nick J Faleris said...


Reports are compiled from scouting and from pointed analytics. The OFP comment stems from the hype surrounding Machado after drafting (in large part because both Jim Callis and Keith Law had Machado as "their guy" for that draft, and hyped him accordingly).

I recall, post draft and during the following winter during prospect list season, comments included him being potentially better than the 1st overall pick in his draft class (Harper), comparisons to ARod, etc.

The statement in this little blurb for the rankings was simply that expectations for him as a finished product were probably higher early on than they should have been. I then went on to say he was developing into a potential impact player (which is elite, to me, but probably not in the parlance of the blogger world).

I think he is a top ten in baseball kind of prospect. I think there is work to be done, as well. As far as "showing my work", it's a short hand rankings update, and I'll file a longer report at the end of the year.

And to be clear, players (and prospects in particular) can be slightly overrated and still be elite.

Nick J Faleris said...


This answer will probably make me sound like a bit of an ass, but I'd say part of it stems from me seeing more of Bundy prior to this year than many of the people writing about him this year.

Fangraphs ran two articles on him in the first week of the season, I believe, that made it sound like Bundy was essentially Strasburg incarnate, and on the same developmental path. It was clear to me that those two writers were seeing him for the first time.

My history with Bundy goes back to Jupiter in 2009, when he threw for the Texas Scout Yankees. Jon could testify to the fact that I absolutely loved Bundy then, and stated then that I thought he was the best 2011 HS arm I'd seen (and I think I put him up with Karsten Whitson as the best 2010 arm, were Bundy eligible).

Bundy ended up the top HS arm on my 2011 pref list, and 5th overall. The only things that kept him out of the top 3 were 1) some workload issues and anecdotes relayed to me from scouts at the 2010 Area Code Games (Bundy did not partake, he was with his Connie Mack team that summer, I believe), and a very very small knock for size, with him not having the track record yet to show durability over a full pro season.

I think he's a front-end starter. If he shows durability and continues to improve precision and consistency in execution, he could be a #1. I wouldn't say I'm lower on him than others, just less prone to hyperbole and perhaps more familiar with him than those writers, so I expected him to utterly dominate the Sally (though the degree of dominance was certainly impressive).

Nick J Faleris said...

And as a general note, I don't expect readers to view my opinion the same way they view the opinion of Callis or Law, but when you read those writers you absolutely need to keep in mind it is not gospel.

Keith is wrong about players a fair amount -- we all are -- and I say that as someone who enjoys my time with Keith when I see him in Long Beach or down in Cary. I have not met Jim.

I greatly respect both Keith and Jim for their experience, their body of work, and their respective followings (which is enormous, particularly considering the niche audience). But both have their share of holes in prospect evaluation (as do I of course), and if I hear an opinion from Keith or read an opinion from Jim it serves as a data point, not a fact to be used to refute other data points or opinions.

Bret said...


I appreciate the feedback. I understand scouting is a tough business and I follow Law and others enough to know they miss. In addition, I will admit I'm an O's fan so might be biased.

Not many SS get to the big leagues before the age of 21. Other than Mike Caruso and maybe a few others, those that get there that early usually become stars. I don't see any obvious weaknesses in Machado's game. Only negative thing I've heard from anyone is he may need to move off short eventually as he gets bigger. If I were the Pirates I would certainly take him over Jameson Taillon in a heartbeat in a redraft and I'm not 100% sure the Nats wouldn't reconsider. Harper is not Mike Trout and he doesn't play a premium defensive position like Machado. I don't think Machado is Arod but Arod wouldn't be Arod with steroid testing. He has a chance to be a .300 hitter, 20-25 hr above average defensive shortstop. Do that for 10 years and I guarantee Hall of Fame. The great thing about this is we will find out soon enough.

Nick J Faleris said...

I certainly don't disagree that the career you outline for Machado would be phenominal. I think the disconnect may be use of OFP. Writers often treat OFP as the player's best case scenario. Scouts (in my experience, and this is how I use it in my organization) treat it as a more precise shot at evaluating likely outcome.

There is variance in that application, as I've submitted players with an OFP that I'd consider close to their ceiling. Other players I've knocked OFP further from absolute ceiling due to risk factors.

Really, the bottom line is that Machado is a top tier prospect. My estimation of his prospects as an impact Major Leaguer has grown over the last season and a half (though I still consider now, as I did on draft day, Nick Castellanos to be the best non-Harper bat from that particular draft class).

My personal opinion re: the WAS/PIT comments is that both organizations are quite happy with their selections and would not change a thing. All three of Machado/Taillon/Harper have further development, and Taillon and Machado in particular still are not capable Major League players quite yet.

As you say, time will ultimately tell the tale. But I believe all three organizations made excellent choices.

Bret said...

Taillon is still in A ball and not exactly setting the world on fire either. Obviously a lot can change but I think you always want the hitter over the pitcher because so much can go wrong for pitchers.

Castellanos has a 3.4% walk rate in AA. Reason he ripped A pitching is a .486 BABIP. That isn't going to work unless something in the underlying approach changes. Part of the reason I'm so high on Machado is that he walks frequently and doesn't strike out a ton. Both those things are the exact opposite of nearly every current Orioles hitter. I like Schoop quite a bit also and he has really come on lately but his K/BB ratio needs to improve to truly become an impact player. And Hoes should be the starting LF as of today.

Jon Shepherd said...

I think one of the problems with focusing so much on the quantitative aspects of MiL is that the quality of play is so far removed from MLB. I do some work with equivalents, but you wind up getting weird projections and miss players that everyone else just sees as a great player. I mean, a pure numbers evaluation of Andrew McCutcheon revealed a good, but uninteresting player. In reality, everyone could see he was a great talent.

There are certainly things a hat can hang on, but there needs to be support to things like BABIP or walk rate for them to have any gravity because the simple number may be missing all the variables related to the number that basic scouting would pick up.

Jon Shepherd said...

And I don't want to come off as that being a rejection of using quantitative measures for minor league performance and future production, but I think we need to be aware of the limitations. Someone who kills AA pitching may actually be a great deal worse of a player than one who was somewhat struggling. It comes down to a question of why, and that is not always able to be gleaned from statistics.

Nick J Faleris said...

I don't have much to add to what Jon stated above. Numbers are good, and they are important, but they just don't have enough utility at the Minor League level to be definitive.

That's not to say we shouldn't look at the numbers -- they provide an incredibly useful lens through which we can view the prospects. But the evaluations of the tools and skills, and appraisal of developmental progress of the player are ultimately more important.

As far as Castellanos is concerned, much of the BABIP is a result of incredibly hard hit balls. In order to call out BABIP as an indicator that there is regression to come, you need to be able to cross-reference it to something. Without context, BABIP doesn't give much of any indication as to whether a player will do better or worse at the next level(s).

One could easily construct a defensible argument that, based on observation, Castellanos was simply talented enough to handle pitching at the Class A-Adv. level such that his balls were predominantly hard hit balls. You can point to current BABIP vs career BABIP for MLB players as evidence of regression or recovery -- I'm not sure it's that clean when looking at bare BABIP figures in A Ball.

Nick J Faleris said...

Just a note, Trout's BABIP in Double-A was .370, in Triple-A it was .406, and I believe it is above .400 at the MLB level.

I agree that Nick Castellanos is not going to be a .400 hitter (which is what came along with that .490 BABIP in the Florida State League). But that really tells us nothing about what his projection actually is.

Joel said...

I am of the (uninformed) opinion that MiL pitching stats mean less than MiL batting stats since a pitcher can have his entire game dictated to him (throw strikes, don't use this pitch, etc.) while batters must have relatively more freedom. Am I right, sorta right, or way off base?

Nick J Faleris said...


I don't think the line is as bright as you draw, but there is some truth to that. The important thing to remember, I believe, in interpreting MiLB stats and applying them to evaluation is to continually look for context.

Camden Depot was one of the few places I remember that cautioned that Britton's sinker may not be as effective at the MLB level until he proves he can paint the bottom window pane with it. Our suggestion was that his MiLB strikeout numbers were somewhat inflated due to the fact that MiLB hitters (particularly up to Double-A) were not refined enough to pick-up the sinker, and as a result were giving Britton swings-and-misses and soft contact that MLB hitters probably would not.

That proved to be true in part, I think, and that conclusion was reached by looking at the stats, observing performance to see what was producing the stats, and applying that to what we know to be differences between MiLB and MLB ball.

That's an over-simplification, as Jon and I spent a fair amount of time looking at other factors, as well, but I think it highlights what we consider to be the "important stuff".

1. Use MiLB stats to cross-check scouting evaluation;

2. Use scouting evaluation to determine utility of intriguing MiLB stats; and

3. Never rely to heavily on scouting or analytics.

The good orgs are weighing these factors as part of a larger formula -- even if the scouts and analysts doing the heavy lifting don't realize it. The better you get at issue spotting on the scouting and analytic side, the better you'll get at prospecting.

I've learned a ton since being exposed to a MLB scouting department, and since being able to pick Jon's brain some on the statistical side of things (an area where I don't have a strong background), and I look forward to continuing to learn and trying to improve my abilities as an evaluator.

For anyone interested in prospecting, or evaluating for broadly in baseball, having a deep and balanced skill set should definitely be the focus.

Greg Pappas said...

Nick and Jon... you both are excellent at what you do, which is to provide as thorough an analysis as you can, with as clean and concise a delivery as you can. It works quite well, and is greatly appreciated. I enjoy reading Jon's views in general,and love the insight Nick provides on not just the draft, but his process for evaluating.

It is no small thing that you both do.

-Thank you.

Greg Pappas