13 March 2013

Camden Depot's Orioles' Top 10 Prospects: 1 through 5

In the past year, we lost an amazing resource, Nick Faleris, to Baseball Prospectus.  It will be difficult to replace the skills he had for talent evaluation, but we will soldier on as best we can while suggesting that you should head over to Baseball Prospectus and take a look at his work.  Sadly, his responsibilities and new readership are more broad, so his Orioles' work there is not as immediately detailed as it was here.  However, ask him about something and he does well to get back to you with his thoughts.

That said, this year we are moving forward with a group approach.  I will now be producing the prospect rankings list along with new writers, Jeremy Strain and Joe Reisel.  Jeremy's opinion are largely formed by the regional scouting trips he makes, the scouts he knows, and being generally well read in all of the trade journals.  Joe takes in quite a many games in Norfolk and provides datacasting for BIS and their fielding metrics.  My background is heavily bent toward statistics (which often are of little use when assessing minor league play), video work, some personal scouting nearby, and my connections.  I want to be transparent here with our backgrounds to let you know how we are informed to make our decisions.  So much of internet prospecting is a black box and it really does not need to be that.

The methodology for this post was that each of the three writers would identify their own top twelve players.  Weighted scores would be derived from those rankings, which then would result in the final composite system.  Here is the ranking:

No. 1 - RHP Dylan Bundy
Ht/Wt - 6'1", 200
B/T - B/R
Age at 6/13 - 20y 7m
Drafted 1:4 by Baltimore in 2011
Prospect Grade - A (65)

In 2011, the draft was rich with elite pitching prospects.  Dylan Bundy was the fourth overall selection as well as the fourth pitcher selected.  Before him were Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, and Trevor Bauer.  A year and a half later, Baseball America ranks them as Bundy (2nd overall), Cole (7th), Bauer (14th - who was traded by the Diamondbacks for a somewhat limited ceiling SS prospect), and Hultzen (29th).  Baseball Prospectus saw them slightly differently with Cole (3rd) leading, Bundy in 4th, Bauer 24th, and Hultzen 50th.  Needless to say, the Orioles did pretty well for themselves selecting fourth as the two prominent prospect evaluation sources rate him as either the best or second best pitching prospect in baseball.

Most readers of the site likely saw him during his two appearances in relief with Baltimore last season and perhaps you have noted the many pictures that make their way through Twitter illustrating his incredible work ethic.  However, it might be useful to brush up on his abilities.  Bundy was noted as an amateur for his clean delivery and two signature pitches.  He threw a loud upper 90s fastball and had a devastating cutter.  Both profiled as plus plus caliber pitches.  Once in the midst of a professional schedule with less rest between outing, his fastball lost a couple ticks and he now works in the mid 90s.  It still is a plus pitch, but Bundy began to mix in a two seamer last Summer that very effectively gives a look different from his four seamer.  He has excellent command of both pitches.

The Orioles organization decided that Bundy would not use his cutter professionally.  Though, once he establishes himself in the Majors, it has been mentioned that the Orioles will let him reintroduce the pitch to his repertoire.  Not throwing it in such a long time is a bit of a risk, but typically once you have a pitch, it is probably still there.  Why did the team tell him to get rid of it?  There is some organizational thought that the cutter hurts arm strength and that it is so effective in the minors that it can prevent pitchers from learning to develop acceptable breaking balls and change ups.

Speaking of breaking balls and change ups, Bundy is ahead with his curve ball in comparison to his change up.  The curve has been very uneven (as you may recall from his cup of coffee last September).  When he throws it well, it has the makings of a plus pitch with great 12 to 6 drop.  The change up does not look like it will be as kind to him, but he does show some understanding of it to make it an average pitch.

We expect Dylan to dominate Norfolk and be in Baltimore some time in June when the club can keep him an additional year of service.  The only thing derailing that time table would be solid performance by the opening day rotation, absence of injuries to the rotation, or Kevin Gausman breaking out and surpassing Bundy.

No. 2 - RHP Kevin Gausman
Ht/Wt - 6'4", 185
B/T - R/R
Age at 6/13 - 22y 5m
Drafted 1:4 by Baltimore in 2012
Prospect Grade - A- (60)

Selecting fourth in the draft, the Orioles selected Gausman, who we viewed as the top talent.  Before Gausman (BA: 26th, BP: 13th), were Carlos Correa (Houston; BA:13th, BP: 26th), Byron Buxton (Minnesota; BA: 10th, BP: 8th), and Mike Zunino (Seattle; BA: 17th, BP: 33rd).

You may have also noted that despite all of the powdered donuts he partakes in, that Gausman has a lean yet strong athletic build with an easy delivery.  His most notable strength is his fast ball that peaks at 100 mph, which has been on display during his outings this Spring.  However, like Bundy's fastball, the velocity is expected to regress with a greater workload.  As it stands now, it is a plus plus offering with a plus floor with any velocity loss.  Gausman has excellent command of the pitch.  He also uses a two seamer for an effective, different look.  His slider is inconsistent, but flashes plus.  His change up looks ahead of Bundy's, but also rates as average.  Gausman's arm action looks better to me when throwing it, so it might become a plus pitch (which is something others have also communicated to me as well).

I expect Gausman to wind up in Baltimore sometime this Summer.  The speed at which he harnesses the change up will determine whether he or Bundy goes up first.  If Gausman can turn his change and curve into consistent plus pitches then he might be the better pitcher in the long term.  Regardless, if both pan out, they will provide the Orioles with one of the best front of the rotations in baseball.  That said, pitchers tend to be a difficult commodity to project.  Gausman's A- grade was the product of Jeremy and myself being comfortable with Gausman's lack of professional experience while Joe conservatively waits for him to prove his college success will be replicated.  From my perspective, the quality of his pitches and the quality of his command provide me with enough assurances that he will continue to be a successful pitcher.

No. 3 - 2B/3B Jonathan Schoop
Ht/Wt - 6'1", 185
B/T - R/R
Age at 6/13 - 21y 8m
International Free Agent - Curacao
Prospect Grade - B (54)

2010183 Teams3 LgsRk-A+622401815112025.290.350.453
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Schoop has earned a great honor by serving as the starting second baseman for the Netherlands 2013 World Baseball Classic team.  At the time of this writing, he had played in three games, going 1 for 9 with a home run and a walk.  You can see that there is a pretty good baseball player developing, but he is still a season or two away from being a useful role player in Baltimore.

In the long run, third base is Schoop's home.  From the WBC games, you can see that he has a poor reaction time, but makes up for it with solid close body skills and a strong, accurate arm.  To put it another way, if you ignore the accurate arm part of it, it should be a description that sounds eerily familiar to Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds looked good, but his shoes appeared anchored to the ground.  It often wound up with balls going by him or him being put in an awkward position.  Schoop appears to have significantly better reactions than Reynolds to work at third base, but not at second where it combines with his poor speed to leave him with only a small range that he can cover.

That said, his bat looks good enough to play third base, but it is not certain that it can actually play at the major league level.  Again, as coincidentally shown in the WBC, watch the following video:
The outside part of the plate is where much of Scope's power shows up.  That coincides with a bit of a bat wrap that makes his swing long.   The catcher sets up Dushan Ruzic outside on a fat pitch that Schoop takes advantage of.  It is also apparent on the second video that popped up on YouTube as well:
Whether he is back in Bowie this year or moves on to Norfolk, he will have to work to eliminate the wrap.  With more advanced pitchers, Schoop will have to show he can adjust or simply peter out in the high minors.

I think the skills are there and I think he can work to protect the inner part of the plate while keeping power when he gets full extension on the outer part of the plate.  It is not ideal, but it will be good enough for him to develop into a low end first division third baseman.  I expect that he may see Baltimore in September or, perhaps, partway through 2014.

No. 4 - LF/CF L.J. Hoes
Ht/Wt - 6'1", 185
B/T - R/R
Age at 6/13 - 23y 1m
Draft 3:4 in 2008 Draft
Prospect Grade - B (50)

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L.J. Hoes has had hopes and dreams pinned on him by many after his 2008 stint in the Gulf Coast League.  There he showed an incredibly advanced approach at the plate, good speed, and incredibly hard and consistent contact.  The first thing you hear about Hoes from anyone you talk to is how hard he hits the ball.  It sounds great with excellent exit speed, but the swing plane does not generate the needed power.

The initial hope would be that Hoes would be able to come in from the outfield and learn to play second base well enough in order to make up for the bat if it did not develop.  However, he simply did not have a loose enough lower body to react quickly to balls hit to him at second.  In the outfield, he finds a more natural fit and could even manage an adequate centerfield if needed.  To play left, he needs to maintain a high contact rate and increase his secondary power performance.  Neither of those are a given.

Hoes appeared in two games at the end of last season.  Both he and Xavier Avery could perform well right now as fourth outfielders for the Orioles.  The expectation is that Avery is more versatile with his plus plus speed is a better fit as a late inning replacement.  The B grade, perhaps a bit to high, for Hoes is tied entirely to his ability to develop that power to a level where he can produce a 280/350/380 line with plus defense.  That would be worth about 2.5 fWAR.  It may not be what you would typically expect out of a LF, but it would be useful.

No. 5 - LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
Ht/Wt - 6'2", 175
B/T - L/L
Age at 6/13 - 20y 2m
International Free Agent from Venezuela
Prospect Grade - C+ (45)

201017Orioles 1DOSLFRk342.33121265.2028626.
2011182 Teams2 LgsRk-A-112.22121148.2118506.
When Andy MacPhail came to the Orioles, the state of international scouting concerned him.  He was not one to spend big on 16 year foreign talent, but he thought it was essential to get scouts on the ground to effectively scoop up tertiary talent with occasional movement on second tier free agents.  Rodriguez was one of those second tier signings (at 175k, he was signed for more than any reported Orioles signing during this IFA season which began July 1, 2012).

Rodriguez was one of the younger players in A ball.  He managed to keep up against the competition with an ERA that was 15% better than the league average.  In seasons past, we were excited about Rodriguez, but were concerned that this high 80s fastball and slow slider pitchability southpaw simply would not be able to generate swing and misses out of the zone as he faced more advanced hitters.  Delmarva saw him increase his velocity into the low 90s on his fastball and low 80s on the slider.  His changeup was also mentioned as having greatly improved, but inconsistent.

So the ranking, for me at least, comes to this: the scouts who their eyes on the player like him more than my familiarity with the history of the player and his peripheral statistics.  You can argue this is a weak place for me to stand, but my concerns are tied to a few things:
  • Rodriguez' HR rate is too low for a pitcher who is not a ground ball pitcher.  He gave up 4 homeruns last year.  I think he should have given up 9.  SIERA takes these things more into consideration and pegs him around 5% under league average, which is good for his age.
  • My general belief that low minors batters are more susceptible to excellent command lefties.  With this issue, I think contact rates and ISO will increase with more advanced hitters.
  • My final concern is that his strikeout rate is 20% below average for the league and, again, he is not a ground ball pitcher.
With those things in mind, Rodriguez will really have to prove to me that he can succeed at each level.

1 comment:

Bret said...

Right now there is no question in my mind that Gausman is a better prospect than Bundy. Gausman throws harder, has a legitimately great out pitch and has better control. He also has room to add about 30 more pounds while Bundy is fully filled out. I hate to say it as an O's fan but I think Bundy has been overhyped while Gausman and Machado and Schoop have been underhyped. I won't mind if I'm wrong but after watching them pitch back to back on Saturday Gausman was clearly well ahead and I think he has more projection. See what happens tomorrow.