Baltimore Orioles Top Prospects for Fantasy Baseball
The Orioles, who as recently as a decade ago had one of baseball’s weakest farm systems, have resuscitated the farm as of late. Scouts generally characterize the system as not deep, but possessing top end pitching talent. Depending on the source, there are five Orioles who can be considered in the top 100 prospects. Each will be discussed below. A bonus sleeper will also be included.
Talent: 9.5 Opportunity: 7
Dylan Bundy came out of high school extremely polished, and he made it to the majors before age 20. He dominated the minor leagues, which is even more impressive given that the Orioles have not let him throw his best pitch: a cutter, which scouts rate as an 8/8. In the minors (A through AA), he struck out over 10 batters per nine innings with a WHIP under 1. He was rated as high as baseball’s number two prospect and most considered him ahead of Archie Bradley. He is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and he is expected to be ready by late June. Many think he could come straight to the majors once his arm strength is ready, although likely in a relief role unless the rotation falls apart. We have seen lately that Tommy John surgery is not a sure thing (Brandon Beachy, Daniel Hudson, etc.), but the odds are in his favor for a full recovery. Bundy’s work ethic is unmatched; the problem is getting him to slow down, not to work harder. Expect him to come to the majors this year and then be a regular at the top of the rotation starting in 2015. He is a must grab in all dynasty leagues.
Talent: 9 Opportunity: 8
Kevin Gausman is the other of the Orioles top two prospects, and some sources rate him higher than Bundy. He features a high 90s fastball and electric stuff, and I like to call him the Gas-Man for the gas he hurls. He has now kicked his quirky habit of eating powder donuts between each inning, and he has added about fifteen pounds of muscle (and is considering adding Rick Vaughn type rec specs). He also zoomed through the minors with an eye popping 6.33/1 K:BB ratio. His high strikeout rate and his low walk rate show that he has the ability to be an absolute top-level pitcher. His numbers in the major last year were worse than one would expect, but he showed his brilliance in starts against the Tigers and Red Sox. He likely will begin the year in AAA, but if Bud Norris struggles or someone gets hurt, there is a very real chance he becomes the fifth starter (although there are a number of other options, including Zach Britton). He is a strong favorite to reach the majors before too long this year, but unless one of the starters falters, it may well be in the bullpen. He should likely be a permanent fixture in the Orioles’ rotation by later in the season and must be owned in all dynasty leagues.
Talent: 7 Opportunity 9
While Bundy and Gausman are clearly tier one in terms of prospects, Schoop may be the closest to the majors. I am putting Jonathan Schoop (pronounced Scope) higher on my list than the scouts, who have him rated as the fifth best of these prospects. Schoop is viewed as Manny Machado’s future double play partner (but J.J. Hardy may have something to say about that), although some think his size may be worthy of a move to third. Despite the errors, he is viewed as a plus defender who is a shortstop by trade, and he's moved to second due to the Orioles positional depth (Machado and Hardy). His minor league numbers should be heavily discounted as he was the youngest player in each league he played in, and he was battling injuries. He committed to adding strength this offseason, and he is now a solid 230 pounds. He has absolutely crushed the ball this spring (including two home runs in intra squad games which will not show up in the spring training stats). Due to Machado’s injury, many think he will open the season as the starting second baseman (although it’s far from a certainty). He has legitimate 30 home run potential at his peak, and could surpass 20 this year with full playtime, but he projects at this point in his career for a low batting average. If he rips the cover off the ball, he could remain with the team when Machado returns, although it is hard to see Ryan Flaherty not at least platooning at second, and they likely will want Schoop to hit every day. He is a player to keep a close eye on, but he is more of an add in dynasty leagues right now.
Talent: 7 Opportunity: 1
Hunter Harvey was drafted in the first round out of high school, and he went on to strike out 33 batters in 25.1 innings with a 1.06 WHIP. Because he just turned 19 and will likely have an innings limit the next two years, he is likely not fantasy relevant until 2016. You should keep his name in your head, but there are others more worthy of keeping an eye on at this point even though the Orioles have shown a willingness to let successful pitchers climb through the system quickly.
E-Rod was an under-the-radar international signing that has quickly ascended through the minor league ranks. He is only 20, but struck out a batter an inning last year in AA. Whenever a trade rumor appears, it seems as if the other team is asking if E-Rod is available. He is likely at least a year away from the majors, which was evident from the fact that he got hit hard in spring training this year. Due to his age and the fact that he had an ERA over 4.00 in AA last year, he is not worth owning at this point, although he also is one to keep an eye on.
Deep Sleeper - Eddie Gamboa
Talent 4 Opportunity: 7 Heart: 10
Eddie Gamboa is 29 years old and has poor minor league numbers, so many would be shocked to see him on a prospect list. However, last year he was re-invented as a knuckleballer. He now throws two different speed knuckleballs and a fastball. While he struggled with it last year, it appears that it is finally starting to click. He has been working with Phil Niekro in an effort to perfect it. In spring training this year, he pitched 4.2 innings, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, 0 runs, and striking out six. While that sample size is extremely small, he also had a good offseason. If he starts the year strong in the minors and someone falters (Bud Norris most likely, but possibly an injury), he could possibly get the call if Gausman isn’t pitching well. At the very least, he is an interesting prospect who is easy to root for. Put him on the bottom of your watch list, just in case he turns into the next R.A. Dickey.