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The Baltimore Orioles once had a pitcher with lots of promise. His name was Dan Klein. At one point, he was heralded as having the best curve and changeup in the Orioles’ system. He was even tabbed as the future closer for this team. Unfortunately, his shoulder was in constant need of repair and ultimately called it quits before the start of the 2013 campaign.
The Orioles seem to have plenty of stories just like this. One quick glance at their top prospects over the last 10 years shows plenty of players that never lived up to lofty expectations. Arguably, only Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis have contributed positively for a long period of time with Chris Tillman slowly learning how to be a serviceable starting pitcher and Brian Matusz finding his niche out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Manny Machado.
Now with Jonathan Schoop on the big league club, the Orioles have one less player to summon from the minors for 2014. Matter of fact, Schoop was their most ready everyday player in their farm system. Interestingly enough, it was Machado’s injury at third base that opened a roster spot for the young Schoop. Schoop is a Jack-of-all-Trades (master of none) type of player who is mostly known for his aggressive approach at the plate. Though he has struggled in the higher minor league levels the last two seasons, a back problem in 2013 sidelined him for almost two months which may have contributed to his poor season, Schoop was known to have a decent batting eye, owning a career Strikeout Percentage of only 15 percent in the minors. Other than that, Schoop has some pop in his bat and impressive quickness, but not much speed (30 steals in five minor league seasons). The only other good thing about Schoop is that he is a versatile defender, showing the ability to play at second, short, and third base.
THE ONCOMING STORM
The strength of the O’s system is in their pitching. A prime example of this is Kevin Gausman, who had a terrific spring, but was sent down to the minors for more seasoning and improvement on his slider. The team would also like to see him add more bulk to his frame. Other than that, Gausman has top of the rotation written all over him. Armed with a lights-out fastball and changeup combination (both best in the organization), he might be the first pitcher to be called up for the Orioles if injury or ineffectiveness (or both) strike the starting rotation. Currently, he is owned in 33 percent of CBS Sports fantasy leagues.
Two other pitchers that might get a shot at the Majors sometime this season might be best suited for bullpen duty, but have some potential for success in the rotation.
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez is only 21 years old, but has been pitching in the system since he was 17 years old. His fastball has improved since his teenage years and now sits in the low-90s. Rodriguez is a pitch-to-contact pitcher as he mixes his fastball well with his curve and changeup. He is projected to be a middle of the rotation starter, but as mentioned, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get called up to the O’s to help out in the bullpen.
Mike Wright is the other pitcher looking to get a shot with the big league team later this season. The big right-hander is good at using his fastball to to generate plenty of grounders. He does a great job limiting his walks, but scouting reports show that improvement in command is a must. His off-speed stuff is considered ordinary and it is because of this, I think he too would be better off vying for a bullpen role, but to be fair, he is seen as a bottom of the rotation starter.
EVEN AT HIS WORST…
Dylan Bundy, for the second year in a row, has been named as the team’s best overall prospect. Last season, it was Bundy, not Gausman, that finished with the best fastball in the organization. Entering the 2013 season, Bundy, though only in his early 20s, seemed to be on the fast-track to big league glory, as he was being heralded, by some publications, as the best pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg and was even getting compared to Mike Mussina. Then, in June of last season, he succumbed to Tommy John surgery. Bundy is still recovering and it remains to be seen if he can still reach his potential. Nevertheless, the experts have not downgraded their expectations of Bundy as he possesses talent, stuff, and intangibles to be a future ace in the majors. Despite the ETA of 2015, he is still owned in 24 percent of CBS Sports fantasy baseball leagues, so owners have not been deterred by his injury to reserving a roster spot for the young phenom.
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH FOLK SINGER TIM BARRY…
Lanky lefty, Tim Berry has a low-90s fastball with good command along with average secondary pitches. He is superb against left-handed hitters, but struggles mightily against righties. If he can find a way to improve against right-handed hitters, he might be good enough for a middle of the rotation slot in the majors. But right now, he is looking more like a future LOOGY, possibly no earlier than 2015.
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT
Hunter Harvey is the son of former All-Star reliever Bryan Harvey. The 2013 first round pick for the Orioles, Harvey has the tools to be a top-tier starting pitcher. Baseball America praises Hunter’s “knowledge of pitching” as the explanation as to why he looks more like a veteran than a raw, young player. Along with pedigree and makeup, Harvey does have the talent and stuff, most notably a mid-90s fastball. The team would still like to see improvements on his changeup. For those owners that missed out on Gausman and Bundy or have a roster spot for a guy with an ETA of 2017, this would be the guy to add in those dynasty leagues.
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