Today Baseball America released their list of the Top 10 O’s prospects, and the group was headlined by the usual suspects. Bundy and Harvey are #1 and #2 on the list, but the talent level predictably drops off from there. The O’s farm system produced some high major league talent this season with Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, and Caleb Joseph making significant contributions to a squad that made a deep run into the playoffs. This means some new names come into the mix, and highlights the much talked about deficiencies of the O’s system.
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If I were going to break this down into tiers I think Bundy & Harvey are clearly in Tier 1. Both young pitchers have top of the rotation talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either one of them became a true Ace (read: top 20 MLB pitcher). Harvey is a long way away, but I think he ends the year in AA while Bundy gets promoted to Baltimore. It’s also technically possible that one of them gets traded given the O’s starting pitching depth, though I find that unlikely.
The next tier includes a couple of bats, and is a decent drop off from the Bundy/Harvey tier. Christian Walker and Chance Sisco both showed a lot of promise with the bat this past season, though position questions might make these two a DH and 1B should they both make the show. That said, there’s enough projection in the bats to think they could be average regulars, which is all a competitive team can ask for really.
From the O’s #4 prospect there’s a pretty steep drop off to the third tier of Alvarez, Davies, Berry, and Wright. For me, these four guys are all fringe talents who could provide value in MLB in very limited roles. Davies, Berry, and Wright likely have a ceiling of bullpen help while Alvarez is probably a 4th outfielder at best. These guys have ceilings of fringe talents which isn’t great when you’re looking for impact talent from your minor league system.
The last two players: Yastrzemski and Reyes are both lottery tickets to a certain degree. Yastrzemski is a hard worker who gets the most out of his somewhat limited talent. AA Bowie was the first team that he didn’t hit well for, and it was also the first time he was younger than the average player in his league. If he can bounce back in 2015 at Bowie he could quickly move up this list. Reyes is a lottery ticket in the most pure sense of the word. The 6’4″ 16 year old international signee is an intriguing talent that could show tremendous power once he plays in more games stateside. For more information on Reyes, I’ll defer to Steve Melewski who helped compile the Top 10 list for BA.
Ultimately the impact talent stops after Bundy and Harvey. This leaves the O’s with something we should all be familiar with at this point: a top-heavy farm system. Meanwhile at the major league level the O’s continue to push themselves into contention season after season. Unfortunately the O’s could lose Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller to free agency this off-season. Next year will see both Chris Davis and Matt Wieters hit free agency. All of these players would be significant losses, should they all leave the club.
Can players from the O’s farm system replace the production from the free agents this off-season? It seems unlikely. Furthermore, there’s little in the way of impact bats to replace the production that the MLB squad will potentially be losing in Cruz, Markakis, Davis, and Wieters. This means the team will either have to move prospects for MLB talent (further depleting the system) or trade established MLB talent (potentially hurting postseason aspirations).
2015 is likely to be an all-in season for the Birds. It’s possible that they take the road less traveled though and move a guy like Davis or Wieters to help build a sustainable contender, but there’s no guarantees there either. Inevitably Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will face a tough decision. Do they really go all-in for 2015 and plan on a lengthy rebuild over subsequent seasons? Do they try to move ancillary pieces in an effort to win now without mortgaging the future? Or do they bite the bullet and prepare for another run in a few seasons around a Machado, Gausman, Bundy, Harvey core?
Coming off an ALCS appearance it’s difficult to come back to reality and face tough long term decisions like this one. The reality though is that the birds are a team in flux. In a perfect world they can build for the future while remaining competitive in the short term. This though is much easier said than done.
Jeff was the owner of the Orioles blog Warehouse Worthy, which focused on making advanced statistics a part of the conversation for the average fan. Outside of baseball, Jeff is a graduate of Loyola University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration. The Maryland native currently works for an Advertising Agency in downtown Baltimore. Previously a contributor to Beyond the Boxscore, he joined Baseball Prospectus in September 2014. You can reach him at [email protected]