Because I’m on the Ravens beat full-time during football season, it has been a long while since I wrote about baseball. But with the MLB’s “hot stove” set to be fired up soon, I figured I’d write about the Orioles.
Wait, what’s that you say? The MLB offseason started a couple of months ago? Oh. Well, this is awkward…
Anyway, there is good news for Orioles fans about a team that hasn’t spent much money this offseason besides deals for their arbitration-eligible players. The Orioles continue to get positive reviews about the state of their farm system even after star third baseman Manny Machado has graduated from prospect status.
The latest national analyst to give props to the Orioles is ESPN’s Keith Law, who hasn’t always had positive things to say about them in the past (and understandably so). This week, he unveiled his ranking of the 30 farm systems in baseball, and he had the Orioles at 10th. Only the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates had as many prospects in the top 45 of Law’s list.
“Very top-heavy, but a strong front five, all on the top 100, due in no small part to a string of four straight solid first-round picks since the Matt Hobgood fiasco,” he wrote. “Their depth is improving, though it's still behind where it'll need to be to keep the club competitive in the AL East, and more investment in intriguing international amateurs like Olelky Peralta will help bolster the system.”
Right-hander Kevin Gausman is the team's top prospect, according to Law, who had the 23-year-old ranked 23rd among his top 100 prospects. Also in Law’s top 100 were right-hander Dylan Bundy (31st), right-hander Hunter Harvey (38th), right-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (43rd) and shortstop Jonathan Schoop (86th).
But Law did drop Bundy, who did not pitch in 2013 due to an elbow injury, 28 spots after listing him as one of the top three prospects in baseball heading into last season.
“When healthy, he was the best pitching prospect in baseball, boasting a fastball up to 99 mph, a wipeout cutter that he could command like a 10-year veteran, a hard curveball and a developing changeup,” Law wrote, adding, “He's an incredibly special talent who should still be an impact player if the surgery proves to be nothing more than an extended vacation for him.”
A healthy Bundy could end up being the best addition the Orioles make this summer, though I am well aware that is not saying much. The Orioles are squandering a major opportunity by not opening the checkbook to bolster a potential playoff team, but the farm system is the key to long-term relevancy in a stacked A.L. East.
Those top five prospects -- Baseball America has a similarly-ordered top five -- provide Baltimore with something to look forward to during a frustrating offseason in which the focus should be on the present and winning now.