Top 10 Prospects: The Baltimore Orioles by Marc Hulet December 10, 2010 The Baltimore Orioles 2010 MLB Record: 66-96 (5th in the AL East) Minor League Power Ranking: 23rd (out of 30) Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List The Prospects 1. Zach Britton, LHP Acquired: 2006 3rd round (Texas HS) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA Opening Day Age: 23 Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0 Notes: Britton, 23, was one of my favorite under-the-radar pitching prospects in 2008 and 2009 but he’s no longer a secret after another successful season in 2010. The lefty produces outstanding ground-ball numbers (64%) while also showing OK control and acceptable strikeout numbers (7.60 K/9 in AAA). The far-from-elite K-rate is what keeps the southpaw from being considered a future ace. Britton, Chris Tillman, and Brian Matusz could form a very solid nucleus at the top of the rotation for years to come. Britton throws with a short-arm motion and I’m not love with his arm action, which appears to put a bit of stress on his elbow. There also isn’t much deception in his delivery and he also slows his arm down when he throws his breaking ball. His overall repertoire includes a sinking fastball that touches 94 mph, a slider, and a changeup. The off-speed pitches is still a work in progress. Britton should be ready for The Show by mid-2011. 2. Manny Machado, SS Acquired: 2010 1st round (Florida HS) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 18 Estimated Peak WAR: 5.5 Notes: Machado signed late and appeared in just nine games. He showed a nice approach in the small sample size with more walks than strikeouts (3-2). He should move up to low-A ball in 2011 and could reach high-A by the end of the season. He’s likely to move quickly for a prep draftee and could be in the Majors for good within three to four seasons. Machado has a very nice, level swing and the ball jumps off the bat. It does occasionally get long but he has a quick bat and strong wrists. It looks like he should mature into 15-20 home run power. On the base paths, his speed is average and he takes long strides and is a better runner while underway. Defensively, Machado has a strong arm and good hands but there are questions about his range and his footwork. Despite that, he’s expected to remain at shortstop and should develop into an All-Star shortstop. 3. L.J. Hoes, 2B Acquired: 2008 3rd round (Washington D.C. HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: SS/A+/AA Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: There is a pretty big drop off in ceiling in this system after Machado and Britton. Hoes, though, projects to be decent offensive-minded second baseman. He spent the majority of 2010 in high-A ball and posted a triple-slash line of .275/.372/.365 in 413 at-bats. With an ISO rate of .091 it’s clear that power is not a big part of his game. Hoes appears to recognize this and he does a good job of getting on base (12.8 BB%) and could develop into a No. 2 hitter if he can polish his “small ball skills.” Hoes takes a small stride at the plate that helps him make contact but doesn’t help his power output. He has average bat speed and his swing gets loopy at times. 4. Xavier Avery, OF Acquired: 2008 2nd round (Georgia HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Avery is an athletic outfielder who is beginning to turn his raw ability into true baseball skills. He spent the majority of the year as a 20 year old in high-A ball. He had a respectable line of .280/.349/.389 in 498 at-bats. Avery also received a late-season promotion to double-A where he hit .234/.288/.374 but nabbed 10 bases in 27 games. In total, the fleet-footed prospect stole 39 bags. Ideally, he’ll improve his patience at the plate and build upon his career walk rate, which is below 7.0 BB%. Avery has good bat speed and the ball jumps off the barrel of his bat. He could stand to level out his swing a bit. He has a well-balanced stance with quiet feet at the plate but he could use his lower half more to help generate more line-drive power. He’s not as high energy as I expected prior to watching him play. 5. Dan Klein, RHP Acquired: 2010 3rd round (UCLA) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Short-season Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: Klein produced some impressive minor league numbers after signing, but it was in an extreme small sample size. A closer for UCLA, he is tall and thin. He has a high leg kick and a slow, easy delivery that doesn’t appear to put much strain on his elbow or shoulder. Klein throws from a three-quarter arm slot. He appears to be fairly athletic and finishes his delivery in a good position to act as an extra fielder. He has had shoulder surgery in the past so durability may be a concern, despite his OK delivery. Klein’s repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. He could succeed as a starter. Klein should open 2011 in low- or high-A and could move quickly if he continues to show solid command and sticks to the bullpen role. 6. Jonathan Schoop, SS Acquired: 2008 non-drafted free agent (Curacao HS) Pro Experience: 2 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/A+ Opening Day Age: 19 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Schoop was one of the biggest movers in the organization in 2010 in terms of prospect value. Just 18 in 2010, he hit .316/.372/.459 in 148 rookie ball at-bats during his first taste of pro ball. Even more impressively, he maintained a strikeout rate of just 10.5 K%, while also showing solid patience (8.1%). He spent time at two more levels (advanced rookie ball and high-A) but did not hit as well. Schoop has a very quickly bat and a long stride at the plate, which generates a lot of line-drive power. He does get out in front of the ball a little too much at times. As he fills out, it should create more over-the-fence potential. In the field, he shows very nice glove work but his transfer from glove to hand is not always the smoothest. With a strong spring, the shortstop could open 2011 in low-A ball. 7. Ryan Adams, 2B Acquired: 2006 2nd round (New Orleans HS) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA Opening Day Age: 23 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Adams had a chance to leave the organization on Thursday. Despite the lack of depth in the minor league system, Baltimore chose to leave the infielder available for the Rule 5 draft, but he slipped through as most teams focused on pitching. Adams had a solid offensive season in 2010 with a triple-slash line of .298/.365/.464 in 594 double-A at-bats. Adams his OK power (.166 ISO) for a second baseman but his power is below-average for the hot corner – and that is where he profiles best on defense. Adams also strikes out a little too much (22.8 K%) given his modest power output. There is a chance – although not great given his stature – that his solid gap power (43 doubles) could turn into more over-the-fence power. Adams has a very nice set-up at the plate. He has a well-balanced stance and a quick bat. His swing is nice and level and the bat carries well through the zone. The bat does get long at times. My one complaint would be that he carries his hands too low. Defensively, he doesn’t have the quickest feet but he has OK range. He’s definitely not the most athletic player at the keystone and I can understand why some see him as a third baseman. 8. Mychal Givens, SS Acquired: 2009 2nd round (Florida HS) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie/SS/A Opening Day Age: 20 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: A talented ’09 draft pick, injuries prevented Givens from fully showcasing his skills in 2010, as he appeared in just 23 games. Givens has a very wide stance and an awkward toe tap during his swing. That could be robbing him of power, because it seems to interrupt his forward movement – and could also impact his ability to make consistent contact. He also needs to level out his swing – although it has improved since his amateur days – and keep the barrel through the strike zone for a longer period of time. Givens also carries his hands very low and close to his body, which makes me think he could be beaten by good fastballs up and over the plate. 9. Wynn Pelzer, RHP Acquired: 2007 9th round (U South Carolina) Pro Experience: 4 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA Opening Day Age: 24 Estimated Peak WAR: 2.5 Notes: Pelzer was obtained from San Diego late in the season for Miguel Tejada, but Baltimore could have come out of the deal with nothing as the right-hander was left available during the Rule 5 draft yesterday. Baltimore does not have a ton of depth in the system so the decision to leave him unprotected is puzzling. Pelzer has spent the majority of his career in the starting rotation but he projects as a reliever due to the lack of polish on his secondary pitches (slider, changeup, splitter). If he can develop more consistent command, he could become a high-leverage reliever thanks to his low-90s fastball and slider. Pelzer had fairly ordinary ground-ball rates in 2010 but he showed very good rates in ‘08 and ’09. He has strong legs, which allows him to generate power without putting too much pressure on his shoulder. He utilizes a high leg kick and long stride. His delivery is fairly easy and he throws with a three-quarter motion. Pelzer uses a slightly higher arm slot for his breaking ball than for his heater. 10. Bobby Bundy, RHP Acquired: 2008 8th round (Oklahoma HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Bundy has moved slowly through the system and should open 2011 at high-A ball as a 21-year-old. The right-hander had a solid – but unspectacular – season in 2010 with a 4.27 FIP and hit rate of 7.76 H/9 in 116.0 innings. He also showed good control with a walk rate of 3.26 BB/9 but needs to improve his overall command. His strikeout rate sat at 7.06 K/9. He produces ground balls at an average rate (47%). Bundy has a quick arm and throws with a three-quarter motion. He uses his legs well in his delivery but his shoulder flies open at times, which causes control issues. At 6’2” 215 lbs, he doesn’t have much projection left. His repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, curveball, and changeup. Bundy’s heater reportedly showed better velocity in 2010 and he was touching the mid-90s.