Now that April has drawn to a close, let’s take a look at who’s hot in the Orioles Minor League system:
Manny Machado (SS, Lo-A Delmarva) –
With Zach Britton‘s promotion to Baltimore, Machado will almost certainly become the Birds’ top prospect at season’s end. Already ranked by Baseball America as the 14th prospect in the nation before his first full season, the 18 year old has done nothing to lower expectations through the month of April, posting a line of .337/.451/.639 for Lo-A Delmarva. After a mini-slump during the season’s second week, Machado has rebounded with a vengeance as of late, hitting five home runs and walking seven times over his last seven games.
Defensively, Machado has shown fluid actions and a strong arm on the field. The real test of his defensive skills will come over the next two years, as the lanky short stop will attempt to compensate for natural growth in his wide hips and trunk. He covers enough ground for the time being, but the added weight could slow him down. Even if Machado requires a move to the hot corner down the line, he shows the actions and instincts of a man born to play on the left side of the diamond.
I’ve been an advocate of taking it slow with Machado. The first priority of the teenager’s rookie campaign should have been getting him acclimated to the rigors of a full season and to the adjustments he’d need to make at the plate and on the field. Machado has taken to pro ball like gangbusters, however, and if he continues to stand out as the most dangerous hitter in the Shorebirds’ lineup, he may benefit from a mid-season promotion. Machado’s ceiling (an all-star short stop or third baseman) is what landed him so high on most national prospect lists. While his development still has ways to go, fans should be encouraged by how comfortable he has already become as a professional.
Jonathan Schoop (2B/3B, Lo-A Delmarva) -
Machado’s teammate and sometimes-double-play-partner, Jonathan Schoop (pronounced “scope”), has excelled in his first month as well, hitting to the tune of .319/.379/.511 in 22 games. Schoop has all the tools to become a successful Major Leaguer, but needs quite a bit of refinement. His swing tends to get long, he doesn’t always utilize his hips and legs to generate power efficiently, and he needs to keep his top half still through contact. He has above average raw power, but needs to smooth out his swing to manifest it consistently. Still, Schoop has adjusted to full-season ball nicely through 94 at-bats, continuing to show the plate discipline and approach that belies his age (19).
On the diamond, Schoop has not yet settled into a position. He shows raw arm strength that belongs on the left side, but evaluators in and outside of the organization knew he was never going to stick at short. His arm plays at third base, but it’s somewhat of a waste of his range and he does not consistently plant his feet properly on throws. Baltimore is experimenting with him at second base, but his footwork around the bag needs serious work and it is a waste of his arm. Where he’ll be positioned in the long run is yet to be determined, but if he can harness his raw power, he should have enough bat to play either position.
Like Machado, Schoop is a candidate for a mid-season promotion, having already gotten into six games with Hi-A Frederick at the end of last season. I see less of a cause to be quick with Schoop, however, as he’s being challenged and not pitched around. They key word with Schoop will always be consistency, so I’d like to see him get stabilized positionally and offensively in Delmarva.
Trent Mummey (OF, Hi-A Frederick) -
When I spoke with Mummey in spring training, he told me that his goal for the season was “to go out everyday and be a winning player. Study the game and put myself in the best position offensively, defensively and on the base paths to help my team win wherever I might be.” Mummey has been true to his word, posting a combined .286/.373/.488 line across lo-A Delmarva and hi-A Frederick. In the first game following his promotion to the Keys, Mummey went 4-for-6 with 5 RBIs, endearing himself to his new team.
Mummey is a baseball rat, a player who just looks like he belongs on the field. He doesn’t have a single plus tool, but does everything required of a successful player and does it well. His most important attribute is his discipline and approach at the plate, tallying about 5 walks for every 6 strikeouts in his MiL career. He won’t be a superstar in the big leagues, but I feel confident he’ll have a role on a Major League squad, whether it’s as a fourth outfielder with an exceptionally high baseball IQ (his floor), or as an .800 OPS starting center fielder (his ceiling). He’ll be one to watch in the coming months.
Bobby Bundy (RHP, Hi-A Frederick) –
After dealing with injury and inconsistency over the last two seasons, Bundy is finally beginning to harness his immense talent. In four outings for the Keys, he’s pitched to a 2.37 ERA with 22 strikeouts and just 1 walk in 19 innings. Bundy uses his above average fastball and curve, coupled with a much-improved change-up, to put away hitters with ease. His power stuff (low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball and power curve) would play well out of the bullpen, but if he can stay healthy and durable while developing a viable third-pitch, he’d profile well as a mid-rotation starter.
That third pitch, the change-up, has reportedly taken a leap forward in 2011 and has been the key to his success. The change in speeds helps his fastball play up, and his improved control/command has kept hitters on the defensive. At age 21, Bundy could be in line for a promotion to Bowie at some point, but he’ll be limited to about 150 IP this season. Maintaining durability and stuff over the course of the season will be Bundy’s most important task.
Dan Klein (RHP, AA Bowie) -
As this article goes to press, the Orioles have announced that Dan Klein has deservedly been promoted from hi-A Frederick to AA Bowie. Klein, the Orioles’ third round pick in the 2010 draft, has posted a 1.15 ERA and 21/3 K/BB ratio in 15.2 IP out of the Keys’ bullpen. Klein became UCLA’s closer in 2010 after a red-shirt sophomore season to limit his overall innings and get him on the mound with higher frequency. His above average control/command of 4 potential average or better pitches, however, profiles him as a mid-rotation starter.
The big question after the draft was how the Orioles planned to treat Klein. He could have been accelerated to the big leagues in two seasons or less as a reliever, as he is quite polished for a pitcher who logged so few college innings. He doesn’t quite have the powerful, swing-and-miss stuff that is usually associated with closers, however, and favoring quick satisfaction over long-term value would have been a short-sighted decision.
Thus, Klein has been used out of the bullpen for 2-3 inning stints spaced 2-3 days apart. This allows him to feel the consistency in schedule of as starter, gets him on the mound with frequency to build the muscle memory he needs to harness his stuff, and artificially restricts his innings. While his arsenal easily dominates lower level hitters, he’ll need a few seasons of development to build the durability and arm strength required of a starter. If he handles the transition to Bowie well, he’ll likely start in the Baysox’ rotation in 2012, with a 2013 or 2014 arrival date in Baltimore. Look for his innings to be capped around 100 this season.
Brandon Snyder (1B, AAA Norfolk) –
Snyder has ridden the roller coaster over his 6+ year Minor League career. A converted catcher, Snyder gradually recovered from injuries and stagnation to have a break-out stint in AA Bowie in 2009. He stalled at the AAA level, however, posting an OPS barely above .700 in over 500 ABs across two seasons there.
The third time seems to be the charm for Snyder, who is finally hitting in the international league. Snyder has shown unprecedented power (5 HRs and 7 2Bs in 90 ABs) en route to an early .300/.364/.544 line. His bat is probably too light for a starting job at first base in the Majors, but with the age and paltry early performance of both Vlad Guerrero and Derrek Lee, Snyder should be in line for a mid-to-late-season call up.
Ultimately, a top division team would want to carry a bat with a little more pop at the 3-spot on the diamond, but if everything works out perfectly for Snyder he could end up giving the Orioles Aubrey Huff-esque production. For now, though, he’ll at least have to prove that his bat can handle AAA pitching over an extended period.
Look out next week for the inevitable companion to the Who’s Hot piece – Who’s Not.