Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com is
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com is visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today we check in on the Baltimore Orioles.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- By most accounts, the Baltimore Orioles' farm system is not highly rated. They have just one Top 100 prospect, catcher Chance Sisco, and their Top 30 list isn't as deep as many other organizations.
• Orioles' Top 30 Prospects list
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
Now, just because an organization doesn't have a ton of elite-level prospects, or isn't highly ranked by outside observers, doesn't mean it can't produce big league talent. That's exactly the philosophy those running the system have taken, even if they do pay a little attention to what others are saying.
"You do because they can evaluate Draft picks and they can evaluate how many prospects they think you have," Orioles farm director Brian Graham said. "At the end of the day, it's how many players you put in the big leagues. And how many players get ranked in the Top 100 or in different polls, that's where their grading system comes from, and we understand that.
"We know we absolutely have one of the top farm systems in all of baseball in terms of player development. We have a great staff, great instructors and teachers. The system and process we have in place is unbelievable, it's off the charts good."
There is some proof to that. From high Draft picks like Manny Machado and Kevin Gausman, to third-rounder Zach Britton, international signee Jonathan Schoop, even a 27th-rounder like Donnie Hart, all are homegrown players. Maybe the rankings aren't kind to the Orioles, but what matters the most are wins and losses.
"In the eyes of some of the evaluators and some of the media outlets, that's what you find," Graham said. "But you look up and we have all these players who came through our system who are helping us have the best record in the American League over the last five years, with five playoff appearances. I think people lose sight of that. A lot of really good players come through our farm system."
• Q&A with Cody Sedlock
That's a message that filters down from the top level. The perfect example is Hart, who made his big league debut in 2016, a Minor Leaguer who beat the odds. His success has certainly brought a certain energy to camp this spring.
"When you see guys like him, who never went to big league camp and then after Minor League camp, he pitches in the big leagues last year and does so well, it really gives all the players an optimistic view of what the future is," Graham said. "They believe they have the chance to get to the big leagues. They believe they have the chance to impact the Major League club. They believe in the system we have. It's a really neat feeling and a lot of it stems from Buck Showalter and the culture that's created up there. It flows downhill."
Harvey on road back
Over the last two seasons, Hunter Harvey has thrown a total of 12 2/3 innings. He missed all of 2015 trying to rest and rehab through an elbow injury. He made just five starts in 2016 before needing Tommy John surgery. Once firmly ensconced in Top 100 lists everywhere, Harvey is still No. 3 on the Orioles Top 30 list, but most are taking a wait-and-see approach on evaluating what kind of prospect Harvey will be once healthy. It sounds like that process could start at some point this summer.
"He is doing great," Graham said. "Knock on wood, he's had no setbacks. I anticipate he'll be in games sometime in July. He has the chance to be really good and really special. I know he has not pitched a lot of innings the last two years. He could be ready for the big leagues really quickly. That's how good he is."
Fortunately for Harvey, the Orioles have some experience in dealing with a top prospect with premium stuff who has to work his way back from TJ surgery. Dylan Bundy had the surgery in 2013, and while he was further delayed by shoulder trouble in 2015, he pitched very meaningful innings in Baltimore last year. It's a model that certainly should guide both Harvey and the O's staff. "It absolutely helps," Graham said.
"We have a medical coordinator here, Dave Walker. He handles all our rehabs. He's done a tremendous job with a number of Tommy John surgeries over the years. I think Dylan Bundy is a good benchmark for Hunter Harvey. I think Hunter sees where Dylan is now and where he was a year and a half ago and realizes he can be there, too."
There are some pitchers standing out so far in camp, moreso than the hitters. Graham is just fine with that, for now.
"Our arms are probably a little ahead of our position players at this point," Graham said. "That said, whatever your big league team needs, you're hoping you'll be able to supply."
It looks like bullpen help might be the easiest order to fill. Stefan Crichton is taking lessons learned from his Arizona Fall League stint in 2016 into big league Grapefruit League games, tossing four scoreless innings while walking none and striking out five. Lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger, now the system's No. 14 prospect, is building off of his first full season in 2016, when he struck out 12 batters per nine innings across two levels of A ball. He's also gotten to show what he can do in big league games, with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball over three outings.
"We've had a couple of guys like that who have stood out and they're saying, 'Hey, I might be ready for the big leagues quicker than you think,'" Graham said.
Graham also has liked what he's seen from right-hander Matthias Dietz, the club's second-rounder from the 2016 Draft and current No. 13 prospect. The Orioles knew the junior college product had arm strength, but it's his feel for pitching that has opened some eyes in camp.
"He has really been impressive this spring, with his command, his control, his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes," Graham said. "And there's the plus velocity. He's been really good."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.