Keith Law: Baltimore Orioles

'Keep calm' on these young players 

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
1:10
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Javier BaezAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNot to worry, Cubs fans, despite his initial struggles this season, Javier Baez will be fine.
A lot of highly touted prospects and other young major leaguers had what might appear to be disheartening seasons in 2014. Here are five examples of players whose stat lines this year shouldn't dampen your enthusiasm about their futures.

Javier Baez

It's not the debut Cubs fans were expecting, at least not given his showings in spring training and the Futures Game, but a rough first time around the carousel is pretty much in line with Baez's career to date. Baez has 153 plate appearances in the majors so far, with 63 strikeouts and a .175/.229/.364 line. In his first 153 plate appearances in Triple-A, coming earlier this year, he hit .201/.268/.388 with 53 strikeouts.

He started slowly in Double-A as well, failing to get his OBP over .300 until his 120th plate appearance, but he came around sooner and was at least up to .273/.329/.580 by the time he passed 153 plate appearances. The primary skill that made him such a highly rated prospect -- he was No. 7 coming into the year -- is still intact: He has some of the best bat speed and strongest hands I've ever seen on a hitting prospect. He needs to overhaul his approach to at-bats, as he still seems to be deciding whether to swing before he could possibly have identified the pitch type, but he's so talented that he can make mistakes and still turn it into hard contact.

Xander Bogaerts

SALISBURY, Md. -- Baltimore Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey threw for the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds on Monday night, and it was another outstanding effort from the 19-year-old who learned on Tuesday that he'll represent the Orioles in this year's MLB Futures Game. This was my second time seeing Harvey this year, and he had a better fastball Monday than he did when I saw him in April on a 46-degree day, and had better results, too.

Harvey started the game working from 93 and 96 mph with 70-grade life on his fastball, getting tremendous bore on the pitch; he broke at least three right-handed hitters' bats over the course of the outing. He located the fastball well to both corners and in the lower third of the zone, especially working inside to righties. By the fifth and sixth innings, he was down to 90-94, but he still had the same command and life to the pitch. His curveball, which was plus when I've seen him in the past, was just average Monday night, although he did punch out four hitters with it (with three others striking out on fastballs). The breaking ball was 77-80 mph with good rotation but less depth than before, and he left a few of 'em up over the course of the game, including one that led to a single, plating West Virginia's only run of the game. Harvey threw only one changeup, a good one at 84 mph. He'll have to use that pitch more often, though Sally League hitters aren't going to make him do that.

Harvey is ready to move up, at least to high-A but possibly all the way to Double-A, because he has the fastball velocity, life and command to eviscerate low-A hitters without needing to work on developing his changeup or tightening his curveball.

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Bundy close to pre-surgery form 

June, 22, 2014
Jun 22
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Dylan BundyGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesPrior to his injury, Dylan Bundy was one of the top pitching prospects in MLB.
Dylan Bundy -- the No. 31 prospect on my Top 100 in January -- is still not quite a full 12 months off Tommy John surgery (he had the operation on June 27, 2013), but made his second rehab start on Saturday night at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland, throwing five quick innings and showing he's close to pre-surgery form, but not all the way there yet.

Bundy faced 17 batters over five innings, striking out nine and walking just one while allowing two hits, both well-struck but going to the opposite field. He was pitching 90 to 94 mph all night, with some downhill plane and a little tailing life to it even at 93, although I noticed he rushed his arm on many of the fastballs at the higher end of the range. He also threw at least one true cutter at 91 mph, the first pitch of the third inning, and I think he cut a few others over the course of his outing, just not as prominently.

Roughly 80 percent of Bundy's 64 pitches (48 strikes) on the evening were fastballs, but he did mix in a few straight changeups at 86-87 and at least seven curveballs, three of which punched out hitters. The curveball was at 73-75 mph, nearly 12/6 with good depth, and he threw it for strikes aside from one he shanked at 76 right into the dirt. He threw just one off-speed pitch in the first inning, but increased the mix as the game went on because he seemed to need that extra effort to dial up the fastball, and in the process lost some command of the pitch.

Bundy is back pitching in games earlier than most pitchers who've had ligament transplant surgery, which is the result of a quick rehab with no real setbacks; this is also the most likely explanation for the slightly reduced velocity and command he showed on Friday. His delivery was pretty similar to how it was before the injury, perhaps a slightly more pronounced downward stab in the back but nothing significant. I don't think he's close to ready in terms of helping the major league team as a starter. But, I could see him in the Baltimore Orioles' pen in September or going to the Arizona Fall League to help him build up some more innings and stamina before shutting it down for the winter.

• The Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets affiliate) started one of their better prospects, right-hander Marcos Molina, who boasts above-average stuff with a below-average delivery.

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Banuelos struggling to regain form 

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
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Manuel BanuelosKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsPitcher Manuel Banuelos, who underwent Tommy John surgery, has lost velocity on his fastball.
Yankees left-hander Manny Banuelos missed nearly all of 2012 and 2013 because of Tommy John surgery and subsequent rehab setbacks. But he has pitched all year in short stints of mostly three innings and fewer than 60 pitches per outing. His stuff during Wednesday night's game in Trenton wasn't where it was prior to the initial surgery, and I couldn't tell you if or when it will come all the way back.

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Harvey-Giolito duel lives up to hype 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
4:35
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DELMARVA, Md. -- Tuesday rain meant Wednesday's marquee minor league pitching matchup in Delmarva, Md., was a 5 p.m., seven-inning game to start a doubleheader, which meant hitters unlucky enough to have to face Baltimore Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey (son of former Angel and Marlin closer Bryan) or Washington Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito had to do so with the late-evening shadows interfering as well. Both pitchers lived up to expectations, combining for 11 shutout innings, allowing eight baserunners and striking out 13.

• Harvey was throwing 91-94 mph with plus sink on his fastball and was very aggressive with the pitch, coming inside to right- and left-handed batters without fear.

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Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014
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With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.


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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Cruz a good fit with Orioles 

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
12:16
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Nelson CruzAP Photo/Tony GutierrezOutfielder Nelson Cruz signed a 1-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
Once the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez -- forfeiting their first-round pick -- signing another free agent requiring compensation made a lot more sense, as the value of the next pick they'd have to give up is much lower. Nelson Cruz's one-year, $8 million deal reflects that cost but also the questions about his PED usage and his negative defensive value.

He's a solid fit for Baltimore, however, as the team had no real DH option on the roster, just several part-time players from whom they could have cobbled together a decent platoon. Cruz is better than any of those individual options, a destroyer of southpaws who hits right-handed pitching for enough power to keep him in the lineup every day, although spelling him against the best righties wouldn't be a bad strategy.

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Jimenez makes sense for the Orioles 

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
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The Baltimore Orioles get a mild bargain in Ubaldo Jimenez -- four years for close to $50 million -- by waiting out the market, although the loss of the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft stings, and Ubaldo himself is still a volatile asset. That said, I think it's a positive move for them even with the associated risk.

Jimenez spent two-and-a-half years with Cleveland, and the first two years were awful, with a 5.10 ERA in 340 2/3 innings. Early in 2013, however, Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway worked on speeding up Ubaldo's delivery and keeping him more online toward the plate when he strides. There were flashes of the new Ubaldo in the first half of 2013, and in the second half, he was dominant, punching out 100 against 27 walks in 84 innings.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Top 20 impact prospects for 2014 

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
9:35
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Nick CastellanosBrian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesThe path is clear for Nick Castellanos to get at-bats and improve Detroit's defense.
My top 100 prospects ranking from late January focused on long-term career value, which meant the list included many teenaged prospects who easily could be five years from producing any positive value for a major league team. If we're looking just at this upcoming season, however, the rankings are very different, and I've produced my ranking of the top 20 impact prospects for 2014.

After those 20, I've listed a number of other players who could come up this season and be above replacement-level if they get the chance.

I do not rank players with experience in a foreign major league as prospects, though those players are still officially considered rookies in MLB when they debut here.

If I included them on my rankings, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu would be 1-2 on this list;

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Top MLB teams at each position 

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
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Cardinals StartersLeon Halip/Getty ImagesFor starting pitching depth throughout an organization, it's tough to top St. Louis.
For this post I was asked to take a look at every position and pick which team has the most overall talent if you look at the organization as a whole. So if a team has a strong shortstop at the major league level but no depth within the organization, it could come in behind a team with a decent shortstop but a couple of really good prospects at the position. So think of this as the sum of current MLB talent plus what's in the pipeline.

It's worth a reminder that strong depth at one position is a good way to fill holes via trades. Anybody saying too much talent at one position doesn't matter because you can't play three shortstops is clueless from a business and personnel standpoint. As a note: outfield and pitching have been consolidated because of how we calculate value at those positions.

Catcher

The Yankees have more prospect depth at the catcher position than any other team, with Gary Sanchez a potential star if he can improve his receiving enough to remain at the position, while J.R. Murphy is emerging as at least a strong backup. Austin Romine should be getting regular playing time in the majors down the stretch, at least once the Yankees decide their playoff odds are too low to ... well, playing Chris Stewart isn't exactly pushing them toward the playoffs anyway, so why not just play Romine and see what you've got?

That said, the Pirates probably have more present value than the Yankees because of Russell Martin, with Tony Sanchez probably a solid major league backup and 18-year-old Reese McGuire among the game's top dozen or so catching prospects. There is so little catching in full-season minor leagues right now that you would be hard-pressed to identify 10 clear everyday starters without reaching down to short-season leagues.

First base

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Details of the trade

Baltimore Orioles get: RHP Bud Norris

Houston Astros get: OF L.J. Hoes, LHP Josh Hader, competitive balance draft pick

The Orioles' acquisition of Bud Norris gives them needed starting pitching depth, especially with Jason Hammel going on the DL on Wednesday, but also could help bolster their right-handed relief corps, if everyone comes back healthy and available. The Astros get a 4A position player, who gets on base, and a lottery-ticket lefty with arm strength but a long ways to go.

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Orioles pay steep price for K-Rod 

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
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The Baltimore Orioles' acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez makes some sense, but the price they paid -- third base prospect Nick Delmonico -- for a rental reliever feels excessive, while the Milwaukee Brewers get more than they should have for two months of K-Rod's work.

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More Futures Game notes 

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
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Taijuan WalkerMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireTaijuan Walker has added a cutter to his arsenal, though his curveball remains fringy.
As promised, here are a few more notes and observations from Sunday's 15th annual MLB Futures Game. If you missed my first batch, here they are.

• I mentioned that Baltimore's Henry Urrutia took a very good BP on Sunday, so here's some more detail. His approach overall is very quiet, with great balance throughout and more strength in his wrists and forearms than you'd guess based on his lean frame. He rotates his hips well for more power and gets very good extension through the zone. His at-bats in the game weren't great -- small sample, of course -- and he's not a good athlete. But as a second-half DH option for the Orioles, who have received a repulsive .197/.261/.382 line from their designated hitters and have taken to using the likes of Nolan Reimold in that spot -- this year, he could easily provide an upgrade.

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