Machado, Bundy gems of Orioles' farm system

Machado, Bundy gems of Orioles' farm system

BALTIMORE -- While executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has been working to build organizational depth and add pitching through the Draft, the Orioles' two prospects at the top of their farm system have become two of the best in all of baseball.

Shortstop Manny Machado and pitcher Dylan Bundy, ranked the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects in the Orioles' farm system by MLB.com, are moving through the Minor Leagues en route to Major League careers that could start as soon as next season.

In the process, they've been shooting up prospect rankings. Machado is ranked fourth and Bundy is eighth in MLB.com's list of the Top 100 prospects.

Around the top duo, the O's have solid depth with position players, and Duquette hopes their work in this year's Draft will bring the pitching up to par.

2012 Draft Central

"If you look at our roster, it is relatively young and our position players are young and stable," Duquette said. "If we can get some more consistent starting pitching, it will make us a better ballclub."

Bundy has garnered more attention than Machado this year. The 6-foot-1 righty was taken No. 4 overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, making him the top high school player selected.

With his high-90s fastball, devastating curveball and developing changeup, Bundy mowed through the competition at Class A Delmarva. In 30 innings spread over eight starts, Bundy did not allow an earned run. He gave up just five hits and two walks while striking out 40.

The dominant streak slowed slightly when Bundy was promoted to Class A Advanced Frederick, where he has given up three earned runs on nine hits and a walk in 10 innings. But that speed bump has not been nearly enough to quell the optimism.

While many have speculated that Bundy could pitch in the Majors this season, the O's remain committed to bringing him along slowly. Bundy will likely make five-inning starts for the foreseeable future before eventually being capped at 125-130 frames.

While Machado's numbers have not been as awe-inspiring as Bundy's, there is no less positivity surrounding his future.

Machado was drafted third overall by the O's in 2010 and hit .257 between Delmarva and Frederick last season. He advanced on to Double-A Bowie in 2012 and has hit .239/.333/.371 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 55 games.

Machado has dealt with the typical ups-and-downs. He reached base safely in 17 of 18 games between April 30 and May 19 but has also hit slumps like the one he's in now, with only four hits in his past 46 at-bats entering Wednesday.

The 19-year-old already has tremendous bat speed and is projected to develop more power as he grows physically and learns discipline at the plate.

Machado has shown all of the tools to be a solid defensive shortstop, but many feel he'll outgrow the position. He is already 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds.

While a significant drop from the level of Bundy and Machado, Baltimore has other prospects who have shown some promise.

Among them is Jonathan Schoop, a versatile infielder who the O's signed out of Curacao in the summer of 2008, when he was just 16 years old.

Schoop hit .290 between Frederick and Delmarva last season and has hit .239/.300/.315 with Bowie this season. Like Machado, he is expected to add power as he matures.

One up-and-comer who nearly ditched his prospect status is Xavier Avery.

After being selected in the second round in 2008 and working his way through the Minor League system, Avery was called up and played 15 games with the Orioles in May.

Avery got off to a hot start but cooled over time, finishing the stint with a .217 average. He was plagued by strikeouts, which have been an issue throughout his career. Avery struck out 14 times in 60 Major League at-bats and has added 35 more in 161 Triple-A at-bats this season.

If Avery can get that issue corrected, his speed and defensive ability make him a viable option as at least a fourth outfielder.

Other names to keep an eye on are Nick Delmonico and Jason Esposito, a pair of third basemen drafted in 2011 who are currently with Delmarva.

One of the more interesting prospects in the system is Glynn Davis, a Baltimore native who the O's signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Davis still has a lot to learn, but his top-notch speed makes him a potential contributor in the outfield.

At the Triple-A level, the Orioles have a pair of power bats with strikeout issues in outfielder Jai Miller and first baseman Joe Mahoney.

The Orioles' pitching prospects are considerably bleaker, with 2010 ninth-round selection Parker Bridwell perhaps the best aside from Bundy. Bridwell, a righty, is currently with Delmarva and will likely need until at least 2015 to develop.

Bobby Bundy, who was an eighth-round pick in 2008 and is Dylan's older brother, is currently pitching with Double-A Bowie.

Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.