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Led by Bundy, O's prospects ready for chance

Gausman, Rodriguez, Schoop looking to follow in right-hander's path

Led by Bundy, O's prospects ready for chance play video for Led by Bundy, O's prospects ready for chance

The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.

The 2012 season was an active one for the Orioles and their farm system.

Three of the club's top prospects -- Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Xavier Avery -- made their big league debut, and prospect movement permeated the system as a whole.

That type of organizational dynamic bodes well for the future, given that it's been made clear to the current crop of prospects that if they perform, there will be an opportunity awaiting at the next level.

"Last year was such an interesting year because we moved so many people," director of player personnel John Stockstill said. "Every prospect, every player, they only ask one thing -- that you give them a chance. And last year, the Orioles were putting players in the big leagues. And winning."

Indeed they were. The infusion of youth -- specifically, Machado -- helped lead the club to its first playoff appearance since 1997.

The top-level talent, especially on the mound, remains. Bundy is arguably the best pitching prospect in the big leagues, and he's coming off a year in which he accomplished the rare feat of making a Major League roster in his first full professional season out of high school.

But Bundy isn't the only arm that should have fans excited. Kevin Gausman, the club's top pick in 2012 out of LSU, already has two established pitches in his fastball and changeup. If he can hone his command -- and maybe establish a slider, as well -- the O's could have another top-of-the-rotation threat lurking in their farm system.

There are two other solid arms in Eduardo Rodriguez and Branden Kline (the club's second pick in 2012), who are a little farther away from cracking the big league level.

Offensively, the fact that Machado is (almost certainly) in the big leagues to stay brings down the overall value of the system a bit, but infielders Nick Delmonico and Jonathan Schoop offer hope.

Even so, the impact of Delmonico and Schoop likely won't come for another year or two. L.J. Hoes and Avery, a pair of athletic outfielders with good instincts, may be better options for big league time in 2013.

Top 20 prospects

Bundy is about as good a prospect as you'll find, so naturally he tops the MLB.com rankings for the club. In fact, he's rated the top pitching prospect in baseball and the No. 2 overall prospect behind Texas' Jurickson Profar.

Like Bundy, Gausman appears poised to progress quickly. The tall (6-foot-4) righty made three starts last season with high Class A Frederick.

The club's top hitting prospects are Schoop, Delmonico, Hoes and Avery, in that order.

Powerful right-hander Mike Wright, who is ranked ninth, moved quickly to Double-A last season, and the club is hoping for progress in his secondary pitches.

As for down-the-road prospects, Adrian Marin and Josh Hader project well. The club is especially pleased with Hader, a lanky lefty with very good command of his pitches. He has the talent to move up in the organization, but he's just 18, so don't be surprised if Baltimore takes it slowly with him.

Righties Tim Berry, Devin Jones and Zach Davies are also solid arms that could make an impact in the Minors in 2013.

Under the radar

The Orioles have high hopes for Torsten Boss, their eighth-round pick out of Michigan State in 2012 (the highest-drafted Spartan since 2002). Boss has shown the ability to hit for both power and average, and he burst onto the professional scene with a pair of homers for the Aberdeen IronBirds in just his second game after leaving college.

Boss played primarly third base in college, but the club selected him as an outfielder, though he can play first base as well.

Two other players to keep an eye on are first baseman Christian Walker and right-hander Parker Bridwell. The club is expecting big things from Walker, a fourth-round pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, now that his wrist injury is behind him. As for Bridwell, he didn't put up the numbers in his first two full seasons, but the stuff is there, and he's only 21. This will be a crucial season in his development.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year

With Machado taking his cuts at the big league level, it's time for Schoop to take over as the one producing the offensive buzz around the farm system. It isn't certain which position he'll play in the long term, but he has the tools and athleticism to succeed wherever the O's decide to put him. The club thinks very highly of Schoop, and his bat speed and hand-eye coordination would seem to translate to any level of pitching. Down the road, he and Machado could form one of the more offensively potent middle infields in baseball -- if the club opts to use Schoop at second.

Pitcher of the Year

We'll skip the obvious here and assume that Bundy will be making an impact at the big league level in 2013, and Gausman figures to progress quickly as well, but it's Rodriguez who could have the breakout year. He established his fastball in the mid-90s last season, and he puts plenty of movement on his two-seamer, as well. If Rodriguez can improve his other pitches and continue to throw strikes, he could be poised to be the next in a line of solid, young Orioles arms garnering praise.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }