The Orioles' rotation has been much-maligned during the offseason, but I don't think the criticism was deserved. They have some outstanding starting pitching, but they still bolstered their staff with Ubaldo Jimenez. And they may not be done adding arms to the rotation.
Among their starters is right-hander Kevin Gausman, who will be given the opportunity to show his quality repertoire of pitches that includes a 92-98 mph fastball, an excellent changeup, a curveball and a slider that still needs a bit more refinement.
Gausman misses bats because of the deception and variety in his pitches. He can be very tough to hit when everything is working.
Last season in 47 2/3 innings on the O's staff, Gausman pitched in 20 games, starting five. This, year he will likely work solely out of the rotation.
Offensively, Jonathan Schoop may win the second-base job in Baltimore. Schoop (pronounced: Scope) looks taller and leaner than his listed 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame. A right-handed hitter, he can also play shortstop effectively.
PROJECTED 2016 ORIOLES LINEUP
Schoop has to prove he can hit quality pitching. Every time I saw him play in the Arizona Fall League, he showed an ability to hit line drives with barrel-of-the-bat control. Then, suddenly, he would flail at breaking balls, looking foolish. But I think he will eventually gain much more confidence against secondary offerings and ultimately win a big league job at second base.
Michael Ohlman is a catcher-in-waiting for the Orioles. Big and strong at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Ohlman can hit and play defense. He has hit over .300 in his past two Minor League seasons and is a player to watch. He reminds me of the late Gus Triandos, a former O's catcher.
The true strength of the Orioles' system rests with the pitching prospects.
Righty Dylan Bundy had Tommy John surgery this past June and won't be ready to pitch until 2015. Bundy is 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. It was a shock that he needed surgery, as he uses his good frame as a base for sound pitching mechanics. But if everything goes true to form, the first-round pick of the O's in '11 should claim a spot at the top end of the rotation. In fact, many pitchers return from elbow surgery with more velocity and better stuff.
Bundy has a combination of a good delivery from a high arm slot and explosive life on his high-90s fastball. His curveball and changeup round out his arsenal.
I was happy to scout left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez during this past Arizona Fall League. Rodriguez is very fluid and smooth on the mound. He repeats an almost flawless delivery and knows how to pitch.
Rodriguez throws three high-quality, well-developed pitches for strikes. He has a fastball he can throw at anywhere from 88-94 mph by adding and subtracting velocity at will. In addition, he has an above-average slider and changeup.
Once Rodriguez learns how to use more of the corners and gets hitters to chase his outside pitches, the big, durable 6-foot-4 lefty will be a complete pitcher. But at only 210 pounds, I'd like to see Rodriguez add a bit more bulk to withstand the hot-and-humid Baltimore summers.
Another pitcher to watch is 6-foot-6, 215-pound right-hander Mike Wright. The lanky Wright has the type of stuff that can be used either in the rotation or the bullpen. Last year at Double-A Bowie, he made 26 starts and threw to a solid 3.26 ERA. His WHIP was 1.32 because he was fairly hittable.
Hunter Harvey was the Orioles' first-round selection in 2013. He went from the Gulf Coast Rookie League, where he threw 13 1/3 innings, to Class A Short Season Aberdeen, where he logged an additional 12 innings. Overall, he had a composite 1.78 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.
The future is bright for the 6-foot-3, 175-pound right-hander who was signed out of high school in North Carolina. He's only 19 years old.