The Orioles have been criticized for having a weak farm system. When Dan Duquette assumed his position as executive vice president of baseball operations last November, he said it was vital to shore up the minor leagues.
One of the two best players from the Orioles system, Manny Machado, played an unexpected and key role in the team’s success this year.
Here are five who could help in 2012
1) Dylan Bundy
Now considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, Bundy got a surprise call to help the Orioles a few hours after an 18-inning game in Seattle.
Bundy had been unhittable at Delmarva and merely excellent at Frederick and Bowie. While manager Buck Showalter wanted a look at Bundy, in late August, the decision was made not to call him up.
The Orioles wanted him to work on his control after Bowie finished its playoff run. Bundy went off to the Instructional League in Sarasota, Fla.
He got the surprise call to come to Seattle to help a depleted bullpen.
A few days later, Bundy was used in a crucial situation in Boston, and later pitched an inning in Baltimore. He’s allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings.
Bundy will probably start 2013 with Norfolk and perhaps join the Orioles in June.
2) Kevin Gausman
Gausman was the Orioles’ first draft pick in June. He pitched for Aberdeen, Frederick and Bowie, where he teamed with Bundy.
It won’t be the last time.
The Orioles were impressed with his velocity and maturity. A self-assured 21-year-old, Gausman will probably start next season at Bowie and he could be in Baltimore late in the summer.
The Orioles hope that Gausman is their last high draft pick for some time. He’s one they’re very high on.
3) L.J. Hoes
Like Bundy, the Orioles weren’t going to call Hoes up in September, but after Nick Markakis was injured, they reconsidered. Hoes lives in Mitchellville, Md., not far from Baltimore, and was the third round pick in 2008.
Hoes mostly watched in the three weeks he was with the club. After he was moved up from Bowie to Norfolk, Hoes batted .300.
The 22-year-old may not start the season with Baltimore, but he’s currently the best position prospect in the system.
4) Xavier Avery
Unlike Machado, Avery is still a rookie by major league standards. His 103 plate appearances were 27 short of the number needed to disqualify him.
Avery batted .223 in 32 games with the Orioles. His longest stint came in May after Nolan Reimold was hurt.
He showed off some speed; his six stolen bases were third on the club, and lots of enthusiasm.
Avery saw some late action with the team as a pinch-runner. If Nate McLouth and Reimold are both on the club, there may not be an immediate spot for him. He should see more action in 2013.
5) Jonathan Schoop
Hoes and Schoop are currently in the Arizona Fall League. Schoop and Manny Machado were a fine double play combination at Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie.
They were broken up when Machado was recalled to play third.
The Orioles need a second baseman, but at 21, Schoop is still a year away, a scout who has seen him regularly believes.
Philadelphia asked for Schoop when they were offering Joe Blanton. The Orioles declined to part with him.
Schoop, who is playing third base in the AFL, is more comfortable at short than at second. At Bowie, he committed 13 errors at second base and eight more at short after Machado was called up.