Delmarva Shorebirds manager Ryan Minor is understandably excited about the opening day roster for the Orioles’ low-A affiliate. Minor’s lineup includes two of Baseball America’s top 5 Baltimore positional prospects in corner infielders Nicky Delmonico and Jason Esposito as well as a host of intriguing young sleeper candidates. But it may be the ‘Birds starting rotation, announced yesterday as a six-man group, that ends up the most intriguing story line.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect from the six starters breaking camp with Delmarva.
Dylan Bundy – RHP | 11/15/1992
What more can be said about the Orioles’ 2011 #1 draft pick? Dylan Bundy, brother of fellow Baltimore farmhand Bobby, complements a mid-to-upper 90s fastball with a plus cutter, an above average curve and a developing change. The 19 year old is considerably more polished than the average high school draft pick and possesses legitimate ace upside.
Many evaluators believe that Bundy has the talent to start at the AA level, but Baltimore’s development team has decided to ease him into his first professional season. Because he will be capped at roughly 125 innings in 2012, Bundy will start out on short stints with Delmarva and will be mostly limited to a fastball/change combo. The use of his cutter and curve would allow Bundy to easily dominate A-ball hitters, but forcing him to focus on changing speeds and perfecting the release of his change-up will be critical to his development. Bundy will make Delmarva’s opening day start on Thursday, April 5th at Asheville. Catch the young hurler with the Shorebirds while you can because he won’t be around long.
Tim Berry – LHP | 3/18/1991
At 6’3, 185, the 21-year-old Berry still carries some physical projection. Drafted in the 50th round of the 2009 draft for a considerably overslot 125K bonus, the lefty was viewed as a project with some upside. Berry underwent Tommy John surgery immediately after the draft but was able to make a successful pro debut out of the bullpen in the GCL toward the end of the 2010 season.
Baltimore was aggressive with Berry in 2011, pushing the then-20-year-old into the starting rotation of full-season Delmarva despite having pitched just 20 innings over the preceeding 1.5 years. The results were mixed. Berry threw 116.2 innings spanning 26 starts to an ERA of 5.17 (and a FIP of 4.53). The LHP struggled with his command and mechanics and didn’t show a deep enough arsenal to consistently overmatch hitters, but his pre-season goal was simply getting through a full pro season healthy. Berry will repeat A-ball with the Shorebirds in 2012 and attempt to refine his mechanics and put his surgery behind him for good. Look for Berry to work in a viable third pitch to work off of his 88-92 MPH fastball and potential above average curve.
Parker Bridwell – RHP | 8/2/1991
Parker Bridwell may carry more upside than any pitcher in Baltimore’s system not named Bundy. Bridwell (6’4, 190) was a three-sport star in high school and combines physical projection with a rapidly improving understanding of pitching as he continues to focus solely on baseball. Bridwell offers a low-to-mid 90s fastball with heavy sinking action and a developing cutter, curve, and change.
Bridwell is still learning to use and command his pitches, but many scouts believe he could end up a #2/3 starter in the big leagues if he can harness his physical tools. He posted a nearly 3/1 K/BB ratio over 52.2 IP with short season Aberdeen before making a brief stint in Delmarva to end 2011. Although he has not established a track record of pro success in terms of ERA, just about any scout who has seen Bridwell would peg him as one of the names to watch for the Birds in 2012.
Tyler Wilson – RHP | 9/25/1989
Wilson is a polished right-hander out of the University of Virginia and Midlothian High School. Wilson was one of UVA’s best relievers, but will be used for now as a starter in Baltimore’s system. Wilson appeared in two GCL games after being drafted in the 10th round last year before making six successful starts for short-season Aberdeen. The 22-year-old lives off of above average command of a low-90s fastball. He also utilizes a curve and change-up, but neither pitch projects to be above average at the ML level. Wilson’s delivery features some deception, but his mechanics and arm action might not hold up well over a starter’s work load. Wilson should succeed in an A-ball rotation, but he’ll need to improve his secondaries and prove he can stay healthy in order to avoid a move to the pen as he climbs the ladder.
Eduardo Rodriguez – LHP | 4/7/1993
A soon-to-be 19-year-old lefty signed as an amateur FA out of Venezuela, Eduardo Rodriguez is one of the top international prospects in a system traditionally weak in the area. A 6-2, 175 pound lefty, Rodriguez utilizes a smooth and deceptive delivery to establish an 88-92 MPH fastball and a curve that flashes plus but can get flat at times. Rodriguez tends to throw strikes but could use better placement in the strike zone.
With room for a little strength on his frame, it’s possible that Rodriguez could sit in the low-90s down the line. Some scouts believe he has mid-rotation upside but, as with many young starters, Rodriguez’ development will be predicated on the development of his change-up and his ability to command his pitches against more advanced hitters. Time, however, is on his side – the young lefty will not celebrate his 19th birthday until the weekend after Opening Day.
Miguel Chalas – RHP | 6/27/1992
Another international Orioles prospect, Miguel Chalas is a slightly under-sized (6’0, 170) right-hander from the Dominican Republic. Despite the small frame, Chalas touches the mid-90s and sits 91-94 with the fastball in short stints. He complements the pitch with a slurvy breaking pitch that shows promise but is inconsistent. His limited repertoire and small frame makes an eventual move to the bullpen seem inevitable for some scouts, but Delmarva’s six-man rotation will allow him a spot at the beginning of the season.
Chalas’ biggest challenges as a member of the 2012 Shorebirds rotation will be to maintain velocity in the middle innings and show enough with his secondaries to turn a pro lineup over multiple times. Even if the starter experiment fails, Chalas could end up a serviceable reliever in MLB. His performance in full-season Delmarva will play a pivotal role in directing the course of his development.