The Orioles were easily one of the most difficult teams to put projected minor league rosters together, as they have been hoarding minor-league free agents, specifically pitchers from the Indy leagues, all off-season.
Here are some things I've noted:
1. I would think it's safe to assume that both L.J. Hoes and Xavier Avery will be taking starting outfield spots for AAA Norfolk. That leaves Lew Ford, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Dickerson, Jason Pridie and Chris Pettit fighting over two or three spots. I think they lean towards keeping Ford and Robinson in the organization, and will have no problem sending Pettit to Bowie, where they need outfield depth. Dickerson and Pridie are both decent players who, in the right situation, could be a 4th outfielder possibility, but there just may not be room for them in this organization.
2. It will be interesting to see what they do with the three fringy big-league level 1B that they have signed to minor league contracts: Conor Jackson, Steve Pearce, and Travis Ishikawa. Jackson and Pearce both play the outfield and are better offensively, which make them a little bit more valuable than Ishikawa, but I still think they give Ishikawa a shot.
3. Where will Dylan Bundy start? It's either Bowie or Norfolk and quite frankly, it's a toss up to me. That being said, I don't see what would be wrong with sending him to Bowie for the short term to make sure he is still developing properly, before giving him a call-up to Norfolk and eventually the big leagues, probably by July. If he starts in Bowie, that one-two punch with Gausman will be one of the most impressive in the minor leagues.
4. Jonathan Schoop is a better prospect than Ryan Flaherty but I think the Orioles want to give both adequate reps at second base. Whether or not Schoop starts at AA or AAA probably depends on the status of Brian Roberts more than anything.
5. They have an abundance of catching depth at the AA/AAA levels, and though I'm sure they would like to keep most of it, there's only so many roster spots. Luis Exposito and Caleb Joseph will most likely be the two go-to guys at their respective levels, but Chris Robinson, Luis Martinez, Brian Ward, Allan de San Miguel, Jose Gil, and Scott Thomas are all capable veteran backups.
6. Adam Greenberg is an interesting case. He's the little guy who got hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance about five years ago, and ESPN made a big deal about his story last year, leading to a publicity stunt at bat with the Marlins during the last week of the year. Well, the Orioles are giving him a shot with a minor league contract, but I can't see any chance he cracks the AAA roster. I originally had him penciled in as outfield depth in Bowie, but he says that it's AAA or bust.
7. Jason Esposito really struggled offensively last year, but he is still a good player and prospect, and since there is not much competition for him at 3B in Frederick, he will probably win the job. This will be a huge year for his development.
8. David Quinowski, Michael Recchia, Kyle Mertins, Tom Boleska, Marcel Prado, Chase Johnson, and Zach Staniewicz are the guys that the Orioles signed as bullpen depth out of the independent leagues. I'm not sure there's a full-season roster spot for all of them, but I'd keep an eye on Quinowski, who pitched for AA Richmond in 2011, as well as Recchia, who put up good numbers in the Yankees organization in 2010 and 2011.
10. Maybe I'm being a little agressive with Adrian Marin, but I love the kid. I think he's one of the most underrated prospects in baseball, and he didn't embarrass himself in his short stint with Delmarva last year, so why not give him another shot there?
Overall Farm System Grade: B-
Top 10 Prospects
1. Dylan Bundy, Bowie
2. Kevin Gausman, Bowie
3. Jonathan Schoop, Bowie
4. Nicky Delmonico, Frederick
5. Adrian Marin, Delmarva
6. Branden Kline, Delmarva
7. Eduardo Rodriguez, Delmarva
8. LJ Hoes, Norfolk
9. Jason Esposito, Frederick
10. Christian Walker, Delmarva
HM: Mike Wright, Xavier Avery, Michael Ohlman, Roderick Bernadina, Parker Bridwell, Tim Berry