Note: This is the 28th installment in a month-long series previewing every prospect heading to the Arizona Fall League this year. You can see a complete team-by-team schedule of the previews here.
The Baltimore Orioles 2013 Arizona Fall League participants will be playing for the Surprise Saguaros, along with prospects from the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox. The Orioles will be sending eight players to Arizona - four pitchers, a catcher, and infielder and two outfielders.
Tim Berry, LHP - Don't be fooled by the fact that Berry was a 50th round pick in 2009. That's not an indictment on his talent, and the Orioles showed that by giving him $125,000, roughly 8-12th round money. Berry doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he does throw a ton of strikes with three pitches, giving him a chance to compete as a starter. His numbers have fluctuated, but his FIP over the years has indicated that he's been roughly the same pitcher throughout most of his career, having never varied higher than 4.53 or lower than 3.41 in any of his significant stints. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters so he's more vulnerable to balls in play than a lot of starters, but he strikes out enough to keep hitters honest. He profiles as a back-end starter or long-man out of the pen.
Jason Gurka, LHP - If you've been reading this series, you know the drill by now. Old for his level but strikes out a ton of batters and walks a few too many, like so many of the other arms in the AFL this season. Gurka stands out a little bit because he's left handed, and lefties who have swing and miss stuff are definitely worth additional chances. He's a reliever all the way and a strong AFL could put him in the mix for a spot some time in 2014.
Branden Kline, RHP - Kline will be one of the more inexperienced players in the AFL at least from a professional standpoint, having thrown just 47 1/3 since being drafted in the 2nd round in 2012. The AFL will serve as a good chance to catch up on time lost for Kline, and a chance for the Orioles to see if his stuff plays up in short stints, perhaps precipitating a move to a relief role where he starred in college.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP - With Dylan Bundy hurt and Kevin Gausman finishing the year in the majors, Rodriguez is the Orioles top healthy pitching prospect in the minors, which is both a commentary on Rodriguez's ability and an indictment on the state of the Orioles farm system. Rodriguez is a solid pitching prospect, but he's not a potential ace like the other two, although he is getting closer as he gains velocity and strikes out more batters. He should settle in as a mid-rotation starter.
Michael Ohlman - Ohlman hasn't gotten much love over the past five seasons in the Orioles farm system, but his big body behind the plate and patience while at it gave him fighting chance to put something together. He did just that in 2013, finally tapping into his power to hit 29 doubles and 13 home runs to along with a BABIP infused .313 batting average. He's not a .300 hitter, but he could be a .260 hitter with a decent eye and average pop, which gives him a chance to be a backup catcher in the major leagues.
Jonathan Schoop - There was a time not long ago when Schoop was mentioned in the same breath as Manny Machado as the pair played along side one another, with many scouts making comparisons between the two. Machado's brilliance at the major league level should help illustrate just how much hyperbole scouts throw around sometimes. Schoop is a nice little prospect, but he's no where near Machado's class. He struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline and hasn't hit advanced pitching well. He's a solid infielder and can play all three positions, which gives him some value, but there are questions about whether he'll hit enough to play every day.
Dariel Alvarez - The Orioles are sending a pair of Cuban outfielders to the AFL, with the 24-year-old Alvarez being the far lesser of the two. The Orioles handed him $800,000 to sign after he defected despite a lack of industry interest that justified that kind of commitment. He was great in a short stint in the Carolina League then struggled in a short stint in Double-A, neither of which was long enough to really determine anything. The AFL will be a good test to see what the Orioles have in Alvarez.
Henry Urrutia - The 26-year-old Urrutia was much more accomplished in Cuba than was Alvarez, and it showed in the minors this season. Urrutia hit everything in site after being assigned to Double-A Bowie then hit well enough in Triple-A to justify a call-up. He should get playing time in the Orioles outfield next season.