This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.
In a Nutshell: Pitching should be the strength of the Orioles’ freshman class of 2015, with no fewer than six pitchers nearly ready to take a big bite out of The Show. The more advanced hitters in the system don’t have huge ceilings but they could develop into solid complementary players.
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP: Bundy’s meteoric rise through the minors was halted by Tommy John surgery and he missed the entire 2013 season. The 22-year-old right-hander returned to the mound in 2014 but appeared in just nine games. He’ll hopefully enter 2015 with no restrictions and open the year in Double-A. If his elbow appears sound, and his command returns, he could be a solid contributor in Baltimore during the second half of the year. He still has top-of-the-rotation potential.
2. Christian Walker, 1B: The first base picture in Baltimore is muddy, thanks to the on-field and off-field questions surrounding incumbent Chris Davis, who had a nightmare season in 2014. The presence of the more versatile Steve Pearce also contributes to the logjam and he’s coming off of a breakout year. Still, Walker could find at-bats if one of the two above-mentioned players stumbles or gets hurt. He slugged 46 home runs over the past two seasons and has also shown the ability to hit for a solid batting average.
3. Tim Berry, LHP: Aside from Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles’ starting rotation is devoid of southpaws so Berry could be one of the first starters recalled from the minors in the event of an injury. The slightly-built hurler has been durable over the past four seasons, pitching more than 111 innings in each campaign. He succeeds by keeping the ball down, throwing strikes and mixing his pitches.
4. Dariel Alvarez, OF: The Orioles tentatively (or cheaply) dipped their toe into the Cuban waters over the past couple of seasons by investing in the second tier of the player market, and acquired Henry Urrutia and Alvarez. The latter outfielder has shown a natural hitting ability with a .311/.336/.484 slash line during his two-year pro career in North America. He split 2014 between Double-A and Triple-A and should be ready to contribute in The Show in 2015 but his modest power output and low on-base percentage could limit his overall ceiling.
5. Zach Davies, RHP: There are a few right-handed pitching prospects that could contribute at the big league level in 2015 but Davies gets the nod here because of his solid mix of command/control, ground-ball-inducing skills, and solid splits against left-handed hitters. He’s “undersized” at 6-0, 150 pounds but he’s pitched at least 114.1 innings in each of his three pro seasons and is ready for Triple-A at the age of (soon to be) 22.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.