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Orioles Prospect Primer: Harvey on the rise04/01/2014 10:00 AM ET
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2014 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Full-season debutant: Hunter Harvey, RHP
Baltimore's previous two first-round picks, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, both flew through the system and reached the Majors in their first full pro seasons. Harvey, the 22nd overall pick in 2013, may not move so quickly, but he could join them as an elite pitching prospect in short order.
Signed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Harvey began adding size and strength soon after the Draft. Now weighing in at 190 pounds, he can reach the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball and also has an above-average curve and a developing changeup.
The changeup will be a point of focus when he opens with Class A Delmarva in 2014, where he will continue the process of learning how to set up hitters and execute in certain situations.
"He's making great strides, getting a lot of repetitions," Orioles player development director Brian Graham said. "In pro baseball, with the throwing programs and the bullpens and the time you spend on the mound, it's significantly more than what you do in a high school program. That repetition is allowing him to do things he's never done before, like commanding the baseball."
Major League-ready: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Rodriguez will return to Double-A Bowie to begin 2014 but could move quickly, especially if he continues to refine his offspeed pitches.
The 20-year-old Venezuelan blossomed into a legitimate prospect last season thanks to an uptick in fastball velocity and strides in his pitchability. The hurler has long featured good command of his fastball and changeup, but his entire repertoire took a step forward in 2013, leading to dominant numbers with Class A Advanced Frederick.
"Eduardo has learned so much about pitching over the last 12 months," Graham said. "That's where his greatest strides have been, understanding swings and what pitch to throw in what situation. Now, he can throw a changeup behind in the count. He's made great strides learning to throw his slider for a strike, as well as just physical maturity and mental maturity."
Rodriguez has shown an ability to consistently improve in the past. If that continues in 2014, he could help push the O's to the playoffs as a mid-rotation starter by the end of the season.
At the crossroads: Branden Kline, RHP
It's been a rough go for Kline as a pro thus far. The 2012 second-round pick missed most of the 2013 season with a broken ankle and has managed just 47 1/3 regular-season innings since signing.
Though Kline had plenty of experience before turning pro while pitching at the University of Virginia, he needs to log innings to work on his changeup and his command, especially if he hopes to reach the Majors as a starter. His low-90s fastball and slider are both quality offerings -- earning 55 and 50 grades from MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo -- but without a third pitch, the right-hander risks falling behind in an Orioles system stacked with starting pitching prospects.
Kline recovered in time to pitch in the Arizona Fall League last year. Though his 10.54 ERA was discouraging, the Orioles considered it a valuable experience for a hurler yet to make it out of Class A. In 2014, Kline could begin with Fredrick, which is also the town from which he hails.
"He's having a good spring and building his innings up," Graham said. "He's been aggressive in the strike zone, and he needs to pound that strike zone. … He's going to be interesting."
More to keep an eye on: Bundy is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, with Graham estimating he could return to game action in June. ... Last year's second-round pick, catcher Chance Sisco, looked sharp at the plate in his pro debut and made strides transitioning from shortstop to backstop. "He's got a pretty good feel so far for the position," Delmarva manager Ryan Minor said. "He's athletic, so that helps. He has a good, strong arm." ... He won't play full-season ball, but 16-year-old right-handed pitcher Ofelky Peralta will be given the chance to compete for a Gulf Coast League roster spot during extended spring training.