I'm still recovering this morning from the news that Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein on the 1970s hit "Welcome Back, Kotter," died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 60.
I've already made a "note from his mother" reference to friends, so you won't be the first.
(If you're too young to know what I'm talking about, there's nothing I can do for you. We'll just move on.)
Baseball America released its prospect handbook, Here's the top 31 for the Orioles (Yes, 31. The book includes an insert with an additional player.)
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Manny Machado, SS
3. Jonathan Schoop, INF
4. Parker Bridwell, RHP
5. LJ Hoes, INF/OF
6. Nicky Delmonico, 3B/1B
7. Ryan Flaherty, INF
8. Jason Esposito, 3B
9. Xavier Avery, OF
10. Dan Klein, RHP
11. Mike Wright, RHP
12. Clay Schrader, RHP
13. Joe Mahoney, 1B
14 Aaron Baker, 1B
15. Ryan Berry, RHP
16. Matt Angle, OF
17. Bobby Bundy, RHP
18. Kyle Simon, RHP
19. Glynn Davis, OF
20. Tim Berry, LHP
21. Gabriel Lino, C
22. Roderick Bernadina, OF
23. Ryan Adams, 2B
24. Tyler Townsend, 1B
25. Brandon Waring, 3B/1B
26. Oliver Drake, RHP
27. Trent Mummey, OF
28. Wynn Pelzer, RHP
29. Kyle Hudson, OF
30. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
31. Zach Davies, RHP
I'm still not sure whether this list illustrates how well the Orioles drafted last year, or how few prospects are in the system.
Also, I'm still intrigued that Flaherty, the Rule 5 pick, is regarded as the seventh-best prospect in the organization. Does his high ranking illustrate how the Orioles made a shrewd move in selecting him last month, or ... you know?
Hudson is 29th, but he's not currently in the organization after being designated for assignment and given his release. The Orioles might re-sign him.
They evaluated Hudson and Angle last season, then signed Endy Chavez and traded for Jai Miller. Interesting.
This is a big year for Mahoney and Townsend, two injury-prone first basemen who no longer have to hurdle Brandon Snyder. They might have to fend off Baker, the power-hitting first baseman obtained from the Pirates in the Derrek Lee trade. But first things first. No strained obliques or pulled hamstrings.
Delmonico is sixth on this list, but he could climb a few notches. He lasted until the sixth round of the 2011 First-Year Players Draft, and the Orioles think they got a steal. They gave him a $1.525 million bonus. Baseball America rates him as the best pure hitter and power hitter in the Orioles' draft class.
Davies, a 26th-round pick who had committed to Arizona State, is considered a sleeper who draws comparisons to Mike Leake.
Before closing for the morning, I want to address three subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Epstein or the Baseball American prospect handbook.
Former Orioles reliever Koji Uehara may have given Wei-Yin Chen a Baltimore sales pitch, but Tsuyoshi Wada told reporters during his introductory press conference that he didn't call Uehara until after he signed. I'll assume that he was being truthful.
Could Uehara return to the Orioles? It's a possibility. They want to add a late-inning reliever and they've talked to the Rangers. And Uehara's first preference is to pitch for the Orioles.
Also, Brad Bergesen assumed that he was out of minor league options, but it turns out that he has one left. If the Orioles don't trade him - and he brings a certain appeal to other clubs - and he doesn't find room in the bullpen, he could be part of a crowded rotation at Triple-A Norfolk.
The Tides' rotation would burst at the seams if the Orioles signed Edwin Jackson, forcing another young starter to the minors, but I still don't think it's going to happen. His price would have to come way down. The years aren't necessarily the issue, just as they wouldn't have been with Prince Fielder. It's the cost. The Orioles aren't likely to outbid their competitors, no matter how much they like him.
The Orioles were a long shot to sign him when the free-agent market opened, and they're still a long shot.