This is my first article since shifting from covering the Rangers system to covering the Orioles. The two teams’ minor league systems and organizational philosophies couldn’t be any more different. The Rangers believe in spending freely in the international market, stocking the minor leagues with both quality and quantity Latin American talent. The Orioles own a globe that seems to be devoid of anything south of Florida.
While I am a huge Orioles fan, and live within an hour of three of their minor league affiliates, I am not always enamored with their player development strategies. What drew me to covering the Rangers is the thing that frustrates me about the Orioles. Baseball America’s international review series, by the excellent Ben Badler, pointed out that the Orioles only signed 5 international free agents in this past signing period. Badler and others point out that Orioles ownership does not prioritize spending on international talent. This outdated and misguided philosophy has put the Orioles at a significant disadvantage and left the Orioles lagging in the talent department.
So how does an organization who doesn’t understand, or doesn’t believe in, the international free agent market try to keep up with more savvy organizations in the year 2017? They must have extraordinary drafts.
With the 2017 MLB Draft on the immediate horizon, here is a look back at the Orioles 2016 draft. A draft that so far has delivered mixed results.
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois, Round 1, pick 27
Sedlock was ranked #2 by our former Orioles prospect writer, and that’s a pretty fair evaluation. I would have ranked him second, behind only Chance Sisco, as well. Sedlock was used heavily in college. As a result, the Orioles chose to ease him into professional ball last season, limiting his appearances to 3 inning stints. Sedlock is said to be an advanced pitcher with a 4 pitch mix. He started the 2017 campaign in Advanced A Frederick. He impressed early, but has been lit up his past few starts. His ERA sits at an unsightly 6.80. It’s still early in Sedlock’s career, and he has time to hone his skills, but his stock has definitely taken a slight step backwards.
Akin joined Sedlock in Frederick this year as the pair skipped the Sally League Delmarva Shorebirds all together. Like Sedlock, Akin was thought to be a polished college pitcher who would develop quickly. He had impressive numbers for Aberdeen last year in limited appearances. He is ranked 5th on our preseason Baltimore Orioles Top 50 Prospects list (ranked by the former Orioles guy). That is not a crazy placement, but I likely would have had him back a few spots. He is finding the Carolina League to be more of a challenge then the New York Penn League, with an ERA north of 5.00, though he is averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Akin has potential, but he’s a long way off.
The Orioles relied heavily on the college ranks in the 2016 draft. He was ranked 8th on our list, which was a fair assessment at the time. However his early season form will probably jump him up the list when it is updated. Hays is an athletic outfielder who could end up sticking in center. He performed well with Aberdeen last year hitting .336 with moderate power. Some wondered if he would have the thump in his bat to warrant being an everyday major leaguer. This year he has built on last years success and is exceeding expectations with Frederick. He is maintaining the high batting average he showed last year, but there has been an uptick in the power numbers. Recently on May 24th he swatted 3 home runs, the first ever trifecta in Frederick Keys franchise history.
Zach Muckenhirn, LHP, North Dakota, Round 11
Muckenhirn didn’t make our preseason top 50. If I had compiled the list, he would have snuck into the middle of the list. He does have dominant stuff, his fastball barely scrapes the low 90’s, but he knows how to pitch. The Orioles sent him to Delmarva to start the year and he is holding his own. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he has potential to develop into a solid back of the rotation starter. If your dynasty league has a place for those types of players, Muckenhirn should be considered.
Jake Ring, OF, Missouri, Round 31
Late round sleeper. Ring is putting up excellent numbers in Low A Delmarva. Preseason he was not on our top 50 list, and frankly, I wouldn’t have identified him as a prospect either. But he is definitely a player worth monitoring now. He is getting on base at a .372 clip and hitting for power as well. He’s a bit old for the league, but not absurdly old. Ring was mentioned as having 4th outfielder upside, but he may be playing himself into more. If he continues to produce as he moves up the ladder, he should be on your radar.