We all know where the Orioles rebuild started. With a combined record of 101-223 over the last 2 seasons and a bottom 5 farm system, it promised to be an uphill battle to say the least. As top prospect lists and team rankings filtered in over the last few months, the system had improved by leaps and bounds, to rank generally in the top half of the team rankings. With significantly more depth and some potentially elite pieces at the top, the Orioles are likely one more good draft away from a consensus top 10 system.
That being said, taking a look at the prospects in the system right now and the potential MLB pieces that could still be around, the 2025 Orioles could very easily be a contender in the perennially tough AL East. Quickly glancing at the current MLB players, I have to cross my fingers and hope that Trey Mancini makes a full recovery from the devastating Stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis. Obviously, baseball becomes secondary in situations like this, but given that he has been incredibly positive and seems to have a positive prognosis, we’re going to assume he makes a full recovery. That being said, I’m also going to assume he is extended and remains a key leader in the rebuild and will be penciled in, by 2025 at 33-years-old, almost exclusively at first base.
With a very young 40-man roster, the current Orioles could have many non-prospect eligible players that will impact the MLB team. The biggest of those in my opinion is Anthony Santander. I’ve been pushing Santander as a breakout candidate and was ecstatic to see him start to come through on that promise in the second half of 2019. I’m penciling the athletic switch hitter into the middle of the lineup in right field.
Beyond Santander and Mancini, I don’t see much of the current non-prospect 40-man roster making it to 2025. I may still be too high on Chance Sisco, but since we all know who the catcher of the future is, I like Sisco for an additional roster spot. I’d love to think Miguel Castro could take a step forward and become a dominant pen arm being so young, but I’m not confident enough in that to definitively place him as anything more than a maybe.
Now we move to players currently on the 40-man, with remaining prospect eligibility. I see Hunter Harvey as the closer now and in 2025. He may not assume the role immediately, whenever the 2020 season begins, but by I see him in that role by the end of the year and staying there for a while. He will be 30 for the entire 2025 season and if he’s able to stay healthy, the stuff is there to be a dominant arm at the back end of the bullpen. Projecting starting pitching is a bit harder. Both Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin are very intriguing arms on the 40-man roster. I see both as potential backend of the rotation arms, but when looking at a potential 26-man roster in 2025, I doubt either one is still around in the rotation.
I see Austin Hays in a similar place to Harvey, as he should be the centerfielder at the start of the 2020 season. While he wasn’t lighting the world on fire this spring, he showed the immense upside in his 68 at bat cup of coffee at the end of 2019 season and should take the job and run with it. Under contract through 2026 Hays will be in his prime entering the 2025 season and will hopefully be force in the middle of the lineup every day. The last bat on the 40-man that I see impacting the 2025 lineup is Ryan Mountcastle. I’m going to slot him in at DH for now, giving the lineup a bit of flexibility in the outfield. Mountcastle has never really had a position as a professional, but that hasn’t stopped him from hitting at every level and I don’t see that changing. I see him in the middle of the lineup every day, no matter where he plays in the field.
That means to this point, from the current 40-man roster, the 2025 Orioles would shape up as follows…
1B: Trey Mancini
CF: Austin Hays
RF: Anthony Santander
DH: Ryan Mountcastle
Closer: Hunter Harvey
Leaving plenty of prospect spots to be filled from what has become a very solid group at the top of the system. With the top 3 in the system all being well within the consensus top 100, we can immediately slot Adley Rutschman in as the catcher. By 2025, I see no reason he shouldn’t be entrenched as one of the best catchers in baseball. I’m also not stepping too far outside the box by projecting Grayson Rodriguez as the ace and Opening Day starter in 2025. With the potential for two plus plus pitches and four above average pitches, Rodriguez has the makeup and potential to be a frontline starter for a long time. I’m also confident to slot DL Hall immediately in behind Rodriguez at the 2. Hall has shown three above average pitches and with improved control should have no issue being in the top part of the middle of the rotation. This would give the 2025 Orioles a very solid righty lefty combo at the top of the rotation.
Moving down the rankings, I see a few bats that will need to reach their potential if the Orioles hope to contend over the next 5 years. The first of those bats is Yusniel Diaz, who will forever be tied to Manny Machado for Oriole fans. This leaves Diaz with very high expectations and big shoes to fill in a sense. He has yet to fulfill on all the promise and upside, but he still holds 5 above average tools and could easily hit for average and power at the highest level where his strong arm would play well in right field, pushing Santander to left. Second round pick in 2019, Gunnar Henderson, is the other high upside bat that needs to develop for the Orioles to succeed. Knowing the Orioles don’t fear a big shortstop, I would love to say Henderson is the shortstop of the future, but I’m going to pencil him in at third base in 2025. His strong arm and potentially plus power will play at third without a problem, but we should find him on the left side of the infield in Baltimore by 2025 for sure. Another bat that could be a very important part of a good Orioles team is Adam Hall. While he will never be a big bat, Hall posted an OBP of .385 at full season A Delmarva last year and swiped 33 bases. He could play either shortstop or second base right now and could likely stick at short, but it’s best for the Orioles if he is the full time second baseman. Hall should provide stellar defense there and be a solid on base lower third of the order bat.
Moving back to the rotation, an arm I’m a little higher on than some is Zac Lowther. As I said in my pre-season Orioles Top 50 prospects, I think he will continue to outpitch the projections and slot into the middle of the rotation, right behind DL Hall nicely. While Hall doesn’t have any dominant pitches, he does have three above average offerings and has been working to add a slider, giving him a fourth pitch to keep hitters off-balance. Another lefty that I have really come around on lately and I see filling in nicely in the rotation is Drew Rom. A very solid first full season, at full season single A Delmarva, Rom has forced me to take notice. Allowing only 7.8 hits per 9 while striking out 11.5 batters per 9, Rom held opposing batters in check while on the younger end of full season ball. If he can reign in the control and limit the free passes, Rom should find himself in the mid to back end of the rotation with plenty of room to succeed.
That leaves us with the following for Opening Day in Baltimore in 2025:
C: Adley Rutschman
1B: Trey Mancini
2B: Adam Hall
3B: Gunnar Henderson
LF: Anthony Santander
CF: Austin Hays
RF: Yusniel Diaz
DH: Ryan Mountcastle
SP 1: Grayson Rodriguez
SP 2: DL Hall
SP 4: Zac Lowther
SP 5: Drew Rom
Closer: Hunter Harvey
Rather than closing this out by picking a few long shots to fill very important positions, I’m going to finishing building my ideal 2025 Opening Day roster by saying the Orioles need to open up the wallet a little bit and spend. Assuming Henderson shifts to third base, I don’t see the future shortstop on this current team. That’s not to say someone like Cadyn Grenier or Mason McCoy couldn’t competently hold the spot down, or that Darell Hernaiz couldn’t burst onto the scene in his first full season next year. However, a free agent addition or two at the right time can be the key that puts a team over the top. I’m going to allow the same vacant spot in the middle of the rotation. Any Oriole fan will tell you that big splashes in the free agent pitching market have not gone well in Baltimore. But in my opinion, we have the front of the rotation covered in Rodriguez and Hall. Many other options, some mentioned, Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin, as well as some not mentioned yet, Michael Baumann, Alex Wells, Brenan Hanifee, all could easily fill a mid-rotation spot. But let’s open up the wallet a bit and make a difference making signing or trade. That is the way the game is played right now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.