When you graduate the MLB Players Choice Rookie of the Year, Ryan Mountcastle, and your system improves, something is going right. The Baltimore Orioles have top-tier talent, depth, high floors, and high ceilings, just about everything you could possibly ask for in a minor league system.
General Manager Mike Elias has stockpiled as much talent up the middle as he can and it shows on this list, with half of the top 26 prospects playing catcher, middle infield, or centerfield. That also comes before the inclusion of the 2022 international signings. With signing day so close to my deadline, I chose not to alter my top 50, however, I would have very likely added the Cuban import infielder, Cesar Prieto, who we could see in Baltimore this year, and centerfielder Braylin Tavera, who received the largest bonus in club history ($1.7 million), had the signings been official earlier.
While the rebuild may not be over quite yet, the club is certainly over the hump and should start to see steady improvement at the major league level in the very near future.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors, but provide minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making a team’s 40-man roster.
1. Adley Rutschman, C, 23, AAA
Reaching AAA Norfolk in August, all Rutschman did was slash .312/.405/.490 in his 185 plate appearances. Striking out just 16.6% of the time while walking 14.6%, he continued to show off the advanced approach that makes him one of, if not the best, overall prospect in baseball. If service time concerns are alleviated in the current labor talks, we likely could see him in the opening day lineup in Baltimore this year. Rutschman is face-of-the-franchise material, and potentially a generational, type of talent.
— Scott Greene (@Scotty_Ballgame) June 2, 2021
2. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, 22, AA
Rodriguez just continues to improve. His changeup took another step forward over the last year, giving him 3 plus pitches. The numbers in 2021 jump off the page, 14.1 K/9 and 5.1 H/9 over 23 starts in High-A and Double-A. For reference, the single season MLB records for each of these categories are 14.2 K/9 by Shane Bieber and 5.1 H/9 by Trevor Bauer both in 2020. I expect Rodriguez to start the year in AA or AAA regardless of service time, but he should be in Baltimore pretty quickly. All of this puts him on the shortlist for best pitching prospect in all of baseball.
3. D.L. Hall, LHP, 23, AA
If not for a stress reaction to elbow tendonitis, we would likely be talking about Hall having a legitimate shot at the opening day rotation in 2022. The Orioles are hopeful he will be healthy for the start of spring training. In his short 31.2 innings in AA, Hall was putting up numbers as just as eye-popping as Rodriguez with a 15.9 K/9 while allowing only 4.5 H/9. Once healthy, it shouldn’t be long before Hall joins the big club.
4. Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B, 20, AA
Just 20 years old, Henderson made his way through 3 levels in 2021. Henderson showed off his plus power and speed combination at both Low-A and High-A before earning 5 games at Double-A Bowie to close the season. Henderson had 1 at bat in the entire 2021 season against a pitcher younger than him, highlighting just how young he was at all 3 stops, and underscoring the impressiveness of the performance.
5. Jordan Westburg, SS/3B, 22, AA
Another big infielder, Westburg followed the same path as Henderson in 2021, spending time at 3 levels. Not quite as powerful or athletic as Henderson, Westburg still held his own at both positions on the left side of the infield and should easily have the power to top 20 HR in Baltimore. I expect Westburg to start back in Bowie, but with a hot start, we could easily see him up in Baltimore by mid-summer.
6. Colton Cowser, OF, 21, Low-A
The 5th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Cowser thoroughly impressed in his 32-game debut. Cowser showed an advanced feel for the strike zone, walking 16.8% of his plate appearances while only striking out 15.4% of the time and while his small sample didn’t show much power, I think he can easily top 20 HR in the future.
— Kurt Moody (@DET_Guru_Kurt) January 13, 2022
7. Coby Mayo, 3B, 20, Low-A
The 6’5” third baseman played all of 2021 at 19 years old, ripping through the FCL before finishing his first season at Delmarva. Mayo has plus raw power and the potential to hit 40+ home runs at the highest level. Mayo showed great discipline at the plate and surprised many by stealing 11 bases. He’s athletic but may end up moving across the diamond to first, but the bat will play there, with no question.
The long wait to see Coby Mayo in action has been well worth it. His numbers through 25 games with Delmarva:
.340/.443/.598 with 5 HR, 8 2B, 3B, 24 RBI, 5-5 in SB attempts.
In 51 total games: 1.026 OPS, 9 HR, 11-11 in SB attempts. That swing 😍pic.twitter.com/XvA2Obc5TI
— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) September 18, 2021
8. Kyle Stowers, OF, 24, AAA
Stowers absolutely broke out in 2021. Finally getting a full season after being drafted in the second round in 2019, Stowers shot all the way to AAA Norfolk on the strength of 27 HR and a 13.8% BB rate. He has plenty of swing and miss, striking out at a 32% clip, but he handled lefties very well, which should mean he can be an everyday regular in the pretty near future.
9. Heston Kjerstad, OF, 22, DNP
I think Kjerstad is likely a few spots higher on this list if he doesn’t miss all of 2021 with myocarditis. He has been cleared to resume baseball activity though and should finally make his debut in 2022. The big powerful OF is still just 22 and will have plenty of time to show off his plus power as he builds from a likely first assignment in the Florida Complex League.
Follow me I posted video of several bp sessions
Thats Kjerstad pic.twitter.com/YqkNWxLOhT
— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) January 21, 2022
10. Kyle Bradish, RHP, 25, AAA
Bradish wasted no time impressing everyone in his Orioles debut in 2021. In his 3 start AA debut, Bradish used his 4-pitch mix, which combines his mid 90’s fastball with a pair of above-average breaking balls. He punched out 26 in just 13.2 innings before being promoted to AAA where he more than held his own. In a pitching starved organization, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bradish in the rotation with the big club by midseason 2022.
11. Connor Norby, 2B, 21, Low-A
A 2nd round pick in 2021, Norby very quickly showed the upside that will make him a potential everyday 2B. I’m starting to feel a bit like a broken record, but Norby has shown great plate discipline, walking 14.7% of his plate appearances, and should have the power to approach 15 HR in the future which makes Norby a solid potential every day 2B down the line.
12. Terrin Vavra, 2B/CF, 24, AA
An injury-plagued 2021 slowed Vavra’s development a bit, but he continued to show his fantastic plate discipline and offensive upside that gives him a high ceiling. He played some centerfield for the first time in 2021 and will likely move around a bit more in 2022 to be as versatile as possible. With a 15.6% BB rate, he’s a top-of-the-lineup bat that you want in the lineup more often than not.
13. Mike Baumann, RHP, 26, MLB
Baumann started 2021 still recovering from a flexor strain in his right elbow, so it was really July before he was stretched out. He allowed 2 runs or less in 9 consecutive starts from July 9 through August 31, before earning his first call-up. His plus fastball/slider combo, as part of his 4-pitch mix gives him a strong shot to start the season in the middle of the Orioles rotation with a good chance to be there for the foreseeable future.
14. Hudson Haskin, OF, 23, High-A
With plus to plus-plus speed and a solid hit tool, Haskin has a high floor as a 4th outfielder. His rank here is based on his potential ability to produce 15-20 HR in the future while providing the athleticism on the basepaths and in centerfield to make him a productive big league regular.
— Bob Phelan (@TheOrioleReport) June 11, 2021
15. Drew Rom, LHP, 22, AA
Posting a 10.0 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9 in 2021, Rom continues to outperform his projections. Without an elite pitch, Rom has continued to keep the ball down in the zone, limit hard contact and show that he belongs in the middle of the rotation. Still projectable, if Rom can add a bit to his low 90’s fastball and continue to improve his off-speed offerings, I could see Rom as a very solid mid-rotation option by 2024.
16. Carter Baumler, RHP, 19, DNP
The 2020 5th round pick out of high school, Baumler had Tommy John surgery in October of 2020. So, while he has yet to make his professional debut, he will play the entire 2022 season at 20 years old, giving him plenty of time to grow and develop. Still with plenty of projection, Baumler could end up with 3 plus pitches when all is said and done, which would give him a shot at the middle of the rotation.
17. Maikol Hernandez, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
At 6’3”, Hernandez is tall, athletic and massively projectable. His professional career got off to a slow start, but he limited his strikeouts and showed a willingness to take a walk, both of which are much more important than hitting a bunch of home runs in your 17-year-old season in the Dominican Summer League.
18. Jahmai Jones, 2B, 24, MLB
Jones struggled after getting the call in September, striking out in 36% of his plate appearances, where he simply looked overwhelmed at the plate. That does not fall in line with his career minor league numbers though, where he has typically limited strikeouts and show good patience, so I’d expect him to compete for the 2B job out of spring training and to be a quick call up if he doesn’t win the job.
19. Zac Lowther, LHP, 25, MLB
A quick glance at Lowther’s numbers in his big league debut and you’d say he struggled. However, that is really skewed by 2 bad outings where he surrendered 14 of the 22 earned runs, he allowed in 4.1 innings. So a bit of an up and down debut, but should certainly have been enough to get Lowther a shot at the back of the rotation out of spring training this year.
20. Darell Hernaiz, SS/2B, 20, Low-A
Listed at 5’10” 155 lbs when drafted, just 2 years later, Hernaiz now measures at 6’1” and 170 pounds and he may not be done. All the growth should allow him to tap into the power potential that could make him a 5th round steal. He showed solid plate discipline in 2021, despite being very raw, the ceiling is high here.
21. Joey Ortiz, SS/2B, 23, AA
Ortiz was just starting to show the kind of power the Orioles expected from the plus defender when he was promoted to AA Bowie last year. Ortiz homered 4 time in his first 40 AA at bats before tearing his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and having season-ending surgery. If that power continues to develop, Ortiz has a likely floor as a utility infielder.
22. Alex Wells, LHP, 24, MLB
Wells closed out his 2021 season with a fantastic start against Boston, earning the win while allowing 2 earned runs over 6 innings. He’s never going to overpower you and he won’t pile up the strikeouts, but he does have plus control and should keep you in ballgames, which should give him a shot to find a home in the back of the Baltimore rotation in 2022.
Alex Wells strikes out Wander Franco with some high heat pic.twitter.com/h5uz0DEoxh
— Locked On Orioles (@LockedOnOrioles) June 20, 2021
23. Samuel Basallo, C, 17, Rookie (DSL)
A big, strong, athletic catcher, with plus power potential, Basallo was one of the youngest players in the Dominican Summer League this past season and he more than held his own. Basallo walked 12.3 % of the time, while only striking out 20.8%, hit 5 HR, and threw out 26% of would-be base stealers, all while not facing one pitch the entire season from a pitcher younger than him. The ceiling is incredibly high.
24. Kevin Smith, LHP, 24, AAA
25. Anthony Servideo, 2B/SS, 22, Low-A
26. Reed Trimble, OF, 21, Low-A
27. John Rhodes, OF, 21, Low-A
28. Luis Gonzalez, OF, 19, Rookie (FCL)
29. Moises Ramirez, 3B, 19, Rookie (FCL)
30. Luis Ortiz, LHP, 19, Rookie (FCL)
31. Zach Watson, OF, 24, AA
32. Yusniel Diaz, OF, 25, AAA
33. Tyler Nevin, 1B/3B/OF, 24, MLB
34. Robert Neustrom, OF, 25, AAA
35. Zach Peek, RHP, 23, High-A
#orioles IF prospect Moises Ramirez handles the 3rd base line like a seasoned vet, then gets the out with an easy toss across. It’s been fun to watch his game develop right in front of my eyes this summer. #future #Birdland #FCL pic.twitter.com/kgEAde3vby
— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) September 9, 2021
This is an interesting tier of players with a few either having made their debut or knocking on the door and a few more than a couple of years away. A sports hernia cut Servideo’s 2021 short, just 20 games into the year. At the time though, he sported a 30% BB rate, which while obviously unsustainable, shows just how incredible his plate discipline is. Trimble is athletic with power potential, so a 20-20 season would not be out of the question. Nevin made his debut in 2021, but after struggling a bit in AAA, no longer looks like a full time regular. Diaz and Hall have seen their values dive over the last year, with neither looking to be an impact player, despite being on the doorstep. Watson, Neustrom, Peek and Stallings could all take a leap forward into tier 3 next year, should they take that next step in 2022. I actually like Peek a lot and see him as the fastest riser in this group, if he starts 2022 in the rotation in Bowie. I’m also very high on Ramirez, the big 3B had 15 extra base hits and slashed (.314/.341/.547) last year and could be right there with Peek in the midseason list. Lastly, I love the upside from Gonzalez and Ortiz, but both struggled in their stateside debut in 2021 and are far enough away that tier 4 is where they belong.
36. Adam Hall, 2B, 22, High-A
37. Garrett Stallings, RHP, 24, AA
38. Jean Pinto, RHP, 21, Low-A
39. Elio Prado, OF, 20, Rookie (DSL)
40. Cadyn Grenier, SS, 25, AAA
41. J.D. Mundy, 1B, 23, High-A
42. Kyle Brnovich, RHP, 24, AA
43. Mishael Deson, OF, 19, Low-A
44. Stiven Acevedo, OF, 19, Rookie (FCL)
45. Johnny Rizer, OF, 25, AA
46. Blaine Knight, RHP, 25, AAA
47. Anderson De Los Santos, 3B, 18, Rookie (DSL)
48. Cesar Alvarez, RHP, 19, Rookie (DSL)
49. Brandon Young, RHP, 23, High-A
50. Jean Carmona, SS/3B, 22, High-A
Tier 5 is typically my favorite. This system is so loaded, that I’m not sure I can say that this year, as Grayson and Adley are just too much fun, however, that doesn’t temper my excitement for this group. While most of this tier is loaded with young talent, Grenier, and Knight are both players that have seen some level of success at different levels in the minors and could quickly re-establish some long term value if they can recreate it. However, the excitement here comes from players like Pinto, Deson, Acevedo, De Los Santos and Alvarez. I’m going to say it now. If Pinto wasn’t 5’11” we would likely be talking a top 15 talent. With a potentially plus splitter and slider, the only question is, if he can hold up to a full season as a shorter starting pitcher. On the other hand, size is certainly not a problem for Acevedo, who stands 6’4.” He played almost all of his stateside debut at 18 and held his own, showing a solid approach, plus power potential and great athleticism for his size. Lastly, Alvarez is another exciting arm to watch. He will play all of next season at 19 and showed a ton of swing and miss in his professional debut in 2021, posting a 12.1 K/9 in the Dominican Summer League.