The long awaited Orioles top 50 prospect list is finally here! Yet again they rank among the bottom five minor league organizations heading into 2017. As someone who has grown up in the greater Washington DC area, I’m all too familiar with the Orioles’ approach when it comes to developing youth within their ranks. Occasionally they’ll find a diamond in the rough in a Manny Machado, Matt Weiters, or Jonathan Schoop but for the most part the O’s look to free agency to contend. One of these seasons the clock may strike midnight on them (or at least the AL East hopes).
You may notice that this list has a deeper fourth tier than most of our other lists. The Orioles have a ton of career minor leaguers and low ceiling utility players, any of which could be called up to the bigs to fit the plug and play style they rely on so much (remember Joey Rickard?).
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 high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
Tier 1: None
1. Chance Sisco, C
Age: 21 (DOB 02/24/1995)
Quietly shooting up the prospect rankings over the last three seasons, Sisco has been known as a contact first catcher with little power and questionable defense. In 2016 he had a breakout year in AA Bowie slashing .320/.406/.422 and the Orioles are adamant that he has made great strides defensively. He would be a tremendous asset at C in OBP leagues with his 9-10% walk rate but I wouldn’t count on him for any power production. It seems they are confident in his ability to play catcher in the bigs and we may see his arrival in May/June depending on whether the Orioles bring back Wieters or not and how Castillo performs.
2. Cody Sedlock, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 06/19/1995)
Taken 27th overall in the 2016 amateur draft, the O’s got a real gem. Sedlock came out of college sporting a four pitch arsenal: a low to mid 90’s sinker, average changeup, classic high 70’s curveball, and an occasionally devastating slider. His off speed stuff needs a lot of work to stay consistent through 6+ innings every five days. Even if they don’t develop into what he needs them to be, his ability to miss bats puts him on track to be a long reliever/spot starter. High floor and a decent ceiling make Sedlock a great pick for any dynasty manager looking to add pitching depth.
3. Hunter Harvey, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 12/09/1994)
If Dylan Bundy is Exhibit A of the Orioles‘ pitcher development woes, Harvey is surely exhibit B. There has always been a ton of hype for Harvey’s stellar Fastball-curveball combo. He consistently challenged hitters his first season in A-ball, posting a k/9 over 10 in 87.2 innings. Missing all of 2015 with arm soreness before opting for Tommy John surgery last June has set his window back to at least 2019, possibly 2020. His stuff is for real, he just needs to develop his changeup into something more than a slow fastball to fulfill his top-of-the rotation projection.
4. Ryan Mountcastle, SS
Age: 19 (DOB 02/18/1997)
Drafted out of high school for his hit tool, this guy can flat out hit. He has great pitch recognition, keeping his K% under 20% through his first full season last year. That doesn’t sound great but he only walked 5.1% of the time. If he can develop a bit of patience at the plate and draw a few more walks, he will be someone to watch closely in the next few seasons. Unfortunately, as is the case with almost all hit-first SS prospects, there is doubt as to whether he will be able to stay at the position (21 errors last season).
5. Keegan Akin, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 04/01/1995)
The Orioles‘ second round pick in 2016, Akin is a potential mid-rotation guy with a fastball that usually sits in the low-to mid 90’s that doesn’t taper in the late innings. Add in an above average changeup and usable slider and you have the makings of someone who could make a name for himself very quickly. For what it’s worth he absolutely blew hitters away in his stint in short season A ball in 2016, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 26 innings along with 26 strikeouts and only 7 walks. I’d expect the Orioles to move him along with Sedlock to AA at some point early this season with a slight-but-possible add to the 40-man late in the year depending on the state of the big league rotation.
6. Trey Mancini, 1B
Age: 24 (DOB 03/18/1992)
3 home runs in 15 MLB plate appearances (1 off of David Price) were a good sign for Mancini owners, but his home run totals are below average for a long term first baseman. He has hit the 20 home run mark each of the last two seasons across 3 minor league levels, with a decent walk rate, but a 22.8 K% last season is a bit worrisome. He is very obviously blocked at 1B but may see some playing time as a part time DH and 1B on Crush’s off days. It’s unlikely he will develop the power to get to 30 home runs consistently so I’d like to see the walks go up and K’s go down before considering him a long term dynasty asset.
7. Anthony Santander, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 10/19/1994)
A power hitting switch hitter is always exciting to have, but since he was selected in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft from the Indians, he will have to make the ridiculous jump from A-ball to the major leagues this season. Considering he had shoulder surgery last fall there is a decent chance he gets sent back to Cleveland by the end of the year. If he can take the heat and stick around, he has a good corner outfield profile with average speed, good pop, and a reliable throwing arm. RF has been a black hole defensively for Baltimore since Markakis left so hopefully Santander can prove his worth.
8. Austin Hays, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 07/05/1995)
Hays was taken in the third round of the 2016 draft mainly for his mature approach at the plate and a glove that plays at all three outfield positions. Above average power with an ability to hit for average has me watching him closely this season. He had no problems last fall in the New York-Penn league posting a .336/.386/.514 in 140 at bats. Barring a setback he should end 2017 in AA Bowie with a shot to make the majors by late 2018 or early 2019.
9. Tanner Scott, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB 07/22/1994)
A power relief prospect with a blazing fastball that touches triple digits and a wipeout slider from the left side give Scott great potential for holds leagues. A slight issue, however, is his control. He posted a fantastic 81 K’s last year in 64.1 innings between high A and AA, but that came with a very ugly 57 walks. 57!! Control is very worrying for pitching prospects but the upside that comes with his plus pitches is too great to ignore. If he can cut the walks in half this season he will quickly find his way in the bullpen at Camden Yards.
10. Garrett Cleavinger, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB 04/23/1994)
You could really put Scott and Cleavinger at the same rank, but I gave the edge to Scott because his velocity and movement give him a better chance at the high leverage situations. Cleavinger has lackluster control as well posting 102/34 K/BB between low and high A over 76 innings last year. His lack of a third pitch make him a true reliever with late inning potential.
11. Aneury Tavarez, OF
Age: 24 (DOB 04/14/1992)
Another Rule 5 pick, Tavarez has to stay on the 25 man roster all season this year. He will see a lot of play in pinch running situations due to his above average speed. He posted only 19 doubles in AA last year because he stretched 13 of them into triples over 385 AB’s. Good baserunning instincts give him high SB potential for those who need it.
12. Jomar Reyes, 3B
Age: 19 (DOB 02/20/1997)
As a 19 year old in High A, Reyes struggled to put the ball in play in 2016, slashing a .228/.271/.336 line with 10 homers over 498 AB’s. He still has a long way to go in terms of his approach but he has true raw power grading out around 60. The 30 home run potential at a CI spot makes Reyes a good long term stash.
13. Ofelky Peralta, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 04/20/1997)
Yet another power pitcher who lacks a feel for the strike zone. However, Peralta has decent secondary pitches in a passable slider and inconsistent slider. As he matures and develops his other stuff, his mid to high 90s fastball can eventually get him into a mid-rotation spot. 101/60 K/BB over 103.1 low-A innings isn’t fantastic but his arsenal gives him a decent floor and high ceiling going forward.
14. Matthias Dietz, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 09/20/1995)
The 2016 Rawlings Junior College Pitcher of the Year, Dietz stands at 6’5″/220 lb. with a mid to high 90’s fastball. He has potential to burn innings for the Orioles as a back end starter or reliever. His lack of secondary pitches led to a less than impressive showing in the New York-Penn league last fall, where he posted a ugly 8/10 K/BB over 18.1 innings. Hopefully that was just a small sample size and not indicative of his ability.
15. Cedric Mullins, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 10/01/1994)
A speedy switch hitter with good baserunning skills. He posted 37 doubles, 10 triples and 30 SB in 36 attempts over 559 AB’s last season in High-A. He also hit 14 home runs but I wouldn’t count on him to maintain that production. He’s mainly a high BABIP OF with aggressive tendencies on the basepaths.
16. DJ Stewart, OF
Age: 23 (DOB 11/30/1993)
Stewart has a very similar profile to Mullins, he’s just not as aggressive on the basepaths and not as versatile defensively. A short, compact swing leads to a good amount of doubles. He’s got a decent eye as well, posting a 15% walk rate across Low and High-A. Potential to push for the MLB in two or three seasons if his defense improves.
17. Chris Lee, LHP
Age: 24 (DOB 08/17/1992)
Acquired from the Astros in 2015, Lee has historically been a wild pitcher. He started pitching to contact more and found success due to good movement on his fastball. His secondary pitches are lacking so his already low K/9 became an abysmal K rate, posting a 3.33 K/9 in 51.1 innings in 2016. When he does make the MLB it will likely be as a middle reliever/innings eater.
18. Alex Wells, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 02/27/1997)
Wells really impressed in his first professional stint where he posted 50/9 K/BB over 62.2 Low-A innings. He has a high floor due to his control and above average changeup. A lack of velocity on his fastball holds him back. Starting in the bigs will require better breaking pitches to keep hitters guessing.
19. Brian Gonzalez, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 10/25/1995)
After a rough 2015 in Low-A, Gonzalez came back in 2016 and cut his ERA from 5.71 to 2.50 while increasing his workload from 105.2 IP to 147.2 IP. If he can make similar strides in 2017 while gradually improving his secondary pitches to compliment a low 90s sinking fastball and reduce his walks, he could grow into a viable MLB starter.
20. Cristian Alvarado, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 09/20/1994)
Alvarado made a huge jump in 2016 posting 148 IP after throwing just 64 innings in 2015. He almost tripled his workload while also increasing his K/9 by over 2 full strikeouts from 6.89 to 9.00. Such an increase in innings is definitely worrisome, especially for an organization with so many pitcher development issues as the Orioles have had. If he can match the innings he posted last year with no issue, Alvarado will start to make a name for himself.
21. Cole Billingsley, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 05/29/1994)
Good defensive instincts and base stealing ability give him a floor as a fourth outfielder. He started his pro career well in 2016 going 14/15 in stolen base attempts while slashing .286/.353/.375 over 217 PA’s in short season A ball. Add in a 9.2% walk rate and he has the potential to be a reliable source of SB’s if he can develop his bat to be MLB-ready.
22. Christian Walker, 1B
Age: 25 (DOB 03/28/1991)
After slashing .257/.324/.423 over 592 PA’s in AAA in 2015, Walker posted a very similar .264/.321/.437 line over 552 PA’s last year. He didn’t make the steps he needed to force his way onto the big league roster. He will likely get a shot at some point this year but we probably know who he is and what he can do at this point.
23. Aderlin Rodriguez, 1B/3B
Age: 25 (DOB 11/18/1991)
A big lumbering slugger, he was released by the Mets after the 2015 season after failing to really show any of his raw power over five seasons in their system. Over a full season with the High-A Frederick Keys last year he posted a .304/.359/.532 line while smashing 26 home runs over 542 PA’s. He doesn’t have the mobility to stay at third base so he is way down on the 1B depth chart in this system. He will have to force his way onto the Orioles‘ roster with his home run numbers if he wants a shot.
24. Ryan Meisinger, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 05/04/1994)
Listed at 6’4″ 240 lbs Meisinger is slowly making a name for himself as a powerful bullpen arm. He emerged as a strikeout specialist last season in the South Atlantic League, striking out 40 batters in his first 13 appearances (25.2 IP) on his way to a SAL All-Star appearance. He finished the season with 93 K’s over 74.2 innings across two levels. His arm doesn’t have quite the upside of a Scott or Cleavinger but he could soon challenge them or pass them for a future spot in the Oriole bullpen.
25. Jimmy Yacabonis, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 03/21/1992)
A fastball that touches 97 and a power curveball helped Yacabonis to a stellar 2016 season where he posted a 46/14 K/BB over 44.2 innings. He also recorded 6 saves over what was his first season in AA Bowie. Obviously Britton and Brach have the back end of the rotation locked down but Yacabonis is worth keeping an eye on over this next season for a possible long term late inning option.
26. Alex Murphy, C/1B
Age: 22 (DOB 10/05/1994)
Murphy started getting work in at 1B last season due to the catcher depth ahead of him as well as organizational doubts at his ability to stay at catcher. He sports a long, powerful swing that aims for power. He ended 2016 with 16 home runs and a .252/.335/.423 slash line. He’s developing into a true three outcomes player with a 9.5% walk rate and 26.7% K rate. If he continues on this path he will have to ramp up his power production to get shot at the bigs.
27. Parker Bridwell, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 08/02/1991)
At 6’4″ 185 lbs Bridwell is a very lanky pitcher with a natural looking delivery that can get a fastball up to 95 mph. He also sports a plus changeup and a decent slider. Even though he has the makeup for a starter he has been inconsistent and has yet to post a season ERA below 3.99. At this point he is likely to get most of his MLB innings out of the bullpen.
28. Jayson Aquino, LHP
Age: 24 (DOB 11/22/1992)
Aquino has become a sort of minor league journeyman over the last 5 years, being part of 6 different minor league organizations. He has been heralded as an interesting lefty sporting a plus changeup and curveball but a fastball that rarely, if ever, touches 90 mph. He made his MLB debut last year only pitching 13 innings between AA and the bigs. The Orioles are interested in his ability but I would like to see him make more extended starts before I consider adding him to any roster.
29. Donnie Hart, LHP
Age: 26 (DOB 09/06/1990)
A career relief prospect, Hart made his MLB debut last year as a LOOGY and performed well. He allowed one run over 22 appearances and 18.1 total innings. I expect the Orioles to keep him in that role to start the season and if he performs well he could see an expanded role. The only issue is his ability to miss bats without a strong fastball.
30. Ryan McKenna, OF
Age: 19 (DOB 02/14/1997)
McKenna is mainly a versatile outfielder with decent speed. His hit tool is fairly weak, but his ability to play consistent defense and steal bases gives him value to the Orioles. .241/.320/.309 over 252 PA in Low-A last season isn’t worth a look in dynasty leagues just yet. He’s still young so he has time to figure out his approach and become fantasy relevant.
31. Richard Rodriguez, RHP
Age: 26 (DOB 03/04/1990)
The Orioles acquired Rodriguez from the Astros in 2015, citing interest in his fastball and curveball. He threw 81.2 innings in relief last season for AAA Norfolk, recording 81 Ks and only allowing 25 BB. He is mainly bullpen depth for the Orioles right now.
32. Jason Garcia, RHP
Age: 24 (DOB 11/21/1992)
Garcia is panning out to be a back end/spot starter at best right now. He was placed in a relief role in 2014 and 2015 and was moved back to a starting role last season. He started all 24 games that he appeared in and posted a 4.71 ERA along with a 5.17 K/9. He’s known for having a power fastball and not much else in his arsenal. He’s depth for the major league squad with slight potential to take over a starting spot if needed.
33. Joe Gunkel, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 12/30/1991)
Gunkel has done a pretty decent job in his minor league career but had struggles in 2016 at the AAA level. An almost sidearm delivery gives him slight movement on his pitches but he has a relatively average three pitch arsenal that doesn’t really blow hitters away. He managed to strike out 6 batters per 9 in 141.1 AAA innings which won’t help his advancement, but his ability to limit walks could get him into a middle relief role; only 1.15 BB/9.
34. Jesus Liranzo, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 03/07/1995)
Known as a power pitcher with good movement, Liranzo was added along with Gunkel to the 40 man roster at the end of the 2016 season to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft. He had elbow surgery in 2014 and made his return in 2016, posting a 1.87 ERA and 66/27 K/BB over 53 innings between Low A and AA ball. The interest from other scouts alone makes him worth keeping an eye on.
35. Oliver Drake, RHP
Age: 30 (DOB 01/13/1987)
Drake is only in this tier because he will be recalled in a few spot roles over the season in the big league bullpen. Drake has good strikeout upside and can get a decent amount of ground balls, 48.3% GB rate over his 30+ MLB innings so far. His control has been his weak spot, walking a batter in over half of his appearances. He’s not really one for the future so I wouldn’t call him fantasy relevant at the moment.
36. David Washington, 1B/OF
Age: 26 (DOB 11/20/1990)
Washington had a breakout 2016 campaign smashing 30 homers in 493 at bats across two levels (25 of them at the AAA level). His main issue is the 34.6% K-rate he’s posted in his minor league career, although he has improved his ability to draw walks. Washington has good discipline but struggles to hit pitches in the strike zone. Low contact rates and limited positional versatility limit his potential for advancement to mainly a bench bat/stand in depending on how his glove holds up.
37. Mike Yastrzemski, OF
Age: 26 (DOB 08/23/1990)
The grandson of the great Yaz, Mike has always had a very mature approach and a strong knowledge of the strike zone. He has drawn walks at an above average rate at every level and limited strikeouts very well. His only issue is he doesn’t have any one standout tool, and he really struggled at the plate in his first AAA season last year. .221/.312/.369 along with a 25.5% K rate over 385 at bats set him back a bit. If he comes back in 2017 and hits well he may see a chance at a bench bat role on the big club.
38. Adam Brett Walker, OF/DH
Age: 25 (DOB 10/18/1991)
Walker might deserve to be tier 4, as his raw power might get him called up to the big leagues. He’s hit over 25 homers at every stop in the minor leagues, along with striking out an abysmal 34.8% and 38.0% K-rate over his last two seasons. A pure three true outcomes guy like Walker has his best shot at breaking through in Baltimore, but his strikeouts might be too much even for the Orioles. Although, was DFA’d by the Orioles on Friday so I guess that says what we need to know about their faith in his ability to improve his contact.
39. Austin Wynns, C
Age: 26 (DOB 12/10/1990)
Wynns profiles as a glove-first contact focused catcher who may eventually find a home as a backup somewhere. He does a great job limiting strikeouts and puts the ball in play at an above average rate. Below average pop and the depth the O’s have at catcher make him irrelevant in fantasy leagues right now.
40. Jhon Peluffo, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 06/16/1997)
A tall skinny starter, Peluffo gained interest in trade talks this past season because of his physical build (6’2″ frame, 160 lbs leaves room to grow). He posted a 40/7 K/BB and 1.89 ERA over 38.0 innings in rookie ball earning him a call up to the Gulf Coast League near the end of the season. Peluffo is not gaining a lot of traction just yet, but the young Colombian could start popping up if he has a strong showing for Low-A Delmarva.
41. Randolph Gassaway, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 05/23/1995)
Drafted as a first basemen, the Orioles noticed he had above way average speed for the position so they have moved him to a corner outfield role. He posted a nice .330/.372/.511 line in a limited role in the Gulf Coast League last season, only tallying 196 PA’s over 50 games played. His main tools are his speed and raw power. He has yet to tap into his power potential, only hitting 9 home runs in 3.5 minor league seasons.
42. Yermin Mercedes, C/DH
Age: 23 (DOB 02/14/1993)
Mercedes earned a trip to the South Atlantic League All Star game last year after posting the highest OPS in the league in the first half. He hit very well but he is a bit older than the average SAL player due to the Nationals keeping him in rookie ball for his first three seasons. He is listed as a catcher but played more than half of his games at DH in 2016 which limits his advancement possibilities.
43. Juan Echevarria, RHP
Age: 19 (DOB 06/25/1997)
A 21st round pick in 2015, Echevarria has the frame of a power pitcher and had a decent start to his pro career in 2016, posting a 23/6 K/BB in 22 relief innings in rookie ball. There isn’t much data on him but I’d like to see him move up to Low-A Delmarva at some point in 2017.
44. Ruben Garcia, RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 08/02/1996)
A position player in college, the Orioles drafted him in 2016 as a pitcher because of his fastball and power pitching potential. In a short showing last year, he struck out 23 batters in 15.1 innings while only walking 4 batters. The potential is there, we just need to see him over the course of a full season.
45. Lucas Humpal, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 11/05/1993)
Humpal was the Orioles ninth round selection in 2016 and he is more of a control pitcher than anything else. He has an average fastball around 90-93 mph that he can locate well and a changeup that he can fall back on reliably.
46. Ryan Moseley, RHP
Age 22 (DOB 10/04/1994)
Moseley made a name for himself in college with a sinker/slider combo with a ton of natural movement. He has had problems locating them at times due to inconsistent, unreliable movement from his main pitches. Most of his potential is based on whether or not the Orioles can get him to locate his stuff consistently.
47. Josh Hart, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 10/02/1994)
Hart is a decent CF with good speed and base stealing ability. His bat is lacking, only posting a .223/.282/.320 line last season in High-A Frederick. Until he can make consistent, solid contact he is pretty much a one trick pony for fantasy purposes.
48. Preston Palmeiro, 1B
Age: 22 (DOB 01/22/1995)
The younger son of Rafael, Preston has a patient, mature approach at the plate. He is lacking tremendously in the power department which may force him to move to a corner outfield position. His average to below average speed may hinder that progress.
49. Erick Salcedo, SS
Age: 23 (DOB 06/28/1993)
Acquired from the Angels in the Chris Jones trade last season, Salcedo is a speedy, defense-first utility player. His career minor league slash line is an unimpressive .250/.318/.310 in 1,724 career at bats. He had never hit a home run until he hit three last season with High-A Frederick.
50. Conor Bierfeldt, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 04/02/1991)
Previously a top 20 prospect in the organization, Bierfeldt started his career hitting fairly well and then lost his contact ability. He had very bad 2014 and 2015 campaigns but started to turn himself around in 2016. He slashed a respectable .264/.336/.547 in High-A Frederick with 18 home runs. He had a short stint in AA Bowie but didn’t earn a lot of playing time. Bierfeldt needs to make 2017 the year he makes a place for himself in AA.