Baltimore Orioles 2017 System Report and Top-Five Prospects
Coming into this year, the Baltimore Orioles are facing some doubts about the shape of their farm system. A system that most pundits still rank among the lowest in baseball, the Orioles’ minor leagues do not offer much in the way of high-impact players who will help the major league roster in 2017, especially in the outfield and the starting rotation, areas that need to improve as the season approaches. Additionally, some of the system’s top players are either dealing with injuries or are coming off of a subpar 2016.
Despite its apparent flaws, the Orioles’ system does have some bright spots, particularly among its offensive prospects. The 2016 draft class may also provide some value if a few prospects build on their solid debuts.
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To look at those developments, this organizational reports includes the system’s top five prospects for 2017 and some additional names to watch.
1.) Chance Sisco, catcher
DOB: 02/24/1995 Acquired: 2nd round, 2013 Draft 2016 Team(s): Double-A Bowie, Triple-A Norfolk
Coming into this year, there is little doubt that Sisco is the Orioles best prospect. The catcher continued impress offensively in 2016, while making strides with his defense.
As his career .302/.402/.434 slash line suggests, Sisco displays sound strike zone judgement and excellent bat control. While he lacks the power to become a full-fledged offensive star, his abilities as a contact hitter should allow him to be a catcher that provides value on both sides of the ball.
With the signing of Welington Castillo, Sisco is bound to return to Norfolk—where he had a four-game stint at the end of last season. Still, Sisco could debut in Baltimore at some point in 2017 and could be ready to take over behind the plate in 2018.
2.) Cody Sedlock, right-handed pitcher
DOB: 06/19/1995 Acquired: 1st round, 2016 Draft 2016 Team(s): Short Season A Aberdeen
Sedlock came into the system with plenty of intrigue. After the University of Illinois primarily used him in relief in 2014 and 2015, the right-hander moved to the rotation in 2016 and thrived—setting a school record with 116 strikeouts.
Sedlock has reportedly topped out as high as 97 mph with his fastball, but sits mostly in the 92-94 mph range. His repertoire also includes a slider, curveball, and changeup. The consensus is that all three pitches need time to develop, particularly the curveball and changeup, and that his probability of success hinges on his ability to improve his command of these pitches.
After his solid debut at Aberdeen, the Orioles could take one of two approaches with Sedlock. Starting him at Low-A Delmarva is a possibility, but the club could determine that he is polished enough to skip Delmarva and proceed right to High-A Frederick. If his feel for his off-speed pitches progresses, Sedlock will likely be promoted before season’s end, which could put a major league debut by late 2018 within reach.
3.) Ryan Mountcastle, shortstop
DOB: 02/18/1997 Acquired: 1st round, 2015 2016 Team(s): Delmarva
Overall, Mountcastle’s 2016 campaign was an encouraging result for a 19-year-old at Low-A. While his failure to draw many walks limited his OBP, he still came away with a .281/.319/.426 line and 10 home runs.
The offensive potential is what makes Mountcastle a player to watch. He is already displaying above average power, and could get stronger as he fills out his 6’3” 185 lb. frame. Furthermore, if his ability to recognize off-speed pitches can progress, Mountcastle will improve his on-base skills over time.
The biggest question relating to his development is his defense. He seems unlikely to stick at shortstop, with his below-average speed his arm strength combination likely limiting him to first base or left field. Ideally, if he does move, Mountcastle will maintain just enough speed to adequately cover left field while providing good power for the position.
Mountcastle enters the year with about as much room to grow as any of the system’s prospects, but he will be tested with an assignment to Frederick.
4.) Trey Mancini, first base
DOB: 03/18/1992 Acquired: 8th round, 2013 Draft 2016 Team(s): Bowie, Norfolk, Baltimore
A good 2016 for Mancini ended on a high note, as he made the most of his September call-up. Over five games, he went 5-for-14 with three home runs—including one his debut against the Boston Red Sox on September 20.
Throughout his minor league career, Mancini has been remarkably consistent and seems to make gradual strides each year. Despite his overall success, some doubt whether Mancini’s power will translate to the major leagues, which would make his profile as more of a role player than a regular.
For right now, Mancini figures to fill at least a part-time role in Baltimore next season. If he exceeds the expectations of his detractors, he will force the Orioles to grant him regular playing time.
5.) Keegan Akin, left-handed pitcher
DOB: 04/01/1995 Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft 2016 Team(s): Aberdeen
As a left-hander who regularly throw his fastball in the low-to-mid 90’s, Akin is among the organization’s most intriguing pitching prospects. Given the fact that he has shown success in controlling that pitch since college, it is plausible that Akin emerges as a great find by the Orioles in last year’s draft.
Perhaps the biggest questions are his secondary pitches. The consensus is that Akin’s slider is more advance this his changeup, which will need to make strides if it is to emerge as a legitimate third pitch. Otherwise, Akin may profile better as a reliever, but the Orioles have every incentive to try to develop him as a starter for now.
Akin may wind up in Delmarva to start the year if the club determines that he needs to work on his changeup. If that happens, Akin profiles as the type of prospect who could move to High-A by the June All-Star Break.
The Rest of the System
Since I believe there is a clear distinction between the top five and the remaining crop, I am noting additional players here. In a traditional top-10 ranking, Austin Hays would come in sixth, as he offers the defensive skill set of a major league right fielder and could prove to be a good find in the third round if his bat continues to develop.
Ofelky Peralta could jettison his way up the rankings this season—the young right-hander held his own over 103 innings as a 19-year-old last year in Delmarva, and flashes a fastball in the mid-90’s. That said, his control and secondary offerings have some ways to go if he is to develop as a starter. The Orioles should take their time with Peralta, but the potential is undoubtedly there.
From there, some players to note include Chris Lee, Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey, Matthias Dietz, Anthony Santander, and Jomar Reyes. The foursome of hurlers in Lee, Scott, Dietz, and Harvey are all talented, but come with high uncertainty.
Harvey’s poor track record with injuries continued in 2016, when he was shut down for Tommy John surgery. With no timetable for the former first rounder’s return, it is hard to factor him into the club’s long-term plans for now.
Lee suffered a shoulder injury last May, and must improve his secondary offerings if he is to develop as a starter. Scott offers premium velocity from the left side, but he needs to cut back on the walks this season. Dietz, meanwhile, flashes a fastball that tops out in the upper 90’s, but still has to refine his secondary offerings. His performance in his first full season could be an indicator as the Orioles try to determine whether to develop him as a starter or a reliver.
Santander and Reyes offer plenty of raw power, but are high-risk players for sharply different reasons. Reyes struggled in his first season at Frederick, and needs to improve his pitch recognition if he is to rebound this year. Santander, meanwhile, is joining the system via the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his solid 2016 in the Carolina League, Santander was left unprotected by the Cleveland Indians, and his offseason shoulder surgery clouds his status for 2017.