Baltimore Orioles AFL Wrap-Up and 40 Man Roster Takeaways
Some thoughts on the Arizona Fall League, and the Orioles 40 Man Roster.
RHP Jesus Liranzo
AFL Stats: 4 G, 4.2 IP, 11.57 ERA, 7 H, 2 HR, 6 BB, 3 K
The fireballing right hander was removed from the Salt River roster due to shoulder soreness, but it appears that the 22 year-old just wasn’t right when looking at the numbers he put up. He already showed a ton of command problems throughout the year in Bowie and it came up again during the first half of the AFL season. The arm talent mixed with quality athleticism on the mound is evident, but Liranzo is more of a thrower than a pitcher at the moment. He’s got a lively fastball to miss a lot of bats; it’s just all about development to hone his stuff at the upper levels of the farm system.
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LHP Keegan Akin
AFL Stats: 9 G, 1 GS, 16.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 10, H, 1 HR, 5 BB, 13 K
Akin’s 2017 season was up-and-down, but still showed enough promise to think that he’ll stick as a starter for the long-term. He didn’t get a chance to show potential improvements in command multiple times through a lineup just because of the nature of the AFL. However, he clearly has the stuff to thrive when going up against many players that produced at higher levels of the minors than Akin did. The lefty possesses a mid-90’s heater with movement, and a sharp breaking slider that can act as a putaway pitch. He has enough feel for the change for it to become a workable third major league offering too. The bigger body is a bit of a concern when you think about his issues keeping the ball in the zone, but this stint in Arizona set a positive outlook for what is a very important 2018 season for the former second round pick.
LHP Luis Gonzalez
AFL Stats: 9 G, 9.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5 H, 0 HR, 2 BB, 6 K
Gonzalez was not placed on the 40 man, but probably did all that he could in the fall league to make the Orioles think about protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. Older for the Carolina League at 25 years old, Gonzalez was still racking up the K’s in High-A (75 K in 62.0 IP). He’s got solid stuff for a lefty coming out of the pen, but has an unbalanced delivery that forces him to lose his control throughout even a one-inning appearance. The arm slot can be tough to pick up at times, which allows his stuff to play up too. He did nothing but help his stock in Arizona and is quickly setting himself apart in a stable of fringy major league relievers within the farm system.
RHP Ryan Meisinger
AFL Stats: 4 G, 6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K
Meisinger came in as a roster replacement for Liranzo after he exited with injury. One of my favorite below-the-radar prospects in the Orioles system, this little stat line encapsulates everything you need about the Double-A right hander. The stuff is average across the board, there’s no clear putaway pitch and he’s not projectable to think that his pitching arsenal is going to drastically change. However, the former 11th round selection back in 2015 has worked his way quickly up Baltimore’s farm system by riding his advanced pitchability and command in order to keep hitters off balance and create weak contact. The swing-and-miss numbers and stuff will never make you jump out of your chair, but even his work in the AFL shows that relievers can be effective even if they don’t miss a ton of bats.
LHP Tanner Scott
AFL Stats: 5 G, 3 GS, 9.1 IP, 12.54 ERA, 11 H, 2 HR, 11 BB, 7 K
There’s good Tanner Scott and then there’s bad Tanner Scott. When he’s on, the lefty is pumping 100 in the zone, challenging hitters to catch up to his electric fastball. He’s also got the slider working as a solid complimentary offering that flashes above-average bite and depth. This all adds up to a potential late inning reliever. However, when Scott does not have a grip of his stuff, the walks pile up and his powerful arsenal doesn’t have a chance to play. Ultimately, despite the clean and effortless mechanics, I don’t believe that Scott has a firm enough control of the strike zone to make the switch to starting…that’s not a bad thing, though. His game perfectly translates to the bullpen, where he’ll only face hitters once and the fastball can jump to above 100 mph. He’s still young and athletic enough to make more adjustments, so I wouldn’t let this most recent stint get you down about Scott’s chances of making an impact in 2018 and in the years to come.
OF Anthony Santander
AFL Stats: 18 G, 72 AB, .208 BA, .234 OBP, .333 SLG, .567 OPS, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 18 SO, 2 BB
Santander will need to stick on the major league roster for the first 44 days of the regular season if Baltimore wants to definitely keep his rights for the long haul. He’s an imperfect fit on the current active roster given the glut of potential power hitting corner outfielders, including Mark Trumbo, Trey Mancini and perhaps even Chris Davis. However, Santander’s raw power and above-average barrel control is something that the organization should certainly covet. To me, his offensive potential ranks above the likes of D.J. Stewart, Ademar Rifaela, Randy Gassaway and other corner outfielders in the system, so he’s worth keeping, even if it means sacrificing a 25 roster spot in the early goings. The numbers were better during his short stint in Bowie, but the he’s got the potential for mid-teens game power if his hit tool and overall approach is developed further in the minors.
INF Ryan Mountcastle
AFL Stats: 21 G, 82 AB, .244 BA, .287 OBP, .402 SLG, .690 OPS, 3 HR, 7 XBH, 19 SO, 4 BB
I’m high on Ryan Mountcastle’s offensive potential. He’s got a rare hit-power combo for a potential second baseman. The team is trying him out at third, but the arm will eventually work best at the keystone or even in left field if the glove doesn’t jump enough to even play fringe-average there. Still, Mountcastle has dominated with the stick wherever he’s been, apart from his late season promotion to Bowie. He’s got a natural feel for the barrel and sprays doubles to both sides of the field with consistency. The swing is compact, despite a mild hitch and some of those doubles should turn into homers as he continues to grow into his 20 year-old frame. He flashed a bit in the Fall League, even though there’s still tightening to do with his swing and breaking ball approach. This performance shouldn’t drastically change his position as one of the more heralded prospects in the O’s farm system.
UTIL Steve Wilkerson
AFL Stats: 23 G, 82 AB, .317 BA, .396 OBP, .512 SLG, .908 OPS, 1 HR, 9 XBH, 14 SO, 9 BB
I’m a little surprised Wilkerson did not get added to the 40 man given the high praise that had been thrown around by the organization and by his great performance in Arizona. Wilkerson is older for a prospect getting added hype, but he fits well into the role that the team is losing with Ryan Flaherty a free agent. The minor league utility man can really play any position on the infield and I would bet that he’s got the athleticism and glove to fill-in at all three outfield spots if the club needed it. His speed is his best tool, as it’s clear 60 grade. In addition, he’s got enough bat speed and barrel control to keep defenders honest all over the diamond. He’s not physical or powerful enough to vie for an everyday role, but I think he’s a low-end utility man who has a real shot to crack the opening day roster…that is if he isn’t poached by another other team with a similar need in the Rule 5 Draft next month.
Three 40 Man Roster Takeaways
With the end of the AFL and 40 man roster deadline occurring around the same time, while have some implications towards one another, I decided to combine my thoughts about both into one article. In all, the Orioles added three players to the 40 man, including RHP David Hess, C Austin Wynns and RHP Hunter Harvey. This leaves the team with six roster spots to work with in free agency and the Rule 5 draft as the team has since added former A’s outfielder Jaycob Brugman after he was removed from their 40 man on Monday.
What to make of the additions?
Hunter Harvey was the clear addition out of the three, despite the injury history, given his hefty upside and draft status. Wynns and Hess both had clear reasons they were added to the 40 man. First and foremost with Wynns, catchers who can stick behind the plate are valuable commodities in the minor leagues and the Bowie Baysox backstop checks off the boxes clearly. The bat falls behind the glove, but he has put up solid numbers as a minor leaguer, which certainly helped him crack the 40 man on Monday. Plus, the O’s were losing Audry Perez and Francisco Peña to minor league free agency, so the team needed some depth behind Chance Sisco and Caleb Jospeph that Wynns could easily fill. Hess had a much-improved second half of the 2017 season and he shows plus fastball velocity, along with fringy-to-average secondaries across the board. Command has been the problem for Hess as he can have trouble keeping the ball in the zone throughout starts, but the mechanics aren’t too out of whack to think that there won’t be just utter stagnation during the rest of his development in the minors. Think about him in the Mike Wright mold, where there’s solid bullpen fallback value given that the stuff is expected to jump in a relief role. Both Wynns and Hess would have been likely draftees if left unprotected given their position and level.
Which unprotected minor leaguer is most likely to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft?
I see three players with some chance to be stolen from the Oriole next month. The first is Luis Gonzalez, who I mentioned above. It’s a little more rare to see a team take a chance on a potential Rule 5 addition who’s highest level they’ve played is High-A, but Gonzalez is older and left-handed, which brings value. Like I said before, the stuff is solid and he’s got LOOGY potential because of his funkier delivery and release point. However, that profile is probably not worth taking at the major league phase of the draft considering the track record versus the upper minors isn’t there. LHP John Means is more of a pitchability/command guy who’s not quite good enough in those areas yet to overcome his lack of above-average stuff. However, he’s pretty athletic and has enough natural deception to eat some innings as a lefty. But a likely up-and-down swingman will probably not garner much interest either. A utility man with plus speed is less available and could be the type of player that gets snatched up by a team looking to fill that role early in the offseason on the cheap. Wilkerson’s value has never been higher after his performance in the AFL, so he’s the most likely of the trio to get selected in my opinion, but his lack of upside I still think keeps him in the Orioles organization by the time Spring Training rolls around.
Does the 40 man roster deadline signal future moves?
While the O’s have already added an outfielder in Brugman to the 40 man since the deadline had passed, I think the Orioles decision to be rather unaggressive in who they add does message to the league that the team is expecting to add a number of guys through free agency or trades this offseason. The team also leaves more room for another potential Rule 5 guy in 2018, in addition to Santander, so there’s more room to work out some things there. Leaving Wilkerson off may mean a few things…either the team is looking elsewhere to fill the void left by Flaherty’s free agency or that they simply don’t think he’ll be taken when they look at the needs of other clubs and other players available in the Rule 5. I’m expecting at least three pitchers to be added to the 40 man in some form or fashion. This means that Baltimore needed to have space in order to keep the their options open as the offseason grinds along, which is something I believe you can take away from their decision making this past Monday.
Greg Goldstein is a scout/contributor covering the Eastern, Carolina, South Atlantic and NY Penn Leagues for Baseball Prospectus. Greg also is a contributor for the FanSided general baseball blog, Call to the Pen. Having graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May of 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Greg was a beat reporter for the SB Nation blog, Testudo Times, covering the Maryland baseball team during their 2017 season. Greg can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @greg_goldstein1.