Baltimore Orioles Top 20 prospects for 2016
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 23, limited to 22 innings in Double-A by shoulder calcification, then had "forearm stiffness" in Arizona Fall League, reportedly healthy heading into spring training. Out of options and must make the major league roster or be undoubtedly lost on waivers. A healthy Bundy still has the stuff and command of a number two starter but can he stay healthy? Have the injuries robbed him of enough fastball to lower his upside? No way to know.
2) Hunter Harvey, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 21, missed entire 2015 season with shin injury then elbow stiffness, Tommy John was avoided and he is supposedly healthy heading into spring training. Like Bundy, a healthy Harvey has the potential to pitch near the top of a big league rotation but the durability question hampers his stock until we get more data.
3) Jomar Reyes, 3B, Grade B/B-: Age 18, hit .278/.334/.440 with five homers, 18 walks, 73 strikeouts in 309 at-bats in Low-A at a very young age. Glove improved a great deal, has a chance to stay there, hasn’t fully tapped power inherent in 6-4, 210 body but has lots of time, high upside bat.
4) Chance Sisco, C, Grade B/B-: Age 20, hit .308/.387/.422 in 263 at-bats in High-A then .257/.337/.392 in 74 at-bats in Double-A facing older competition. Polished line drive bat with good batting eye should produce high averages and OBP, power development is still uncertain. Has the physical tools to be an average/acceptable defensive catcher but isn’t there with the polish yet, particularly with his throwing. First base is his only other viable position and his power doesn’t project well there so the catching really needs to work out.
5) Trey Mancini, 1B, Grade B/B-: Age 23, combined to hit .341/.375/.563 with 43 doubles, 21 homers, 31 walks, 93 strikeouts in 533 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, production improving as the season progressed. Good pure hitting skills with power, doesn’t draw a ton of walks but keeps strikeout rate reasonable, nice attribute for a power bat, has developed into decent defender at first base. I think he’s for real, thus the grade. Others may disagree but I’ve liked him since he was at Notre Dame. We’ll see. Possible outcome: 2014 version of Steve Pearce.
6) Mychal Givens, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 25, converted shortstop, posted 1.73 ERA with 79/16 K/BB in 57 innings, 15 saves in Double-A, then 1.80 ERA with 38/6 K/BB in 30 innings in the majors. Barely holds rookie status entering 2016. Ranking relief prospects is problematic but I love this guy, 90-95 sinking fastball from unusual angle, good solid slider and change, command has improved rapidly, lots of strikeouts, lots of grounders. High rating for a reliever but if given the opportunity I think he can close.
7) D.J. Stewart, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, first round pick out of Florida State disappointed in debut, .218/.288/.345 in New York-Penn League. In college he was an OBP/SLG beast with power and patience but scouts were concerned about low crouch batting stance leading to problems in pros. NYP did not go well so he’s adjusted that stance heading into the spring. Better athlete than 6-0, 230 body implies. My guess is that the adjustments will work but that’s just a guess. Matt Stairs like potential.
8) Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Grade B-/C+: Age 19, hit .313/.349/.411 with 10 steals, nine walks, 36 strikeouts in 163 at-bats in rookie ball, then .212/.206/.303 in 33 at-bats in NY-P. Hitting equivalent of a projectable pitcher: lanky, hasn’t filled out yet, may hit for power in time, good athlete, but somewhat raw and unclear how all the skills and tools will come together. May stick at shortstop, or wind up at second, or the outfield. Too soon to say. High ceiling though.
9) Christian Walker, 1B, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, hit .257/.324/.423 with 33 doubles, 18 homers, 49 walks, 136 strikeouts in 534 at-bats in Triple-A, did most of his damage in second half. Disappointing follow-up to excellent 2014 season but profile hasn’t changed much, looks for balance between moderate power and moderate pure hitting skills, okay with the glove but doesn’t run well enough for the outfield. With Chris Davis ahead of him and Mancini behind him, faces a job crunch.
10) Chris Lee, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, lefty purchased from Astros system, posted 3.29 ERA with 98/59 K/BB in 145 innings between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, 2.03 GO/AO. Getting a lot of buzz from Baltimore sources at present, live arm with power sinker that can hit 94, slider and change-up good at times but inconsistent, same with his control. He looks good on the mound but doesn’t have full command of his stuff at this point.
11) Lazaro Leyva, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, Cuban right-hander reportedly clocked at 99 MPH in New York-Penn League, posted 2.90 ERA with 36/16 K/BB in 40 innings. Good breaking ball too, change-up and command need work, high ceiling, unclear if he starts or relieves in the long run but should be watched very closely.
12) David Hess, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 3.64 ERA with 122/57 K/BB in 143 innings between High-A and Double-A, 122 hits, stereotypical average stuff with low 90s fastball, decent slider, change, curve. Prototype fourth starter/inning eater profile.
13) Parker Bridwell, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 3.99 ERA with 93/38 K/BB in 97 innings in Double-A before going down with elbow trouble, fastball is a tick above average, has a good change-up. Fourth starter potential similar to Hess.
14) Gray Fenter, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, seventh round pick from high school in Arkansas, 1.66 ERA with 18/6 K/BB in 22 innings in rookie ball. Low-90s fastball with potential plus curve and workable change-up, good pitchability, could have gone as high as second round if not for Mississippi State scholarship but they got him to sign. Could advance more rapidly than the typical high school arm, mid-rotation potential.
15) Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick from University of Oregon, 2.16 ERA with 32/18 K/BB in 25 innings in NY-P, just 14 hits. Low 90s fastball with movement, hard breaking ball, often overpowering but needs to sharpen command. Stuff good enough to work on right-handers so not necessarily just a LOOGY.
16) Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Grade C: Age 19, projectable 6-5, 195 pound Dominican posted 5.61 ERA with 31/19 K/BB in 26 innings in rookie ball, throws hard into mid-90s but secondary pitches and command need work. High ceiling but raw arm.
17) Joe Gunkel, RHP, Grade C: Age 24, acquired from Red Sox last spring for Alejandro De Aza, posted 2.68 ERA with 113/27 K/BB in 145 innings between High-A and Double-A, 127 hits. Strike-thrower with low angle delivery, fastball average but mixes in a good slider, may project best as middle reliever but might start if change-up can improve further.
18) Joey Rickard, OF, Grade C: Age 24, Rule 5 pick out of Rays system, hit .321/.427/.447 with 23 steals, 69 walks, 75 strikeouts in 396 at-bats between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A. Fast, good glove, lacks distance power but can work a walk, prototype reserve outfielder.
19) Tanner Scott, LHP, Grade C: Age 21, sixth round pick in 2014 from Howard Junior College, 95-100 MPH fastball, 3.83 ERA with 60/22 K/BB in 42 innings between NY-P and Low-A. Obviously has the heat but slider is mediocre and general command is poor at this time, probably a power relief arm long-term.
20) Andrew Triggs, RHP, Grade C: Age 26, older prospect originally drafted by Royals out of Southern Cal, 19th round in 2012, exceptional performance record, 1.03 ERA with 17 saves in 17 chances, 70/11 K/BB in 61 innings, 42 hits, 2.28 GO/AO, he’s always pitched this well. Earned spot on 40-man roster, does not burn radar but highly deceptive and could be useful in the middle of bullpen.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Dariel Alvarez, OF; Drew Dosch, INF; Josh Hart, OF; Jonah Heim, C; Jason Heinrich, OF; Jon Keller, RHP; Branden Kline, RHP; Adrian Marin, SS; Ryan McKenna, OF; Ryan Meisinger, RHP; Ariel Miranda, LHP; Cedric Mullins, OF; Henry Urrutia, OF; Tyler Wilson, RHP; Mike Yastrzemski, OF
Thin system at present, though some of the lower-ranked guys have development potential and the raw materials for a good pitching staff are here. It is hard when your two top pitching prospects have serious injury/durability concerns. I will answer questions in the comments section.