Baltimore Orioles Top 20 Prospects for 2017
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Chance Sisco, C, Grade B: Age 21, second round pick in 2013, hit .317/.403/.430 in 426 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A with 61 walks, 88 strikeouts; superior pure-hitting skills with rare combination of bat speed, smooth swing, and sharp batting eye; should have no trouble producing OBP and batting average; long-term home run power remains a question but could get to 10-15 a year with maturity; defense remains work-in-progress; decent arm and threw out 33% of runners; receiving has improved somewhat with reductions in error and passed ball rates; may never be more than average with the glove but if he hits as expected that could be enough. ETA 2018.
2) Cody Sedlock, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2016 from University of Illinois; posted 3.00 ETA in 27 innings in New York-Penn League with 25/13 K/BB; fastball 92-94, sometimes higher; slider, curveball, and change-up are inconsistent with the softer pitches weaker than the slider; tough for hitters to square up and drive the harder stuff but command of secondaries needs improvement; some view him as future closer but will be used as starter for now to give the change-up time to come around. ETA late 2019, or 2018 if used in bullpen.
3) Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, first round comp pick in 2015; hit .281/..319/.426 with 10 homers, 25 walks, 95 strikeouts in 455 at-bats in Low-A; optimists love his overall athleticism and power potential, and think his instincts will help him remain at shortstop; pessimists project a move to third base or the outfield and worry that over-aggressive hitting approach will compromise his bat; optimists counter worries with his birthday as he has lots of time to improve and already holds his own production-wise even with a somewhat raw approach; ETA late 2020.
4) Trey Mancini, 1B, Grade B-: Age 24, eighth round pick in 2013 from Notre Dame; hit .282/.357/.458 with 20 homers, 58 walks, 140 strikeouts in 546 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; went 5-for-14 with three homers in the majors; can have issues with contact but hammers mistake pitches and unafraid to work counts to find them; not a bad first baseman but limited to that position; upside: .270ish hitter with 20-25 homers in a full season; downside: contact problems drop him into the .230s with less consistent power. ETA 2017.
5) Anthony Santander, OF, Grade B- Age 22, hit .290/.368/.494 with 42 doubles, 20 homers, 54 walks, 118 strikeouts in 500 at-bats in Low-A; from Venezuela, signed by Indians in 2011; selected by Orioles in Rule 5 draft; switch-hitter with 60/70 grade power; a few issues with contact and swing consistency but controls zone reasonably; may not hit for high averages at highest levels but power should carry forward; good throwing arm, classic right field profile; I like him a lot but health status unclear following fall shoulder surgery; has to stick on the roster due to Rule 5 and could be stashed on DL. ETA 2017.
6) Keegan Akin, LHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2016 from Western Michigan; posted 1.04 ERA in 26 innings in NY-P with 29/7 K/BB, just 15 hits; fastball at 92-94 with peaks at 96; both change-up and slider have above-average moments but are inconsistent; throws a heavy ball and tough to drive, could develop into three-pitch mid-rotation starter or a two-pitch power bullpen arm; ETA late 2019.
7) Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; posted 4.01 ERA with 101/60 K/BB in 103 innings in Low-A, 87 hits; fastball 92-95 with peaks at 97-98; depending on when you see him, he can show a decent slider, a decent change-up, or a slurvy "blah" pitch, or a change that’s basically slow fastball, or any combination thereof; command is also an issue; nevertheless, has the ceiling of a number three starter or a power closer. ETA late 2019.
8) Garrett Cleavinger, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2015 from University of Oregon; posted 3.07 ERA with 102/34 K/BB in 76 innings between Low-A and High-A; fastball up to 96 along with a deceptive delivery and a quality curveball make him overpowering; command inconsistent and lack of a change-up makes him a reliever, albeit a high-leverage one who could close if his command sharpens up a bit. ETA late 2018.
9) Tanner Scott, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2014 from Howard Junior College in Texas; posted 4.76 ERA with 81/57 K/BB in 64 innings between High-A and Double-A, 40 hits; obviously he walks too many hitters but he also has 100 MPH fastball and a wicked slider; the K/IP and H/IP marks aren’t lying, but neither are the BBs; highest ceiling arm in the system; at age 22, there’s still time to harness it. ETA late 2018.
10) Jomar Reyes, 3B, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .228/.271/.336 with 10 homers, 25 walks, 102 strikeouts in 464 at-bats in High-A; overmatched more often than not in the Carolina League but he was very young for the level; 60-grade arm, 60-grade power, but held back by unpolished approach; despite his struggles I think there are reasons for optimism about the bat, but most see him as a first baseman long-term which will increase pressure on his production. ETA 2020.
11) Hunter Harvey, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2013; posted 2.13 ERA in 13 innings in short-season ball with 18/6 K/BB but ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery and will miss most or all of 2017; ranking/grading thus problematic; legitimate number two starter stuff when healthy with 60-grade fastball and 60-grade slider, plus a workable change-up; can’t say more until he returns. ETA no idea.
12) Aneury Tavarez, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, signed by Red Sox out of Dominican Republic in 2010; hit .335/.379/.508 with 19 doubles, 13 triples, 18 steals, 29 walks, 64 whiffs in 385 at-bats in Double-A; selected by Orioles in Rule 5 draft and has to stick on the roster; prototype fourth outfielder with slashing contact lefty bat, 60-grade speed, solid-average defensive ability, sparks of gap power; should be useful as a role player. ETA 2017.
13) Chris Lee, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, fourth round pick by Astros in 2011, traded to Orioles for international bonus money in ’15; posted 2.98 ERA in 51 innings in Double-A with 19/13 K/BB, 41 hits, 1.95 GO/AO; season ended early with lateral strain; fastball just 88-92 on the gun but plays up due to excellent movement; mixes in slider and change-up but secondaries inconsistent, reflected in low strikeout rate; most likely a middle man or LOOGY. ETA 2018.
14) Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic back in 2009 by Mets, sold to Orioles on February 10th; succeeded in Vegas pinball machine with 3.97 ERA, 12-5 record, 78/40 K/BB in 154 innings, 1.32 GO/AO; less successful in majors with 6.38 ERA in 18 innings, 17/7 K/BB but 26 hits; fastball 90-95, mixes in slider, curve, and change-up, low strikeout rate in minors is a caution flag but I think his stuff could play higher if used in bullpen. ETA 2017.
15) Austin Hays, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick in 2016 from Jacksonville University; hit .336/.386/.514 with four homers, 11 walks, 32 strikeouts in 140 at-bats in NY-P; right field tools with 60 arm, 55 power, average speed but good defensive ability thanks to instincts and work ethic; handled NY-P without much trouble; deserves more attention than he’s received but we need to see how his approach holds up. ETA late 2019.
16) Alex Wells, LHP, Grade C+: Age 19, brother of Lachlan Wells in the Twins system, from Australia; posted 2.15 ERA in 63 innings in the New York-Penn League with 50/9 K/BB; excellent pro debut; fastball just 86-90 but looks faster to the eye due to superb change-up, already commands fastball and change but the curveball needs more work, reflected in so-so strikeout rate; potential four/five starter though improved breaking ball and/or more velocity would help his chances. ETA 2021.
17) Matthias Dietz, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2016 from John A. Logan Community College; posted 4.82 ERA with 8/10 K/BB in 19 innings in NY-P; fastball 92-94 with reported peaks as high as 97-98; slider and change-up need improvement, as does his command/control; with proper development could be workhorse starter or power bullpen arm. ETA late 2019.
18) Cedric Mullins, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, 13th round pick in 2015 from Campbell; hit .273/.321/.464 with 37 doubles, 10 triples, 14 homers, 30 steals, 37 walks, 101 strikeouts in 517 at-bats in Low-A; switch-hitter, 60-grade speed and instincts to match make him legit threat on bases, covers a lot of ground in center field; mechanically-sound swing produced more power than expected though that may not hold at higher levels; could use more patience to maximize OBP; a lot less publicity than D.J. Stewart but is younger and has broader skills; good makeup rep dating back to high school. ETA late 2019.
19) D.J. Stewart, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, first round pick in 2015 from Florida State; hit .254/.377/.399 with 10 homers, 26 steals, 78 walks, 104 strikeouts in 414 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; good batting eye and physically very strong but college success hasn’t fully translated to pro ball; didn’t struggle as much as he did in pro debut and hit well late in the year; too soon to give up on him but questions about his swing haven’t been resolved; can steal a base but defense not an asset; ETA 2019.
20) Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick in 2014 from high school in Florida; posted 2.50 ERA with 111/58 K/BB in 148 innings in Low-A, 135 hits; dramatically improved after struggling at same level in ’15; low-90s fastball with sink gets grounders, mixes in curveball and change-up; secondaries took a step forward in ’16 but command still remains inconsistent; could sneak up on us as back-end starter if that improves. ETA late 2019.
21) Christian Walker, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Age 25, fourth round pick in 2012 from University of South Carolina; hit .264/.321/.437 with 18 homers, 40 walks, 138 strikeouts in 504 at-bats in Triple-A; nearly identical to his .257/.324/.423 line at the same level in ’15; seems stagnant and likely to need a change of scenery; solid first baseman but blocked there, spent ’16 in the outfield with uninspired results; very streaky, vulnerable to long cold spells as well as devastating performance tears when he’s locked in. ETA 2017.
OTHER GRADE C+: Christian Alvarado, RHP; Jayson Aquino, LHP; Oliver Drake; RHP; Randolph Gassaway, OF; Joe Gunkel, RHP; Brenan Hanifee, RHP; Jesus Liranzo, RHP; Ryan Meisinger, RHP; Yermin Mercedes, C
GRADE C: Cole Billingsley, OF; Parker Bridwell, RHP; Juan Echevarria, RHP; Jason Garcia, RHP; Ruben Garcia, RHP; Donnie Hart, LHP; Lucas Humphal, RHP; Ryan Moseley, RHP Ryan McKenna, OF; Alex Murphy, C-1B; Preston Palmeiro, 1B; Jhon Peluffo, RHP; Richard Rodriguez, RHP; Erick Salcedo, SS; Adam Brett Walker, OF; David Washington, 1B; Austin Wynns, C; Jimmy Yacabonis, RHP; Mike Yastrzemski, OF
As usual the mass of Grade C+ guys could be ordered differently. I will answer questions in the comments thread.