The Baltimore Orioles farm system has pumped out some nice pieces over the past few years. Austin Hays certainly gives them a Top 50 prospect to talk about, but the depth wanes off after the top three or four.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have prospects that won’t pan out. Here are three that standout.
Yefrey Ramirez, RHP
There’s nothing sensational about Ramirez. He’s on his third team and still hasn’t reached Triple-A. That being said, he’s turning into a nice piece with a No. 4 or No. 5 ceiling.
Ramirez was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but eventually headed to the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Triple-A draft (remember this is different than the Rule 5 draft and these prospects don’t need to make the 40-man). The Yankees then traded him to the Orioles at the deadline.
He throws three pitches; a 90-mph fastball, a slider and a changeup he feels improves every day. He split the season between Trenton and Bowie in the Eastern League, earning All Star honors in between. Overall, he went 15-3 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. He struck out 117 and walked 49 in 124.1 total innings. If Ramirez continues to improve, he at the very least will be able to have value in a long-man role.
Zac Lowther, LHP
Lowther had a breakout campaign for Xavier last year, making him the first Musketeer to ever earn Baseball America Top 100 draft prospect honors. It was well deserved, and he showed that in his pro debut.
The 6-foot-2 southpaw dominated the New York-Penn League, pitching to a 1.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He posted a ridiculous 75-to-11 strikeout-to-walk rate over 54.1 innings, as hitters only mustered a .182 batting average against, most of which were ground balls (44.3 percent).
I caught up with Lowther specifically because of those strikeouts in a feature called Kings of the K at NCAA.com. His big jump seems to come from a lot of trust in his fast ball and command.
“Just seeing that I can be successful against any type of hitter with what I have and not having to do extra has really played into that confidence,” Lowther told me. “Before, I tried to do more and ended up screwing myself over. Now I just stay relaxed and do what I trained for.”
John Sickels liked him enough to rank him No. 15. Here’s why:
...fastball isn’t especially fast around 90 but it plays up due to movement, command, and solid secondary pitches (curve, change); pitchability will make short work of A-ball so Double-A will be the first real test, could be fine number four starter, maybe more, if command remains this impressive at higher levels; ETA 2020.
He could easily be at Double-A by midseason. His rise is definitely worth watching.
Rule 5 watch: Nestor Cortes, LHP
Cortes has become one of the most perplexing pitching prospects I have ever watched. I posted this report on him last summer when I saw him in Gwinnett. It is arguably the most detailed profile I’ve ever done, because for a guy with middling stuff, there is so much to watch.
For one, he attacks hitters in two ways, looking like a traditional pitcher on the first pitch and then coming at you sidearm style on the next.
I’ve gotten to watch Cortes a few times over the past two seasons and his success is impressive. He throws a fastball that tops out at 89 and drops in benders that have come across as low as 60. He’s been unhittable thanks to the ability to fill the strike zone, mix up that velocity, throw the same pitches different ways, and having the utmost confidence to seemingly throw any of his pitches anywhere in any count.
And somehow, it all works. Really well.