With the 2018 Minor League Baseball season coming to a close as playoffs begin at all levels, its time to take a look at which prospects took the biggest jump in 2018, as well as who took the biggest step back.
In this new series, I’ll be taking a look at six players per system—three of whom rose the most in 2018, while the other three fell the most in 2018.
Next up are the Baltimore Orioles.
Drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft, outfielder Cedric Mullins had a huge year in the minors for the Orioles.
In 109 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Mullins hit a combined .289 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs. As a projected top-of-the-order hitter, Mullins’ power was never a prime tool. However, the 23-year old hit a combined 49 extra-base hits in the minors in 2018.
Furthermore, Mullins stole 21 bases, and struck out just 67 times in 443 at-bats. Mullins strong 2017 season makes 2018 a little less surprising, but the jump from Double-A to the majors is an impressive one for a mid-level prospect in the Orioles system.
In 119 at-bats in the majors, Mullins is hitting .269 with three homers. After looking like a fringe major league player going into 2018, Mullins looks like the clear 2019 replacement for Adam Jones in Baltimore.
Unlike Mullins, Mountcastle has always been one of the top names in the Orioles system. Their 2015 first-rounder has been moved along somewhat slowly, but has thrived in 2018 at Double-A.
In 102 games, the third-baseman hit .297 with 13 home runs, 19 doubles, and 59 RBIs. In addition to his productive power stroke, Mountcastle maintained a low strikeout rate, K-ing just 79 times in 394 at-bats.
After trading Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles are in serious need of a future star in the infield. While Mountcastle still has ways to go at the age of 21, 2018 was a big indicator that the Orioles could have their guy down in Double-A.
As a result of his big 2018, Mountcastle has vaulted all the way to #68 on the MLB.com Top-100 prospects rankings, and is now the Orioles second-ranked prospect.
The Orioles second-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Western Michigan, Keegan Akin emerged as one of several standout lefties in the Orioles system in 2018.
In 25 starts, the 23-year old went 14-7 with a 3.27 ERA. While the wins and ERA are impressive, the real eye-opener is the strikeout numbers—142 in 137.2 innings.
Opponents hit just .225 off of Akin, who spent all of 2018 in Double-A. After another big strikeout season, Akin looks ready for a major-league trial with the emergence of his consistency.
Akin looked like a potential future bullpen piece due to poor mechanics and his knockout stuff. However after 2018, Keegan Akin looks like a lock to be a part of the Orioles rotation in the very near future.
Austin Hays was one of the biggest breakout prospects in all of the minor leagues in 2017. The young outfielder went from High-A to the major leagues, becoming the first member of the 2016 draft class to debut in the majors.
2018 was a completely different story. In 66 games at Double-A, Hays hit just .242 with 12 home runs before going down with an ankle injury. In nine games rehabbing the injury, Hays hit just .189 with two doubles.
The Orioles decided to shut Hays down until the Arizona Fall League, until Hays experienced another setback, keeping him out of the AFL.
While the injuries have played into it quite a bit, 2018 was a disaster for Hays from a developmental standpoint. Time isn't running out on Hays, but 2018 was a big step in the wrong direction.
2018 looked like it could've been Hunter Harvey’s year. The 2013 first-rounder’s professional career has been an unpleasant mix of underperforming and injuries, however 2018 looked like a good clean slate after a strong second-half of 2017.
Unfortunately, everything went wrong for Harvey in 2018. In nine starts in Double-A, Harvey with 1-2 with a 5.57 ERA, striking out just 30 in 32.1 innings while giving up 36 hits and walking nine.
Harvey landed on the DL after just nine starts with an elbow injury, and was subsequently shut down for the remainder of the season in August. If you could've drawn out the most disastrous scenario possible for 2018 for Hunter Harvey, this was it.
2019 will be a make-or-break year for Harvey. He’ll be 24, and another injury-riddled season could call for a change of scenery for the once-premier prospect.
While Chance Sisco has now moved past prospect status, he entered the season as one of the top prospect in the Orioles system. With Wellington Castillo gone, 2018 was the perfect opportunity for Chance Sisco to emerge as a budding star in Baltimore.
Needless to say, 2018 was an absolute disaster. In 160 at-bats, Sisco hit just .181 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 63 games.
Sisco spent a solid amount of time in Triple-A after his bad start, but wasn't much better there, hitting just .242 with three home runs. Sisco remains a strong defensive option behind the plate, but his hitting has completely lost him after a steady development leading up to the season.
Sisco is still just 23, and will have plenty of opportunities to make up for a disastrous season. All signs were pointing in the right direction for one of the games top catching prospects leading up to those seasons, but now Sisco is a major question mark for 2019 in Baltimore