Despite their lack of fanfare from a player development standpoint, the Baltimore Orioles have done as good a job as any in developing major league talent. The usual knocks are their inability to develop, and keep major league starters. As players like Jake Arrieta, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Zack Davies have found varying degrees of success outside of Avon Barksdale’s home turf. While starters have alluded the Orioles, top notch bullpen talent has not. There’s little questions as to who’s developed the best homegrown bullpen in the world. In addition to the pen they’ve cultivated young superstar Manny Machado, and nurtured Rangers washout Chris Davis into a perennial 40 home run threat. In fact they were tied for the most homegrown players of any team in the 2016 MLB playoffs. At present the Orioles system lacks high impact fantasy talent, but features several intriguing players for deeper dynasty leagues. In other words, it could suck more than it does….
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Chance Sisco, C | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level AAA/AA
One of the top catching prospects in baseball, Sisco can be a divisive prospect in fantasy circles. He possesses elite hit tool, and looks poised to be on the cusp of a big league breakthrough. The power is average at best, making him an unusual bat first catching prospect. There’s two ways to look at it; You either believe he’s a catcher with a safe floor and some developing power; or you see him as a player with limited upside, due to a lack of power or speed. The assumption is he’ll be a plus contributor in batting average at the worst. A Yadier Molina with a higher walk rate. There’s upside as well, as he’s only 21, maybe 13-15 homers is a possibility down the road with some decent counting stats. This is the only slam dunk Top 100 player in the Baltimore system.
Cody Sedlock, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
I wrote about Sedlock a few weeks ago when I ranked him 33rd overall in my first year player draft rankings, here’s what I said then. “How bad is the O’s system that he’s arguably the best prospect in the system? While I’m not one to believe in Orioles pitching prospects, Sedlock offers some intriguing long term potential. He features a four pitch arsenal, led by a mid 90’s fastball with sink, two above average breaking pitches in a slider and curve, and an average change that’s still a work in progress. Much like former college teammate, and 2015 first round pick Tyler Jay, Sedlock started out in the Illinois bullpen before being moved into the rotation last year. The results were excellent following the move, and he looks destined for a starting gig long term.” How’d I do? Anything change in two weeks? Is he throwing lefty all of sudden? Any drone repair accidents?
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Trey Mancini, 1B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA/AA
After a monstrous 2015 campaign where Mancini found himself amongst the MiLB leaders in several statistical categories, the expectations were high coming into 2016. He followed up his breakout with a solid, but less impressive 2016. Starting the year back at AA Bowie, he was quickly promoted to AAA Norfolk. There he slashed .282/.357/.458 with 13 homers, in a notoriously pitching friendly home park. He saw promotion to the big league club toward the end of 2016, and played in 6 games, homering in three of them. Not bad for less impressive. Now here comes the difficult question with Mancini. Where does he fit on the O’s next year? With Chris Davis under contract for several more years, Mancini may have to split time between DH and odds and ends at first. Wait, Perfect Scenario! Quick Jeff Bridich trade the Orioles an underrated pitching prospect that needs to be set free from the chains and drains of Coors. In turn you get Mancini the first baseman you need, and he falls immediately into your lineup. I have strange dreams….
Hunter Harvey, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: Operating Room
Alongside Dylan Bundy, Harvey was once one of the more promising prospects in baseball. Unfortunately, injuries have stripped him of a great deal of development. Following an elbow sprain that forced him to miss the entire 2015 season. Harvey returned in 2016, only to need Tommy John surgery after five starts. There’s some chance that Harvey returns late next season, though it’s not out of the realm of possibility he’s held out until 2018. Will he still possess his electric stuff upon his return? Time will tell, but pre-injuries his elite stuff produced immediate results coming out of the draft. At his best in 2014, his fastball was a plus offering, operating with great control to both sides of the plate, sitting in the low to mid 90’s. His curveball was an elite breaking pitch flashing plus plus with tight spin and depth. His change is average, but gives him a third offering to keep hitters off balance. If he can regain the same fastball and curveball control, and find a way to stay healthy he could be a very useful fantasy arm. Trusting the healthy thing might be a suckers errand. Unless the price is low, I’d wait and see. Harvey’s the son of former Angels closer Bryan Harvey.
Yermin Mercedes, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+/A
A truly under the radar fantasy prospect, Mercedes is a favorite of my podcast co-host Michael Halpern of Imaginarybrickwall.com. He’s an older prospect at 23, but he’s had a long road to this point, getting released by the Nationals organization following 2013. Mercedes played Independent ball in 2014, before joining the Orioles organization in 2015. Following a strong first year at class A Delmarva, Yermin split time between Delmarva and Hi-A Fredrick slashing .345/.404/.570 with 20 jacks between the two levels. Though he was old for A ball at 23, a 24 year old AA catching prospect isn’t absurd, and if he continues to flash plus hit tool and power he could be a real steal in 18-30 team leagues.
Keegan Akin, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
A collegiate ace at Western Michigan, Akin led the Broncos to their first NCAA tournament birth in 27 years. Whilst setting the school’s single season record for strikeouts with 133 in 109 innings. The Orioles liked what they saw, and took the small righty in the second round. He carries a bullpen risk laden profile, as a two pitch righty with a smaller frame. So many evaluators, scouts, and people who say such words, see him as a potential elite closer prospect. However, to the best of my knowledge, the Baltimore organization views him as a starter. One plus toward his case to start; he’s shown no durability concerns throughout his time in college. As for Akin’s arsenal, he features a fastball that sits 93-94, though he can touch 97 on occasion, and a slider that has the makings of a plus out pitch. His silder is a real weapon against lefthand batters. The real question with Akin, is can he develop his change? If he’s able to mold it into even an average offering, he’d be likely to stick in the rotation, and could develop into a mid-rotation starter. Whether he can or not, remains to be seen.
D.J. Stewart, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A
After a standout collegiate career at Florida State, the Orioles selected Stewart in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. In turn Stewart repaid them by playing sub-par ball, and looking like a relative bust. However, following a series of adjustments to his unusual crouching batting stance, Stewart was able to make the most of an unexpected promotion to Hi-A Frederick of the Carolina League. In his final 59 games Stewart slashed .279/.389/.448 with 6 homers, 10 steals, and 41 runs. So far, going from an open to closed stance has allowed Stewart to tap into some of his power potential. There are some useful fantasy skills, but some question as to whether or not he projects as a full time regular at the Major League level.
Christian Walker, OF | Age: 25 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA
The makings of an average major league player, Walker was moved to left field last season to avoid battling for time with Chris Davis and Trey Mancini at first. He shows average power and hit tool, and could carve out a career as a second division regular. Could see some time in Baltimore in 2017, though most likely as an injury fill in or bench player.
Tanner Scott, LHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA
A lefty that can touch triple diggies, and miss a whole bunch of bats. A relief prospect through and through, Scott lacks any average secondary pitches. At this point honing those secondary pitches is the focus of his development. Serious late inning relief upside.
Chris Lee, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AA
A left handed control artist with very little swing and miss to his game. Lee looks like a depth arm for deeper dynasty leagues. As currently constituted I don’t see him developing into anything more than a back of the rotation starter at the major league level. Though he does feature two above average pitches in his mid-90’s fastball, and two variations of a slider that he uses to great effect against lefties.
Alex Murphy, C/1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A
Bat first catching prospect that showed some pop in 2016 slugging 16 homers. Only someone to consider in very deep dynasty’s where 400+ prospects are owned.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Ryan Mountcastle, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A
A boarderline top 100 prospect, Mountcastle is one of my favorite teenage hitters. He features an above average hit tool, and has flashed solid power for a prep prospect. Hitting 10 dongs in his first full professional season. He’s unlikely to stick at short, but his bat should play in the outfield. He’s blessed with excellent bat speed and control of the barrel, which should in turn lead to above average power totals.
Austin Hays, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A –
After an excellent amateur career, Hays was taken by the Orioles in the third round of this year’s draft. Due to the shallow nature of the Orioles minor league hitting corps, Hays jumps right into the argument for top 5 bats in the system. Blessed with plus power and hit tool, Hays’ well rounded game, and advanced skill set could make him a rapid mover through the minors. He hit .336 in his pro debut and led short season Aberdeen with 4 homers. He possesses above average speed that plays up due to his high energy approach.
Jomar Reyes, 3B | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A+
After a strong full season debut, Reyes struggled upon assignment to the high class A Carolina League in 2016. He showed his age and rawness, through major bouts of inconsistency. The tools are there, and there’s more untapped potential in Reyes than any other player in the Orioles system. The catch is he needs to show the focus and professionalism to flourish at the next level. Should return to Frederick this year with hopes of rebounding. A very interesting buy low candidate in dynasty.
Ofelky Peralta, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
A tall righty with a ton of projectable upside, Peralta mixes an above average fastball with a plus plus change. The later of which might be the best in the Baltimore system. He features elite size, arm strength, and stuff, generating lots of bad contact so far is his pro career. Triggers lots of swings and misses, though his control has been wonky. Might be the highest upside arm outside Sedlock and a healthy Hunter Harvey.
Matthais Dietz, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
The O’s other second round pick this year out of John A Logan College. Yes, this is actually a real place. Sounds fake right? Dietz is a big righty with a high to mid 90’s fastball, an above average slider with some bite, and an average change. Throws a lot of strikes, but doesn’t generate the swings and misses you’d like to see from a giant 6’6 brah throwing 95-98. Another Orioles arm with bullpen risk, though in this system maybe it should be starter risk? Amirite?