by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Baltimore Orioles have a stigma hanging over them, especially when it comes to their pitching prospects. However there’s a new class of prospects coming, and while you may want to be nervous about the pitchers it’s the hitters who are far more intriguing. Austin Hays made a surprisingly MLB debut late in ’17, but he’s not alone. Who are the players that are worth monitoring? Let’s take a look:
1) Austin Hays – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
To call 2017 a breakout campaign for Hays would be an understatement, as he hit .329 with 32 HR and 95 RBI between High-A and Double-A. That earned him a late season callup, though to an extent those 60 AB helped to expose the one true red flag hanging over him. While the average was highly impressive in the minor leagues, it came courtesy of a .341 BABIP and he showed a propensity to swing and miss (12.1% SwStr%). In his cup of coffee in the Majors he posted a 25.4% strikeout rate, courtesy of poor plate discipline:
- SwStr% – 17.9%
- O-Swing% – 40.3%
Obviously it’s an extremely small sample size, but given the minor league numbers it’s something we can’t ignore. He was particularly bad against breaking balls (31.71% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (35.48% Whiff%), and that’s something that will likely continue as he learns and matures at the higher levels. Until he proves otherwise, that risk is going to limit his potential.
2) Ryan Mountcastle – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
You can argue that Mountcastle has a similar makeup to Hays, though his SwStr% was actually worse while splitting time between High-A and Double-A (14.4%). His strikeout rate jumped to 22.0% over 159 PA at Double-A, and with few walks his plate discipline is a significant red flag as he continues to advance against more developed starting pitching.
He clearly offers power, with 48 doubles, 1 triple and 18 HR last season, and as he matures he could become a 25+ HR threat annually. He also should add 10ish SB, making him an intriguing blend of power and speed in the middle infield. He’s still just 20-years old (he’ll turn 21 before the start of the season), so we can give him a little bit of a pass in his approach for now. That said, he needs to make an adjustment or his value will ultimately be capped.
3) DL Hall – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
Given the Orioles’ history with pitching prospects it’s fair to have some level of concern (though it’s maybe a bit unfair). His size adds to the concerns, however, as he stands at just 6’0” and there is going to be some who feel he’ll ultimately end up in the bullpen. No one is going to question the stuff of the ’17 first round pick (21st overall), and he’ll have plenty of time to develop. If he can continue to develop the changeup he could emerge as a top of the rotation starter, though that’s some years away at this point.
4) Cedric Mullins – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2019
He spent the year at Double-A, but hamstring issues limited him to 76 games. That said, while on the field he hit .265 with 13 HR and 9 SB and showed a good approach at the plate (9.0% SwStr%). People will question his power, as he stands 5’8”, and his speed is his best asset (30 SB in ’16). That latter statement makes the hamstring issues more of a concern, and he needs to prove that he can stay healthy and become more refined on the bases (9-for-16 in ’17).
A switch hitter, he has the potential to develop into a 15/30 type leadoff hitter, though we’d like to see a few more balls put on the ground (41.5% in ’17) so he can utilize his plus speed. At 23-years old, this is going to be a key season in his development.
5) Chance Sisco – Catcher
Grade – B-
ETA – Already Arrived
The power still hasn’t developed, something everyone thought would come (7 HR, 30 total extra base hits). If that wasn’t enough, his plate discipline wavered at Triple-A as he struggled to a 13.4% SwStr%. That carried into the Majors, though obviously no one is going to draw a conclusion off 18 AB. Sisco’s advantage was supposed to be as a catcher who could hit for a high average, but if he can’t make consistent contact that simply isn’t going to happen. We obviously want to give him more time to adjust against upper level pitching, but at this point we’re tapping the brakes just a little bit.
The Next Five:
6) Hunter Harvey – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
Note – He returned from Tommy John surgery, throwing 18.2 IP last season. We are going to be cautious with the ranking, as he has a lot to prove, but he has the stuff to end the year as the team’s top prospect.
7) Tanner Scott – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
8) Adam Hall – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
9) Zac Lowther – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) D.J. Stewart – Outfielder (Grade – C)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: