Top 10 Prospects (2019): Baltimore Orioles: An Underwhelming Rebuild…

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For a rebuilding team that traded away assets for prospects in 2018, the Orioles system is full of question marks.  Of course their history of developing pitching prospects clouds the issues (especially since they’ve continually targeted pitchers in the first round of the draft), but the state of the system speaks to how “well” they did in their trades last year.  While Yusniel Diaz is the team’s top prospect he too has questions hanging over him (and you could easily argue many of the “B-“ prospects are borderline “C+).

Is there any value to be found?  Let’s take a look:

1) Yusniel Diaz – Outfielder
Grade – B
ETA – 2019

The key piece in the Manny Machado trade, Diaz combined to hit .285 with 11 HR and 12 SB for two different Double-A teams.  His 16.1% strikeout rate and 14.2% walk rate indicate a strong approach, and his 10.0% SwStr% is a solid (though unspectacular) mark.

The skillset still doesn’t get you overly excited.  His speed is nothing to brag about, especially after being caught more than he was successful last season (he went 12-for-25).  It’s possible he can become more efficient on the bases, but expecting more than 8-12 annually would be misguided.

There also doesn’t appear to be significant upside in his power, with 15 doubles and 5 triples over his 354 AB.  Playing in Camden Yards will help, but he appears to profile as a 20/10 player at best (and may ultimately be below that yearly).  If he can maintain his improved approach it would help, but it’s hard to get overly excited.

2) DL Hall – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2021

Will Hall be the pitcher who bucks the trend of injuries/disappointments among pitching prospects?  The Orioles hope so, after using the 21st overall selection in 2017 to select him.  The results at Single-A were encouraging, with a 2.10 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 94.1 IP, though there are going to be questions in his underlying skills:

  • Strikeouts – 9.54 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.1% SwStr%)
  • Control – 4.01 BB/9
  • Groundball – 42.3%

The key is going to be the development of his changeup (which is common for younger pitchers), though he’s going to have to also show better control and more groundballs (especially pitching in the AL East).  The upside and stuff is there to take a step forward so he’s worth keeping a close eye on, though no one would blame you if you were a little bit skeptical.

3) Ryan Mountcastle – Third Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019

Playing at Double-A Mountcastle hit .297 with 13 HR over 394 AB.  He showed improvement in his walk rate, though a 6.1% mark isn’t going to excite anyone.  Couple that with an extremely aggressive approach, with a 14.2% SwStr%, and his ability to hit for even a solid average will be called into question.

There is some power, but you have to wonder if that will be enough.

4) Grayson Rodriguez – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2022

The Orioles continue to utilize early round draft picks on pitchers, hoping to ultimately strike gold.  Rodriguez was the 11th overall pick in 2018 and pitched well in his first taste of professional baseball (1.40 ERA, 20 K, 7 BB over 19.1 IP).  That doesn’t tell the entire story and there are reasons to be skeptical about his upside.

For a high school pitcher there is little projection left in terms of his frame, as he’s already listed at 6’5” and 220 lbs.  That somewhat means that what we see now is what we are going to get, though there’s obviously still room for development.  The Orioles obviously believe, though it’s possible he never turns into more of a back-end workhorse. 

5) Dillon Tate – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019

It’s easy to forget that Tate was selected fourth overall back in 2015 by the Texas Rangers.  Since then he’s moved around a bit, but ultimately landed in Baltimore as part of the Zach Britton trade.  Tate pitched for two Double-A teams in ’18, and while his 4.16 ERA over 123.1 IP isn’t going to excite you he showed the skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 7.01 K/9
  • Control – 2.48 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 53.4%

There is a little bit of upside in his strikeout rate (10.1% SwStr%), and he was much better prior to the trade (8.17 K/9 over 82.2 IP).  Even at that strikeout rate, with the other skills he could be successful.  It will be interesting to see if the Orioles can get him back to that type of performance.

The Rest:

6) Austin Hays – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
It feels like there’s a bit of prospect fatigue for Hays, who was a bitter disappointment after hitting .242 with 12 HR and 6 SB over 273 AB at Double-A last season.  A 14.2% SwStr% overall in the minors in ’18 is a huge red flag, even though he still managed to keep his strikeouts in check at 20.5%.  That number is going to rise, and when coupled with his inability to draw walks there are going to be significant questions that need to be answered:

  • High-A (2017) – 4.3% over 280 PA
  • Double-A (2017) – 4.6% over 283 PA
  • Double-A (2018) – 4.2% over 288 PA

With the risk of strikeouts coupled with the lack of walks/SB potential, how valuable will his 20ish HR potential be?  There’s still enough upside to keep him as a “B-“ prospect, at least for now, but another slow start will send his stock plummeting.

7) Hunter Harvey – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
It was a bit of a debate as to whether to give Harvey a “B-“ or a “C+” grade, but ultimately we gave him the benefit of the doubt.  His career has been marred by injuries, but the stuff remains if he can ever stay healthy and put it on display.  He unfortunately again was limited to 32.1 IP last season, and if injury strikes again his grade will officially plummet.

8) Rylan Bannon – Third Baseman (Grade – C+)
Another piece of the Manny Machado trade, Bannon combined to hit .275 with 22 HR and 4 SB.  His best asset is his ability to get on base, courtesy of a 15.4% walk rate last season (.389 OBP).  There are going to be questions about his power, having hit 20 HR in the hitter friendly California League.  At Double-A after the trade he struggled, hitting .204 with 2 HR in 122 PA, though he improved his strikeout rate (19.7%).  Without extreme speed he may ultimately be a 15 HR type hitter who slots into the #2 spot in the batting order, though time will tell.

9) Dean Kremer – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
In 131.1 IP across three levels Kremer showed tremendous strikeout stuff, with a 14.0% SwStr% leading to a 12.20 K/9.  Couple that with a solid 3.15 BB/9 and there’s appeal, though home runs are going to be an issue given a 41.1% groundball rate and he needs to improve his changeup if he wants to make it as a starter.  If not?  Clearly the swing and miss stuff would play well coming out of the bullpen, where he could quickly establish himself as a premier late inning threat.  Already 23-years old, the Orioles could go that route in short order.

10) DJ Stewart – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
Stewart disappointed at Triple-A, hitting .235 with 12 HR and 11 SB over 421 AB (he added 3 HR and 2 SB over 47 PA in the Majors).  As disappointing as it was, Stewart remains on our radar after hitting .278 with 21 HR and 20 SB at Double-A in ’17.  A 13.5% SwStr% at Triple-A is a concern, though his 11.0% walk rate is promising and there is no questioning his power potential.  There are concerns, but enough upside for him to remain on radars.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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