We all know that the Orioles are deep in a rebuild, though that doesn’t mean they’ve done the best job of stacking their farm system with high upside talent. That’s not to say that they are completely void of potential impact players (you’d hope they wouldn’t be, especially after having the top pick in the ’19 draft), but their system isn’t as deep as you’d like to see either. Who does have the potential to make an impact? Let’s take a look:
1) Adley Rutschman – Catcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – B+
The first overall pick in the 2019 draft, Rutschman has a chance to move quickly through the Orioles system. In 155 PA last season across three levels he hit .254 with 4 HR and 26 RBI, though he started slowly before getting going at Low-A (he hit .325 with 1 HR in 77 AB at the level). The biggest question for any young catcher is going to be if he can successfully split his focus, providing both defense and above average production at the plate.
It could take time for Rutschman to adjust, but most believe he’s going to be able to. He showed a tremendous approach in his first taste of professional baseball (6.3% SwStr%, 12.9% walk rate), and the power should quickly present itself. At a position full of questions, Rutschman should quickly develop as one of the elite as soon as he arrives.
2) Grayson Rodriguez – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2022
Grade – B
A first round pick in 2018 (11th overall), Rodriguez has the potential to emerge as he continues developing his stuff with four pitches that can be above average or better. Pitching the year at Single-A he showed signs of all three skills we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 12.35 K/9 (15.1% SwStr%)
- Control – 3.45 BB/9
- Groundballs – 43.8%
Reports have all of his secondary pitches improving as the season progressed, including his fastball which topped out in the 96-98 mph range. At 6’5” and 220 lbs. he has the size that can hold up to a full workload and it’s easy to envision him taking another significant step forward in his development as he likely moves up to High-A. Keep a close eye on him, as now may be the ideal time to buy low.
3) DL Hall – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2022
Grade – B
There is no questioning the swing and miss stuff that Hall brings to the table, with an impressive 14.3% SwStr% at High-A leading to a 12.94 K/9. That alone shows the upside potential, and being left-handed only adds to the draw. The question is going to be whether or not he can figure the rest of it out, as there are significant questions about the other two “skills”:
- Control – 6.02 BB/9
- Groundballs – 35.2%
The stuff is there to be a quality MLB starter, but he needs to mature/develop his stuff. It’s not going to come all at once, but watch him closely and see if the 21-year old can take a significant step forward.
4) Yusniel Diaz – Outfielder
ETA – 2020
Grade – B-
Acquired as part of the Manny Machado trade, Diaz spent the bulk of the year at Double-A hitting .262 with 11 HR and 53 RBI over 322 PA. Of course there are going to be concerns about his approach, considering his 11.5% SwStr% at the level as a 22-year old. He did perform better after missing time with a hamstring injury, including slashing .299/.356/.486 in the second half and cutting down his strikeout rate (23 K over 107 AB). The question now is going to be whether or not he can build on those numbers, potentially moving to Triple-A to open the year and arriving in Baltimore given the questions in the team’s outfield.
There was a time where Diaz was seen as a potential star, though that no longer appears to be the case. He has the ability to be a solid MLB player who should arrive this season.
5) Ryan Mountcastle – First Baseman
ETA – 2020
Grade – C+
Mountcastle was once a highly touted prospect, and there’s no questioning the power potential he brings to the table (25 HR, 61 total extra base hits over 520 AB at Triple-A last season). The question is going to be whether or not he can consistently make enough contact to tap into it. Last season he posted a 15.7% SwStr% while at Triple-A, and that’s a number that could further regress upon reaching the Majors.
There’s also a question as to where he’ll ultimately fit defensively, as he’s moved off of shortstop instead seeing time at first base (84 games), third base (9 games) and in the outfield (26 games) last season. Assuming he can hit for power, the Orioles are going to find a spot for him.
The Next Five:
6) Gunnar Henderson (SS, Current Grade – C+) – The Orioles’ second round pick in 2019, the 18-year old hit .259 with 1 HR and 2 SB over 108 AB in Rookie Ball. Obviously he’s a long ways away from arriving, but he has the potential to develop into an above average shortstop with ample power. We need to be patient and allow him to develop, especially after he struggled initially with the transition (21.6% SwStr%).
7) Michael Baumann (RHP, Current Grade – C+) – Baumann pitched as a 23-year old, splitting time between High-A (3.83 ERA over 54.0 IP) and Double-A (2.31 over 70.0 IP). The key in the improvement was seeing him forfeit some strikeouts (12.83 K/9 to 8.36) in favor of a significant improvement in his control (4.00 BB/9 to 2.70). There is the thought that he could ultimately transition to the bullpen, where his fastball would play up, but if last year was any indication the adjustments he’s made should allow him to stick in the rotation for now. He is 24-years old, and that needs to be considered, but if he’s figured it out he could at least be a back-of-the-rotation starter at the highest level.
8) Hunter Harvey (RHP, Current Grade – C+) – Remember when Harvey was viewed as one of the elite prospects in the Orioles’ system? Injuries have completely derailed his career, though he finally arrived in the Majors in ’19 and suddenly carries closer of the future potential. While he struggled with his control during his 7.0 IP in the Majors, there’s no questioning the strikeout stuff and he was much better at Triple-A (2.70 BB/9 over 16.2 IP). Considering the lack of a true closing option, don’t be surprised if Harvey rises quickly and plays a prominent role in Baltimore.
9) Austin Hays (OF, Current Grade – C+) – The bloom has certainly come off the rose for Hays, though he showed some flashes last season including hitting .309 with 4 HR over 75 PA in the Majors. He also carried a 13.2% SwStr% in the minors (12.0% in the Majors), but there is some power in his bat (29 doubles, 1 triple and 21 total HR last season) and he was once highly touted for a reason. He may not live up to the superstar potential that was once bestowed upon him, but he could still be an MLB player.
10) Drew Rom (LHP, Current Grade – C) – Rom isn’t a pitcher who is going to get much attention, but the 2018 fourth round draft pick deserves some attention. Pitching at Single-A last year he brought strikeouts (11.52 K/9), control (3.12 BB/9) and enough groundballs (45.8%) to be at least a useful pitcher at the highest level. The stuff could further improve as he matures physically (he’s currently listed at 6’2” and 170 lbs.), and being left-handed helps the outlook. It’s possible he’s ultimately forced to transition to the bullpen, but the Orioles signed him for an over slot bonus ($650,000, though the slot was for $483,000) for a reason.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: