We have seen a lot of change over the last month in what looks to be a shift in the Orioles’ mindset moving forward. If you believe Dan Duquette’s words, this shift focuses an emphasis on international scouting and international free agents, developing analytical and scouting resources, and spending on technology. These were the main bullet points he provided following the Manny Machado trade, and he’s echoed them over the past 48 hours or so.
This should certainly give Orioles fans hope that…they’re finally becoming a competent organization?
All jokes aside, this is a major step in the right direction. I wrote the first installment of this piece back in the first week of July and a good bit has changed since then. Here is a rundown of where the affiliates currently sit.
These rankings are reflective the MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Cedric Mullins #9, Cody Carroll #17, DJ Stewart #25, Luis Gonzalez #26
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Mullins is knocking on and practically breaking down the door at this point. He has great speed and a tremendous outfield glove. He’s made highlight play after highlight play and is showing promise to fill the shoes of Adam Jones in center (whose defensive metrics have been declining). Whether Jones leaves the organization or not, Mullins seems to be the successor in centerfield. Across the minors this year, Mullins holds a .814 OPS with 18 stolen bases and 11 home runs. Mullins should be the first of many to be brought up and could provide Orioles fans with a fresh face to root for in a rebuild.
Cody Carroll was acquired in the Zach Britton trade and interestingly was not the headliner. Dillon Tate, the headliner, is a better prospect, but Carroll’s stuff is just as good. Carroll has received rave reviews in the industry and dominated in the Triple-A All-Star game. Across systems this year, Carroll boasts a 2.47 ERA, 11.7 K/9, and hitters are only batting .182 against him. Scouts call his delivery “effortless” and he grades out at a 75 Fastball on the 20-80 scale. With the subtractions of Britton and Brad Brach, Carroll has just found his way up to the Orioles bullpen. He pitched a clean seventh inning in his O’s debut Wednesday.
The other outfielder to take note of on this roster is D.J .Stewart. Stewart was the 1st-Round Pick in 2015. He basically disappointed his first two professional years, but last year started to show some of that 1st Round promise. Stewart hasn’t been hitting as of late, but what I personally like about Stewart is his keen eye at the plate. Stewart can work counts, and once he gets on the base paths, has the ability to wreak havoc. I see Stewart as another outfielder that will be added to the 25-man, if not by September, definitely by next season. He will have to prove himself though, as the question remains whether he can hit major league pitching and solidify himself.
A few other notable names include: John Means, Josh Rogers, Chance Sisco, Breyvic Valera, Drew Dosch, and Mike Yastrzemski.
Mullins is the best of the group, but keep an eye on Carroll. I like his upside.
Overall Grade: C
Double-A Bowie Baysox
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Yusniel Diaz #1, Ryan Mountcastle #2, Austin Hays #4, Dillon Tate #6, Luis Ortiz #7, Hunter Harvey #8, Keegan Akin #12, Ryan McKenna #13, Dean Kremer #16, Rylan Bannon #23, Branden Kline #26, Zach Pop #27, Brett Cumberland #30
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Bowie is clearly the most top-heavy team in the system with five of the top seven prospects in the organization. However, I’d like to focus on the new guys acquired via trade: Yusniel Diaz, Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop, and Brett Cumberland.
Diaz was acquired as the headliner in the Manny Machado deal and immediately became the Orioles’ #1 prospect. According to mlb.com, Diaz is ranked as the 57th ranked overall prospect. Power is considered to be Diaz’ worst tool, but he hit two homers in the Futures Game over the All-Star break. All of his tools sit around 55 which suggests he’s a well-rounded prospect. The Orioles did well to get Diaz, but the ironic part of this was that he was an international free agent, and they traded for a guy they could’ve just ended up signing. Diaz, however, solidifies their outfield depth for the future and they shouldn’t realistically have to sign an outfield bat for a long while.
Dillon Tate was drafted 4th overall in 2015 and looked to be the most promising arm in the Texas Rangers’ farm system. After some mechanical changes, Tate’s velocity slowed and he quickly slipped off Top Prospect lists. After being dealt to the Yankees, Tate’s velocity ticked up and his stuff came back to life. Some would be suspicious of a 24-year-old prospect still in Double-A, but Tate pitched three years in college, and needed a little extra time to develop. Tate has starter aspirations, but may end up settling for a bullpen role, which will be perfectly fine if he can be elite (or nearly so).
Luis Ortiz was the biggest name in the return for Jonathan Schoop. Ortiz has some pretty good potential and pitched in this year’s Futures Game. Ortiz may have been the best pitcher the Orioles received in all of their July trades; he can repeat his delivery and throws a ton of strikes. Ortiz has been stuck in Double-A for a few seasons, and many would like to see him graduate. A big guy, listed at 6’3 230 lbs, Ortiz will have to watch his conditioning moving forward. Scouts seem to like his complementary slider to a fastball that sits 92-97. If Ortiz continues to develop and stay healthy, I expect him to be the best pitching acquisition of this deadline and a future staple in the rotation.
Dean Kremer, acquired for Machado, may have the most potential to become a rotation staple for the O’s. Kremer actually pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Team Israel, so he has experience on the big stage. Kremer has made a big step this year and continues to miss bats at an impressive rate. Kremer probably projects to be a #4 starter, but the Orioles didn’t get any slouches in the secondary pieces from their deals.
Rylan Bannon may be smaller in stature, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his power numbers. Bannon has 21 bombs so far and a .391 OBP in 359 at-bats. I expect Bannon, if he continues to progress, to move through the system quickly. The Orioles are starved for infield high upside depth and Bannon could provide that. He has moved to 2B at Bowie with Mountcastle at third. Now that Schoop has been traded, Bannon has the potential to be your second baseman of the future.
Zach Pop is a reliever who throws the ball from a somewhat interesting arm angle. Pop was Canada’s top pitching prospect in 2014, and that’s mainly because of his fastball velocity (91-94, can touch 96) and plus slider. Pop still has a little ways to go before he’s big-league ready, but with the Orioles stockpiling arms, he will certainly have his work cut out for him.
Brett Cumberland is the only catcher the Orioles acquired in their 15-player haul in July. The Orioles probably should get more catching depth with some questioning Chance Sisco’s catching viability moving forward. Cumberland has been fairly light hitting as of late, but is a switch-hitter, which offers flexibility. His power comes from the left side of the plate and people project him as a future backup. He’ll need to prove himself a bit, but he was a promising name coming out of college.
I had the privilege to see these Baysox over the weekend in Harrisburg and I was thoroughly impressed. They put up a 5 spot in the 1st inning, and there honestly wasn’t a glaring hole in the lineup. Couple the offense with the newly acquired pitching and you’ve got the best affiliate in the system.
Overall Grade: A
Single-A Frederick Keys
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Zac Lowther #18, Michael Baumann #12, Alex Wells #28
Earlier in July when I did this list, Frederick had a few more names in the Top 30, and now they’re down to just three. This is a reflection of both the new guys they acquired and some former bigger named prospects falling off. Alex Wells, Michael Baumann, and Zac Lowther remain the only three and provide the O’s with even more pitching depth.
Wells was awarded Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017. He was known last year for his master control, but this year, while his control has been there, he’s been hit pretty hard by Class-A hitters. Batters hit .294 against him and he’s only striking them out at a 6.3 K/9 rate. That won’t cut if he wants to consider himself a legitimate prospect. Wells may end up relegating himself to a long-relief bullpen role, which is fine, but doesn’t really meet expectations after a spectacular 2017 campaign.
The O’s went with a University of Jacksonville player in the 3rd Round in consecutive drafts and in 2017, the latter was Michael Baumann. Baumann is said to have a durable frame with a fastball that has touched 97. Meeting just a few struggles since he’s hit High-A ball, Baumann should be just fine moving forward. I like Baumann a good bit and I’m excited to see if the Orioles brass challenge him a bit by moving him up a level. He will take his knocks in the minor leagues, but Baumann has good stuff, and if he meets those challenges could provide the Orioles with an interesting under-the-radar prospect.
Zac Lowther may be the prospect I’m most intrigued about at Frederick. He has had strikingly similar numbers moving from Delmarva to Frederick. However, at Delmarva, Lowther held a 14.8 K/9, and at Frederick the strikeout numbers aren’t quite as dominant (9.5). Lowther, though, was a college pitcher who led the Big East Conference in strikeouts at Xavier and has a chance to move through the system fairly quickly if he continues this dominance.
Frederick has some promise on the pitching side, but their offensive prospects aren’t near the cream of the crop of the organization. One name I like is Wilson Garcia. Garcia holds a .911 OPS and has hit 19 bombs for the Keys. The Orioles acquired Garcia this May and he’s done nothing but rake. Garcia may only project to be a future DH only, but I like his power metrics.
Overall Grade: C+
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): DL Hall #3, Cadyn Greiner #10, Jean Carlos Encarnacion #15, Brenan Hanifee #19, Cameron Bishop #20
Delmarva has last year’s 1st Rounder DL Hall, who has more than impressed in his first full season as a pro. Hall holds a stellar 2.27 ERA and batters only hit at a .196 clip against him. Hall recently won Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month and looks to finish off his season strong. Although drafted just last year out of High School, Hall could shorten his ETA to the bigs if he continues his development of that strong curveball of his.
Recent College World Series champion and elite defensive shortstop Cadyn Greiner has just begun his professional career starting in the South Atlantic League. Greiner has been pegged as a light hitting shortstop, but his defense gets him by. He certainly is living up to that moniker so far, but has room to grow into a serviceable bat. His hit tool is considered to be a 50, which isn’t bad, but Greiner will have to start showing some consistent ability with the stick in the minors to be considered a major-leaguer. Greiner is a name to keep an eye on. By the way, it’s pronounced (Gren-YER).
Jean Carlos Encarnacion may have been the best prospect the Orioles received for Gausman and O’Day, but his promise is nothing to be taken lightly. Encarnacion should be the model as to why the Orioles should sign more international players. He was signed for just $10,000 out of the DR and is already the 15th ranked prospect in a major league system. He is totally unpolished, but with an upside that resembles Andrelton Simmons. The kid doesn’t have a tool under 50 and boasts an arm tool of 60. I like this acquisition for the Orioles. They received mostly high-level arms and bats, but it’s smart to sprinkle some of these lower level high upside prospects. It’s prudent to diversify the talent in a rebuild.
Brenan Hanifee and Cameron Bishop were both on the Top 30 list to start the season, but have dropped a bit with the 13 newcomers. However, they both have sub-3.00 ERA’s with good control. Hanifee is a righty and Bishop a southpaw, and both have their work cut out for them, but if they respond well to competition, expect them to move up to High-A or Double-A as early as next season.
The Shorebirds recently moved up Matthias Dietz, Michael Baumann, and Zac Lowther, or they would have gotten a slightly higher grade. The Shorebirds also have a few other notable names: Kirvin Moesquit, Ryan Ripken, and Zach Jarrett (son of NASCAR’s Dale). This squad is also coached by Zach Britton’s brother, Buck. Overall, this team has promise and a familiar name in Grenier from the 2018 Draft Class.
Overall Grade: B-
Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Jean Carmona #14, Adam Hall #29
Not too many names of note on this team besides those Top 30 prospects in Hall and newly acquired Carmona. It’s possible 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez to make a visit to Aberdeen to end the year, but they may just want him to stay comfortable and take it easy just being drafted out of High School. Blaine Knight, their 3rd Rounder, has yet to report to an affiliate*, but could find his way to the IronBirds. As of right now, not a wealth of talent, but that could reflective of their lack of super young/experienced talent acquired in June.
Overall Grade: D
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Grayson Rodriguez #5
The GCL is the rookie ball affiliate, used for young players just drafted and for others requiring more development. O’s 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez is on this team along with draft picks Drew Rom and Yeancarlos Lleras. Dariel Alvarez is rehabbing there as a pitcher…remember him? Rodriguez has yet to allow a run in nine innings and so far doing what he has to. Overall, it’s exciting to see a Top 5 prospect in the system at Rookie Ball.
Overall Grade: B (considering the talent level for Rookie Ball)
The Orioles’ focus over this massive rebuild and relegation of talent in July was quantity over quality. That’s not necessarily the wrong decision. The best under-the-radar moves were Carmona and Encarnacion, because they give the organization a chance to develop high-ceiling talent. As it sits, this is probably a middle of the road farm, but with the potential of landing Victor Victor Mesa and next year’s #1 or #2 overall pick, the best is yet to come. The Orioles have $8.25 million to spend internationally (no that is not a typo). This will allow them to not only potentially sign Victor Victor (the best available international prospect), but it gives them the ability to sign many international players until next July.
Bobby Witt Jr., is currently the name I’m hearing expected to go #1 next year in the First Year Player Draft. Witt, a high school shortstop and son of a former major leaguer, doesn’t have a tool under 60 and recently won the High School Home Run Derby. Considering this year’s #1 Overall draft selection Casey Mize is the #20 in the Top 100, I expect Witt to also be Top 20 if not higher. The Orioles could realistically could have five Top 100 Prospects by June of next year in Witt, Victor Victor, Yusniel Diaz, Ryan Mountcastle, and DL Hall if everything goes perfectly. And do I want Victor Victor to kick off this rebuild with bang? I think my recent tweetstorm on him says it all. Here’s to 2021!
*Blaine Knight has yet to report to an affiliate, but as the #11 Prospect, he should boost the prowess of whichever affiliate he pitches for.
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