Four Orioles farmhands find themselves on FanGraphs’ Top 120 prospects list to begin the 2020 season. Adley Rutschman (#5), Grayson Rodriguez (29), DL Hall (86), and Ryan Mountcastle (108) represent Birdland’s best hopes for the future, according to the amateur scouting team over at FG (full list here). Immediately jumping out at me were the omissions of Dean Kremer, who I think deserved to jump onto some lists this year (yet hasn’t, at least that I’ve seen) and Yusniel Diaz (who understandably dropped off some lists this year after his injury-plagued 2019).
As for the guys that are on there though, here’s a snippet of what Eric Longenhagen had to say about each.
It’s rare for ambidextrous swingers to have polished swings from both sides of the plate, even more so to have two nearly identical, rhythmic swings that produce power.
It’s more atypical still for that type of hitter to be a great defender at a premium position. Rutschman has a pickpocket’s sleight of hand and absolutely cons umpires into calling strikes on the edge of the zone. Resolute umpires end up hearing it from biased fans who are easier marks. Aside from two instances, all of my Rustchman pop times over three years of looks are between 1.86 and 1.95 seconds, comfortably plus timed throws often right on the bag. Rutschman has the physical tools to become the best catcher in baseball, provided he stays healthy (he had some shoulder/back stuff in college). He’s also an ultra-competitive, attentive, and vocal team leader who shepherds pitchers with measured, but intense encouragement.
Hey Rob Manfred, could we push off those robot umpires for at least another, oh, 10 years or so? Thanks. Signed, Birdland.
Rodriguez’s changeup, which was an afterthought back in high school, has screwball action and has become very good, very quickly. He’s now tracking to have a four-pitch mix full of above-average pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a lateral, mid-80s slider, a two-plane upper-70s curveball, and the low-80s change…Rodriguez has a No. 2/3 starter ceiling.
The worst thing you can say about GrayRod is that we probably still have three more years to wait before we see in in Baltimore. A lot can happen to a pitcher in three years…here’s to Grayson’s upward momentum only getting stronger.
Ultra-competitive, athletic southpaws with this kind of stuff are very rare. Here’s the list of lefty big league starters who throw harder than Hall, who averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball in 2019: Blake Snell. That’s it.
Because Hall’s release is inconsistent, not only did his walk rate regress in 2019, but the quality of his secondary stuff was also less consistent than it was during his very dominant mid-summer stretch in 2018, when Hall’s changeup clearly took a leap.
All eyes will be on Hall this year, as he looks to regain that mid-2018 form. The command was concerning last season, but the bet here is that he is much higher on this list a year from now.
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports
The eerie shadow of the LF/DH projection (he’s had issues throwing to first base) has loomed around Mountcastle’s profile for a while now, but he keeps hitting enough for me to like him anyway.
Mountcastle’s timing is sublime, and he has one of the more picturesque righty swings in all of pro baseball, featuring a big, slow leg kick that eventually ignites his deft, explosive hands. He has great plate coverage and hits with power to all fields. Mountcastle swings a lot: He has a 4.5% career walk rate, and it’s rare for DH/LF sorts to walk that little and be star-level performers. DH types with OBPs in the .310-.320 range typically max out in the 2-3 WAR range, which is where I expect Mountcastle to peak.
When will we see Mountcastle in Baltimore? With not much to look forward to as far as the big league club goes in 2020 (unless you’re a die-hard, of course), fans will be clamoring for that “picturesque righty swing” to begin making appearances at OPACY sooner rather than later.