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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Chance Sisco, c|
|2. Cody Sedlock, rhp|
|3. Ryan Mountcastle, ss|
|4. Hunter Harvey, rhp|
|5. Trey Mancini, 1b|
|6. Keegan Akin, lhp|
|7. Austin Hays, of|
|8. Jomar Reyes, 3b|
|9. Chris Lee, lhp|
|10. Tanner Scott, lhp|
The Orioles returned to the playoffs for the third time in five seasons in 2016, though their stay there was short. They lost to the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card Game on Edwin Encarnacion's 11th-inning homer.
It was an abrupt end to an 89-win season, one where Baltimore led the AL East for 111 days. The Orioles have had five straight .500 seasons or better, and their 444 wins since 2012 leads the AL.
While the Orioles are sensitive to organizational prospect rankings that place Baltimore near the bottom of the majors, they point out that several homegrown and developed players contributed to their 2016 playoff season. The team's core players, such as Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Matt Wieters, Kevin Gausman and closer Zach Britton, are homegrown.
Moreover, the Orioles had several rookie contributors to their 2016 success, such as five-time No. 1 prospect Dylan Bundy, who stayed healthy and pitched well until tiring late in the season. Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard and Korean import Hyun Soo Kim were outfield starters, while righthander Mychal Givens and lefty Donnie Hartprovided key relief innings.
That group includes two key starters and three relievers who helped the Orioles lead the AL in reliever ERA at 3.40. Bundy and Gausman led a rotation that was much better in the second half and provides hope for 2017.
After years of Orioles pitching prospects not living up to potential—at least until after being traded—could Bundy and/or Gausman be that ace that the club has long been searching for?
Club officials also believe they had a productive draft. Their top three picks—Midwest pitchers Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin and Matthias Dietz—all showed instant promise as did their fourth selection, outfielder Austin Hays.
General manager Dan Duquette has shown a willingness to trade prospects for major league-ready help. In recent years he has dealt righthander Zach Davies (Brewers) and lefties Eduardo Rodriguez (Red Sox), Josh Hader (Astros) and Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault (Pirates). None of the players acquired in return remain with Baltimore.
Those trades have thinned the farm system, and Baltimore didn't have a single minor league playoff team in 2016. Only low Class A Delmarva had a winning record. But Baltimore brass felt there were individual success stories.
Catcher Chance Sisco made strides on defense and ascended to the No. 1 prospect in the organization. Their 2015 minor league player of the year Trey Mancini received a September callup and homered in his first three starts.
The Orioles ended 2016 with a walk-off ending—when manager Buck Showalter used Ubaldo Jimenezinstead of Britton in the fateful 11th—but with a hopeful future. They have a core group of players under team control for at least two more seasons, so the window to keep competing in the AL East remains open.
1. Chance Sisco, c |
Born: Feb. 24, 1995. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Corona, Calif., 2013 (2nd round). Signed by: Mark Ralston.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Sisco didn't become a catcher until his senior year in high school, and the Orioles liked his combination of athletic ability, hitting tools and defensive potential to select him 61st overall in 2013. Since signing for $785,000, Sisco just keeps trending up. He has risen from the system's No. 10 prospect after his pro debut to No. 4, then No. 3 and now No. 1. The 21-year-old always has shown a solid bat, with a career .402 on-base percentage as a pro, but his defense made strides this year. Sisco led the Double-A Eastern League in OBP (.406), ranked fourth in the league in batting (.320) and homered in the Futures Game during a breakout 2016 season. In September he earned his first promotion to Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit a grand slam in his first game, and earned minor league player of the year honors in the organization.
Scouting Report: Sisco's hit tool is strong, and he has a long track record of success. That success has afforded him the confidence—if not arrogance—required of big league hitters. It starts with excellent hand-eye coordination and a natural feel for hitting that allows him to make consistent hard contact. He has a controlled, line-drive, all-fields approach and solid plate discipline. Showing a solid eye at the plate, he drew a career-best 61 walks. Sisco lets the ball travel deep and improved his ability to pull the ball this year. Pitchers used to try to pound him inside with fastballs, but he has started to adjust, getting his hands to the hitting zone quicker than in the past. He added some strength and showed an increased ability to backspin the ball. His opposite-field home run at the Futures Game in Petco Park hints at his power potential, and he has average raw power. Sisco has shown smarts on the bases but is a well below-average runner. That makes his career .323 average look even better because he doesn't get many infield hits. Sisco's defense took steps forward in 2016. It started in big league spring training—he received his first invitation—where he worked with big leaguers Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph. Pitchers who threw to him at Double-A Bowie said his game-calling and game management took nice strides. His pop times on throws to second base remain around 2.0 seconds, which is average, but he was over that more often than under it. His arm strength grades a tick below-average, and he needs to continue to improve his footwork and transfer to help him throw out runners. He caught 24 percent of basestealers in 136 attempts this year. Sisco's blocking and receiving skills also improved as did his ability to frame pitches. He had just four passed balls in 87 games. When Sisco first got to Double-A in 2015 and began working with older pitchers, he learned from them and grew because of it. It even helped him at the plate because he could understand better how pitchers approach getting hitters out.
The Future: Sisco could reach the majors in 2017, but given his youth and lack of Triple-A experience, he probably will not make the Opening Day roster. That holds true even if Wieters leaves via free agency. Sisco should be Wieters' eventual successor, however, and at least a partial season at Norfolk would benefit him.