2018 Orioles Top 10 Prospects Chat

Jon Meoli: I suppose it’s time to kick this off! As a way of introduction, I’m an Orioles beat reporter for the Baltimore Sun and am thrilled to have been able to collaborate with Baseball America this year to rank the Orioles’ top prospects. Part of their initial pitch to me, however jokingly it may have been, was that the quality of the system, especially at the top, would make this an easier and more enjoyable task than years past. That turned out to be true. I can see by the questions that there are plenty of omissions folks are wondering about, and I’ll try and touch on all of them. Fire away below and thanks for reading!

Charles (Charlottesville): What are realistic projections for Austin Hays next year if he wins an everyday job?

Jon Meoli: Let’s start at the top with the new No. 1 man, Austin Hays. His bumpy September in the big leagues shouldn’t do much to influence his chances of making the major league roster coming out of camp, though it will probably help him for the experience. His ability to hit left-handed pitching and hold his own defensively will make him a great candidate to make the club on Opening Day, as will the fact that any outfield reinforcements that come in at this point might be of the platoon variety as a left-handed bat, which would complement him well. I’d say somewhere a tick below Trey Mancini with a batting average in the .270s and around 15-18 home runs would be a nice introduction to the big leagues for Hays if he gets the playing time.

Roger H. (Oklahoma City, OK): In my opinion being a pitcher in the Os organization is the "Kiss of Death" based on their several injuries and development or lack thereof of pitchers. Is there something to my assessment? Has mismanagement of SPs led to a lack of home grown SPs producing for the Os but producing elsewhere a la Arrieta or even derailing prospects entirely?

Jon Meoli: I think in terms of a sweeping narrative, there’s obviously something to be said about the rash of injuries and lack of development that has defined this organization pitching-wise through this decade. However, these new batches of arms deserve a chance to buck that, and there’s an important distinction that needs to be made when discussing this. To me, real talent should be able to overcome the environment to some extent. There are cases where it can be stifling, but injuries aren’t typically on an organization, they’re on the player. It’s more about identifying the right pitchers who have clean deliveries that don’t lend themselves to injuries and can be effective at the highest level. Absent that, it becomes a minefield in the minors. All that said, this new wave of pitchers in the low minors–Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin, Alex Wells, Hunter Harvey, DL Hall, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Brenan Hanifee, and Cameron Bishop–could go a long way to changing this trope.

Jacob (Dallas, TX): A little surprised to see Sisco behind Mountcastle. What was the deciding factors that warranted the rankings? Can Sisco turn in 15-20 HR annually in the big leagues at his peak?

Jon Meoli: On having Chance Sisco at No. 3 and Ryan Mountcastle at No. 2, several factors came into play. Sisco didn’t do anything to drop in terms of his own performance–his power seems to be developing, his approach is still strong, and his defense is slowly ticking in the right direction. But it’s more about what each player’s carrying tool is and how it can influence a game at the big league level. The defensive questions are so significant with each that my thinking turned into the following: In a worst-case defensive scenario, who is the better player? In that case, where they both might end up in left field or at first base, that answer is Mountcastle, who’s just 20 and got his first taste of Double-A after a terrific season. Sisco will be more impactful if he stays behind the plate and plays strong defense, but Mountcastle’s bat, regardless of position, jumped him at this point.

Frank (Baltimore): Is Ryan Mountcastle ultimately an outfielder as seen? Is there some risk in the profile?

Jon Meoli: To piggyback off that, Mountcastle’s defensive future is the main question for him, and as an observer and at times evaluator of prospects, I really hate when that overshadows a player’s positives. While the assessments of the certain skills that are lacking are fair ones, I feel the fact that the whole package is subsumed by that is unfair. That said, Mountcastle’s transition to third base from shortstop this year proved overwhelming both in the field and at the plate, and his arm strength could be a challenge no matter where he plays. Optimists see the momentum from third base (and possibly left field) as helping him play up his arm a little bit, but the fact that it’s hard to envision him at any position long term does make his profile a risky one. That said, the bat can be better than anyone else’s in the system if he keeps on the path he started on in 2017. It’s a relaxed swing with easy power to all fields and good pitch recognition, and at a level that’s advanced for his age.

Ryan (NYC): Keegan Akin - his drop from the Orioles top 10 is a product of their system improving? His #'s being misleading? Surprised to see someone like Chris Lee rank ahead of him... thanks!

Jon Meoli: Thanks for the question, Ryan. Akin and Lee were two of the toughest rankings for me for a variety of reasons, and without giving away the product that will be in the extended top 30, they’re back-to-back with each other. So, the difference is marginal. Putting Lee ahead of him comes down to level and experience. Akin’s strides once the Orioles worked out some lower half issues in his delivery were noticeable, with a sub-3.00 ERA from that point on and progress shown in the Arizona Fall League. But there’s a lack of physical projection there and his slow start and form in spring training was disappointing to some in the organization. Lee, on the other hand, is an athletic left-hander who can run his fastball up to the mid-90s with a good changeup and got a year of pitching under his belt at Triple-A. He needs a breaking ball to be a starter, and that’s presently not even an average pitch. But as he is right now, he can be a possible impact reliever, as he showed late in the season for Norfolk. And there’s no question about that, so the low floor gives him the nod.

TC (VA): Where do you anticipate Austin Hays falling on Top 100 lists this year? Industry seems to be really split on his future, with some barely seeing an average regular, and others (including BA) seeing a good bit more than that.

Jon Meoli: Had a few questions on where Hays lands, including Craig from Hagerstown, so let’s wrap this all into one. Without having much influence on BA’s or insight into any others, I think Hays ends up somewhere in the 40-60 range on a league-wide Top 100 list this year. That perception of there not being any standout tools has some truth to it, but he also hit 32 home runs in his first full minor league season and probably has a plus arm. He’s shown an ability to barrel balls and make adjustments at the minor league level. That said, there are no truly elite tools that will help him in these widespread ranking conversations, and that could lead to him slipping some places, but there’s a track record that’s hard to drop too far.

Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Father time is undefeated, or so they say, but it still saddens me a little to not see Adam Jones in the projected line-up. Not a question, just an observation. As a fellow Baltimoron, I imagine you can relate. Thanks for the chat!

Jon Meoli: This was probably an oversight on my part, as the directive here was to ignore pending free agency (hence the inclusions of Zach Britton, Manny Machado, and Jonathan Schoop). That said Jones’ next contract may not even run that long. It will be weird to see an Orioles lineup without him whenever it comes, though.

Ryan (Charm City): I see Jomar Reyes fell off the list this year. How far has his stock fallen for you?

Jon Meoli: Reyes is in the top half of the next ten, but yes, he fell off in my mind. The fact that he missed so much of this season, which should have been (and even still kind of was) a bounce-back season for something like punching a dugout wall is disappointing on a lot of levels. Every player’s development path is different, and the Orioles feel that Reyes is on the right one for himself, with improvements to his swing leading to more contact this year. That said, he’s yet to tap into his massive raw power in games, and his other top tool, his arm, could be rendered less relevant if he doesn’t stay at third base. The development track for players from Latin America is always a longer one, but the stories about Reyes staying in shape and improving his swing have been true for years with not as much results to show for it as one could hope. He’s also turning 21 next year and could be in Double-A by the All-Star break, so it’s not like he’s behind any curve. He really just got passed.

Kenny (The Outback): Crickey, what kept Alex Wells off the top 10, mate?

Jon Meoli: As an Alex Wells guy myself, and the friend of many evaluators who feel the same way, Wells being outside of the top 10 wasn’t very popular, but I feel like it was fair. His is a profile that relies on command, and while he showed the ability to do that at an elite level at Class-A Delmarva with 10 walks all season, there’s a long way between Delmarva and the majors. Wells’ profile is one that will require him to maintain and improve with the level at every stop, and there are challenges to pitchers without fastball velocity to doing that. His breaking ball and changeup are both out pitches, and he gets sneaky deception out of his delivery that helps the fastball play up, but he’ll be the type who has to prove it at every stop. He’s not far outside the top 10, and when we get to that 8-16 range, all of the grades are pretty much the same. But he fell outside the group that was published today.

Joey Mack (Baltimore): I often hear how scouts ding DJ Stewart. Can you go into a bit more detail on that? He had a solid year from a numbers look, but obviously scouting looks at it differently.

Jon Meoli: Thanks for the question, Joey. No one was more divisive in my conversations than DJ Stewart this year. Part of that, in my mind, comes from 2016 overall, when Stewart’s overall performance suffered for the first time in his career and scouts saw a player whose skills matched the stats he was putting up. That’s hard for a lot of evaluators to overcome, fair or unfair. But there’s no denying he was a different player this year. The club believes his higher stance allows him to generate more loft and bat speed as opposed to leveling out through the zone, and left-handed power bats are becoming more and more scarce at the major league level. He can play a serviceable left field and run a bit, but it all comes down to his bat. There’s no denying a 20/20 season in Double-A is a good start to showing there’s potential for his bat to carry him to the majors. He’s another who could have fallen anywhere in that 8-16 range, but where he ultimately landed was outside the published 10.

Dan (Augusta, ME): Santander murdered the ball in AA while on rehab - and that's where he should have played all year. How much does the Rule V system hurt a player like Santander's development? Also, do you think Cleveland should have made a spot for him last year?

Jon Meoli: I think the Rule 5 process generally works out poorly for younger players who have to skip multiple levels, but Santander’s case was even more extreme given the injuries he had to deal with and rehab and how his season played out. That he raked while playing against level-appropriate competition is a good sign, and the fact that he’s still in the top 10 is partly based on that and partly based on the fact that there wasn’t really enough to move him in any direction off what he showed this year. As far as Cleveland protecting him, they know their players more than I do. I just know the Orioles weren’t the only team on him in the Rule 5 draft, and if they can just get through the first month-plus of next year to keep his rights, they’ll have a pretty good bat to mold in the minors.

Vivek (Maryland): Alex Wells had a tremendous year in the South Atlantic League. With Frederick likely to be packed with Cody Sedlock, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann, Lucas Humpal, Jhon Peluffo, and repeats of Brian Gonzalez and Ofelky Peralta, does Wells start in Bowie? Does Harvey start in Bowie?

Jon Meoli: Should have piggybacked this off the Alex Wells question, because it’s an interesting one. The Orioles are going to have to get creative filling out the rotations in the low minors, as there are more candidates than spots. At Delmarva alone, you have 2017 top pick DL Hall, plus Brenan Hanifee, Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther, Cameron Bishop, and Gray Fenter, plus probably a repeat for Matthias Dietz. Sedlock could start again at Frederick, with Keegan Akin moving up to Double-A. The likes of Peralta, Peluffo, and Humpal all need innings as well. That could push Hunter Harvey into Double-A by necessity, though it’s hard to say. The Orioles’ recent proclivity to jump players levels could come into play, though that’s shown mixed results. Speaking of that…

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Do you figure any of the pitching arms on last years Ironbirds skip Delmarva and go right to Frederick at the start of the season?

Jon Meoli: The Orioles didn’t really get the results they were looking for when they skipped Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin to Frederick last year, though on the position player side, it clearly benefited Austin Hays. Previously, they were aggressive with Kevin Gausman and David Hess the year after their draft. This year, Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann are candidates for that. That might be the easiest way to get innings for them, but I’d just hope that if they do make such a decision, that it comes from spring training performance and isn’t preordained in January like the decisions for last year’s crop of jumpers was. It proved to be a divisive move within the organization and can send the wrong message to those competing for their places on rosters.

Dan (Hartford, CT): Hi Jon. Thanks for the chat. RHP Brenan Hanifee had a strong pro debut at SS Aberdeen. Did he figure into the next 10? Is he a candidate to jump into the top 10 next season?

Jon Meoli: Have had a few questions on Hanifee, so I’ll address him here. Hanifee was on the radar for the next 10 and is absolutely the type who could vault into next year’s top 10. In fact, with the likely graduations in the top 10 by this time next year, I kind of expect him to be. He’s a young right-hander with a projectable starter’s frame that indicates he could add velocity and strength going forward, and already has an ability to manipulate a sinker, which ticks a lot of boxes for what you’re looking for in short-season ball. He’s a long way off and will make his full-season debut next year for Delmarva.

Grant (NYC): Between righties Mike Baumann and Brenan Hanifee, who are you higher on and why?

Jon Meoli: As a related question, I have Baumann rated higher because of his stuff and how quickly he might move as a power arm. Hanifee is the type who will likely go station-to-station as he develops–and honestly, I can’t even think of a comparison for his skillset and the path he would take in the Orioles system. Baumann, on the other hand, will be a candidate to move up fast and make an impact sooner.

Alan (Orange County): Thanks for the chat. Who's your 2018 breakout pick?

Jon Meoli: And to keep on this path, if I had to pick a few breakout players, I’d go with Hanifee as one, definitely. Infielder Mason McCoy, who hit .301 with a good batting eye and strong defense at shortstop, is the type who will move quickly through the low minors and will get on some radars next year as well. A third breakout candidate is outfielder Ryan McKenna, who has some raw power and is one of the more toolsy players in the low minors. If he ends up in Frederick, that ballpark could be a place where he puts it together and has a good season.

Matt (Va): Where does D.L. Hall begin the 2018 season and could he be the Orioles Top Prospect next season?

Jon Meoli: I don’t see how DL Hall, the Orioles’ top pick last year, starts anywhere but Delmarva. He’ll be part of a very strong rotation there, no matter which other pitchers join him. And as for whether he could be the top prospect this time next year, he’s on a shortlist of probably three or four who could earn that distinction. He probably would have been No. 1 in a handful of other years this decade, but that just speaks to the improvements that have been made. Assuming graduations from Austin Hays and Chance Sisco, that would leave Hall, Hunter Harvey, and Ryan Mountcastle as the top three remaining. That would be a good top three, but Hall could easily jump both of them if either slips.

William (Baltimore): Can you discuss what you saw in Zac Lowther and how he might project?

Jon Meoli: Just want to say these have been great questions, I appreciate them all, and we can keep this going for a while. On Lowther, I didn’t get to see him personally, but those who did said there was a lot to like. Like Alex Wells, he does it from the left side without premium velocity, but has undeniable pitchability and the ability to manipulate and command the baseball. On thing the Orioles like other than his command and idea of what to do on the mound is the extension he gets coming off the mound. Lowther releases the ball deep into his delivery, and thus gives hitters less time to react and keeps them off balance. That’s how pitchers without top-end velocity survive, and he measures out well in that regard. He’s another who could move quickly.

Erik (Maine): Can Cedric Mullins develop into a dynamic talent similar to say; Mookie Betts? Seem to have like playing styles.

Jon Meoli: Grouping this together with another…

Hey Steve (Seattle, WA): When do you see Cedric the Entertainer Mullins making up to the major league level?

Jon Meoli: So to address the Mookie Betts comparison, there are a few separators early on. One, Betts was in the majors at 21, whereas Mullins just turned 23. He could have made it this year if not for injuries, but the point still stands. Secondly, and this is a big one, is Betts is a premier right fielder because of his arm and has the ability to play center field, where Mullins also has the ability to play center field but would be limited to left field, not right field, as the position he could play at an elite level because of a lack of raw arm strength. There’s nothing wrong with that–it’s just like has been the case with so many of these players. The Orioles have too many LF/1B/DH prospects/big leagues. and can only play three at a time. As for when he can make the big leagues, I think he’s the type who could be up early in 2018 if he replicates his spring and April results again. Just as a theoretical, he could be the type of like-for-like replacement the Orioles bring up when they don’t have to carry Anthony Santander anymore and option him to the minors. Mullins would be a left-handed bat option who can run and play defense, something the Orioles are looking for currently. He just may not fit onto the roster in April.

Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): Alex Wells, Jomar Reyes, D.J. Stewart, and Keegan Akin are all in your 11-16 group that had cases for top 10 consideration. Who are the other two?

Jon Meoli: Don’t want to give everything away, though that’s a significant chunk that I already did. Hopefully it’s enough to say that they’re all players I like and who had good seasons. You could even drag that down to 17. We aren’t talking about a top-tier system, but the caliber of players stretching down to around 22 is such that there isn’t a lot of filler on the overall list.

Allen (AL): Thoughts on Adam Hall? He got hurt right away and only played two games in the GCL.

Jon Meoli: Had a few on Adam Hall here…

Jared Watson (Charleston SC): Adam Hall only played 2 games last summer. What were scouts impressions of him during instructs? Who is the most highly regarded 2017 draft pick not named DL Hall?

Jon Meoli: Despite playing competitively for the Canadian National Team at different levels as an amateur, the sense I got about Adam Hall was that there’s plenty of tools and ability there, but also plenty of refinement and work required. He made all the plays at shortstop and runs well, with a swing that’s presently contact-oriented but shows gap power. He could end up remaining in extended spring training next year to get more work, but that’s not because of any lack of skill. It’s about making his adjustment to pro ball as smooth as possible. As far as the most highly-regard 2017 pick not named DL Hall, I’d probably go with Zac Lowther or Mike Baumman. Both are college arms who pitched well in Aberdeen and are seen as potential fast-movers.

Mark (Towson): Terrific write ups! What is Keegan Akin's ultimate ceiling? More importantly, what the heck is going on in Latin America? I understand they've had this approach for some time now but to eliminate such a large population of the talent pool seems like negligence to say the least!

Jon Meoli: I see Akin as a back-end starter if everything breaks right for him, with the possibility of his stuff playing up in relief. He holds his velocity well, but there’s not much projection over long outings. As for the international market, let’s get to that…

Ducktini (The Shore): It seems that the Orioles have far fewer Hispanic prospects than other clubs, but never seem to be the worst overall club. How important is the club's largely indifferent nature to signing Hispanic players?

Jon Meoli: The Orioles’ lack of involvement in the Latin American market has become more and more of a talking point among fans and those in the industry in recent years, especially since collectively-bargained changes to the signing system have limited spending and meant that teams can compete in the market for just a few million dollars. Executive vice president Dan Duquette has called it a strategic decision by ownership, and while there’s plenty of risk involved in handing six and seven-figure signing bonuses to 16-year-olds, that’s what the market still calls for. The Orioles have had some success with the signings they do make, from Jomar Reyes to Ademar Rifaela to Luis Gonzalez, but they aren’t the impact players other clubs are getting in that market. In a situation where the Orioles acknowledge how they need a vibrant farm to supplement the major league roster via trades and call-ups, they aren’t doing themselves any favors ignoring this particular market.

Rick (Maryland): So is the Orioles farm system now better than their beltway brethren the Nationals?

Jon Meoli: This is a stretch, as there’s probably still more high-end depth in the Nationals system. But the gap is closed significantly. We’re going to start hitting the rest of the questions in a quicker manner, though more are still welcome.

Todd Place (Binghamton, NY): What was the knock coming out of college on Hays...was it just lack of exposure, missed scouting, or adjustments he made? Future all-star?

Jon Meoli: A future All-Star is a stretch, though he seems to be the kind of player who could put together a monster first half and earn one at some point. As far as what held him back, being a third-round pick isn’t to be completely overlooked. He had a breakout junior season at a mid-sized school, and it really took that to get him as high on draft boards as he was. Those who were with him in school attribute it to a tireless work ethic and the ability to adjust, something the Orioles have seen carry over to professional baseball.

Frank (Indianapolis, IN): How many of these top prospects do you believe are worthy of making BA's top 100 list?

Jon Meoli: Other than Hays, I think any of Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco, and Hunter Harvey deserve to be at least in the conversation. Harvey’s lack of innings last year could disqualify him, as could the defensive questions on Mountcastle and Sisco. But I’d consider all four.

JD (Feels like South Pole): Where does Lamar Sparks start the season? What is the consensus from scouts after his first pro season in the Gulf Coast League? I've read comparisons to George Springer, did he fall in the draft?

Jon Meoli: I would say Lamar Sparks is on the Aberdeen/Delmarva bubble, but there’s some positive buzz about him. It’s a true center field profile with future plus arm and speed, and he has the instincts in center field that they’ll want to see at this stage. Scouts loved his broad shoulders, which suggest he can add strength and possibly grow into some power. His swing needs to be simplified a bit, but he has a plan at the plate and is the type of player who can bring an organization quite a payback for its patience and development plan.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): What are your thoughts on Irving Ortega, Curran, and Sparks? Do you regard any of them as true prospects?

Jon Meoli: See above on Sparks. As for Ortega, he’s always had a reputation as a good defender, but he hasn’t shown the bat to make the overall package worth that much. Curran’s value is probably tied to his power bat, and it was unfortunate to see a knee injury end his season before it could really get underway.

Nick (Phoenix): Thanks for the chat! How would you rank these three for long-term potential: Ademar Rifaela, Lamar Sparks and Jhon Peluffo?

Jon Meoli: Thanks for the question, Nick. In terms of ranking them, I’d go Sparks, Rifaela, Peluffo. See above the see above for thoughts on Sparks, but I think Rifaela is an interesting case as well. No one inside or outside the organization knows what to make of his year for Frederick, other than to acknowledge that great statistical season that earned him the Carolina League MVP and that it came largely out of nowhere. Peluffo has a live, loose arm and a changeup that gets outs at the low levels, but that didn’t get him ranked this year.

Tom (Youngstown, OH): Checking in on the local kid, YSU grad Drew Dosch, how do you evaluate 2017 and what does future hold?

Jon Meoli: I’ve always liked Drew Dosch some, especially when healthy. He crushes right-handed pitching and is starting to grow into some power after finding a balance between his original swing and the changes the Orioles wanted to make for him, but it’s a platoon profile at this point and there’s some question as to where he’d fit in on a major league diamond. I expect to see a good amount of him in spring training, and perhaps he could get a cup of coffee going forward, but third base is a tough spot to break into for the Orioles, at least for now.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Name a sleeper from the short season GCL or NY-Penn Orioles affiliates.

Jon Meoli: Willie Rios, a 21-year-old left-hander selected in the 16th round of the 2016 draft, was someone one scout I spoke to mentioned as a bit of a sleeper. He needs to figure out how to pitch in and around the strike zone, but runs his fastball up to 93 mph and has a curveball that can play as above-average. The overall package seemed Wade Miley-esque, but not in the way that that comparison would make Orioles fans cringe.

Birdmom (College Park): Is Chris Lee at 10 a sign of how good he is or how thin the Orioles farm is?

Jon Meoli: Pairing these next two.

Ryan (Abingdon, MD): I am surprised to still see Chris Lee on this list, even with the lack of depth in the O's system. Am I wrong to have already written him off as a middle reliever at best? I think I am more intrigued by new draftees Adam Hall and Zac Lowther. How close were they?

Jon Meoli: I get that Chris Lee had a 5.11 ERA in Triple-A this year, and that’s bad, but I didn’t see it as bad enough to be disqualifying. It’s more that his floor at this point is as a middle reliever, where the only thing making that not the case for any other pitcher I ranked in the top 20 or so is that they haven’t reached or struggled in the high minors to make that the prevailing thought for them as well. The Orioles really just wanted Lee to get innings this season, and he did that while addressing some developmental needs. He’s already relatively effective against lefties, but he needs his breaking ball to improve for him to be a starter. That’s an accepted fact, and those who don’t believe it will happen at this point are probably justified. But if it doesn’t, he’s still almost undoubtedly a major league piece, and there are a lot of landmines between those who are listed below him and that status.

Keith (In the Shadow of Bromo): Would Mountcastle still look like a starter if he was unable to handle OF and played 1B instead? You had Trey as your 2021 1B, could that be Mountcastle instead?

Jon Meoli: I think first base would put the most pressure on his bat, but it would still play well there. I think his is the type you find a spot for regardless of who else is there. I’m a big believer in the bat, and know the Orioles are too.

Bo (P town): Should we worry about Austin Hays plate discipline?

Jon Meoli: Hays fits right into the Orioles’ hitting philosophy, which preaches aggression and swinging hard at pitches you can do damage to. That aggression was exposed in September by breaking balls away, but Hays had to adjust to those at every level of the minors and did so quickly. The expectation, for me at least, is that he’ll do the same in the majors before long.

Mick (Chicago): Are the Orioles still one of the bigger believers in attaining prospects from non traditional baseball countries, like past signings of New Zealand's Pita Rona, and Australian Alex Wells? Do those countries have more to offer?

Jon Meoli: I think the Orioles do well to find players from these markets, but it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the more traditional markets that they aren’t as competitive in. There’s also the idea of using resources in these places to find the handful of prospects there, versus using those resources where it may be easier to find a vast wealth of talent.

Alan (Baltimore): Randolph Gassaway's potential seems to be rated all over the place by the experts. Your thoughts on him.

Jon Meoli: Gassaway’s story is a good one, and his breakout in the second half of last year and first half of this year put him on the radar. Questions about his power potential and defense left him off this list, but that doesn’t take away from the work he put in and the progress he made to get to this point in the first place.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): What do you see as the prognosis for Breazeale and Jacob Brown, who both showed some pop at the bat last season?

Jon Meoli: Breazeale impressed as an advanced college bat in short-season ball, but as a catcher, there’s going to be more to his long-term outlook than the ability to hit at the low levels. He’s one to keep an eye on, though. As for Brown, he had a good season in the GCL, and between him and Sparks, the Orioles have as good a chance as they’ve had in years for one of their toolsy high school outfielders to pan out.

Alan (Baltimore): What are your thoughts on relievers J Yacabonis and S Crighton (I may have murdered the spelling on them both)? I know Buck was high on them in Spring Training. How do you rate their potential to develop into quality back-end major league relievers?

Jon Meoli: I have Yacabonis ranked, as he was last year, but thought it was telling that Crichton wasn’t a September call-up. They’re relievers and nothing more, but Yacabonis showed he could hold his own towards the end of the season. There’s nothing wrong with a good fastball/slider reliever.

Professor Taun-Taun (Baltimore, MD): Seeing that Angelos wants to “put a product on the field that the season ticket holders paid for”, do you see the O’s trading Machado and other MLB talent to rebuild the farm system for perhaps a 3-5yr from now run at the championship, instead of wasting time, talent, and season ticket holders money on a mediocre, at best, product?

Jon Meoli: Left the rebuilding questions for last, so here they are. I don’t think any moves like that happen unless the Orioles are pretty well convinced that they won’t be competing next year, which the second Wild Card will complicate some. They have some real internal questions to answer in the coming weeks, and will address some at the Winter Meetings, but I have a hard time seeing this particular regime rebuilding and would challenge the notion that anyone will enjoy the time, money, or talent the franchise loses by trying to play for draft picks and prospects that aren’t guaranteed. I’m a huge proponent of player development and building through the farm, but the time for getting value from the current major league roster for that purpose has passed.

Alan (Baltimore): Any insight on what the return from Houston would have been for Britton? It sounded like a trade fell apart last minute. And building on that question, if the season goes south next year do you see the orioles being in a position forcing them to unload Machado, Britton, Brach, Jones, etc - perhaps similar to what the Yanks did a few years ago? It seemed to work out pretty well for them

Jon Meoli: Last one, and along the same lines. The possible returns from Houston for Zach Britton that I’ve heard are all over the map, with some supporting the Orioles’ assertion that the offers were lacking and others not so much. But if the Orioles are in a position to unload them next season, I’d temper my expectations as to what they get back. It will depend on how badly teams need these players and the market in general, and if the Orioles overplay their hand, they could be left with nothing but draft picks. It will be a difficult balance to strike, but the hope is that they could get players closer to the majors with impact potential versus draft pick lottery tickets.

Jon Meoli: That about does it. Thanks to everyone for the questions, and for your general interest. I hope everyone’s fantasy baseball farms and autograph collections benefit from these rankings and the insights contained within this chat. My gratitude goes out to Baseball America and the Sun for letting this opportunity come to pass, and look forward to the full 30-player rankings providing a fuller picture of the Orioles’ farm system. Let’s do this again next year.

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