Baltimore Orioles 2019 Top 30 MLB Prospects Midseason Update
A challenging major league season that had the Orioles a league-worst 27-62 at the All-Star break was expected in the first year of the organization's holistic rebuild under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, with a roster filled out mostly with fringe players and castoffs. Most of the well-regarded young players were made to start the year in the minors, while only veteran starter Andrew Cashner has played himself into being a trade chip this month, with Chris Davis still struggling badly and Alex Cobb (hip) and Mark Trumbo (knee) not factors before the break.
At the major-league level, the steady first half of Trey Mancini and the rise of All-Star left-hander John Means were the highlights. There were far more on the minor-league side, with new minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt installing what worked from his time with Elias with the Houston Astros and bringing about a massive spike in strikeout rate in the low-minors.
The selection of star Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with Elias' first pick in a well-regarded draft, plus the team's first major foray into the July 2 international amateur signing bonanza, have the organization making good on its promise to upgrade the talent at every level.
To this point, it's still a system largely full of back-end starter ceilings and bat-first corner players, though the last year could be the beginning of changing that.
1. Adley Rutschman, C
The top overall pick in this year's draft was the most awarded player in college baseball this season, and becomes the future face of a rebuilding Orioles franchise. The advanced college bat could move quickly through the system as a result.
2. DL Hall, LHP
An athletic lefthander with a fastball that sits mid-90s and reaches 97 mph with two plus breaking balls, Hall has swing-and-miss stuff (13.4 strikeouts per nine) but has walked far too many in his first taste of the Carolina League. He's nearly unhittable in the zone, but needs to be there more often
3. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
Rodriguez has been every bit the future workhorse the Orioles envisioned him as at No. 11 overall in 2018, showing an aptitude for quick adjustments and more polish than expected with his low-to-mid-90s fastball and improving secondary pitches. He and Hall, both Futures Game participants, represent a bright future on the pitching front for the Orioles.
4. Yusniel Diaz, OF
The best prospect to come back to the Orioles in last year's July sell-off trades, the Cuban outfielder remains a work in progress at the plate as the Orioles try and refine his swing. The tools for an everyday big-leaguer are still there, and Diaz has shown pieces of putting it together in the last month or so.
5. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
Tasked with learning first base in spring training and now left field during the season, the 22-year-old Mountcastle keeps trying more positions to get his advanced bat to the big leagues. His power and contact ability will play anywhere on the diamond.
6. Austin Hays, OF
A torrid spring training for Hays had him looking like the player who shot to the majors from high Class-A in 2017, but injuries have kept him from carrying that into the regular season. The team's focus on his development, as well as their intent to get him more acclimated in center field, means they're still high on him.
7. Gunnar Henderson, SS
Henderson was the Alabama player of the year as a senior and was an over-slot signing at a position of need for the Orioles as the top pick in the second round. The Orioles are intrigued by what they see as plus power from the left side, which would allow the athletic Henderson to hold his value if he moves off short.
8. Hunter Harvey, RHP
Finally healthy for the first time since 2013, Harvey still has a premium fastball that has reached 99 mph with a new splitter and a sweepy breaking ball, and his stuff is playing up as a reliever after moving to the bullpen in June. Health is a priority, but it's dominant stuff out of the bullpen.
9. Dean Kremer, RHP
Kremer's invitation to major league camp this year distinguished him in a crowded cast of pitchers between High-A and Double-A in the Orioles' organization, though an oblique strain meant he didn't debut until May. He's still showing the strikeout propensity and pitch mix that made him a breakout pitcher when the Orioles acquired him for Manny Machado.
10. Michael Baumann, RHP
Baumann already had the electric four-seam fastball that modern teams try to teach, but has featured his slider and changeup more this year and seen his swinging strike rate spike. There are more finesse pitchers than power pitchers in the higher levels of the Orioles' system, so he stands out.
11. Keegan Akin, LHP
12. Zac Lowther, LHP
13. Blaine Knight, RHP.
14. Ryan McKenna, OF
15. Drew Rom, LHP
16. Alex Wells, LHP
17. Bruce Zimmermann, LHP
18. Adam Hall, SS
19. Kyle Stowers, OF
20. Zach Watson, OF
21. DJ Stewart, OF
22. Cody Sedlock, RHP
23. Cadyn Grenier, SS
24. Ofelky Peralta, RHP
25. Brenan Hanifee, RHP
26. Rylan Bannon, 3B
27. Mason McCoy, SS
28. Dillon Tate, RHP
29. Robert Neustrom, OF
30. Stiven Acevedo, OF
To Win A World Series, The Orioles Are Going To Have To Spend
If recent history is any indication, the Orioles are going to have to spend for their rebuild to result in a World Series title.
LHP Drew Rom doesn't have premium velocity, but misses bats and leads all full-season starters in the organization with a 1.54 ERA through July 8 at age-19 in the South Atlantic League. Rom is part of a wave of young pitching that has benefited from the organization's new philosophy
RHP Cody Sedlock was off-the-map after a second year lost to injury in 2018, but the 2016 first-round pick has his fastball back up in the low-90s and has embraced the pitch-design philosophies of the new Orioles' front office. He's being handled carefully, but at 24, Sedlock has revived his career in his third year at High-A Frederick.
SS Mason McCoy led the minor leagues in hits entering the All-Star break with 118. Of those, 92 were singles, and a majority of those came from McCoy simply serving singles the other way against the shift — an increasingly rare skill that along with his solid defense up the middle has pushed him to the forefront of Orioles minor league hitters.
RHP Michael Baumann was perhaps the most notable example of improvement with the Orioles' new pitching mandates, increasing his strikeouts per nine from 7.3 to 12.3 without sacrificing command.
With a new front office and coaching staff watching him, RHP Luis Ortiz has struggled to change the perception that it's a flat fastball without a true out pitch. He's still just 23, but isn't really missing bats at Triple-A Norfolk.
3B JC Encarnacion was a toolsy 20-year-old with strong Class A stats when the Orioles acquired him from the Atlanta Braves last year, but his return to the level hasn't seen him replicate that success
RHP Matthias Dietz looked like he'd figured things out last year at Low-A Delmarva, but lost any semblance of control in the second half and didn't regain it in 2019, ultimately falling out of the high Class A Frederick rotation. He walked 49 in 33 innings in the first half there.
All-Star LHP John Means was never a top-30 prospect, but remade himself this offseason with a few extra ticks of fastball velocity while developing a plus changeup that made him one of the breakout rookies in all of baseball.
OF Steve Wilkerson has always had the athleticism to be an outfielder, but never really got the chance with the outfield so crowded in the high-minors. That changed this spring, and he spent time as the team's regular center fielder despite no true experience there.
Rule 5 SS Richie Martin was told to focus only on his defense as he made the jump from Double-A to the majors, and the Orioles have been happy with his progress both on the infield and at the plate, though he's far from the finished product.
RHP Josh Rogers, one of three players who came to the Orioles in last summer's trade with the Yankees for closer Zack Britton, impressed in spring training but wasn't his best before an elbow injury in mid-June led to a second Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Cody Carroll, who was quickly summoned to the majors last year after coming over in the Britton trade, had a case for a roster spot out of spring training but was sent to minor league camp and hasn't pitched since with a back injury.
After missing most of 2018 with an ankle injury that halted his quick rise through the minors, OF Austin Hays had a thumb injury in spring training and a hamstring issue in June that has limited him to mostly rehab assignments this season, though the team is still high on him.