Orioles Top 10 Prospects Chat

J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, Steve. What is your opinion of Randolph Gassaway, and could he be a fast mover through the system? Will he make the top 30?
Steve Melewski: I think Gassaway has a chance to be a top 30 prospect. He made huge strides this year, hitting .330 in 50 games at Lo-A Delmarva. O’s people I spoke with loved his attitude and work ethic and I think he made some gains this year in pitch recognition. He’s got some strength and bat speed and he turned a corner this summer. He did some good work this year with the coaches. Defensively, there is some work to do in reading the ball off the bat and throwing better from the outfield. But he should get a shot to show his stuff next year at Hi-A Frederick. Maybe he will start to move faster now after his 2016 season.

Grant (NYC): Thoughts on Yaz Jr's year?
Steve Melewski: I didn’t know this until just today, but I found out he had sports hernia and groin surgery about three weeks after this season. He had some issues with that for most of the year. He hit .234/.325/.391 between AA and AAA and if healthy we would expect to see better numbers from Yaz. We know he has a tremendous work ethic too and is a real gamer. He has handled the attention of being a famous grandson very well. He should be a full-go for spring so I think Yaz needs to re-establish some value next year and continue to push for a big league spot. I wouldn’t bet against him.

Frank (Chicago): What is lhp Alex Wells' projection likely to be, Steve?
Steve Melewski: Wells is an interesting prospect. Put up the strong numbers with a 2.15 ERA and made the All-Star game at age 19 in Aberdeen. For fans that don’t know, he is from Australia and the Twins signed his Twin brother Lachlan in Aug. of 2014. The O’s signed Alexander for $300,000 a year later. He had a 50-to-9 strikeout/walk ratio over 62.2 innings. He doesn’t have big velocity at 90, 91 but showed a solid curve and changeup. He was pretty poised and advanced for someone with little experience. An interesting guy to watch in the next year or two. Maybe ceiling, should he continue to advance, is back-end starter.

Dave (Baltimore): How many of these guys could you see making BA's top 100? I know you don't get to vote, but speculate for us?
Steve Melewski: I think in the end only Chance Sisco will be a top 100 guy next February. Maybe top 50, maybe even a bit higher than that. His stock is clearly on the rise after a year where he led the Eastern League in OBP, homered in the Futures Game and made strides on defense. After that, Cody Sedlock may be a borderline guy that just gets in the backend of the list or is a close miss. That is probably it with Ryan Mountcastle a real long shot. If healthy, Hunter Harvey would have a shot. He’s been on the list before at No. 68 after the 2014 season.

Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): Were D.J. Stewart, Matthias Dietz, and Ofelky Peralta all at least strong candidates for the list's 11-15 range?
Steve Melewski: Yes, I think all three could fit in around there somewhere. The O’s made a bold move when they promoted Stewart to the Carolina League, even though he was batting just .230 at Lo-A Delmarva. It paid off as he hit .279/.389/.448 in 59 games with Frederick. He continued to tinker with his stance this year, but less so with the crouch (he is still more upright now) and more that he went from an open to a closed stance during the year. It seemed to help him stay on the ball more. The solid finish with Frederick makes it possible for him to start at AA next year. Dietz showed a live arm touching 95-97 mph and just needs more development, as a somewhat raw prospect from the Juco ranks. He could be in the Delmarva rotation next year. Peralta pitched between 92 and 95, touching more with a real solid changeup, maybe one of the best in the system. He is probably real close to being a top 10 and a good looking prospect that could pitch in the Carolina League next year at age 20.

Warren (New London): How down is the organization on D. J. Stewart? He hit pretty well at Frederick, even if he hadn't earned the promotion.
Steve Melewski: They are not down on him, I think some fans may be. But his solid finish at Frederick was pretty important for him and must have sent him into the offseason with some confidence after his first real extended success on the pro level. It is probably not being dramatic to say he saved his season. As I wrote to another reader he made more stance changes this year, closed his stance somewhat and that helped him. No, they are not down on him, in fact I’ve heard Orioles minor league staffers say how much they like Stewart and he has strong makeup and they really want him to do well.

Noel (Portland): None of these guys will make the top 100 list?
Steve Melewski: I am not sure if that is a statement or a question Noel. But as mentioned previously, I think Sisco is a lock while Sedlock and Mountcastle have shots.

Ben (Montreal): Hi Steve, Do you think the Orioles will convert Hunter Harvey into a RP when he will return form his TJ?
Steve Melewski: No I think he is too young for that and needs to start and get in innings for pitch development, if nothing else. He has all it takes to be a good starter, now he just needs the health and maybe with the surgery he will finally have it. He could pitch mid to late season next year, but it might be 2018 until his stuff truly returns. But since he has pitched just 12 2/3 innings the last two years, he is going to have to slowly build those innings back up once again. Dylan Bundy should be his role model as someone who overcame the long TJ rehab, worked through all of it, saw his stuff slowly come back and made the majors and had success.

Sam (Smokey Point): Do you think Sisco begins the year at AAA?
Steve Melewski: I do think he will start there. He has done enough to move past Double-A and he actually played four games at Triple-A Norfolk to end the 2016 season, hitting a grand slam in his first AAA game. What happens with free agent to be Matt Wieters could have a lot to do with Sisco’s future at this point. At the very least he begins the year at AAA and has a chance to impact the big league roster at some point next season.

Aaron (Baltimore): Who do you think it would take to acquire Robert Gsellman from the mets? Perfect kind of pitcher for Camden Yards, seemingly.
Steve Melewski: Well, they are always looking for pitching so maybe he will be someone on their radar. But not being a reporter that covers the Mets, not certain what it would take to get him.

Brent (Canada): Who do you think finishes 2017 as the Orioles' starting catcher, Wieters, Joseph or Sisco?
Steve Melewski: It also could be someone else, but I’ll guess Sisco. We should start to get some clarity on Weiters soon when we find out if the Orioles make him a qualifying offer for the second year in a row. My guess is this time he would not take it and he will head out into the free agent market.

Jeff (Baltimore): Would you put any of these prospects in your MLB top 100?
Steve Melewski: Sisco for sure and maybe Sedlock and Mountcastle.

Steve (Winnipeg): Given the plus contact/fringy defence grades, would a left-handed Paul Lo Duca be a decent comparison for Sisco?
Steve Melewski: Possibly and he posted career big league numbers of .286/.337/.409 and those would be decent numbers for many catchers in MLB. But as well as Sisco has hit on the farm they may be aiming even higher than those stats. We’ll see if he can produce better when he gets his chance.

Mike (Oella): Any notable prospects from either Dominican summer league team last season?
Steve Melewski: I don’t think there were any O’s DSL players this year that pushed to make the top 30 or jumped off the page at us. A few pitchers were sent to instructional league in September and they were right-handers Jose Diaz, Hector Guance and Luis Perez. Shortstop Irving Ortega, who hit .269 in the GCL and is a solid defender, is a young Dominican player to watch. Also of course they have higher up in the system Jesus Liranzo, Ofelky Peralta and Jomar Reyes.

Jason (Seattle): What kind of player will Chance Sisco turn into when he plays in the bigs?
Steve Melewski: I think the hope is he hits for a high average with a solid OBP and can grow into hitting 8-12 homers a year. If he can play average defense, with an arm a tick below average, that could play well in the majors. While there has been a lot of focus on his throwing and that could improve, he did make nice gains this year in blocking, receiving and game calling. Pitchers that worked with him at Bowie said he was more communicative and took charge better this year.

Saint (NE MPLS): Ofelki Peralta has been mentioned as having a good ceiling despite his rawness. He put up solid numbers last year at Delmarva as a 19-year-old, but the walk rate is still troublesome (5.2 per 9). Any notes on his development?
Steve Melewski: I think he is still a young, somewhat raw prospect, but he made nice strides this year at Delmarva with pitching coach Blaine Beatty. I’m told that sometimes he gets under the ball and that impacts the command and control. But he has gotten better each year in this regard. He had a real solid age 19 season for Delmarva and that changeup is turning into a plus pitch to go with velocity that reaches the mid 90s. He may be the best of the prospects that did not make the top 10.

Saint (NE MPLS): Any info on pitchers Joe Gunkel or Travis Seabrooke? Both showed some initial promise, but the K rate just hasn't been there for either of them. Do you foresee anything beyond a back-end projection?
Steve Melewski: Probably not and that is the ceiling if they can reach that. Gunkel has been compared to Tyler Wilson in his pitching style and he had a solid year at Norfolk. He is a sinker, slider guy that needs the command to be there, and it usually is with sound mechanics. He keeps the ball down in the zone well. Very competitive and he seemed close to getting called up once or twice this year but he never was. He was 88-92 this year. Seabrooke had a solid year at Aberdeen and pitched real well late in the year. The Orioles saw more velocity as the season went on, ending up 88 to 92 after solid work in a long-toss program. He also throws a curve and a changeup. Of course he was setback with a torn ACL in his right knee in 2014. He’s still young at 21 and could push to be in the Delmarva rotation in 2017.

Mark (Norfolk): Trey Mancini had an awesome 2015 in AA, and a pretty good 2016 in AAA. But when he got to Baltimore, WOW!, he really took off. Do you think his September promotion was enough for him to begin the year with the Orioles, or does he go back to Norfolk?
Steve Melewski: He has a chance to start in Baltimore. I think even in those few big league games, he may have opened some eyes. He instantly became a fan favorite and has always been a high-character, hard working kid. That swing is pretty solid, producing career .306/.357./.473 minor league numbers. But what position will he play? The Orioles seem reluctant to take Chris Davis off first base. There is talk Mancini could be tried in the OF in spring training. Also if the O’s lose Mark Trumbo and/or Pedro Alvarez, pending any additions, that would enhance Mancini’s chance to make the opening day roster.

Ricky (DC): The Orioles seem to have an organizational stance against spending big money, or even medium money, on 16 year old Latin American international free agents. Is there a stated reason for this? For a team that often sacrifices its draft picks to sign qualifying offer free agents, and trades its prospects rather freely, wouldn't it makes sense for them to be more active in this market?
Steve Melewski: Well, this has often been debated by Orioles fans, who feel they should spend more on international amateurs. They just have never spent big here. I think the closest they came was making a play for Miguel Sano under Andy MacPhail. There seems to be a feeling that spending big on 16 and 17 year old kids is hugely risky. Some in the sport feel that more modest investments can produce big leaguers. The Orioles actions say they feel this way right now. They did develop Schoop and Eduardo Rodriguez and hope international signings like Peralta and Reyes bear fruit eventually. The O’s have fielded 2 DSL teams for several years, hoping to get quality from quantity. An international draft would probably benefit a team like the Orioles that is not nearly spending on the level of clubs like the Dodgers and Yankees on the international front.

Al (IL): How much time in MLB do you think Mancini will spend next year?
Steve Melewski: I will guess more than half the season. But so much is still to play out via free agency that it is hard to project 2017 playing time for him right now.

Blank Face (College Park, MD): The O's seem to be trying out Scott as a starter in the AFL. Considering his major control issues as a reliever, are they forcing too big of a role on him? Or, what is the likelihood he pans out as a starter vs. as a reliever?
Steve Melewski: There is not a role change here and Scott remains a reliever. What they are doing in the AFL is starting him there to get him a few more innings and allowing him to throw a bullpen session between starts. They felt this was best for his development right now. He is still seen as a reliever.

Ryan (Baltimore): Do you see Mountcastle projecting at ss or move positions.. and does he make it to Bowie next year ?
Steve Melewski: The O’s for now seem reluctant to move him, but almost any scout you talk to feels he must move off SS and eventually will wind up in LF. If not there, that doesn’t leave much, perhaps first base. As a player so young, I think he would probably play a full year at Frederick next year. The move up from Delmarva is often a challenge for young guys. It was this year for Reyes, it even was for Manny Machado. Knowing that history, I would think he doesn’t see AA before 2018.

Jill (Orlando): What's the scoop on Alex Wells?
Steve Melewski: A real good looking 19-year-old lefty. Had a great year at Aberdeen. He just needs more experience and as a pitcher that throws 90, 91, there will be doubts how that will play as he moves up. He’ll get the chance though to show he can be one of those crafty lefties with good command that doesn’t need to light up a radar gun to get outs. Very coachable and will be fun to watch as he moves to full season ball next year. He should make the top 30.

KARL (AL): Thoughts on Cole Billingsley? Does he project to be a solid 4th OF or AAA player?
Steve Melewski: He did rather well for a 19th round draft pick and made the All-Star team for Aberdeen. He projects as a speedy, CF/leadoff type of player. He has plus speed and stole 14 of 15 bases. The Orioles sure need speed, but he is certainly not close to the majors yet. I would not project him to be in the majors until we see more the next year or two. He is behind Cedric Mullins as an OF prospect among the players that were in the lower minors this year.

Dave (Baltimore): Could we flip Sisco for a Mets SP?
Steve Melewski: Not 1 for 1 for a top guy certainly. It would take more.

Carlos (Salinas, PR): What can you share about LHP Yelin Rodriguez of the GCL. Seemed like he performed well considering his age and low draft spot.
Steve Melewski: He seems to a be a very raw prospect that was drafted in round 20 out of Puerto Rico and was 17 at the time of last year’s draft. His fastball reached 91 but as a long-term prospect the delivery and secondaries all need a lot of work and refinement. He will almost certainly be a candidate for short season ball again in 2017.

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