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Hays' ascent from an unheralded and undersized amateur player to becoming the first 2016 draftee to make the majors has been a testament to his dedication and the benefit of playing baseball regularly, no matter the level. A four-year starter at Spruce Creek High in Port Orange, Fla., Hays spent a year at Seminole State (Fla.) JC and was the team's MVP before transferring to Jacksonville. There, he blossomed into a star, posting a solid sophomore season before hitting 16 home runs and shooting up draft boards as a junior. The Orioles selected Hays in the third round in 2016, and despite him missing time with a wrist issue after the draft, he began 2017 at high Class A Frederick and reached the majors by mid-September. The power spike that began in college continued as a professional. He went from three home runs as a sophomore to 33 between Frederick, Double-A Bowie and Baltimore in 2017. The consistent success Hays showed in the minors indicated that he was steady enough to handle the majors. A baseball rat who has endeared himself to the Orioles for a playing style that's energetic-bordering-on-reckless, Hays' compact swing and above-average bat speed help him attack the ball and drive it to all fields. He has proved to be particularly adept at hitting fastballs in any count. While he controls the barrel and can be a plus hitter with plus power, his aggression in attacking fastballs made him susceptible to major league secondary pitches, an issue that Hays and the Orioles knew of before his stint in the big leagues and believe can be improved with more experience. Hays can be an above-average right fielder thanks to a plus arm and good instincts in the field, and he has played some center field. Though he hasn't stolen many bases as a professional, he runs a tick above-average and always hustles out of the box. Hays' overall package plays as an everyday regular who contributes in all phases of the game, and his solid-average to plus tools play up because of his effort and makeup. He will need to adapt his aggressive approach to major league secondary pitches, but his defense and ability to hit lefthanders could help him hold down a big league roster spot in 2018. He'll likely get a chance to earn the Orioles' vacant right field job in spring training.
Signed for a below-slot $1.3 million in 2013, Mountcastle has looked like a bargain because of his powerful bat. After hitting .281 with 10 home runs in his full-season debut at low Class A Delmarva in 2016, he won the Carolina League batting title (.314) at high Class A Frederick in 2017 with a minor league-leading 51 extra-base hits at the time of his promotion to Double-A Bowie. Mountcastle shifted from shortstop--where he had committed 13 errors in 82 games and showed a well below-average arm--to third base when he joined Bowie. Early reports indicate the momentum taking him toward first base on most plays from the hot corner helps his arm tick up, although it will always limit him. Because of his lack of arm strength, many scouts believe he's eventually ticketed for left field or first base. Mountcastle's plus raw power, advanced approach and plus hit tool will carry him, but he'll face added pressure because of his defensive profile. He gets good extension in his righthanded swing to attack the ball and hit with power to all fields, and he has shown ability to recognize spin and stay with pitches. While Mountcastle's defensive future is in doubt, his above-average offensive potential makes him the most promising bat in the system, and he could become an everyday player, regardless of his position. He'll be back at Bowie to start 2018.
The Orioles saw in Sisco a natural hitter who had taken well to catching duties once he picked up the position as a senior in high school. They signed him to a $785,000 bonus, and they may now have their catcher of the future. A career .311 minor league hitter, he represented the Orioles in the last two Futures Games and made his big league debut in September 2017. Sisco has a calm lefthanded swing with fluid hands, and he projects to be an above-average hitter with the potential for average power as he continues to add strength to his slight frame and improve on his gap power. While the Orioles tout improvement in all facets of his defensive game, including receiving, blocking and game-management, the running game has always challenged Sisco's average arm. He threw out 41 percent of basestealers in the second half of 2017 at Triple-A Norfolk, but that only raised his season rate to 23 percent. He'll need to have perfect footwork and transfers to consistently lower his pop times to better than 2.0 seconds. The Orioles believe that Sisco is ready to contribute in the majors, though his defense will dictate how comfortable manager Buck Showalter is in using the 23-year-old catcher. Average defense will make Sisco an everyday catcher due to his offensive abilities, especially against righthanded pitching, and he'll enter spring training with the chance to make the Opening Day roster.
Harvey is attempting to follow in his father's footsteps. Bryan Harvey made two all-star appearances and saved 177 games as a closer with the Angels and Marlins. The younger Harvey dazzled in his first year as a professional before elbow injuries derailed him. Two years of elbow soreness culminated in Tommy John surgery in June 2016. He also dealt with a shin fracture and a sports hernia in that span. Harvey rehabbed to full strength by the end of 2017, allowing his first earned runs in his eighth and final rehab appearance to finish with a 2.08 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 18 innings. Most encouragingly, Harvey's stuff showed no ill effects from the long layoff. Harvey's 92-95 mph fastball reaches 97 and rates as an above-average pitch with downhill angle that he can command to both sides of the plate with armside run. His curveball slowly came back after the surgery but by the end of the season it was showing the sharp, two-plane break that made it a plus pitch pre-injury. He seldom throws his changeup in games, but the pitch has average potential. Harvey matured physically and grew into the wiry frame that initially led to durability concerns. A healthy Harvey projects as a No. 3 starter, with the potential for high-leverage relief if his changeup doesn't develop or his crossfire delivery prevents him from throwing quality strikes with all three pitches. Baltimore added him to the 40-man roster during the offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The Orioles hope he can build up his innings in the minor leagues to provide a firm base for his future.
Hall helped lead Houston County High in Warner Robins, Ga., to a state baseball title as a junior. He then solidified his status on the national scene by striking out seven batters in three innings at the 2016 East Coast Pro Showcase. He also showed off his athelticism as an excellent basketball player, averaging nearly 20 points per game while showing an ability to throw down some impressive dunks. Even with an inconsistent 2017 at Valdosta (Ga.) High, the Orioles were convinced he would be gone by the time they picked at No. 21. When he was available, they pounced, signing him away from a Florida State commitment for an above-slot $3 million bonus. Hall struggled in his pro debut, walking 10 in 10.1 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and ending with a 6.97 ERA but was one of the best pitchers at Orioles instructional league and impressed club officials with his consistent release point along with his pitchability. Even with expected physical maturation, his fastball already grades as plus at 92-95 mph, with the ability to throw inside to both lefties and righties. His 1-to-7 curveball projects as an above-average pitch, with his changeup presently below-average but with average potential. Though far from the majors, Hall showed the best breaking ball among the high school class of 2017 and could blossom into a mid-rotation starter. He'll be ticketed for low Class A Delmarva to begin 2018 and will be further introduced to the professional game as a 19-year-old.
A 2014 sixth-round pick who signed for an above-slot $600,000 bonus out of junior college, Scott showed himself to have one of the most electric (albeit wild) arms in the system. After two years as a reliever, Scott moved to the rotation at Double-A Bowie in 2017, typically working three innings per start. This allowed him to hone his delivery and develop his secondary pitches, both in games and in between-start bullpen side sessions. Scott shows well above-average velocity with his fastball, which he can sink and run at 97-100 mph with deception. His slider went from average to above-average at 86-90 mph with tight break. While his command improved with extra work on his mechanics, his violent delivery precludes pinpoint command. So far, the Orioles are just trying to get him to fringe-average control. That could still prove effective because he's difficult to square up, even over the plate. The Orioles haven't committed to using Scott as a starter long-term, but the initial plan is to keep Scott in a rotation spot for continued development in 2018. His changeup and control will need to improve for him to profile as even a back-end major league starter, but with his fastball-slider combination out of the bullpen, the Orioles see a possible future closer.
Sedlock was the top player in an Orioles draft class that received high reviews, signing for a $2.097 million bonus. He earned Big Ten Conference pitcher of the year honors at Illinois and looked sharp at short-season Aberdeen in 2016, so the Orioles started him at high Class A Frederick in 2017. However, Sedlock struggled and later dealt with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow that shelved him on two occasions. Sedlock's delivery gives scouts pause, as his arm stroke features a pronounced stab behind his body and a long arm action. His fastball was missing its high-end velocity in 2017 but remains a future plus pitch at 91-94 mph with hard run and late sink. His curveball and changeup both project as potentially above-average pitches, while he also throws a slider that could be an average pitch. He didn't pitch at instructional league but worked there to revert back to his delivery from 2016, which he had altered in an unsuccessful effort to add velocity. The Orioles hope that Sedlock's old delivery allows him to command an arsenal that profiles as a No. 3 starter. If not, he could see his stuff play up in shorter bursts in relief, where repeating his delivery won't be as much of an issue. Sedlock could return to Frederick in 2018.
The Orioles knew the risk in selecting Santander in the Rule 5 draft from the Indians after offseason shoulder surgery, but they were intrigued by his 2016 at high Class A Lynchburg, where he hit .290/.368/.494 with 20 home runs and 42 doubles. However, elbow issues emerged while he rehabbed in spring training, and Baltimore shut him down to ensure that he was fully healthy before they began their Rule 5 evaluation. Santander didn't join the Orioles until mid-August, when he played sparingly, hitting .267 in 30 at-bats. A switch-hitter with fluid hands and above-average power from both sides, Santander has drawn Victor Martinez comparisons. He is a below-average runner with a fringe-average arm who needs experience to be a fringe-average corner outfielder, meaning his bat will have to carry him should he continue as a corner outfielder. However, that's a possibility, especially because of his traditional uppercut lefthanded swing that he's shown in the minors. Because he spent just 46 days in the majors, Santander needs to accrue 44 more days in 2018 for the Orioles to keep his rights under the Rule 5 stipulations. If they accomplish that, the 23-year-old could benefit from his first substantial time in Double-A, where the Orioles hope he'll develop into a solid-average regular.
Despite his 5-foot-8 frame and small-college pedigree out of Campbell, Mullins has been a dynamic presence in the Orioles' system since they selected him in the 13th round in 2015. He was one of eight minor leaguers to reach double digits in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases while hitting .273 for at low Class A Delmarva in 2016, and he jumped to Double-A Bowie in 2017, where hamstring issues led to two disabled list stints. Mullins impressed the major league coaching staff in limited spring training looks with his calmness and range in the outfield, showing the ability to play solid-average defense in center field and above-average defense in left. His above-average speed is enough to cover ground at all three spots, but his below-average arm will limit him. At the plate, he's a switch-hitter with average potential and a line-drive swing from the left side who still is developing as a righthanded hitter. But his quick-twitch swing and reactions at the plate intrigue scouts. With just 76 games at Double-A, Mullins could return there to start 2018, though he'll likely get a chance to make another impression in big league camp. His defensive profile and speed could grant him the opportunity to play in the big leagues as at least a fourth outfielder.
Given how the Orioles shuttle 40-man roster pitchers between the minors and the majors, it's a wonder that Lee has been on the 40-man for two seasons without a big league appearance. Added to the Orioles' 40-man roster after an impressive 2015 season that followed a trade for international bonus pool money from the Astros, Lee pitched just 51.1 innings in 2016 due to a lat strain in his left shoulder. He was challenged with an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk in 2017, where some of his best outings came later in the season as a piggyback starter. Lee works from a fluid, athletic lefthanded delivery. He features a 91-95 mph fastball that sinks, a changeup with plus potential and a developing slider, though the pitch is currently below-average. Lee's secondary pitches, especially his slider, need to be more consistent in order to be swing-and-miss threats, though he's effective against lefthanders, and scouts believe his stuff would tick up in the bullpen. For now, the Orioles' focus is on getting Lee as many innings as possible, and they're showing uncharacteristic patience with a young talent who at worst can be a late-inning relief arm if he doesn't reach his No. 4 starter ceiling. Lee will be in the mix for a major league role in spring training, but a return to Norfolk is more likely in 2018.
The Orioles drafted Akin 54th overall in 2016, signed him for $1.177 million and set him on a similar path to Cody Sedlock, his fellow 2016 top pick and teammate for Orleans in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2015. After he finished strong in short-season ball in his debut, Akin went right to high Class A Frederick, where he struggled early and was skipped a turn in the rotation to work on his lower-half mechanics. Akin returned to post a 2.97 ERA from the beginning of June until Aug. 4, when he was sidelined with an oblique injury. The Orioles were encouraged once Akin regained control of his solid-average 92-93 mph sinker, which he can locate inside to batters on either side of the plate. He also throws a solid-average changeup that's regularly in the 82-85 mph range. There's not much projection in his frame, but Akin holds velocity well and projects as a No. 4 starter if he remains in the rotation, though his stuff would likely play up in relief. Akin was sent to regain some of his lost innings in the Arizona Fall League, but showed enough in Frederick to likely warrant an assignment to Double-A Bowie in 2018.
A hulking third baseman who represents a rare international expenditure for the Orioles--his $350,000 signing bonus in 2014 was the most the club has ever given to an amateur from the Dominican Republic--Reyes broke a finger on his right hand in April 2017 by punching a dugout wall at high Class A Frederick. He missed three months and ended up hitting .302/.333/.434 in 50 games, but missed a big opportunity to show that he had moved on from a disappointing 2016. However, the club saw a mature player during instructional league, and believe that changes to Reyes' swing that get his bat into the zone earlier eliminate his severe timing issues and balance out his swing. That could help him tap into his well-above-average raw power, which sporadically shows in games. Reyes has plenty of arm for third base, and while he has improved defensively, his size and footwork could push him to first. That adds pressure on Reyes to put it together offensively, as his bat is his carrying tool going forward. An overall consistent approach could elevate Reyes' tools to that of a solid-average regular. He'll head to Double-A Bowie in 2018.
Wells signed for $300,000 as an 18-year-old out of Australia in 2015, and has posted peerless results for the Orioles in his two seasons since coming to the United States. After pitching to a 2.15 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2016, Wells had an identical 0.91 WHIP to go with a 2.38 ERA in 140 innings for low Class A Delmarva in 2017 and walked just 10 batters all season--including none in his last 68 innings. Wells' WHIP was the lowest of any minor league pitcher with at least 20 starts, earning him the organization's Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Wells succeeds with a fringe-average fastball that gets swings and misses at 87-92 mph, plus a curveball and changeup that could grade out as average pitches, Wells works quickly and hides the ball well from a smooth delivery that allows his arsenal to jump on hitters. His understanding of how to pitch, especially as someone frequently in the strike zone, improved demonstrably over the course of the season. Wells is expected to bump up to high Class A Frederick, and he'll continue to have to prove it at every level to remain a starter.
As with Austin Hays a year earlier, the Orioles are already thrilled with their third-round selection out of Jacksonville. A three-year starter there, Baumann was the Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year as a freshman in 2015 and struck out a career-high 97 batters in 87.1 innings with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.202 WHIP as a junior, despite an early-season bout with mononucleosis. Baumann, a physical righthander with broad shoulders, throws downhill with a 91-94 mph fastball that touches 97 mph and projects as a plus pitch. He also features an above-average slider and a curveball, plus a developing changeup. With better command and development of his secondary pitches, Baumann could be a No. 4 starter. While the Orioles have moved highly drafted college arms straight to high Class A Frederick for their first seasons recently, Baumann will likely be ticketed for low Class A Delmarva.
Hess' second full season at Double-A Bowie was a marked improvement from his first, as he went 11-9, 3.73 and a 1.22 WHIP in 2017 after posting a 5.37 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP at the same level in 2016. Hess is a four-pitch pitcher whose fastball sits 92-94 mph and reaches 96 mph, though there's more life to it when the velocity is lower. His slider profiles as above-average, and he also features a changeup and curveball from a smooth delivery with a high leg kick. Despite a high-effort delivery, Hess is able to maintain his fastball velocity deep into outings, and shows the pitchability to get through a lineup multiple times when he has all of his pitches. Some scouts believe Hess could thrive as a reliever, with his fastball and slider playing up in short spurts, though the Orioles still view him as a starter. The makings are there for a No. 5 starting pitcher or a front-end reliever if he's able to translate his 2017 results to Triple-A Norfolk and beyond.
Stewart's 2017 season calmed many concerns for the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year at Florida State, who badly disappointed in his first year after being drafted 25th overall in 2015 and signing a $2,064,500 bonus. But after finishing strong in 2016 for high Class A Frederick and going to the Arizona Fall League, Stewart put together a solid all-around season at Double-A Bowie, batting .278 with an .859 OPS, 21 home runs and 20 steals. Known as an amateur for hitting from a low crouch, Stewart and the Orioles got on the same page this season. Stewart raised his eye level, which combined with starting his swing earlier and changing his swing plane created more loft and unlocked above-average power potential. He already reads the strike zone well, and could be an average hitter for contact with his new swing. While his speed is fringe-average, Stewart runs the bases well, and he'll need more experience to become an average left fielder. Stewart will have to continue to outperform his tools to be an everyday player. Stewart will likely begin 2018 at Triple-A Norfolk in an effort to continue his 2017 progress.
When the Orioles selected Lowther 74th overall and signed him at slot for $779,500, they made him Xavier's highest draftee ever. His school-record 123 strikeouts as a junior helped him to a 2.92 ERA in 15 starts, while he ranked in the top five in the country in hits per nine innings (5.18, third overall) and strikeouts per nine (13.28, fourth overall). That success carried over to short-season Aberdeen, where Lowther had a 1.66 ERA in 12 games with 12.42 strikeouts per nine innings and a 0.85 WHIP. He does it with below-average fastball velocity, sitting 88-92 mph, but his low, three-quarters delivery hides the ball well and keeps hitters off his fastball with above-average command. He throws his changeup with deceptive arm speed at 81-83 mph and it profiles as an average pitch. He also has a slurvy breaking ball with average potential. Lowther's elite extension off the mound helps his entire arsenal play up. His stuff might limit him to a No. 4 starter's role, but Lowther has a high floor and could easily be a swingman or lefty reliever with his current profile. An assignment to low Class A Delmarva to open 2018 is likely.
A rare shortstop prospect from Canada, Hall has long been on the amateur radar as one of his country's top prospects, and showed well during summer showcases in the United States to solidify his status. The Orioles signed Hall away from a Texas A&M commitment with an above-slot $1.3 million bonus, and were impressed with his bat in two games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he had six hits and a stolen base before an oblique strain kept him out for the rest of the season. While still learning the intricacies of the game, Hall returned for instructional league and showed a smooth, righthanded swing with quick hands that's more contact-oriented at this point, with present gap power that could blossom into more as he develops. He made all the plays at shortstop, and could project as an average up-the-middle defender with range to both sides, showing an above-average arm and plus speed as an amateur and in his professional debut. Hall may not make a full-season affiliate out of spring training in 2018 in order to maximize his development time before rookie ball begins in June.
Atlanta released Liranzo in 2013, and the Orioles saw him take off after he recovered from 2014 elbow surgery. He was stateside by 2016, but because the team had to evaluate him for the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft, he was pushed from low Class A Delmarva to Double-A Bowie and showed enough to be protected last winter. After displaying uncharacteristically strong command in big league camp, Liranzo went back to Bowie for the 2017 season and struggled badly. Carrying a 6.85 ERA in early June, Liranzo got on the same schedule as Tanner Scott, which saw him make three-inning starts every fifth game to allow him to work on his mechanics between starts. That improved his results a bit, but his lack of control produced a career-high 5.95 walks per nine innings, even as he struck out 10.38 per nine. Liranzo has an electric arm with an above-average, mid-90s fastball, while featuring a slider and a splitter, but his arm lags behind his body in his delivery, causing his control to fail him. Liranzo's velocity makes him an intriguing middle-inning bullpen piece if he can stay around the strike zone, but his inconsistency could prevent him from being anything more.
A multi-sport athlete who pitched his way onto the MLB draft radar late in his senior year, Hanifee eschewed a commitment to East Carolina to sign with the Orioles for an above-slot $500,000 bonus, then flourished in a rotation full of more advanced college pitches for short season Aberdeen in 2017. Hanifee didn't pitch in 2016, but went 7-3, 2.75 and a 1.12 WHIP in his professional debut, impressing scouts with a heavy sinker at 91-94 mph with a good feel for the strike zone. His youth and athleticism, plus his projectable frame, makes scouts dream on potential for added strength and velocity that could make his fastball a plus pitch going forward. He also features a slider and changeup that are still developing, which will be the keys to his progress, but the Orioles believe that as he gains more experience, those could develop enough to keep him as a starter. Hanifee's frame and fastball suggest a mid-rotation starter at present, but Hanifee's youth means he's far from that. He'll open 2018 in low Class A Delmarva for his first full professional season.
After making 14 starts with a 4.61 ERA and a team-high 79 strikeouts as a sophomore at UC Irvine in 2016, Bishop was one of the top prospects in the West Coast League in 2016, and was projected to be the Anteaters' ace and pitch himself into the first day of the draft this spring. However, Bishop strained his oblique the week before the season began, and didn't throw a pitch all year. The Orioles took a flier on him in the 26th round, and moved to sign him after three strong appearances in the Cape Cod League. A clerical error meant his signing for an above-slot $650,000 was announced a week after the July 15 deadline, though both sides showed that the agreement was reached in time. Bishop made one scoreless start in the Gulf Coast League before going to short-season Aberdeen, where he had a 0.78 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 34 innings, with 38 strikeouts and 16 walks. He has a low-90s fastball that reaches 95 mph, with a curveball/changeup/slider combination that is raw across the board. Bishop will continue on a starter's track at low Class A Delmarva in 2018.
Peralta, the recipient of the club's then-highest signing bonus to a Dominican player at $325,000 in 2013, has moved quickly since joining the organization and debuting stateside in 2015. He struck out nearly a batter per inning with a 4.01 ERA at low Class A Delmarva in 2016, but struggled in 2017 for high Class A Frederick, where he had a 5.33 ERA with 95 strikeouts and a Carolina League-high 86 walks in 101 innings. Peralta, a tall, projectable righthander, features a live, loose arm with a 90-95 mph that's presently plus. While he shows feel for a future-average changeup, and is now throwing a slider as his breaking ball, all of his pitches suffer from the lack of a repeatable delivery and arm slot. If the Orioles and Peralta are able to find mechanical consistency and the control that comes with it, he could project as a No. 4 starter. At age 20, there's no rush to move him off that track. Peralta is likely ticketed back to Frederick in hopes of finding that consistency in 2018.
After lowering his walk rate in 2016 and enjoying his best full season to date, Yacabonis went to the Arizona Fall League and solidified himself on the Orioles' major league radar. Though he didn't get invited to major league spring training in 2017, he impressed in six big league spring games and ultimately made his major league debut in May. Overall, while Yacabonis had success at Triple-A Norfolk with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 61.1 innings, he struggled with his control both there and in the majors. He walked 14 in 20.2 major league innings with just eight strikeouts, and had a 4.35 ERA. With a max-effort delivery from the right side, Yacabonis' 94-96 mph fastball is a plus pitch with sink that tops out at 98 mph, and he features an average, 83-85 mph slider that he can struggle to command at times. If Yacabonis can harnesses that control, he can ascend to a seventh-inning relief role. As it stands how, he'll likely split time in 2018 between Norfolk and Baltimore.
A growth spurt between Dietz's freshman and sophomore seasons at John A. Logan (Ill.) JC made him the top junior college arm in the 2016 draft, and the Orioles' selected him in the second round and lured him away from a commitment to Texas Christian with a $1.5 million bonus. Dietz stumbled at short-season Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League in his professional debut, pitching to a 4.82 ERA with an identical 4.82 walks per nine innings and a 1.71 WHIP. His assignment to low Class A Delmarva this year was a learning experience for a pitcher who's very young in baseball terms. His fastball, which projects to be a plus pitch at 92-96 mph with occasional armside run from a low three-quarters arm slot, can be erratic both in and out of the zone. His slider is the most advanced of his secondary pitches with average potential, while he also throws a firm changeup that is a below-average offering. Dietz is still learning his delivery and all that comes with pitching, and a return to Delmarva in 2018 to reinforce those could be in play for the 22-year-old.
Despite his flying under the radar for most of his amateur career, the Orioles are intrigued by the upside of the athletic Sparks, whom they signed to a $304,800 signing bonus as their fifth-round selection in 2017. A childhood friend of the Orioles' unsigned fourth-round pick, Texas prep righthander Jack Conlon, Sparks was also a pitcher in high school, but the team has worked him in the outfield as a professional. With a wiry, athletic frame and broad shoulders that suggest room for physical maturation, Sparks' righthanded swing can be a bit complicated, but at times he showed a plan at the plate and some pop in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He already possesses the athleticism and range to play center field, with his arm and speed both projecting as plus tools. As currently constituted, Sparks provides more value with his glove than bat, but the Orioles feel he can develop into an all-around up-the-middle talent. Sparks is likely to get more work in extended spring training in 2018 before another rookie ball assignment.
The Yankees acquired Ramírez, a converted position player from his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, in the minor league Rule 5 draft and saw him flourish as a starting pitcher. They added him to the 40-man roster after a breakout 2016 season, and dealt him to the Orioles for international signing bonus slots in late July after a strong spell at Double-A Trenton. Ramirez continued that progress with the Orioles, ending his season with a combined 15-3, 3.47 and a 1.19 WHIP in 24 starts. Ramírez has a starter's frame with a 91-95 mph fastball from a three-quarter slot with average life but poor command, while his 83-85 mph slider is inconsistent with vertical break. His changeup has above-average potential and is his out pitch, as he sets hitters up with his fastball and gets them out with his top offspeed pitch. The only thing keeping him from projecting as a starter is below-average control, but if that cleans up, he could be a No. 5 starter or a high-leverage reliever. Ramirez will be a dark-horse candidate in the Orioles' rotation race in spring training, but is more likely ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk to open 2018.
A native of Curacao, Rifaela's minor league breakout season in 2017 mirrored that of his mentor, fellow Curacaoan Jonathan Schoop. After he repeated low Class A Delmarva in 2016, Rifaela took advantage of regular playing time for the first time in years and hit a career-best .284/.358/.500 with 24 home runs and 23 doubles to earn the Carolina League most valuable player award. Undersized but physically mature at a listed 5-foot-10, Rifaela generates above-average raw power from the left side and translated that into games in 2017, and has shown the ability to handle fastball velocity. That's fed by an overly aggressive approach, one that led to 124 strikeouts in 126 games in 2017. While he doesn't project to be more than an average outfielder and is a below-average runner, the quiet, assured way in which he went about his breakout season impressed the organization. Rifaela could serve as a lefthanded platoon bat in the major leagues, but will be challenged by more advanced secondary pitches at Double-A Bowie in 2018 and beyond.
Signed to an above-slot $1 million bonus as a 2015 seventh-round pick out of high school in Arkansas, Fenter had Tommy John surgery in April 2016 and missed all of that season. Upon returning in 2017 for his rehab year, he made all but one of his 12 appearances in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and eventually rounded into form, allowing two earned runs in 20 August innings. Listed at 5-foot-11 and with a compact delivery, Fenter has a mature frame that lacks projection and draws comparisons to the sturdy build of Orioles starter Dylan Bundy. His size limits the downhill angle he can get on his fastball, but it's presently a plus pitch at 92-96 mph post-surgery. His curveball has above-average shape when he stays behind it, but his rehab restrictions limited him from throwing that or his changeup often this summer. Observers both inside and outside the organization regard him as a tremendous competitor who wants to improve. With the development of a changeup, Fenter could project as a No. 4 starter, though his two-pitch mix and delivery make him a bullpen candidate. He should open 2018 with low Class A Delmarva.
A senior sign in 2013 out of Fresno State, Wynns got an invitation to major league spring training in 2017 and has long been on the coaching staff's radar for his defensive abilities. He followed an eye-opening stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 with his best year as a pro. He threw out 38.2 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017 and was charged with just five passed balls in 781.1 innings for Double-A Bowie, career-bests in both categories. Wynns has an above-average arm with consistent pop times around 2.0 seconds, and presents a good target for his pitchers behind the plate. His bat has also come around, to the tune of .281/.377/.419 with a career-high 10 home runs and 18 doubles. A prototypical catcher, Wynns could be a good long-term complement to Chance Sisco behind the plate. He'll likely get another chance to make an impression in a crowded catching scene during major league camp in 2018, but could be the everyday catcher at Triple-A Norfolk if Sisco makes the big league club.
A senior sign out of Clemson in 2014, Wilkerson broke out in 2017 between high Class A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. He hit .305/.375/.423 with 31 extra-base hits while playing all four infield positions and right field. While shortstop may be a challenge long-term, his solid-average speed and versatility made him a frequent topic of conversation among the major league coaching staff as the team sought roster flexibility during the season. Wilkerson's ability to handle shortstop on a long-term basis will determine his value as a utility player, with second base and third base his best positions currently. He is a switch-hitter with speed who projects as a fringe-average bat with gap power from either side and can plug in anywhere on the diamond. Wilkerson's audition in the Arizona Fall League was an audition for the 40-man roster with an eye toward replacing utilityman Ryan Flaherty on the major league roster in 2018. However he was not added to the 40-man roster as he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine. The suspension will take him out of the compeition for a big league job coming out of spring training. Instead, he will likely come off the suspension looking for consistent playing time at Double-A Bowie again.
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