Baltimore Orioles Minor League Discussion
Baltimore Sports and Life’s three Orioles Minor League contributors – Greg Goldstein, Zach Spedden, and Reggie Yinger – come together to give some collective thoughts on the system.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
1. Who are your top five prospects in the Orioles system (in order)?
1. Austin Hays
2. Ryan Mountcastle
3. Chance Sisco
4. D.L. Hall
5. Hunter Harvey
Hays ascended up the prospect ladder with a dominant season in High and Double-A en route to his major league debut in September. His all around offensive game and defensive versatility make him a solid number one for any system. I think Mountcastle might actually have the higher upside out of the two, but his defensive profile keeps him from the top spot. Sisco is a catcher that can flat out hit, but he lacks the overall power potential of the top two. Hall and Harvey are pretty close to interchangeable. Both are high upside starter arms who can vault up prospect lists in due time, but just need to prove they can consistently perform against professional hitters.
2. Austin Hayes
3. Ryan Mouncastle
4. D.L. Hall
5. Tanner Scott
We all agree on the top 3, and each player could fall into either top spot for the Orioles. Chance Sisco is my overall top choice simply because of the steps he has taken each season, specifically related to his defense. While his power numbers won’t be on the Mike Piazza level, his ability to hit to all parts of the field and work walks makes up for it. Ryan Mountcastle can flat out hit, but due to being homeless on defense, his stock takes a fall. Tanner Scott is still in my top 5, despite his command struggles. It’s hard to ignore a lefty that throws 100+ with a plus off-speed pitch.
1. Chance Sisco
2. Austin Hays
3. Ryan Mountcastle
4. D.L. Hall
5. Hunter Harvey
The top three could arguably be placed in any order, but I like Sisco’s combination of skillset and track record. He will continue to get better with his defense, and I think his bat—relative to the position—is enough to narrowly edge Hays for the top spot. Mountcastle has the highest offensive ceiling of the three, but his long-term position remains in question. Hall and Harvey are also close, but I will put Hall above Harvey for now because of the latter’s injury issues over the years. However, if Harvey does return to health this year, it will give the Orioles the potential impact starter their farm system has been missing.
2. In your estimation, what’s Alexander Wells’ big league future?
Greg: At 20 years old, Wells’ pitchability and command are superb. He has a very consistent low effort delivery that allows him to pound the zone with all of his pitches. Ten walks in 140 IP is just ridiculous and it should allow him to sustain success through the upper levels of the minors. However, I ultimately think his lack of swing-and-miss stuff limits him to more of a swingman or innings eating number five at best. As a starter, you have to show enough pure arm talent to be able to turn over lineups and I think that major league hitters will be able to get a read on Wells’ stuff the second time through where they could bait him into mistakes. I still think he’s ultimately a major league piece, but not in a playoff caliber rotation.
Reggie: I had some comments for leaving him off my BSL listing previously. To me, he’s a pitcher that simply doesn’t have the velocity or stuff to produce at the major league level. Sure, he has command, but his fastball doesn’t top out over 90 mph. Tyler Wilson had more pitches in his arsenal, yet he was destined as an organization arm/long guy.
Zach: My assessment on Wells is similar to Greg’s. His command—and the fact that he is so consistent with it at his age—sets him apart from similar prospects, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Once he is introduced to more patient and more experienced hitters, it should provide a better sense of his major league ceiling. For now, I would say back-of-the-rotation starter or swing man that is able to provide value out of the bullpen.
3. Besides D.L. Hall, who’s another 2017 draft pick that intrigues you?
Greg: LHP Cameron Bishop. It’s unusual that a 26th round pick would catch your attention, but Bishop was signed to a $605k signing bonus, although there was some apparent hiccups with the timing of the negotiations. Nevertheless, Bishop is currently in the system and performed well in Aberdeen last season. Coming out of high school, the southpaw has a mature 6’4’’ frame that already generates above-average arm speed as you can see from his big mid-90’s fastball with life. There’s some effort to his delivery and head whack, which negatively affects his overall control. But Bishop probably has the best pure stuff of any pitcher outside of D.L. Hall in this class, and I’m looking forward to see how he develops in year two in the organization. Earlier picks Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann may be more developed, but Bishop’s potential clearly rises above those former college pitchers.
Reggie: Jimmy Murphy drafted in the 8th round has my attention, as he was sitting 93-94 mph with his fastball in Aberdeen during a few outings. He’s a college arm that didn’t have leverage in the draft, but I’m curious to see if he provides more value than an 8th round pick.
Zach: This is more of a long-term pick, but I am interested to see how outfielder Lamar Sparks develops in 2018 and beyond. Reports on him suggest his speed, defense, and arm strength are going to stand out, and that he could easily move to a corner spot if centerfield proves to not be his position for the future. He is years away, and his bat still has some ways to go, but I think Sparks’s athleticism and upside could ultimately help him become a sold find in the fifth round. In the more immediate future, Zac Lowther will be very intriguing to watch in 2018. Lowther’s dominance of the New York-Penn League might not be unprecedented for a college pick, but his 41.1 innings total was good for a new draft choice and leaves some hope going into his first full season.
4. Anthony Santander must remain on the major roster for at least the 44 days of the regular season to ensure that he stays with the Orioles. Will he meet that requirement, and does he factor into the Orioles’ plans for the duration of 2018?
Greg: You have to think that the Orioles have invested too much time into Santander to simply not keep him on the roster for 44 days. Santander showed his big power during his rehab in Bowie and clearly has enough physical ability to develop into a major league piece down the road. His below-average outfield ability doesn’t make him a valuable bench piece, but the offensive upside is high enough where it’s worth it to limit the team’s defensive versatility early on in the season. I expect the organization to add another left-handed bat so Santander can get regular at bats in Triple-A. This will allow him to develop his approach for a big league role in 2019.
Reggie: I expect Santander to remain on the roster; however, I figure him to return to the minor leagues for continued development for the remainder of the season. At best, he’s a 4th/5th outfielder that can hit for power, but also strikes out a lot.
Zach: I fully expect, at least for now, that Santander will get the minimum first 44 days on the major league roster to remain in the organization. Beyond that, it will depend on his performance and where the Orioles find themselves in need during the season. Should Austin Hays fail to capture the full-time right field job, it would leave at-bats for Santander—as would an injury within the Orioles’ slate of outfielders. Otherwise, spending time in Norfolk would not be a bad thing for him. Santander’s calling card as a major leaguer is going to be his bat and, with the amount of time he missed last year, he will need to get plenty of work in 2018 to ensure that he continues to develop.
5. Where do you stand on Cedric Mullins going into 2018?
Greg: I really like me some Cedric Mullins. Despite being a smaller outfielder, there’s more pop than you would expect. His bat speed is above-average from the left side and he gets enough power behind the swing to project mid-teen home run totals with regular playing time. He also gets out of the box real quickly to create extra base hits on balls in the gap. His plus speed allows him to beat out weakly hit balls, and he’ll be a plus fielder in left who can hold his own in center field too. The approach needs works and he frequently swings with too much effort to think he’s going to be an above-average pure hitter at the highest level. However, his speed, defense and underrated power give him the ability to find a spot as a solid everyday outfielder. Mullins is clearly my highest rated position player apart from the trio of Hays, Mountcastle and Sisco. He’s a surefire top ten prospect in this system at the moment.
Reggie: I’m not saying Cedric Mullins is Terrance Gore, but his speed and defensive ability are the biggest attributes for the outfielder (much like Gore). However, when speed is your bread and butter, injuries to your hamstring will diminish your time to shine on the field. Overall, Mullins has caught the eye of the big-league staff, so I expect him to get a long look in spring training. He figures to start the season with Double-A Bowie.
Zach: His injuries cut into what could have been a great year for him, but the overall production for his first stint at Double-A still leaves plenty of promise. While Mullins needs to get on base more if he is to develop into a top-of-the order hitter, his skillset suggests that that is a reachable ceiling. Adding a solidified plate approach to his combination of speed and defense would make Mullins one of the more intriguing prospects in the system, and could allow him to reach Baltimore sooner rather than later. It has been a long time since the Orioles developed a legitimate centerfielder with the ability to hit at the top of the order, and I think Mullins is currently their best chance to obtain that type of player for the long haul.
6. With the lack of signings from Latin America, how badly does this hurt the Orioles?
Greg: You definitely see many of the top prospects in the game right now coming from Latin America, which makes it curious to why the Orioles haven’t really dipped into the higher end prospects coming from that part of the world. Their strategy has obviously been to sell their bonus slots for prospects that already have service time in the minors (i.e. Yefry Ramirez, Brallan Perez, Milton Ramos, Chris Lee, etc.). These are lower ceiling guys that don’t offer the overall upside of the 16 year-old international free agents, which has allowed for other franchises to further dip into the Latin American market with much success.
Reggie: The lack of attention from the front office to the Latin America area has really become the laughing stock of the league. Each off-season, we see the Orioles trade away international signing money for org arms – instead of signing players. Ownership has been committed to staying away from Latin players, but when you look at top prospect lists across the internet, it’s loaded with players from the Latin America area. Overall, it not only hurts the long term growth of the team, but also potential free agents who may look at Baltimore, but eventually pass, as the team has little culture.
Zach: There is no question that the lack of attention that is being paid to Latin America hurts. It is robbing the Orioles of an opportunity to add to the farm system, and puts them at a disadvantage not just against the big spenders, but even teams in similar market sizes. I have no clue what it will take to reverse the trend, but at some point, the Orioles have to find an approach in Latin America. Even if it is not going after the top of the international free agent class, the organization has to show some commitment to scouting and developing talent in these countries.