Baltimore Orioles’ Prospects Make Early-Season Debuts
With the minor league season underway, several top prospects in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system have made their regular season debuts.
There are some intriguing players at each level, and all four teams are now several games into their seasons. While it is going to be weeks before it is possible to fully assess how some of the system’s notable prospects are performing, the beginning of the minor league season warrants a quick overview of the developments that have already taken place.
Starting at Triple-A Norfolk, here is a look at some of the highlights from the early season in the Orioles’ system:
Norfolk Tides, Triple-A
Chance Sisco entered the season as the best prospect not only on the Tides’ roster, but in the entire farm system. The catcher is off to a slow start over his first four games, going 2-for-14 in that span, but the small sample size does not warrant much concern. Meanwhile, a veteran major leaguer is among the most interesting players on Norfolk, as Pedro Alvarez is beginning his season with the team. His bat could eventually get him back to Baltimore, but the most important development to watch with Alvarez is how he adjusts to playing in the outfield for the first time in his professional career. Thus far, he has played five games in right field.
Bowie Baysox, Double-A
After making the leap from Low-A Delmarva, where he played last season, outfielder Cedric Mullins has made the most of his early games in Bowie, going 12-for-22 (.545) with three home runs. Fellow outfielder and former first-round pick D.J. Stewart homered in his Double-A debut on Friday, but is 2-for-16 (.125) overall. On the pitching side, hard-throwing left-hander Tanner Scott made his regular season debut on Tuesday. Pitching in the game’s first three innings, he allowed one run on two hits while walking three and striking out three.
Frederick Keys, High-A
Featuring what is arguably the best mix of prospects of any team in the system, the Keys are a team to watch this year. Cody Sedlock, the Orioles’ top pick in last year’s draft, made his debut on Saturday, throwing six-shutout innings while striking out five and walking one. The 21-year-old right-hander made his regular season debut at Short Season-A Aberdeen in 2016, and is joining Frederick after skipping Delmarva. Fellow 2016 draft pick Keegan Akin has also made his debut, but struggled—allowing six runs on four hits (including two homers) in 2/3 of an inning on Friday. The Keys also have several notable prospects in their lineup. Outfielder Austin Hays has gone 6-for-19 (.316) over his first four games, while shortstop Ryan Mountcastle belted his first home run on Friday, and is 4-for-16 (.250) overall. Third baseman Jomar Reyes has had success in the early season, going 8-for-16 (.500) with a home run.
Delmarva Shorebirds, Low-A
At the minor’s lowest full-season level, 2016 second-round draft choice Matthias Dietz has already made his debut. In his outing on Saturday, the right-hander allowed three runs in as many innings of work, while walking three and striking out six. Another notable pitcher has not taken the mound in Delmarva, as converted outfielder Dariel Alvarez broke camp with the Shorebirds, but it was later revealed that an elbow injury would likely lead to Tommy John surgery. The Orioles released Alvarez on April 6 to make room on the 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Andrew Faulkner, but The Baltimore Sun reported that the club was hopeful it could re-sign Alvarez to a minor league deal.
The disclaimer should be noted here that not too much should be read into these early-season performances, as small sample sizes are going to skew the stats either way.
With that said, the early games have left a few storylines to keep an eye on going forward. One is whether the Orioles will continue their relationship with Dariel Alvarez and, if so, will they decide to work him back from injury as a pitcher or allow him to return to the outfield on a full-time basis.
Cody Sedlock enters the year as perhaps the best pitching prospect in the system and will be a name to watch going forward. Judged by the reaction on BSL’s message boards, many got their wish when Sedlock skipped Delmarva early in the year and proceeded to Frederick. The Carolina League is a worthy challenge for Sedlock, but a promotion to Bowie at some point during the season is possible if he rises to the occasion.
Personally, I will be interested to see how the trio of Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Jomar Reyes develop in Frederick. All three came to the Keys with unique circumstances, and represent some of the more intriguing bats in the Orioles’ farm system.
A solid season in Frederick would be an encouraging sign in the development of Mountcastle, who turned 20 in February. Reyes struggled in Frederick last year, but he is still just 20 and offers plenty of power potential, so a turnaround could be in order. Hays, meanwhile, was selected in the third round last year, and skipped Delmarva to join Frederick for the start of the 2017 season.
Chance Sisco will, of course, warrant attention as the year unfolds. It will also be interesting to see whether Pedro Alvarez returns to the majors. He signed a minor league contract with the Orioles during spring training, and he cannot opt out of that agreement until mid-May.