Baltimore Orioles Minor Leaguers to Watch by Position
At some positions, the Baltimore Orioles are set for the coming season and beyond. However, it may not be too long before the club needs help—especially with some positions expected to have limited depth in the majors this season.
It remains to be seen how much the farm system can be relied upon in 2017, though there is a clear disparity between the stronger and weaker positions. To break down that component of the system, here are the minor league players to watch by position going into 2017. This not only provides a snapshot of the system’s strengths and weaknesses, but shows where the Orioles should focus on adding depth for the major league level.
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This position is highlighted by Chance Sisco, the Orioles’ best prospect. He is likely to open this season at Triple-A Norfolk, and the Orioles’ signing of Welington Castillo seemingly assures that Sisco will spend much—if not all—of 2017 in the minors. However, he represents a very intriguing option if the Orioles need help behind the plate during the season, and is in line to be the team’s catcher of the future.
For much of the offseason, Trey Mancini looked like he would have an opening in Baltimore, but the club’s signing of Mark Trumbo complicates that scenario. It now appears more likely—especially if the Orioles add another outfielder—that Mancini will start 2017 in Norfolk, though he seems destined to crack the major league roster at some point.
This is probably one of the thinnest positions in the farm system, but that does not warrant much concern with Jonathan Schoop entrenched at the position in Baltimorel. Within the minors, Garabez Rosa and the newly-acquired Sean Coyle represent two experienced options that are close to the majors. Another player to keep an eye on is Stephen Wilkerson, who is just a year removed from a .287/.376/.371 line at Low-A Delmarva and could be in line to spend time at Double-A Bowie in 2017.
The Orioles have Manny Machado at the major league level, so this position is not at all a concern for the club. Further down the system, Jomar Reyes is still an intriguing prospect despite his struggles at High-A Frederick last year. A move to first base could be in Reyes’ future, but the soon-to-be 20-year-old prospect will focus on rebounding at the plate this year.
J.J. Hardy is under contract at the major league level for 2017, and should man the position every day as long as he stays healthy. Much like at third base, the Orioles best shortstop prospect will likely spend this year at Frederick. Ryan Mountcastle is slated to join the Keys, and will look to build upon his success from a year ago. Time will tell if Mountcastle remains a shortstop over the long run, but he is at the top of the class among the Orioles prospects at the position for now.
This is another position where the Orioles do not have much in the way of immediate help, which has put the club in a bit of a frenzy this offseason. Right field looks destined to be a platoon—featuring the newly-acquired Seth Smith and a to-be-determined right-handed hitter—and the outfield will not much different than the one that struggled defensively last season.
If the Orioles have to rely on prospects to fill in, it could be in a part time scenario. Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander both arrived via the Rule 5 Draft, though Santander spent last season at High-A and is coming off of shoulder surgery. Christian Walker, Mike Yastrzemski, and Jay Gonzalez could be among the names to watch at the high levels of the minors.
Beyond that, two players to note are D.J. Stewart and Austin Hays. A former first rounder, Stewart has not hit for as much power as expected during his minor league career, but did have a strong second half at Frederick in 2016. Hays, a third-round pick last year, is a breakout candidate for 2017, though he figures to play at one of the system’s lower full-season levels.
Much like the outfield, the rotation is an area where the Orioles are not in a position to leverage a ton of help from their farm system in 2017. Though no longer considered prospects, familiar names like Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson remain in the mix, while Joe Gunkel could be on the cusp of his major league debut after being added to the 40-man roster in November.
Elsewhere, Chris Lee will look to bounce back from a shoulder injury that cost him much of 2016. If healthy, the left-hander could return to Bowie.
Jason Garcia—a former Rule 5 pick—is something of a wild card. While he logged major time as a reliver in 2015, he moved to the rotation at Bowie last year and delivered inconsistent results. The Orioles will have to decide how to develop him going forward.
Cody Sedlock tops a 2016 draft class that also included Matthias Dietz and Keegan Akin. Sedlock is likely the closest to the majors of the three, and has a chance to begin 2017 in Frederick.
Ofelky Peralta, who spent all of last year at Low-A Delmarva, may make a big leap up the prospect charts this year.
Whether it was Mychal Givens in 2015 or Oliver Drake and Donnie Hart in 2016, the Orioles have had a knack in recent years for easing prospects into bullpen roles. The club is deep in this area going into 2017, but a few prospects could be called upon at some point.
Parker Bridwell got a brief look in the majors last year, and could return to Baltimore during this season. Tanner Scott has about as much upside as any of the team’s minor league relievers, but needs to harness his control to have success in the majors. Jesus Liranzo ended last season in Bowie, and was added to the 40-man roster this offseason.