Orioles Prospects Heading Into Make-or-Break 2018 Seasons
1. RHP Cody Sedlock
2018 Opening Day Age: 22
Acquired: 2016 1st RD Pick (27)
2018 Likely Start Level: Frederick Keys (A+)
2017 Stats: 20 GS, 90 IP, 5.90 ERA, 119 H, 69 K, 36 BB, 11 HR, 313 BA
Sedlock was drafted as a fast moving college arm that was thought of as a legit starting pitching prospect after a dominant junior season at the University of Illinois. However, after a promising stint in rookie ball, the 6’3’’, 190 lbs. right-hander suffered through an injury-ridden 2017 campaign that included way too many walks and short outings. Sedlock has everything you like from a college starting pitching prospect; he’s big, physical and can throw four major league average pitches when he’s on his game. What set him back this year was a funky arm action that’s tough to repeat and diminishing velocity. Once clocked at an easy 92-94 as an amteur and in his first stint in pro ball, Sedlock mostly sat 88-90 during my viewings of him in Frederick. This made his heavy sinker a lot less effective and allowed hitters to take pitches and get on base, which forced him into early exits throughout the year.
With all these negative developments, it would seem that the former first round pick is best suited for a relief role where his stuff can play up and his command won’t be as much of an issue. In fact, I believe that even if Sedlock fails in the rotation, he would still turn into a solid reliever because he has the pure stuff to keep hitters from making hard contact for a few innings before he starts to lose a group of all his pitches. But what makes this a make-or-break season for the 22 year-old is that it may determine just how long the Orioles are willing to keep him in a minor league rotation, especially if he’s more productive in the bullpen. Sedlock will have to get healthy this offseason and prove that he can command his arsenal and get back to throwing the way he did back when he was pitching in the Big Ten.
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2. 3B/1B Jomar Reyes
2018 Opening Day Age: 21
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in 2014 ($350k bonus)
2018 Likely Start Level: Frederick Keys (A+)
2017 Stats: 57 G, 210 AB, .324 BA, .354 OBP, .443 SLG, .797 OPS, 34 K, 4 HR
This young big-bodied corner infielder started 2017 on a real positive note. Unfortunately, Reyes showed his immaturity when he was sidelined for a few months with a broken hand when it was reported that he punched a wall. Apart from the maturity issues, Reyes still has a long way to go with the stick and on the dirt before he can even be thought of as a major league contributor. He still has a ton of raw power and is starting showing signs of converting that pop to games in 2017 as you can see by his .324 average and over .440 SLG. But, when watching him, you can tell that the third baseman has a considerable amount of trouble laying off poor offspeed stuff, while also showing a swing that leaves a lot of areas to attack around the plate. The bat speed and solid athleticism is there for a guy his size, but he needs to start to show that he’s picking up the details of hitting instead of just relying on his physical abilities to scorch less powerful pitching arsenals.
What truly makes this a make-or-break year for Reyes is his play with the glove. He’s just not even close to big league ready at the moment, showing little movement skills, lack of a feel and stone hands on both soft and hard contact. He doesn’t look like a natural at third, so I expect him to log some time on the other side of the diamond. Reyes’ big body will help him profile better at first base, but I’ve still got my concerns whether his subpar glove skills will make him a workable option there as well. If that’s the case, a power reliant DH only player, who will strike out a bunch certainly won’t make Reyes a legit major league prospect for the club moving forward.
3. OF Randolph Gassaway
2018 Opening Day Age: 22
Acquired: 2013 16th RD pick (#489)
2018 Likely Start Level: Bowie Baysox (AA)
2017 Stats: 114 G, 431 AB, .260 BA, .304 OBP, .338 SLG, .642 OPS, 82 K, 5 HR
Gassaway is a frustrating player to evaluate at times. At a glance, Gassaway is built like a legit power hitting corner outfield prospect. Standing a cut 6’4’’, 210 lbs., the former 16th round selection looks like a player that should be able to convert his considerable raw power. However, Gassaway plays more like a contact hitter in the box. He struggles shifting his weight to drive the ball and is just much more comfortable poking offerings for singles. He’s got the strength to develop into double-digit power, but he just struggles converting that strength into home runs and even doubles because of his non-aggressive mechanics. Gassaway does stay within himself in the box and can cover the plate, while pushing the ball to all fields. But that’s not type of profile he needs to develop into in order to push himself onto the big league roster.
In addition, Gassaway hasn’t shown himself to be comfortable in left field either, which is strange considering that he brings above-average athleticism to the position. You might also think that his arm would make up for his stiffness on the grass, but he actually struggles maintaining velocity on his throws in the air, instead frequently bouncing balls to bases and cutoff men. The lack of average arm strength makes him a left field only prospect that needs to get more comfortable with his reads if he hopes to become a workable major league outfielder at some point. Overall, Gassaway needs to show bigger strides in the power department and in the field if he wants to push his way into consideration for the major league roster in 2019.
4. LHP Chris Lee
2018 Opening Day Age: 25
Acquired: Trade with the Astros for international bonus money in 2015
2018 Likely Starting Level: Norfolk Tides (AAA)
2017 Stats: 27 G, 20 GS, 116.1 IP, 5.11 ERA, 83 K, 54 BB, 144 H, 11 HR, .302 BA
Lee spent the entire 2017 season in Norfolk after coming into spring training with legitimate hopes to become a consistent contributor for the Orioles as either a starter or reliever. The left-hander never cracked the big league club because he struggled mightily against Triple-A hitting. Lee finished with an ERA over 5.00, allowed 1.24 hits per inning and produced a very poor K/BB rate of just 1.53. So as you can tell, the former Houston Astros farmhand has a lot of things to work on in the offseason.
Lee has never been known as a fireballer, but he’s shown an ability to sit in the low 90’s, showing enough athleticism to make you think that he can improve some of the weaker areas of his game. The lefty has never been able to rack up a lot of strikeouts, instead relying on weak contact in order to get outs. He’ll show you a slider and a change as well, with the slider being the more advanced of the two secondaries. Without above-average stuff, Lee must be able to improve his command if he hopes to remain in the rotation or even to become an option as a swingman in 2018.
5. RHP Hunter Harvey
2018 Opening Day Age: 23
Acquired: 2013 1st RD Draft Pick (#22)
2018 Likely Starting Level: Frederick Keys
2017 Stats: 8 GS, 18.2 IP, 0.96 ERA, 30 K, 4 BB, 0 HR, .167 BA
Hunter Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery and his addition to the Orioles farm system greatly improves the team’s minor league pitching outlook. The former 2013 first round selection has the best pure starting stuff of any arm in the system. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s a swing-and-miss curveball along with the makings of a league average changeup, Harvey has the stuff to make you believe that he would grade out as a legit Top 100 MLB prospect when fully healthy.
However, the main reason why Harvey lands on this list is because he’s had two major elbow injuries since joining the organization. This does not bode well for his long-term future, but it should be noted that Harvey was able to finish out the 2017 season in the low minors, unlike when he returned from a year-long recovery in 2016 and then subsequently got injured again.
Without the injuries, Harvey would be the best pitching prospect in the Orioles system and not at all a candidate for this list. But, the right-hander needs to show that he can pitch starter innings at some point next season. If he does, Harvey could be on the fast track to the big leagues. If not, well…that’s not a good sign for a farm system that is strug