Projecting Opening Day Assignments for Orioles Prospects
With the season just weeks away, there will soon be more certainty about where the Baltimore Orioles top prospects will begin the 2018 slate. Several of the farm system’s best players are still in major league camp, but many could start the season in the minors.
To take a closer look at those players, here is an overview of where some of the Orioles prospects could begin their seasons.
Austin Hays, outfielder
When camp began, Hays appeared to have a strong chance of being the Orioles right fielder on Opening Day. That may still be the case, but his situation has at the very least become more complicated.
A shoulder injury forced Hays to miss some action during the spring, so he has only received consistent at-bats since the middle of March. Furthermore, Colby Ramus is now in the mix for a roster spot, as is Danny Valencia, who can help the Orioles in the outfield if needed, along with a plethora of options that includes Craig Gentry, Alex Presley, and Anthony Santander. Santander’s Rule 5 requirements have assured he will be on the Opening Day roster, but the Orioles might be inclined to find more at-bats for him given his performance this spring.
Hays should not be completely discounted for a 25-man roster spot, but he should not be considered a lock either. With his missed time this spring and some more experienced outfielders in the mix, Hays may be destined to begin the year by getting more seasoning at Triple-A Norfolk.
Chance Sisco, catcher
Sisco’s strong spring has only added to the anticipation for his permanent arrival to Baltimore, but like Hays he finds himself in a situation where the Orioles have some alternatives. Caleb Joseph is the presumptive starting catcher to begin the season, leaving Sisco, Austin Wynns, and Andrew Susac in the mix for the backup spot.
If the Orioles decide that they prioritize playing time for Sisco early in the season, then Wynns or Susac may head to Baltimore while Sisco starts in Norfolk. Otherwise, his performance this spring will have only added to his case for being in the majors and could be a factor in him making the Opening Day roster.
Hunter Harvey, right-handed pitcher
Harvey is certain to begin the season in the minors, but his long stay in major league camp has added some intrigue to his 2018 season. He has received an extended look in the majors this spring, a sign that the Orioles may foresee him arriving to Baltimore quicker than what some may have anticipated.
The goal for Harvey will be to stay healthy in 2018 and build more experience. The cautious—and perhaps most realistic—approach would be for him to begin the year in High-A Frederick, where he could ease into the season. His performance and health will dictate how far Harvey goes in 2018, but do not be surprised to see him in Double-A Bowie at a relatively early point in the season—even if he does begin at Frederick—and perhaps reach Baltimore by September.
Cedric Mullins, outfielder
Mullins has been unimpressive at the plate this spring, but he was never truly in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot. That said, he is still one of the team’s more intriguing prospects heading into the season and may arrive in Baltimore later this year. A return to Bowie seems likely, given that Mullins missed enough time last year because of injuries to warrant more seasoning at the level. However, his skillset could allow him to be a top-of-the-order hitter and an everyday centerfielder down the road, so his development will be watched closely.
The Orioles’ Rule 5 Picks
The Orioles have three pitchers from the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft competing for Opening Day roster spots, and they all come with distinct cases. Nestor Cortes looks to be in a good position to make the team, but the bigger question is whether that will be as a starter or a reliever. Meanwhile, Pedro Araujo’s performance has earned plenty of praise and he appear poised for a bullpen spot.
The more complicated case is that of Jose Mesa Jr., who occasionally shows upside but has not been as consistent as some of the team’s other relief options. Should the Orioles not place him on the Opening Day roster, they will have to offer him back to the New York Yankees.
The injury to Mark Trumbo opens a roster spot early in the season, but for that to work to Mesa’s advantage, the Orioles will have to be willing to dedicate that slot to a reliever (a scenario that looks unlikely given the number of options they have among position players). At this point, it would seem that Mesa is the odd man out for a bullpen spot unless the Orioles really value his upside.
Other players to note:
- A hairline fracture in his right hand will cause Ryan Mountcastle to be out 4-6 weeks, but he will likely join Bowie once he returns. The injury may result in Mountcastle needing more time to adjust, but his bat makes him one of the prospects in the system.
- D.J. Stewart, a former first-round pick, appears to have a strong chance to start the upcoming season at Norfolk. There are plenty of questions about his ceiling and what he can contribute at the major league level, but his 2017 at Bowie was by far his best professional season to date and should allow him to make his Norfolk debut in 2018.