The 2021 minor league season will look a lot different than normal, but the excitement level surrounding the Baltimore Orioles minor league system is at an unmatched level right now, and for good reason.
With spring training right around the corner, it’s time for us at On The Verge (Zach Spedden, Bob Phelan, and myself) to update our Top 30 Orioles prospects list, a task that proved difficult to complete after the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season and the influx of new talent through trades and the 2020-2021 international class. But the research has been done, videos have been watched, discussions have been had and we’re proud to present one of the most exciting Top 30 prospects list in recent Orioles history.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
A handful of names on our previous list have fallen out of our Top 30, not necessarily due to any regression in their game, but due to the amount of quality talents now calling Birdland home. Brighter days are ahead in Baltimore. When ballparks open up again and we can safely enjoy baseball together, do not miss an opportunity to head down to Norfolk, Bowie, Aberdeen, or Delmarva. It’s going to be a show every single night.
Baltimore Orioles Top 30 Prospects (Preseason 2021)
30) Catcher Samuel Basallo: 6’3”/180 pounds/ LHH/ 16 years old
Basallo was originally connected to the New York Yankees, but ended up joining the good guys for $1.3 million during this year’s international signing period, becoming one of two international prospects who received a signing bonus north of $1 million from Baltimore. According to the few sources of information out there on Basallo, he was one of the top catchers on the international market this year, has some 60-grade tools from behind the plate, and it doesn’t take a scout’s eye to see the power in his beautiful swing here.
29) RHP Carter Baumler: 6’2”/ 195 pounds/ 18 years old
A fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft, Baumler had his senior year of high school ball taken away by COVID-19 and will now miss 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s a tough break but he’s still a very young prospect with good upside. Baumler throws a low-90s fastball that should see a slight uptick in velo as he matures, along with a curveball that has a beautiful shape and a changeup with potential. His delivery is fairly smooth and fluid and if his changeup can develop into a quality offering, Baumler has starting potential, it just might be a long road to get there as he was already an extremely raw prospect before his injury.
28) SS Anthony Servideo: 5’10”/ 175 pounds/ LHH/ 21 years old
Servideo is a true shortstop prospect and brings one of the more impressive gloves to this system after being drafted in the third-round of last year’s draft. Mike Elias has preached adding strength up the middle and Servideo’s high floor helps raise the overall floor of the farm system. The big question is whether or not his small junior season sample size at the plate is a sign of things to come or just a hot start against non-conference competition. His career 89/78 K/BB ratio and 90% stolen base success rate in the SEC are impressive, giving him the makeup of a future utility player, a pesky one who can do many of the small things right that add up or have a big impact in a close game.
27) RHP Garrett Stallings: 6’2”/ 200 pounds/ 23 years old
Another high floor prospect recently added to the system, Stallings joins the Orioles as part of the offseason Jose Iglesias trade with the Angels. Elias has targeted Stallings since his days of prepping for the 2019 draft, finally getting his guy who the Orioles believe has a future in a major league starting rotation. Stallings has a four-pitch mix, with an upper-80s/low-90s fastball, but generates good movement with his pitches and has shown outstanding command throughout this career. A Friday night starter at Tennessee, Stallings walked just 37 batters across 251 college innings. His first outing in 2021 will be his first professional outing after not pitching in 2019 due to a high college workload and 2020 being canceled.
26) IF/OF Tyler Nevin: 6’4”/ 225 pounds/ RHH/ 23 years old
One of three players acquired from the Rockies for reliever Mychal Givens, Nevin is a first base prospect who has experience at third base and the outfield, making him a possible utility option at the big league level. While there is some power in his bat, he doesn’t have enough to profile as a starting first baseman in the majors, but he has hit well throughout his minor league career and shown a notable ability to get on base. The 2019 season was his first fully healthy year since being drafted 38th overall in 2015, slashing .251/.345/.399 with a 122 wRC+ in Double-A. Like others on the backend of this list, Nevin raises the overall floor of the organization and provides quality depth.
25) IF Rylan Bannon: 5’8”/ 180 pounds/ RHH/ 24 years old
After putting together an impressive 2019 campaign at the Double-A and Triple-A level, Bannon now finds himself in the mix for a starting role in 2021 with the Orioles after the departure of Hanser Alberto and the up-and-down nature of Rio Ruiz. Don’t let Bannon’s small stature fool you, there’s pop in his bat and he has a knack for finding the gaps. He owns a career .375 OBP thanks to an impressive ability to draw walks. Defensively, Bannon is adequate at third base and can flash the leather at second base. There’s also been reports of him working out behind the plate. Bannon has a prime opportunity to make an impact in the big leagues this year and the skillset to make a little noise.
24) SS Maikol Hernandez: 6’3”/ 175 pounds/ RHH/ 17 years old
Not only did the Orioles spend $1.2 million for Hernandez this year, but names like Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa have been used to describe him, which is hard to believe when it comes to an international signing of the Baltimore Orioles. Scouts note his multiple plus-tools, ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field, projection to stick at shortstop with his athletic ability, and how he started showcasing some of his potential already at the age of 16. Like Basallo, Hernandez could be a high-riser once he begins playing in the DSL and we get a better idea of his skillset.
23) LHP Bruce Zimmermann: 6’2”/ 215 pounds/ 25 years old
Zimmermann showcased a mid-90s fastball and MLB-quality slider during spring training last year, but struggled in his big league debut, giving up six earned runs on six hits across seven innings in 2020. However, the local product has a four-pitch mix that can produce a modest amount of swings and misses and has shown the ability to limit the long ball throughout his minor league career. He will be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation in 2021, but may begin the year in Triple-A as part of an elite rotation in Norfolk, providing the Orioles with a quality depth piece in case the rotation falters or a long-man out of the bullpen is needed. There’s a small window of opportunity for Zimmermann to stick which will be expanded if he can rack up more strikeouts.
22) OF Ryan McKenna: 5’11”/ 185 pounds/ RHH/ 23 years old
With the resurgence of Cedric Mullins and glut of outfield talent now in the system, McKenna has become a bit of a forgotten piece. A decent but not great 2019 season in Bowie didn’t help. But, McKenna was protected ahead of last year’s Rule 5 draft and is on the 40-man roster, meaning he’s one small step away from the major leagues. McKenna still brings elite speed to the table, a good outfield arm, and the ability to draw a high number of walks while limiting his swings and misses. He appeared to sell out his line-drive success for more home runs in 2019, a strategy that didn’t work very well. If he can find his 2018 swing again and turn his elite speed into a weapon on the basepaths, McKenna will find his way back into a positive light in Baltimore.
21) OF Kyle Stowers: 6’3”/ 200 pounds/ LHH/ 23 years old
An exit velocity stud while at Stanford, Stowers showed off his powerful left-handed swing during his first taste of pro ball in 2019 with Aberdeen, logging 20 extra-base hits (six home runs) in 55 games and receiving a New York-Penn League (RIP) All-Star nod. If he can hit for average against more advanced pitching and limit the strikeouts, Stowers is a sleeper in the system who could go overlooked with Diaz/Kjerstad/Mountcastle in the system. His big outfield arm and above-average speed will be assets if he eventually develops into a platoon piece. His ceiling depends on how well his hit tool develops.
20) RHP Kyle Bradish: 6’4”/ 190 pounds/ 24 years old
Yet another name on this list who we have yet to watch since joining the Orioles organization, Bradish saw early success at the High-A level in his pro debut with the Angels back in 2019, striking out 27% of hitters he faced and finishing with a 4.28 ERA/4.08 FIP/ 3.87 xFIP across 101 innings. The big red flag was his 4.72 BB/9 rate. Bradish has a lot of moving parts in his delivery, but overall, he’s a solid pitching prospect for the Orioles player development system to work with. His 12-6 curveball is his best pitch and there’s starter potential if he can locate his fastball and solidify a third offering. Don’t be surprised to see him take off in 2021 after a year of developing with the Orioles.
19) OF Hudson Haskin: 6’2”/ 200 pounds/ RHH/ 22 years old
With a plethora of notable pitching prospects available to start day two of the 2020 draft, the Orioles elected to dig deep and grab Haskin, a draft-eligible sophomore outfielder, out of Tulane University. Haskin has a quirky swing, but it works. He also possesses plus-speed and the tools to stick at centerfield as he moves through the organization (has the arm to play all three spots). Haskin’s success both at Tulane and with a wooden bat in summer ball are impressive. In 105 combined games, Haskin slashed .344/.422/.575 with 16 home runs and 28 doubles. A few mechanical changes could unlock more home runs and unleashing him on the basepaths will be sure to cause a bit of havoc with his speed. The range of outcomes are vast when it comes to Haskin but the more you watch him, the more you fall in love and see the potential for a future starting outfielder at the major league level.
18) LHP Alexander Wells: 6’1”/ 190 pounds/ 23 years old
Wells doesn’t have much projection left, but the lefty has impeccable command of his four-pitch mix, changes his speeds well to keep hitters off balance, and has been effective at limiting the long ball, despite higher fly ball numbers as he rises through the system. Wells struggled in High-A, but increased his strikeout numbers in Double-A (19%), lowered his walk rate to 4.3%, slashed his home run rate in half (0.66/9 IP), and limited opponents to a .233 average, a 35 point drop compared to 2018. Wells has been an All-Star in all four professional seasons and has the eye of Mike Elias as a candidate to start and make his MLB debut soon, despite spending 2020 in Australia and missing out on instructional camp and even winter ball (well, technically summer) in the ABL.
17) LHP Drew Rom: 6’2”/ 170 pounds/ 21 years old
Rom didn’t have the opportunity to live up to our “breakout prospect” designation in 2020, so we’re extending that to 2021. Armed with four pitches, Rom has piled up the strikeouts, kept the ball on the ground, and limited the long ball during his time with the organization, thanks to his ability to locate his hard to square up fastball and plant his slider where he wants it in any count. As a 19-year-old, Rom posted a 2.93 ERA (2.74 FIP), a 1.22 WHIP, 30.3% strikeout rate, and 46% groundball rate in Delmarva. If there’s a velocity increase here, Rom could smash through his current ceiling projection. If not, his high-spin fastball with plenty of movement and command could carry him to the majors as a backend starter/long-relief piece.
16) LHP Kevin Smith: 6’5”/ 200 pounds/ 23 years old
Smith doesn’t have a repertoire that will blow you away or a real notable standout pitch. He’s another one of these soft-tossing lefties in the Orioles system, but doesn’t have the pinpoint command Alexander Wells does and doesn’t have the swing and miss stuff that Rom or Zac Lowther does. Sounds enticing, right? Even without the elite standout tool, Smith gets results. He needed just 140 innings to get from the University of Georgia to Double-A, reached as high as 9th on the New York Mets top prospect list, and was the 2019 Mets minor league pitcher of the year. Smith could debut in 2021 with a good start in Triple-A. He can reach 93-94 mph with his high-spin fastball and the slider is a good pitch. It won’t be long before he’s competing for a rotation spot, and all he cost was Miguel Castro. Lol, Mets.
15) IF Adam Hall: 6’0”/ 170 pounds/ RHH/ 21 years old
Hall seems to be one of those prospects who people either really like or just can’t get behind. He’s moved up one spot on our Top 30 list, so it’s safe to say we’re fairly high on him. His path to the majors is wide open, but despite plus-speed, an above-average hit tool, and a solid glove at second base and shortstop, Hall has posted an ISO of .081 and .097 in each of his last two seasons and has just six home runs to his name. But he’s also posted a wRC+ of 124 and 133 in 2018 and 2019, swiped 55 bases over that span, and has an OBP approaching .380. The tools are there to be a regular second baseman. He’s still very young and was a raw prospect without much experience against regular elite competition when he joined the system. If he can hit against more advanced pitching in High-A this season, put Hall on your radar. Also, don’t be surprised to see some work in the outfield at some point.
14) 3B Coby Mayo: 6’5”/ 215 pounds/ RHH/ 19 years old
Why did the Orioles go under-slot with Heston Kjerstad in last year’s draft, other than loving Kjerstad’s plus-plus raw power? It was so they could grab someone like Coby Mayo later on in the draft. Mayo’s infield arm and raw power grades were two of the highest grades in last year’s draft class, and many believe the Florida commit was an eventual first-round pick after a few years in the SEC. He’s a physical specimen with the potential for 30+ home runs a season in the big leagues, but you’re going to have to take the mediocre batting average and high strikeout numbers that come along with that. As a high schooler, Mayo was putting up Renato Nunez-esque exit velocity numbers, which could be a favorable offensive comp for Mayo. Luckily, the defense is nothing like what we saw from Nunez.
13) LHP Zac Lowther: 6’2”/ 235 pounds/ 24 years old
Yep, another one of those lefties in the O’s system. Lowther doesn’t rely on high velo numbers with his fastball, but it can run away from righties, quickly sneak up on the lefties, and he can spot it anywhere he wants over the plate. He also throws an impressive curveball, along with a slider and changeup that are works in progress. Lowther’s margin for error is small, but he’s been a strikeout artist throughout his pitching career, he can’t be rattled on the mound, and you quickly see his high pitching IQ when he works. Lowther will be given every opportunity to start, but his swing and miss curveball, along with his deceptive delivery could be a real weapon out of the bullpen. The biggest thing to watch in 2021 is whether or not he can continue to pile up the strikeouts and get AAA hitters chasing, something AA hitters were less inclined to do in 2019.
12) IF Terrin Vavra: 6’1”/ 185 pounds/ LHH/ 23 years old
Circle Vavra’s name and don’t forget it in 2021. Acquired along with Tyler Nevin for Mychal Givens, Vavra brings an attractive glove to the infield, profiling more as a second baseman but currently has a better glove at shortstop than any option the Orioles will roll out this season. There’s also word of him working out in the outfield to add to his versatility. Vavra played in 102 games in 2019 (A-ball), slashing .318/.409/.489 with 32 doubles, 10 home runs, a 160 wRC+ and just as many walks (62) as strikeouts (62). He won’t hit many home runs, but he can turn singles into doubles, work long at-bats, and get on base at a high rate, basically Vavra can do a lot of things most Orioles infielders struggle greatly to do.
11) LHP Keegan Akin: 6’0”/ 225 pounds/ 25 years old
Akin out pitched expectations in his MLB debut last season, leading the Orioles with a 0.8 fWAR and recording a 3.27 FIP, 30% strikeout rate, and career-low 8.6% walk rate in a small sample of 25.2 innings. His 14.7% swinging strike rate was the 12th-highest rate in baseball last year. He showcased his 91-94 mph fastball and changeup that really flashed against big league hitters, cementing his spot in the rotation this year. While Akin’s stuff is MLB quality across the board, Akin will need to command his fastball across the entire plate, not just down in the zone, and will have to continue to limit walks. Things tend to unravel quickly on a bad night for Akin, but he doesn’t show much emotion on the mound and doesn’t get phased easily.
10) IF Jordan Westburg: 6’3”/ 203 pounds/ RHH/ 21 years old
Another high-floor, SEC bat with a track record of success against quality pitching. Westburg is an athletic middle infielder who hit .326 in the Cape Cod League and was hitting .317 with a .432 OBP last season at Mississippi State before the shutdown. He hasn’t showcased much in-game power yet (10 home runs in 124 games), but scouts believe Westburg has plenty of power to tap into and pair with his contact ability. He fits the mold of the athletic, up-the-middle piece who will find a home somewhere in the lineup if he can handle advanced pitching. Westburg may have a quick path to the majors with a move to second base, especially if he starts hitting 15+ home runs and cuts down on his high strikeout rate. He recently received at least one vote to be included in Baseball America’s list of Top 100 prospects for 2021, highlighting just how good his skillset is.
9) RHP Michael Baumann: 6’4”/ 225 pounds/ 25 years old
No prospect in this system has seen their stock rise higher than Baumann’s over the last year or so. His powerful fastball sits 93-95 mph (t99) and he holds that velocity deep into outings. The slider is rated as the top slider in the Orioles system, leading some to believe he will be a dominant two-pitch late-inning arm out of the bullpen, but his ability to hold his velocity with that frame is impressive. Much of the focus is rightfully on Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, but there isn’t much standing in the way of Michael Baumann slotting in right behind them in a major league starting rotation. It’s really hard to temper the expectations here. Baumann is fully recovered from an injury sustained at Bowie last year and could be MLB ready very soon, but don’t expect the Orioles to overwork him. The patience we show in waiting for him to make his debut will be worth it.
8) RHP Dean Kremer: 6’3”/ 180 pounds/ 25 years old
Kremer was effective in his MLB debut last season, striking out 26.5% of hitters he faced with a 2.76 FIP and no home runs allowed in 18.2 innings pitched. He isn’t an overpowering pitcher but Kremer produces good run and movement with his fastballs and his curveball is a beauty of a pitch that produced weak contact and a high-amount of swings and misses against major league hitters in 2020. If he can continue to miss bats and command the strike zone, Kremer won’t have a problem keeping his spot in the rotation.
7) OF Yusniel Diaz: 6’1”/ 195 pounds/ RHH/ 24 years old
Expectations of Diaz were high after being the centerpiece of the 2018 Manny Machado deal with Los Angeles, but unfortunately, injuries have prevented Diaz from really taking off with the Orioles, other than a hot spring training in 2019 and the occasional healthy month of robust numbers in Double-A. Don’t write off Diaz just yet as the potential to be an everyday starting outfielder is still very much a possibility. Despite the injuries, Diaz slashed .262/.335/.472 with 11 home runs, a .210 ISO, and a 10% walk rate in 76 games (135 wRC+). Those are the types of numbers Diaz are capable of putting together across a full season (20+ HR potential). Combine that with his plus-arm in right field and the Orioles still have themselves an exciting outfielder.
6) SS Gunnar Henderson: 6’3”/ 195 pounds/ LHH/ 19 years old
The early prospect darling of 2021, Henderson greatly benefited from spending last year at the Orioles alternate site in Bowie. What little we got out of that camp painted the picture of an over-matched teenager facing top prospects like Grayson Rodriguez and MLB experienced pitchers who took his lumps and learned from them, ending camp by holding his own and impressing the likes of Brandon Hyde and minor league coaches/instructors throughout the system. A soon-to-be Top 100 prospect, Henderson has plus-hit/power/field/run tools and the makeup of an everyday shortstop with the potential to be an All-Star shortstop at the big league level. With his alternate site experience, we should get to see Henderson in Delmarva this year after spending 2019 in the GCL.
5) OF Heston Kjerstad: 6’3”/ 220 pounds/ LHH/ 21 years old
The Orioles identified Kjerstad as their guy with the second overall pick in the 2020 draft and they didn’t waver when it came time to make the pick. A “potential middle-of-the-order hitter with plus-plus raw power and the ability to leave a ballpark in any direction” per Baseball America and the top left-handed hitting power hitter in the draft, Kjerstad will play the majority of his games at ballparks where power-hitting lefties thrive and he has a long track record of success against elite competition to lead many to believe he will. In two-plus seasons at Arkansas, Kjerstad slashed .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs and 34 doubles and was one of the top collegiate hitters during his time with Team USA. Forget about the strikeouts right now, that’s baseball in this new era. The arm strength and glove in right field may not win any Gold Gloves, but won’t hurt the Orioles defensively. Once Orioles fans get the opportunity to watch him play, many of the initial post-draft hesitations should evaporate.
4) OF Ryan Mountcastle: 6’3”/ 195 pounds/ RHH/ 23 years old
The discussions about Mountcastle’s defense are exhausting, but there’s no denying his beautiful swing from the right side of the plate and explosive hands through the zone. Mountcastle has been much younger than his competition at every level he’s played at, yet has consistently put up well above-average numbers, including a .312 average, 25 home runs, and a 117 wRC+ en route to International League MVP honors in 2019. As a rookie in 2020, Mountcastle hit .333 with five home runs and a 139 wRC+ in 35 games. His aggressive nature at the plate leads to low walk rates, but the power and ability to use the entire field are there.
3) LHP DL Hall: 6’2”/ 195 pounds/ 22 years old
To describe DL Hall in one quick sentence- Electric stuff and pure filth. Hall brings a four-pitch mix to the mound, including a fastball that can hold at 96 mph deep into outings, and a major league mix consisting of a changeup, slider, and curveball. Reports out of instructs describe a slider that may be the pitch that helps put him at the top of a major league rotation. Hall showed off his deep repertoire in High-A last season, striking out more than 33% of hitters and limiting opponents to a .185 average and three home runs in 80 innings. His 15.6% walk rate was a major issue last season and his command will be under a microscope in 2021, but if he can limit the walks, Hall’s ceiling is that of a top of the rotation arm and the Orioles are helping him reach that ceiling, harnessing some of the nastiest stuff of any lefty in baseball.
2) RHP Grayson Rodriguez: 6’5”/ 220 pounds/ 21 years old
MLB Pipeline recently ranked Rodriguez as the 7th-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, rating his changeup as the top changeup among all RHP prospects and giving him the highest ceiling among a group that includes Nate Pearson and Luis Patino, fellow AL East young studs. Rodriguez has a plus-fastball that has hit 98 mph, a curveball and slider that have improved significantly, and that changeup that helped him go 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, a .170 average against, and a 34.2% strikeout rate as a 19-year-old in Delmarva. He could reach Double-A as a 21-year-old at some point this year, but there’s no need to rush this truly elite talent the Orioles have.
1) C Adley Rutschman: 6’2”/ 216 pounds/ 22 years old
Nothing new to add here. Rutschman is still elite. In fact, Baseball America ranked Rutschman as the 2nd-best prospect in baseball for 2021 and he could find himself taking the top spot once Tampa Bay promotes Wander Franco. A switch-hitting catcher with plus tools across the board and elite defensive abilities, his teammates raved about his leadership and skills on the diamond while at Bowie last year. At this point, the only question is when we finally see Rutschman in the big leagues. Most signs point to a 2021 debut.
A former high school teacher and coach in the mountains of Virginia, Nick Stevens has been writing about the Baltimore Orioles and their minor league system for five years. When he isn’t at a minor league stadium, he’s enjoying a Wizards game or supporting his alma mater, James Madison University. Co-Host of The Verge.