With the 2021 MLB draft in the books, it’s time to update our Top 30 prospects list, but we decided to not only update our rankings, but expand them as well!
After more than a year of having no minor league baseball to watch, the nightly routine of firing up MiLB TV and watching the future of the Baltimore Orioles organization has been a real joy. Players we had all but written off have resurrected themselves and showed sustained growth in most cases, prospects who weren’t close to being on our radar are now demanding our attention, and the cream of the crop has certainly met expectations, which has helped create a sense of optimism while watching the season unfold.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
After an enormous amount of support from listeners and seeing the growth that has been taking place down on the farm, we wanted to highlight as many players as possible, hence our expansion to a Top 50! Even with an expanded list, there were a large number of players not included (many younger international players who have received high praise from around the industry), which is a great sign for how deep this system has become.
Without further ado, Baltimore Sports and Life’s Top 50 Baltimore Orioles prospects from myself and my On The Verge Podcast Co-hosts Zach Spedden, and Bob Phelan. (2021 draft picks are designated with a (*). As they sign or return to school, we will update accordingly.)
50) RHP Jean Pinto (5’11”/175 pounds, 20 years old)
- Acquired along with RHP Garrett Stallings from the Angels in exchange for SS Jose Iglesias, Pinto has a small frame but a decently high ceiling. Per Ben Badler at Baseball America, Pinto can touch 95 mph, but typically sits in the low-90s, with a swing-and-miss slider. At the time of this writing, he’s fanned 25 across his first 17 FCL innings. Hopefully, we get our first live looks of him in Delmarva to close out 2021.
49) RHP Cody Sedlock (6’4”/220 pounds, 26 years old)
- It’s been a career full of injuries and struggles for the former first-round pick, but Sedlock had a strong 2019 in High-A/Double-A and has continued to pitch well with Bowie this season as a starter/long-reliever. Strikeouts and ground balls are up, he’s keeping the ball in the yard, and after an extremely high walk rate to begin the year, Sedlock has steadily continued to cut down on the walks while hitting 95-96 mph on the radar gun. Even if it’s as a bullpen option, Sedlock is intriguing again and a real testament to the Orioles player development system.
48) 3B Toby Welk (6’2”/205 pounds, 24 years old)
- Welk continues to be an inspiring story from the 2019 draft class. A 21st round pick out of the D-III ranks, Welk is now a regular in Double-A Bowie’s lineup where he’s been quickly piling up the walks and extra-base hits. However, the strikeout numbers have been high and it’s harder to pinpoint exactly where he fits best defensively. Welk has already beaten the odds but the question now is whether or not he can master more advanced pitching.
47) C Maverick Handley (5’11”/205 pounds, 23 years old)
- Defense, defense, defense. Handley has picked off 43% of would-be base stealers (as of mid-July) and makes first base back picks exhilarating. No runner is safe on base when Handley is behind the plate. He also placed a heavy emphasis on his offense at Driveline and while the hit tool hasn’t graded high yet, some around the industry have graded his FV hit tool as high as 50 (20-80 scale). With his extremely high baseball IQ and defensive abilities, he’s the type of catcher every MLB team would want to have in their organization. If the bat plays well against higher level pitching, Handley will be a fine asset at the major league level.
46) RHP Ignacio Feliz (6’1”/180 pounds/21 years old)
- A former shortstop with his third organization and acquired via the third round of the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2020. Not the description used for very many, if any, prospect on any list. Yet Feliz may be too low here. Feliz is striking out a quarter of hitters he’s faced with Delmarva and has kept his GB rate north of 60% for much of the season. He’s a very young arm with a big curveball that should play at higher levels. Fastball velo reports weren’t very high when Feliz joined the organization, but he’s been hitting 96 mph frequently lately.
45) RHP Ofelky Peralta (6’5”/195 pounds, 24 years old)
- In what feels like should be his age-34 season, Peralta placed all of his trust into the Orioles player development staff and Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey and the results have been positive. Peralta can hum it in the upper-90’s and has good command of his curveball, leading to a career-high strikeout percentage and respectable .233 BAA in his first taste of Double-A ball. Still questions about whether he should stick in the rotation or move to the bullpen, but it’s hard not to get excited about a potential 98-99 mph FB guy with an above-average curveball finding success out of the bullpen at the next level. Clearly, the Mike Elias regime believes in Peralta enough to have kept him around after 4 years in A-ball.
44) 2B Collin Burns (5’11”/187 pounds, 21 years old)*
- A 6th-round pick of the Orioles in 2021, Burns is a speedy left-handed hitter who profiles as a second baseman with an intriguing bat. The offense was slow to come around at Tulane but Burns used his 2020 time off to add muscle and work on his defense. The result was a .353/.410/.571 season in 2021 with 32 XBH and 20 stolen bases.
43) RHP Zach Peek (6’3”/190 pounds, 23 years old)
- Peek dedicated his offseason to developing his changeup and adding velocity and has since been a fun arm to watch in Delmarva. The rookie is striking out more than a third of the hitters he’s faced, very rarely gives up home runs, and keeps the ball on the ground at a high clip. Hitters often look uncomfortable against Peek who brings some lovely beyond the baseball card data to the table. A strong finish to the year will propel him up this list much higher next season. One of the more underrated and overlooked arms in the system.
42) OF Zach Watson (6’0”/160 pounds, 24 years old)
- A former third-round pick out of LSU, Watson is having himself a bit of a breakout year in High-A this season, at least as far as his power is concerned. He put up nine home runs in the first half of the season and has started to hit for a bit more average as the summer rolls along. We know he can patrol center field well and be a menace on the basepaths (18-21 in SB attempts so far), but the hit tool is going to have to come around to find success in the upper level of the minors. There’s still value in his floor as a defense/speed 4th/5th OF.
41) RHP Isaac Mattson (6’3”/ 205 pounds, 26 years old)
- Going into the season, Mattson appeared ready to begin showing fans a bit of a return on the Dylan Bundy trade after the Orioles protected him ahead of the Rule 5 draft back in December. But like many arms who we have seen shuttled between Baltimore/Norfolk, the results haven’t been there, even though the tools are. The hope is still that Mattson can be a 6th/7th inning FB/SL reliever at the MLB level, but he may have to pull a bit of a John Means-esque move and cut back on his high velo jumps to bring back the command. A steady schedule of innings probably wouldn’t hurt either, but that’s out of his control.
40) OF Robert Neustrom (6’2”/208 pounds, 24 years old)
- Neustrom is finally healthy, playing just about every night in Bowie, and has put on quite the show this season, even appearing on Sportscenter after hitting a 476-foot bomb out of Dunkin Donuts Park earlier this year. Walks are up (around 10%), strikeouts are down (around 16%) and the power is blossoming. If you want a look at how this player development system is benefiting guys in the system, just look at Neustrom’s profile and 2021 results. An average hit tool, average defense, and the potential for above-average pop are the makings for a much-needed depth piece in Baltimore.
39) C Brett Cumberland (5’11”/200 pounds, 26 years old)
- If getting hit by a pitch was a skill, Cumberland would have an 80-grade HBP tool. But that isn’t the only thing Cumberland brings to the table. He’s an on-base machine with big raw power, but his aggressive swing does have a good amount of swing-and-miss in it and it hasn’t translated to a high batting average as he’s moved up the ladder. There are also the questions about his defense behind the plate. Would be great to see him get a chance in the majors now to see if he can put it all together.
38) C Creed Willems (6’0”/225 pounds, 18 years old)*
- There’s a lot to like about Willems, who becomes the second player in as many years to bypass a TCU commitment to join the Orioles (Carter Baumler, 2020). A catcher with reported 1.9 pop times, Willems has a short, powerful swing from the left side that deposited a number of baseballs onto Eutaw Street during a pre-draft working, according to Orioles scouting director Brad Ciolek. MLB Pipeline’s assessment was also high on Willems, believing he can hit for both average and power as he moves up through a system. Willems is very raw but there’s a solid base to build from.
37) OF Mishael Deson (6’3”/155 pounds, 19 years old)
- While Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra receive all the attention as part of the return for Mychal Givens, Deson is the most intriguing of these three pieces and may have the highest ceiling of them all. Orioles international scouting director Koby Perez views Deson as a potential five-tool player, with outlets like FanGraphs giving Deson 50-60 FV grades on every tool across the board. He will spend the rest of 2021 in the FCL, where’s off to a hot start, but he ranks near the top of the list of guys we’re anxious to watch in 2022 as part of a Delmarva outfield.
36) 3B Rylan Bannon (5’8”, 180 pounds, 25 years old)
- We entered the year thinking Bannon would compete for an Opening Day roster spot with the Orioles, instead an oblique injury forced Bannon to miss significant time and it’s been a slow climb back. He’s still an interesting prospect in that he can play an adequate third base and a better second base (he’s even an emergency catcher), there’s surprising pop in the bat, and he’s always been able to draw a fair number of walks. Bannon is on the 40-man roster and there’s still time for him to heat up (which he’s currently doing) and earn a shot in the big leagues this season.
35) SS Darell Hernaiz (6’1”, 170 pounds, 19 years old)
- Just how many impressive middle infield prospects do the Orioles have? To be as accurate as possible, we’ll say…a ton. Hernaiz is the least talked about of this large group of prospects but the frame, tools, and base are all there. Just as Joey Ortiz went from a defensive SS with a light bat to his current advanced profile, Hernaiz is a candidate to do the same. The extra-base hits and power haven’t been prominent this season, but he’s 2.4 years younger than pitchers he’s facing in Low-A and he’s consistently put bat to ball and reached base while playing exceptional defense around the diamond. He has on-base streaks of 29 and 15 games this season.
34) RHP Blaine Knight (6’3”/165 pounds, 25 years old)
- Knight’s stock is quickly rising again after a disastrous 2019 season in Frederick. We can now add him to the very long list of Orioles pitching prospects who struggled in the black hole that was Frederick, only to find good success once pitching elsewhere. Knight runs his fastball up into the upper-90s with a good slider that may lead to an eventual move to the bullpen where he could be very effective. For now, he’s pitching well as a starter at the Double-A level where he continues to keep his walk totals low and strikeout numbers high.
33) LHP Luis Ortiz (6’3”, 195 pounds, 18 years old)
- Ortiz received a $400,000 signing bonus as part of Elias’ first international class and is just now throwing his first pitches for the organization where he has debuted in the Florida Complex League. Ortiz can already run his fastball up to 95 mph with a beautiful curveball. Scouting reports are high on his changeup as well. An 18-year-old with command of a three-pitch mix and his velocity from the left side are super intriguing. Could be a high riser with some innings under his belt.
32) OF Luis Gonzalez (6’4”/185 pounds, 18 years old)
- The Orioles have several very young, left-handed power hitters emerging from recent international classes and Gonzalez may be the most exciting of them all. Gonzalez received glowing reports from Orioles instructional camp last year, specifically about his power. There are questions about the hit tool and the swing and miss in his game, but he appears to be a prime candidate for an Orioles player development success story.
31) RHP Kyle Brnovich (6’2”/190 pounds, 23 years old)
- Brnovich made his pro debut with High-A Aberdeen this year and needed just eight dominant starts to earn a promotion to Bowie where the Justin Ramsey touch has continued to elevate Brnovich’s game. He’s not “projectable” at this point, but Brnovich can be refined into a potential starting candidate at the next level, or a valuable weapon out of the bullpen. Despite sitting in the upper-80s/low-90s with his fastball, Brnovich has elite command (13 walks in 51 innings so far) and a lethal knuckle-curve that he can drop in for a strike or bury in the dirt to put hitters away. The Orioles won the Dylan Bundy trade.
30) SS Adam Hall (5’11”/165 pounds, 22 years old)
- Hall has been a tough prospect to figure out this year. The speed is elite (80-95 career stolen base success rate) and he offers versatility on defense (SS, 2B, OF), but Hall’s 60% groundball rate is one of the highest in all of minor league baseball and he’s yet to crack a .100 ISO as a professional. The strikeouts have also ticked up significantly in High-A. But we’ve seen decent exit velo numbers on Hall and the speed is impossible to ignore. He’s a good candidate to be a late-bloomer due to his amateur development path so while he’s dropped pretty far on our list right now, the book is far from closed on his potential.
29) RHP Carter Baumler (6’2”/195 pounds, 19 years old)
- Baumler has now had his 2020 season wiped out due to COVID and his 2021 season wiped out due to Tommy John surgery, but he’s already resumed throwing and should be ready to go for the 2022 season where he will still be just 20 years old. There were reports of Baumler adding a few ticks to his 90-92 mph fastball before surgery, velo which should return when he’s healthy. There’s a lot of physical projection in Baumler and plenty of reasons why he was given $1.5 million to sign and bypass TCU.
28) 1B/OF Tyler Nevin (6’4”/225 pounds, 24 years old)
- Nevin is fully healthy this year and really tapping into his power in Triple-A where he could set a new career-high in home runs in about half of the number of at-bats he’s needed in previous seasons. The Orioles have moved him around the field (1B, 3B, LF/RF) leading one to believe he’s being groomed to become a power-hitting utility option for the big league team soon. Nevin hits the ball hard and has great opposite-field strength, while showing greater patience at the plate and keeping his strikeout rate under 20% for much of the season. His BABIP may also show a bit of bad luck, leading to a lower average than what you would like to see. He’s already made his MLB debut this year and should be a full-time major leaguer ASAP.
27) C Samuel Basallo (6’3”/180 pounds/16 years old)
- Our report on Basallo hasn’t changed from the beginning of the season. 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.
26) RHP Garrett Stallings (6’2”/200 pounds, 23 years old)
- It’s been an up-and-down first pro season for Stallings, who has begun his career in High-A. He’s been able to consistently go 5+ innings in starts and is averaging just one walk per game, but home runs have been a major issue (12 in 61 IP). However, Stallings owns a 60% ground ball rate this season. The deception in his delivery, command of the strike zone, and ability to generate strikeouts with his high-spin fastball up in the zone have all been fun to watch this season as Stallings settles in. We’ll get a better idea of Stallings and how his stuff plays when he’s moved up to Double-A, which probably won’t be too long from now.
25) SS Anthony Servideo (5’10”/175 pounds, 22 years old)
- Servideo appeared in just 20 games for Delmarva before going on the IL with a hip injury. He’s expected to be back by the beginning of August, but that would leave him with only about four weeks of games left to close out the year. When healthy, Servideo walked 28 times in 20 games and was starting to come around with the bat. Defensively, Servideo saw time at 2B, SS, and CF, showcasing excellent range and quickness specifically at 2B. As long as the bat comes around, Servideo is a high-floor middle infielder with a plus-glove.
24) SS Joey Ortiz (5’11”/175 pounds, 23 years old)
- Ortiz received a ton of pre-season hype and lived up to every bit of the hype before his stellar 2021 season ended prematurely with a torn labrum. Ortiz had a .612 OPS his rookie season and was seen as a defense-first shortstop with a bat that left a lot to be desired. That’s not the case anymore. Ortiz was promoted to Double-A after just 19 games in High-A and while he never had the chance to fully settle in at the plate, Ortiz did hit four home runs in 16 games and showed off a fantastic glove at shortstop with a strong and accurate arm. There’s no doubt that the defense is major league quality and as his bat continues to develop, so will the excitement and hype. 110 mph exit velos certainly add to the excitement as well.
23) 3B John Rhodes (6’0”/200 pounds, 20 years old)*
- Rhodes was a 3rd round pick in this year’s draft, where the Orioles are hoping they drafted themselves a steal after a down year for Rhodes at Kentucky. He’s shown success in the SEC and in wooden-bat summer leagues and has been very transparent about his struggles this season. We’re assuming this is a bit of a project pick for the Orioles and that they loved the data on him coming out of college. If the Orioles are right, they might have been able to nab a future 1st/2nd round pick a bit later and at a lower cost.
22) LHP Alexander Wells (6’1”/195 pounds, 24 yeas old)
- Wells has overcome a disastrous start to the season (stuck in Australia during the pandemic and an oblique injury during spring) and is pitching as well as he ever has since joining the organization. Wells doesn’t have the high velo numbers but he does have a major league quality changeup and curveball and impeccable command. He pitched well in a very small sample with the Orioles earlier this year and after his recent stretch in Norfolk, there’s clearly very little left for him to prove in the minors. Wells is quickly approaching sink-or-swim time in the majors, where he has the tools to carve out a role.
21) SS Maikol Hernandez (6’3”/175 pounds, 17 years old)
- Like Basallo, our report on Hernandez hasn’t changed yet. 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.
20) LHP Drew Rom (6’2”170 pounds, 21 years old)
- Coming into the year, there seemed to be a lot of hope that Rom’s velocity would tick up, leading to increased hype and a higher climb up prospect rankings. The velo hasn’t picked up and still sits in the lower-90s, but Rom has been excellent against High-A competition at just 21 years of age this season. Strikeouts are down a tick, but Rom has excelled at keeping hitters off the basepaths and avoiding barrels. Rom attacks each and every pitch methodically and as long as he can miss bats against more advanced hitters, he will be a contender for a MLB rotation spot in a few years.
19) LHP Zac Lowther (6’2”/235 pounds, 25 years old)
- Lowther has been a VIP on the Baltimore-Norfolk shuttle this year, which hasn’t helped a whole lot. We mentioned going into this season that the walks had been ticking up while the strikeouts were decreasing as he’s moved up the system and a big challenge of his would be missing bats in Triple-A. There was also the risk that more advanced hitters wouldn’t chase his stuff like hitters did in the lower levels of the minor leagues. That seems to be the case now. Perhaps, a move to the bullpen now and a steady routine out of the ‘pen in Norfolk could help.
18) OF Hudson Haskin (6’2”/200 pounds, 22 years old)
- Haskin’s first pro season has been a success as he prepares to end the season in High-A after a promotion on July 19th. His quirky swing works well and he’s even showcased a bit of pop in Low-A. He has a good approach at the plate which should lead to more home runs as he continues to develop and rise through the system. The speed is also a real weapon. Haskin is sort of a jack of all trades type player with the ceiling of an everyday center fielder or a high quality fourth outfielder at the MLB level.
17) OF Kyle Stowers (6’3”/200 pounds, 23 years old)
- Stowers has an enormous swing which has led to many strikeouts, but the former Stanford Cardinal is also walking at about a15% clip between High-A and Double-A and has collected 13 home runs through the first half of the season. Stowers has hit even better since his promotion to Double-A, putting his name right in the middle of the conversation as a potential future major league regular. He’s part of a large group of outfielders who the Orioles have done a fantastic job of developing and elevating to a new level this season.
16) OF Reed Trimble (6’0”/180 pounds, 21 years old)*
- Since the conclusion of the MLB draft, one of the bigger questions has been where the savings from early in the draft are going. A lot of that money may be going to Trimble, one of the top draft-eligible/COVID freshmen available in the draft, per scouts. A switch-hitter with 20/20 potential is an exciting pick. Maybe it’s just me, but I get Hudson Haskin vibes with Trimble, a smaller school pick who fits the Orioles model and brings average to above-average tools across the board that should translate well to the next level.
15) LHP Kevin Smith (6’5”/200 pounds, 24 years old)
- Smith came out of the gates strong in Bowie, armed with a 90-93 mph fastball and sweeping slider, earning a quick promotion to Norfolk where he’s still settling in. His size, arm angle, and pitch quality give him a floor of a major league reliever, with starting potential if he can keep the walks down and command all three of his pitches. When comparing him to the rest of this large group of “softer-tossing lefties” in the system, Smith is clearly the most talented and has the highest potential. Don’t let the recent struggles from Akin/Lowther scare you off.
14) 2B Jahmai Jones (6’0”/210 pounds, 23 years old)
- Jones is having an offensive breakout this season in Triple-A, leaving everyone in Birdland to scream #FreeJahmaiJones on a nightly basis. Jones doesn’t have anything left to prove with the bat in the minors, showcasing decent power, plus-speed, and a high degree of patience at the plate. The issue has been his defense and whether or not that should prevent him from getting called up is another story, but Jones is not a polished second baseman (still just learning the position), often making eye-opening plays and showing great range one night and struggling with throws the next night. However, his athleticism is impressive, and he’s shown the skills to be a future starting second baseman at the next level.
13) OF Yusniel Diaz (6’1”/210 pounds, 24 years old)
- Yusniel Diaz may have finally broken us. Another leg injury caused Diaz to miss significant time this season and now he’s out again with turf toe. Before his latest injury, Diaz was 1-30 with 13 strikeouts in July. The Triple-A season runs until early October this year, so there’s still time for Diaz to come back and salvage something in 2021, but the clock is ticking when it comes to his future. If he can shake the injury bug, Diaz is the type of hitter who can give you 12-15 HR a year with 25+ doubles and keep runners honest with his cannon of an arm, but that’s becoming a very massive “if”.
12) 3B Coby Mayo (6’5”/215 pounds, 19 years old)
- Holy exit velos. Mayo is off to a hot start in the FCL where we saw reports of Mayo punishing baseballs at just under 110 mph off the bat. He’s a big, strong kid with loads of potential in the bat and may end up being the jewel of the 2020 draft class. Thanks to Eric Garfield over at Eutaw Street Report, we’ve also seen plenty of videos of Mayo’s fielding this year, where he looks smooth, calm, and collected in the hot corner. Don’t be shocked when he skyrockets up rankings next year when more people get live looks at him.
11) 2B Connor Norby (5’10”/187 pounds, 21 years old)
- The nation’s leader in hits this season at East Carolina University, Norby has all the makings of a solid major league second baseman. Our BSL colleague, Dr. Stephen Loftus, discussed Norby on our post-draft show, noting the potential for double-digit home runs in his swing. Norby may not have the flashy tools and might have been a safer pick in the second round of this year’s draft, but he draws high praise for his hit tool from evaluators across the country.
10) 2B Terrin Vavra (6’1”/200 pounds, 24 years old)
- A back injury has limited Vavra to just 30 games this season and just a few weeks left in the year to rehab and get back on the field in Bowie. What we have seen from Vavra this season is a patient approach at the plate, the ability to drive the ball into the gaps, and even a bit of home run power. As a LHH with a solid hit tool who can reach base at a high clip, Vavra should have no trouble carving out a long and productive career in the majors. His ability to play all over the field is a big plus.
9) RHP Michael Baumann (6’4”/235 pounds, 25 years old)
- Baumann has slowly worked his way back from an injury at the Alt Site last season, but is now pitching a lot like the Michael Baumann we saw in 2019, a dominant and imposing pitcher with a powerful fastball and command of his secondaries. The velocity was a bit all over the place when Baumann was sent back to Bowie to continue his rehab, but it appears that he is now fully healthy and has regained his confidence on the mound. Going into the year, Baumann was a potential Top 100 prospect and while that may not happen for him, he’s still a potential mid-rotation starter at best and a late-inning power reliever with a wipeout slider as his floor.
8) RHP Kyle Bradish (6’4”/220 pounds, 24 years old)
- One of the biggest risers in this system, Bradish has largely lived up to the preseason hype from the organization. He needed just three dominant starts in Bowie before being promoted to Norfolk where he’s had a little trouble finding his footing, but he’s flashed his potential greatness on a regular basis. His over-the-top delivery has lent to command issues throughout his career and while you hope he can control the walks to an extent, they will always be a part of his game. But Bradish is a powerful pitcher with a massive curveball and the body to work deep into games. He was a college pitcher who was shut down by the Angels after they drafted him and then 2020 wiped away a big year for him. There are very few minor league innings on his arm so a little patience and confidence in the player development staff will go a long way here with Bradish.
7) OF Heston Kjerstad (6’3”/205 pounds, 22 years old)
- Kjerstad does slide down our list a bit, but it doesn’t take away from our excitement about what kind of hitter he can become down the road for the Orioles. Unfortunately, we have yet to see Kjerstad take the field and won’t in 2021, leaving us to hope he can see some time in fall instructs, if his health allows. A recurring heart condition in a 22-year-old is nothing to take lightly, especially considering what we’ve just lived through. The tools are there, and he has the makeup of a middle-of-the-order power bat, but his long-term health is priority number one right now.
6) SS Jordan Westburg (6’3”/203 pounds, 22 years old)
- Westburg is a professional hitter who has raised his stock higher and higher in his first season of pro ball. Since coming out of the gates on fire in Delmarva, Westburg has overcome a slow start in Aberdeen and settled in nicely. One of the biggest questions about the bat was how much power he could produce as a pro. Westburg has started to answer those questions by collecting 25 extra-base hits through the first half of the season, including six home runs. Most of his doubles have been loud hits the opposite way. The power is there and if he’s forced to move to second base at some point, I still see the potential for prime Jonathan Schoop-esque numbers as a big leaguer, with Westburg possibly having a better hit tool.
5) OF Colton Cowser (6’3”/195 pounds, 21 years old)
- A high-floor, left-handed hitter who can drive the ball and play all three outfield positions is a common description among outfielders in this system and Cowser is no exception. Scouts called him one of the best hitters in college baseball this year and any concerns about playing against lesser competition can be slightly alleviated after seeing the success he had with Team USA. Cowser should be a fast riser through the system and is another potential impact bat at the major league level. He doesn’t have big swing and miss concerns and hunts high velocity fastballs with ease. Take issue with the Orioles draft strategy if you will, but the Cowser pick was not a big reach like many people assume it was.
4) SS Gunnar Henderson (6’2”/210 pounds, 20 years old)
- Henderson was the pick-to-click for every single major outlet across the industry before the season started and he has yet to disappoint. Showcasing impressive opposite-field strength and the ability to draw a walk, Henderson has improved his stock a lot this season and will continue to rise up national prospect rankings. He’s exactly where the organization wants him right now, facing speed bumps in High-A as a 20-year-old. The defense has also been there for Henderson, with one of the few knocks on him being the accuracy of his throws at times. However, what he has shown this season has been mighty impressive from such a young player. He won’t turn 21 until late June of 2022.
3) LHP DL Hall (6’2”/195, 22 years old)
- Unfortunately, an injury wiped out a major chunk of Hall’s season but the hard-throwing lefty was electric in Bowie before going on the IL. There aren’t many LHP in baseball with Hall’s velocity and his tireless work during the offseason has clearly paid off as Hall looks like a much more complete, and confident, pitcher on the mound this season. The walks are still higher than what you would like to see but Hall was striking out more than 40% of the hitters he faced this season and kept the ball on the ground at a 60% clip. Even with a 12% walk rate, Hall owns a 1.01 WHIP. If there’s one person in this system I wouldn’t bet against, it’s Hall.
2) RHP Grayson Rodriguez (6’5”/220, 21 years old)
- Rodriguez cruised against High-A competition before a quick promotion to Double-A where he’s continued to look comfortable out on the mound. Rodriguez is touching triple digits with his fastball and has shown a refined crop of secondary pitches to help refine his overall game and is now considered the top pitching prospect in baseball. If you want to nitpick something, he has giving up seven home runs between High-A/Double-A, but he’s slashed his walk rate to around five percent and continues to hold a well below sub-1.00 WHIP in AA. He will be 21 for the entire 2021 season.
1) Catcher Adley Rutschman (6’2”/220, 23 years old)
- A true leader on and off the field, Rutschman will end the 2021 as the top prospect in all of baseball and is enjoying a highly productive season in Bowie, his first full professional season since being taken first overall in the 2019 draft. A switch-hitting catcher with plus-power, more walks than strikeouts, and major league ready defense behind the plate (while also playing a very fine 1B), Rutschman is a true gem.
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.