The 2021 season hasn’t yet begun, but one of the exciting things about this coming year is knowing there is additional talent on the verge of joining the Orioles. Let’s look at who can ascend their way to Baltimore during this ’21 season. And let’s be clear from the outset, not all talent is equal obviously. Some players could make their way to Baltimore and be part of your future core. Others could be fill-in, stop-gap types. In this ’21 season where the Orioles can’t contend, what the O’s do have is the opportunity of time. Who takes advantage?
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Reference to prospect rankings come from my BSL Colleagues, and their listing of the Orioles Top 30 prospects as of January.
Yusniel Diaz – The 24 year old OF, and 7th overall prospect has been disregarded by many; but I remain a believer in. When the Orioles obtained him in ’18, he was tearing up the Texas League (AA). He joined the Oriole organization, and his production dropped in the Eastern League (also AA). In total, it was 317 ab’s (.265, .341, .464) at the AA level for the 21 year old. In ’19, he dealt with leg injuries, and those who saw him said he never quite looked right. In 286 ab’s at Bowie, he put up a .262, .335, .472 line which looked very similar to his ’18 production. Obviously the ’19 numbers were less impressive because he was a year older, and still at AA. My general take, is the numbers were fine considering he wasn’t exactly right physically. Just would have liked to have seen him get a full season of ab’s. ’20 robbed him of competitive playing time, but by all accounts he looked strong in both Spring Training, and the Alternate Camp at Bowie. He’ll start at AAA, and once the Orioles have gained an additional year of control, and if he’s producing as I expect he will; promotion won’t take long. What type of player will he be? I think he’s a good athlete, that can play all 3 OF positions, and will fill the gaps offensively. Maybe he won’t become as good as his former Dodgers farmhand colleague Alex Verdugo, but I picture him similarly. What’s his path to the Majors? I really think it’s just a matter of Diaz holding up his own end and producing at AAA. I see him taking over LF, with Mountcastle at DH, and Hays in CF.
Keegan Akin – I had Akin in my projected rotation, but the Orioles have sent him down tonight. Akin had 35 k’s in his 25.2 innings with the Birds last Summer. His BB% in the Majors in ’20, was also lower than his rates at AAA in ’19, and AA in ’18. I haven’t fully bought into Akin being a piece, but I’m fully bought into the idea that he could be. In my opinion, there is nothing left for him to prove in the Minors, and I’d like to be handing him the ball every five days, and giving him the chance to show he belongs. If he goes down to the Minors for a couple of starts to find himself and get right, I guess that’s fine.
Zac Lowther – Our 13th ranked prospect, Lowther turns 25 at the end of April. At AA Bowie in ’19, Lowther was 13-7, with a 2.55 era. In 148 innings, he allowed 102 hits, with 63 bb’s, and 154 k’s. Lowther will begin ’21 at AAA, and I’m sure the Orioles will be looking at his walks. From everything I’ve read about Lowther, it’s not eye-popping obvious ability, but a guy that actually knows how to pitch. Frankly, I would have been fine with him coming North with the Orioles to begin the year. I’m not worried about his service time. I’m also not of the opinion he has to go and master AAA before he joins the Orioles. With ’20 being wiped out, I am fine with him going to Norfolk, and letting him earn his way up. Whatever, he’ll be up at some point. The Orioles aren’t getting through the ’21 season with their Opening Day rotation staying in-tact all year.
Michael Baumann – Our 9th ranked prospect, Baumann will not turn 26 until September. At AA Bowie in ’19, Bauman was 6-2, with a 2.31 era. In 70 innings, he allowed 45 hits, with 21 bb’s, and 61 k’s. Like Lowther, Baumann will begin ’21 at AAA. Unlike Lowther, Baumann has overwhelming arm-talent that stands out to anyone that seems him. If ’20 had not been wiped out, he would have had most of last year at AAA, and maybe would have been competing for a spot in the Orioles rotation this Spring. As is, he’s not far away. Go to Norfolk, perform, and opportunity will avail itself sooner than later.
Jahmai Jones – Obtained after the BSL Top 30 list came out, MLB Pipeline has Jones as the Orioles #19 overall prospect. You can get further background on Jones here. Jones’ path is pretty clear. Produce enough in the Minors that the Orioles decide they want to give him an extended look vs. giving further time to Yolmer Sanchez. Prior to the Jones acquisition, I thought there was an outside shot that Terrin Vavra could push his way to the Majors this year. Right now, that seems unlikely to me. Jones is the guy on the 40 man roster, and he’s going to get that initial look. Beyond the write up linked above, the only thing I can add on Jones is that while he struggled mightily at AA in ’19, there are lots of comments to be found around the interwebs of him having looked good in the Angels Alternate Camp last Summer. Commentary of the adjustments he made. Let’s see how he looks when the games begin.
Isaac Mattson – Obtained in the Dylan Bundy trade, Mattson is not in the BSL Top 30, but I like his chances of getting ML time this Summer. In ’19, he reached AAA, but spent the majority of that year at AA. At AA, he had 61 k’s in 43.2 innings, while allowing only 30 hits.
Alex Wells – Wells comes in at #18 on the BSL list. As with my peers, I place him behind Lowther and Baumann. That said, he’s also on the 40 man roster, and like Lowther; I believe is likely close to a finished product. He’s currently dealing with an oblique. I would think he’s on pretty equal ground to Kevin Smith, but Wells is the one on the 40.
Rylan Bannon – #25 on the BSL List. Ability to play 2nd, and 3rd, with him apparently looking better at 2nd. With the Orioles recently adding Franco, and still having Ruiz; I’m not sure I see Bannon coming up this year. However, maybe Franco plays well enough to be moved, and Bannon gets some time at 3rd later this season? At 2nd, how does Bannon’s MiL production this year compare with Jones?
Tyler Nevin – As with Bannon, I don’t see a particularly viable path to the Majors in ’21 for Nevin, but it’s not impossible either. Nevin, who came in at #26 on our Top 30, could be used at multiple positions (1st, 3rd, LF) if need arises, and if he’s hit enough to deserve promotion.
Richie Martin – The former 1st round pick put up a good offensive season at AA in 2018, before the Orioles grabbed him as a Rule 5. The defensive metrics available to the public hated him in ’19, but by the eye test – I think he’s an above average fielding SS. He was overmatched at the plate in ’19 in the Majors, but was at-least having better ab’s as that year ended. His wrist injury last Summer didn’t help him. He’ll go to AAA and play everyday, and it’s possible he could come up back up as a Utility type at some point. If Galvis went down to injury, he’d have a chance at regular playing time.
Cody Sedlock – The Orioles 1st round pick in 2016 turns 26 in June. After several disappointing years, Sedlock showed signs of life in ’19 at Frederick and Bowie. What I liked most is that he pitched 95 innings, and he averaged more than a K per IP. I don’t know if he can work his way back to being looked as a SP prospect, but as a reliever? Possible he could move fairly quickly in that capacity.
Cody Carroll – Since joining the Orioles in ’18, Carroll hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Oriole fans during his 18 games and 19 innings with the Birds. Has near triple-digit fastball has been straight, and his control has been non-existent. There is more to pitching than velocity, but velocity tends to give you multiple chances. He did have success at the AAA level in ’18. It’s not crazy to think he could earn another opportunity.
Evan Phillips – Phillips has 42.1 innings over 39 games with the O’s during the last two years, and a hefty era to show for it. If there is a positive to be found, it’s the 60 k’s in that time. Maybe he’s a AAAA arm? His AAA numbers in ’18 and ’19 are good enough to think he’ll be on the short-list when a reliever is needed.
How about the Orioles #1 Prospect, and one of baseball’s premier prospects overall Adley Rutschman?
We spoke to Jim Callis / MLB Pipeline last October, and Callis said at the time he believed Rutschman was ready to join the O’s at some point in ’21. It’s not a question of talent obviously. It’s not even really a question about experience, despite Rutschman having just 39 ab’s at Delmarva in the Sally League in ’19. He did have time in the Alternate Camp last Summer. That helps. His time with the Birds here this Spring Training helps. Do the Orioles want to start his clock? I’m guessing no, but it wouldn’t be my primary concern. A catching prospect, who was a college player, who is regarded as the talent Rutschman is, isn’t going to be spending extended time in the Minors, unless he completely falls on his face. It would be shocking to me if he’s not up for good by late May ’22. If the Orioles want to bring him up in late ’21, more power to them.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.