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Baltimore Orioles Top-25 Prospects

If you slept through 2018, this Orioles top-25 might look a lot different to you. An absolutely disastrous 115-loss season for the parent club led to a full-fledged fire sale, trading off any Major League asset with both a pulse and any type of trade value. Gone are the likes of Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Zach Britton, but in return, Baltimore restocked their farm system a bit, including three of the top-10 Orioles prospects you’ll see below acquired in the Machado deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fans might not have been happy with the lack of elite talent brought back in that Machado deal, but it’s better than getting nothing when he inevitably left for free agency this winter. And if there’s a silver lining in a 115-loss seasons, it’s that Baltimore will pick first in the 2019 June Amateur draft that projects to have a lot of elite offensive talent at the top, including a catcher like Adley Rutschman. Not all is bad in Bird Land.

Overall System Grade: C

Minor League Affiliates

Triple-A: Norfolk – International League

Double-A: Bowie – Eastern League

Single-A (Advanced): Frederick – Carolina League

Single-A (Full): Delmarva – South Atlantic League

Short-season Single-A: Aberdeen – New York-Penn League

Rookie: One team each in the Gulf Coast League and Dominican Summer League

All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.

Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Podcast on the Fantrax Podcast Network with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney.

New Top-25 Baltimore Orioles Prospects

1. Yusniel Diaz, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 10/7/96, ETA 2019/2020

2018 Stats (AA): .285/.392/.449/.841, 15 2B, 11 HR, 12 SB, 14.2 BB%, 16.1 K%, 354 AB

A case could be made for Mountcastle in this position, but no prospect in this system offers the best combination of ceiling and floor as Diaz. Ever since he was signed in 2015 out of Cuba, Diaz has been praised for his advanced plate approach and feel for hitting. That was one of the reasons Baltimore coveted him in the Manny Machado deal. Diaz isn’t a flashy prospect. None of his tools jump off the page and smack you in the face or anything, but as I said, the floor is fairly high thanks to his advanced approach and solid tools across the board.

Diaz has a very balanced setup at the dish. His hands start slightly lower, but his hand coil and swing path are fluid and Diaz generates plenty of bat speed. Both his plate discipline and coverage have steadily improved since coming to the states, to the point where he almost walked more than he struck out last season. With above-average contact skills and that plate approach I mentioned, Diaz profiles as a player that hits near the top of the order with a strong OBP. Maybe not leadoff, but he’s tailor-made for the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

Both the power and speed are average, but with his clean swing and bat speed, I could see a tad more power developing, especially if he adds a little loft. As for the speed, he’s quick, but not a burner by any means. That speed has been more apparent in the outfield than on the bases where he owns a lowly 44.4% success rate stealing bases.

2. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 2/18/97, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (AA): .297/.341/.464/.806, 19 2B, 13 HR, 2 SB, 6.1 BB%, 18.5 K%, 394 AB

While the stats aren’t loud quite yet, Mountcastle has the all-around skills to become an above-average offensive Major League third baseman. His swing has no big flaws and is quick and direct through the strike zone with a slight uppercut swing path. Mountcastle incorporates his strong lower half into his swing with moderate leg load and quick hip rotation. With this swing and above-average to plus raw power, Mountcastle should be able to hit for both average and 25-plus homers annually, with a power ceiling in the low-30’s.

The only real question I have about Mountcastle is his long-term defensive home. Baltimore drafted him as a shortstop but transitioned him over to third due to his below-average range and arm strength. He’s been okay at the hot corner, but I question whether he stays there much longer. Honestly, Mountcastle looks like a second baseman to me. Wherever he ends up, his bat will keep him in the lineup daily and make him an attractive fantasy option.

3. Ryan McKenna, OF, Bats: R, 2/14/97, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (A+/AA): .315/.410/.457/.868, 26 2B, 11 HR, 9 SB, 12.0 BB%, 18.3 K%, 470 AB

The 2018 season was a banner year for Mr. McKenna, setting career-highs basically across the board outside of stolen bases. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Most of that damage was done in the Carolina League (A+_ before struggling at Double-A Bowie to the tune of a .679 OPS in 213 at-bats. Let’s just call those growing pains and focus on the reasons why McKenna is in top-100 consideration.

To start, McKenna’s easy plus speed is an asset. Yes, he only swiped nine bases in 2018, but averaged 32.2 steals per 600 at-bats in 2016-2017 and has a career 74.6% success rate. He’s not a guy that should pack on much additional bulk, so I’m not worried about him losing any speed moving forward and feel safe projecting 25-30 steals annually and maybe a touch more.

Power will never be a huge part of his game, but McKenna has displayed solid contact skills with an advanced approach. His swing is clean and quick through the zone with a mostly linear swing path that is more geared for gap shots than over the fence power. Still, there’s enough raw power here for double-digit pop to go along with a strong AVG/OBP and that plus speed.

4. DL Hall, LHP, DOB: 9/19/98, ETA 2021

2018 Stats (A): 94.1 IP, 2.10 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, .203 AVG

If you’re looking a pitcher from this system that has a chance at leading a rotation someday, here he is. The Orioles used their 1st round pick in 2017 to grab Hall from the Georgia prep ranks and bumped him up to the Single-A South Atlantic League after just five starts in the Gulf Coast League in 2017. Saying he held his own with the advanced assignment is an understatement.

Working from a 3/4 arm slot, Hall works in the low to mid-90’s with arm side run on his fastball and great extension in his repeatable delivery. Both his curve and changeup are above-average offerings with the curve flashing plus with tight spin and good downward action. The one area that still needs some refinement is Hall’s command. A more refined delivery has certainly helped, but Hall still needs to develop better command if he wants to fulfill his upside of a No. 2 starter or more.

5. Austin Hays, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 7/5/95, ETA 2019/2020 (Debuted in 2017)

2018 Stats (A-/AA): .235/.266/.410/.676, 14 2B, 12 HR, 6 SB, 4.3 BB%, 20.2 K%, 310 AB

Please tell me someone put out milk cartons to try and find where Austin Hays went in 2018. Entering the season, there was some buzz surrounding Hays after his .329/32/95 season in High-A and Double-A. That along with a late-season cup of coffee and no real block to playing time in Baltimore led someone I know quite well to call him a dark horse AL Rookie of the Year candidate. It may have been me, it may not have. The world will never know. A low BABIP had a little to do with that, but Hays also began chasing more pitches and hitting more grounders in 2018.

Even with the struggles, I’m still a believer. Hays passes the eye test both at the plate and in the field, and still looks like an above-average starting Major League outfielder to me. Hays has a clean swing and can use the entire field well. There’s some solid loft to his swing as well so he should be able to hit for both power and average down the road with borderline double-digit steals thrown in for good measure.

6. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, DOB: 11/16/99, ETA 2022

2018 Stats (RK): 19.1 IP, 1.40 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 9.3 K/9, .236 AVG

Some would argue, including myself, that Rodriguez might have the best pure stuff in the system. Hall gets the nod due to being more advanced, but G-Rod’s upside is right there with him. Rodriguez currently sits in the low to mid-90’s with his fastball and it wouldn’t shock me to see him add a tick or two to that by the time he’s finished developing. In addition to the velocity, Rodriguez’s heater has plenty of life on it, making it a difficult pitch for right-handed hitters to barrel up when he’s running it on the inner half.

For his secondary pitches, Rodriguez will throw two breaking balls, a curve and slider, that both flash above-average to plus, and a serviceable changeup. If he can continue to refine his inconsistent command, G-Rod should form a nice 1-2 punch with Hall atop the Baltimore rotation some day.

7. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 1/17/98, ETA 2021

2018 Stats (A): .273/.298/.439/.738, 27 2B, 12 HR, 5 SB, 3.3 BB%, 27.7 K%, 462 AB

The best pair of words to describe Jean Carlos Encarnacion are aggressive and projection. Want two more? Power and upside. Encarnacion was acquired in the Kevin Gausman deal mid-season and boasts the best raw power in the entire system. It just hasn’t shown up consistently in games quite yet. The main reason for that is JCE uses an insanely aggressive approach and rarely works the count, as evident by that tiny walk rate you see above. He’s more likely to swing at the first pitch or two than wait for a pitch to drive. So far, that aggressive approach hasn’t been a detriment to his batting average, but it damn sure will once he starts facing more advanced pitching in the upper minors.

His swing isn’t the issue, it’s the approach. I mean, his setup is still a little busy and the swing can get a tad long at times, but there’s plenty of bat speed and hard contact to all fields. With a more refined approach and a little more loft to his swing, Encarnacion should have no issues unlocking the 30-plus homer pop slumbering within his bat. Defensively, his footwork and range are average and he can make up for mistakes with a strong throwing arm.

8. Dean Kremer, RHP, DOB: 1/7/96, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (A+/AA): 131.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 12.2 K/9, .225 AVG

Another return piece in the Machado deal, Kremer is flying up prospect rankings after a spectacular first full season as a starter. Kremer gets good extension on his delivery and works from a 3/4 arm slot. The fastball has a ton of life, sitting in the low-90’s mostly and topping out in the 96-97 range, and Kremer has one of the best curveballs in the system. His slider and changeup aren’t nearly as effective, but should serve as usable 3rd and 4th offerings for him. The fastball/curve combination helps Kremer miss a lot of bats and gives him sneaky good upside as a high-strikeout mid-rotation starter.

9. Rylan Bannon, 2B/3B, Bats: R, DOB: 4/22/96, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (A+/AA): .275/.389/.507/.896, 23 2B, 22 HR, 4 SB, 15.4 BB%, 24.2 K%, 436 AB

While the return for Machado as a whole might not have been eye-popping, it did net Baltimore three of its new top-10 prospects in Diaz, Kremer, and now Rylan Bannon. An 8th round pick in 2017 out of Xavier, Bannon split time at second base and the hot corner while in the Dodgers system, but it appears that Baltimore likes him more at second. Bannon moves well in the field and has a strong throwing arm, so he should be able to fit right in at either position moving forward. If he does stay at 2nd base, he has the upside to become an above-average offensive performer at the position.

Bannon starts with an open stance, front foot open towards third base, and uses a moderate leg kick to time pitches. His hand coil is a little lower, but Bannon’s swing path is swing through the zone with plus bat speed and good loft to it. While the contact skills are around a 50-grade, Bannon possesses above-average to plus raw power and can really work the count looking for a pitch to drive. I wouldn’t expect much more than 5-10 steals out of him annually, but his bat more than makes up for that.

10. Jean Carmona, SS, Bats: S, DOB: 10/31/99, ETA 2022

2018 Stats (RK/A-): .234/.292/.367/.658, 15 2B, 4 HR, 5 SB, 7.0 BB%, 25.7 K%, 248 AB

A trade deadline deal that sent Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers netted Baltimore their likely shortstop of the future. Carmona is still very raw as a prospect but possesses an intriguing all-around skill set, including the range, footwork, and arm strength needed to remain at shortstop long term. As of now, Carmona is a much more advanced defensively than at the plate. As a switch hitter, Carmona looks better from the left side than the right with a wide setup, quick wrists, and plus bat speed. The setup is a little busy, but nothing that can’t be fixed. It’s hard right now to confidently project a future hit tool for him with how raw he is, but I can see him developing into a 50-hit tool type of hitter to go along with above-average raw power projection and double-digit speed. Carmona is definitely one to monitor in dynasty leagues.

11. Adam Hall, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 5/22/99, ETA 2021

2018 Stats (A-): .293/.368/.374/.742, 9 2B, 1 HR, 22 SB, 6.6 BB%, 22.7 K%, 222 AB

If you’re looking for a sleeper in the system that could rise up the rankings this season, here is my pick. The Orioles 2nd rounder in 2017, Hall spent 2018 in the short-season NY-Penn League and flashed four above-average or better tools, with the lone exception being his power. Hall uses a contact-oriented all-fields approach with a quick right-handed stroke. His swing is direct through the zone with a linear swing path. With Hall’s advanced approach, he should be able to hit for a strong average with a fairly strong OBP to go along with it, albeit, with single-digit pop. Outside of that, Hall is a plus runner with good instincts on the bases and at shortstop. He’s displayed good range and a strong enough throwing arm to project him as a shortstop long-term.

12. Zac Lowther, LHP, DOB: 4/30/96, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (A/A+): 123.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 11.0 K/9, .195 AVG

If flashy is your style, move on. Lowther is anything but flashy, but man, can this guy pitch. His highest ERA and WHIP at any level so far was a 2.53/1.08 showing in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League to close out 2018. Lowther sits 88-92 with his fastball, but the pitch is incredibly effective due to some arm side run and plus command. Both his curveball and changeup flash above-average with the curve being the better of the two offerings. None of his pitches project to be plus offerings, but if he can maintain his command, Lowther should develop into a rock-solid #3 type starter and offers one of the highest pitching floors in this Baltimore system.

13. Richie Martin, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 12/22/94, ETA 2019

2018 Stats (AA): .300/.368/.439/.807, 29 2B, 8 3B, 6 HR, 25 SB, 8.6 BB%, 16.9 K%, 453 AB

After being left unprotected and off the Athletics 40-man roster in early December, the Orioles nabbed Martin with the top overall pick in the Rule 5 draft. Though he was a first round pick back in 2015 and a strong defender at short, Martin had never shown the offensive upside to match where he was drafted until the 2018 season. Yes, he was a tad bit old for the level, but it was still very encouraging to see Martin finally start making consistent hard contact while keeping his all-fields approach.

The higher OBP allowed him to show off that plus speed of his more often, leading to a career-high in stolen bases and nearly double his 2017 total. There’s not much power to speak of here, but if Martin can maintain the gains he made with his contact skills in 2018, he has the potential to become a solid starting shortstop.

14. Luis Ortiz, RHP, DOB: 9/22/95, ETA: 2019 (Debuted in 2018)

2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 99.2 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, .251 AVG

2018 Stats (MLB): 2.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 0 K

Rangers and Brewers and Orioles, oh my! Ortiz is now in his third organization in three seasons after coming to Bird Land, along with Carmona and Jonathan Villar, in the Jonathan Schoop deal. Ortiz has found success in the minors thanks to a low to mid-90’s fastball and low-80’s slider with two-plane tilt. He also sparingly uses a curveball and changeup, both of which are average offerings at best. Throughout his career, Ortiz has exhibited solid command and a repeatable delivery from a low 3/4 arm slot, which paired with his arsenal, gives him a fairly high floor as a mid-rotation starter. But due to his pedestrial whiff rate, his ceiling isn’t much higher than the floor.

15. Dillon Tate, RHP, DOB: 5/1/94, ETA 2019

2018 Stats (AA): 123.1 IP, 4.16 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, .247 AVG

Like Ortiz, Tate also started in the Rangers system and is with his third organization after Baltimore acquired him in the Britton deal. Tate works with a solid three-pitch arsenal, highlighted by his 93-96 mph riding four-seam fastball. Tate also mixes in a two-seamer, slider, and changeup, with both the slider and change flashing plus but lacking consistency. Due to some durability concerns, there’s still a chance Tate winds up in the bullpen. But if he can stay in the rotation, there’s mid-rotation upside here. albeit, with a lower K rate. Tate just doesn’t miss as many bats as you might expect and his value is limited because of that.

16. Blaine Knight, RHP, DOB: 6/28/96, ETA 2020

2018 Stats (A-): 10.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, .302 AVG

The Orioles selected Knight in the third round back in June and gave him a few starts in the NY-Penn League before the season was over. The former Arkansas Razorback sits in the low-90’s with his fastball from a easy delivery and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the mid-90’s eventually if he fills out his slight 6’3 frame a little bit. Knight mixes in three offspeed pitches, with a plus slider leading the way. He’ll toy with the velocity of it and turn it into more of a cutter at times. Both his curve and changeup are serviceable pitches that flash above-average at times. With a diverse four-pitch mix and clean mechanics, Knight has the upside of a No. 3 starter.

17. Keegan Akin, LHP, DOB: 4/1/95, ETA 2019/2020

2018 Stats (AA): 137.2 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.8 B/9, 9.3 K/9, .225 AVG

Akin spent the entire 2018 season with Double-A Bowie and finished the season 3rd in the league in ERA and 1st in strikeouts. You’re going to probably get tired of hearing it, but Akin is another high floor/low ceiling mid-rotation type starter which are everywhere in this system. He doesn’t throw overly hard, sitting in the low 90’s, but commands the pitch well and gets good extension from his delivery. Akin has shown feel for both his two-plane slider and fading changeup, giving him three above-average offerings when he’s on. While control was an issue at times in 2018, it shouldn’t be a hindrance moving forward. Expect Akin to get the bump to Triple-A Norfolk to start 2019 with a mid-season promotion likely.

18. Robert Neustrom, OF, Bats: L, DOB: 11/12/96, ETA 2020/2021

2018 Stats (A-): .272/.313/.404/.717, 16 2B, 4 HR, 1 SB, 5.3 BB%, 18.5 K%, 228 AB

One of only two position players the Orioles took in the first 10 rounds last draft, Neustrom has a bunch of 45 or 50-grade tools with the exception of his plus raw power. From the left side, Neustrom has a quick swing through the zone with plenty of bat speed and natural loft due to the uppercut swing path. This is a swing geared for plenty of power and Neustrom possesses enough contact skills and a solid enough plate approach to hit for a decent batting average along with it. I wouldn’t expect much speed out of him, but if you grab him for the power and respectable average, you should be quite happy with the return. Definitely a name that could vault into the top-10 on this list next year.

19. Drew Rom, LHP, DOB:

2018 Stats (RK): 30.2 IP, 1.76 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9, 8.2 K/9, .180 AVG

A southpaw from the Kentucky prep ranks, Rom started off his professional career with a strong showing in the Gulf Coast League. Rom is what you call a projectable arm. He currently sits in the 90-mph range and mixes in a slider with hard break and a changeup that flashed above-average with solid fade and sink. Once he fills out his slender 6’2 frame, Rom should add more velocity to that fastball and might have #2 starter upside if the velocity does indeed tick up and he maintains his above-average command. He’s an arm to monitor in this system.

20. Hunter Harvey, RHP, DOB: 12/9/94, ETA 2019/2020

2018 Stats (AA): 32.1 IP, 5.57 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 8.4 K/9, .290 AVG

Harvey’s prospect status is souring. And not like sour patch kids, those things are delicious. No, more like souring milk. The arsenal that put him in top-50 prospect consideration a few years back remains, but Harvey can’t stay on the field long enough to gain any momentum. Since missing the entire 2015 season, Harvey has made a total of 22 starts spanning 63.2 innings. That’s it. If he can ever remain healthy, he has No. 2 starter upside, but it’s looking like the bullpen is calling his name now. If that switch is made, his plus fastball/curve combination would look really nice in the 8th or 9th inning. The Orioles are going to keep trying him as a starter, but I’m doubtful that lasts for much longer if the durability issues don’t magically disappear.

21. Lamar Sparks, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 9/26/98, ETA 2022

2018 Stats: Did Not Play

After a strong Gulf Coast League showing in 2017, Sparks ended up missing the entire 2018 season due to a shoulder injury. Sparks is an above-average defender with good range in the outfield thanks to his plus or better speed. At the plate he’s still quite raw, but displayed an advanced approach during the GCL. The swing is clean (although his legs look like Elvis Presley on stage), albeit, with a deeper hand coil that causes some additional length, but Sparks does have some solid bat speed once his swing starts moving forward. There’s not much power to project here, but with his swing, I can see him sneaking into double-digits for home runs.

22. Cadyn Grenier, SS, Bats: R, DOB: 10/31/96, ETA 2020/2021

2018 Stats (A): .216/.297/.333/.630, 12 2B, 1 HR, 3 SB, 9.3 BB%, 29.0 K%, 162 AB

A glove-first shortstop, which I know dynasty owners love to hear, Grenier was taken 33 picks after his Oregon State teammate and double-play partner, Nick Madrigal. Unfortunately, he’s not nearly the same type of hitter that Madrigal is. There’s some speed upside here, but the contact skills are average at best and a linear swing path limits his power, not that he had much raw power to begin with. That defense, however, will carry him to a starting gig in the Majors as long as he shows some adequacy with the bat.

23. Zach Jarrett, OF, Bats: R, DOB: 12/8/96, ETA 2021

2018 Stats (A): .277/.342/.437/.779, 26 2B, 14 HR, 4 SB, 7.4 BB%, 24.5 K%, 501 AB

Well, I just found out while researching for this article that Zach Jarrett is the son of former NASCAR driver, Dale Jarrett. You know the old saying, nothing goes together like racing and baseball. The baseball Jarrett fits the mold of a power hitting corner outfielder that makes enough contact to hit north of .250. With his raw power and swing path, there’s more power coming than the 14 HR he hit in 2018.

24. Trevor Craport, 3B, Bats: R, DOB: 8/12/96, ETA 2021

2018 Stats (A): .256/.326/.410/.736, 26 2B, 11 HR, 4 SB, 7.4 BB%, 15.5 K%, 437 AB

An 11th round pick in 2017, Craport has shown a good feel for hitting with an advance plate approach since being drafted, striking out in only 16.0% of his professional plate appearances. The ceiling isn’t overly high here, but Craport has enough contact skills and raw power to become an average offensive performer and solid regular at the hot corner. Unfortunately, he has Mountcastle and Encarnacion ahead of him on the depth chart.

25. Drew Jackson, 2B/SS, Bats: R, DOB: 7/28/93, ETA 2019

2018 Stats (AA): .251/.356/.447/.803, 20 2B, 15 HR, 22 SB, 11.0 BB%, 22.7 K%, 342 AB

This last spot can often be a toss up. I could’ve very easily put one of the names I listed below in this spot, but Jackson’s above-average defense, plus-plus speed, and cannon for a throwing arm gave him the nod here. While it remains to be seen if he can make enough contact to be a regular, the speed and double-digit pop would make him a sneaky fantasy target if he does end up playing every day.

Keep an Eye On

There are several other arms to monitor in this system that all have the upside of a #4 or #5 starter. Keep an eye on Brenan Hanifee (RHP), Alex Wells (LHP), Cody Carroll (RHP), Cameron Bishop (LHP), Cody Sedlock (RHP), and Michael Baumann (RHP).


Up – Jean Carlos Encarnacion (3B), Adam Hall (SS), Zac Lowther (LHP).

Down – Hunter Harvey (RHP)

Other Team Prospect Reports

All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.

Photo/Video Credit: Jory Dyvig (Main Article Image), Brewers Farm, Iowa Baseball, Jason Woodell, Rob Friedman (Pitching Ninja), 

Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.

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