In part three of this series, we shift over into the American League East to the lone team from the division to not have a winning record in 2021. That’s right, times are bleak for the Baltimore Orioles right now, but this is an organization on the rise with plenty of young talent set to debut over the next few years, including Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez in 2022. At the Major League level, the rotation is in shambles around an inconsistent John Means, but Cedric Mullins broke out in a big way and rookie Ryan Mountcastle blasted 33 home runs. And we can ignore the inspiring return of Trey Mancini after beating cancer. So while Baltimore is likely ticketed for the AL East Cellar once again in 2022, there are some bright spots and more on the horizon.
For more of these team by team reports, click here.
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Baltimore Orioles 2022/Dynasty Notes & Top Prospects
Sell-High on Cedric Mullins?
Did anyone see this coming? I’m sure even the biggest Cedric Mullins supporters didn’t see a 30/30 season coming. Now, in just one year’s time, Mullins has gone from a post-500 pick to someone garnering first-round consideration in 2022 drafts. But I will not be one drafting him in the first round. Won’t be drafting him in the 2nd round either. As I’m writing this, Mullins’ early 2022 ADP sits at 24.4 on NFBC and 28.9 on Fantrax as the 9th outfielder off the board on both sites. Nope, no thanks. I’m not saying what Mullins did in 2021 is entirely fluky, because it’s not. But I’d bet every dollar I have that 2021 will go down as his career year.
Cedric Mullins, All-Star. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/AoAVDcSuZE
— MLB (@MLB) July 4, 2021
When it comes to the .291 AVG and 30 SB, those are numbers I can mostly buy into moving forward. Mullins posted a .272 xBA and hit .282 or higher against all three pitch classifications last season. And out of 132 qualified hitters, he ranked 31st in contact%, 45th in Z-Contact%, and 25th in O-Contact% with the 29th lowest SwStr%. While he might not hit .300 or have many more .291 seasons, .270-.285 is a safe range for Mullins to settle into moving forward. His 86th percentile sprint speed gives hope of more 25+ SB seasons as well.
However, when it comes to the power department, that’s where I’m not buying his 2021 performance. Mullins doesn’t profile as a 30 HR hitter. He just doesn’t. In the xSLG department, Mullins was one of the biggest overperformers in 2021 with an xSLG more than 70 points below his actual .518 SLG. In addition, Mullin’s quality of contact metrics were all around average with an 8.1% barrel rate, 39.4% hard-hit rate, and 89.4 mph average exit velocity. He’s more of a 20 HR hitter moving forward in my eyes. Still, a very good player that could post a 20/20 season in 2022, but not top-30 worthy on draft day. If you roster him in dynasty leagues, I’d be entertaining offers.
Valuing John Means in 2022
Maybe that wasn’t the best wording, but we saw two different John Means in 2021. In the 1st half of the season, Means recorded a stellar 2.28 ERA and 0.83 WHIP before slumping to 4.88 and 1.22 respectively in the 2nd half. It’s probably safe to say most of us weren’t believing that first half production was going to be sustained over a full season, but that was a dramatically worse Means in the second half. Will the real John Means please stand up?
Looking under the hood, Means has some positives in his profile. He’s a plus command and control guy that posted a 4.4% walk rate last season after a 4.0% mark in 2020. On top of that, Means’ 18.3 K-BB% ranked 28th of the 68 pitchers with 140+ innings pitched in 2021. Some named around him were Luis Garcia, Chris Bassitt, Tarik Skubal, Sandy Alcantara, and Max Fried. Not a bad group to be listed with.
Means might not have any elite whiff rates on his four offerings, but at the same time, all four have had a whiff rate above 20% in each of the last two seasons. Overall, his whiff rate was slightly above the Major League average. Means’ overall line from 2021 feels very realistic moving forward given his command/control, contact rates, and whiff rates. Something in the 3.50-3.90 ERA range with a 1.05-1.15 WHIP and around a 23% strikeout rate what I project for Means in 2022. That puts him in SP4/5 territory and he’s currently being drafted more as an SP 5/6. If Means falls in your draft(s) due to his late-season struggles, I’d be okay taking him after pick 175 or so. Just don’t overpay for him as the ceiling is limited.
Should You Draft Adley Rutschman in Redraft Leagues?
Yes. Moving on.
Kidding! Of course, I’ll go more in-depth than that. As I’ve mentioned via several outlets this offseason, drafting prospects is a risky proposition in redraft leagues. Just look at Jarred Kelenic in 2021 (wipes a single tear from cheek). Kelenic was a top-2, can’t miss phenom and he struggled mightily for 80% of his rookie season. For 2022 drafts, the two top prospects that I feel safest about drafting are Bobby Witt Jr and Adley Rutschman, especially in two catcher formats.
Simply put, Rutschman is ready. He’s proven himself to be one of the best hitting prospects in the game with not much left to prove in the minors. In 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, Rutschman slashed .285/.397/.502 with 25 doubles and 23 home runs. Not only is Rutschman a plus hitter with plus power, but he’s also one of the more advanced and polished bats we’ve seen over the last decade as well. Rutschman posted a 14.5% walk rate last season while also limiting his strikeouts exceptionally well at 16.6%.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) September 11, 2021
Now, the real question is when will he be up with Baltimore. Well, have you seen the current two catchers on Baltimore’s roster? No disrespect intended, but neither Brett Cumberland or Cody Roberts are going to hold Rutschman back. This will likely boil down to a service time situation with Rutschman starting at Triple-A and coming up in late-April or early-May. Even five months of Rutschman could result in a top-10 catcher with his ability to hit for good power, a high average, and get on base as frequently as he does.
If you’re in two catcher formats, drafting Rutschman is a no-brainer. But even in single catcher leagues, Rutschman is one of the few prospects I’d be okay using a bench spot on as the potential payoff could be sizeable. You’re not going to get him for a discount though as his ADP is already approaching 200 on both Fantrax and NFBC. If you have to take him around there, I’m not opposed to it, but I wouldn’t go much higher than that.
Can Ryan Mountcastle Be A Top-10 Dynasty First Baseman?
This is an interesting question given the current state of the first base position. The top-tier talent has slowly dwindled since the days of peak Pujols, Miggy, and Votto, leaving up with three elite options, 3-4 pretty good options, and then more questions than answers. Many in the top two tiers are on the wrong side of 30 as well with their best days likely behind them. But with all of that said, can Ryan Mountcastle produce at a level that makes him one of the new wave to step into the top-10 at this position? I’m not so sure.
After being more hit over power in the minors, Mountcastle flipped the script in his first full MLB season in 2021, slugging 33 home runs with a .255 average after hitting .295 in the minors. Here’s the problem I have with him being a top-10 first baseman someday. Mountcastle’s profile supports his .255 average but not his 33 home runs. Mountcastle has never been a big walk rate guy which has remained the case in the Majors, but his strikeout rate has consistently ticked up, landing at 27.7% in 2021. Along with that was a disastrous 31.6% whiff rate and 38.1% chase rate, both in the bottom 15% of the league. Mountcastle also had the 6th highest SwStr% in the Majors as well at 16.2%. Not even Miguel Sano’s was that bad.
As for his quality of contact metrics, they were solid, but not indicative of an annual 30-homer bat. Mountcastle recorded a 45th percentile average exit velocity and 41st percentile hard-hit rate in 2021, albeit, with an 11.8% barrel rate and 93rd percentile max exit velocity. There’s enough power here to settle into the 25-homer range, but with his contact, swing, and chase metrics, I’m not sure he has many more 30-homers seasons in his future or more than a .250-.260 average to go with those home runs. Put all of that together and it doesn’t feel like we’re talking about a future top-10 option at first base, even with the top options aging.
Time To Sell DL Hall in Dynasty
Honestly, the time to sell started earlier in 2021, but you can still get a solid return for DL Hall right now in dynasty leagues. Hall has great stuff, headlined by his fastball, curveball, and changeup, but command and control have eluded Hall for most of his professional career. To the point where I have serious reservations about him developing into a starter long-term. Through his four seasons in the Baltimore organization spanning 217 innings, Hall has a troublesome 13.3% walk rate and sat at 12.5% during his injury-shortened 2021 campaign. His ability to miss bats and limit contact has allowed him to post low ERAs in each of the last three seasons, but there’s simply not a level of command and control here conducive to starting at the Major League level.
Top-15 Dynasty Prospects
Five Prospects To Target In Dynasty
Coby Mayo, 3B
Mayo has been one of the fastest rising prospects in my rankings over the last six months and it’s not hard to see why. The 2020 4th round pick excelled during his first professional season across two levels, slashing .319/.426/.555 with nine homers and 11 steals in 53 games. Those 11 steals are a bit misleading as Mayo is likely a 50-grade runner at best longterm, but he should still be able to add 5-8 steals to a 55-hit, 60-power profile with the potential for even more power.
One of my favorite 2020 bats was Coby Mayo who just hit his first Low-A homer. This thing got out in a hurry! pic.twitter.com/DrRjiT4Pbp
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 22, 2021
Mayo’s 6’5 frame already generates impressive raw power to all fields with a swing geared for driving the ball in the air. He’s still only 19 too (20 soon) with plenty of projection left on that frame, so it’s easy to dream on 70-grade power down the road. His price is rising considerably in dynasty leagues right now so your time to acquire him as any sort of a reasonable cost is coming to an end in the very near future.
Maikol Hernandez, SS
This one is all about projection. The Orioles signed Maikol Hernandez during the 2020-21 international signing period for $1.2 million out of Venezuela as a projectable shortstop with impressive power potential. While Hernandez didn’t hit any home runs in his 40 game rookie ball debut in 2021, he’s shown plus raw power already and his 6’3/175 frame has more room to add bulk and additional strength. If he does fill out, he’s likely going to be more of a 50/45 runner, but the power is the calling card here. If Hernandez can show a decent hit tool and get into that raw power, he could be a top-100 prospect in time.
Hudson Haskin, OF
Hudson Haskin had a productive first professional season that really flew under the radar. After being selected in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, Haskin proceeded to rack up 22 steals in 83 games last season between Lo-A and Hi-A with a .276 average and .381 OBP. There’s an average to above-average hit tool, borderline plus speed, and a solid approach in this profile, but how much power will he hit for? Even as it stands, he’s probably a 10-12 HR bat, but if he can inch that up to 15-20, his profile will look even more appealing for fantasy purposes. He’s a great target in dynasty leagues now before that potentially happens.
Heston Kjerstad, OF
After being selected #2 overall in 2020, Heston Kjerstad has yet to play his first professional game due to a heart issue. But luckily, he’s back to doing baseball activities this fall and should be a full-go in 2022 spring training. This is phenomenal news after a scary health situation. Due to his extended time off, Kjerstad’s value has taken a hit, leaving a solid buying opportunity this offseason. I’m a believer in his power and 30-homer potential, but still have some questions about how much AVG he hits for.
Kyle Bradish, RHP
Long-term, Kyle Bradish only projects as a back-end starter, but that could come as soon as 2022. Let’s face it, the Baltimore rotation outside of John Means is unappealing, to say the least. And with Bradish reaching Triple-A last season with solid success, Bradish has a chance to break into Baltimore’s rotation. Bradish finished 2021 with a respectable 3.65 ERA and 30.5% strikeout rate, but with a higher WHIP and walk rate. Again, the long-term appeal isn’t exciting, but Bradish is a decent late-round draft and hold target for 2022.
For more of these team by team reports, click here.
Media Credit: MLB, Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor), Josh Norris (@jnorris427), Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
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