There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about over the last few seasons in Baltimore. The Orioles finished 2019 with their third straight last-place finish in the AL East and second straight 100-plus loss season. Not to mention that they’re still paying Chris Davis a zillion dollars to stink up the joint. Some of the Orioles’ best players this season were guys not many had even heard of before the 2019 season. Hanser Alberto anyone? The lone bright spot for this organization has come by way of their improving farm system. They added Adley Rutschman with the #1 pick back in June and now have a former member of the Astros manning the GM reigns. Let’s hope that means good things for this farm system. Speaking of the farm system, let’s dive into the top-25 Baltimore Orioles prospects for dynasty leagues.
That’s right folks, my top-25’s are back! Hopefully, these will help get you through until we have baseball back in our lives next spring. But then again, does baseball season ever really end? No, the answer is no.
Overall System Grade: C-
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Norfolk – International League
Double-A: Bowie – Eastern League
Advanced Single-A: Frederick – Carolina League
Low Single-A: Delmarva – South Atlantic League
Short Single-A: Aberdeen – New York-Penn League
Rookie: Dominican Summer League (2), Gulf Coast League (1).
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Eric Cross’ Top-250 prospects, Top-300 Dynasty League Rankings, & 2019 FYPD/J2 Rankings.
Baltimore Orioles Top-25 Prospects
1. Adley Rutschman, C
A lackluster farm system got a major boost this summer with the selection of Adley Rutschman with the #1 overall selection in the draft. To put it simply, Rutschman is a generational talent capable of being the best catcher in baseball before too long. Rutschman’s last two collegiate seasons at Oregon State are where he really developed into the elite talent he is today. Both seasons ended with an average north of .400, more walks than strikeouts, and the power continuously trended up.
Would you like to see Adley Rutschman's home run from the side? I bet you would. pic.twitter.com/gqaswvBi37
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) July 20, 2019
What makes Rutschman so special is that he’s plus on both sides of the ball. There are zero doubts that he can remain behind the plate long term and maybe even win a few gold glove awards in his career. Offensively, he’s a rare breed of catcher that can hit for both power and a high average as well. As a switch-hitter, Rutschman has displayed a great feel for hitting from both sides of the plate. He’s a tad more productive from the left side, but there are no platoon concerns here longterm. And when it comes to speed, he’s no burner out there, but Rutschman is an athletic backstop that moves well behind the plate. Heck, he might even add in a few steals annually for you.
With a smooth and compact swing, Rutschman is able to generate plus bat speed from both sides with some natural loft as well. The catcher stigmatism will scare off some, but don’t let it scare you. Rutschman is a generational talent behind the plate that should begin a long and prosperous MLB career within the next 12-18 months.
2. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
It hasn’t taken long for Grayson Rodriguez to develop into one of my favorite pitching prospects in the game. Here’s why. At first, Baltimore taking him 11th overall in the 2018 draft seemed like a slight reach. Now it’s looking like a good value pick. At 6’5 and 220 pounds, Rodriguez is a force on the mound with an easy plus fastball from a high 3/4 arm slot in the low to mid 90’s with strong arm-side life. Offsetting the heater are a trio of secondaries: A plus low-80’s slider, a mid-70’s curve, and a changeup. The slider is the best of the bunch, but the curve has flashed above-average to plus with good shape to it. Rodriguez’s changeup is less advanced but serves as a serviceable 4th offering for the big right-hander and has flashed above-average with both tumble and fade.
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) June 5, 2018
All in all, Rodriguez has put himself in the elite group of pitching prospects and possesses ace upside thanks to three above-average or better pitches and decent enough command of his arsenal. This Baltimore organization doesn’t have the best track record of developing pitchers, but with the new player development crew in town, there’s optimism that will change moving forward which only adds to the excitement surrounding Rodriguez and the next arm on this list. This is an arm firmly on the rise that everyone should be investing in.
3. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B/OF
To be honest, I’m surprised that the Orioles didn’t bring up Ryan Mountcastle in 2019. He spent the entire 2019 season in Triple-A, and despite the plate discipline, had a pretty productive season with an average over .300 and 61 extra-base hits in 127 games. And when I mention the plate discipline, it’s mostly about the putrid walk rate. Mountcastle’s 23.5% strikeout rate isn’t too bad for today’s game, but his walk rate has remained low throughout his minor league career, ranging from 3.2% to 6.1%. A low walk rate isn’t necessarily a detriment to your batting average, but it does lead me to project him as more of a .280 hitter annually than a guy that exceeds .300.
Though I will say, the hand adjustment he made is great in my book. Mountastle used to feature a distinct two-part hand load with his hands dropping and then coiling back. Now it’s more fluid with less of a hand drop.
The most prominent part of Mountcastle’s game is his plus raw power. Many will point out the Triple-A baseballs as the reason for his career-high 25 home runs this season, but this type of power has already been there. Mountcastle has a strong lower half that he incorporates well into his swing along with his quick hip rotation. His swing also generates natural loft, especially to his pull side. I’m not expecting huge power numbers, but I can definitely see Mountcastle settling into the 25-30 homer range.
Outside of the bat, Mountcastle isn’t overly athletic or speedy which has caused him to bounce around on the diamond, playing mostly first base and left field in 2019 after residing at shortstop or the hot corner earlier in his career. Obviously, his offensive profile fits better at short or third than at first or in the outfield, but you’ll take his solid 3-4 category production at any position. With not many starting spots locked down in Baltimore, there’s a good chance we see Mounty break camp with the Orioles if he has a good showing in Spring Training.
4. D.L. Hall, LHP
When it comes to left-handed pitching prospects, there are few in the minors that can match or exceed the pure upside of D.L. Hall. But with the upside comes a fair amount of risk as well. The risk doesn’t come from his stuff though as Hall throws three above-average to plus pitches and can use any as an out pitch. That’s a big reason for his sext 12.9 K/9 rate you see above. The fastball sits in the low-90’s consistently and can ramp up into the mid-90s at times, topping out around 97 with plus life. Both Hall’s curveball and changeup flash plus and grade at least as 55-grade pitches.
No, the risk comes from his subpar command and control. Both of which I have confidence in improving in 2020 and beyond. Hall uses a clean and repeatable delivery with good plant leg extenstion towards the plate. The delivery is smooth and without much effort which gives me optimism that the command/control issues he had in 2019 are likely the worst we’ll see from him. And as I mentioned several times already, having the former Houston player development regime now is huge for guys like Hall.
When he’s on his game, Hall is one of the top arms in the minor leagues and one of the toughest to square up and drive. Just look at that BAA, H/9, and HR/9 as examples of that. If he can refine that command and limit the free passes, top-50 overall prospect status will be in his future, perhaps as soon as my mid-season 2020 update.
5. Austin Hays, OF
The minor league career of Austin Hays has been a tumultuous two and a half seasons. He posted an OPS of .900 or above in his 2016 NYPL stint after the draft and then across two levels in 2017 before receiving a surprising late-season promotion to Baltimore. His strong 2017 campaign and MLB promotion led many to think he could be a dark horse AL ROY candidate in 2018. Nope. Between stints on the now extinct DL, Hays could only muster a .676 OPS in 75 games. Even in 2019, he wasn’t tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A when he received his second promotion to Baltimore, but finished the season strong with the Orioles, hitting .309 in 21 games. With not much in his way in Baltimore, Hays can lock down a starting spot if he performs well in Spring Training.
Now, what type of player should we expect Hays to be? To me, he’s always been a solid all-around player without any standout tools. Despite his 32 homers in 2017, Hays’ raw power isn’t the type that signals 30-plus homers in my mind. He does possess above-average raw, but that will likely only translate to homer totals in the 20’s. However, Hays does generate some natural loft and pulls the ball usually over 40% of the time, so maybe we see him sneak up near 30 dingers. Hays is also a fairly athletic outfielder with at least average foot speed. He makes the necessary plays in the outfield and should run enough to steal around 10 bags annually. Assuming he continues to displays an average to above-average hit tool, we should see a .270-plus average come along for the ride as well.
6. Yusniel Diaz, OF
Less than two years ago, I had Yusniel Diaz as a borderline top-50 overall prospect. The reason being that he displayed a similar skillset to Alex Verdugo whom I had the same area of my rankings. Now after seeing Diaz first-hand in the Eastern League, he’s slid way down my rankings, now well outside my top-100. At this point, I’m merely dubbing him a poor man’s Verdugo. Diaz doesn’t run at all anymore and hasn’t shown that his above-average raw power can translate consistently into game power. Sure, he was on a 20-homer pace this season, but that’s likely as good as it’s going to get unless he adds some additional loft to his mostly linear swing path.
There’s still some hope that can happen though. Diaz is a strong guy and looks bigger than his 6’1/195 frame might suggest. He displayed strong hip rotation in my looks at him and has a strong lower half, so if he is able to add some loft to his swing, I think he could be an annual 20-homer type. That will go a long way for his value, especially if he continues to abandon the stolen base. Even if that doesn’t return, Diaz’s above-average bat to ball skills and sound plate approach should allow him to hit for a respectable average with an OBP above .350. This isn’t a prospect to get overly excited for, but the tools are here for Diaz to become a starting Major League outfielder.
7. Adam Hall, SS/2B
This is probably one of the few times you’ll see Adam Hall in the top-10 of a Baltimore Orioles prospect list. But hey, when I see four above-average to plus tools, I take notice and act accordingly. With the exception on power, Hall’s tools are as the epitome of the word “solid.” He’s played decent defense at both shortstop and second base with enough arm strength to remain at short longterm if that’s where Baltimore wants him. And at the plate, Hall has displayed above-average bat to ball skills with a quick right-handed stroke.
— Prep Baseball Report (@prepbaseball) June 13, 2017
As I mentioned, the raw power is only around 40-grade and Hall uses more of a gap to gap approach, so don’t expect more than 10-12 home runs annually, with 6-8 being a more likely spot for Hall to settle into. But when he can hit close to .300 with 25-plus steals, that’s still plenty of value, especially with speed down across baseball right now. As Hall has yet to make it to my neck of the woods yet, I consulted with my SALLY guy, John Calvagno of Notes From the Sally, as he got some live looks at Hall in 2019.
“The speed is real. As is the bat speed but his swing is handsy, void of legs. So that clouds the power profile. I’m in the .280 (340) 10-30 camp.”
8. Gunnar Henderson, SS
With the name Gunnar, you better have a gun for an arm and Henderson has just that from the shortstop position. He ain’t too bad with the stick either. From the left side, Henderson has displayed a good feel for hitting from with above-average raw power presently with plenty of projection left. Once Henderson fills out his slight 6’3 frame, it’s easy to see him as a plus raw power type. Henderson starts with a wide base, hands shoulder high without much pre-pitch movement. The hand load and hip load are synced before exploding through the zone with exceptional bat speed thanks to his quick wrists and hip rotation. There’s some natural loft to his swing as well, so once he builds up his raw power, the home runs should begin to fly.
With the No. 42 overall pick in the 2019 #MLBDraft, the Orioles select Gunnar Henderson, a shortstop from high school in Selma, Ala.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) June 4, 2019
Currently an average runner, Henderson will likely lose a step and move off of shortstop where he doesn’t look overly comfortable in my opinion. With his strong arm, the hot corner seems logical and his offensive profile would fit in just fine there.
9. Ryan McKenna, OF
I’m not quite ready to write off Ryan McKenna as a starting-caliber Major League outfielder. McKenna absolutely tore up the Carolina League (A+) to start 2018, but the Double-A Eastern League has proved to be a challenge for the speedy outfielder as he’s yet to post an OPS above .700 at the level in a season and a half. Even with the lower slash line this season, McKenna was able to still rack up 41 extra-base hits and 25 steals in his 135 games. McKenna’s plus speed is his most noteworthy tool and has helped him both in the outfield and on the basepaths. There’s still some refinement that needs to happen on the bases, however, as his success rate stealing bases over the last two seasons is a mediocre 65.4% on 52 attempts.
The reason I’m still in on McKenna is that I love his swing and he’s shown the ability to draw walks while keeping his strikeouts in check. He remains balanced at the plate with a moderate hand coil that he quickly translates into a compact swing with plenty of bat speed. There’s not a ton of power upside here due to the swing path and below-average raw power, but I still believe McKenna can hit for a batting average in the .270-.290 range to go along with 25 stolen bases while playing respectable defense in the outfield. He’s a nice buy-low candidate in deeper dynasty leagues.
10. Michael Baumann, RHP
A teammate of Austin Hays at Jacksonville University, Michael Baumann is the pitching prospect in this system to get excited about outside of G-Rod/Hall. With two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, Baumann succeeded at every lower level, never posting an ERA above 3.88. And outside of a 5.7 K/9 in 17 Carolina League starts in 2018, the strikeout rate has remained around a K per inning, peaking at the 10.3 K/9 you see above.
Baumann will sit routinely in the 92-95 range with life on his fastball and is really able to pound the inner half against right-handed batters with the life and sink making it hard for them to square up. The slider is by far the best secondary offering for Baumann with tight two-plane break that really served as his out pitch in 2019. When both of these pitches are on, Baumann is difficult to hit, and even more so when his changeup shows adequacy. It’s a distant third pitch for him, but when he can throw it effectively to keep hitters off the fastball and slider, it’s usually going to be a good day for the big righty. There’s legit #3 starter upside here and we could see Baumann in Baltimore later in the 2020 season.
11. Drew Rom, LHP
Nothing about Drew Rom’s profile will blow you out of the water. But what he does have is the potential three above-average to plus pitches that he can command fairly well while limiting his free passes. There’s not a lot of fastball velocity here, currently sitting right around 90. However, Rom commands his heater well and is still only 19 with some projection left on his frame, so there’s a chance he adds a few ticks. Both his split-change and slider are above-average secondaries with the slider flashing plus with two-plant tilt in the upper 70s. As of now, Rom projects as a #4 starter with the upside for a little more if he can add velocity while maintaining his command and control.
12. Dean Kremer, RHP
Out of all the pitching prospects on this list, the one with the best combination of upside and ETA is Dean Kremer. After making four starts with Triple-A Norfolk last season, Kremer is knocking on the door to Baltimore and should make his debut sometime during the summer of 2020. Like many in this system, Kremer features two above-average to plus pitches but has struggled to find consistency with a second secondary as well as his command. Kremer’s bread and butter are his low-90’s fastball and plus curveball with good depth and shape to it.
Outside of those two, Kremer hasn’t been able to establish his changeup at all and his slider is inconsistent, but does flash above-average potential. With Kremer, he’s been a control over command pitcher and has never really been burned by giving up too many free passes. I’d love to see him develop his changeup a little more. If he can, there’s mid-rotation upside here with the potential for over a strikeout per inning.
13. Kyle Stowers, OF
Outside of Adley Rutschman, Kyle Stowers might have the best raw power on this list. Unfortunately, that’s the only tool he has that grades at more than a 50. With his plus raw power and the loft in his swing, Stowers should have no problems developing into a power-hitting corner outfielder. That is, if his below-average contact skills don’t drag him down, which it very well might. However, Stowers doesn’t strike out a whole ton and had a strong showing in the Cape back in 2018, so there’s hope that he can hit enough to salvage his batting average and allow his plus raw power to translate consistently into games.
No doubter for @KyleStowers!
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) May 5, 2019
14. Zac Lowther, LHP
In my opinion, Zac Lowther is very similar to Keegan Akin. They both are southpaws that sit in the low 90’s with their fastball and feature an above-average to plus breaking ball (Curve for Lowther) and average changeup. Lowther also gets a ton of arm-side life on his heater due to his low 3/4 arm slot. But the reason why I have Lowther two spots higher is due to the fact that he can command his arsenal better than Akin can. That better command has led to better results as well, including a 2.55 ERA this season in the Double-A Eastern League. In fact, that was Lowther’s highest ERA at any level since becoming a pro. Pretty impressive. Lowther will likely start 2020 in Triple-A and could make his MLB debut during the summer.
15. Zach Watson, OF
If speed is what you desire, let me introduce you to Zach Watson. Baltimore’s 3rd round pick out of LSU is a true burner with 70-grade speed and phenomenal range in the outfield. However, the rest of his game is quite raw, but not without some intriguing upside. There’s average raw power here and a quick right-handed bat speed generated by quick wrists and a compact swing. If he can begin making more consistent contact, Watson’s prospect stock could really begin to soar.
16. Keegan Akin, LHP
It feels like Keegan Akin has been in this farm system forever. Three and a half years isn’t exactly an exceptionally long time, but when you remember that Akin was a collegiate arm when the Orioles drafted him in 2016, it shows that he’s taken a little longer to develop than most collegiate arms. Baltimore hasn’t really rushed him at all either, leaving him at one level every year since drafting him. A big reason for that has been his command, which has come and go throughout his minor league career.
When he’s locating his three-pitch arsenal, Akin looks like a mid-rotation arm. His low-90’s fastball and low-80’s slider are his two best pitches, both grading as above-average with the slider flashing plus, and he’ll mix in a serviceable changeup as well. However, when the command is not there, Akin is very hittable and projects as more of a back-end rotation piece or swingman.
17. Elio Prado, OF
Here’s a name to monitor in deeper dynasty leagues. Elio Prado was acquired from Boston in the Andrew Cashner deal in July and is slowly beginning to garner some sleeper prospect buzz. He’s several years from the Majors but the reports so far have been positive with a nice little mix of power and speed, although, the power is still very raw and hasn’t appeared in games yet. And like with many young speedsters, the baserunning skills need some tinkering. Prado swiped 12 bases in 60 games but was also caught 10 times. He’s still young though and has plenty of time to work on that with the new and improved Baltimore player development staff. This is definitely a prospect to monitor in this system.
18. Cody Sedlock, RHP
It’s a shame that injuries have limited Cody Sedlock’s professional career. Included in there is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which I have, and let me tell you, it really sucks. This is not a poor me moment, but more to put into context what Sedlock has had to deal with. His velocity is down from when he was drafted in the first round back in 2016, now sitting in the low-90’s with some life. Offsetting the fastball are a pair of above-average to plus secondaries in his slider and changeup, as well as a seldom-used curveball. What has allowed him to continue succeeding through injuries and lower velocity has been the development of his secondaries and above-average command. He’s able to locate his heater and secondaries well which allows his stuff to play up. He’s a name to monitor in deeper dynasty leagues with the upside of a #4 starter.
19. Blaine Knight, RHP
We’ve officially reached the end of the exciting names in this system. Blaine Knight is a pitcher I’ve been lower than most on for a while. Why? Well, the overall arsenal doesn’t really impress me and the command has been mostly spotty to go along with it. On top oft hat, Knight doesn’t miss many bats and has some durability concerns. Shall I go on? With all that being said, there is some hope that he can develop into a #4 type of starter, especially if he can add some velocity to his low 90’s fastball. With a slender 6’3, 165-pound frame, there’s definitely room to do just that and maybe it would help with those durability concerns as well.
20. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B
Come for the impressive raw power, stay for the, ummm, well, not much else. I guess you can throw his strong arm into that consideration as well but outside of the arm and power, the rest of Jean Carlos Encarnacion’s game has been a work in progress for a while, dating well back into his days in the Braves system. If you have a squeamish stomach, then I strongly urge you to not look at his BB/K ratio over the last two years. But I’m also feeling a little devilish today so I’m going to tell you anyway. Once the last two seasons, JCE has walked just 44 times compared to a gut-wrenching 279 strikeouts. Yuck.
Two big reasons for the swing and miss tendencies are his difficulties recognizing spin and hitting breaking pitches along with a swing that can get a tad long at times. He’s still only 21 and has time to figure these things out, but the fact that he hasn’t been able to figure out the Single-A South Atlantic League after nearly 500 games at the level is concerning.
21. Hunter Harvey, RHP
You can forget about Hunter Harvey as a starter. Wake up from that dream quickly before it turns into a nightmare. Oh wait, it already did. Injuries and command woes slayed the beast. But now we can focus on Harvey as a reliever. And with his plus fastball and curveball, he has a chance to be a late-inning weapon if his command doesn’t totally implode. I was able to get some live looks at Harvey earlier in 2019 with Double-A Bowie and noticed how he was better early on in the game and got hit harder the second and third time through the order. Hence why it’s easy to say he’s destined as a reliever, which is where Baltimore transitioned him to later in the season. He’s not overly exciting for fantasy now, but Baltimore just might have found an arm to help in a setup role.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 21, 2019
22. Rylan Bannon, 2B/3B
After bursting onto the scene with a .291 average and 32 home runs through 161 games from 2017-2018, Rylan Bannon slowed a bit in 2019, hitting .266 with 11 home runs and eight steals in 130 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s not a prospect that is going to stand out in any one area, but he’s displayed average to above-average tools across the board and can play multiple infield positions. That should get him to the Major Leagues, but doesn’t make for an exciting player in fantasy formats.
23. Cadyn Grenier, SS
Sometimes all you need to advance through a system are a couple of standout tools. Those don’t always come on the offensive side of the ball either. That’s exactly what we have here with Cadyn Grenier, a defensive standout with above-average speed but below-average offensive tools. There could be double-digit homers eventually, but Grenier will need to make more consistent contact first, something he’s struggled to do. He was able to salvage a low batting average with a strong walk rate which led to an impressive .355 OBP.
24. Lamar Sparks, OF
The last two make this list strictly on their tools with nothing to do with their production so far as professionals. Sparks is a toolsy prep outfielder from Texas who has only appeared in 78 games since being drafted and missed the entire 2018 due to a shoulder injury. Even in his limited action, Sparks has been able to rack up 25 steals due to his plus speed and there’s some raw power to project on, even though he’s yet to hit a home run in the minors. He’s far from being a rosterable player in dynasty unless you roster close to 1,000 prospects, but don’t completely forget about him either.
25. Jean Carmona, SS
Unlike Sparks, Jean Carmona has had a chance to turn his tools into production, but has yet to do anything noteworthy outside of the Dominican Summer League in 2017. Defensively, Carmona is above-average with a strong arm, but the offensive side of things is a work in progress. Even his plus speed hasn’t led to much success on the base paths yet as Carmona has been caught on over 40% of his attempts thus far. There’s a lot of work and refinement that needs to happen here, especially at the plate, but his defense and speed breathe optimism.
Media Credit: Josh Norris, Prep Baseball Report, John Calvagno, Baseball America, Ben Palmer, NCAA Baseball/Pac-12 Network, MLB Pipeline.
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