After he was drafted in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, right-hander Dylan Bundy became the Orioles’ No. 1 ranked prospect at the end of that season. And Bundy stayed as the club’s top-ranked prospect every year after, even as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013.
But with Bundy no longer eligible for prospects lists, there is a new Orioles No. 1. Catcher Chance Sisco’s steady move up the rankings has led him to the top spot. When Baseball America released its latest O’s top 10 prospects rankings today, Sisco headed up the list. He was ranked No. 10 after 2013 and then No. 4 and No. 3.
Some players with major league experience are still eligible for prospects list. A player is eligible if he is currently under contract to an organization and hs not exceeded the major league rookie minimums of 130 at-bats or 50 innings or hasn’t made more than 30 relief appearances in the big leagues.
Under these rules, a few pitchers that were eligible this time last year are no longer eligible - that list includes Bundy, Mychal Givens, Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright. Some players with major league experience that are still eligible include Donnie Hart, Trey Mancini and Oliver Drake.
A look at the Baseball America’s top 10 Orioles prospects:
1) Chance Sisco, C: As his defense took solid strides forward this year, the 21-year-old Sisco continued to hit for average and his power took a small step forward, as well. At Double-A Bowie, Sisco hit .320/.406/.422 and led the Eastern League in on-base percentage. For his four-year career, he is batting .323/.406/.422.
He played in the Futures Game in July and homered. Sisco was ranked No. 85 on Baseball America’s mid-season top 100 list and he should have a solid shot to start showing up on more top 100 lists.
Is he the future catcher of the Orioles? Some feel the answer is yes, while others still wonder about his defense. But Bowie manager Gary Kendall said he saw solid improvement there this season.
“His game calling, his receiving and blocking skills really improved this year,” Kendall said. “So did his quickness and his ability to shape the ball and keep the ball close to him when he did block it. This year, he read swings better and was very communicative with the pitching staff. I thought he made a lot of strides taking charge.”
2) Cody Sedlock, RHP: The Orioles really liked what they saw out of this University of Illinois product that they drafted 27th overall last June. He pitched to an ERA of 3.00 for short-season Single-A Aberdeen and New York-Penn League batters hit just .158 off him. His fastball touched 97 mph and his slider flashed plus often. Buck Showalter will love the fact he already has an impressive time of 1.2 seconds to home plate when holding runners.
3) Ryan Mountcastle, SS: A player one scout called “a Sisco type with more future power,” Mountcastle had a real solid age 19 season at Single-A Delmarva. He hit .281/.319/.426. The bat is solid and he showed a very mature approach for a young player with plus bat speed. But scouts I talked with are convinced a lack of arm strength means Mountcastle will eventually wind up in left field and not at shortstop. However, the Orioles did keep him at short during fall instructional league.
4) Hunter Harvey, RHP: Harvey looked very impressive with Single-A Delmarva in 2014, once dueling pitch for pitch with the Nationals’ Lucas Giolito, who was ranked as the sport’s No. 5 prospect after the 2015 season. But after nearly two years trying to rehab a strained right flexor mass, Harvey had Tommy John surgery on July 26. He could resume throwing early next year. Most pitchers get back to game action between 12 and 18 months after the procedure. His role model should probably be Bundy, whose long road back culminated with a solid season in the majors this year.
5) Trey Mancini, 1B: This is Mancini’s highest ranking on this list after he was No. 8 a year ago. As a player that is still rookie-eligible, he remains eligible for this list. What a big league debut he had in September, homering in each of his first three starts. He produced a solid .282/.357/.458 line on the farm in 2016, mostly at Triple-A. A first baseman scouts say is adequate with the glove, there are rumblings the Orioles might take a look at him in the outfield next spring.
6) Keegan Akin, LHP: In his first exposure to pro ball, Akin certainly did well. The club’s second-round pick in June, he pitched to an ERA of 1.04 in nine games with Aberdeen and threw 20 scoreless innings to end his season. Baseball America rated him the No. 12 prospect in the New York-Penn League. Akin’s fastball touched the mid-90s and he showed a plus slider. Some scouts feel he could move faster than anyone in the Orioles’ 2016 draft class.
7) Austin Hays, OF: The Orioles were pretty excited to get Hays in the third round out of Jacksonville University. He hit .336/.386./.514 in 140 Aberdeen at-bats. He missed time with a sprained wrist, but was healthy at the end of the year. Hays showed a solid package of tools with an above-average arm and speed.
8) Jomar Reyes, 3B: Reyes dropped from No. 4 to No. 8 after a subpar year at Single-A Frederick. There are scouts that feel he should not be ranked this high. But in his defense, he is still young and learning, and was the second-youngest player in the South Atlantic League in 2015 and the youngest in the Carolina League in 2016. Reyes hit just .230/.271/.337 and some questioned his approach and ability to make adjustments. Reyes drew props from some of the O’s brass for improvements he made and focus he seemed to show during instructional league.
9) Chris Lee, LHP: Lee ended the year dealing with a shoulder injury and didn’t pitch after May 23. He saw Dr. James Andrews in September was told not to throw for three months. The Orioles expect him to be ready for spring training. Added to the 40-man roster last November, Lee is 9-2 with an ERA of 3.02 in 15 games at Double-A in 2015-16. He is clearly on the radar and probably would have been called up this season had he stayed healthy. Now he just needs a return to health.
10) Tanner Scott, LHP: You can’t teach 100 mph and scouts say Scott would hit triple digits in more than half of his games. We’ve heard he’s hit 102 mph and two members of the organization told me they’ve seen 104 mph. But Scott walked 57 in 64 innings between Frederick and Bowie. His slider made gains in quality. Now he needs the command to improve in addition to the ratio of throwing quality strikes. If it does the O’s may have a bullpen power lefty. He should start at Bowie next year, and the last two years both Givens and Hart joined the Baltimore bullpen directly from Bowie.
AFL update: The Orioles are sending right-handed pitcher Parker Bridwell to join Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. He will take the roster spot of right-hander Jesus Liranzo, who has a strained back that is not considered serious.
The 21-year-old Liranzo from the Dominican Republic made one appearance for Peoria on Oct. 12. He threw 1 2/3 innings and allowed one hit and one run. He started the 2016 season with Delmarva and then moved to Bowie, skipping Frederick. Liranzo, whose fastball can touch 96 and 97 mph, went 1-1 with a 1.87 ERA for the two teams over 27 games. In 53 innings, he allowed just 20 hits with 27 walks and 66 strikeouts.
Bridwell went 5-2 with a 3.87 ERA on the farm this year, mostly at Bowie. He got called up to the Orioles briefly and allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings. Limited to 80 innings this year after missing about two months due to a broken rib, going to the AFL will allow Bridwell to get in a few more innings. He was moved from the starting rotation to a bullpen role this year in July and is expected to work out of the ‘pen moving forward.