Talking Orioles prospects with Baseball America’s John Manuel

Not only is catcher Chance Sisco the Orioles’ new No. 1-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, but he is likely headed for the top 100 national prospects list, as well.

Baseball America editor in chief John Manuel told me Monday that he now projects Sisco as a top 100 prospect, and that he personally would rank him in his top 30. The Baseball America top 100 list comes out in February. More on that in a moment.

The Orioles’ new top 10 prospects list was released by Baseball America yesterday with Sisco No. 1 followed by pitcher Cody Sedlock, shortstop Ryan Mountcastle, pitcher Hunter Harvey, first baseman Trey Mancini, pitcher Keegan Akin, outfielder Austin Hays, third baseman Jomar Reyes, and pitchers Chris Lee and Tanner Scott.

I asked Manual for his take on this year’s O’s top 10.

“One thing that jumps out at me is Dylan Bundy is not at the top of the list anymore,” he said. “I’m happy about that in a lot of ways. Guys shouldn’t be No. 1 prospects for five years - you want those guys to graduate. It was nice to see Dylan Bundy be healthy this year and show us for a decent amount of time in the big leagues why there was so much fuss over this guy.

“I also do think it is a good sign for an organization when you have a true No. 1 prospect. You have a guy that, for more organizations than not, Chance Sisco would be a No. 1 prospect. It is really hard to find a catcher in the minors with his offensive track record. Catching is a hard position. You have a premium prospect at a premium position with a career .402 on-base percentage.

“He also wasn’t a consensus second-round pick where the Orioles took him, they were the high team on him. Kind of a bit of a gamble at a risky demographic with high school catching. I think that Sisco at the top of their system represents a win for their scouting department and their player development department. It’s an Orioles success story.”

So what about the list after Sisco?

“After that, I do think it is a top-heavy organization in their farm system,” Manuel said. “They are not shy about trading prospects and the trades they made in recent years, they traded for guys no longer with the organization. That is where you lose some depth as an organization and it takes several drafts to overcome that.

“But you do see signs at the lower levels of some progress for Baltimore. We like this year’s draft. It was college heavy with good pro debuts for Sedlock, Akin and Austin Hays, and to a lesser extent Matthias Dietz.

“And then you start to see the international side with some positive signs that, after Jonathan Schoop, has not been real productive. Jomar Reyes had an iffy year, but he was one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. He was very young for that level. And there was progress for Ofelky Peralta. Those are two of the higher-dollar investments the Orioles have made in Latin America. I think that is the highest bonuses for a pitcher and hitter the organization has put out. They both showed signs of progress and they are prospects. There are some positive signs.

“But to have a farm system deep with homegrown impact players, like some we’ve seen in the postseason with the Cubs and Dodgers, you have to do it again and again and again.

“That is kind of how I view the Orioles’ system. Pretty solid at the top, with a good No. 1 prospect like Sisco. Some encouraging signs, but still overall I think it is on the thinner side. Within their division, the Yankees traded for prospects this year and they could have the No. 1 farm system. That is daunting in a division as tough and rugged as the AL East is.”

So if Sisco appears headed for the Baseball America top 100 in February, could any other members of the O’s top 10 also get top 100 recognition?

Sedlock-illinois-white-sidebar.jpg“You know, it’s possible,” he said. “I like Cody Sedlock more than most. I like the stuff and power arm. I like the job the Orioles did in this draft. They needed some pitching depth and I like the top three guys they got. How they hit the Midwest so hard was interesting.

“To me, Sedlock and Mountcastle are definitely not locks for the top 100. I would lean toward thinking there will be just Sisco. Sedlock’s track record is fairly short. After his sophomore year (at the University of Illinois), he threw real well at the Cape (Cod summer league) and put himself on the map. But he threw just 31 innings as a sophomore. That fairly limited track record of success, or louder - he has a plus fastball but maybe not a consistently plus secondary pitch. Mountcastle had a real good year, but the position questions may keep him out of the top 100. I have Sedlock in that 80 to 120 range right now.”

So what about Sisco for the top 100?

“Sisco for me is in the top 50 and I actually have him in the top 20 to 30 range for me,” Manuel said. “I don’t know a lot of hitters you can have more confidence in, in the minor leagues. He’s done it at every level and he controls the strikezone so well. He may also be a guy that comes into some power. Because his swing is so true, he’s confident in his approach and he has some of the necessary arrogance you have to have. I’m pretty convicted in the bat with Sisco. The defense is harder to project.”

He added that scouts both inside and outside the organization have confirmed that Sisco made solid defensive progress this year and that he could see him as an average major league defender.

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