After a year when the Orioles farm system has taken a nice step forward, we checked in with a few national analysts to get their takes. Today, we hear from MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis.
Ranked well down the list when it comes to organizational rankings the last couple of seasons, the club is moving up and making decent progress. The Orioles had several players ranked among the various league top 20 prospects lists from Baseball America, including four in the prospect-laden Eastern League. Outfielder Austin Hays was a finalist for Baseball America’s national Player of the Year award.
MLBPipeline.com has two major overhauls per year of its top 100 prospects list - one around midseason before the trade deadline and one in February or March. In its most recent list, catcher Chance Sisco was ranked No. 44 and Hays No. 88. They both moved up a few spots to their current rankings when others “graduated” and were taken off the lists. They graduate by losing their rookie eligibility and thus also losing prospect eligibility. In the cases of Sisco and Hays, they are both still officially rookies heading into 2018 and thus also eligible to still be rated as prospects.
Now, some thoughts from Callis:
On how high Hays might be ranked in the next edition of his top 100: “If we were re-doing the list today, he would rank a lot higher than that (No. 88). That is basically a midseason ranking and he moved up a few spots, as guys have graduated.
“I would think, off the top of my head, he has to rank in the top half of the list somewhere. I was a little surprised he lasted until the third round. He’s a college player with tools and performance. If you are an up-middle college player with tools and you perform, you usually go pretty good in the draft. I can see where maybe Jacksonville (University) is not the ACC or SEC, but at least he could have been a second-round pick.
“Having said that, I would never have thought that Hays would be the first player in the big leagues from the 2016 draft. And he looked pretty comfortable up there. I would think he is in the top 50 somewhere.”
On more Orioles that could make the top 100 beyond Hays and Sisco: “I would think (Ryan) Mountcastle has a chance and I heard he looked better at third than at short. He didn’t perform as well at Double-A and that could work against him a little bit, but he is still very young. (Hunter) Harvey has been encouraging. I compare him somewhat to Dylan Bundy and I was out in the Fall League (in 2015) when he (Bundy) threw one inning and had to be shut down. And now you look at what Bundy has done and I do have some optimism for Harvey. He looked really good but only threw 19 innings. I might want to see him go five or six innings every five days on a regular basis before I put him back in a top 100. Although, you can make a case for him.
“I don’t think DL Hall would make it. He had a brief pro debut. But I do think Hall has the type of arm where, if he gets off to a good start next year, he could be a midseason top 100 guy. Tanner Scott, I don’t see him as a top 100 guy. It’s a big fastball, but he still walked a lot of guys. I see him as probably a setup man to me as his realistic ceiling. I don’t think he throws enough strikes to be a closer. I would have a hard time putting him in the top 100.
“A guy, and I don’t think he makes the top 100, but a guy who keeps putting up numbers and we have to keep an eye on is Cedric Mullins. If he were to come out next year, continue to be healthy and hit like he always has, we’d have to take a look at him.”
On the O’s organizational ranking improving: “At MLB.com, we don’t rank all 30 organizations. We rank the top 10. The Orioles are not a top 10 organization right now. But I do think you have to say this is an organization that has made a lot of progress. They have one of the best catchers in Chance Sisco. One of the best outfielders in Austin Hays. Ryan Mountcastle took a big step forward. Mullins we mentioned. DJ Stewart had a very encouraging year. Anthony Santander is an interesting guy. There is some interesting depth there.
“On the pitching side, we talked about Harvey and Hall and Tanner Scott. Keegan Akin, I think he has a really good arm. Michael Baumann made a nice pro debut, a good college arm out of this year’s draft. I like Cody Sedlock a lot. His year shocked me. I guess he is the one guy that didn’t perform as you hoped. Alex Wells, the organization pitcher of the year. He throws a boatload of strikes.
“The guy that will be interesting to watch - he did the same thing in pro ball he did as an amateur - is Zac Lowther. This is a guy that sits about 87 to 89 mph and I don’t think he throws harder than 93, but he’s got a lot of run on his fastball and he commands it well, down in the zone and to both sides. He’s got some deception and guys just don’t get comfortable swings off him. He led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts and strikeout-to-walk ratio and set a Xavier school record for strikeouts. But you wonder how that fastball will play in pro ball. But he struck out 75 guys and walked 11. He was the same guy at Aberdeen that he was in the Cape. I will be really curious to see how he does. I will be surprised if he doesn’t carve up Class A hitters, but it will be interesting to see how he does when he reaches Double-A. He is really intriguing. I do think Sedlock, and I know he had a right elbow strain, but he is better than those numbers. Cameron Bishop is another guy out of that draft that looks good.”
On the organizational ranking being around 15: “I think that is the ballpark. Maybe 15 is a little high. Baseball America ranked the Orioles No. 27 going into last year. To me, maybe they are in that 15-to-20 range.”