As some national top 100 prospects lists are about to come out, another outlet has released a new listing of its top Orioles players. Baseball Prospectus released its list of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects last week.
Here is the list, from top to bottom. I add my own comments and notes and also pose a question or questions about each player heading into next season.
1. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B: Mountcastle’s bat looked special in the Carolina League last season. Over 88 games with Single-A Frederick, he hit .314/.343/.542 with 35 doubles, a triple, 15 homers and 47 RBIs. He had hit 10 homers the previous season, playing all year with Single-A Delmarva. We should not forget that Mountcastle reached Double-A Bowie last year at 20. He turns 21 next month. While he hit just .222 for Bowie in 39 games, he hit .300 with four doubles and a homer over his last 12 games as he warmed up to Eastern League pitching. He also was moved from shortstop to third base when promoted to Bowie on July 20. His arm and overall defense seemed to play better at third, according to various observers.
By the way, Mountcastle had enough plate appearances to win the batting title in the Carolina League. Perhaps more impressive, he led the league in extra-base hits with two more than any other player. That despite playing in just 63 percent of the league games.
Key question for 2018: The Orioles need to find out if Mountcastle could handle third base with the glove for the 2019 Orioles if need be, or if they need to eventually move him to left field or first base.
2. Austin Hays, OF: Most rankings will probably keep Hays as the No. 1 prospect, but Mountcastle obviously has some pretty strong credentials, as well. Hays was the O’s 2017 minor league Player of the Year and a finalist for Baseball America’s national Player of the Year. His 32 home runs tied for second in all of minor league ball. Plus, he brings solid defense with a plus arm to right field and can play center, too.
Key question for 2018: Has he bypassed the minors for good? Or would he benefit from time at Triple-A Norfolk, where he has never played?
3. DL Hall, LHP: Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com called Hall the “steal of the draft” when the Orioles got him with the 21st pick in June. The Georgia prep product had an ERA of 6.97 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but that was in just 10 1/3 innings. There is plenty of talent here and he had a strong instructional league, making progress with his secondary pitches.
Key question for 2018: How many innings does the organization let Hall throw in his first full season? He will likely begin the year in Single-A Delmarva’s rotation.
4. Chance Sisco, C: Sisco was No. 1 on this list this time last year, but the emergence of Hays and Mountcastle dropped him down. But we saw firsthand his solid approach at bat and nice gap-to-gap pop in his brief time in the majors last September.
Key question for 2018: Are the Orioles ready for Sisco to make the big league team as a backup or does he need more work on his defense on the farm?
5. Cedric Mullins, OF: The Orioles skipped him from Delmarva past Frederick and right to Bowie in 2017, and he produced nearly identical stats, more than holding his own. He was limited to 76 Baysox games and made two disabled list stints with hamstring issues. He batted .265/.319/.460 with 19 doubles, a triple and 13 homers. He packs a lot of punch into a 5-foot-8 frame and brings plus speed and solid defense. He played to rave reviews in spring training last March.
Key question for 2018: A switch-hitter, can he improve when facing lefty pitchers? He hit just .217 versus southpaws with the Shorebirds and .208 at Bowie.
6. Hunter Harvey, RHP: I would have him higher on my list, but no doubt the injuries and lack of innings have dropped Harvey down this list. He returned from Tommy John surgery to throw 18 2/3 innings with six walks and 30 strikeouts late last summer. There is an abundance of talent here with a plus fastball and curveball.
Key question for 2018: How far can the right-hander advance in the organization with a likely start at Frederick? And how many innings will he be allowed to throw? I’m guessing around 100, give or take a few.
7. Keegan Akin, LHP: This lefty went 7-8 with an ERA of 4.14 in 100 innings at Frederick. He showed his potential in June when he posted an ERA of 0.90 in five starts. Then he pitched very well in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA. He held lefty batters to an average of .160, while right-handers hit just .176. That was great to see for the Orioles as he had ended the regular season on the DL at Frederick with a pulled oblique muscle.
Key question for 2018: Can he continue to impress when he likely begins the year at Bowie? If he throws well there, a move to Norfolk or possibly even a chance in Baltimore could be in his future.
8. DJ Stewart, OF: We recently found out he will be a non-roster invitee to major league camp in spring training. He was one of 10 players in the minors with 20 or more homers and 30 or more steals, becoming the first player in Baysox history to do that. He also posted a .378 OBP. He’s a lefty batter with a good OBP, two things the Orioles could use at the big league level.
Key question for 2018: Is there another level he can go to with his offense after the strong 2017 season? Will he reach the point on defense that he can earn the trust of Buck Showalter to put him out there when and if he makes the bigs?
9. Zac Lowther, LHP: This is a pretty solid ranking for Lowther. The Orioles selected him with the No. 74 overall pick last June. At short-season Single-A Aberdeen over 54 1/3 innings, he walked 11 and fanned 75. That was impressive for a pitcher whose fastball tops out at 90-91 mph. But he also struck out a lot of batters in college at Xavier and led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts in the summer of 2016. So, yes, he lacks big velocity, but uses a combination of angle and deception to get swings and misses.
Key question for 2018: Will the strikeouts keep coming as he moves up? He should have a great chance to start the year in Delmarva’s rotation. As a college draft pick, he could be moved fast. That Shorebirds rotation could be fun to watch with some of the Aberdeen pitchers moving up and joined by Hall.
10. Tanner Scott, LHP: His slider made huge strides last season and we saw that pitch get swings and misses in the Eastern League, the Arizona Fall League and the American League in September. It is a nice complement to a fastball that can touch 100 mph. He will likely move up to Norfolk and continue to make three-inning starts for pitch development, as he did at Bowie last summer. His future still seems as a late-inning reliever, although a starting role has not been completely ruled out.
Key question for 2018: Can he develop a third pitch with a changeup? Will his command and control improve, allowing him to reach his true potential?
Earlier, Baseball America released its new list of the O’s top 10. From first to tenth, its listing was Hays, Mountcastle, Sisco, Harvey, Hall, Scott, Cody Sedlock, Anthony Santander, Mullins and Chris Lee.
This morning, Baseball America will release a new top 100 list. Hays should rank high up the list, but will he have any company on the Orioles? Sisco was No. 57 last winter on Baseball America’s list and was the only O’s prospect ranked in the top 100 at that time. The O’s were shut out of the list that Baseball America released in early 2016.
The list is out: For the first time since the 2014 rankings, the Orioles have placed three players on the Baseball America top 100. When the list was released this morning, Hays was ranked No. 21, Sisco No. 68 and Mountcastle No. 71. That was pretty solid for the club, getting three among the top 71 prospects in baseball. The most the Orioles ever had on this list, which began in 1990, was five players in 2008.
The Orioles had two players on the list in 2015, none in 2016 and just Sisco last year. In 2014, the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy was No. 15 with Kevin Gausman No. 20 and Eduardo Rodriguez coming in at No. 65.
Also today, ESPN’s Keith Law released the second 50 of his top 100 list. The O’s had Sisco at No. 53 and Hays at No. 79. I believe the top 50 on that list comes out on Tuesday.