When several top 100 prospects lists came out recently, the Orioles placed three players on the Baseball America top 100 with Austin Hays at No. 21, Chance Sisco at No. 68 and Ryan Mountcastle at No. 71. They placed two each on lists from ESPN, Baseball Prospectus and MLBPipeline.com. They placed just Hays at No. 90 on FanGraphs.com.
Interestingly enough, when another top 100 list was published on the FanGraphs website yesterday, there were five Orioles ranked in the second 50 of that list.
This was the KATOH system list. It is described this way - KATOH produces a WAR forecast for a player’s first six major league seasons. It incorporates age, offensive performance, defensive performance and other characteristics from the past two seasons. There are certainly drawbacks to scouting the stat line, but due to their objectivity, the projections can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated.
So this is different than those put together with input from scouts in that it looks at recent performance to try and project future performance. Scouts and prospect analysts use stats of course, but that is just one of many elements they evaluate. They also grade tools and project what players can be down the road if they develop to their full potential.
In the end, none of this means a player will be a star or that someone not mentioned has little chance to be productive in the big leagues. The Orioles’ Trey Mancini, who never appeared on any top 100 list, finished third in the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year voting. He didn’t need a nice prospect write up or ranking to hit AL pitchers.
Having said that, on the KATOH list, here is the O’s group of five and their rankings: outfielder DJ Stewart at No. 56, pitcher Tanner Scott at No. 60, Hays at No. 74, pitcher Zac Lowther at No. 78 and Sisco at No. 85. Mountcastle did not make this list, which is interesting because he sure put up some impressive stats over the past two years.
Stewart will be interesting to watch this season. He has gotten a spring training invite to O’s camp and will likely begin the season in the outfield at Triple-A Norfolk. He is coming off a strong year at Double-A Bowie, one where he was one of 10 players in all of the minors to put up a 20-20 season, hitting 20 or more homers with 20 or more stolen bases.
Taken No. 25 overall in the 2015 draft, the 23-year-old Stewart produced his best season in 2017. The Florida State product hit .278/.378/.481 with 26 doubles, two triples, 21 homers, 20 steals, 80 runs, 79 RBIs and an OPS of .859 for the Baysox. Stewart’s OPS was .633 after his first season at short-season Single-A Aberdeen.
When I interviewed Stewart during the Eastern League playoffs in September for this article, he told me getting to 20 steals was more challenging than hitting 21 home runs. Stewart stole 20 of 24 bases for a success rate of 83 percent for Bowie.
“The harder one (to achieve) was stolen bases,” he said. “With the guys that were hitting around me, you don’t want to run in situations where they can get good pitches to hit and take away pitches from them. So that was the hardest one for me. And we also faced some very good catchers. Just picking the right counts to go on and not try to go in fastball counts. That would make it easier to throw me out and also take away a pitch that your hitter could do damage with.”
O’s quick takes:
* Coming off such a poor season, some might think the Orioles should move on from right-hander Chris Tillman. Others see him as the perfect bounceback candidate. But if the O’s do sign Tillman, they probably need to do it soon. He could use a full spring training to build up innings, prove he’s healthy and work to return to his previous form.
* Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the one of the best trades in Orioles history, and maybe it was the best. On Feb. 8, 2008, the O’s sent lefty Erik Bedard to Seattle and got back Adam Jones, Tillman, George Sherrill, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler. Andy MacPhail made a great deal and the trade provided a foundation for a team that would resume winning a few years later.
* Ryan Flaherty said a classy goodbye to the O’s organization and the fans via Twitter.