This week marks the final week for guest bloggers on MASNsports.com and I could not think of a better way to wrap up the year than to look forward to next year. Today I present my bold Orioles prospect predictions for the 2019 season.
Remember, these are bold predictions, so some of them may seem far-fetched, but if they all come true next year, please don't call me asking what your future holds or for the winning lottery numbers (I'd keep that info anyway).
Breakout Offensive Prospect - SS Adam Hall: Hall struggled early in the 2018 season, but really turned things around at the plate for the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds. Through July, Hall was hitting just .235 with 11 RBIs and no home runs over 37 games. After that he went on a roll and raised his batting average 58 points to finish the year with a .293 average. People forget Hall only played two games after being drafted last summer, so the first part of this year was his first real taste of professional baseball. I look for him to have a big breakout year in 2019.
Breakout Pitching Prospect - RHP Blaine Knight: He only tossed 10 1/3 innings this year after being selected in the third round in June. He struggled a little bit in those innings, as hitters hit .302 against him. I look for Knight breakout in a big way in 2019 where he will likely begin the year with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds.
2019 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year - 3B Jean Carlos Encarnacion: Acquired as part of the Kevin Gausman deal with the Braves, Encarnacion struggled after joining the Shorebirds, but people underestimate how difficult it can be for a minor league player to change teams, town, residence and all the other stuff off the baseball field. I make this prediction for two reasons: His comfort level should be much better and most likely he will playing for the Single-A Frederick Keys. Harry Grove Stadium is known for producing some big offensive numbers.
2019 Jim Palmer Co-Minor League Pitchers of the Year - RHP Brenan Hanifee and LHP DL Hall: One of those names you might have expected, the other perhaps not so much. Hall was the O's first-rounder in 2017 and was terrific in 2018 for the Shorebirds. I look for him to continue his progression and extend his innings, which will help get him in the conversation for Pitcher of the Year. Hanifee has quietly been one of the top arms in the O's system and was terrific for the Shorebirds in 2018. I look for him to really burst onto the general O's fan's radar next year.
Bounceback Player of the Year - RHP Cody Sedlock: OK, so I made this award up, but we all understand what it is and my pick is Sedlock. A former first-round pick, Sedlock has struggled with both injuries and on the mound when he has been able to pitch over the last season and a half, but he was able to get healthy toward the end of the year and should have a full offseason with little to no restrictions. I believe that with an offseason where he can work out, it should prepare him much better for 2019.
Biggest contributor in 2019 with no major league experience - LHP Keegan Akin: This was a tough one and I really wanted to make it Drew Dosch, but felt that Akin would be the best choice simply because of opportunity. I do not believe that Orioles will rush him to start the 2019 season in the big league rotation, but I do not think it will be long before we see him if he continues to pitch the way he did in 2018. Being a lefty is also a big draw here and given how the season is likely to go next year, Akin could very well be the biggest contributor for the O's in the big leagues next year with no prior major league experience.
Those are my bold predictions for 2019 in terms of Orioles prospects, and time will tell how wrong - or perhaps even right - I turn out to be. I would also like to take this time to thank MASNsports.com for giving me the opportunity this season to write about Orioles prospects for a terrific audience. I am truly grateful for the opportunity!
Josh Michael blogs about the Orioles for Baby Birdland. Follow him on Twitter: @BabyBirdland. His opinions on the Orioles will appear here as part of MASNsports.com's longstanding initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.