MLB Pipeline analyst talks O's prospect depth for possible trades (plus Hyde on Holliday)

NASHVILLE – When you have one of the deepest and maybe the deepest farm systems in baseball, making trades from that prospect depth is a good way to add to your major league roster. For the Orioles, it’s a big change from the rebuilding years when they were trading to acquire prospects in dealing players such as Trey Mancini, Dylan Bundy and, going even farther back, Erik Bedard.

Now the Orioles are rumored to be looking to acquire a pitcher such as right-hander Dylan Cease via a trade. Cease has two years of team control left, at a cost of perhaps around $25 million. That is a pretty low dollar amount for two seasons of a pitcher of that quality, one who finished second for the American League Cy Young Award in 2022, going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA. A pitcher projected to get $8.8 million this year via arbitration.

If, as reports indicate, his trade market is “robust,” it might take a team with numerous quality prospects to pull off that deal. A team like the Orioles could also offer one of several young veterans who already have a proven major league track record.

Jonathan Mayo, who covers prospects for and, shared a few thoughts this morning on the Orioles' prospect depth. Is now the time for Baltimore to pull the trigger on a deal to use prospects to get something to help the 2024 club?  

“That is what it is pointing to, not being privy to the conversations going on,” Mayo said. “They have infield and outfield depth and have choices, where they can make a trade and a team like the Chicago White Sox can get someone they can put right into their Opening Day lineup. Guys that are just about ready, and (the Orioles) bring in a starting pitcher like a Dylan Cease. And they could do it without completely stripping the system bare.

“Now seems to be the time. I think the one thing everyone sees the O’s needing at the big league level is starting pitching. And they don’t have it in the system. So they are going to need to trade away some of these highly regarded prospects. You can’t play seven infielders.

“Even a guy like (catcher Samuel) Basallo, unless you move him to first base, but then you have Coby Mayo. It gets really complicated. I’m not suggesting they trade Basallo. But they could entertain it."

All teams with top prospects they are willing to move also have to weigh dealing a prospect at or close to the time of his top value. I asked Mayo if a prospect who struggles in his first try at the majors can lose some of that prospect value? 

Take, for instance, outfielder Colton Cowser, a highly ranked O's prospect who produced a .937 OPS at Triple-A but hit just .115 with a .434 OPS in 26 big league games.

We use him as an example, but he's not someone the club or any media outlet has suggested is the subject of any trade talks. That said, do prospects lose value?

“That is an interesting question," said Mayo. "I think most of MLB front offices are smarter than that. But they’re human, right? So there is going to be some recency basis if you saw a player later in the year, like Cowser, for instance. But if you look at the small sample size there, people are willing to look past it.

“For every guy like Gunnar Henderson or Corbin Carroll, who kind of hit the ground running, Mike Trout, I always bring up as an example. He was terrible when he first got called up, got sent back down and then was Mike Trout.

"I don’t think (prospects can lose value) too much. These guys are scouted at all different levels. If you believe Colton Cowser’s tools are going to play in the big leagues you are not going to be dissuaded from that because he struggles over a really small amount of time in Baltimore."

Mayo has a new book out, published in July. It is called “Smart, Wrong and Lucky: The origin stories of baseball’s unexpected stars.”  It looks at several players who have thrived after being somewhat undervalued and/or underrated as prospects. 

Hyde on Holliday: Happy birthday wishes today go to the No. 1 prospect in baseball, shortstop Jackson Holliday of the Orioles. He turns 20.

The kid had quite the 2023 season, beginning it at Low Single-A Delmarva and ending it at Triple-A Norfolk.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was on MLB Network for a live interview this morning and was asked about Holliday, who hit .323 with a .941 OPS on the farm.

“What he has done in a short minor league career definitely makes you notice," said Hyde. "And to be 19 at Triple-A, our Triple-A team won the Triple-A championship. He led off and played shortstop at 19.

“I think we are going to take a long look at him in spring training. We kept him to the last week of camp last year. He wasn’t going to make the team, but I thought it was important for him just to be around as much as possible. Also, I love watching him play, so I was going to play him the last three or four innings of every game anyways. Rather him do that with us than go to minor league camp.

“So we kept him late (in the spring) last year and he fit right in. Just by growing up the way he did in that family with his dad, nothing is going to be too much of a shock for him. He understands what major league life is like, so he is ahead in a lot of ways. Obviously unbelievably talented and he’s going to really hit. I think he can play both spots in the middle."

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