Still robust and impressive: The O's top 10 prospects list

With the release of a new top 10 O’s prospects list this week by Baseball America comes confirmation of what we already knew: the O’s system remains loaded. They currently hold the title of top farm system in all of baseball.

The new top-100 prospects lists are likely to come out sometime in January and February. But on the latest lists from Baseball America and, the Orioles have six top-100 prospects.

Here is how Baseball America ranked them this week on its new team top 10.

1) Shortstop Jackson Holliday: Did we expect anyone else? The player drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles on July 17, 2022 has lived up to the hype and then some. He played at four levels last summer – ending the year at Triple-A Norfolk – and hit .323 with a .941 OPS and led all minor league players in runs scored, with 113. He played above-average defense and has 60-grade speed. He was the O’s Minor League Player of the Year and Baseball America’s National Player of the Year after a season in which he played in the All-Star Futures Game. Speaking of the future, his day in Baltimore could be close. Holliday will celebrate his 20th birthday tomorrow.

2) Catcher Samuel Basallo: He turned 19 in August. He is a super-fast riser that has become the shining star of the O’s international program. He rose three levels last year, producing 20 homers and a .953 OPS. He played four games at the end of 2023 at Double-A Bowie, where he will likely start the 2024 season. It could end for him at Triple-A. The tools and production are loud for this guy. While Holliday is the third straight O’s farm player to be No. 1 in prospect rankings, Basallo could be the fourth. Yes, impressive by the Orioles. 

3) Infielder Coby Mayo: Talk about loud tools and production. He hit .290/.410/.563/.973 with 29 homers and 99 RBI’s between Double-A and Triple-A. He was a fourth-round high school pick in the shortened 2020 draft who is on the verge of seeing big league time. Baseball America graded both his power and arm at 70.

4) Outfielder Colton Cowser: He produced a .937 OPS at Triple-A and hit that huge grand slam when Norfolk won the Triple-A championship game. Cowser struggled to a .434 OPS in his first shot at big league time, but his very solid plate discipline and gap-to-gap power, plus his ability to play all three outfield spots, make him a good prospect. He could break north with the Orioles in March.

5) Outfielder Heston Kjerstad: No one is any longer questioning the O’s selecting him No. 2 overall in the 2020 draft. The power is big and he makes loud contact, as we saw in the big leagues in September, and he made the club’s playoff roster. Yes there are some questions on defense, but Kjerstad could break north with the O’s in March as well.

6) LHP DL Hall: Still with prospect eligibility, Hall is No. 6 on the Baseball America list, making him their current top O’s pitching prospect. He sure is good enough to be here and got his fastball back with that trip to Florida last summer. He ended the year pitching well on the big league staff and proving he was worthy of being a first-round pick. With several quality pitches, I still see a future starter here.

7) Shortstop Joey Ortiz: His homer total dropped from 2022 to nine in 2023, when he played most of the year at Triple-A and produced an .885 OPS. But he still has plenty of pop to go with outstanding defense at shortstop. He played briefly with the Orioles in 2023, and next year we find out if can crack the O’s lineup or possibly make the roster as a utility guy that can bring strong defense and a big arm to several spots.

8) Infielder Connor Norby: He led the O’s farm with 29 homers in 2022. Last year playing all season at Triple-A, he hit 21 and recorded an .842 OPS. He is considered a bat-first second baseman who also played a handful of games in left field last season. He does not need to be added to the 40-man roster until December 2024.

9) Outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. He is the fifth first-round O’s draft pick on this list, taken No. 17 overall last July out of Vanderbilt. In 25 games after the draft he hit .291 with an .802 OPS. He walked 26 times to 16 strikeouts and stole 25 bases in 27 tries with his blazing speed. Baseball America gives him two top-of-scale 80-grade tools for speed and defense. Not bad for a player ranked No. 9 in the system.

10) RHP Chayce McDermott: He was the O’s top farm pitcher in winning the Jim Palmer Award. We have detailed some of his numbers here in the last few days, noting his strong finish to the season at Triple-A, where he went 3-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 50 2/3 innings. His fastball can touch the high 90s. He will not need Rule 5 protection until December 2024.

This is an impressive list, and Baseball America’s next release of its new top 100 will have some changes in where O’s players are listed. Basallo, for instance, is currently their fourth-highest rated Oriole in their top 100 but now has surged to second on their team top-30 list.

In their top 100 right now, the publication has Holliday at No. 1, Cowser No. 11, Mayo No. 23, Basallo No. 42, Kjerstad No. 43 and Ortiz No. 63. ranks them as follows: Holliday No. 1, Cowser No. 14, Kjerstad No. 24, Mayo No. 27, Basallo No. 46 and Ortiz at No. 50.

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