A few power arms plus more catchers as international prospect rankings list concludes

It’s not necessarily the trade that keeps giving, but a deal where the Orioles seemingly did very well and that might be getting even better.

On Aug. 2, 2022, the O’s dealt righty Jorge López, their closer having a big year, to Minnesota for four pitchers. So far right-hander Yennier Cano has become a late-inning bullpen weapon while lefty Cade Povich is one of their top pitching prospects. Lefty Juan Rojas pitched in the lower minors last year and right-hander Juan Nuñez has a big fastball and leads the third day of the MASNSports.com O’s top 20 international prospect rankings.

He checks in at No. 11 after throwing in 13 games each in 2023 for Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen.

While he did not win a game – going 0-6 with a 3.96 ERA – Nuñez has shown a good strikeout rate and enough potential to rank 14th on this list and to currently rank No. 22 by Baseball America on the O’s team top 30 list.

Nuñez pitched a combined 104 2/3 innings in 2023 with 58 walks, 125 strikeouts, a .220 average against and 1.36 WHIP. He posted a 10.75 K rate last year and that number is 11.18 for his career, spanning 201 innings.

Nuñez has touched 97 and 98 mph with his fastball, which sits mid 90s while also throwing a slider and changeup. The slider is probably the best secondary pitch right now and Baseball America gave it a 60 grade. He would probably begin this year back at High-A Aberdeen with a chance to advance to Double-A Bowie. Nuñez, 23, was originally signed by Minnesota out of the Dominican Republic on Nov. 11, 2019, for just $25,000.

No. 12 – LHP Deivy Cruz: We get another pitcher at this spot in Cruz, who was ranked No. 15 last year on this list. He just turned 20 yesterday and could pitch in Aberdeen’s rotation after going 8-4 with a 3.62 ERA last summer over 97 innings, all with Delmarva. He walked 50, fanned 103 and posted a 1.28 WHIP and .218 average against. He had a 2.68 ERA the last three months of last season.

Signed by the Orioles for $150,000 on Jan. 15, 2021, out of Bani, Dominican Republic, he shows a low 90s fastball touching the mid 90s with a change, curve and slider. Cruz is a thin player that could use some added weight and strength.

No. 13 – RHP Luis Sánchez: Sánchez has a big, big arm but pitched in just 22 1/3 innings at Low-A Delmarva last year and did not pitch after June 20 due to a right forearm strain which kept him on the injured list for 98 days. But he looks healthy now heading into spring.

He is on this list all three years, ranked No. 15 in 2022 and No. 11 last year. He could begin this season in the Delmarva or Aberdeen bullpens.

Here is the exciting part – he touched 102 mph last summer and is “something special with a nasty slider” per one scout. He has already drawn some comparisons to Minnesota’s Jhoan Durán and Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase because of his fastball. He needs improved command though, with 44 career walks in 59 2/3 innings.

But you can’t teach 102 and his average fastball was 97 mph when he was healthy last summer. Sanchez, who turns 21 on March 4, was signed for $200,000 on Jan. 15, 2019, out of the Dominican.

No. 14 – Infielder José Mejía: Ranked 20th on this list last year, infielder José Mejía is back and moved up a few spots even though a hamate bone injury limited him to 34 plate appearances in the 2023 season.

He played three games in June and a few more between Aug. 8-21. But it was just 10 games for his season, and he batted .346/.500/.385/.885 going 9-for-27.

From the Dominican Republic, Mejía, 18, got the third-highest bonus from the Orioles in the class of January 2023 signees at $410,000. Right now, he profiles as an offensive-minded second baseman.

Mejía may be a bit of a sleeper after missing so much time, but the Orioles just love his bat and expect him to hit. In those 10 games he walked six times with three strikeouts. Described by one scout as “a professional hitter” he ranked in the top eight percent of the DSL players in swing decisions and top two perfect in making contact.

No. 15 – LHP Francisco Morao: Another one to watch and making his debut on this list is the lefty that the O’s signed for $197,500 out of Carupano, Venezuela on Jan. 15, 2023.

He made his pro debut in the DSL, going 2-3 with a 3.89 ERA over 11 games, all starts. In 39 1/3 he allowed 32 hits with 21 walks and 52 strikeouts for an 11.9 K rate. He had one poor start late in the summer which raised his ERA which was sub 3.00 to that point.

His fastball ranges from the high 80s to low 90s right now and has touched 93 but he features what one scout said was a “plus, plus curveball that abused hitters in the DR.”

Another pitcher the O’s feel could add some strength and weight that could add a few ticks on that heater while he continues to improve the already plus breaking stuff.

No. 16 – Infielder Anderson De Los Santos: We have seen him on this list before, in fact ranked No. 3 in 2022 and No. 6 last year. He falls a bit this time after some ups and downs in 104 games at Delmarva.

Signed for $350,000 on Jan. 15, 2021, for the Shorebirds he hit .228/.288/339/.627 with 20 doubles, two triples, six homers and 47 RBIs. He made 88 starts at third base and 11 at first base. He is considered average on defense at third with an above average arm.

A righty batter, De Los Santos, age 20, had a 7.4 walk and 24.8 K rate so his strikezone control needs to improve. But when he squared it up his exit velocities were quite good. He will likely return to Delmarva to begin the 2024 season.

No. 17 – Catcher Aneudis Mordán: This righty-hitter makes his first appearance on our list and, after two seasons with OPS numbers of .581 and .555 he posted a .915 in 41 games. He played most of the year in the Florida Complex League but went 3-for-11 with a homer in three games to end his year at Delmarva. His seven FCL homers ranked tied for sixth in that league last summer and he hit .274/.390/.504 in Florida. 

Signed for $225,000 by the Orioles out of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic on Jan. 15, 2021, he is right now a bat-first catcher who needs work on his arm strength. Last year Samuel Basallo had a big start to his season at Delmarva and this season, Mordán, 19, could do the same. Like Basallo, Mordán has also played at first base in each of his three seasons in the O’s organization.

No. 18 – Infielder Maikol Hernández: He has also tumbled down this list after ranking No. 1 in 2022 and No. 5 last year.

Signed for $1.2 million in January of 2021, this 20-year-old righty batter out of Venezuela has just failed to hit much with a career OPS of .565 with just two homers and 125 strikeouts in 120 career games. He played in the DSL in 2021 and in the FCL the last two years.

Last summer, over 38 games in Florida, he hit .179/.308/.269/.577 with six doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. To say the least this will be an important year for him, and he is expected to move to full-season ball at Delmarva.

Ranked by some at the back-end of top 30 lists last year at this time, he is not there anymore. But the O’s have seen glimpses of his vast talent on both sides of the ball and his defense has gotten 55 grades with a 60 arm from scouts.

No. 19 – Infielder Elvin Garcia: Another member of the recent 2024 O’s international class of signees is here with Garcia, a switch-hitting shortstop at No. 19.

Garcia, who turned 17 last month, is a native of Mao, Dominican Republic and agreed to a bonus of $500,000. He has a large frame with a lot of space to fill out, making for excellent body projection. Offensively, the O’s say he has a short swing with good bat speed and carries a solid approach at the plate. He is a line-drive type of hitter with the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. Another player that brings five solid tools to the ballpark and will play in the DSL this season.

No. 20 – Catcher Adriander Mejía: A bit of a surprise entry on this list, Mejía signed for just $65,000 out of the Dominican on Jan. 15, 2023, and then went out and had a nice debut season in the DSL. He becomes the third catcher in the top 20.

Over 47 games this right-handed hitter batted .277/.362/.355/.717 with nine doubles, a homer and 22 RBIs. He posted a 10.7 walk and 15.2 strikeout rate. He was another player that had his name come up when teams sought trade packages from the Orioles.

Born Aug. 29, he was one of the youngest players in the DSL in 2023. He made 27 starts behind the plate, showing average arm strength and 17 at first base.

The list this year includes 15 position players and five pitchers – three lefties and two right-handers. It includes three catchers, nine infielders and three outfielders.

And a few more to note: As a bonus, here is a list of 10 players, in no specific order, that got consideration for this list but missed out.

* Outfielder Jordan Sánchez: The O's signed the 18-year-old, Cuban-born player last fall to a bonus of $450,000 on Dec. 1. His best tool is his power, and he is expected to play in the DSL in 2024.

* Jemone Nuel: A shortstop signed this year for $500,000.

* Catcher Miguel Rodríguez: He hit .323 in the DSL and was in the top 10 percent of the league in swing decisions and top nine percent in contact.

* RHP Keeler Morfe: He signed for $210,000 in January of 2023 and was touching 96 in the DSL.

* Infielder Luis Guevara: He batted .318 with an OPS of .824 in the DSL.

* Outfielder/second baseman Aron Estrada: He was No. 9 last year and posted a .748 OPS in the FCL.

* Infielder Edwin Amparo: He signed for $650,000 in 2022 and had a .668 OPS in the FCL.

* Outfielder Stiven Acevedo: He hit 14 homers with 33 stolen bases at Delmarva.

* LHP Juan Rojas: Another pitcher from the Jorge López trade, advanced to Delmarva in 2023.

* RHP Moisés Chace: He was No. 9 on this list in 2022 and No. 16 last year and was touching 96 this past season with a 13.2 K rate at Delmarva.



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