Baseball America released its 2017 listing of the top 100 prospects in the sport during a broadcast on MLB Network last night. The Orioles, as expected, placed just one player on the list with catcher Chance Sisco ranked No. 57. Last year, the Orioles had no players make this list.
Earlier, Sisco was ranked No. 69 on ESPN’s top 100 and No. 99 by MLBPipeline.com. He’s been rated as the clear No. 1 Orioles prospect by several outlets, including Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN. But he is No. 2, behind pitcher Cody Sedlock, for MLBPipeline.com.
In September, Sisco was named the 2016 Orioles minor league Player of the Year, taking the award named after Brooks Robinson.
Sisco, who turns 22 on Feb. 24, has hit .300 or better at four different minor league levels. In 2016, he played 112 games at Double-A Bowie and four at Triple-A Norfolk, batting .317/.403/.430 with 28 doubles, a triple, six homers and 51 RBIs. He homered in the Futures Game last July and his career slash line is .323/.403/.435. His defense has continued to improve and he showed a bit more power last summer. Sisco is among the non-roster invitees to Orioles major league camp that starts Monday, but he is expected to begin the new season at Triple-A.
“We definitely had a wide spread of opinion in our office about Chance Sisco,” Baseball America’s editor-in-chief John Manuel said. “There are definitely people who believe he will be a catcher and ranked him in their top 50s, and others that don’t believe he will be a catcher. And even if they do believe he can catch (at the big league level), they don’t believe in his power, so they ranked him lower.”
But Manuel feels No. 57 is a solid rating for Sisco.
“I do think so. Having him in our top 60 prospects works for me. I believe he’s No. 4 in catchers we ranked behind Francisco Mejia of the Indians, Jorge Alfaro of the Phillies and Zack Collins of the White Sox. These four guys are the best hitting catchers in the minor leagues.
“I think scouting defense for catchers is very difficult. A lot of guys get better at the big league level. Where I do think Chance gets a little undersold - I think he’s a pretty solid athlete. And usually the athletes that want to catch, those guys wind up being alright defensively.
“I think Sisco at the very least will wind up as a solid-average defender and fringy thrower. And I think the bat has a chance to be above average. I think he’s ranked in a good spot. That 40-60 range is packed with a lot of 2016 draft picks and we do like the shiny new toys.”
Sedlock, a 21-year-old right-hander that is ranked as the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America, was close to making the top 100.
“We had some folks on the staff who voted for Sedlock for top 100,” Manuel said. “I had him in my 90 to 110 range. He is a guy I strongly considered for the list. The back of the top 100 had some really big performers. He’s right on the cusp of the top 100 for me.”
Baseball America has produced 28 top 100 lists since its first edition in 1990. Just five times have the Orioles had one or less on this list. There were no Orioles ranked in 2003 and 2016, and one this year and also in 2001 (Keith Reed at No. 96) and 2002 (Erik Bedard at No. 90).
So what does it mean for the Orioles organization and its future having just one prospect ranked combined in the last two years by Baseball America?
“You know it’s like the PECOTA projections in a way,” Manuel said. ” I mean, PECOTA always undersells the Orioles and it’s probably fuel for Dan Duquette, Buck (Showalter) and the players to be underrated.
“We’ve talked about this before - the Orioles have had a productive farm system. It is just generally not wave after wave. It’s usually one guy or some role players. They’ve gotten (Jonathan) Schoop and (Manny) Machado and that is awesome.
“But their margin for error is pretty slim. If Chance Sisco doesn’t hit as a big league regular, I’m not sure scouts see many other regulars in the organization. (Ryan) Mountcastle is an interesting player, but we don’t think he’s a big league shortstop (defensively). They have less margin for error because they have fewer guys.”
Ynoa ranked: The Orioles acquired right-hander Gabriel Ynoa from the Mets Friday for cash considerations. The 23-year-old Ynoa, who has one option remaining, adds some starting pitching depth. He went 12-5 with a 3.97 ERA in Triple-A last year and 1-0 with a 6.38 ERA in 18 1/3 innings in the majors late in the season.
Baseball America ranked him as the No. 9 Mets prospect this fall and he was ranked in their Mets top 20 every season since 2012, when he was No. 20 followed by No. 15 the next year, then No. 16 and then No. 13 after the 2015 season. He walked just 2.33 per nine innings in the minors last season and has a career walk rate of 1.52.
Here is the Baseball America scouting report: “Ynoa relies on pitch movement, control and changing speeds to succeed. He pitches with an average fastball at 93 mph that features heavy sinking and tailing action. He mixes two- and four-seam fastballs at velocities ranging from 85-95 mph to keep hitters off balance.
“Ynoa’s 83-85 mph slider has developed into an above-average neutralizer that generates both swinging strikes and ground balls with its quick, late tilt. His above-average mid-80s changeup features late drop and some fading action. Ynoa exhibits focus on the mound and knows how to read opponents’ swings, yet he struck out just 4.5 per nine innings at Triple-A. Some scouts project future growth for Ynoa based on his clean mechanics.”