Today’s let’s take a look at some of the Orioles minor leaguers that had the most productive seasons in 2018. Presenting one man’s version of the Orioles’ minor league All-Stars for this year.
This is not a listing simply of the best prospects, but the players who produced the best at each position. In some cases it’s clear cut and in some it’s not.
1B Aderlin Rodriguez: Rodriguez hit two homers and drove in seven runs on the final day of the season for Double-A Bowie to cap off a third straight strong offensive year. He hit .286 with 23 homers and 92 RBIs. Among O’s farmhands, the 26-year-old Rodriguez tied for first in homers and led all in RBIs. He was among the Eastern League leader in several categories. Does he have a chance to impact Baltimore next year? That seems unlikely despite two years of solid numbers with Bowie. Rodriguez is a pending minor league free agent, but the O’s could look to re-sign him.
First baseman J.C. Escarra gets an honorable mention here. He was team MVP for short-season Single-A Aberdeen, where he hit .331. First baseman Wilson Garcia, a player the club has already re-signed to a minor deal for 2019, hit 23 homers for Single-A Frederick.
2B Corban Joseph: He hit .312 for Bowie to rank third in the Eastern League and added an OPS of .878. Corban joined his brother Caleb on the O’s big league roster and played in 14 games. In that small sample, he showed the ability to grind out at-bats. He ended the season on the O’s 40-man roster. At Single-A Delmarva, second baseman Kirvin Moesquit led all O’s minor leaguers with 49 stolen bases. Moesquit played in center field later in the year.
SS Adam Hall: A few weeks into the New York-Penn League season at Aberdeen, Hall was hitting under .200. But in August, he hit .390 and was the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Month. He had a 19-game hitting streak to cap off a strong year on both offense and defense. At 19, Hall showed the promise that led the Orioles to draft him in the second round in 2017.
3B Ryan Mountcastle: He hit .297/.341/.464 for Bowie and produced an OPS of .843 versus right-handed pitching. Challenged to draw more walks, Mountcastle did make an improvement with a walk-rate that was a very poor 1.9 in 2017 to a much more respectable 6.1 this season. His OBP at Bowie improved from .239 in 2017 to .341. No, we don’t know his future position and it may not be third base, but he delivered a solid year with the bat, which looks like it will play one day at the major league level.
C Martin Cervenka: He played to very solid reviews at Bowie showing strong skills on defense while he hit 15 homers, drove in 60 and produced a .774 OPS. The right-handed hitter from the Czech Republic hit .312 with an OPS of .999 after the All-Star break. Not bad for a player the Orioles got in the Triple-A phase of the 2017 Rule 5 draft. They’ve already re-signed him for next year and he will play in the Arizona Fall League. He could impact the 2019 Orioles roster.
OF Cedric Mullins: He was the club’s Brooks Robinson award winner as their minor league Player of the year. Mullins got off to a great start this year at Bowie and earned a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Between the two teams, he hit .289/.346/.472 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers, 47 RBIs, 77 runs and 21 steals in 22 attempts. He made it to the majors and showed some pop at bat and used his speed to run some balls down in center field.
OF Yusniel Díaz: Ranked No. 44 on the Baseball America top 100, Díaz hit better for Double-A Tulsa than he did at Bowie after the Manny Machado trade. With Tulsa, he batted .314/.428/.477 and with Bowie, he hit .239/.329/.403. Díaz went 8-for-23 his last six games with Bowie, played better and showed off his plus arm as the year went on. He hit two homers in the All-Star Futures Game.
OF Ryan McKenna: At age 21, McKenna was looking like a Player of the Year candidate when he tore it up in the first half of the year with Single-A Frederick, but he didn’t produce anywhere near that level later with Bowie. In 67 games for the Keys, he hit .377/.467/.556 with 60 runs and an OPS of 1.023. But with the Baysox, he hit .239/.341/.338. Between both teams, McKenna hit .315/.410/.457. Starting next Tuesday, he’ll get to show his stuff for Glendale in the Arizona Fall League.
Left-handed starter Keegan Akin: Akin went 14-7 with a 3.29 ERA for Bowie and was named the Orioles’ minor league co-Pitcher of the Year with Zac Lowther. Akin also was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. He gets a slight nod here over both Lowther and DL Hall.
Right-hander starter Brenan Hanifee: Hanifee was remarkably consistent at age 20 for Single-A Delmarva. He went 8-6 with a 2.86 ERA, pounding his sinking fastball often for strikes. He ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League in ERA and second among qualifying O’s minor league hurlers.
Left-handed reliever Tyler Erwin: For Frederick, Erwin went 4-4 with 18 saves and an ERA of 1.58. Lefty batters hit just .198 against him and righties hit just .178. He converted 12 of his final 13 saves and allowed a batting average of just .058 (3-for-52) in August. He’ll pitch in the AFL.
Right-handed reliever Branden Kline: He showed three solid pitches, going 5-4 with a 1.64 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for Bowie. Kline showed a fastball that touched the high 90s. He was the feel-good story on the farm this year. Due to Tommy John surgery and complications from that, he had not pitched since May 2015 coming into this season. But he was healthy all year and soon should be added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster.