Baseball America has been rolling out its league top 20 prospects lists for each minor league level, and they have completed the four full-season leagues where the Orioles have affiliates.
Baseball America said of Mountcastle: “Mountcastle can hit, period. His 162 knocks led the IL and earned him the MVP award. He’s hit better than .280 in each of his five pro seasons and is now on the cusp of the big leagues.
“The bigger question is: Where will he land on defense? His well below-average throwing arm all but relegates him to DH or first base, where he played 84 of his 110 games. Twenty-six more games were spent in left field, where his arm can also be hidden easily. He socked a career-best 25 homers in 2019, which will help him profile more easily at either of those two defensive spots.”
Baseball America on Akin: “Akin has continued to make headway and has been a durable pitcher on the professional level. Even with some late-season control issues, he did enough to warrant a close look going into next season.
“Evaluators have a wide range of opinions regarding Akin, but he rack ups a good percentage of strikeouts and gets hitters guessing quite a bit. He consistently clocks in the low 90s with his fastball, but he lacks a go-to pitch he can rely on. If he can show the ability to go deep in games, there will be a spot for him on a big league staff.”
Baseball America on Diaz: “Diaz spent two different stints on the injured list but managed to show an impressive skill set when on the field. July was the best month for the outfielder, as he hit .299/.353/.514 with 16 extra-base hits in 28 games.
“Diaz has plus bat speed and makes loud contact when he connects. Diaz is strong and shows above-average power with the bat. His range will allow him to stick in the outfield, but his plus arm should make him most suitable to play right field. While the tools are there, there are questions surrounding if he will ever put it all together as a player. While it was a rather pedestrian year for him, Diaz still has the ceiling of an average outfield regular.”
Baseball America on Baumann: “After 11 successful starts in the Carolina League, Baumann went on to dominate hitters in the Eastern League. The right-hander was stingy on the mound, ending up among league leaders in ERA (2.31) and WHIP (0.94) for pitchers who threw at least 50 innings. Baumann even spun a no-hitter on July 16th, striking out 10 batters while allowing just two walks.
“Baumann works with a plus fastball in the mid-90s that has good life. His changeup was particularly good this season, as it showed split-like action and the ability to work well off the heater. He can spin a slider, but it doesn’t have the same consistency. Baumann’s control numbers have trended in a positive direction, showing the ability to keep the ball in and around the strike zone. If Baumann’s breaking ball improves, he has the tools to start. If not, it’s likely he ends up as a two-pitch bullpen arm.”
Baseball America on Hall: “Hall was fifth in the Carolina League in strikeouts despite throwing fewer than 81 innings. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he walked six batters per nine innings.
“Scouts say command is the biggest issue with the 21st pick from the 2017 draft. Hall is a good athlete and repeats his mechanics fairly well, but he often misses, especially to the armside. Hall’s 96 mph fastball, changeup and curveball all have plus potential. He found the zone in the Futures Game in Cleveland, throwing eight strikes in 12 pitches to retire the side in order.”
“He has a big-time fastball/breaking ball combo,” Wilmington manager Scott Thorman said. “He’s in the upper 90s. He competes, and he has the ability to strike people out.”
“With the Orioles rebuilding, Hall also has the benefit of time. The organization can afford to be patient while developing such a prized arm.”
Baseball America on Rodriguez: “After several years of fallow rosters, Delmarva had the most promising starting pitcher in the league. After Shorebirds left-hander DL Hall impressed last season, Rodriguez was even more impressive this year.
“Rodriguez’s 94-96 mph fastball was dominating, mainly because of his future plus command. He showed he could work it to the edges of the strike zone, rarely straying over the heart of the plate.
“But managers and scouts were even more impressed by Rodriguez’s advanced feel for a pair of breaking balls and his changeup. His slider and curveball aren’t always clearly separated, but both are potential above-average pitches. Rodriguez can spin an 81-83 mph slider that dives away from the strike zone and a 79-82 mph curveball with more of a 12-to-6 shape that he can throw in the strike zone or bury at the bottom. His potentially plus command of both pitches stands out.”
By the way, these rankings help make the point that a team’s won-loss record is in no way a barometer of how many prospects a club may have. Norfolk (60-79) and Bowie (76-64) had the same number of rated prospects, as did Frederick (53-84) and Delmarva (90-48).
According to O’s public relations, Orioles affiliates finished the regular season with a combined record of 421-393, the 10th-best mark by organizational winning percentage (.517) among all 30 organizations.
Bowie advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series for the second time in franchise history, but fell to the Trenton Thunder in four games. Delmarva finished a great season with a 90-48 regular season record, marking its first 80-plus win season since 1998 (third time in franchise history). While the Shorebirds lost in the first round of the playoffs, they became the first team in the South Atlantic League to reach 90-plus wins since the 2006 Augusta GreenJackets (92-47).
The Orioles are ranked as the No. 9 organization in Baseball America’s 2019 MLB Organization Talent Rankings, and have five prospects in the publication’s Top 100.
No. 5 - Adley Rutschman
No. 35 - DL Hall
No. 45 - Grayson Rodriguez
No. 75 - Yusniel Diaz
No. 88 - Ryan Mountcastle
Click here to see all the league top 20s released so far.