Some prospect recognition for the Orioles

The Orioles got some nice prospect recognition this week when three of their young players were noted as among the best in the game by MLBPipeline.com.

Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez was rated as the No. 10 right-handed pitching prospect in the sport. A nice honor, since the prospects lists always seem to be loaded with right-handers. Pitcher DL Hall was listed No. 10 among left-handers and at catcher, Adley Rutschman was ranked No. 1. He’s a top 10 national prospect.

By the way, some of the top 100 national prospects lists will be out soon. Baseball America is expected to release a new list on Jan. 23 and MLBPipeline.com on Jan. 25.

Diaz-Running-White-sidebar.jpgTo review, heading into the 2019 season, the Orioles had three players on the Baseball America top 100, with Yusniel Diaz at No. 37, Hall at No. 54 and Ryan Mountcastle at No. 90.

In the Baseball America top 100 that was out when the 2019 regular season was over, as well as the one that followed the June draft, the O’s placed five on the list: Rutschman No. 5, Hall No. 35, Rodriguez No. 45, Diaz No. 75 and Mountcastle No. 88.

The co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year on the O’s farm, Rodriguez, 20, had quite a season for a Single-A Delmarva team that won 90 games and led the South Atlantic League in team ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. He went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA. Over 94 innings, he allowed 57 hits and just four homers with 36 walks, 129 strikeouts, a .171 average against and a 0.99 WHIP. He was named the SAL’s Most Outstanding Prospect.

He should begin the 2020 season at Single-A Frederick.

MLBPipeline.com said of Rodriguez: “Rodriguez has the chance to have four average or better offerings, all of which miss bats, at his disposal on the mound. His fastball will top out at 97 mph and it averaged just over 95 mph in 2019. He throws it with good heavy life and uses his size to create good plane to the plate. He has two distinct breaking balls, with his low-80s slider a plus out pitch and his mid-70s curveball a hair behind. His changeup has improved over his year plus in pro ball and it’s been his best secondary pitch at times. He throws it a lot to left-handed hitters, but he also now has the confidence in it to use it against right-handers as well. He’s learned how to set up hitters well and makes excellent adjustments on the mound.”

After pitching to a 2.10 ERA for Single-A Delmarva in 2018, the 21-year-old Hall went 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA for the Frederick Keys in 2019. He ended the year missing his last few starts due to an oblique injury. Over 80 2/3 innings, he allowed only 53 hits and just three home runs. He walked 54, fanned 116, had a .189 average against and WHIP of 1.33. For two years in a row, Baseball America rated Hall as the top prospect in his league.

He should begin the 2020 season at Double-A Bowie.

MLBPipeline.com said of Hall: “Hall continues to add velocity to what was a plus fastball entering his pro career. His heater now sits 95 mph and touched 97 mph in 2019 and he was 96-98 mph during his Futures Game frame. His changeup has improved tremendously and some see it as his best secondary offering, a fading offspeed pitch that at times is as effective as his lively fastball. His curve flashes plus, thrown with excellent spin and bite. His walk rate spiked in 2019, but much like he did in his first full season, he was much better in the second half in terms of finding the strike zone.”

Rutschman, 21, hit .143 in five games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles last summer and then moved to short-season Single-A Aberdeen. He excelled in 20 games there, batting .325/.413/.481 with seven doubles, a triple, a homer and 15 RBIs. He moved to Delmarva and hit .154 in 12 games with the Shorebirds and played with the team in the South Atlantic League playoffs.

MLBPipeline.com listed Rutschman as having the top ceiling among the catchers on their list: “The sky is the limit for Rutschman, who is perhaps the best all-around catching prospect since Joe Mauer was the No. 1 pick back in 2001. He has similar All-Star, if not MVP potential, and could make quick work of the minor leagues with his four plus tools (hit, power, arm, defense) and baseball acumen.”

When the top 100 lists come out, will the Orioles get three, four or five players ranked? Certainly, Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall will be there. Mountcastle seems likely to be in the back 50 somewhere. He had a great 2019 year at bat. If he gets left off the list, it will be because of his defense. His glove didn’t keep him off the list last year.

Outfielder Diaz may fall out of the top 100. Injuries limited him to 85 games in 2019, when he hit .265/.341/.464 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs. Modest stats could allow some players to leapfrog him this time.

Austin Hays will be an interesting case. He’s the heavy favorite to start this season as the center fielder in Baltimore. He looked like an All-Star in the small sample of September. But will the prospects analysts focus more on his minor league season, when he hit just .248/.299/.464 and had his own injury issues?

Hays has been a top 100 player before. After his huge 2017 season on the farm, Baseball America rated him No. 21 heading into the 2018 season. Hays, by the way, is still eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award and thus is still eligible to be on these lists. Baseball America rated Hays at No. 4 on its most recent O’s top 10 list, behind Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall, and one spot ahead of Mountcastle.

The Baseball America top 100 was first published in 1990. In 30 lists since then the Orioles have had five players ranked just one time, four players 10 times, three players eight times, two players six times and one player three times. They had no players at all ranked on the list in 2003 and 2016.

The Orioles’ record of five came on the Baseball America list ahead of the 2008 season, with Matt Wieters (No. 12), Chris Tillman (No. 67), Radhames Liz (No. 69), Troy Patton (No. 78) and Nolan Reimold (No. 91).

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