Baseball America recently released its prospect position rankings, which followed up its release of the publication’s top 100, where the Orioles placed five players.
Adley Rutschman, ranked No. 2 in the Baseball America top 100 (subscription may be required), is rated as the No. 1 catcher in what Baseball America calls a loaded group of catchers, with nine of their top 10 rated also in their top 100. Baseball America points out that it was only three seasons ago that there were only four catchers in the top 100, and none higher than 20th. Rutschman’s No. 2 ranking is the best by any catcher since former Oriole Matt Wieters ranked No. 1 in 2009.
By the way, Rutschman’s No. 2 ranking marked just the fourth time the O’s had a player ranked this high in the initial Baseball America yearly release of the list, which dates to 1990. Ben McDonald was No. 2 in that first poll in 1990 with Wieters going to No. 1 in 2009 and Dylan Bundy to No. 2 in 2013.
Ryan Mountcastle was ranked fourth by Baseball America among first baseman. I would guess that Mountcastle gets more starts in left field this season than at first. In 2020, he made 23 starts in left and nine at first base. But he is grouped with the first baseman here.
He has yet to play a game on the O’s farm, but 2020 top pick Heston Kjerstad was ranked 10th among the top 15 corner outfielders rated. The scouting report on Kjerstad notes he has plus-plus raw power and that the Orioles feel he can be an above-average hitter with all-fields power.
They ranked a whopping 41 right-handed pitchers with Grayson Rodriguez coming in a very respectable fourth on that large list. Rodriguez, per a Baseball America note, is the only righty among their top nine that currently does not have major league experience.
DL Hall was ranked as the No. 7 lefty prospect among 15 left-handed pitchers that were ranked. Hall seems to have gained some velocity, as the scouting report on him stated he sat 95-98 mph with his fastball at the O’s alternate camp at Bowie.
So the five players that made the Baseball America top 100 a few weeks ago are also among these positional rankings. Earlier, the publication ranked Rodriguez No. 22, Hall No. 59, Kjerstad No. 62 and Mountcastle No. 63.
As I previously pointed out, this was just the second time that five Orioles made the initial top 100 list since its first release in 1990. The team never has had more than five. The first time the Orioles got five was in 2008 with Wieters (No. 12), Chris Tillman (No. 67), Radhames Liz (No. 69), Troy Patton (No. 78) and Nolan Reimold (No. 91).
So a case could be made that the Orioles have never done better than on the 2021 list with all five in the top 63. In 2008, only one player was rated among the top 66.
By way of review, the O’s had five on the latest MLBPipeline.com top 100, with Rutschman (No. 2). Rodriguez (No. 27), Kjerstad (No. 69), Hall (No. 70) and Mountcastle (No. 77).
The Athletic’s rankings, which Keith Law produced, saw Baltimore with four top 100, players with Rutschman (No. 6), Hall (No. 49), Rodriguez (No. 55) and Kjerstad (No. 85).
About those rookies: The Orioles are not promoting any kiddie corps of a pitching staff, but the news of the pending Alex Cobb trade does mean they could replace a 33-year-old pitcher in the rotation with one much younger.
And while some of our readers pointed out that using multiple rookies in the rotation could create issues, I don’t think fans should be too concerned about that.
For one, I don’t think O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is simply going to turn over the staff to all young kids. I think, if we’ve learned a few things from his first two years on the job, he’s not prone to rush prospects.
Mountcastle never came up during his strong 2019 Triple-A season and then waited nearly a month into the shortened 2020 season to get his first call to the majors. Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer waited until September and both put in significant time at the Bowie camp until they got their big league shot.
No doubt this staff is going to skew younger over the next few seasons and how these kids do will have a lot to say about how soon the O’s could return to contending baseball.
But management no doubt is most concerned about how ready they are when they get here rather than what date that will be.
And later last night, the Cobb trade to the Angels for Jahmai Jones became official with the Orioles also sending cash considerations to the Angels.
We have acquired INF/OF Jahmai Jones from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for RHP Alex Cobb. pic.twitter.com/ay96izhdly-- Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) February 3, 2021