It is a question I often get from fans, and when I recently interviewed Jim Callis from MLBPipeline.com, I asked him to identify a couple of under-the-radar or underrated Orioles prospects.
We often talk about those at the top of a top 30 list, but those down the list deserve some mention, too. Callis is a big fan of a couple of O’s prospects rated in the second half of the MLBPipeline.com Orioles top 30 list.
One is outfielder Hudson Haskin, ranked No. 16 by MLBPipeline.com. He was the club’s third pick in the draft last June, taken No. 39 overall in the second round. In 73 career games at Tulane over a season and a few games last summer, he hit .363/.457/.612 with 25 doubles, five triples, 11 homers and 66 RBIs. He struck out 39 times and walked 40. A right-handed hitter with good speed, he’s got good size as well at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs.
“I think he would have gotten more attention had we had a full (2020 college) season,” said Callis. “He was a sophomore-eligible at Tulane. So he really only had one real college season and he had a pretty good summer. But I think teams would have warmed up to him even more had he had more time to play. So I think he flies under the radar a bit as a prospect even though he went No. 39 overall.
“It’s not the smoothest looking swing. But there are just some guys that have really good hand-eye coordination and feel for hitting. And the swing isn’t the prettiest, but it works. And I think he is one of those guys. And he’s got pretty good tools across the board. I think he’s a potential 20/20 (homers and steals) center fielder. It could be plus to solid tools across the board when all is said and done.
“That’s a pretty good player. And he’s (ranked) 16. I mean, I don’t disagree with the rankings. Yusniel Diaz, I think we have No. 10 on our list (he is at No. 9). But he might be a better player than Yusniel Diaz, who has had a kind of up-and-down career since he got traded. He has a longer record in pro ball, because Haskin has yet to debut. But Haskin may have a higher ceiling. He might wind up being better than Diaz.”
A second player that Callis is high on is lefty starting pitcher Kevin Smith, ranked No. 18 by MLB.com. Drafted by the New York Mets in round seven in 2018, the 23-year-old southpaw pitched at High-A and Double-A in 2019. He went 8-7 with a 3.15 ERA in 23 games. He was ranked No. 12 on the Mets top 30 when he was traded to the Orioles in the deal where reliever Miguel Castro joined New York last Aug. 31.
“When I was at Baseball America, we did lists, and I was editing the Prospect Handbook and John Manuel and I would kind of vet all the rankings,” Callis said. “At MLBPipeline, I can give advice, but I don’t have to be listened to. I don’t do our Orioles rankings, but I told the guys I thought Kevin Smith was way too low on our list. I think he’s at least five or six spots too low. And it’s not because Kevin Smith went to Georgia and I went to Georgia.
“I was actually shocked they got him in the Miguel Castro trade. No offense to Miguel, I was just surprised the Mets gave him up. I think he’s super underrated. He’s got a low-90s fastball that won’t blow you away. But he’s left-handed with high spin rates and he’s got that carry in the strike zone. And guys just don’t hit his fastball. He’s got a quality slider and he’s got a feel for a changeup. He throws a lot of strikes.
“I think he is a high floor guy. I think he has a chance to be a No. 4 starter. I look at the lefties we have higher on the O’s list. Personally feel he’s got a better chance to be a No. 4 starter than Keegan Akin. Zac Lowther fascinates me, just with the extension and a lot of guys don’t hit him. But I think he’s very comparable to those two guys.
“Me, personally - and I’m probably in the minority on this - but when he was in the Mets system, I liked him more than David Peterson (Mets first-round pick in 2017). ... I just think Kevin Smith has got a deeper repertoire and more command than David Peterson. I think people sleep on Kevin Smith too much. I think he’s as good as, not DL Hall, but any of the other lefties in their system.”
In this entry I recently talked with Callis about the Orioles’ No. 5 organizational ranking from MLBPipeline.com.
Series finale is tonight: After 7-0 and 7-2 losses at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles will turn to lefty John Means to try and avoid the three-game sweep tonight. Means threw seven scoreless innings on one hit on opening day at Boston. He retired the last 18 batters he faced as the Red Sox went 1-for-22 against him that afternoon.
The Orioles scored 18 runs in the sweep over Boston, but have scored just two runs on 11 hits against New York. They have struck out 27 times in the series.
O’s center fielder Cedric Mullins went 1-for-4 last night and is now batting .524 at 11-for-21, with four runs, three doubles and a walk in the first five games. Mullins is 4-for-5 batting in the first inning.
Mullins’ 11 hits in the O’s first five games ranks as the third-best hit total through the first five games of a season in club history. He trails only two players who got 12 hits to begin the year. They are Eddie Murray in 1982 and Adam Jones in 2013.