The O’s sell-off in July signaled a full commitment to rebuilding, and those efforts have gotten off to a good start with Mike Elias and the team’s initial hires. Baltimore still has a bottom-half system, but it’s already much improved from recent years because of players added in the last two drafts and last season’s trades. 10 of the 15 players ranked on this list have entered the organization since 2016. Considering the rebuilding state of the big league club, this system stands to add numerous impact pieces over the next few years via the draft and hefty international bonus allotments. While it won’t be pretty for awhile at the Major League level, Baltimore’s refreshing commitment to the future has finally laid the groundwork for a sustainable core.
(#4) Austin Hays, (#8) Luis Ortiz, DJ Stewart (On the Horizon), Cody Carroll (On the Horizon), Steve Wilkerson (On the Horizon), and Evan Phillips (On the Horizon) are players on this list who have already cracked the big leagues. There’s a good amount of upper-level talent with a chance to debut in 2019, including (#1) Yusniel Diaz, (#3) Ryan Mountcastle, and (#6) Keegan Akin. (#14) Zach Pop and Branden Kline (On the Horizon) are two relievers capable of factoring in to the Major League bullpen mix at some point next season.
Three of the club’s top seven prospects are outfielders, and that number could grow to four in time if (#3) Ryan Mountcastle moves to LF as some expect.
—LACKS A TOP-30 PROSPECT
We see (#1) Yusniel Diaz, (#3) Ryan Mountcastle, (#4) Austin Hays, (#6) Keegan Akin, and (#7) Ryan McKenna as players with the upside of legitimate big leaguers, and while that depth is certainly valuable, none of the above project as true stars to lead the next wave of Orioles teams. The player Baltimore selects with the #1 overall pick in 2019 could foreseeably factor into this range at some point.
—DEPTH PAST THE TOP
It’s good that most of the FV 50+ prospects on this list are close to ready, but there aren’t many in quantity relative to some other farm systems across the league. Years of largely ignoring the international market created a dearth of the high-risk, high-reward prospects that add low-minors depth to the better pipelines in baseball. It seems like the Orioles are revamping their scouting efforts on all fronts, so this too could change in the next 1-3 years.
TOP 15 PREF LIST
CREAM OF THE CROP
(#1) Yusniel Diaz, OF
Diaz was the main prospect returned by the Orioles last summer for Manny Machado. He got off to a fast start in the Texas League and starred in the Futures Game before the trade, struggling down the stretch once he reached Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate. If he can refine an over-aggressive approach and find more consistency at the plate while sticking in CF, Diaz has the upside of an above-average regular. Defensively, he’s capable of playing an average CF but isn’t a slam dunk to remain at the position. A move down the defensive spectrum would likely mean Diaz tops out a FV 50 type, but we see him as a player destined to play a long time in the big leagues either way.
(#2) DL Hall, LHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: High ETA: 2021 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 180 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 6m
Video #1 | Video #2 | Video #3 | Report
Baltimore’s first-rounder in 2017 from a Georgia high school, Hall’s first pro season last year went as well as the team could have hoped for. The lefty pitched to a 2.10 ERA in the South Atlantic League, holding opponents to a paltry .198 average-against while posting encouraging peripherals. Hall isn’t the tallest, but his mix of three above-average pitches with polished control gives him the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the system. The fastball touches 96-to-97 mph and sits comfortably in the mid-90s, backed up by a sharp curve and developing changeup that got more use late in the season. Hall has the talent to rank first on this list as he gets closer to the big leagues, perhaps as soon as mid-season.
ON THE HORIZON
(#3) Ryan Mountcastle, 3B
Mountcastle finished 2017 at Double-A and struggled there, so Baltimore sent him back to the level for all of last season. He fared much better his second time through the Eastern League (at only 21-years-old, it’s worth noting), slashing .297/.341/.464 and showing improved defense at the hot corner. Mountcastle’s arm is below-average and will likely always be a 45-at-best tool, so it’s not a lock he stays at 3B despite getting better there. His bat is the calling card, as Mountcastle’s future hit and power outputs both could enter the 55-grade territory and seem likely to finish at least average. The offensive upside makes him likely to finish a 2-3 WAR producer, regardless of the future position.
(#4) Austin Hays, OF
Hays is coming off a forgettable 2018, struggling in the early goings before missing time with an ankle injury. He slashed .273/.291/.535 upon returning to Bowie in early August, showing lots of power but the same over-aggressive approach versus spin that has been his Achilles heel in years past. It was curious that the O’s even sent him to Double-A at all, as Hays finished the 2017 season in the big league lineup. We see Hays as a well-rounded player who doesn’t have any gaping holes, even if no one tool is a true plus. He’s a high-floor prospect with a good chance to finish an everyday corner outfielder.
(#6) Keegan Akin, LHP
Though he did it fairly quietly, Akin dominated the Eastern League in 2018 en route to being named the circuit’s Pitcher of the Year. Baltimore’s second-rounder from Western Michigan in 2016, Akin would reach the mid-90s as a college junior but pitched at 89-to-92 mph his first year of pro ball. That old velocity returned last year, and his fastball was touching 95-to-96 mph late into starts by season’s end. Akin throws a slider and curve that both grade as average, changing the shape of his breaking ball based on situation and batter handedness. His changeup grades as a playable offering, enough to play as a fourth pitch and keep hitters off balance. We’re bullish on Akin and have been for some time, expecting him to crack Baltimore’s rotation at some point next season. Nothing blows you away, but Akin is a fairly safe prospect that could finish as a reliable back-rotation starter.
(#7) Ryan McKenna, OF
Hailing from the Northeast prep ranks, McKenna was seen as an athletic speedster who needed reps against better competition as an amateur. That proved to be the case his first two seasons as a pro, as McKenna didn’t start to show much life offensively until last year. He broke out in a big way, slashing an eye-popping .377/.467/.556 in the Carolina League before a promotion to Double-A. At the plate, McKenna’s game is centered around contact and speed, setting the table for big boppers while wreaking havoc on the bases. His 70-grade wheels show up on defense, where he’s a lock to remain in CF and plays the position well. McKenna was the biggest riser in this system last season and now looks like a potential everyday player. His speed, defense, and bat-to-ball skill can skill make him a valuable fourth outfielder even if he falls short of that ceiling.
(#8) Luis Ortiz, RHP
Ortiz was one of the three prospects Baltimore returned for Jonathan Schoop last year. He got two appearances in the big leagues at the end of September and should get a chance to earn a role on the O’s staff in 2019. Ortiz works off a sinking fastball in the 90-to-94 mph range. His velocity wavered at times last season, more effective when he was fresh enough to work more at 93-to-94 mph. Both his mid-80s slider and changeup grade as playable offerings, able to stay around the zone with different speeds. No one pitch is dominant, but a sturdy frame and the sum-of-parts add up to a swingman or lesser #5 rotation piece.
(#9) Zac Lowther, LHP
The crafty lefty has done nothing but dominate since signing with the O’s as the 74th overall pick in 2017. He coasted through the New York-Penn League after signing, pitching similarly well last year across two A-Ball stops. Despite only working in the 88-to-92 mph range on his fastball, Lowther gets swinging strikes because of excellent deception and late ride. He works with four pitches, pairing the fastball with an average curve, playable changeup, and show-me slider. Lowther ties this pitch mix together with plus control and command, able to spot numerous pitches around the zone. He has the makings of an overachiever, potentially finishing a back-rotation option or versatile swingman with some chance to exceed that.
(#11) Dillon Tate, RHP
Tate was the main prospect return in the deal that sent Zach Britton to the Yankees. He has developed better control and pitchability since going fourth overall in the 2015 draft, though a fastball that once hovered in the high-90s has lost a few ticks. As a starter, Tate’s heater hovers in the low-90s and scrapes 94-to-95 mph at best. Both a slider and changeup are usable offerings, though neither grades as a true plus. Tate throws strikes with his fastball with more control than true command, meaning he’s vulnerable to hard contact when the pitch catches too much plate. We see him as a swingman option long-term, though it’s interesting to think about the stuff he showed in college coming back in a bullpen role.
(#12) Dean Kremer, RHP
Kremer was one of the prospects returned from the Dodgers for Manny Machado. His lanky frame adds deception to a delivery with good extension, causing a low-90s fastball to get an above-average rate of swinging strikes for its velocity. On the surface, Kremer’s strikeout numbers last year don’t match his raw stuff: no pitch grades as particularly dynamic, but the tandem of a lively heater and two usable secondaries get results. Kremer is a safer bet to fit as a swingman or multi-inning reliever than true #4/#5 starter, but a back-rotation profile is what we see as his max ceiling. If he keeps performing like he did last year, we will look bad for putting him outside the top 10.
(#13) Richie Martin, SS
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 3m
Somewhat surprisingly, Martin—Oakland’s first-rounder in 2015—was left off the team’s 40-Man Roster this November, even on the heels of a strong season at Double-A. He was an obvious Rule 5 Draft candidate, going with the first pick of the Major League Phase to Baltimore. He now will get the chance to audition for a big league job this spring with the O’s. Martin is a slick-fielding shortstop who has been known for his glove since his amateur days at Florida. He’s an above-average defender who has the versatility to play all over the infield. How much Martin would hit has been the bigger question for a few years, though a career-best .308/.368/.439 line in the Texas League gives hope his bat is on the upswing. In the absolute best-case scenario, Baltimore catches lightning in a bottle and Martin winds up a low-end regular. More realistically, he finishes a glove-first utility player who can spot-start all over the infield. He’s the type of Rule 5 player that can actually stick on a Major League roster for a full season.
(#14) Zach Pop, RHP
Pop has displayed big raw stuff since his college days at Kentucky, though consistency outing-to-outing wasn’t always there. He has put the pieces together as a pro and dominated across two levels in 2018, coming to the O’s in the Manny Machado trade. His fastball reaches the high-90s with extremely heavy life, powering past barrels and inducing tons of ground ball contact. Pop’s mid-80s slider is at least an average pitch, if not a tick better, and should be enough to pair with his sinker. We’re bullish on his ceiling and proximity, seeing Pop as the best relief-only prospect in the system entering 2019. He could surface in Baltimore soon as a setup man and ground ball specialist.
Hunter Harvey, RHP
2018 was the same old story with Harvey, who flashed intriguing stuff but missed considerable time with injuries. It’s time for him to transition to the ‘pen, where there’s a better chance Baltimore can maximize his value without worrying about durability over longer outings. Lots of pitching has entered this system since the Orioles took Harvey 22nd overall in 2013, and while he has been passed by other arms in the system, his two-pitch mix still has some upside in relief. Harvey’s fastball was touching 96 mph with a hard curveball before he was shut down with elbow discomfort in June.
DJ Stewart, OF
Ceiling: 45 Risk: High ETA: 2018 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 230 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 4m
Stewart followed up an encouraging 2017 in Double-A with a mediocre season this year with Norfolk. He reached Baltimore in September and hit for some power across a small cup of coffee, showing improved defensive ability moving between corner outfield spots. The team’s first-rounder in 2015, we see him finishing closer to a part-time starter with corner versatility than a true everyday type. The O’s have been good about maximizing value from this type of player, and the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards won’t hurt, either.
Branden Kline, RHP
A hometown product from Frederick, MD, Kline jumped back on the prospect map after missing numerous seasons with injury. He rocketed through the system and was closing games for Triple-A Norfolk by season’s end, added to the 40-Man Roster in October. His fastball touches 98-to-99 mph at best and sits comfortably in the high-90s, able to beat hitters up in the zone with lively late ride. After missing the last two years, Kline’s slider came back slowly but was playing like an above-average pitch by the end of the year. Kline has the stuff to pitch late innings and is likely to reach Baltimore early in 2019.
Cody Carroll, RHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Moderate ETA: 2018 Role Description: Middle Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 215 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: MLB Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 5m
Acquired from the Yankees in the Zach Britton deal last summer, Carroll struggled with his control in a brief Major League stint. Presuming he can get that under control, he has the stuff to fit a middle relief role and could factor into Baltimore’s bullpen mix next season. His fastball touches the high-90s and averaged an impressive 96 mph over 15 big league appearances. Carroll’s slider is an average pitch that should keep hitters off the fastball.
Drew Jackson, SS/UTIL
Jackson played in the Dodgers system last year, acquired by the Orioles during the Rule 5 Draft in a draft-and-swap move with the Phillies. Philadelphia technically selected Jackson in the Major League Phase, sending him to Baltimore shortly thereafter for future considerations. The athletic middle infielder is coming off his best season as a professional, having slashed .251/.356/.447 in the Texas League. His improvements at the plate centered around an increased focus on lift and power, as Jackson’s home run totals spiked accordingly with a jump in aerial contact. He has the speed to steal bases and is athletic enough to move around the field, able to occasionally fill in around the outfield while shuttling mostly between 2B and SS. There are plenty of spots on Baltimore’s roster, so Jackson has a good chance to stick as a Rule 5 player with defensive versatility that plays in a bench role.
Steve Wilkerson, 2B/3B
Wilkerson got a brief cup of coffee at the end of last season with the O’s. He’s 27, so while not quite prospect aged, he’s also ready to contribute right away. Wilkerson is a plus athlete who plays a good 2B, able to shift across the infield to 3B when needed. A switch hitter, his swing is geared towards line drives and handles fastballs better than soft stuff. He profiles as a bench player and could crack the big league roster in that capacity next year.
Rylan Bannon, 2B
Bannon had a huge start to his first full pro season last year in the Cal League, slashing .296/.402/.559 before winding up a supplementary piece of the Manny Machado deal. The hitter-friendly environment certainly helped Bannon’s lift-happy contact profile, and while he struggled in Double-A in the O’s system after the trade, it was impressive he was even there as a 2017 draftee. Bannon is a smaller player who hits with a slugger’s approach, generating lots of aerial contact and drawing walks with a long, pull-happy swing that has numerous holes. He can put a charge into the ball for a hitter his size, but there’s still some effort and sell-out required for him to get to the power in games. It’s an interesting offensive profile considering his defensive ability, as Bannon plays a solid 2B and can shift over to 3B in a pinch. We’re conservatively projecting him as a potential bench player, though Bannon has some overachiever traits.
Alex Wells, LHP
A 2018 Futures Game selection for the World Team, the Australian lefty posted absurd walk numbers in 2017 and was named the organization’s Pitcher of the Year. He was hit harder last season in High-A, exposing what grades as below-average stuff across the board—albeit with 60-grade control. Wells has excellent feel and knows how to get outs, but his stuff is just too short to realistically fit a true back-rotation profile. Double-A is always a good test for this type of prospect, and Wells is on pace to start 2019 in the Eastern League. He profiles as a longman or mopup option at the big league level.
Chris Lee, LHP
Lee spent time on Baltimore’s 40-Man Roster but never made an appearance for the Major League club. He made it through waivers and was outrighted in July, heading to Fall League after missing most of last season with injuries. Lee has shown flashes of impressive stuff, touching 96-to-97 mph with his fastball backed up by a hard cutter he uses as a #2 pitch. His smaller frame and injury history lend themselves to a ‘pen role, and he’ll be competing for a role there this spring as a non-roster invitee.
Evan Phillips, RHP
Phillips had recently made his big league debut for the Braves before being included in the Braves’ package to Baltimore for Kevin Gausman. He struggled with control in a short Major League sample but was able to limit walks much better at Triple-A earlier in the year. Phillips’ low-90s fastball touches 94-to-95 mph at best and is backed up by a workable slider and changeup. No pitch grades as plus, but being able to throw three for strikes while being able to face both righties and lefties makes him a palatable middle relief option. He could be in the O’s bullpen mix in 2019.
Martin Cervenka, C
Cervenka spent the early parts of his career in the Cleveland organization, qualifying for Minor League free agency after 2017. He signed with the Giants but was drafted in the Minor League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft that year by the Orioles. Cervenka had his best season as a pro last year in Double-A, hitting 15 home runs and playing solid defense behind the plate. He’s an average defensive catcher with some raw power, potentially fitting as a backup if one aspect of the profile is enough to carve out a big league role.
Brett Cumberland, C
Ceiling: 40 Risk: High ETA: 2020 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 205 lbs. B/T: S/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 9m
Cumberland looks the part of a bat-first back-up catcher with adequate actions behind the plate but not quite enough defensive chops or catch-and-throw ability to warrant full time duty. Offensively, the Cal Berkley product will flash solid raw pop and could reach low double-digit home run totals at maturity if he can find his way into the lineup often enough to nab 350-400 plate appearances. Cumberland also shows some feel for the zone and on-base ability that should stick with him so long as the extra-base threat is there with the stick, but strike out totals are likely to remain high, as well, given the limited pitch plane overlap generally found in his swing in large part due to his propensity to try and lift and pull the ball.
Luis Gonzalez, LHP
Ceiling: 40 Risk: High ETA: 2019 Role Description: Situational Relief
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 170 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 27y, 2m
The 26-year-old reliever was initially signed by the Phillies, who released him just before the 2013 season. He signed with the Orioles soon after and has climbed through the system slowly, going from prospect afterthought to a potential bullpen piece over the past few seasons. The southpaw touches 94-to-95 mph with his fastball, mixing a cutter/slider hybrid and changeup. There’s a chance he’s really a 4A guy, but the rebuilding Orioles have the flexibility to give Gonzalez a chance in a low-leverage role. His left-handed velocity could fit as a situational type who faces mostly same-side batters.
Preston Palmeiro, 2B
Palmeiro hit in the middle of Frederick’s lineup all year, quietly putting together a solid .251/.309/.401 line with 17 homers. He’s learning 2B to add versatility and handled same-side pitching much better than earlier in his career. The ceiling is a bench bat and offensive-minded reserve infielder, though Palmeiro could wind up a 4A type if no one tool impacts the game enough for a full-time. We like his sweet left-handed stroke and burgeoning plate discipline.
Bruce Zimmermann, LHP
Zimmermann was a money-saving fifth-rounder by Atlanta in 2017, traded to Baltimore in the deal that sent Kevin Gausman to the Braves. Zimmermann’s polish and control allowed him to zip through the low-minors, but he’s the type of pitching prospect who generally hits a ceiling against more advanced competition. The lefty pounds the zone with a four-pitch mix, sitting in the high-80s with his fastball and topping out at 91 mph. His slider and changeup are fringy (but usable) offerings, and he’ll mix a lollipop curve at times for another look. Zimmermann could wind up a high-minors depth starter, but the pitchability and guile give him a chance at a long relief role in the big leagues.
Marcos Molina, RHP
Molina was released by the Mets in July, and it was announced later he failed a PED test and was subject to suspension. He latched on with Baltimore and threw well during Instructional League, showing a 92-to-95 mph fastball and mid-80s slider that looked capable of filling a middle relief role. Molina will only be 24 this season and was once a promising pitching prospect in the Mets’ system. It’s a bit of a long shot, but the O’s could get some value from this reclamation project.
(#5) Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
Ceiling: 55 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Above-Average Starter (#3 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 220 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 4m
Video | Spotlight #1 | Spotlight #2
Baltimore went the prep arm route in the first round for the second straight draft, surprising some by popping Rodriguez 11th overall in 2018. (#3) DL Hall has turned out to be a great pick so far, and the way Rodriguez threw after signing, he could be on a similar developmental trajectory. A physical 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, his fastball was touching 97 mph in the GCL and sitting comfortably at 92-to-94 mph. Rodriguez’ curveball was a loopy mid-70s bender in high school but tightened into a harder, sharper pitch with just a few months of pro coaching. He’s strong enough to spin a true mid-80s slider that’s distinct from his curve, something not many pitchers this age can do. Rodriguez was working on his changeup during Instructional League, and though it’s his least refined offering, the athleticism and arm-speed are here to develop it further. Rodriguez has the ingredients of a power mid-rotation starter, and we’re excited to see what he does in full-season ball next year.
(#10) Blaine Knight, RHP
Ceiling: 50 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2021 Role Description: League Average Starter (#4/#5 SP)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 9m
The Orioles drafted Knight in the third round last year as he was leading Arkansas to a College World Series run. He reported to Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League, pitching sparsely after signing due to his heavy college workload. Knight has the upside of a legitimate rotation piece, showing three usable pitches and a fastball that tops out in the 95-to-96 mph. He’ll need to prove that an extra-lean body can hold his stuff pitching every fifth day at the pro level. Baltimore has quietly amassed a strong group of pitching prospects in the last three drafts, and that group will get a huge boost if Knight establishes himself as one of the top arms in the system.
(#15) Brenan Hanifee, RHP
Hanifee is an excellent athlete for his size, able to repeat a simple delivery and pound the zone. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and starred on the basketball court as well as the mound. The 20-year-old made 23 starts in the South Atlantic League last year, walking less than five-percent of batters and getting contact outs. His fastball works in the low-90s and could add a tick as he finishes filling out his 6-foot-5 frame. He throws a slider in the 84-to-87 mph range with short action, more of a complementary pitch than a weapon. Hanifee’s strikethrowing ability with those two pitches lead to him having a strong year in the South Atlantic League, but he will need to mix his mid-80s changeup more to add depth to his arsenal. There are a lot of things to like here, and Hanifee is a breakout candidate that could jump up the top 15 if he comes out throwing harder and missing more bats next season.
Robert Neustrom, OF
Neustrom boasts good size and strength with an ability to impact the game both at the plate and on an outfield corner. The former Hawkeye shows plus raw power from the left side which should play to at least average in-game pop, and there is room for the young outfielder to push that projection out some as he continues to mature physically and tighten his approach. Neustrom can get a little overly aggressive in the box, at times drawing contact on sub-optimal pitches, but he shows some feel for putting together at bats and making adjustments — an area he could continue to improve upon in a pro development system. He moves well enough to cover good amounts of grass on the outfield corner and has enough arm to handle right field, though left is probably the cleaner fit.
Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B
Acquired from Atlanta in the deal that sent Kevin Gausman to the Braves, Encarnacion is one of the few risk/reward position prospects in this system. Years of neglecting the international market left Baltimore’s farm thin on players with this type of skill set, so Encarnacion was an especially welcome addition in that way. He’s an athletic 6-foot-3 with plus raw power, though it’s a raw hit tool with limited present feel or approach. Defensively, his hands and footwork can be stiff at times, but Encarnacion has the mobility and strong arm to potentially stick at 3B despite being on the larger end for the position. There’s a big gap between his ceiling and floor: the raw tools are here to develop into a low-end regular or part-time power bat, but Encarnacion won’t be much without shortening his swing and learning to control the zone.
Adam Hall, SS
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2022 Role Description: Role Player
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: SS-A Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 10m
The 60th overall pick in 2017, Hall stayed back in Extended Spring Training last year before heading to the New York-Penn League. His bat looked much more pro-ready than the summer prior, not uncommon for cold-weather high school hitters once they get a baseline amount of pro reps. Hall slashed .293/.368/.374 with Aberdeen, putting his double-plus wheels to use by going 22 for 27 in stolen base attempts. Hall might have the tools to stick at SS, as his arm has improved since signing. He still needs to get stronger to have more impact at the plate, but there’s still time to project on the bat given his age and cold-weather draft status. Hall requires projection, but the tools are here for a speedy center-diamond role player or low-end regular. His speed grades as a 70 or 80 tool, and that alone could make up for certain deficiencies in his game even if Hall doesn’t ever hit for much power.
Cadyn Grenier, SS
he O’s selected Grenier with the 37th overall pick in this year’s draft, then challenged him with an assignment straight to Class A Delmarva. Grenier struggled in the South Atlantic League just a few weeks removed from winning a College World Series. A polished defender at shortstop, Grenier will need to prove he can hit enough to fit a consequential big league profile. He’s known for his glove and will stay at the position, but there’s reason to question how much impact he will have at the plate. It’s too early to shut the door on Grenier’s offensive upside, though we’re more confident his ceiling is closer to defensive specialist than regular option at this point.
Jean Carmona, SS
Carmona was part of the Brewers’ return for Jonathan Schoop last year, moving to the New York-Penn League from Milwaukee’s Pioneer League affiliate. He’s an athletic middle infielder with good strength for his size, something that gives hope there’s a chance for some pop and offensive impact paired with defensive versatility. Carmona can play SS, 3B, or 2B, showing a 55-grade arm that plays down right now due to sloppy footwork and throwing accuracy. He’s likely to outgrow shortstop but has the defensive tools and power potential to remain on the left side of the infield. Carmona struggled at the plate last year but was just 18-years-old, still showing intriguing batspeed from both sides of the plate.
Matthias Dietz, RHP
Dietz repeated the South Atlantic League in 2018 and was named a league all-star at mid-season before moving to High-A. His control totally went off the rails at Frederick, and Dietz finished the year pitching from the ‘pen. His power two-pitch mix profiles better in relief anyway, though the O’s could opt to return him to a starting role for the time being to develop his pitchability. Dietz gave a flash of what his stuff might look like in one-inning stints during the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, working in the high-90s with heavy sink and a sharp power slider. How much his control bounces back will be something to follow in 2019.
Michael Baumann, RHP
Baumann worked in the mid-90s early in the year, the grind of starting every fifth day took its tool in his first full pro season. His fastball was sitting in the low-90s by August, missing fewer bats upon a promotion to High-A Frederick. He showed a hard slider in college but threw the pitch less last year, working on developing a fringy curveball change. Baumann might wind up having more value in the ‘pen, allowing his stuff to tick back up.
Drew Rom, LHP
Ceiling: 45 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Swingman
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 170 lbs. B/T: L/L Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 19y, 3m
A former Michigan commit and favorite of a number of Midwest evaluators, Rom elected to forgo college and sign with Baltimore last summer after being selected in the fourth round of the MLB First Year Player Draft. After seeing a nice progression in velocity over the course of the calendar year leading up to last June’s draft, Rom so his velo slip some in pro ball before bouncing back in the fall. The southpaw generally works in the upper 80s into the low 90s with an easy arm and plenty of room to project a few more ticks as he continues to mature. His best secondary is a quality two-plane hard curve (some categorize it as a deep slider) with plus potential and he also flashes advanced feel for a low-80s changeup with good arm-side fade. Rom is a developmental pick, but one with good upside and a lot of encouraging indicators from pitch potential to command profile. Once he adds enough strength to shoulder a starter’s workload in pro ball he could move quickly.
Ofelky Peralta, RHP
Peralta was one of the only significant Latin American signings the O’s have made in recent years, agreeing to a $350K bonus in 2013. His raw stuff has always been among the most interesting in the system, though Peralta has been slowed by injuries with consistently horrible control numbers throughout his career. Peralta’s fastball touches the high-90s and sits comfortably at 94-to-95 mph. His curveball flashes depth but is inconsistent due to a lengthy arm action. This is a lottery ticket more than a safe-bet big league prospect, but Peralta’s 6-foot-5 frame and velocity merit a mention on this list. He’s still young and could see his stuff play up with a move to the ‘pen.
Lamar Sparks, OF
Ceiling: 40 Risk: Extreme ETA: 2023 Role Description: Bench Player
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: R Age (as of April 1, 2019): 20y, 6m
Sparks was Baltimore’s fifth-rounder in 2017 from a Texas high school. A plus athlete who at the time was considered a development project who needed to get stronger, he played in the GCL after signing and reported to Instructional League after his pro debut. Sparks tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder and didn’t play last year. He’s tooled up but needs a lot of reps and has already missed some early development time. Sparks’ speed and defensive ability in CF lay the groundwork of at least a potential bench player.
Seamus Curran, 1B
Curran was the team’s eighth-rounder in 2015 from the Northeast prep ranks. His development has been slow, but he’s also missed time with injuries and is from a demographic prone to being on a longer development curve. There’s huge raw power in Curran’s 6-foot-6 frame, able to put towering fly balls out to any part of the park in BP. He’s raw at the plate and prone to chasing off-speed outside the zone—a 30-percent strikeout rate underlines how far his hit tool has to go for the power to fully play. Even with the swing/miss issues, he still was able to hit 13 home runs in just 85 South Atlantic League games in 2018. Curran is limited to 1B but is coordinated for his size, able to play the position competently. The raw power makes him interesting, but he’s more of a lottery ticket than actual prospect at this point.
Gray Fenter, RHP
Baltmore’s seventh-rounder in 2015 from an Arkansas high school, Fenter missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The missed reps have caused him to be a bit older than his competition since, as Fenter spent last year between Class A Delmarva and the New York-Penn League. His fastball peaks at 95 mph and might scrape higher in a relief role. A high-70s curve flashes tight rotation and sharp bite, easily grading as his best secondary pitch and a potential big league breaking ball. Limited control and third pitch likely will cause Fenter to wind up in the ‘pen, where he has the raw ingredients for a middle relief profile if he takes to the new role.