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Baltimore Orioles

Original Published Date: November 29, 2016

oriolesBefore I started writing the Orioles system I thought I was going to hate it.  Maybe it just because of the unfortunate situation with Hunter Harvey and oh yeah, I own him in every Dynasty League.  But the more I researched, the better I liked the system.  I’m not saying it’s as strong as the Braves or Brewers system, and I’m also not saying it’s even a Top 15 system, but it’s not at the level of the Angels system…not even close.

At the top of the list is Chance Sisco, a kid I’ve liked for a while.  He can really hit and if the power can develop, he has a chance (sorry, that was too easy) to be a Top 10 offensive catcher in the league.  Cody Sedlock, the Orioles top pick last summer is the top pitching prospect in the system.  In fact, the Orioles did well in the draft after losing their first round pick to sign Yvonni Gallardo, a move I just didn’t understand.  Not only did they get Sedlock, they also got Matthias Dietz, a junior college arm with really good stuff, outfielder Austin Hays who has sneaky skills and Keegan Akin, a wide-bodied pitcher that throws hard.  None of them are likely to be a star, but all of them have a chance to see Baltimore.

Trey Mancini had quite a major league debut, hitting three home runs in his first 14 at-bats.  His blocked but he can really hit so I think he finds playing time somewhere in the big leagues.

Finally there is Hunter Harvey.  His injury situation is just sad.  There is so much talent there but he just has not been able to stay healthy.  I honestly don’t know if he ever will but he still makes the list as the potential is still there, or maybe I’m just hoping…

Chance Sisco (C)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 catcher

Chance Sisco moves up to the number one prospect on the Orioles Top 10 list as a result of his strong year across Double and Triple-A.  We are still waiting for the power to emerge, but one thing is for sure, Sisco can hit.

In 111 games in the Eastern League, he hit .319 with a .405 on-base percentage.  Most impressively, it came with a 17% strikeout rate and an 11% walk rate.  In fact, it was similar to the past two years where he posted nearly a .400 OBP in both Low and High-A.  As I stated above, it’s clear that Sisco can hit, but the power we’ve been waiting on just hasn’t materialized.  One statistical anomaly is he played four games in Triple-A to close out the season and hit two home runs.  As a fantasy owner, I want this to be a meaningful stat, but my Data Science side knows that the sample size is tiny and I have to ignore it.

Scouting Report:  I have scouted Sisco multiple times over the years and each time, I’ve come away impressed.  He’s got a really live bat with premium bat speed and a nice smooth lefty swing.  His load is very quiet and then he explodes through the zone.  The swing is currently very level, but I think he’ll add some loft with back spin and develop at least average future power.  He’s a below average runner so stolen bases are not going to be part of the equation.

Defensively is where the challenges continue for Sisco.  The good news is that he is improving and while I don’t see a Johnny Bench or Matt Weiters in the making, it could be enough to make him a regular for the next few years.  If he’s not a catcher, then where does he play?  I think he could play first, perhaps even right field, but you want power out of those positions, and I think his power levels out at 12 to 15.  The Orioles want him to stay at catcher and I think that’s where he plays and they deal with the degraded defense.

Fantasy Impact:  Assuming Sisco remains catcher eligible, he could be an impact asset in a fantasy league.  The ceiling is a .280/.350/.420 slash line with 12 to 15 home runs.  While he’ll still be a useful player as an outfielder, ala a Nick Markakis-type player, the impact drops considerably.  While there is risk, there’s enough upside that I’m taking Sisco in a Dynasty League draft and hoping he stays behind the plate.

Cody Sedlock (RHP)

Highest Level: Short-season, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Reliever

The Orioles dipped into the college ranks to select Cody Sedlock from the University of Illinois as their first round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.  He started off in the bullpen in his freshman and sophomore season before moving to the rotation in 2016.  He pitched well in college, posting a 2.49 ERA in 14 starts, striking out over 10 per nine while walking only 31 in 101.1 innings.  He was pitched hard in college and there was a lot of discussion about that leading up to the draft.  He had multiple games where he pitched well over 100 pitches and a well documented 132 pitch, 10.2 inning outing on April 22nd against Ohio State.  Not only did this anger some evaluators, it probably hurt Sedlock’s draft stock and allowed the Orioles to grab him with pick 27.

What I find fascinating is that the Orioles took the gamble.  They have rejected free agents in the past because of questionable physicals and two of their prized top draft picks, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey have had arm troubles.  I guess they believed the value was well over the risk of acquisition and took the plunge.  As the old saying goes…so far, so good.

In nine starts at Aberdeen (three innings a piece), Sedlock pitched well.  He posted a 3.00 ERA, striking out 25 and walking 13.  The walks were a little high, but the sample size is small, so I’m not too worried about it.

Scouting Report: Sedlock has a solid arsenal with a heavy fastball that sits 90 to 93 MPH and a slider that might be his best pitch.  He didn’t throw his change-up much this season, so I don’t’ have a lot to report there.  His pitching mechanics need some work.  The delivery starts out fine, but he finishes with a very arm-oriented release.  He also doesn’t get a ton of extension in his release.  I would like to see the Orioles smooth out the delivery and increase the stride.  If they can, I think it will not only give him a chance for increased velocity, but will also help him to stay healthy.

Fantasy Impact: If it all comes together, he could be a Top 50 starting pitcher for your fantasy team.  Given his workload in college and his less than ideal mechanics, I think the risk of injury is high (of course, you can say that about any pitcher).  I would target Sedlock in the third or fourth round of a Dynasty rookie league draft and for leagues that have 200 or more minor leaguers.

Trey Mancini (1B)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B but is blocked

What a memorable year Trey Mancini had.  Not only did he make his big league debut, but he made it look easy.  In 14 at-bats, he homered three times while posting a 1.33 OPS.  The best part is he helped the Orioles clinch a wildcard berth.  Sure, he played most of the season in Triple-A and played well, posting a .770 OPS, but you think that’s what he’ll tell his grandchildren about his 2016 season?  Yeah, I wouldn’t either…

Scouting Report:  Mancini’s best tool is his ability to hit.  He makes very good contact at the plate with excellent hand-eye coordination and a nose for barreling the ball.  He has natural raw strength but does not sell out for the power.  However, the power is starting to emerge as is evident by his back-to-back 20 home run seasons.

His game took a significant step up when he changed his batting stance after working with Oriole great, Brady Anderson last season.  Anderson got Mancini more upright and that unlocked his ability to stay on the ball and what will eventually allow him to hit for power.

Mancini, can get aggressive at the plate and needs to continue to stay within himself and work counts.  He’s a below average runner, so stolen bases will not be a big part of his game.

The biggest concern for Mancini is where he will play.  With the Orioles signing Chris Davis to a long-term contract, he’s blocked in Baltimore.  He could slide over to DH but it’s rare that young players take that position.

Fantasy Impact:  While first base only prospects get very little love in National prospect rankings, we care very much about them in our fantasy game.  Mancini could be a 20 to 25 home run threat with a .270 plus batting average hitting in the middle of a lineup.  There’s a lot to like here from a fantasy standpoint but he’s blocked.  Do you roster him and hope for a trade or a Chris Davis injury?  If you can, I think you do.

Jomar Reyes (3B)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B

It’s easy to get down on Jomar Reyes.  He posted a .607 OPS in High-A, hitting .228 with an ugly 5% walk rate.  Yuck…what’s to like?  In fact, why is he even rated on this list?  I get it but he has big time raw power that just hasn’t yet translated and he played the entire season as a 19-year-old, making him the second youngest player in the league after Rafael Devers.

The Orioles recognize this and will likely start him back in High-A to begin next season.  They are working with him on making better contact, looking for his pitches to drive and being more patient.  You just have to walk more than once a week if you expect to make it beyond Double-A.

Scouting Report:  Reyes carrying tool is plus raw power that has yet to emerge in games.   However, his size, strength, and swing mechanics point to plus future power potential.  However, there is concern that he will hit enough to get to it.  Pitch recognition and plate patience are at the top of his development plan and the Orioles continue to work with him on it.  Will he ever get there?  I don’t know as the approach is really bad and I do worry on how much the Orioles can correct his lack of pitch recognition.

Defensively, many observers believe that Reyes will outgrow third base.  He’s already listed at 220 pounds and is still a teenager.  If he is forced to move to first, it will put even more pressure on his fledgling hit tool.

Fantasy Impact:  If you want to own Reyes you have to believe he’ll make the necessary adjustments to his approach to get to his power.  I’m still not sold he will.  That said, he’s young and has a lot of time ahead of him.  I’d only roster him in Dynasty Leagues that have 350 or more minor leaguers.

Ryan Mountcastle (SS)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder

The Orioles drafted Ryan Mountcastle in the Supplemental First round of the 2015 MLB Draft.  He had a solid season as a 19-year-old in the Sally League where he slashed .279/.317/.424.  He also added 10 home runs and five stolen bases.  The Orioles brass were very happy with his development and believe more power will emerge.  He should begin the 2017 season in Frederick of the Carolina League.

Scouting Report:  Mountcastle has a chance to be an above-average offensive player.  He has plus bat speed, great hand-eye coordination and the ability to square up a baseball.  His approach needs work as he swings at everything, but hopefully that will come with time.  He’s also an average runner and should be able to steal low double-digit stolen bases annually.

While he was drafted as a shortstop, most observers do not believe he will stay there.  The arm is weak and the footwork is sloppy.  Second base or leftfield seem to be a better fit.  If that happens, the bat will have to play in order for him to be an impact player at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  I’m not ready to pull the trigger yet on Mountcastle in most Dynasty League formats but I would be tempted in leagues that roster 300 or more minor leaguers.

Keegan Akin (LHP)

Highest Level: Short-season, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Number 7 starter or middle reliever

Based on an impressive junior year, the Orioles drafted Keegan Akin in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft.  In his junior year for Western Michigan, he pitched 109 innings, giving up only 22 earned runs while striking out nearly 11 per nine and walking 2.5 per nine.  In his first exposure to professional ball, he did his best to replicate his junior year, posting a 1.04 ERA in nine starts (three innings per start), striking out 10 per nine while walking 2.4 per nine.

Scouting Report:  In watching Keegan Akin, it’s hard not to close your eyes and see David Wells.  There is physical resemblance as well as similar deliveries.  That’s not to say that he will have a similar career but that the physical comps are there; at least for me.

Akin is primarily a fastball/change-up guy with a fastball that he can run up to 95 MPH but generally sits 91 to 93.  The change-up is his primary out pitch and it’s a least an above-average, if not better offering.  His breaking pitch is a slurve that doesn’t have a lot of bite.  He does throw strike and that helps his stuff to play up.

Fantasy Impact:  Akin is an intriguing prospect, mostly because he’s a lefty and throws hard.  He’s only 6-feet tall but that is covered up a little by pitching from the left-side.  Because he throws strikes he should move quickly through the system.  I think he stays a starter but the Orioles could move him to the pen to even further accelerate his development.

Austin Hays (OF)

Highest Level: Short-season, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF

I first heard of Austin Hays after he hit .301 in the Cape Cod league in the summer of 2015.  Then he had his breakout year at the University of Jacksonville last season, slugging .655 with 16 home runs while hitting .350.  The season earned him a second round pick by the Orioles and a tidy $655,000 signing bonus.

He had no trouble in his first exposure to professional ball, posting a .900 OPS with four home runs in 38 games.  He should start 2017 in Delmarva with a good chance to see Frederick in the second half.   That should put him on track to sniff the big leagues in late 2018 or 2019.

Scouting Report: There’s a lot to like with Hays.  He has bat speed, natural power and loft in his swing and enough foot speed to keep pitchers honest while on the base paths.  His swing can get long when he tries to muscle up on the ball, but should make enough contact to get to his above-average if not more power.  His feel for hitting should enable him to move quickly through the system with a 2018 or 2019 arrival to the big leagues.  The ceiling is an above-average outfielder with 20 home run potential and a .260-.270 batting average.

Fantasy Impact:  Austin Hays is a name to monitor for Dynasty Leagues.  He can hit, has 20 home run potential with a handful of stolen bases thrown-in.  That’s not a star but a chance to be a number five outfielder on your fantasy team with upside.

Matthias Dietz (RHP)

Highest Level: Short-season, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP

With their second pick in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the Orioles selected Matthias Dietz, a junior college kid out of John A. Hogan college in Illinois.  I had honestly never heard of the college until I started researching Dietz but he clearly helped put the college on the map by putting up video game numbers last season.  In 103 innings, he struck out 117 while walking 11 and posting a 1.23 ERA.

The sledding wasn’t quite as easy in his first taste of professional ball.  In seven starts, he struck out eight while walking 10 in 18.2 innings.  It was a small sample size and fatigue could have been an issue.

Scouting Report: Dietz has a promising combination of stuff and pitching mechanics that gives him a ceiling of a #3/#4 starter at the highest level.  His arsenal consists of a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH but can bump higher when he needs something extra.  His best secondary pitch is an 84 to 85 MPH slider that misses bat when he’s able to throw it for strikes.  He shows a feel for a change-up but it’s definitely his third pitch.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Dietz has excellent size that he uses well on the mound.  He pitches with a traditional three-quarters delivery with good plane.  The arm action is clean the delivery is simple.

Fantasy Impact:  I really like Dietz and believe he has a chance to be a Top 60 starter in fantasy.  While that might not be a star, he could be a serviceable starter with seven plus strikeouts per nine and average ratios.  Fantasy owners need to monitor his progress as that ceiling could improve as he goes through the development process.

D.J. Stewart (OF)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire OF unless the power shows

The Orioles drafted D.J. Stewart in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft after an excellent college career at Florida State.  He was an on-base guy in college and that has continued in his professional career.  The Orioles were hoping that he would develop power but that has yet to happen as he hit 10 in 121 games across Low and High-A this past season.

While he’s still a work-in-progress, with his ability to hit, he’ll be a major leaguer one day.  The question is will he be an impact player.  If he can develop 20 home run power, he has a chance.  Will he…read on…

Scouting Report:  Stewart is tough to get a good read-on.  He’s a polished hitter with good strike zone awareness but the swing continues to be a problem.  Last year we wrote about his batting stance and that Brady Anderson was working with him, as he had done with Trey Mancini, to get him more upright.  When I saw him in the AFL, he was more upright but the power was still not showing.

Defensively, Stewart profiles best in left field.  However, this will put even more pressure on his bat.

Fantasy Impact:  He’s still a hold for me in a Dynasty League.  I do like his ability to hit but until he develops more power, I think he’s an extra bat at the big league level and waiver wire fodder in fantasy leagues.

Hunter Harvey (RHP)

Highest Level: Short-season, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Unknown

Hunter Harvey…sigh.  I’m not sure what to say.  The kid is full of talent but he didn’t pitch at all in 2015 and pitched 12.2 innings in 2016 before being shutdown to have the inevitable Tommy John surgery that his elbow woes hinted at three years ago.  It’s easy to play arm-chair quarterback and say that TJS was the right move in late 2014, or at least 2015, but it’s Harvey’s body and having TJ Surgery is still a major event with less than 100% cure rates.  It just stinks.  It’s bad for Harvey, it’s bad for the Orioles…it just stinks.

What does the future hold?  I don’t know.  He didn’t have surgery until late in the season, so he’ll likely miss the entire 2017 season.  Once back, the Orioles could move him to the bullpen to try and extract some value quickly.  After all, they thought he was close at the beginning of 2015, even though he had only pitched in Low-A.   Still, the earliest we will see him in Baltimore is 2018, but 2019 is more probable.  He’ll still only be 24-years-old and as Dylan Bundy showed, if you have a good arm, you can still make it.

Here’s our Scouting Report as published in 2015.  I have altered only the first sentence.

Scouting Report:  Assuming Harvey returns to full-health (a big if), he has top-of-the-rotation potential. The arsenal is high quality with a fastball that sits 92 to 93 MPH with a lot of arm-side run. The pitch is a serious swing and miss offering because of the movement and his ability to command it. While it’s possible that he could add some velocity as he continues to fill out, it’s a plus pitch already.

His secondary pitches are also very good with a hard curve that sits 78 to 80 MPH and a change-up that he throws 82 to 84 MPH. Both pitches have future plus potential with the curve ball possibly being very special.  The pitching mechanics are very clean with nice arm action. He does throw across his body and that adds some deception to his delivery.

Fantasy Impact:  I own Harvey in all four of my Dynasty Leagues so his injury is very personal for my fantasy teams.  While I’m still debating, I think I will be moving-on.  It’s painful because I think we could be looking at another Dylan Bundy type of return.  But, it’s hard to wait for that as it’s at least two years away.  Like I said…Hunter Harvey…sigh.

2017 Emerging Prospect

Alex Wells (LHP)

I honestly didn’t know who to put in this category for the Orioles.  Many times I like to put young Latin players in this section, but the organization has not been strong in the J2 international market, preferring to focus on older Cuban and Asian players as their big international signees.  So, let’s go to another non-traditional region in Australia for our emerging prospect in Alex Wells.  Signed in 2015, Wells pitched very well in the NY Penn League as a teenager, posting a 2.15 ERA with a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts.  He doesn’t throw particularly hard with his fastball maxing out at 90 to 91 MPH but at 190 pounds, there is some physical projectabiliy remaining, so there could be some upside in his velocity.

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