Baltimore Orioles

Original Published Date: November 28, 2017

The Orioles system is not super deep but there are some interesting prospects at the top of the list including Austin Hays.  He really broke out last season and made it all the way to the big leagues.  He’s got some pop, a little bit of speed and makes enough contact that he could hit .260.  Chance Sisco also made his way to the big leagues after a fine season.  I’m still not convinced how much power he will ultimately have, but I think he’ll hit enough to be a starter.

The best pitcher in the Orioles system is Hunter Harvey, even though I ranked 2017 first round pick, D.L Hall ahead of him.  The problem of course with Harvey is that he’s missed so much time due to arm injuries, I have to discount him on this list.  But, if he can come back, even to 80% of his former self, he could be a solid number two or three starting pitcher.

The Orioles continue to be competitive and I still don’t really know how they do it.  Their starting pitching is below average but they can really hit and have a great bullpen.  There is help on the farm system, but in my opinion, not enough to put them over the top consistently.

Austin Hays (OF)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF

At the end of the first week of the season, Austin Hays was batting .406 for the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League.  We thought it was just a hot start to the season.  Well, he kept on hitting with a slash line of .324/.361/.588 and by mid-June earned a promotion to Double-A.  After two months in Double-A and nearly an identical stat line, the Orioles decided to promote him to the big leagues.

It was indeed a great season for the 22-year-old outfielder with 32 home runs and a .327 batting average.  Granted it came with nearly a .340 BABIP, but Austin Hays is a big leaguer and it’s well deserved.

Scouting Report:  So is Hays’ season for real?  He has good bat speed and plus raw power, so I’m not surprised at the home run production.  I don’t think he’s a 30 home run bat, but more 20 to 25.  However, he will play half his games in Baltimore, so he could have some seasons where he pops 30.

What he’s not, is a .300 hitter.  He makes good contact but he’s very aggressive at the plate as his 4.5% walk rate demonstrated.  His swing though is short to the ball, so I do think a .260 to .270 batting average should be a reasonable baseline.

If you add it all up, the skills and statistical profile suggest a ceiling of a .270 hitter with 25 home runs and handful of stolen bases.  He’ll never be an on base percentage guy and could run into stretches of low BABIP that will put pressure on his batting average, but that’s the profile of a major league regular.

Fantasy Impact: Hays should be owned in all Dynasty League formats.  He’s a Top 100 prospect and should see playing time back in Baltimore next season.  Don’t be surprised if you see a correction in his batting average.  In fact, it’s likely as he’s more of a .260 to .270 batting average guy.  However, with a ceiling of 25 home runs, fantasy owners should be very pleased.

D.L. Hall (LHP)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP

With the 21st pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Orioles selected Dayton Layne Hall (D.L) out of Valdosta High School in south Georgia.  While Hall did have some exposure to superior competition during the summer circuit, primarily playing in south Georgia has it’s challenges.  The competition is just not there.  It was one of the marks against Byron Buxton when he was drafted in 2012.  Was his hit tool advanced enough to succeed?  It clearly wasn’t and he needed time to develop.  The same thing will likely be true for Hall.

The Orioles assigned Hall to the GCL where he didn’t pitch very effectively.  He showed plenty of swing and miss stuff but he also walked nearly a batter an inning.  I’m not too worried about the performance as it was in a very small sample size and he has the mechanics to pitch better than that.

Scouting Report:  At 6-feet tall, Hall doesn’t have the prototypical size that major league team are looking for when they look to invest $3 million.  However, he throws from the left side and has a good, lively fastball that he can bump up to the mid-90’s.  Plus, evaluators believe that as he puts on weight, he could see a tick or two increase on his velocity.

Hall does have a great curve ball and when he can throw it for strikes, it can be a real weapon.  His change-up needs a lot of work and will be one of the things the Orioles work on over the next couple of years.

He has an athletic delivery with solid mechanics.  He pitches from the third base side and therefore doesn’t throw across his body.  However, the Orioles have a tendency to move lefties to the first base side and righties to the third base side so that they can add a little deception into their delivery.  Unfortunately, this can also cause arm issues and the Orioles have a long history of this too.

Fantasy Impact:  Let’s face it, the Orioles have a bad history of developing pitchers.  The end results have been ok (see Zach Davies, Parker  Bridwell, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman) but guys get hurt a lot as well.  Plus, the Orioles give up on pitchers that then go on to pitch well in other organizations.  I’m sure both of these points can be disputed, but I knock down Orioles pitchers when I go into Dynasty League drafts.  Maybe I just got burned too badly by Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy and need to get over it.  But, until I see more success and in a timeframe that I like, I’m not drafting Orioles pitchers early in Dynasty Leagues.

Chance Sisco (C)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 Catcher

Chance Sisco has been our list for years and finally got the call to the big leagues in a September promotion.  It was another solid, yet unspectacular year for one of the top catching prospects in the game.

In 97 games in Triple-A, he hit .267, striking out 25.5% of the time and walking 8% of the time.  He slugged .395 with seven home runs.  His batting average though was propped up by an unsustainable .351 BABIP.  His offensive production was once again, kind of mediocre, but that’s how his offensive production has been every year.  He controls the strike zone well, despite his 25.5% strikeout rate this past season and will work a walk.  The problem is he has yet to develop power and based on his swing mechanics, I’m not sure he will.

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.

Fantasy Impact:  While Sisco will be a major league player, I just don’t know how good of a fantasy player he will be.  I guess he won’t hurt you because he’ll likely hit .260 to .270 with a .340 OBP.  But it could be void of fantasy goodness due to his lack of power and speed.  If he can hit 10 to 12 home runs, which I think is possible, he’s probably a starting catcher in most formats.  But, he’s not going to be an elite performer at the position.

Hunter Harvey (RHP)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP or Reliever

I remember seeing Hunter Harvey go up against Lucas Giolito back in 2014 when both were in Low-A.  Gilolito was great that night but Harvey was better.  After that evening though, things have just not gone well for the 6-foot-3 right-hander.

In 2015, he missed the entire season with elbow woes only to return in the following season and pitch 12.2 innings before needing Tommy John Surgery.  He’s finally back and things are once again looking up.  In limited action across three levels last season, he struck out 30 and only walked six in 18.2 innings.  Sure, it was in the GCL, New York Penn League, and Low-A, but at this juncture, any good news is well…good news.

Scouting Report:  I’ve long been a huge fan of Hunter Harvey and have remained steadfast, well mostly so, behind him through his injuries.  The stuff and pitchability are plus.  He has a plus fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH with a lot of natural run.  He throws a very good hard curve and shows a feel for a change-up.  While I haven’t seen him since he’s returned, I have heard from several sources who have indicated his stuff “look’s back”.  I’m sure there will be ups-and-downs but hopefully Harvey can get on a fast train to the majors.  In fact, he’s now 23-years-old and the Orioles will likely build up his innings to 75 to 90 next season across High and Double-A before a major league debut in 2019.  Of course, this assumes there are no injury setbacks or new injuries.

One thing that still nags me with Harvey though; and it’s his delivery.  As you will read in a number of my Orioles capsules, they like to position their right-handed pitchers to the third base side of the rubber and their lefties to the first base side.  The reason is you get a lot of deception as the ball naturally runs away from arm side batters.  However, throwing cross-body has been documented to put a lot of stress on the elbow and shoulder, which of course leads to injury.  So when I say, “no injury setbacks”, those are not throw away words.  I’m worried and will continue to be worried.

Fantasy Impact:  Fantasy owner’s best case scenario is a Dylan Bundy level return for Hunter Harvey.  He could arrive in 2019 in the bullpen for the Orioles before being moved to the starting rotation after building up his arm strength.  However, there’s a non-zero chance that the Orioles will simply move him quickly to the big leagues as a reliever to extract some value.

D.J. Stewart (OF)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF

D.J. Stewart was one of only seven minor league players to go 20/20 last season.  He did it while playing in Double-A, against very good competition.

I’ve seen Stewart play multiple times and would never guess he had 20 stolen base potential.  He’s just a big dude.  But, he’s stolen 20 bases now for two consecutive years; and has done it at a high success rate.  He does have pop and that pop showed in his 21 home runs.  When you put it all together, he posted an .859 OPS in 126 games and assuming he can do 80% of that next year in Triple-A, should see Baltimore in the second half.

Scouting Report:  We wrote last year that Stewart was working with Brady Anderson on his stance.  After being drafted, the Orioles wanted to get him more upright like they had done with Trey Mancini, which kind of worked out pretty well.  They wanted to unlock his power and it did.  I do believe he’s a legitimate 20 home run guy but I’m still not sold on the speed.  Can he steal 10 bases annually?  Yes, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

If you add it all up, he profiles as a full-time major league ready with upside given the hitting environment of Orioles Park.

Fantasy Impact:  Stewart needs to be owned in more leagues than he is.  I think he has a chance to be a 20/10 performer while hitting .270 with a high on-base percentage.  That could be a solid number three outfielder on your fantasy team.

Ryan Mountcastle (3B)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 3B

Drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Ryan Mountcastle had a nice start to the 2017 season.  He really raked in High-A, slashing .314/.343/.542 with 15 home runs.  He made great contact (16.1% strikeout rate) but swung at everything.  In 379 plate appearances, he walked a grand total of 14 times.  He was able to prop his batting average up due to a very high .343 BABIP.

In July, he was promoted to Double-A and found the going much tougher.  His BABIP corrected to .265 and he wound up hitting .222.  He struck out a little more (22%) and once again, walked very little; 3 times in 39 games.

Scouting Report:  So the statistical profile pretty much describes Mountcastle.  He can hit with a good understanding of the strike zone.  He has average pop which should translate to 15 to 20 home runs at the highest level.  However, his uber-aggressive approach will limit his offensive upside and limit his batting average and potentially give him a sub .300 on-base percentage.

While he was drafted as a shortstop, the Orioles moved him to third base which is likely where he will stay.  While the move will help him get to the big leagues, it also puts a lot of pressure on his bat.  Again, if he can develop a better approach, he could be an interesting player for the Orioles once Manny Machado moves on after next season.

Fantasy Impact:  Mountcastle should be owned in Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 minor league players.  There’s enough power to suggest 15 to 20 home runs annually but with pressure on his batting average.

Keegan Akin (LHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 70 SP

Keegan Akin had a solid season for the Frederick Keys in the Carolina season.  Taken in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the college signee pitched to a 4.14 ERA in 21 starts.  He showed a lot of swing and miss stuff, striking out 10 batter per inning.  However, he also showed poor control walking 4.1 batters 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.

Jomar Reyes (3B)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder

If you are a believer in Jomar Reyes, you see bat speed and plus raw power during batting practice that will eventually translate into in-game power.  If you are down on Reyes, you saw another down season, this time with considerable missed time due to a broken hand and four home runs in 50 games in Frederick.

For me, I’m getting a little frustrated.  I didn’t get a chance to see him last season but sat in on a series in 2016 and in fact, saw the plus raw power.  But, his very aggressive approach at the plate needs to be addressed or I don’t believe he’ll ever to get to his power.  I keep reminding myself that he only turns 20 in February, so he has time on his side.

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.  As mentioned, 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.

Alex Wells (LHP)

Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP

When I go to baseball-reference and sort by BB/9, there are two starting pitchers that are at the top of the list.  One is Shane Bieber of the Royals who walked 10 guys in 170 innings, which is crazy by the way; and the second is Orioles Australian left-hander, Alex Wells.  He also walked 10 guys but did it in 140 innings.  Which candidly, is also crazy.

Wells had a remarkable season.  In 25 starts, he posted a 2.38 ERA, striking out 7.2 per nine and again, walking 10 guys.  It wasn’t perfect though as he also gave up 16 home runs.  However, when you don’t walk anybody, you can limit the damage.

Scouting Report: If Wells threw in the mid-90’s, we’d be really excited.  In fact, if he threw in the low-90’s, we would be excited.  Wells fastball sits 87 to 89 and at 6-feet-1 and 190 pounds, projecting a velocity jump is not warranted.  In fact, his velocity will likely fall as he matures.  His height is also a problem and is a contributing factor to the number of home runs he gave up.  In fact, that number could go up dramatically as he moves through the system.

While I hate to generalize, it’s hard not to see a Tommy Milone profile in Wells.  They have similar stuff, control and physicality.  While fantasy owners might bristle at that comparison, Milone has a .555 winning percentage in the big leagues and has earned over $10 million.

Fantasy Impact:  I know the ratios are compelling but I think Wells is nothing more than a huge bet in a Dynasty League.  It was an impressive year, but the stuff and physicality give me pause and I see nothing more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.  That said, he could have some success, just as Tommy Milone has had.  But, if you’re looking for a mainstay on your fantasy team, you need to look elsewhere

Tanner Scott (LHP)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Closer

One of the most impressive performances I saw at the 2016 Arizona Fall League was from Tanner Scott.  He hit triple-digits on my radar gun multiple times and mixed in a 92 MPH slider that was unhittable; all from the left side.  The problem is Scott has no idea where his stuff is going.

In nearly 200 innings of professional ball, he has walked 145 batters.  However, he’s also struck out 251 while giving up only 141 hits.  It’s the profile of a potential closer, but the Orioles have something else in mind.  They appear to be developing him as a long reliever.  In his 24 games in Triple-A last season, all starts, he threw more than three innings just once; and that was for two-thirds of an inning more.  It didn’t matter if he gave up four runs or no-hit his competition, the Orioles took him out by the fourth inning.

Scouting Report:  Scott is a very intriguing arm.  He has an 80 grade fastball and probably a 70 slider but struggles to repeat his delivery.  Part of the problem is his drop-and-drive pitching style, which gives him extra power but also messes with his mechanics.  I’m sure the Orioles have tried to tweak them, but nothing seems to work.  However, arms like this don’t grow on trees, particularly from the left side, and with just 45-grade control, he could be quickly moved into high-leverage situations.

Fantasy Impact:  Scott is a name to know but until he can improve his control, he should be ignored in most Dynasty League formats.

2018 Emerging Prospect

Zac Lowther (LHP)

I had a chance to see Zac Lowther pitch this summer and came away impressed.  I guess I should have as he was a supplemental second round pick last season pitching in the New York Penn League, but he had good stuff and threw strikes.  It was just a crisp outing and he was in command.  He likely has the upside of a number four starter, but as a lefty who throws strikes, there might be some upside as well.

2 comments on “Baltimore Orioles

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