Baltimore Orioles

After years of a mediocre, if not a downright bad minor league system, the Orioles depth has improved greatly.  It helps when you draft number one overall but based on the changes the Orioles made to incorporate more analytics into the development process, several of their players took a big step forward.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still significant work left to do to improve their organization, but the Major League team looked better and there was talent in Bowie, the location of their Alternate Site last season.  I still see a rebuild of at least another three years, maybe longer, but I do like the start.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Adley Rutschman
  • Biggest Mover: Adam Hall
  • Emerging Prospect: Elio Prado

1. Adley Rutschman (C)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top three catcher
  • Tools Summary: Plus hit tool and power.  Elite catching skills.

Being selected 1:1 in a draft brings riches but also a ton of expectations for Adley Rutschman.  What are the riches?  $8.1 million.  What are the expectations?  Joe Mauer (when he was a catcher)/Buster Posey type of career.  Rutschman can hit with plus power and could put up a .280/.370/.550 slash line with 20 to 25 home runs.  Sure, his runs and RBIs will be muted a little because he won’t play in 150 games, but if he hits as much as I think he will, the Orioles will find a way to get him more at-bats and with that, the counting stats will increase.  Both his bat and catching skills are advanced but losing a year of game action likely pushed his timeframe back.  We could still see him in the back half of 2021 but more likely in 2022.

2. Ryan Mountcastle (1B/OF)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 1B
  • Tools Summary: Big power should yield 30+ home runs and improved plate patience, the total package could yield an All-Star game or two

For the last couple of years, I’ve not been enthusiastic about the ceiling of Ryan Mountcastle.  I saw the big raw power but believed his inability to control the strike zone would be his undoing at the highest level.  The Orioles saw this too and to their credit and his, Mountcastle worked hard to improve his approach.  The result: an impressive Major League debut where he slashed .333/.386/.492 with five home runs.  Sure, the .398 BABIP pushed his average and OBP by at least 75 points, but with a low-20s strikeout rate and a high single-digit walk rate, a .250/.330/.500 slash line is doable.  Provided he hits 30 home runs, which I think he can, that’s a full-time regular if not more.

3. DL Hall (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP
  • Tools Summary: Three potential plus pitches but control is currently well below average.  The athleticism is present with a better than average shot for the control to improve significantly.

Since being selected as the 21st player in the 2017 Draft, DL Hall has shown great stuff but with poor control.  In 185.1 innings in the minor leagues, he’s struck out over 11 per nine but has also walked five per nine. The arsenal starts with a plus fastball that sits 94 to 95 MPH but will touch higher with two above-average, if not plus secondary pitches in his curveball and change-up.  He’s also athletic and with the new leadership in Baltimore, I believe the ingredients are there for Hall to develop into a solid mid-rotation starter or even a number two starter. The performance is likely to still be uneven as he learns to control his arsenal but bet on the arm and the talent and trust the control will come.

4. Grayson Rodriguez (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Good size, plus fastball but secondary pitches need work as does his delivery

At 6-foot-5, Grayson Rodriguez has the size that teams are looking for in a starter.  He’s got a quality fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH, but as we saw in the 2019 Futures game, he can run it up to 96 when needed.  His breaking pitch is more of a slurve and his change-up needed a lot of work.  His control is inconsistent but through repetition, I think a mid-rotation ceiling is still in the cards.

5. Heston Kjerstad (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: His carrying tool is big raw power but with significant swing and miss risk

I understand the drafting philosophy of reducing your first round spend to save money for later in the draft.  Sometimes though, I just don’t like it.  The Orioles decided to pass over both Austin Martin and Asa Lacy to pick Heston Kjerstad in last June’s draft.  While I like Kjerstad, I think both Lacy and Martin have star potential and stars bring home championships. Kjerstad’s carrying tool is double-plus raw power that allowed him to 30 home runs across his Freshman and Sophomore year in Arkansas and six in 16 games in 2020.  But, it’s a long swing and there will likely be a lot of swing and miss.  He’s an average runner, so long-term, speed will not be part of the profile.  The upside is Jay Bruce who is a fine player.  I just would have preferred the higher upside talent.

6. Dean Kremer (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 50 SP
  • Tools Summary: He has the stuff to be a solid Major League pitcher with a number four starter profile or slightly more.

Dean Kremer made his Major League debut on September 6th, 2020 against the Yankees and didn’t look overmatched.  In six innings of work, he struck out seven, walked three, and pitched Baltimore to a victory.  The arsenal is sold with a fastball that averaged 92.8 MPH with above-average active spin and a curveball and cutter that missed plenty of bats.  The change-up still needs work but the arsenal is good enough to have success in the Major Leagues.  I don’t see a star, but instead, I see a solid number four, maybe a little more.

7. Yusniel Diaz (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Great bat speed with a chance for solid power with a handful of stolen bases.

Yusniel Diaz was the big return when the Orioles traded Manny Machado in July of 2018.  I’ve seen him play several times and he looks the part.  He’s athletic with great bat speed and is a good runner. He’s just never had that “drop mic” year where everything clicks. Yeah, I know, the Dodgers never trade a kid that they believe will turn into a star and that’s likely the case with Diaz.  However, I still believe his ceiling is a Top 45 outfielder in the game with 20 plus home runs and a handful of stolen bases. 

8. Gunnar Henderson (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B
  • Tools Summary: He has good size with a chance to hit and hit for power.  There will be some speed; at least early in his career.

The Orioles drafted Gunnar Henderson with the first pick in the second round in the 2019 Draft.  He’s an athletic switch hitter who played well in his introduction to professional ball.  He showed a decent approach by walking 9% of the time and struck out 23% of the time.  There is plenty of bat speed, so once he moves to third, the power should play.  The upside is a Major League regular who should hit, hit with power and a little speed early in his career.

9. Terrin Vavra (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: He has gotten off to a strong start to his career showing solid power, speed, and the ability to make contact.

The Orioles acquired Terrin Vavra from the Rockies in exchange for Mychal Givens.  As a bitter fantasy owner who has been waiting for Givens to become a Closer – good riddance.  To get Vavra as compensation – well done Orioles!  Vavra can hit with an advanced approach and feel for hitting.  He’s got good bat speed which leads to louder contact than you would think out of a kid his size.  While he’s stealing bases, he’s more of a 55 runner and not a burner.  Defensively, he’s playing short, but a move to second base could be in the cards.  The skills are intriguing and the reports on his makeup and work ethic are very strong.  If it all comes together, he could be a .280 hitter, .360 OBP with 20 home run upside and double-digit stolen base potential early in his career.

10. Jordan Westburg (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Aggressive supplemental first-round pick for a player with an average college resume

The Orioles selected Jordan Westburg in the supplemental first round of the 2019 MLB Draft.  He was a three-year starter at Mississippi State where he slashed .282/.381/.441 with eight home runs and six stolen bases in 105 games.   He also struck out 22% of the time.  That’s a solid stat line but far from one that gets you drafted on the first day.  The Orioles believe that Westburg has plus bat speed that will eventually translate into plus future power and that there is a chance he can stay at shortstop.  Maybe they are thinking that he can develop into a J.J. Hardy type of performer.  Since I’ve only seen Video of him, I’m a bit on the fence on his upside.

11. Hudson Haskin (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: A college eligible sophomore with some power and speed

As a draft-eligible sophomore, Hudson Haskin was drafted by the Orioles in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft.  He performed well in 56 games, slashing .372/.459/.647 with 10 home runs and four stolen bases.  In looking at his stat line, I got excited and decided to move to youtube to take a further look.  To be generous, it’s not a great swing.  He takes a large stride and then squats before whipping the bat through the zone.  It’s multi-part and very awkward.  He only struck out 11% of the time but I would suggest that the Orioles would have him reduce the stride and try to stay more upright in his swing. 

12. Michael Baumann (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or Reliever
  • Tools Summary: Big fastball but lack of a true out pitch puts the ceiling likely as a reliever

Taken in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Michael Baumann has been making steady progress through the minor leagues.  He has a plus fastball that can touch 97 to 98 MPH but he doesn’t have a true out pitch with his secondaries.  If the slider or change-up does not improve, a move to the bullpen could be in the cards.  A benefit of such a move could be that 98 MPH could turn into 100 and that should make his secondary pitches play up as hitters will have to start the bat that much sooner. 

13. Adam Hall (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Alternate Site ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Double-plus speed but with utility ceiling risk

If you’ve been frustrated with Garrett Hampson like I have over the past two years and are ready to bail, well, I’ve got a new guy for you.  Adam Hall.  Across 2018 and 2019, he stole 55 bases while hitting .295.  He also struck out more than I would have liked at 22% and only slugged .380 but there is good bat speed and enough physicality to hit for a little power.  He does need to make better contact or the Orioles will not be able to bat him at the top of the lineup.  He’s a nice little player to bet on in an organization that is looking for players to step-up.

14. Elio Prado (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Unknown
  • Tools Summary: He was one of the better hitters in the DSL in 2019 showing a little bit of speed and pop.

Along with Noelberth Romero, Elio Prado was the return the Orioles received when they sent Andrew Cashner to Boston.  Of the two, Prado appears to have the best chance to become fantasy relevant.  He’s only played a season in the DSL, but he showed great bat-to-ball skills by hitting .300 with a .403 on-base percentage with three home runs and 12 stolen bases.  He also walked nearly as much as he struck out and posted an excellent 13.4% strikeout ratio.

15. Coby Mayo (3B)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2024+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: A huge kid with double-plus raw power

By saving money in the first round, the Orioles were able to land Coby Mayo, a physical player with double-plus raw power.  How physical?  He’s 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds and doesn’t turn 19-years-old until December.  I’ve not seen him play but in looking at Video, the swing has some holes but it’s quality bat speed that he’s able to let balls travel deep into the zone and react.  The Orioles made a $1.75 million bet here and I’m not yet ready to make a similar bet in a Dynasty League, but he’s a kid to monitor.

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