Projecting where some of the Orioles' top prospects will start in 2020 - Part 2 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Projecting where some of the Orioles’ top prospects will start in 2020 — Part 2

Photo Credit: Laura Wolf

With the Orioles struggling at the major league level in 2019, fans looked to the minor leagues for optimism in 2019. When he was hired, general manager Mike Elias said he wanted to create an “elite talent pipeline,” and that plan got off to an encouraging start this past season. A number of prospects left over from the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter era made progress, and a few 2019 draftees made an immediate impact.

Baseball’s offseason is under way, and I’m focusing on where some Oriole prospects will be to start 2020. Last week, I projected where the top prospects will be. This week, I’m looking at some who aren’t as prominent but are intriguing.

  1. Drew Rom, pitcher

2019: 6-3, 2.93 ERA, 122 strikeouts in 95.1 innings in Single-A Delmarva

2020 projection: High-A Frederick

Rom is a 19-year old left-hander who has a ton of upside. His fastball sits in the high-80s to low-90s, though he could add more velocity as he gets stronger and fills out his 6-foot-2 frame. Along with Grayson Rodriguez and Gray Fenter, they comprised a dominant trio in Delmarva. The Orioles won’t want to rush Rom’s progress, so he’ll likely join Rodriguez in Frederick for the 2020 season.

  1. Bruce Zimmermann, pitcher

2019: 7-6, 3.21 ERA, 134 strikeouts in 140 innings in Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk

2020 projection: Norfolk

The Loyola Blakefield alum was part of Bowie’s excellent starting rotation for much of 2019, posting a 2.58 ERA before being promoted to Norfolk in late July. He didn’t have the same results with the Tides, posting a 4.91 ERA in seven starts. Those aren’t great numbers, but aren’t as bad when you consider that the International League also used the MLB baseball during a season in which home runs increased by 58 percent from 2018. Zimmermann also induced more groundballs in Double-A compared to Triple-A, but saw his opponents’ batting average on balls in play jump from .283 to .342, according to Fangraphs. He should be in Norfolk’s rotation to start 2020.

  1. Rylan Bannon, infielder

2019 stats: .266/.345/.421 in Bowie and Norfolk

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2020 projection: Norfolk

Another prospect acquired in the July 2018 Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bannon saw his numbers in Bowie jump compared to last year with the Baysox, then saw another jump in 20 games with the Tides. Bannon slashed .255/.345/.394 in Bowie, then .317/.344/.549 after being promoted to Norfolk. In a limited sample size, Bannon saw his isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) increase from .139 to .232 and his pull rate on the balls he put in play increase from 45.3 percent to 50.7 percent, according to Fangraphs. He’ll get the chance to prove that wasn’t a fluke in 2020 and could be a potential call-up by season’s end.

  1. Mason McCoy, infielder

2019 stats: .290/.345/.378 in Frederick and Bowie

2020 projection: Bowie

McCoy (pictured above) helped spark Bowie’s eventual run to an Eastern League Championship Series when he was called up in May, putting himself on the organization’s radar. He eventually cooled off in Double-A to hit .266, then slashed .219/.333/.281 in the Arizona Fall League. McCoy became much more of a contact hitter in Bowie than he was in Frederick, seeing his groundball rate in balls put in play increase 40.4 percent to 49.5 percent with a similar drop in fly ball rate from 37.4 percent to 29.4 percent. McCoy’s slump to end the year in Bowie and struggles in the AFL put a dent on his strong 2019 and could suggest he may not be ready for another promotion.

  1. Ryan McKenna, outfielder

2019 stats: .232/.321/.365

2020 projection: Bowie

The 22-year-old has never gotten past the Double-A wall many players hit when getting promoted to that level. A year after slashing .239/.341/.338 after his promotion in 2018, McKenna had similar numbers this past year. Though he’s relatively young for Double-A, it’s hard to say where McKenna will end up next year because of the glut of outfield prospects in the Orioles’ system. McKenna has speed and is a solid defender, which may be enough to get promoted to Norfolk. However, his bat will have to improve if he wants to move up.

  1. Cody Sedlock, pitcher

2019 stats: 5-3, 2.84 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 95 innings in Frederick and Bowie

2020 projection: Bowie

Sedlock finally had an injury-free minor league season, putting him back in the right direction as a prospect. He was the Keys’ best pitcher before being promoted, and had some solid games at Bowie, including giving up one run in five innings in the Eastern League Championship Series. Sedlock wasn’t as effective with the Bayso, but was still able to drop the amount of balls in play he had pulled and increase the amount of balls hit to the opposite field compared to Frederick, according to Fangraphs, which means hitters weren’t getting as much solid contact. If he can maintain his confidence and improve, Sedlock could end up in Norfolk before season’s end.

  1. Cadyn Grenier, infielder

2019 stats: .244/.355/.384 in Delmarva and Frederick

2020 projection: Frederick

While the Orioles have a large number of outfield prospects, middle infielders could be next. Grenier has a similar game to Adam Hall, Mason McCoy and Rylan Bannon, none of whom have shown much power and project as utility players if they make it to the majors. Grenier has been a solid hitter, when he puts the ball in play, but getting there is part of his problem. Grenier has struck out in at least 29 percent of his plate appearances at all three stops in the Orioles’ system, including 33.7 percent in 29 games with the Keys last year. Grenier should get the chance to team up with Hall again in Frederick to form a dynamic defensive duo, though the latter is a much better hitter.

  1. Gray Fenter, pitcher

2019 stats: 8-2, 1.81 ERA, 123 strikeouts in 94 1/3 innings in Delmarva

2020 projection: Frederick

After a few injury-filled years, Fenter was another pitching success story for the Orioles’ minor league system. He was arguably the Shorebirds’ best pitcher last year, showing swing-and-miss stuff and a slider and changeup to complement his fastball. The biggest change for Fenter in 2019 was that he induced more weak contact. Fenter’s groundball rate increased from 36.8 percent with the Shorebirds last season to 44.8 percent, and the amount of balls put in play pulled dropped from 50 percent to 37.6 percent.

  1. Toby Welk, infielder

2019 stats: .330/.388/.467 in Aberdeen and Delmarva

2020 projection: Delmarva or Frederick

Welk was one of the biggest surprises in the Orioles’ 2019 draft class. The D3baseball.com National Player of the Year at Penn State Berks, Welk was drafted in the 21st round and hit the ground running at Aberdeen, where he set multiple IronBirds hitting records. He was promoted to Delmarva in late August, joining the Shorebirds for their playoff push. The biggest question in Welk’s game is his defense; he only switched to third for his senior season at Division III Penn State Berks after playing shortstop his first three years. Welk might join many of his Shorebirds teammates from last year in Frederick. If not, Welk could go to Delmarva and get more experience before a midseason call-up.

  1. Johnny Rizer, outfielder

2019 stats: .308/.365/.456 at Aberdeen and Delmarva

2020 projection: Frederick

Rizer is another 2019 draft pick who can hit. The Texas Christian University alum hit .305 in 27 games at Aberdeen, then hit .310 in 36 games after being promoted to Delmarva. Rizer’s power numbers dropped in the South Atlantic League, but he had similar walk and strikeout percentage numbers at both levels. His performance last year is enough to start 2020 in Frederick.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Camden Brooks

    November 13, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Great info! I sure hope McCoy can get the stick going again.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    November 13, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Johnny Rizer sounds like he plays for the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. I am now officially rooting for him to become the Orioles starting right fielder only for that reason. Ditto Gray Fenter, who along with Adley Rutschman sounds like he plays for the 1896 Orioles. There just aren’t enough old school baseball names anymore.

    • Bancells Moustache

      November 13, 2019 at 10:07 am

      Fun fact: those 1896 Orioles (whom it is absolutely criminal that Camden Yards doesn’t acknowledge with any statues or plaques) featured guys named Dad Clarkson, Boileryard Clarke, Heinie Reitz and Duke Esper. Man, the 21st century sucks. Can we start a grassroots campaign to call him Boileryard Mancini?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 13, 2019 at 1:53 pm

        Too many Ians, Austins and Gunnars now-a-days.

        I’m with you …. Boileryard Mancini it is.

        • Orial

          November 13, 2019 at 4:19 pm

          Now that is funny(both of ya). Though they didn’t play on that 1896 team two of my favorite old names were–Heinie Manush and Burleigh Grimes. Pete Reiser is the old Brooklyn name. Those were the days.

  3. willmiranda

    November 13, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Nice overview, Justin. I know these guys aren’t top tier, but there doesn’t seem much upward mobility from last year. Is the tendency now to move guys up during the season rather than between seasons? I’m a little disappointed in Cadyn Grenier as a first-rounder although I do recall that at the time of the draft there were some misgivings. The world is full of good-field, no-hit middle infielders. Sadly, that’s what the O’s seem to be looking for as they explain a waning interest in Villar. Million -dollar infielders are a dime a dozen, but ten-million dollar ones are productive.

    • JustinFitzgerald

      November 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

      I think it just depends on the progress they make and whether the organization can make the moves necessary to make sure the player gets playing time when promoted. At Delmarva last year, a lot of players got promoted from Aberdeen to be part of the playoff push and get postseason experience. With guys like Baumann, Kremer and Zimmermann, they had a full year of doing well at their respective level even if it was over two seasons. Since the Orioles are in a rebuild and don’t feel the need to rush players through the minors, I think they’re making sure what prospects are doing is sustainable and not just a flash in the pan when they first get promoted.

  4. WorldlyView

    November 14, 2019 at 4:03 am

    Justin: Who in the O’s organization determine players’ start of season minor league assignments and mid-season promotions and demotions?

    • JustinFitzgerald

      November 14, 2019 at 10:07 am

      I honestly don’t know. It depends on the player. The way I tried to do it for this piece was that if the player had a good year at that level. I moved him up to the next one.

    • Camden Brooks

      November 14, 2019 at 4:14 pm

      I would imagine Elias makes the final determination on assignments/promotions. I would also assume/hope he would receive serious input from the managers involved.

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