A look inside the Orioles' top 30 prospects - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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A look inside the Orioles’ top 30 prospects

Photo Credit of Grayson Rodriguez: Joy R. Absalon

It’s common knowledge that the Orioles’ farm system is improving. MLB Pipeline has it rated as baseball’s eighth best. Baseball America ranks it 12th.

MLB Pipeline compiles a list of each team’s top 30 prospects. Let’s look at the Orioles’ list and see how many could be contributing to the team in 2021 and beyond.

  1. Adley Rutschman, catcher
  2. Grayson Rodriguez, right-handed pitcher
  3. Heston Kjerstad, outfielder
  4. DL Hall, left-handed pitcher
  5. Ryan Mountcastle, outfielder/first baseman
  6. Gunnar Henderson, shortstop
  7. Jordan Westburg, shortstop
  8. Yusniel Diaz, outfielder
  9. Michael Baumann, right-handed pitcher
  10. Dean Kremer, right-handed pitcher
  11. Zac Lowther, left-handed pitcher
  12. Kevin Smith, left-handed pitcher
  13. Terrin Vavra, shortstop
  14. Hudson Haskin, outfielder
  15. Keegan Akin, left-handed pitcher
  16. Adam Hall, shortstop/second baseman
  17. Kyle Stowers, outfielder
  18. Carter Baumler, right-handed pitcher
  19. Alexander Wells, left-handed pitcher
  20. Anthony Servideo, shortstop
  21. Ryan McKenna, outfielder
  22. Tyler Nevin, first baseman/third baseman
  23. Drew Rom, left-handed pitcher
  24. Coby Mayo, third baseman
  25. Rylan Bannon, second baseman/third baseman
  26. Garrett Stallings, right-handed pitcher
  27. Cody Sedlock, right-handed pitcher
  28. Brenan Hanifee, right-handed pitcher
  29. Kyle Bradish, right-handed pitcher
  30. Luis Ortiz, left-handed pitcher

The list is equally divided between prospects that preceded Mike Elias’ arrival as executive vice president/general manager in November 2018 and those he inherited.

Let’s look first at the 15 players acquired by the Dan Duquette regime.

Three of them –Ryan Mountcastle, Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin — made their major league debuts in 2020 but maintain rookie status.

Five — Yusniel Diaz, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Rylan Bannon — were added to the 40-man roster in November. Another, Ryan McKenna, was added to the 40-man roster in in November 2019.

It’s possible all six could play for the Orioles in 2021.

Of the remaining six, DL Hall, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2017, could join the Orioles late in the season. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be added to the 40-man roster next November.

Grayson Rodriguez, Adam Hall, Drew Rom, Cody Sedlock and Brenan Hanifee aren’t likely to play for the Orioles in 2021. However, Sedlock, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2016, did pitch nine times for Double-A Bowie in 2019.

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Of Elias’ 15, the most attention will be on Adley Rutschman, who should begin 2021 with the Baysox. Even though the minor league schedule and final composition of leagues has yet to be announced, there will be plenty of attention on Rutschman.

Fans hope to see him in Baltimore this season, but it’s possible that none of the other 14 players acquired by Elias will play at Camden Yards in 2021.

Two of them, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers, were 2019 draft choices and have scant minor league experience.

The six-man draft class of 2020 — Heston Kjerstad, Jordan Westburg, Hudson Haskin, Carter Baumler, Anthony Servideo and Coby Mayo — have yet to play. Baumler, who had Tommy John surgery in September, isn’t expected to play at all this season.

Of the remaining six, Kevin Smith, Terrin Vavra and Tyler Nevin, were added in late August trades.

Smith came from the New York Mets along with shortstop Victor González for relief pitcher Miguel Castro.

Vavra, Nevin and outfielder Mishael Deson were sent from the Colorado Rockies for reliever Mychal Givens.

It’s possible that Smith, who reached Double-A with the Mets in 2019, and Nevin, who also played in Double-A in 2019, reach Baltimore some time in 2021.

Vavra had an outstanding season in Low-A in 2019 (.318 batting average, .899 OPS) in the Rockies’ organization but is probably at least a year away from the Orioles.

Garrett Stallings arrived last month from the Los Angeles Angels in the trade for shortstop José Iglesias, and Kyle Bradish also came from the Angels in December 2019 as one of four right-handed pitchers received for starter Dylan Bundy.

Stallings has yet to pitch professionally, and Bradish, who was at the Orioles’ alternate site in Bowie in 2020, pitched in High-A in 2019.

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the players on the prospect list is the final one, left-hander Luis Ortiz.

Ortiz was part of international scouting director Koby Perez’s first signing class in 2019. After not pitching in 2020, he could pitch in the Dominican Summer League in 2021.

There are some interesting names not among the top 30. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann pitched in two September games for the Orioles in 2020 and could begin the season with the Orioles.

Isaac Mattson, who was also put on the 40-man roster in November, was another right-hander who came in the Bundy trade. Mattson was at the alternate site, and it’s possible he’ll be with the Orioles some time in 2021.

Catcher Brett Cumberland, who came from Atlanta along with Zimmermann, right-hander Evan Phillips and infielder JC Encarnacion in the July 2018 trade for starter Kevin Gausman and reliever Darren O’Day, reached Double-A in 2019.

Since Iglesias was traded, there’s been much attention on the Orioles’ search for this season’s shortstop. With five shortstops among the top 30, perhaps the team’s long-term answer for the position is on that list.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. dlgruber1

    January 4, 2021 at 9:49 am

    I find it interesting that Kjerstad, who has yet to play an inning, is ranked #3 while Diaz, who so much has been talked about, is ranked #8. I hope that is based more on the potential of Kjerstad rather than an indictment of Diaz. Have there been any updates on Kjerstad’s health and where are they expecting him to begin this season? I gotta say tho, it’s nice seeing an article on O’s prospects and after reading it genuinely feel like the future is looking bright. I mean, if RM is only their 5th ranked prospect that to me is a sign of good things to come. Very positive way to begin the new year.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 4, 2021 at 10:22 am

      David, no one knows when the minor leagues will begin. It’s possible that they could start Kjerstad at Gulf Coast and move him up to Delmarva if he does well, but just guessing here.

  2. sportscoper

    January 4, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Does anybody really think the Orioles have four prospects better than Mountcastle? That would be nice, but at best it’s a big stretch. The system has obviously improved over the last five years, but Kjerstad has no business in the top five until he proves he wasn’t just another “over reach” as a first round pick. And, as good as he might be, the pandemic has stifled Rutschman’s development big time and he has yet to show more than a small glimpse of his potential. There are guys on this list who will never see the light of day in the big leagues….but Zimmerman dropped off this list — after earning a spot on the 40-man roster. It would be interesting to see how opposing team scouts, the few that are left, would rate this group.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 4, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Rich, it’s always fun to look at these listngs, but really who is the “MLP Pipeline”? My guess is that it’s a conglomeration of each team’s marketing directors.

    I agree with Sportcoper in his post above regarding Kjerstad. It’s a joke that he’d be listed ahead of Mountcastle. Seedings like these hardly lend a vote of confidence towards the credibility of the “MLB Pipeline”. It just always seems to be the lastest acquistions that top these lists. Remember when we were reading about the likes of Cadyn Grenier in the top 10? Again, rankings like these simple make me wonder who compiles these lists?

    But again, it’s always fun to read this stuff….but a grain of salt may go a long way while doing so.

    • CalsPals

      January 4, 2021 at 12:05 pm

      Not a grain of salt, 5 lb block seems more appropriate…go O’s…

    • TxBirdFan

      January 4, 2021 at 12:50 pm

      I used to think these rankings were a prediction of who would make the major league roster the soonest. So you’d want to see a prospect perform well and climb the ladder towards the majors. That must be a different list than this one Rich. Still an enjoyable read though.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 4, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      Ken, it’s compiled by MLB.com. Baseball America does a top 10, and their rankings are similar: Rutschman, Rodriguez, Hall, Kjerstad, Mountcastle, Henderson, Diaz, Baumann, Kremer and Akin. I chose MLB Pipeline because its list was longer.

      Of course, these lists aren’t perfect. John Means was never a top prospect, and they will skew towards higher draft picks.

      You were reading more about Grenier two years ago after he was drafted, but the Orioles have had what draft watchers believe are two strong drafts since then, and those recent draftees are included.

      • WorldlyView

        January 4, 2021 at 7:00 pm

        It would be interesting to know HOW these lists are compiled. And WHO compiles these lists and how well do they know the individual teams? I’m skeptical that a lot of time and research goes into these lists.

  4. ClayDal

    January 4, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    When ranking MLB prospects, “a grain of salt” is appropriate. Unlike the NFL, where Mel Kuiper only has to judge college juniors and seniors for the draft, MLB has prospects at many different levels. Can’t really compare Grayson Rodriguez, 2 years out of high school, with Kremer and Akin , who pitched in the majors last year. Or Mountcastle, who hit .333 in the majors, with Kjerstad, who hasn’t even taken batting practice yet as an Oriole. Guess they feel Kjerstad has a higher ceiling-better defensively. Austin Hays is I suppose graduated out of prospect status, but he has yet to play a full year yet. Defensively alone, he may have a higher ceiling than Mountcastle or Kjerstad. So really until they actually play, ranking them is just an intellectual exercise.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 4, 2021 at 2:23 pm

      John, Hays was on the top prospect list a year ago, but he’s no longer a rookie. Had Mountcastle gotten four more at-bats, he’d no longer be a rookie, either.

    • Bhoffman1

      January 4, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      Ranking Kjerstad who hasn’t done anything out of college ahead of possibly the best player on the O’s in 2020 is ridiculous.

  5. ctevans

    January 4, 2021 at 5:51 pm

    Minor league team at MLB ticket prices! Frank Cashen is rolling over in his grave

  6. dlgruber1

    January 4, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    I have an exercise for anyone willing to take the time to do it. Just for the heck of it I decided to go back a mere 5 years (the last years the O’s made the post season) and compare the O’s top 30 MLB pipeline prospects for that year compared to the Yankees top 30. While the O’s don’t have a Judge or Torres on their list I was very surprised at how many prospects they had then who are with it will be with the team compared to his many the Yankees had or will have. It’s not nearly as one sided as I thought it would be and in fact, I was shocked to see not only do the O’s have more of their ‘16 prospects on their current 40 man roster, they have one of the Yanks top prospects from ‘16 as well. It’s really very interesting and worth the time to check it out.

    • dlgruber1

      January 4, 2021 at 9:16 pm

      I feel I must add something to my last post. I’ve never said it on this site but I have been one of those O’s fans who said of Duquette “ he left the cupboard bare”. Well, I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong and boy was I wrong. Duquette left a very solid base when he was fired and I was just too pigheaded to take the time to look deeper and see just how much was there. Quite frankly, when looking at the 2016 too 30 prospect list I’m guessing you’ll be hard pressed to find many in all MLB to have as many quality prospects still in their roster as the O’s do. I just felt I had to add that and publicly give Duquette credit because I’ve been wrong about what I’ve said on other sites and to other friends who are O’s fans.

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