Baltimore Orioles: The Kids are More than Alright
After promoting several top prospects over the past few years, the Baltimore Oriole’s farm system is ready to produce a whole new group of future stars in 2016.
Well, the results are in. MLB.com unveiled their Top 100 Prospects for 2016 Friday night and it was not pretty for the Baltimore Orioles. While the big news was the Los Angeles Dodger’s SS Corey Seager unseating Minnesota’s Byron Buxton at the top spot, the Orioles quietly contributed one player, RHP Hunter Harvey, to the list. To make matters worse, Harvey dropped from #60 on the 2015 list to #85 on the current list. Part of that is due to injuries, but it speaks to the lack of talent in the Orioles farm system. Or does it?
While the Orioles have several average at best prospects that could see some time in Baltimore in 2016 or be used as trade chips because of their MLB ready skills, the real talent in the system simply has not moved the needle yet on their appeal to the National level pundits. I fully expect the Orioles to break through in 2016 with several possible entrants to the top 100 list as the season progresses. Here’s a look at a few of them, but first we’ll start with two familiar names:
First let’s start with Harvey since he deserves mention for making the list. He’s dealt with some injuries that have slowed his development but at 21 years old, he’s got plenty of time to rebound. The Right-handed prospect possesses an excellent fastball that he moves around the strike zone extremely well. He also has a very good curveball with deception and he continues to work on his changeup. What is most striking about Harvey is his makeup, which is not surprising considering his pedigree. His father was a 2 time All Star and he led the Majors in Saves in 1991. The younger Harvey shows the ability to command the tempo of games and not let hitters get comfortable in the zone because of his outstanding movement. Although his ability to bounce back from injury is something to watch, another burning question will be can he pull off the Fu Manchu mustache like his father? One can only hope he’ll try…
A notable exclusion from the Top 100 list is the much maligned Bundy who has a ton of talent but has not proven he can stay healthy. Bundy has gone from #12 on the 2014 list, to #64 on the 2015 list, to falling off the list completely. By all accounts he is healthy as he enters 2016 for the first time in a while and perhaps that lack of expectation will benefit him. The biggest problem with Bundy is he essentially amounts to a Rule 5 pick in 2016 as his contract dictates he must be on the MLB roster or become a Free Agent. He’ll make the team and pitch out of the bullpen in order to build up his innings and prove he can retire Major League hitters. He should do just that with three above average pitches.
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Now to the prospects who have an opportunity to break out in 2016 and prove the Orioles future is brighter than many may think:
One young player to recently make some news for the Orioles is Third Baseman Jomar Reyes. He may not have made the Top 100 but he did make MLB.com’s Top 10 Third Base prospects. Reyes will be only 19 years old on Opening Day which means he might project to add to his already powerful 6’3”, 220 LB frame. With outstanding bat speed that contributes to his above average power, he can hit to all fields. He’ll likely begin the season at Delmarva again this season but it won’t be long before he takes his talents to Frederick to face advanced A Ball pitching. Reyes is likely a candidate to move across the diamond to First Base but no matter where he plays, the thing to watch in 2016 will be the continued development of his powerful bat.
Baltimore’s top pick in 2015, Stewart is a hard working player that could make an impact on the Orioles sooner rather than later after being selected out of Florida State. At 22 years old he’ll benefit from his first full year in the system to work out some issues with his batting stance which has been a very low crouch. The Orioles are working on getting Stewart to stand up straighter to generate more power from his left handed bat, but they should proceed with caution. Stewart was drafted because he can flat out hit. Although he does not have much speed, his value to the Orioles is his ability to get on base and with plenty of power in the system from top to bottom, they should be more interested in getting the most out of Stewart with what has worked for him in the past. We all know what happened when the Orioles took away Dylan Bundy’s greatest strength, his cut fastball. Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone and if Stewart can be an on base machine from a low crouch, it’d be a welcome skill to the Orioles lineup.
Sisco is already an above average hitting catcher. He has good size at 6’2” and he projects to hit for a solid average and will get on base a lot. His catching skills are still lacking however but at just 21 years old on Opening Day he has time to improve and his work ethic is unquestioned. He’ll return to Bowie where he performed well for the BaySox on their way to a championship after a promotion from Frederick. The organization will be watching Sisco closely in 2016 while Matt Wieters plays out his one year deal. With a productive season Sisco could potentially challenge for an MLB roster spot in 2017.
A nice surprise in 2015 was the emergence of Hess in Advanced A Ball. After seeing his talented arm twice in Frederick I knew he would not be in A ball for long and sure enough, he was promoted to Bowie before season’s end where he held his own on a championship team. He struck out 7 batters per nine innings on his way to a 9-4 record, before he was promoted to the BaySox where he K’d 12 batters in 10 innings. Hess has a nice mix of four pitches, highlighted by a late moving fastball. Hess will be a fun player to watch in 2016 because he continues to exceed expectations.
…the Orioles quietly drafted a player who would have been a top 5 pick in 2018 if he’d chosen college over pro ball.
I’m going on record right now and saying that Mountcastle will be an All Star multiple times over once he reaches the Major Leagues and it better be for the Orioles. The supplemental 1st round pick from Orlando, FL was expertly persuaded to forego attending the University of Central Florida for less than slot money and got right to work in the Gulf Coast League, hitting at a .313 clip. Mountcastle is a pure hitter who showed off his raw power in his first at bat at short season Aberdeen by stroking the second pitch he saw into the seats. The 19 year old will likely begin his first full season in the organization in Salisbury for the Shorebirds and his developing defense might keep him there all season although I am really hoping to get a chance to see him in Frederick by season’s end. His bat and athleticism might force the issue.
Mountcastle was drafted as a Short Stop and has played Third Base as well but his infield glove is well behind his hitting prowess and his 6’3”, 185 lb frame is still growing so he projects as a corner Outfielder. Simply put, Mountcastle checks all the right boxes; he’s a Florida bred baseball player with tremendous bat control and speed and he’s still developing his tools. In my opinion, the Orioles quietly drafted a player who would have been a top 5 pick in 2018 if he’d chosen college over pro ball. He’s going to look great in Orange and Black.
If you’ve heard any interviews with Buck Showalter lately then you’ve heard about Trey Mancini. The Firstbaseman continues to impress pretty much everyone. He’s got a very smooth swing that makes it look easy but the violence with which he crushes the ball is startling. The baseball really jumps off his bat and he hits for average to all fields. He can rise to the occasion as well showing some very clutch hitting down the stretch for Bowie after a midseason promotion. Not only did he earn the promotion after a productive start to the season in Frederick, but he actually got better in AA, winning the league’s batting title with a .359 avg. All that is left for the 24 year old Mancini is to continue his developing power in Norfolk in 2016 and he’ll soon be knocking on the door. With Chris Davis blocking his path at First Base it will be interesting to see how the Orioles plan to use Mancini. He could be a DH/1B in 2017 after Mark Trumbo’s one year contract is up if he proves he can hit Major League pitching with a call up this season. However he could also be a nice trade chip as the Orioles look for pitching. Either way, Mancini could well crack the Top 100 in 2016 no matter where he plays.
Fenter was another extremely talented player that the Orioles convinced to sign after picking him in the 7th round in 2015. The Orioles were so impressed with his power arm that they signed him with 2nd round pool money after Johnathan Hughes declined to sign. Fenter touches 96 mph on the gun with his 2 seam fastball that has a late heavy sink. He’s an outstanding athlete with excellent repeatable mechanics. Fenter could be a pitcher who moves rapidly through the system due to his advanced fundamental skills because he won’t require much instruction but instead can focus on fine tuning.
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Although the National level analysts may not acknowledge it yet, the Orioles have an extremely talented group of players ready to bust out in 2016 and there is no doubt that at least one of these players will move into the Top 100 prospects list as the season progresses. It might be time to visit a few of the Orioles affiliates this summer to catch a glimpse as these young talents begin their ascent to stardom!