The Arizona Fall League is in full swing and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Ryan McKenna is standing out among a talented group of prospects
Optimism remains limited for Baltimore Orioles fans as we head toward what could be another tough season, but tracking Orioles prospects in the Arizona Fall League is proving to be exciting with outfielder Ryan McKenna catching fire over the past two weeks.
The Orioles chose not to send many of their top-tier prospects to the AFL this year, restricting our expectations for what is usually an exciting end-cap to any season. However, this year’s Fall League is proving to be as fun as ever.
We’re now two weeks into the Fall League schedule and Ryan McKenna has been on a tear, posting a .423 OBP and a .636 SLG, with 3 triples and 4 walks in 26 plate appearances. Here he is batting against the Salt River squad on Thursday night.
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Taken in the 4th round of the 2015 amateur draft, McKenna absolutely raked this year in High-A Frederick, posting a .377/.467/.556 line in 67 games, earning him two Carolina League player of the week awards and a Carolina League All-Star appearance.
McKenna has plus-speed and an above-average arm, and he profiles well as a center fielder. He has good power for his size (5-11, 185), and MLB pipeline has him rated as the number 12 prospect in the Orioles system right now.
We’re excited to see what McKenna can do with extended playing time against some of the best prospects in MLB over the next few weeks; the Fall League runs through November 17th.
In addition to McKenna, the remaining Orioles prospects have fared mostly well thus far in Fall League action.
Infielder Steve Wilkerson has posted a .400 OBP with 4 doubles, and 6 walks to 7 strikeouts in eight games. Wilkerson dealt with a PED suspension at the end of 2017 before battling injuries for the majority of the 2018 season.
Wilkerson will be one of the top candidates for a utility infielder position in Baltimore next year and his performance so far in the AFL is certainly helping his case.
Catcher Martin Cervenka has appeared in just four games and hasn’t hit well, with just one hit and three strikeouts in 12 at-bats.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, Cervenka spent his first seven years in professional ball with the Indians organization before coming over to Baltimore in the 2017 minor league rule-5 draft. He possesses a plus arm behind the plate and posted a 40% caught stealing percentage for Lynchburg in the Carolina League last year.
RHP Jay Flaa has not pitched well in Arizona thus far; he has 7 walks and zero strikeouts in 2.2 innings over three appearances. However, he’s allowed just one earned run and has gotten very lucky, posting an 89% strand rate.
Flaa pitched well in Bowie this year, posting a 2.77 ERA and a 9.3 K/9 in 65 innings. He has much better strikeout upside than he’s shown in Arizona but he needs to command the strike zone better if he’s going to contribute at higher levels.
LHP Tyler Erwin has had similar issues as Flaa, giving up 6 walks and 2 HBP in 3.1 innings over 4 outings, however he’s allowed just two runs, one of them earned and has a 2.40 WHIP. Erwin won’t keep getting this lucky; like Flaa, he needs to have better command of his pitches to succeed in Baltimore.
RHP Tanner Chleborad had gone the other way, posting a 3.60 ERA with 6 strikeouts and 0 walks in 5 innings over 4 appearances. Chleborad has been acceptable out of the bullpen across the lower levels of the Orioles organization but he doesn’t profile as an impact arm out of the pen.
LHP Chris Lee has been very effective in 6 innings, with 6 strikeouts and no runs allowed. Lee struggled across three levels this year for the Orioles, posting a 6.75 ERA and a 2.313 WHIP, and 19 walks to just 27 strikeouts.
Lee wasn’t highly regarded coming into the AFL and he probably won’t be at the end of it, but it’s nice to see him have some success after roughing it through the past two years.
We’re excited to see what else the 2018 Arizona Fall League will bring for these Orioles prospects; we’ll keep you updated over the next few weeks as we get through the AFL schedule.