Baltimore Orioles: Top Ten Prospects Heading Into 2019
By Nick Stevens
Ryan McKenna had a breakout year in the Baltimore Orioles system, while Zac Lowther is now garnering national attention.
#9) OF Ryan McKenna- Drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Hampshire, Ryan McKenna made the jump from Frederick (A-Adv.) to Bowie (AA) this past season.
McKenna started the year by tearing up Carolina League pitching. He slashed .377/ .467/ .556 with 37 RBIs and 28 extra-base hits for the Keys and earned a spot on the Carolina League’s Southern Division All-Star team.
The jump to AA Bowie cooled McKenna off slightly, however. The 21-year-old slashed .239/ .341/ .338 with 16 RBIs and 13 extra-base hits in 60 games for the Baysox. Despite tailing off a bit in Bowie, McKenna’s cumulative season numbers of .315/ .410/ .457/ .868 were among the Baltimore Orioles’ organizational leaders. McKenna’s .410 OBP was second overall in the organization while his .315 BA and .868 OPS were both good for third.
Defensively, McKenna was steady at both levels: .981 fielding percentage with three errors and four assists in Frederick and .987 fielding percentage with two errors and nine assists in Bowie.
McKenna capped off his breakout 2018 season with a spot in the Arizona Fall League, playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs where he slashed .344/ .474/ .590/ 1.064. Again, he led the team in BA, OBP, and OPS and was named to the Fall Stars West All-Star team.
Rightfully so, McKenna has earned an invite to the Major League camp for spring training where he will put his skills on display for the new coaching staff. His performance has caught the eye of the new regime and obviously, they want to see what he brings to the table for themselves. Look for McKenna to return to Bowie in 2019 to continue his development. He is young so there is no need to rush him yet.
#8) LHP Zac Lowther- If you have yet to catch a Zac Lowther start live, you’re missing out. He still needs to show that he can dominate hitters in the upper-minors, but Lowther has passed most tests, up until this point. Working quickly and with a purpose on the mound, Lowther has posted a career 2.02 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 178 minor league innings, sitting down 226 hitters via the strikeout and limiting opponents to a .191 average.
His fastball has beautiful movement on it and command is impressive. Not known as a groundball pitcher, Lowther gave up just six home runs in 92 innings with the Frederick Keys, only four of them coming in homer-friendly Harry Grove Stadium. Scouts also grade his curveball and changeup as above-average offerings, aided by his beautiful delivery, all coming together to form one of the more underrated prospects in the system.
He will likely begin the year in Bowie as he looks to pass the next major test of his development. If Lowther can continue to keep the ball in the yard and hold his impressive K/BB ratio, he will be eating innings in the Baltimore Orioles rotation in the near future.