The Baltimore Orioles have a strong trio at the top of the list.
#3) LHP DL Hall- A first round (21st overall) draft pick in 2017, D.L. Hall exploded onto the scene last year and has garnered high-praise by national evaluators across the country. Despite his surprising availability at #11, Hall was a solid pick by the Baltimore Orioles and considered the top high school lefty in the 2017 draft.
Hall’s debut season in the Gulf Coast League was not spectacular, finishing with no record and a 6.97 ERA in 10.1 innings of work (five appearances). Additionally, he struck out 12 while walking 10. Hall moved to Delmarva (A-Low) for the 2018 season and while the record (2-7) wasn’t good, the other numbers were.
He appeared in 22 games for the Shorebirds, pitching to a 2.97 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 94.1 innings of work with 100 strikeouts and 42 walks. When comparing 2018 to 2017 it is noteworthy that Hall nearly doubled his strikeout to walk ratio from 1.20 to 2.38 while cutting his walks per game by more than a half from 8.7 to 4.0.
While young and still developing physically, Hall uses a plus fastball complemented by a plus curveball to dominate hitters. As he moves through the system he will have to improve his command to continue to have success The ceiling is high and the future is bright for this southpaw. Should his career trajectory continue on its current path, the future of the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation is in good hands.
#2) IF Ryan Mountcastle- Elite bat speed and a beautiful swing from the right side of the plate, Ryan Mountcastle is arguably the most exciting prospect of the bunch. He answered the demands of former Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter by increasing his walk rate from 1.9% at the AA level to 6.1% in 2018, still a low number but an impressive improvement.
Despite suffering from a hairline fracture in his hand in spring training, Mountcastle rebounded and played in 102 games for Bowie, hitting 13 home runs, posting a wRC+ of 121, and lowering his K-rate to 18.5%. His average flyball rate skyrocketed and he started using the entire field more last season, putting him in position to make his major league debut in the very near future.
Mountcastle has an invite to spring training, but will likely begin the year in AAA where he can continue to work on his ability to get on base and, more importantly, find a position to play. The one major knock on Mountcastle is his lack of a defensive position.
Shortstop didn’t work out very well, third base was even more of an adventure, yet no one seems to have a clear answer as to where he will play. I, like many of you, am anxious to see where the new regime plays him, but one thing is for certain, Mountcastle is an impressive prospect who turns 22 in just a few days, meaning there is still time to figure all of this out.
A successful spring training will lead to many fans calling for him to make the active roster. Patience, Orioles’ fans. His time will come.
#1) OF Yusniel Diaz- Considered the cornerstone of the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz is our top prospect for 2019. The trade generated a lot of buzz, especially after Diaz’s two-homerun performance in the 2018 Sirius XM Futures Game in Washington, DC. His performance in Bowie didn’t exactly equal that buzz, however.
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Diaz played in 38 games for the Bowie Baysox (AA) and slashed a paltry .239/ .329/ .403 in 134 at-bats with five home runs and 15 RBIs. I saw quite a few Baysox games and what I saw in Diaz was a player who struggled with the adjustments to a new league and a new team.
He seemed fooled at the plate frequently as he lunged at the ball on the outside half of the strike zone. Diaz made some adjustments to his foot placement in the batter’s box as the season progressed which did result in better numbers for the native of Cuba. He has the necessary tools for a top prospect but has not shown his speed much to date.
Projected as a corner outfielder, Diaz has the raw tools needed from a top prospect, he just needs to put them all together for his new organization. Another season in either Bowie or Norfolk (AAA) should help with his comfort level, thus revealing the player the Orioles anticipated they were getting when they traded for him.
If the pieces fall into place, don’t be surprised to see Diaz patrolling the outfield in Oriole Park at Camden Yards late in the 2019 season.
Thanks to Chuck Boemmel for his contributions on Diaz, Hall, Rodriguez, Kremer, and McKenna. What changes would you make to this list? How do you rank your top 10? Every single prospect list is different and we would love to see your list below!