Baltimore Orioles: Whatever Happened To These Former Top Prospects?

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 13: Xavier Avery #13 of the Baltimore Orioles takes a swing in his first major league game during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 13: Xavier Avery #13 of the Baltimore Orioles takes a swing in his first major league game during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 13, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Re-visiting a few former prospect lists shows some big hits and a few major failures. Whatever happened to some of those former prospects who were destined for fame?

Minor league all-star games are underway, the 2019 MLB draft is over and draft picks are quickly signing their first pro contracts and beginning affiliate ball, and it’s time to start re-evaluating those lists of pre-season top prospects. For the Baltimore Orioles, a new name will appear at the top of the list once catcher Adley Rutschman sings the dotted line.

The farm system isn’t loaded with talent and there are plenty of holes at various positions, however, this system isn’t the barren wasteland it once was. Names like RHP Grayson Rodriguez, LHP DL Hall, 1B Ryan Mountcastle, and OF Yusniel Diaz are just a few who bring about excitement in Birdland, but there’s always the risk that these guys don’t pan out.

The Orioles have had their fair share of top prospects flame out and never live up to their potential. Every team has an endless list of these guys who didn’t work out, but I wanted to look back at once beloved members of Birdland who were supposed to find themselves in a Baltimore Orioles jersey and, appear in multiple all-star games, and strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

Each of the following names was at one point considered a top-5 prospect for the Orioles, but none of them were ever able to pan out. What happened to these once promising prospects? We take a look back over the last few seasons at four names who once showed promise.

A future leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

2011- Outfielder Xavier Avery (2nd-ranked prospect)

Once proclaimed as a future leadoff hitter for the Orioles and a “top-of-the-order catalyst” with “plus-speed” (per his 2012 MLB Pipeline scouting report), Avery was a second-round pick of Baltimore back in 2008 out of Cedar Grove High School in Georgia. Since then, he has appeared in just 32 MLB games and has likely seen his professional career come to a close.

Avery showcased his elite speed as he worked his way through the minor leagues, swiping 139 bases across parts of five seasons, culminating in the former second-ranked prospect of the Orioles making his major league debut in 2012.

In 32 games at the big league level, Avery hit .223 with a .305 OBP, eight extra-base hits, and six stolen bases. With an outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nate McLouth roaming Camden Yards in 2013, Avery spent the year striking out and swiping bases with the AA Bowie Baysox and AAA Norfolk Tides before he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for utility man Mike Morse (saw just 29 at-bats with the O’s before electing free agency in the offseason).

Avery bounced around between the Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Minnesota Twins, and Atlanta Braves for the next five years, even making a repeat appearance with the Orioles in 2016. From 2013-2018, Avery played at one level for each of his organizations- AAA. He hasn’t been able to make it back to the big leagues since 2012.

The now 29-year-old posted on-base percentages of .332, .361, and .356 in each of his past three seasons down in the minors, but his extreme strikeout rates (33% or higher in each of his last three seasons) continued to rise. While he has provided valuable depth in a number of minor league systems, it’s safe to say that he will never become that “top-of-the-order catalyst” some thought he would turn into. He is currently a free agent.

2014- Outfielder Josh Hart (5th-ranked prospect)

The first round of the 2013 MLB draft featured players such as Kris Bryant (second overall to the Cubs), Tim Anderson (17th overall to the White Sox), and Aaron Judge (32nd overall to the Yankees). It’s always mind-blowing to look back and see who the Baltimore Orioles used their 22nd overall selection on- RHP Hunter Harvey. What a story that will be once Harvey finally makes his major league debut.

But this story isn’t about Harvey, it’s about the 37th pick in that same draft, outfielder Josh Hart. Hart was also described as a “top of the order catalyst” with elite speed, but injuries derailed his career and he was never able to make it past Advanced-A ball.

Across five seasons in the minors, Hart appeared in just 366 games. His 104 games with the Frederick Keys in 2015 were a career-high. A career .243 hitter, the left-handed hitting outfielder reached base just 29% of the time, posted a K/BB ratio of 304/81, and successfully swiped a base in just 69% of his attempts.

Hart was released by the Orioles in March of 2018 and was immediately signed by the Miami Marlins. He never played in a game with the organization and was released in June. The former 37th overall pick of the 2013 MLB draft has been a free agent ever since.

2015- Third baseman Jomar Reyes (4th-ranked prospect)

A rare international free agent signing for the Baltimore Orioles, Jomar Reyes climbed as high as fourth on the O’s top prospect list back in 2015. A 6’3″ and 220-pound (both massive lies as Reyes is much taller and heavier) corner infielder, Reyes was a prospect to watch when he came stateside at just 17 years of age, possessing enormous power and a powerful arm at third base.

Unfortunately, Reyes has been trending down over the last three years, currently in his fourth season in High-A with the Frederick Keys. When I started covering the Orioles’ minor league system back in 2016, Reyes was a prospect I couldn’t wait to get to the ballpark and watch, but each performance disappointed.

The power has yet to translate, hitting just 35 home runs in 498 games, despite spending four seasons in a home run-friendly ballpark down in Frederick, Maryland. He is currently slashing .247/.290/.348 with four home runs and seven walks in 57 games for the Keys.

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Reyes had momentum on his side in 2017, hitting around .300 in Frederick before he punched a wall and broke his hand, resulting in essentially a lost season. He has yet to bounce back since the injury. It’s hard to imagine the Orioles bringing him back for another season in 2020, however, he will be just 23 next year and maybe a change of scenery can unlock something.

2011- First baseman Joe Mahoney (3rd-ranked prospect)

A sixth-round pick of the Orioles back in 2007 out of the University of Richmond, Mahoney slugged his way through the organization, leading to a huge 2011 season with the Bowie Baysox. In 85 games Mahoney hit .289 with a .344 OBP, 11 home runs, 24 doubles, and five triples. He was named the Orioles’ Minor League Hitter of the Year and found himself on the 40-man roster.

Mahoney continued his hot hitting in 2012 with the Norfolk Tides, piling up 40 extra-base hits and hitting .265. He made just four at-bats at the big league level with the O’s, going 0-4. That offseason, Mahoney was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Miami Marlins. After nine games and his first and only career home run, Mahoney retired from the game.

Next. Three Trades The Orioles Would Love To Make. dark