Baltimore Orioles: Organization Of Opportunity For These Three Guys
The Baltimore Orioles are in the infant stages of a massive rebuild, meaning plenty of current minor leaguers in the system will get an opportunity to make a name for themselves.
During a MASN broadcast a few days ago, the duo of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer read from a graphic highlighting the production from current Bowie Baysox infielder Mason McCoy. A former sixth-round pick out of the University of Iowa, McCoy began the season has a hot-hitting infielder for the Frederick Keys and has continued his torrid stretch at the Double-A level for the Baltimore Orioles.
When talking about McCoy, Palmer described the Baltimore Orioles as an “organization of opportunity” for players like McCoy. Currently, he is the 30th-ranked prospect in the Orioles system, per MLB Pipeline. When talking about current prospects who are likely to make an impact at the major league level and begin to turn things around in Birdland, McCoy’s name typically doesn’t enter the conversation. That doesn’t mean he should be overlooked, with the same being said for the names discussed below.
Since I started covering the O’s minor league system a few years ago, I’ve been able to cultivate relationships with a handful of players and learned their backstory. It changed the way I view minor league baseball and I’m glad it did. I have personal favorites who I hope to see make the big show one day, but I also realize that it takes more than an inspirational story to crack a major league roster. A lot has to go right and, at times, being in the right place at the right time plays a huge role.
My longtime colleague, Chuck Boemmel, has used a certain phrase a lot recently- it’s a good time be an Orioles farmhand. He’s completely right. In many systems, Mason McCoy isn’t a Top 30 prospect. He isn’t the only name on the Top 30 list that likely doesn’t make the cut in most other organizations in baseball. For many O’s minor leaguers, “fringe players” if you will, there is an opportunity to make a name yourself, be seen, and just maybe find a home in the major leagues.
Jim Palmer described it perfectly by calling this organization an “organization of opportunity.” Here are three names who I believe can take advantage of this opportunity. Whether they stick or not is a different story, but the odds of seeing these three guys on the major league roster within the next two years are highly likely.
Will we see these prospects in a Baltimore Orioles uniform?
RHP Cristian Alvarado– Alvarado is a guy who I’ve had the opportunity to watch multiple times during his two seasons with the Frederick Keys and was instantly intrigued from the first time I saw him, largely by the way he carried himself in warmups, with the fans, and when he found himself in trouble. It was in Lynchburg where I first watched one of his starts and it wasn’t pretty, to start. Despite struggling to find the plate and even hitting a batter, Alvarado refused to give up on finding the inner half of the plate. Once he did, it was smooth sailing. He isn’t a “prospect” in any sense, but he’s a grinder.
Listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds, the right-hander was an international signing out of Venezuela back in 2011. Now 24 years old and working out of the bullpen for the first time in his eight seasons of professional baseball, Alvarado may have found a role to one day give him a shot at the big leagues.
Statistically speaking his 2017 and 2018 seasons in Frederick weren’t impressive. In 51 combined starts, Alvarado went 19-20 with a 4.57 ERA, 228 strikeouts, 45 walks, and allowed opponents to hit just north of .280 across 295 innings. He has greatly improved on those a few of those numbers as a reliever with the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
In 18 appearances, Alvarado has logged 42 innings and limited opponents to a .209 average. His walk rate has ticked up and strikeouts have trended down, but Alvarado has been able to leave a lot of Eastern League baserunners stranded on the basepaths this season. He frequently makes his entrance with runners in scoring position and has been successful more often than not on keeping them there. That focus and determination that drew me in back in 2017 is still there.
As pitchers are shuffled in and out of Camden Yards in 2019 and 2020, it’s only a matter of time before Alvarado gets his shot.
Infielder Mason McCoy- A few days after the 2017 MLB draft, I picked one O’s draft pick to talk about on a former website I used to write for, focusing on the Orioles’ minor leagues. Mason McCoy was that guy. He’s still that guy for me.
During his JUCO days, he hit the baseball. He went to the University of Iowa and hit the baseball. Spent his summer in the Northwoods League and hit the baseball. Since being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, he has hit the baseball. I think you get it.
In 249 minor league games, McCoy is slashing .299/.363/.406 with 72 extra-base hits, and has included 24 stolen bases. Just during his time in Double-A, McCoy is hitting .332 with a .392 OBP. His walk rate is up to 8.5%, the strikeout rate is a respectable 15.5%, and he owns a 145 wRC+ in Bowie.
The Eastern League All-Star is doing everything he can to prove he belongs in the major leagues. If Jonathan Villar is traded and Richie Martin is sent to the minor leagues in 2020 (after satisfying his Rule 5 requirements) for a little more seasoning, that leaves a major void up the middle for the Orioles. The Orioles could sign a veteran stopgap option, or not throw money away and go with the homegrown talent they have cultivated. The top middle infield prospects are sitting in the lower minors, years away from breaking into the big leagues. The opportunity is there for McCoy. It’s not too late to jump aboard the hype train.
Starting pitcher Marcos Molina– The starting rotation at the major league level is a disaster, minus John Means, and the bullpen is even worse. Things are so bad, it now appears that the Orioles will look to stand pat with Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner, just so they have arms who can pitch.
Luis Ortiz and Josh Rogers haven’t been able to capitalize on their opportunity in the big leagues and their time in AAA has been eye-popping, and not in a good way. Chris Lee was given another chance this season out of the bullpen but has failed. Outside of Keegan Akin, the Norfolk pitching staff has been cycled through Camden Yards and either sent back after failed tryouts or designated for assignment. Give it another month and we likely see Marcos Molina make his MLB debut.
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A righty with real potential to stick in the major leagues as a fastball/slider reliever, Molina has been a mainstay in the Bowie rotation. His starts have been up and down, going seven innings without giving up an earned run, to giving up eight earned runs on 16 hits with just one strikeout over his last two starts. Overall, Molina is 4-6 with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and the lowest walk rate and highest groundball rate since 2017 when he was a member of the New York Mets organization.
Molina can put away hitters with his mid-90s fastball up in the zone and sit ’em down with his slider, when things are clicking. When he’s off, Eastern League hitters have hit him pretty hard, noticeable even on the Bowie MiLB TV feed (I know minor league teams don’t make much money, but come on guys). He’s also one of those guys who doesn’t get results that match his scouting report. The stuff is there, but he hasn’t shown consistency.
Despite the ups and downs, Molina is a highly intriguing option who is likely to get his shot in the big leagues this season.