The Baltimore Orioles are sending a fun group of prospects to the Arizona Fall League this year.
After days and days of unnecessarily drawing out the official announcement, the initial rosters for the 2019 Arizona Fall League have finally been announced. Five Baltimore Orioles prospects have been named thus far, with an additional hitter and pitcher set to be named in the coming days.
This year, Orioles prospects will team up with prospects from the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals to make up the Surprise Saguaros. All home games for Surprise will be played at the Peoria Sports Complex in 2019, if you happen to live in Arizona or find yourself near Peoria at any time over the next month or so.
RHP Dean Kremer, LHP Alex Wells, IF Rylan Bannon, IF Mason McCoy, and RHP David Lebron will represent the Baltimore Orioles this year after putting up successful seasons with their minor league affiliates. There have been plenty of guesses as to who will fill out the remaining two spots, with names like Yusniel Diaz and DL Hall coming up often, but I’m not sold either gets sent out west after their recent injuries, just to be safe.
Update: OF Austin Hays and RHP Cody Carroll are the other two players reporting to Arizona. You can read about that decision here.
Of the five who we know for certain will be heading to the elite offseason league, all five have an opportunity to see time in the big leagues in 2020, especially if their off-season experience is a positive one.
These Baltimore Orioles prospects may find themselves in the big leagues soon.
Kremer, a key return in last year’s Manny Machado trade, began the year with an oblique injury, but has since put up impressive numbers in Double-A and is now finding his footing in Triple-A with the Norfolk Tides. Kremer went 9-4 with a 2.98 ERA with Bowie, fanning 87 in 84.2 innings of work, before earning a promotion to Norfolk where is currently 0-2 with a 10.05 ERA. Last year’s minor league strikeout leader, the 23-year-old righty is making his first appearances at the Triple-A level with all of the adjustments needed to make the jump, including veteran competition with MLB experience and new baseball.
Numbers aside, Kremer continues to pile up the strikeouts with his advanced curveball and impressive fastball. He could very well end up being the prize of the Machado trade and provide more value at the major league level than Diaz. A good fall followed by a spring training with the big league squad and a few polishing starts in Triple-A next year could be enough to earn his first major league call-up before next year’s All-Star break, at best.
Wells, everyone’s favorite Aussie, made the jump from High-A to Double-A this season and has yet to disappoint. After a less than stellar performance with the Frederick Keys, Wells is back to relying on his pinpoint command, beautiful curveball, and mixing up of speeds and eye levels to dominate his way through the Eastern League in 2019.
Currently 8-4 with a 2.81 ERA, Wells owns a 98/21 K/BB ratio and a 1.05 WHIP through 128 innings. Questions still remain as to whether he will find himself in the backend of a future Baltimore Orioles rotation or in the bullpen, but he’s doing everything he can to show he deserves a shot at starting in the big leagues. Wells now has an opportunity to make plenty of noise in Arizona against many of the more elite hitting prospects in all of baseball. A late-2020 call-up is not out of the question if his success continues.
If you’re looking for guys who could be up sooner rather than later, look no further than Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy.
Bannon, also part of the Machado return, has spent the last two weeks in Triple-A and is seeing the ball extremely well. Currently hitting .351 with two home runs and eight doubles, seven of his 14 games with the Tides have been multi-hit performances. He hit .255 with a .345 OBP and 34 extra-base hits in 110 games with the Bowie Baysox before his promotion.
Playing mostly third base this year, Bannon looks more suited for second base in the big leagues, likely becoming a valuable utility man in the long run. He’s made his fair share of eye-opening plays on defense, but I find myself holding my breath when he has to make the throw from third base. However, the arm strength is there and his defense can be cleaned up enough to where he will be far from a liability. Overall, he’s a steady player who could start 2020 in the bigs, depending on how the roster shakes out this offseason. If not, it won’t be long.
While at a previous website, I pegged Mason McCoy as my sleeper draft pick to watch immediately after the 2017 draft. He hasn’t disappointed me yet. After just 27 games and .379 batting average in High-A, McCoy was promoted to Double-A Bowie where he’s played 99 games with a .272/.336/.351 slash line.
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McCoy has greatly cooled off since the All-Star break, hitting just .209, but he’s shown the ability to be a pesky hitter at the plate and a solid defender in the field. If Jonathan Villar is moved this offseason and Richie Martin is sent down to the minors to continue his development after serving his Rule 5 time, that could leave the door open for McCoy. The Orioles clearly see something in McCoy, hence his Arizona Fall League trip, which leads me to believe a major league debut may not be far away.
The surprise of the bunch is David Lebron. Acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers for international bonus money back in February, Lebron is 2-5 with a 4.38 ERA for the Frederick Keys this season. He was a mid-season Carolina League All-Star after striking out 59 hitters in 45 innings before the break.
Since then, Lebron is 0-4 with a 5.85 ERA and 1.92 WHIP, but the Orioles still see something in the 25-year-old out of Homestead, Florida. If I had 20 guesses, I wouldn’t have guessed Lebron as one of the selections, but he does own a solid strikeout rate (10/9 IP) and has done a fantastic job of limiting home runs, despite pitching in a home run friendly park in Frederick (six in 78 IP). Maybe a bullpen option for down the road? Time will tell.
Congratulations to all five of these guys as they get a chance to extend their 2019 seasons and showcase their talents. Stay tuned to find out who gets the final two spots. Now, how can we get MLB to broadcast these Arizona Fall League games on MiLB or MLB TV?