Baltimore Orioles minor leaguers who should be protected.
Before we dive in, draft-eligible information used for this piece comes from Fangraphs’ Roster Resource page. They incorrectly have outfielder Yusniel Diaz labeled as eligible, but The Athletic’s Dan Connolly has confirmed that Diaz still has another year to go.
We don’t need to go into much detail about the most obvious eligible prospect, Ryan Mountcastle. His 40-man spot is secure and his spot in the major league lineup will open up a few weeks into the season, due to service time games. All of Birdland is ready to see what 22-year-old has, especially after posting 61 extra-base hits in 127 games this season.
LHP Keegan Akin and RHP Dean Kremer are also locks to be protected. Akin led the International League in strikeouts (131) and had one of the lowest ERA’s in Triple-A, among qualified pitchers. His ability to limit walks has been an issue since his college days at Western Michigan and hasn’t improved since joining the professional ranks, but his stuff is major league-quality. He will be up at or around the same time as Mountcastle.
After striking out 178 hitters and leading all of minor league baseball in 2018, Kremer fanned 122 in about 20 fewer innings in 2019. An oblique injury cut into his innings, hence why he’s currently in the Arizona Fall League, but he was still able to dominate with Double-A Bowie (9-4, 2.98 ERA) before making his Triple-A debut. Despite an 8.84 ERA through four starts, Kremer stuck out 21 hitters in 19 innings. He should start 2020 in Triple-A, but will likely find himself in the big leagues before the end of the season.
There’s one more name who I would place in this category, RHP Cody Sedlock. At this time last year, I had completely written off Sedlock as another first-round bust. His velocity had dipped, injuries piled up, and opponents feasted on his repertoire. One year later, Sedlock has become one of the bigger examples of success when it comes to this new system of player development in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
He avoided surgery to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome and dominated with the Frederick Keys and Bowie Baysox this season, combining to go 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a .202 average against. He struck out an even 100 in 95 innings.
I think the Orioles continue to move slowly with Sedlock, but will put him on the 40-man to protect him and then let him start the season back in Double-A after working just 34 innings at the level to end last season. After watching him in 2019, Sedlock made me a believer again.