Contributor Chuck Boemmel begins his series of looks into a position-by-position breakdown of the prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Up first, a look at the shortstop prospects down on the farm.
Spring training is quickly approaching for the Baltimore Orioles (their first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 17th) and with that in mind, Birds Watcher felt it was an ideal time to take a look at the prospects in the talent pipeline on a position by position basis.
It is not a secret that the middle infield is a cause for concern at the big league level in Baltimore, so much so that the Orioles recently acquired free agent Jose Iglesias and made a waiver claim for Richard Urena, adding both to the middle infield mix. The two of them immediately rose to the top of the team’s depth chart at shortstop above 2018 Rule-5 pick, Richie Martin. Help is on the way, albeit a few years away.
This series will follow a similar format, including a look at the top prospect at each position, one other prospect to watch closely, followed by a collection of other names worth following along.
Baltimore Orioles Top SS Prospect
Arguably, the top shortstop prospect is 2017 second-round draft pick, Adam Hall. A career .301 hitter, Hall played the entire 2019 season in Delmarva (A), where he slashed .298/ .385/ .395 with 78 runs scored, 45 RBI and 33 stolen bases.
Following a rough start to his professional career (oblique injury in 2017), Hall has proven to be a steady bat both at Aberdeen (A-Short) and Delmarva. He finished the 2019 season as the Shorebirds’ team leader in games played (122), runs, hits (138), doubles (22), total bases (183) and on-base percentage. He also produced a wRC+ of 133 and a wOBA of .365 (both well above average).
Defensively, Hall is equally solid. His career fielding percentage at short is .942 with 29 errors in 329 opportunities. In an era where positional versatility is valued, Hall also brings that to the table; he has logged time at second base during the past two seasons.
Hall, the Orioles #14 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is still a few years away from playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a member of the major league club. His path to the big leagues should continue in the infield for the Frederick Keys (A-Adv.) in 2020.
One To Watch
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Drafted in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft by General Manager Mike Elias, 18-year-old Gunnar Henderson is off to a good start to his career and worth keeping an eye on; so much so that MLB Pipeline has him listed as the Orioles #7 ranked prospect.
Henderson spent his 2019 season, as most prep draftees do, in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) where he slashed .259/ .331/ .370 with 21 runs scored and 11 RBI over 29 games. Despite a 23% strikeout rate, Henderson has shown an ability to use the entire field with 33% of his hits to the opposite field and 27% up the middle. His ground ball to fly-ball ratio is also a decent 1.12.
Possessing a plus arm (graded 60 on the 20-80 scale), Henderson committed 9 errors over 46 opportunities with 9 double-plays turned resulting in a .893 fielding percentage.
It is early but Henderson looks like the real deal and as such is one to watch. He has all the tools and the only question is will he have to move to the hot corner as he matures and his frame fills out.
Three other shortstops, all Baltimore Orioles Top 30 prospects, are in the mix and worth mentioning.
Mason McCoy, ranked 25th, was the breakout star of 2019. He finished the season with a .266/ .326/ .343 slash line for Bowie (AA) with a .973 fielding percentage as a shortstop; he saw time at second base as well. Depending on the placement of former Rule-5 pick Ritchie Martin, McCoy could see playing time in Norfolk (AAA) at some point in 2020.
Cadyn Grenier, the teams 22nd ranked prospect, split time between Delmarva and Frederick. At Delmarva he shared time at short with Hall; the two rotated between short and second before Grenier’s mid-season promotion to Frederick. He finished the 2019 season with a combined .244/ .355/ .384 slash line and is primed for a breakout year in 2020. It will be interesting to see where Grenier starts the 2020 season, either in a rotation at Frederick with Hall or in Bowie.
Finally, 2019 fourth-round draft pick and 29th ranked prospect Joey Ortiz had a solid start to his professional career. The 21-year-old slashed .241/ .345/ .267 over 56 games in Aberdeen where he also produced a .950 fielding percentage. A plus fielder, Ortiz should move to Delmarva in 2020.
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The Orioles seem to have a wealth of talent coming at the shortstop position and it should be fun to watch these players develop. The talent pipeline in Baltimore does seem to be growing.