Contributor Chuck Boemmel continues his series of looks into a position-by-position breakdown of the prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Up next, a look at the outfield 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.
The Orioles seem to have two-thirds of their starting outfield set as they enter spring training. With Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander penciled in at the corner outfield spots, the only question is who will play centerfield? Outfield help is down on the farm both for 2020 and the future.
You can view part one of our series here: Baltimore Orioles shortstop prospects to watch.
Baltimore Orioles Top OF Prospect
Without a doubt, the top Baltimore Orioles outfield prospect is former 2016 third-round draft pick Austin Hays. The 24-year-old native of Daytona Beach, Florida had his coming out party in 2017 when he got a cup of coffee with the big club following a season in which he shot up through two minor league levels (Frederick and Bowie). Hays became the first member of the 2016 draft class to reach the majors.
Injuries in 2018 severely limited Hays playing time and they also delayed the start of his 2019 season. Once he got going, Hays landed in Norfolk (AAA) where he hit .248/ .299/ .464 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI for the Tides. Scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League, Hays got his second cup of coffee with the Orioles and made quite a few highlight-reel plays. Because of his play last September, the Orioles decided not to send him to Arizona.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances during spring training, Hays is expected to break camp with the Orioles and once again patrol centerfield in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
One To Watch
Added to the 40-man roster back in November, Ryan McKenna is the one to watch in 2020. McKenna had his breakout season in 2018 when he hit a collective .315/ .410/ .457 between Frederick (A-Adv.) and Bowie (AA). He experienced a regression in 2019 when he managed just a .232/ .321/ .365 slash line while repeating the season in Bowie. McKenna needs a good season in 2020 to justify the Orioles’ faith in him and to remain on the 40-man roster as well. He has had success in the past and for that reason, he is worth watching in 2020 when he, hopefully, returns to that success.
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Yusniel Diaz, the Orioles #5 ranked prospect, was considered the centerpiece of the trade of Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers and is in desperate need of a bounce-back season in 2020. The Cuban native slashed .262/ .341/ .464 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI for Bowie in 2019 and needs to move both beyond his injury issues and up to Norfolk in 2020 if for nothing else to make the fan base good with the return for Machado.
Drafted in the 7th round in 2019, Johnny Rizer opened eyes with a noteworthy debut season. The 23-year-old out of Texas Christian University played at both Aberdeen (A Short) and Delmarva (A-Low) where he produced a composite .308/ .365/ .456 slash line with 34 runs scored, four home runs and 41 RBI. Look for him to return to Delmarva to start the 2020 season but a promotion to Frederick, if he maintains his hot bat, should not be ruled out.
No list of outfield possibilities, in my mind, should not include Cedric Mullins. The long-time personal favorite of mine and the once-darling of the fan base has seemingly been forgotten by many, but not this scribe. Despite a season that I am sure Mullins would like to forget; he started in Baltimore only to be sent down to Norfolk and then Bowie to improve his overall game. He regained his stroke in Bowie where he hit .271/ .341/ .402 with 35 runs scored, five home runs, 18 RBI and 20 stolen bases. My money is on the underdog and while Mullins may be considered such, his pedigree and past history keeps him in the outfield mix.
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I would not bet against his return to Oriole Park. Every time his ability and “want to” is doubted, he proves those doubters wrong.