The Orioles have the deepest and best farm system in baseball, featuring 6 prospects in the top 100 in MLB Pipeline's rankings. The Orioles could elect to hold on to many of their prospects, or they could package them in a trade for some major league help. Regardless, the Orioles will have some very tough decisions to make. Here are 5 O's prospects who shouldn't be included in any trade packages this offseason.
Jackson Holliday, SS/2B
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but Jackson Holliday should be completely off-limits. Holliday has burst onto the scene and established himself as the consensus best prospect in baseball at just 19 years old, after being selected with the first overall pick in 2022. Holliday has soared through the Orioles system, traveling through 4 levels of the Orioles system in his first full professional season.
Holliday posted video game numbers this season, slashing .323/.442/.499 across all four levels and he finished the season in Triple-A Norfolk. Holliday can do it all, slugging 12 homeruns, 30 doubles, 9 triples, and stealing 24 bases in 125 games.
Holliday recorded 154 hits in those 125 games and walked 101 times, compared to just 118 strikeouts. The only minor league level that held Holliday below an OPS of .900 was Triple-A, where he still posted a .396 on-base percentage and recorded more hits than games played.
Holliday is the whole package, and I think we could see him make the opening day roster next season. The only question with Holliday is where he's going to play (since Gunnar Henderson thrived at shortstop in the second half of the season). He won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
Heston Kjerstad, OF
Kjerstad got a brief taste of the majors in 2023, and even made the postseason roster. In his first 30 major league at bats, Kjerstad sustained a solid .748 OPS and hit 2 home runs. He didn't light the league on fire, but I think Kjerstad showed enough last season between the majors and minors to become a long-term piece for the O's going forward.
Kjerstad can flat out hit and he showed it last season in Double-A and Triple-A. Across both levels, Kjerstad slashed .303/.376/.528 with 21 homeruns and 55 RBIs. He has tremendous power and has shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields.
The Orioles were in the bottom half of the league in homeruns hit this season, ranking 17th in the majors. They didn't have any hitters reach 30 home runs, with Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander leading the team with 28.
Kjerstad could be that signature power hitter for the Orioles. I think the O's would love to have another big, left-handed power hitter in their lineup and Kjerstad could very well be that guy.
Coby Mayo, 3B/1B
Similarly to Kjerstad, Mayo has light tower power. He had a huge breakout season this year across Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Mayo slashed an unbelievable .290/.410/.563, while crushing 29 homeruns and driving in 99 runs.
Mayo fits the mold of what the Orioles like from their hitters. Similar to Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, Mayo is very patient at the plate and will draw his fair share of walks. He recorded 99 walks this season and as I mentioned earlier, had an on base percentage over .400. But when he gets a pitch he likes, he crushes it. MLB Pipeline graded Mayo's power a 60 on their 80 grade scale, which is a very impressive mark.
Mayo is yet another young Orioles prospect who is knocking on the door of the majors. Just like Gunnar Henderson, Mayo began as a player known for his tremendous tools and high upside. It looks like he's put it all together and has turned into a lethal power hitter. I could see him making the opening day roster next season, just like Jackson Holliday.
Samuel Basallo, C/1B
Although the Orioles already have a star catcher and one of the best young players in the league in Adley Rutschman, I think the O's would be extremely unwise to deal away Basallo. Basallo was a solid prospect for the Orioles before this season, but like many of the Orioles top prospects, he really broke out this season. He jumped from the 19th best O's prospect to number 5 according to MLB Pipeline.
It's understandable why MLB Pipeline gave him such a massive boost. Basallo was fantastic in just his age 19 season, slashing .313/.402/.551 with 20 homeruns and 86 RBIs from Low-A to Double-A this season. It's not normal to see these numbers from a 19 year old playing in his first season above rookie ball.
Basallo's potential is just so high and he's already an extremely solid player. He had an OPS over 1.100 in High-A and in Double-A (albeit just a 4 game sample size in Double-A). There may not be room for Basallo as a catcher in the majors, but he's learning first base and he's athletic enough to possibly make the transition to a corner outfield spot in the future.
Chayce McDermott, Starting Pitcher
McDermott may not be as highly touted of a prospect as some of the other guys on this list, but he looks like he could be on his way to the majors in the near future. He struggled last season after being dealt to the O's in the Trey Mancini trade, but this season was a completely different story.
McDermott pitched in Double-A and Triple-A this season, throwing a combined 119 innings. In those 119 innings, McDermott 152 strikeouts and finished the season with an ERA of 3.10. The most impressive part of McDermott's season was his run with Triple-A Norfolk. He pitched 50.2 innings with an ERA of just 2.49 while striking out 64. He also held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 batting average on the season.
I think if the Orioles are going to deal away prospects in a trade, they should try to include their position players instead of their pitchers. They simply don't have to prospect depth at pitcher to trade away like McDermott (unless it's a really rare opportunity).
The Orioles are going to have some very tough decisions to make, but I think they would be wise to hold onto these 5 players.