While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our third farm system overview will be of the Baltimore Orioles. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: C Adley Rutschman
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 216 lbs
Drafted: 1st Overall- 2019
Hit: 62.5 Power: 60 Field: 60 Arm: 60 Speed: 40
Overall Grade: 60.3
The easy #1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Adley Rutschman, given the position plays, has a strong case as the most valuable prospect in the MLB. After all, catchers don’t grow on trees, and coming out of the draft, the Oregon State product may be the best catching prospect of all time. As a switch hitter, the 21-year-old excels at getting on base and hitting for a lot of power, and has one of the pleasant swings in the entire minor leagues; once he reaches the majors, he could immediately be the best offensive catcher in the MLB, and should walk as much as he strikes out. Plus, Rutschman is also a well-above-average defensive catcher in both framing and blocking, and also should limit base-stealers with a cannon for an arm. We just haven’t seen such a blue-chip prospect since Bryce Harper was eligible for the draft, and although the present major-league team isn’t filled with talent, Orioles fans should still be very optimistic for the future- they have a generational talent to lead their next playoff contender, and if they needed him to, Rutschman could be succeeding in the majors RIGHT NOW.
#2: RHP Grayson Rodriguez
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 220 lbs
Drafted: 11th Overall- 2018
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 54
Even though starting pitchers don’t need to go as far into games like the once needed to, it’s still beneficial for a team to have a quality starting pitcher than can pitch 200+ innings at a high-level. With a 6’5″, 220-pound frame, Grayson Rodriguez has all the makings of one of those types of pitchers, as he draws incredible similarities to the likes of Lance Lynn and Matt Cain. With a high 90s fastballs and two strong breaking balls, it’s no surprise to see the 20-year-old strikeout hitters at an extremely high rate- in 94 innings at Single-A, he posted a 12.35 K/9. Plus, there’s a chance his changeup can be an above-average pitch for the future, and to top it off, his command is improving at a faster rate than expected. Obviously, we need to see him pitch at a higher level than Single-A before we anoint him as a future ace, but right now, Rodriguez appears to check off all the boxes as a front-line starting pitcher, and even better, he’s just 20-years-old.
#3: OF Yusniel Diaz
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs
Signed: November 21, 2015- LAD
Hit: 55 Power: 50 Field: 55 Arm: 55 Speed: 50
Overall Grade: 53.4
After hitting two home runs in the 2018 Futures Game, Yusniel Diaz made a name for himself in the Dodgers’ farm system. So much so, that just two days later, he was traded to the Orioles as the headlining piece of a package for superstar third baseman Manny Machado. Although he hasn’t been as dominant as he was when he was a member of the Dodgers, Diaz is trending towards a big-league debut this season, and has all the makings of a starting outfielder. Though the 23-year-old’s walk rate declined this season, he generally possesses excellent walk and strikeout rates, which will translate well into high on-base percentages in the majors. Now, he’s more of a 50-grade power hitter, but regardless, he’s a strong offensive threat. That will complement his above-average defense well, so although he doesn’t have one astonishing tool, he figures to be a 3 WAR player with a similar trajectory to Kole Calhoun. If that means ten years as a high-end everyday outfielder, Baltimore will certainly take it, as it’ll represent a nice return for two months of one of the franchise’s best players.
#4: LHP Zac Lowther
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 235 lbs
Drafted: 74th Overall- 2017
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 52.5
Overall Grade: 53.25
When you can overpower hitters like Rodriguez can, you don’t have to be very deceptive. However, for pitchers like lefty Zac Lowther, deception is key. The 23-year-old utilizes a lower arm slot, and because of that, late-life with his fastball allows it to look faster than a typical low 90s fastball would, and his curveball has developed nicely. Even better, although his walk rate regressed in 2019, he’s generally had an excellent feel for pitching, so his command should get back on track in 2020. Lowther may never be a front-line starting pitcher, but he’s a very good bet to be a steady middle of the rotation starter, which holds plenty of value as teams continue to overpay for those types of pitchers.
#5: OF Austin Hays
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round- 2016
Hit: 50 Power: 50 Field: 55 Arm: 60 Speed: 55
Overall Grade: 53
If you’ve watched any defensive highlights from this past MLB season, then the chances are you’ve heard of Austin Hays, who made a couple great plays in his brief stint in the majors last season. Those aren’t gimmick plays, as the 24-year-old is clearly an above-average defensive center fielder, and he should fit at all three outfield spots thanks to his stellar arm strength. Still, does the former third-round pick have what it takes to be an everyday starting outfielder? That’s more in question, as poor plate discipline limits his offensive ceiling, but he’s enough of a contact hitter to have on-base percentages in the .320 to .330 range, with at least average power to go with it. That’ll be good enough for his offense to support his defense enough, and because of that, Baltimore should feel good about Hays being their everyday center fielder, at least for the time being; if he could ever improve his walk rate, then he could be an All-Star. The Orioles are on track to lose 100 games yet again this season, but at least fans will be able to watch Hays turn into a prime Kevin Pillar- a 2 WAR player.
#6: LHP DL Hall
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 21st Overall- 2017
Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 57.5 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 47.5
Overall Grade: 52.875
If there’s one pitcher in this farm system that could either become an ace or a bust, it’s DL Hall, who is quintessential of a high ceiling/low floor type of prospect. The former first-round pick possesses a mid 90s fastball with late movement, and he pairs it with two terrific secondary offerings- a high spin rate breaking ball and a fading changeup. So, why isn’t Hall ranked higher? Well, there are a couple red flags that are very difficult to ignore. Not only has he failed to pitch over 100 innings pitched due to durability concerns, but when he is pitching, the results are underwhelming. This season, for instance, his walk rate skyrocketed to an abysmal 6.02 BB/9 in 80.2 innings in High-A, and since he’s 21-years-old, there isn’t a lot of time for him to make the drastic improvements needed. The delay in his development is scary, which is why he fails to crack the top-five, but he could also be the next Robbie Ray- a #2/#3 starter with high strikeout rates that are somewhat canceled out by his walk rate, but still is a hot commodity. It’ll be interesting to see how Baltimore manages his workload, and if they can get him to maximize on his potential.
#7: OF Kyle Stowers
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 71st Overall- 2019
Hit: 45 Power: 57.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 55 Speed: 47.5
Overall Grade: 51.925
Coming in his junior year at Stanford, Kyle Stowers was trending as a potential first-round pick, with the Dodgers among the teams rumored to be interested in him. However, he got off to a very slow start, and although he tried his best to overcome it, his overall statistics were much worse than expected. Because of that, the 22-year-old had to wait until after the second round to hear his name called, which is unfortunate for him, but potentially great news for the Orioles. After all, Stowers has a very aggressive swing with a lot of leverage, which he should use to hit for a lot of power; he’s also well-equipped defensively. Now, those tools have yet to translate to actual success, so he’s far from a sure thing, which is alarming considering he’s already 22-year-old. Nevertheless, he definitely has what it takes to become a starting-caliber outfielder.
#8: SS Gunnar Henderson
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 42nd Overall- 2019
Hit: 52.5 Power: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 60 Speed: 52.5
Overall Grade: 51.875
Another prospect in the 2019 MLB draft who had the first-round buzz that didn’t come to fruition, Gunnar Henderson is yet another player that the Orioles should be ecstatic about landing outside the first-round. With a very smooth swing and good contact skills, his hit tool is already pretty refined, and although he hasn’t yet hit for much power, you’d have to believe his gap power will turn into home run power with a 6’3″ frame. With solid athleticism and a great arm, the 18-year-old should at least be competent defensively at shortstop, but if not, there is enough offensive potential for him to prove to be a capable third baseman. Either way, he’s a prospect who could definitely soar up prospect rankings should the Orioles be successful in developing his power, which is the key for him; since he’s just 18-years-old, so they have plenty of time.
#9: RHP Dean Kremer
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 180 lbs
Drafted: 14th Round- LAD 2016
Fastball: 52.5 Breaking Ball: 57.5 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 51.75
Similar to Lowther, Dean Kremer isn’t overpowering, but he’s able to utilize his deceptive delivery to find success; after being an afterthought in the Machado trade, he now has a good chance to be a big-league contributor. With a curveball with a lot of break and a lively fastball, the 24-year-old has at least two pitches he can count on, and his changeup has improved. Plus, his command is a 50-grade at worse, so there’s no clear weakness with him. The Israeli citizen figures to be a #4 starter very soon, as he and Lowther figure to save Baltimore a lot of money on middle-of-the-rotation starting pitching.
#10: RHP Brenan Hanifee
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 215 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round- 2016
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 45 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 50.75
Outside of the Orioles top-nine prospects, it’s essentially a free-for-all for the tenth spot, as that’s where the prospect depth starts to dwindle. By default, Brenan Hanifee earns this spot, even though he’s a rather unconventional pitcher. His secondary pitches are below-average, and because of that, he relies a lot on a sinker. Therefore, he’s more of a ground-ball inducer than a strikeout creator, as he stuck less than 6 batters per nine innings last season in High-A, but did induce ground balls nearly 50% of the time. What’s most concerning about the 21-year-old is that his command was much worse (3.98 BB/9), and since he’s not going to strike many hitters out, he needs to get back to his 2018 form (1.50 BB/9). Better utilization of his pitches is a necessity, and at the moment, he looks like a #5 starter or a potential long-reliever; he does have some unique qualities, however.
Best of the Rest
- Keegan Akin has a good fastball-changeup pairing, but he doesn’t have a breaking ball that he can count on, and his command has been poor in the minors.
- Ryan Mountcastle provides zero defensive value, and if he wants to be a Nicholas Castellanos, he needs to improve offensively with better plate discipline.
- Michael Bauman has a power cutter and could be an effective reliever.
- Ryan McKenna has plus speed and solid defense, with a smooth swing, but has relied on a high batting average on balls in play.
- Adam Hall is a potential utility infielder in the future.
Farm System Overview
General manager Mike Elias hit a home run with his first draft, though selecting Rutschman was an easy pick. Not only do they have potentially the most valuable prospect in the minors, but with a lot of pitching depth and two intriguing outfielders, it’s one of the better farm systems in the MLB. It’s quite the transformation from where they were just a couple seasons ago, and their rebuild is progressing well as a result.