Written by: Nick Lobraico
Follow him on Twitter: @LobraicoNick
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
**Right below is the Orioles Top 20 list simplified. Scroll further down for FULL Present/Future Grades, FV, ETA, and summaries on EACH PLAYER ranked in the system! Tons of Statistics on each player as well! Some player highlights, future outlooks and more, enjoy!**
If you like Podcasts, Click here to take a listen to the Orioles Top 20 Pod where you can hear our prospect Analysts discuss the Top 5 prospects, and 5 others they find interesting in the system! Who doesn’t like more prospect analysis?
|1||Adley Rutschman||C||1st Round: 1st Overall – 2019 Draft|
|2||Grayson Rodriguez||SP||1st Round: 11th Overall – 2018 Draft|
|3||Heston Kjerstad||OF||1st Round: 2nd Overall – 2020 Draft|
|4||DL Hall||SP||1st Round: 21st Overall – 2017 Draft|
|5||Yusniel Diaz||OF||Trade with Dodgers – 2018|
|6||Austin Hays||OF||3rd Round – 2016 Draft|
|7||Ryan Mountcastle||1B/3B/LF||1st Round: 36th Overall – 2015 Draft|
|8||Jordan Westburg||SS||1st Round: 30th Overall – 2020 Draft|
|9||Dean Kremer||SP||Trade with Dodgers – 2018|
|10||Gunnar Henderson||SS||2nd Round – 2019 Draft|
|11||Coby Mayo||3B||4th Round – 2020 Draft|
|12||Rylan Bannon||2B/3B||Trade with Dodgers – 2018|
|13||Hudson Haskin||OF||2nd Round – 2020 Draft|
|14||Zac Lowther||SP||2nd Round CBB – 2017 Draft|
|15||Ryan McKenna||OF||4th Round – 2015 Draft|
|16||Michael Baumann||SP||3rd Round – 2017 Draft|
|17||Hunter Harvey||RP||1st Round: 22nd Overall – 2013 Draft|
|18||Keegan Akin||SP||2nd Round – 2016 Draft|
|19||Alex Wells||SP||UDFA Signee – 2015|
|20||Zach Pop||RP||2nd Round – 2016 Draft|
1. Adley Rutschman C – Delmarva Shorebirds (A Full)
22 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: S –6’2″ 220 lb. – ETA: 2022
No surprise here: Rutschman is the number one prospect in the Orioles farm system. To hit well with plus defense at a premium position is a combination that would have any front office drooling.
He can hit from both sides but his righty swing looks more natural and appears to be more successful. There’s more of an uppercut (compared to a very level left-handed swing), and he just squares up the ball more. Because of the ability to drive the ball more, this swing has the higher ceiling; for the floor, both are about the same. The lefty swing is more conducive to contact, but a more natural stroke from the right side evens it out. Pair that with the discipline to walk and avoid strikeouts, and you’re looking at what could be a very special ballplayer for years to come.
Rutschman is no slouch behind the plate, either. His fundamentals are a great foundation to build upon as he reaches his prime. That goes for blocking, receiving and throwing. He can definitely improve the throwing over time, but the others should be able to grow as well. Whether they actually do or not, he is advanced enough right now that it wouldn’t limit his value too much.
By being a catcher, Rutschman is automatically more special given his offensive prowess. The Orioles’ big question is, when do we call him up? That’s more of a service time question than an on-field one, as many believe it won’t be long at all before Rutschman is the organization’s best catcher.
2. Grayson Rodriguez RHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (A Full)
20 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: L –
6’5″ 220 lb. – ETA: 2022
If this Orioles rebuild goes well, much of the credit will be given to strong drafts. The second straight first rounder on this list, Rodriguez is a promising young pitcher with the potential to enter the major leagues with four solid offerings. The best pitch is his mid-90s fastball that he can control well and pitch off of. The control on his offspeed pitches is not at the level it is on the fastball, but teams and players will usually accept sacrificing control for stuff as long as walks are not excessive. In single-A last year, he struck out 34.2 % of batters, which might make the 9.6 BB% look less bad. With a controlled delivery, he puts his body in a position to consistently throw strikes, whether they come or not.
Of his offspeed pitches, the best one appears to be the slider that sweeps from one side of the plate to the other. Thrown in the mid-80s, there is enough of a speed difference between that and the fastball that it can draw swings and misses from velocity along with its movement. In the same speed range is the changeup, which has some fade but not as much movement as the slider. It’s a good pitch to have against lefties and continue to develop, though. In the low minors, not many pitchers have a good changeup. The curve is thrown about 20 mph slower than the fastball, so it is a valuable weapon to have in Rodriguez’s back pocket even if it can be loopy or hard to control at times. The speed difference plus the potential to deceptively mirror the spin of his fastball makes it a pitch worth having.
3. Heston Kjerstad OF
21 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: L – 6’2″ 205 lb. – ETA: 2023
No professional stats
In the field, he’s about average. He can run well enough, and his arm allows him to play right field, which is where GM Mike Elias sees him playing at the end of this rebuild. He’s good enough that he won’t be a liability, but not really much of a standout either. With his offensive profile, that’s all he needs.
What jumps out with Kjerstad is his power. He consistently hit for an ISO over .200, and it reached a lofty .343 in his shortened 2020 season. Of course, this would be meaningless without an ability to hit the ball, which shouldn’t be much of an issue for him. His bat-to-ball skills and plate coverage enable his power to be shown in games. He usually strikes out less than 20% of the time and walks about 8%, so the discipline is not a problem either. As long as Kjerstad follows his current trajectory, he will be a very dangerous major leaguer in only a few years.
4. DL Hall LHP – Frederick Keys (A Adv)
21 Years Old – Throws: L – Bats: L – 6’2″ 195 lb. – ETA: 2022
Hall has the potential to successfully use two plus pitches (with an average-at-best tertiary offering). His mid-90s fastball is aided by an explosive, powerful delivery and his extension at the release point. It can reach the upper 90s at times, but even when it doesn’t it may still look like it does, which is just as good. The curveball, which settles in around the low 80s, has sharp two-plane movement, and his changeup fades off its perceived trajectory with a similar speed range.
One inference you could make is that he must get a lot of strikeouts, and it’s true. Every season, Hall’s strikeout numbers have been climbing with the quality of his arsenal, reaching a 33.5 K% last year. Another is, how could he possibly control pitches with so much movement? Well, it’s a work in progress. Last year, he walked 15.6% of batters, up from 10.7% in 2018. In my opinion, that’s fine. If his curve and changeup move more from year to year, then he has to redevelop his feel for where to throw them in order to hit his spots.
As he is reaching the later stages of his progression as a pitcher, it would be ideal for his control to settle at the level it was in 2018 (of course, a little better would be nice too).
5. Yusniel Diaz OF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
23 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R –
6’1″ 195 lb. – ETA: 2021
The prize of the Machado trade is on track to being a regular in Baltimore in the coming years. He may have made his debut in 2020 if anything were normal, but that is not the case. With space open on the team’s 60-man player pool, he is still a viable option.
In the first go-around of spring training, Diaz impressed the big league brass on both sides of the ball. He was always a player that could hit, but he embraced his uppercut after joining the Orioles and received immediate feedback on his stat page. He reached a career high 11 home runs and .210 ISO in 76 games in AA last year; that’s a 23 HR pace per 162 games. With an emphasis on his legs and core, just about all the power that could be extracted from his body is put into his swing. In addition to adding power, his contact hitting and discipline did not suffer much at all after the adjustment period.
Diaz is a capable defender in the corner outfield with a strong arm. As one of a few of the better players in this system that plays the corners, there is bound to be some healthy competition. He could be an above average left fielder depending on the circumstances (ex. if Kjerstad is in MLB, Diaz would be more likely to play left). While he is a slightly below average runner, that won’t be detrimental to his defensive value.
6. Austin Hays OF – Baltimore Orioles (MLB)
24 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’1″ 195 lb. – ETA: 2020
Hays is a player that can do a little bit of everything. He found the spotlight late last season when he robbed media magnet Vladimir Guerrero Jr of a home run. Hays is at his best when he’s in the field, even though his speed is just above average. It’s his stellar glovework that cements him as a dependable center fielder, and it doesn’t hurt that his arm can be a weapon too.
Hays likes to put the ball in play (K% usually around 20, BB% around 5), and he can do so impactfully. His quiet load and leg kick can be deceiving, but quick hands and an explosive swing create enough power to succeed in the big leagues. Hays typically spreads his ground balls and fly balls evenly with line drives approaching 20%, so he doesn’t really fit a category in terms of batted balls other than a guy who wants to hit the ball with some force behind it. His ISO reflects his power, as it frequently approaches .200. Of all the players in this system, Hays is one of the most complete players.
7. Ryan Mountcastle 1B/3B/LF – Norfolk Tide (AAA)
23 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’3″ 195 lb. – ETA: 2021
Mountcastle’s career will ride solely on his ability to hit for power. Unlike Mayo, his discipline is rather poor, as he is all but guaranteed to draw a walk in no more than five percent of his plate appearances. Thankfully for him, his batting average has been able to carry his OBP through AAA, but it’s likely that major leaguers will relentlessly test the limits on how far he will expand the zone. What makes it worthwhile to put him in the lineup is that he will pounce on mistakes and has the ability to hit the ball out of the yard at any given moment. Since the start of 2016, Mountcastle’s ISO has never fallen below .144, which is a tremendously high floor.
On the left side of the infield, things are pushing disastrous. Because of that, the Orioles began to use him more at first base and left field last year, where he is at least playable. Both positions fit him well because his below average arm isn’t as exposed as it would be at third base. Also helpful is that his lackluster speed is not a factor at first base. The key to staying on the field is being able to scoop balls at first and/or having serviceable range in left.
8. Jordan Westburg SS
21 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’3″ 206 lb. – ETA: 2023
No Professional Stats
Right now, there’s a little bit of everything in Westburg’s toolbox, although no one tool is in the top tier. All five have the potential to be at least average in the major leagues. His most promising qualities are on the defensive side of the ball, where he’s a smooth shortstop with a good arm and some range to work with. In a system starved for shortstops, it makes perfect sense why the Orioles would select a rock-solid defender with their second pick in this year’s MLB Draft.
Westburg is more raw as a hitter, but he appears to be on the right path. His strikeouts are down (20.3% in 2020) and his ISO is up (.200). For a player with this level of bat speed, contact and power should definitely improve as he develops. There’s room for improvement with his lower half, which could do more to supply him with power. His upper half is very advanced for the competition he was facing, so it makes sense that he was still able to succeed. With sensible development, Westburg should be able to play a solid shortstop year after year for the Orioles once he reaches the big leagues.
9. Dean Kremer RHP – Norfolk Tide (AAA)
24 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’3″ 180 lbs. – ETA: 2021
Kremer is one of those pitchers who would baffle evaluators with how good his four-seam fastball is, except now we know why. With the wave of spin rate fanatacism, there is now a logical explanation for why hitters tend to swing under (or hit the bottom of) his high fastballs: the pitch has a high spin rate and/or a spin axis that creates near-perfect backspin. He can get burned low in the zone with it, so his fastball command plays a big role in telling if he performs well or not.
Of his two breaking balls, it’s not exactly clear which one’s better. The slider has sharp break, although the overall pitch is just below average. That’s why more of the positive results coming from it are weakly hit balls and not whiffs. The curve is slower with more vertical movement, and Kremer’s done well in working to limit its loopiness. He controls the slider better, which gives it the edge in my opinion. As for his changeup, his arm doesn’t move quite as fast as it does on the other pitches. He’s considerably improved his arm speed consistency, but it’s not all the way there yet. At its best, this is probably just a fourth pitch used every once in a while to disrupt a hitter’s timing.
10. Gunnar Henderson SS – GCL Orioles (RK)
19 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’3″ 195 lbs. – ETA: 2024
There is progress to be made on Henderson’s swing, but he projects as a decent major leaguer as long as he stays within himself. Currently, he tends to overswing in a way that isn’t suited for his lanky frame. He gets very rotational, especially in the shoulders, and it leads to armsy swings and misses. Having only struck out 23.1% of the time last year, this seems to be a fixable issue. It indicates that his coordination is good enough that even mechanical flaws won’t drive him to frequent contactless walks back to the dugout. In high school he was a superstar with a batting average over .500 and slugging over 1.100, but his mechanics have to be sharper in pro ball. He can still produce power with his body, but he should go about it differently than a big-bodied natural power hitter.
Henderson is not a certainty to stick at shortstop, but he would be able to play a fine third base if he doesn’t. What stands out most is his strong arm, which allows him to play the left side of the infield well. His speed is above average, so he should theoretically have solid range in the middle infield along with that arm. His fielding fundamentals are not MLB caliber yet, but I believe he will get there given his athleticism and coordination.
11. Coby Mayo 3B
18 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’5″ 215 lb. – ETA: 2024
No Professional Stats
It is immediately clear just by looking at him that Coby Mayo is a power hitter. In 65 HS games at Marjory Stoneman Douglass, he hit for a .327 ISO, and every bit of it is for real. He’s physically gifted in his 6’5” frame with good coordination, and it shows when he hits. Mayo had a .389 average in high school and walked 22.7% of the time, meaning his discipline and hitting ability combined to get him on base more times than not.
With a slugger-type profile, it comes as no surprise that Mayo’s defense is below average. He should be able to stick at third base, where his strong arm could be used. His range is limited by his speed, so it’s best for him to play a position where that isn’t much of an issue. In the hot corner, the ball reaches guys so fast that range is barely a factor (at least compared to the middle infield it’s not). He might actually be able to make a transformation on defense similar to how Rafael Devers did last year. His coordination is good enough that his glove work can be very solid as long as his reactions hold up. But for now, he’s a strong-armed slugger with considerable room for improvement on defense.
12. Rylan Bannon 2B/3B – Norfolk Tide (AAA)
24 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 5’7″ 180 lbs. – ETA: 2021
Bannon projects as a fringe-regular whose calling card is his bat. His power is questionable according to many evaluators, but I believe in it. Bannon has an extremely explosive swing in which he uses every ounce of his body to generate power. Among MLB’s smaller bodied and powerful second basemen are Jose Altuve and Brandon Lowe. This wouldn’t be the first time a player who doesn’t look like much of an extra base threat proves everyone wrong. A key part of Bannon’s game is that he is not a reckless swinger; he will put the bat on the ball enough for the power to show. While he might not be one of the league’s more prolific power hitters, he is not a weak hitter.
Third base has been a nightmare for Bannon, where the errors wouldn’t stop. Fortunately, a move to second base seems to be helping his case to join the big league club sooner rather than later. It takes less pressure off him, and he’s been able to stay within himself. There’s more time to react to the ball and less time needed to throw to first, which greatly benefits him. Something to keep an eye on is that his hitting improved significantly in AAA, where he first started playing second base a majority of his games. That may be partly because they were using the MLB balls, but there are times when a change in the field is accompanied by a player’s offensive production (ex. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.). We may not have clear answers on Bannon until we see him in Baltimore, but the upside is impossible to ignore for now.
13. Hudson Haskin OF
21 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’2″ 200 lb. – ETA: 2024
No Professional Stats
Haskin is a rare hitter that any team should want to pounce on. With the potential combination of power, on-base and hitting ability, and not striking out, he could be a real force in the middle of an Orioles lineup in a few years. He’s undergone a swing change that, at least temporarily, has taken a little off his power. Standing straight up to start, a slow and deliberate step leads to a swing with a wide stance. He does still hit the ball well, but the wider stance means he will need more leg strength to get the same power from the ground that he used to. Also, the two-plane head movement from start to finish may not bode well for a player facing Major League pitching. Haskin is not a finished product at the plate, but his foundation is very solid.
If the other outfielders on this list (Kjerstad, Diaz, Hays) continue on their trajectories, Haskin will be on the outside looking in for a spot. His defense is below average, but it’s not all bad given his plus speed. Haskin would probably be best as a DH who plays the outfield when better defenders are unavailable. He is not unplayable in the outfield, but he’s not exactly their first option to put out there either.
14. Zac Lowther LHP – Bowie Baysox (AA)
24 Years Old – Throws: L – Bats: L – 6’2″ 235 lb. – ETA: 2021
Lowther’s individual pitches might seem pedestrian at first, but his fantastic pitchability allows him to dominate the Minor Leagues. His fastball only registers at 89 mph, but he can cut it or sink it with above-average control. His best secondary pitch is either the changeup or slider, which both sit in the lower 80s. The changeup disrupts hitters’ timing even with a minimal speed difference, and it often induces weak contact or swings and misses. This means that working towards a greater speed difference could really make this a devastating pitch. Lowther plays with the shape of his slider like he does with his fastball, allowing it to sweep or slurve when the situation allows for it. While he does throw a curveball, it’s mostly a soft toss to lefties. His slider is his primary breaking ball, but the curve has a necessary role as a third pitch to lefties (because most pitchers throw less changeups to same-handed hitters).
The results that Lowther can get are just short of unbelievable. A finesse guy consistently strikes out more than a quarter of his batters. About 35% of plate appearances end in a strikeout or infield popup, and the vast majority of balls in play do little damage. Lowther has never allowed a BABIP over .300, suggesting weak contact, and his impressive 0.49 HR/9 aligns with that. By the end of this year, he requires a 40-man roster spot to avoid the Rule 5 Draft, and there might not be a bigger no-brainer for Mike Elias at the November deadline.
15. Ryan McKenna OF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
23 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 5’11” 185 lb. – ETA: 2022
McKenna battles inconsistency at the plate, leading to below average results. On the surface, his slashline looks bad, but he has a respectable .133 ISO to go along with good strikeout and walk numbers. What holds him down is his batting average, but the rest of his game is pretty good relative to that. The problem with his swing is that it gets upper body heavy, and it only takes a pronounced shoulder dip to set things off track. If he could have a more evened out and consistent swing, he could hit for an OPS in the low to mid .700s considering his peripherals.
While the offense is below average, the defense is anything but. With his plus-plus speed, McKenna has a built-in advantage in the outfield. He also has an average arm and a projected plus glove, so he’s a good candidate to roam center field if his bat can come around. Until it does, he looks like he’s on track to be a defense-first backup outfielder.
16. Michael Baumann RHP – Bowie Baysox (AA)
24 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’4″ 225 lb.
Baumann‘s 2019 season was the best of his career to date, as he posted a sub-3.00 FIP at two levels. As his stuff improves, he’s growing into a pitcher that’s hard to score off of. It is very rare to hit a home run off him, and it is not just because he limits well-hit balls. It’s become a regularity for Baumann to strike out at least 25% of opposing batters.
His two main pitches, fastball and slider, are good enough that a move to the bullpen would be a reasonable fallback if starting doesn’t work out at higher levels. That is, they alone can make him a solid major leaguer. The fastball settles in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 mph with good carry. The slider is kind of like a cutter, sitting around 90, and it often induces weak contact and swings and misses. The quality of the curve and changeup are a step down from the other pitches, but they contribute to keeping hitters off balance. For a starting pitcher, just the fact that there are four pitches instead of two is crucial in being able to give length. Even if the curve and change are always below average pitches, a look here and there as he gets deeper into the game is all Baumann needs from them.
17. Hunter Harvey RHP – Baltimore Orioles (MLB)
25 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’3″ 175 lbs. – ETA: 2020
I know his stats look bad. They are actually much better than the cumulative totals appear because of his midseason transition to the bullpen. For more on that, click here for his prospect profile.
Harvey’s upper 90s fastball is his best pitch, but its results are subject to his below average control. With high-velocity pitchers making their mark all over MLB, throwing 100 isn’t sufficient like it was even just five years ago. He’s also going to need to lean on his curveball and changeup to get outs. The curve has a 15 mph speed difference with the fastball, and it just drops off the table with above average vertical movement. And while the changeup can also be a good pitch, it’s a scary one to call for a catcher. With Harvey’s control, there is always the possibility looming that a poorly located changeup becomes a 92 mph BP fastball. Two plus-or-better pitches is enough to be productive in relief, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to be mainly a fastball/curveball pitcher.
18. Keegan Akin LHP – Norfolk Tide (AAA)
25 Years Old – Throws: L – Bats: L – 6’0″ 225 lb. – ETA: 2020
Each of Akin’s pitches project to be about average, and the results reflect that. His FIP was 4.13 two years in a row, last year at the AAA level. Starting with his low-to-mid-90s fastball, its arm side run can jam lefties and tunnel with a changeup against righties. The changeup probably wouldn’t be as effective with a straight four-seam fastball, but they both have similar horizontal movement that can deceive hitters. With a 10-15 mph speed difference and some downward movement, there’s no touching this thing if you’re tricked into believing it’s a fastball. Some pitchers don’t take enough off the changeup, meaning hitters can still make contact if they’re fooled, but not Akin. Unlike anything else in his pitch mix is his slider, which sweeps down and in towards a right-handed hitter. It’s not a particularly great pitch, but it gives a different look at about the same speed as the changeup. Akin will likely settle into the back of the rotation, given his consistently serviceable FIP.
19. Alex Wells LHP – Bowie Baysox (AA)
23 Years Old – Throws: L – Bats: L – 6’1″ 190 lbs. – ETA: 2021
Don’t look away when Alex Wells is pitching or you might miss the inning. No, seriously, he is probably the fastest-working pitcher you have ever seen. He’s a lower level Zac Lowther who might be surprisingly good in the majors. His 90-91 mph fastball is slightly below average, but it shouldn’t be that exposed because of his plus command. His best pitch is the mid-80s changeup that has a steep vertical drop and limited fading action, making it almost too easy for hitters to mistake for a fastball. Of the breaking balls, the curve is the better pitch. It sits in the low-to-mid 70s with with a two-plane parabolic drop. The slider is similar but about 10 mph faster and with less movement.
If he’s so similar to Lowther, what’s he doing down here? Two reasons are that Wells has struggled to get strikeouts and that he still has some things to sort out. He could get some more velocity from his legs, specifically his landing leg, and he could do more to make his arm action as explosive on the curveball as it is on the fastball. It is a reasonable idea that weak contact will be his path to success, but strikeout pitchers tend to project better than weak-contact pitchers. So for now, he is a projected five starter.
20. Zach Pop RHP –Bowie Baysox (AA)
23 Years Old – Throws: R – Bats: R – 6’4″ 220 lb. – ETA: 2021
Currently, Pop is recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he comes back, his mechanics will likely change enough to put less stress on his elbow, but I don’t expect his velocity to suffer much. We did see a glimpse of this type of change before the surgery, but it was too late. In the mid-90s and up to 98 mph, his fastball is a big league weapon. It has some sink on it coming across his body from a 3/4 arm slot. He can locate it well, and it does two great things for his batted ball profile: ground balls always account for about 60% of batted balls, and his line drive rate is miniscule.
As for his slider, it’s okay. It’s 10 mph slower than the fastball with movement that isn’t particularly impressive but still is effective. Considering the sinking fastball, the difference in horizontal movement is greater than it would be had he thrown a straight four-seamer instead of the sinker. His control is better than his 9.1 BB% showed last year, considering he most likely wasn’t pitching his 10.2 innings at full strength, and it was around seven percent in 2018. He can usually locate his fastball in the zone, whereas controlling slider is still a work in progress. At best, Pop will be capable of giving quality innings in the back end; more likely is that he’s a good middle reliever.
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