Image credit: Bill Mitchell Photography

Link Summary: Don’t feel sorry for yourself, only assholes do that

The State of the System: The rebuild has begun. It’s, uh, gonna take a while.

The Top Ten:

  1. Yusniel Diaz, OF
  2. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B
  3. DL Hall, LHP
  4. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
  5. Ryan McKenna, OF
  6. Dillon Tate, RHP
  7. Keegan Akin, LHP
  8. Austin Hays, OF
  9. Luis Ortiz, RHP
  10. JC Encarnacion, 3B


1. Yusniel Diaz, OF
DOB: 10/7/1996
Height/Weight: 6’0” / 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Signed November 2015 by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of Cuba for $15.5 million; acquired from the Dodgers for Manny Machado.
Previous Ranking(s): #6 (Org, LAD), #73 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: .239/.329/.403, 5 HR, 4 SB in 38 games at Double-A Bowie .314/.428/.477, 6 HR, 8 SB in 59 games at Double-A Tulsa

The Report: Diaz’s bat carried him to the top of this list. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and solid quick-twitch which allows him to barrel the ball even though his swing can lengthen at times. The longer swing allows him to tap into his average raw power, although his swing plane is a bit flat and his hardest contact comes on low line drives. He has a patient approach with an excellent feel for the zone and quality pitch recognition. He could be a fine hitter without any further adjustments, but the flat plane seems exactly the type of swing that the Dodgers would have tweaked to unlock more XBH power. Now he’s with the Orioles in a transitory time; it will be interesting to see if the player development staff has any adjustments in mind.

Diaz is an average runner and, as he’s completely filled out, he will likely remain one for a while. He has solid instincts in the outfield and an above-average arm, which should allow him to be fringy in center or above average in right. Diaz can be too aggressive on the basepaths and he probably won’t be much of a base-stealing threat.

Even with a solid defensive profile in right, Diaz will need to hit to provide significant value. Fortunately for O’s fans, he’s a good bet to do so. His fluid athleticism and hand-eye coordination should fuel above-average production with room for more if a swing adjustment unlocks more pop.

The Role:

OFP 60—Plus Regular

Likely 55—Above-average Regular

The Risks: Low. Diaz is about ready for prime time, although there’s a small chance that big-league pitchers will exploit his lengthy swing enough to limit him to platoon duty. His power needs to play at least fringe-average for him to be an above-average regular, and there’s a chance that that adjustment never happens. —Kevin Carter

Major league ETA: Late 2019

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Diaz is a good fantasy prospect, but his valuation should fluctuate pretty heavily based on your league size. Do you play in The Dynasty Guru Experts (TDGX) League-sized formats with 20-plus teams? If so, Diaz is an easy top-50 dynasty prospect as someone who’s a safe bet to become an everyday regular. In shallower formats, Diaz may end up as more of just A Guy, albeit one who contributes solidly across the board. From a fantasy perspective, we’ve compared his ceiling to prime Melky Cabrera in the past, and that still feels apt. He’s got a very clear path to playing time to boot.

2. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B
DOB: 2/18/1997
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 36th overall in the 2015 draft, Paul J. Hagerty HS (Oviedo, FL); signed for $1.3 million
Previous Ranking(s): #1 (Org), #65 (Top 101)
2018 Stats: .297/.341/.464, 13 HR, 2 SB in 102 games at Double-A Bowie

The Report: A scouting cliché we reference often on the prospect team: “When in doubt, just pick the best hitter.” His power may or may not come. He may or may not stick up the middle. But if he hits, who cares, really? Ryan Mountcastle can hit. His swing gets long from time-to-time, usually when he’s trying to add leverage to get his plus raw power into play, but when everything is working it just looks right. We do think the power will come, and if he’s a 60 hit/55 power bat, so what about the rest, really?

I suppose we do have to cover it though. So, the rest: Mountcastle has a well-below-average arm, so third base is unlikely to work out any better than shortstop did, despite adequate instincts and hands for the hot corner. It’s possible Mountcastle could handle second, but he could grow off the keystone as well, making left field or even first base a more likely long-term defensive home. That puts significant pressure on the bat to play to projection.

The Role:

OFP 60—Plus regular… somewhere

Likely 50—Average regular, probably in left field or at first base  

The Risks: Medium. We love the bat, and he conquered Double-A at 21, but it’s unclear where Mountcastle will end up on the defensive spectrum.

Major league ETA: 2020

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: For my money, Mountcastle is the best fantasy prospect in the system and one of my favorite pure bats in all the minors. There are some warts, sure, but it’s also easy to see Mountcastle following the Nick Castellanos career path and blooming into a top-10 fantasy third baseman or top-25 fantasy outfielder. Count any years you get 3B/CI eligibility out of him as a blessing, and bank on a .280-plus average with 20 bombs and solid R/RBI totals for the long haul.

3. DL Hall, LHP
DOB: 9/19/98
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 21st overall in the 2017 draft, Valdosta HS (Valdosta, GA); signed for $3,000,000
Previous Ranking(s): #3 (Org)
2018 Stats: 2.10 ERA, 3.77 DRA, 94 ⅓ IP, 68 H, 42 BB, 100 K in 22 games at Full-season-A Delmarva

The Report: Baltimore’s 2017 first-round pick had a strong full-season debut and spent the entire year as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League. Beyond the eye-popping top line stats, Hall looks every bit the part of a high-ranking lefty prospect arm. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch higher. It’s a heavy pitch which he will also cut, and it shows late life when he wants to elevate it for a strikeout. He pairs it with a power curve that flashes plus. It’s a big, tight breaker that he can start in the zone and entice chases, or drop in for a strike.

Hall’s slider and change lag behind at present. The slider is shorter and shows a different look with average depth at times, but is too often a flat 10-4 offering. The straight change benefits from his deceptive arm action, but is well-below-average at present, and hangs in the zone too often.

Mechanically, Hall has some things to iron out as well. It’s an uptempo but inconsistent delivery that leaves his upper and lower halves out of sync at times. He’ll throw across his body with slingy arm action and a bit of crossfire. That adds deception to the fastball, but also makes the command projection more average than plus. He won’t always finish his pitches off and will miss armside and up here and there. If you guessed that Hall is a mid-rotation starting pitching prospect who needs to improve his command and third pitch, congratulations, you’ve been here before. Did you remember your punch card? There will be plenty more arms like this to come over the next three months as well.

The Role:

OFP 60—no. 3 starter or lefty closer

Likely 50—no. 4 starter or setup  

The Risks: High. I believe we used the “He’s an Orioles pitching prospect named “DL” joke a fair bit last year. So this year I will just point out that a pre-draft comp I got from a prospect team member was Scott Kazmir. So yeah, those risks…

Major league ETA: Late 2020

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: The thing about Hall is that he’s an Orioles pitching prospect. Maybe the front office overhaul in Baltimore will lead to better results for this particular breed of dynasty asset, but I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s enough upside and a short enough timeline here that you can make Hall a top-200 guy if you want to. I won’t, because I’m a cynic.

4. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
DOB: 11/16/99
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 11th overall in the 2018 draft, Central Heights HS (Nacogdoches, TX); signed for $4,300,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2018 Stats: 1.40 ERA, XXX DRA, 19 ⅔ IP, 17 H, 7 BB, 20 K

The Report: Rodriguez ticks almost every box on the “first-round-Texas-prep-arm” checklist. He lags behind the standard a bit in projectability, but that’s only because he’s already a very large human. He has the requisite big fastball, sitting around 95 and touching the upper-90s at times. He has a potential plus secondary in the arsenal as well, a power slider with good late tilt.

The rest of the four-pitch mix is below-average—which, granted is also one of the boxes here. Rodriguez works in a loopy curve and a developing change to round out his repertoire. The mechanics don’t scream “slam-dunk-starter” either, as he is very upright and stiff, without much leg drive, and he relies on his arm speed and late torque to hit 98. The arm action is inconsistent and high-effort as well. Still, there are worse building blocks for a pitching prospect than a well-developed 6-foot-5 frame and a potential plus fastball/slider combo.

The Role:

OFP 60—no. 3 starter or closer

Likely 45—No. 4/5 starter or setup  

The Risks: High. He’s a prep arm in the complex who needs to develop his secondaries and he has relatively high reliever risk.

Major league ETA: 2023

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Too long a lead time, too low of a fantasy ceiling and too much an Oriole. Check back next year.

5. Ryan McKenna, OF
DOB: 2/14/97
Height/Weight: 5’11” / 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the fourth round in the 2015 draft, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Dover, NH); signed for $414,700
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2018 Stats: .239/.341/.338, 3 HR, 4 SB in 60 games at Double-A Bowie; .314/.343/.542, 15 HR, 8 SB in 88 games at High-A Frederick

The Report: A major-league average (50) tool grade doesn’t get much effusive praise around these parts. There are some selection bias issues here. The players who make these lists generally have a standout tool or two to fill out the 200-word count for our blurbs. McKenna offers no such easy narrative. He does everything averagely well. That is major-league average though. And it’s easy to forget how impressive average major-league talent is. His hit tool—yes, it’s a five—presents as short to the ball with above-average barrel control. It’s more of a line drive swing, but there’s enough leverage that he will get to most of his 50 raw power in play. He’s an average center fielder with an average arm. While he’s a plus runner at present, he figures to slow down into the average to solid-average range in the majors. It’s not quite the five-tool center fielder we tend to rave about—the game power will likely play below-average with some pull-side pop against lefties—but McKenna has turned himself into a quality major-league prospect. It’s coincidental that he slots in at #5 in the system, but it does create a nice bit of rankinative determinism.   

The Role:

OFP 55—Above-average outfielder

Likely 45—Good fourth outfielder  

The Risks: Medium. McKenna hasn’t aced Double-A yet and may lack a carrying a tool. Sometimes the average-across-the-board guys play up, other times we find out they aren’t actually average-across-the-board. If you want to look for positive risk, he is a cold weather prep bat who just had a bit of a breakout season, which can be a positive marker for additional growth.

Major league ETA: Early 2020

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Given the balanced overall skill set, his proximity to the majors and the fact that he could play in a very favorable home park, it’s safe to say McKenna is a better fantasy prospect than an IRL one. The risk is that his tweener profile pushes him out of everyday playing time, but given the dearth of talent on the O’s roster at present, hopefully he can stave off such a future. McKenna doesn’t profile as a guy who’ll win you any leagues, but could he be well-rounded enough to push his way to OF4 or OF5 status in deeper formats? Sure. He probably won’t make the top-101, but he might make a top-150.

6. Dillon Tate, RHP
DOB: 5/1/94
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted fourth overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2015 draft, UC Santa Barbara; signed for $4,200,000; acquired from the Yankees for Zach Britton
Previous Ranking(s): Next Ten (Org, NYY)
2018 Stats: 5.75 ERA, 4.27 DRA, 40 ⅔ IP, 9 BB, 21 K in 7 games at Double-A Bowie, 3.38 ERA, 3.13 DRA, 82 ⅔ IP, 67 H, 25 BB, 75 K in 15 games at Double-A Trenton

The Report: Put aside his draft status as the fourth overall pick three-and-a-half years ago and what you have is a 95-and-a-slider guy with terribly inconsistent performance due to command that comes and goes. The fastball is pretty straight. He doesn’t always hold his velocity well. It’s a plus-flashing slider, but one of the things that’s changed in baseball over the last decade is that a whole lot of pitchers have a plus-flashing slider now. The changeup still isn’t quite what you want. The fastball/slider combo can be good enough, and the changeup isn’t hopeless. Even coming off a hideous end to the season as a 24-year-old in Double-A, there’s still flickering hope for a mid-rotation arm. He’s also pitched better at times out of the pen, and the stigma on dumping your top pitching prospects there is dissipating. At some point though, someone’s developmental clock ticks long enough that you stop giving him the benefit of the doubt; the guys selected two picks ahead of Tate and three picks behind him were also college draftees of the same age, and both are already established MLB stars.

The Role:

OFP 55—Mid-rotation starter or late-inning reliever

Likely 45—He’s okay but we keep wondering why he isn’t a dominant reliever well into the 2020s

The Risks: Well, there’s a heck of a lot of signs here he’s going to end up in the bullpen, aren’t there? Strictly speaking we aren’t supposed to care about the organizational change when writing him up, but the Orioles pitching development has become an industry punchline, and he was much worse after the trade. There’s also a long history of underperformance here, such that he’s gotten traded twice now already. —Jarrett Seidler

Major league ETA: 2019

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Well, if you’ve held on to Tate all this time, I guess you can take the fact that he’s somewhat dynasty-relevant again as a good sign. But the real question is: why did you hold on to Tate this long? He’s bounced around multiple organizations that would be terrible for his future fantasy value, and the odds that he’s just a frustrating reliever in the end are too high. You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, etc.

7. Keegan Akin, LHP
Height/Weight: 6’ / 225 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 54th overall in the 2016 draft, Western Michigan; signed for $1,177,200
Previous Ranking(s): #7 (Org)
2018 Stats: 3.27 ERA, 4.11 DRA, 137 ⅔ IP, 114 H, 58 BB, 142 K in 25 games at Double-A Bowie

The Report: Last year Akin slotted in at seventh in a below-average Orioles system as your typical funky lefty starter with a decent change-up and a fastball around 90. This year he slots in at seven once again, but both he and the system are markedly improved. It’s easy to peg the culprit here. Akin’s fastball has jumped to 93-95 and touches 97. The plus velo—combined with a hitchy, deceptive delivery, a bit of gloveside run, and above-average command—generated a lot of late swings from Double-A hitters. While Akin never had a frame you would call “projectable,” the velocity bump makes his fastball a borderline plus-plus offering at its best. The fastball will need to carry the profile here as the changeup is merely average and the slider below that. The latter is a flat 1-8 offering that breaks enough to keep it off barrels most of the time, but lacks the depth to consistently miss bats. The improved fastball hasn’t markedly changed the ceiling here, but it makes Akin more likely to have a substantial major-league career.

The Role:

OFP 50—no. 4 starter

Likely 45—no. 5 starter or swingman  

The Risks: Low. As a close-to-the-majors lefty with now plus velocity and a bit of funk, Akin is a low-ceiling guy, but likely to get major-league opportunities.

Major league ETA: Late 2019

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If you read the DL Hall blurb and thought “I just wish this prospect had less upside,” Akin is the guy for you. Also why is every Orioles lefty’s name a synonym for being in pain?

8. Austin Hays, OF
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 91st overall in the 2016 draft, Jacksonville University; signed for $665,800
Previous Ranking(s): #2 (Org), #72 (Overall)
2018 Stats: .242/.271/.432, 12 HR, 6 SB in 66 games at Double-A Bowie; .189/.231/.243, 0 HR, 0 SB in 9 games for GCL Orioles

The Report: This feels unfair to Hays who broke out across two levels in 2017 and made the majors that September. While we weren’t quite as high on his ultimate ceiling as some of our prospect-ranking counterparts, we did have him comfortably as a Top 101 guy, and the second best prospect in the system. How’d he do in 2018? Well, he was bad and then he was hurt. This ranking may be a bit of an overreaction, but let’s zoom out a bit.

Hays had about a half-season of Double-A baseball before his call-up. Now he has about a season and has posted a slugging-heavy .829 OPS at appropriate prospect ages. He had to have offseason ankle surgery to remedy the issue that limited him to a half-season this year. There are mitigating factors all over his 2018, and honestly the ordinal distance between him and Ryan McKenna overstates the gap as prospects. That said, like McKenna he is a “sum of the average tools” guy and doesn’t even have McKenna’s glove in center. When you get evidence that one of those 50-55 offensive tools might not play to projection, the whole profile becomes far riskier.

The Role:

OFP 50—Average corner outfielder

Likely 45—Good bench outfielder  

The Risks: Low. While we aren’t quite as sold on the plus regular ceiling as we were last year, a healthy Hays should be a productive major-league piece in 2019.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2017

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Hays was a guy I liked a lot a year ago, and I’m not ready to jump ship just yet. He’s got a clear path to playing time (stop me if you’ve heard that before) and while he’s not the defender McKenna is, his fantasy profile is starkly similar. He might just be a fourth outfielder, sure, but fourth outfielders who play every day because their teams are bad can still have some value.

9. Luis Ortiz, RHP
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 230 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 30th overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2014 draft, Sanger HS (Sanger, CA); signed for $1,750,000. Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers for Jonathan Schoop
Previous Ranking(s): #8 (Org, MIL)
2018 Stats: 15.43 ERA, 7.94 DRA, 2 ⅓ IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 0 K in 2 games for the Baltimore Orioles; 3.69 ERA, 7.29 DRA, 31 ⅔ IP, 34 H, 8 BB, 21 K in 6 games at Triple-A Norfolk; 3.71 ERA, 3.51 DRA, 68 IP, 63 H, 17 BB, 65 K in 16 games at Double-A Biloxi

The Report: It feels like we have been writing about Ortiz forever. You know the cliff notes by now—hefty righty, plus fastball, oft-injured, traded twice. Well, the fastball isn’t quite plus anymore, whether due to his litany of maladies or just normal pitching prospect attrition. His fastball sits more in the low-90s now, touching 95. It still features good run and sink when it’s down in the zone, but it’s very hittable when elevated, and his velocity can tick down into the upper-80s later in starts. The movement keeps the pitch above-average and covers at times for average command. Ortiz fills out his repertoire with an average change that works off the fastball well with similar movement in the low-80s; an average, mid-80s slider with short, late tilt; and a fringy curve he steals strikes with now and again. He’s no longer a Top 101 candidate, and he still has durability issues: He missed a month early in the year and left his first big-league start with a pulled hamstring. But he’s reached the majors and is now with an organization that will have, uh, let’s say “starting pitching opportunities” in the short-to-medium term.   

The Role:

OFP 50—no. 4 starter or setup

Likely 40—no. 5 starter or swingman  

The Risks: Medium. Ortiz got a cup of coffee in the majors, but he didn’t exactly look great, and has still never thrown 100 innings in a season.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2018

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Well, if innings pitched is your league’s only pitching category, Ortiz might end up being decent. If you care about scary things like ERA, WHIP and W, however, Ortiz is best left to the waiver wire.

10. JC Encarnacion, 3B
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired:  Signed in 2016 by the Atlanta Braves out of the Dominican Republic for $10,000; acquired from the Braves for Kevin Gausman.
Previous Ranking(s): N/R
2018 Stats: .288/.314/.463, 10 HR, 5 SB in 97 games at Low-A Rome; .218/.240/.356, 2 HR, 0 SB in 26 games at Low-A Delmarva

The Report: Encarnacion was one of the most polarizing reports in the South Atlantic League. Reports varied considerably depending on when the evaluator saw him. The easy tools to nail down are his raw power, which will end up at least plus, and an above-average arm that plays at third. He has the swing to tap into this power, with big lift and extension out front. How much he gets to in games is the question.

Encarnacion is susceptible to basic sequencing, and his lengthy cut suggests that there will likely be plenty of swing and miss long-term. His swing will look different from one at-bat to the next, and between that and his lack of discipline, he projects as a below-average hitter. Encarnacion’s glove is equally iffy. He has smooth actions at times, but he’ll take plays off and goes to the backhand too often. He needs to make strides to stick at third, but he has the athleticism to stick there as a fringe-average defender. Ultimately, Encarnacion’s tools suggest a high-ceiling corner-infield slugger with huge projection, but the gap between his present and potential abilities is massive, and will require time and patience.

The Role:

OFP 50—Average regular

Likely 45—Second-division regular/platoon

The Risks: Very High. The gap between Encarnacion’s present and potential is huge. A lackadaisical approach at times doesn’t help, but athletic actions and size are in his favor. —David Lee

Major league ETA: 2021

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Encarnacion is a good one for your watch list, but the risk/reward mix isn’t favorable enough to make him a truly meaningfully dynasty asset yet. Keep an eye on him though, and pick him up in deeper leagues if the power plays at High-A.

The Next Five:

11. Bruce Zimmermann, LHP (Double-A Bowie)

Zimmermann is an advanced left-hander with the command to carve up the minor leagues and the stuff of an up-and-down guy or long reliever. His fringy fastball doesn’t have much life or movement, but it sits in the low-90s and plays up because of his command. The better secondary varies from start to start, but his changeup has greater potential at solid-average with fade and arm speed. The breaker should settle at fringe-average with moderate bite and depth. Zimmermann is maxed out physically and he has a durable frame conducive to eating innings. Players like this tend to produce in the minors before big-league hitters expose the limitations of a pitchability arm without a dominant secondary. —David Lee

12. Adam Hall, SS (Short-Season-A Aberdeen)

A second-round pick out of a Canadian high school, Hall has good instincts at short and covers a lot of ground at the six. He’s less physical than most other prospects in his draft orbit. He looks shorter than his listed height—six feet on the dot in the media guide—and he’s not especially toolsy. He does make plenty of contact and he’s a disciplined hitter, so he’s not a total black hole at the plate. Ultimately though, Hall’s more of a reliable defender with an adequate bat than any kind of building block. —Javy Barragan

13. Zac Lowther, LHP (Advanced-A Frederick)

Lowther lacks a blazing fastball, true out pitch, or elite command, but he still pitched well across two levels in 2018. The southpaw’s success stems from his deceptive motion. He works from a low three-quarters arm slot, and uses a long stride to get his arm over the front of his body. Hitters don’t see the ball well and that helps his pedestrian velocity play up. Lowther also has an above-average curveball with depth; his slider and changeup are both fringy. He works both sides of the plate well, and his plus command could allow him to stick as a No. 5 starter. —Victor Filoromo

14. Alex Wells, LHP (Double-A Bowie)

Alex Wells is the same sort of funky-lefty-with-a-change as Keegan Akin. If you really, really prefer fastball command to fastball velocity you could even get Wells ahead of Akin… I suppose. I won’t be going there. Wells’ fastball is pinned around 90, and while his command and change are probably a half-grade better than Akin’s, the breaker is similarly a show-me pitch. Wells just has far less margin for error at 89-91, so he’s more likely to land at the swingman end of his outcome range.

15. Cadyn Grenier, SS (Full-Season-A Delmarva)

Grenier got plenty of amateur scouting coverage this year as Nick Madrigal’s double play partner at Oregon State, and the Orioles popped him with the 37th overall pick. While the White Sox are trying to slide Madrigal to the left side, Grenier is likely to stay at 6 for a while at least. It’s not a frame you usually associate with shortstop, but Grenier is an above-average runner who moves well in the field. The arm is perhaps a bit light for the left side, and if his frame continues to mature, he might be forced to slide to second base. The offensive question marks loom larger, as the swing is a little stiff (although he’ll show decent feel with the barrel head) and there’s more swing-and-miss than you’d prefer in your comp-round college bat. Grenier is likely a fifth infielder, although there’s a chance the profile coalesces into a second-division type if he sticks at short or the bat improves with pro reps.

Others of note:

Catchers are weird, volume one

Brett Cumberland, C

Cumberland has enough bat to reach the major leagues in a backup or up-and-down role, but any defensive value at all would lift that projection. Right now, he’s a bat-first guy with above-average power and advanced plate discipline: He’ll never hit for average, but the home runs and walks will carry the profile at the plate. His defensive future is still in question, but to his credit, he’s made strides behind the plate. Even so, fringy athleticism and slow feet limit his ceiling back there. Without a clear defensive home, he may get the dreaded Quad-A label. He fits best on an American League team, and getting dealt from Atlanta can only help his career. —David Lee

Your starting 2019 left fielder, possibly

D.J. Stewart, OF (Baltimore Orioles)

We wrote last year that Stewart would need to keep hitting to keep his Top Ten Orioles prospect status (the lowest tier of Starwood Preferred Member). While the system improved around him, Stewart’s performance with the bat was more mixed. Most of the power surge from 2017 remained, but overall Stewart didn’t mash as much as you’d like in Triple-A. He did reach Baltimore in September and did hit there, but the profile remains a tough sell. He’s a fringy corner outfielder and has never hit as much as you’d like to overcome the profile issues. It’s hard to project more than 4 hit/5 pop here, and it doesn’t help that the Orioles have other fringy corner outfielders, but Stewart is going to end up higher on the Roster Resource depth chart than you’d think.

The other guys in the Machado trade

Dean Kremer, RHP (Double-A Bowie)

The Dodgers moved Kremer from relief to starting this year at Rancho. Usually scuffling college arms go in the opposite direction, but Kremer popped in longer stints despite his previous mid-90s fastball in the pen sitting in the low-90s when stretched out. The heater plays up due to Kremer’s extension and slight crossfire, which makes it sneak up on hitters. He has a full four-pitch arsenal with both breaking balls ahead of the change. The curve shows good 12-6 action, and Kremer can spot it or get chases down and away. The slider has been his out pitch and he can manipulate it as well. The change is the clear fourth pitch here and the lack of an armside option against lefties might make Kremer more of a multi-inning reliever or swingman than backend starter. This isn’t significantly different from most of the arms above, and you could go a lot of different ways with a pref list after the top five in this improving but still shallow Orioles system.  

Zach Pop, RHP (Double A-Bowie)

Pop is your prototypical, fastball/slider relief prospect. He’s already on the express track to the majors, having blitzed three minor league levels in 2018 on the back of his mid-90s fastball and potential plus slider. Despite his tall and lanky frame, Pop keeps everything pretty compact and throws strikes consistently. His fastball features good tail from his low-three-quarters slot, and he’s grown more comfortable manipulating the slider in his first full pro season. It’s not a consistently plus pitch yet, but he’ll throw a hard backfoot one to righties often enough to project it getting there, and soon. Pop could be 7th or 8th inning help for the Orioles in 2019, and given the state of the O’s bullpen, he might even be up before soft-shell crab season starts.

Personal Cheeseball

Michael Baumann, RHP (Advanced-A Frederick)

Despite a successful season across two A-ball levels, this Michael Baumann still can’t top his own Google search results. Maybe he needs to tweet about Rod Sex to drive those page hits on his baseball-reference page. Now major-league b-ref pages tend to show up atop dudes writing about college baseball and Hulu originals, and this Michael Baumann certainly has a shot to earn one on the strength of his big fastball. The mid-90s heater flashes good life up, although it can run a bit true below the letters. Baumann has two fringy breakers, and the curve and slider can bleed together a bit. He has the frame to log innings, but the stuff is more middle relief. And while the high hard one missed bats in the Sally, Carolina League hitters were fooled far less. Still, if he does make the show, maybe the other Baumann will finally buy some non-Gamecock baseball gear.  

Hunter Harvey, RHP (Double-A Bowie)

Hunter Harvey is hurt again and didn’t throw at instructs. He did pitch 32 innings in 2018, which is the most he’s thrown since 2014. Harvey also got a major-league call up back in April, but didn’t get into a game. Given what happened after, it might be a Moonlight Graham type of scenario, although Graham didn’t have Harvey’s pure stuff. There are plenty of pitchers who have put together careers where they were either “very good or unavailable.” Harvey might end up one of them, but the ratio has skewed way too much towards “unavailable” thus far during his pro career.

Top Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/1993 or later)

  1. Yusniel Diaz
  2. Ryan Mountcastle
  3. Cedric Mullins
  4. DL Hall
  5. Grayson Rodriguez
  6. Chance Sisco
  7. Ryan McKenna
  8. Dillon Tate
  9. Keegan Akin
  10. Austin Hays

Cedric Mullins is just barely ineligible for the prospect list, having taken over duties in center late in the season. With Adam Jones gone, he seems to have a clear shot at the job. As has been the case virtually throughout the minors, he was completely hopeless batting right-handed, and we’re well past the point of openly wondering why he’s still switch-hitting. He profiles as a nifty platoon center fielder, which in this organization qualifies as a huge developmental success.

Chance Sisco, on the other hand, has not developed much at all lately. He’s stuck at catcher, which is good, because his bat won’t support a corner position at this point. Catchers often develop oddly and late, and there’s absolutely a latent hit tool somewhere down there, but the dude couldn’t even shove aside Caleb Joseph and Austin Wynns to claim more playing time on a team that went 47-115.

The Orioles have a half-dozen or so more guys that aren’t prospect-eligible but are eligible here. They just aren’t better than Austin Hays moving forward. (Trust us, we wanted to get Gabriel Ynoa in here somewhere.) It’s going to be a long rebuild. —Jarrett Seidler

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These help immensely to get me through the long off-season. Great work as always, excited for the rest of the series.
Ed Mega
What a pleasant surprise to see a Team Top 10 MiLB list so soon. Xmas here already, 11/05/2018. Schedule for the remaining 29 teams ? I've searched for like... 2 whole minutes. Send help. Gabriel Ynoa FTW ! (Mets fan)
Mac Guyver
Agreed. I always enjoy the prospect coverage. You may be interested in knowing that BA is already 6 teams deep in their coverage if you are looking for a fix.
Shame you had to start with this system, but great info.
FYI previous rankings for Diaz are missing.
Brendan Gawlowski
Fixed -- thank you!
Chris Pulakos
Got real worried, but then I saw Harvey name at the bottom. It wouldn't be an Oriole list without him on it!
Jeffrey Paternostro
Gonna be ranking Harvey as an other of note next to August Jones in 2034.
I think the last couple of years you have ordered the lists by the reverse of the org rankings from the previous year. Starting with the Os keeps that in play. Is that correct or is there some other order the lists this year?
Jeffrey Paternostro
We are doing it by reverse order of record. It's not a great system at the moment, but it's far from the worst.
Mac Guyver
Seems like a good idea to me. In theory the worst teams should have good farm systems! Honestly, just reversing the Baseball America order would be the best as they are the other big pay competitor out there.
Was Renato Nunez in consideration for Top Talents 25 and under? if so, how close was he to cracking the Top 10?
Jarrett Seidler
Nunez and Miguel Castro were probably the next two MLB guys I most strongly considered, but I’m not sure either would’ve made a top twenty. Nunez is only a few decent months off being a waiver ping pong ball, and while you might plausibly bump him from a role 3 type to a role 4 type off his MLB showing, this system isn’t quite that bad to where you’d rather have that than even a Dean Kremer or Brett Cumberland that might have a chance yet for more.