Among the many things that the depleted Orioles farm system lacks is quality pitching prospects. The O’s tried to address this weakness in the most recent draft, grabbing college pitchers with their first three picks across the draft’s first two rounds.
All three of those pitchers, righties Cody Sedlock and Matthias Dietz, and lefty Keegan Akin, were immediately slotted among the top 10 prospects in the O’s system according to MLB.com, with Sedlock dropping right into the top spot in the system before he ever even threw a professional pitch.
When a guy gets drafted with the #27 pick and is immediately the system’s top prospect, one thing a person might say is that the Orioles drafted really well. A more reality-based thing to say would be that it shows how weak the O’s farm system was that Sedlock could be the top guy as a late first round pick. I think MLB’s prospect ranking habitually underrates catcher Chance Sisco, but even if Sedlock is the #2 guy, it doesn’t say anything better about the system.
However good these three pitchers are or aren’t relative to the rest of the system, all three were assigned to the short-season Aberdeen IronBirds for their first taste of professional ball. It isn’t an aggressive assignment for three college arms, but it’s not really about testing them, it’s more about getting them acclimated to pro ball.
The transition seems to have gone smoothly for Sedlock and Akin, who each started nine games for the IronBirds and were never asked to go beyond three innings. They each struck out a lot of batters and when the ball was put in play, they kept it on the ground, particularly Sedlock, who had two groundouts for every air out. That’s good. That’s why they drafted him.
It’s important not to do nothing more than scout minor league box scores. This is especially true when talking about college pitchers recording successful three inning stints in the New York-Penn League. The numbers don’t mean a whole lot.
Better that these two succeeded at this level - Akin’s ERA was 1.04 after nine starts; Sedlock’s was an even 3.00 - than if they didn’t, but it will be subsequent levels that will be more of a test of their ability and how quick, if ever, they make it to the big club.
Here’s what MLB.com’s scouting capsule has to say about Sedlock:
Sedlock throws four pitches, fills the strike zone, generates a lot of groundouts and has a strong 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. ... His best pitch is his heavy sinker, which sits at 91-93mph when he starts and can reach 96 in shorter stints. He also can miss bats with his low-80s slider. Sedlock’s curveball and changeup aren’t as effective, but they have their moments as well.
Every time the Orioles draft a sinkerball pitcher, an angel gets its wings. The fact that Sedlock’s secondary offerings need work shouldn’t be a surprise. If he already had four good or great pitches, he wouldn’t have been sitting there at #27. The Orioles track record with developing starting pitching has been bad across multiple GMs, a problem made worse by Dan Duquette continuing to trade second-tier pitching prospects.
It’s much a similar story with Akin, again from MLB’s scouting capsule:
Akin, who was one of the hardest-throwing lefty starters in the college ranks, usually pitches at 91-94mph and peaks at 96 with late life on his fastball. Though he’s not a big guy (6’0” 225 lbs.), he maintains his velocity deep into games and generates it without much effort in his delivery. There’s some debate as to which is better, his low-80s slider or his tumbling changeup, but both should be at least average offerings.
Another thing to keep in mind is that everyone sounds like an All-Star if you read the best parts of his scouting capsule. But if everyone knew Akin would be great, why was he there to take at pick #54? A three-pitch lefty is good to have.
Teams surely had their reasons. Maybe Akin’s college, Western Michigan, just didn’t impress them enough for teams to consider him. Maybe they thought he’d be too short to be a surefire big league starter.
You never really know and it’ll be long time before any proclamations can be made about who was “right” about Akin. He sounds like he was a good guy to take in the second round. Good luck to him working his way up from there.
Both are listed as having an ETA of 2019. That would probably mean that, if all goes well for either or preferably both, you might see them start out at Delmarva next season and move up to Frederick at the All-Star Break.
Then, they might do the same the year after, starting in Bowie, and if their performance merits it, getting a taste of Triple-A Norfolk. From there it would be a question of if they’re good and when the Orioles need them. It’s a big hill to climb for either one to make it to MLB. Sedlock and Akin did at least get off to a nice beginning. They weren’t asked to do any more than that. Next season, the real test begins.
This is the last of the prospect reviews for this season. If you missed one, check out our Orioles Prospects section for more from down on the farm.