Unless you’re Dan Duquette or Buck Showalter, you probably don’t think that the Orioles farm system is very good. The experts certainly don’t think it’s very good. But this isn’t about what they think, it’s about what you thought.
Last week, I posted a prospect poll for the Camden Chat community to vote on the top 25 names in the system, generating a ranking based on how players were selected in an endless (until you got bored) series of head-to-head votes.
Nearly 9,000 votes were cast in all to generate the list of prospects. Will Camden Chat’s ranking do better than the experts? Here’s who the community liked and in what order:
1. Chance Sisco, C
One place where everyone agrees is Sisco, who is the only top 100 caliber prospect on anyone’s rankings. Sisco’s “The Good” column from Baseball Prospectus sounds good indeed:
Sisco will hit. He ticks all the boxes you look for when projecting a plus major-league hit tool: Good zone control, short to the ball, quick wrists with barrel control. He’s comfortable deep in counts and should add a shiny OBP to the profile as well. He’s improved his defense behind the plate to the point where you’re more confident he sticks at catcher. The arm is average, and his catch/throw and receiving actions have improved in 2016.
If Sisco was ready right now, the Orioles probably wouldn’t have signed Welington Castillo. Runners in Double-A last year had something of a track meet against Sisco. But you’ve got to love a .402 OBP, even if he hasn’t got much in the way of power.
2. Cody Sedlock, RHP
The Orioles’ top pick in last year’s draft came from the University of Illinois. He has his boosters among the prospect-industrial complex, including ESPN’s Keith Law:
Sedlock was a top guy on my draft board, just missing the top 100; he’s a three-pitch starter with mid-rotation upside, although some scouts don’t love his delivery and I think he needs to get off the extreme third-base end of the rubber.
Doesn’t exactly sound like the next Clayton Kershaw there, but considering the Orioles failure to develop any of the hoped-for mid-rotation talent of late, it’d be nice if they could succeed with one for once. Sedlock will be starting this season at High-A Frederick, the kind of track that could see him getting big league action late next year.
3. Hunter Harvey, RHP
A higher ranking here than many places, probably because he’s a name people know, even if the only reason Orioles fans might know about him is because he keeps getting hurt. The Orioles drafted him in 2013 and here’s what BP wrote about him this year:
On talent/stuff/OFP/whatever, Harvey is the best prospect in the system. He threw 12 innings this year before finally going under the knife. He’s never thrown more than 87 innings in a pro season. He has thrown 125 innings total in a four-year pro career. He still may have top-of-the-rotation upside, but at what point do you say: “I have no idea if this guy will ever be able to physically pitch?”
For BP, he reached that point: He wasn’t listed on the Orioles top 10 prospects. He’ll probably miss most or all of the 2017 season. The Orioles will actually have to think about protecting him from the Rule 5 draft in November before Harvey ever pitches higher than Low-A.
4. Ryan Mountcastle, SS
The CC community is also a bit higher on Mountcastle than most of the experts are. The Orioles seem to want to hype him - after all, he got an introductory press conference at Camden Yards even though he wasn’t even the highest draft pick two years ago. SB Nation’s John Sickels at Minor League Ball is one of the people who does rank Mountcastle highly in the system:
Optimists love (Mountcastle’s) overall athleticism and power potential, and think his instincts will help him remain at shortstop; pessimists project a move to third base or the outfield and worry that over-aggressive hitting approach will compromise his bat; optimists counter worries with his birthday as he has lots of time to improve and already holds his own production-wise even with a somewhat raw approach; ETA late 2020.
Mountcastle turned 20 just over the weekend. If he’s able to tackle a level per season - which is a big if, given his positional uncertainty - he’d still be in line for an MLB debut shortly after his 23rd birthday. That may not be Manny Machado phenom territory, but it’s respectable.
5. Trey Mancini, 1B
In all likelihood, more than one of the position players on the top 100 prospects will not have as much MLB success as Mancini has done in five games already. But he doesn’t get much credit on prospect rankings because he’s been a late-blooming overachiever in making it as far as he has.
6. Keegan Akin, LHP
Law, who ranked Akin third in the system, has this to say:
Akin offers more probability with a lower ceiling; he throws 92-96 mph, had a 30 or 40 breaking ball in the spring, but over the summer and in instructs his arm seemed faster and he was flashing a plus curve and change. He’s a squat 6-footer and doesn’t get plane on his fastball, but has enough command and control that he could pitch with it without becoming homer-prone.
Maybe not an exciting top-of-the-rotation prospect either, but then, if the Orioles could actually develop a pitcher like Akin, they wouldn’t have to do things like ill-advised signings of Yovani Gallardo.
7. Jomar Reyes, 3B
MLB.com, which ranked Reyes 10th in the system in the rankings they unveiled yesterday, has some positive words about Reyes:
Big and physical, Reyes generates plus raw power from the right side of the plate with his above-average bat speed and natural feel for driving the ball to all fields. He connected on 10 homers in 2016, more than doubling his combined total from the two previous years, and it doesn't take much to envision Reyes clearing even more fences as he develops.
That sounds good! But they aren’t sure he’ll be able to hit for average, they’re still waiting for the power to develop, and he might not be able to stay at third base, which would mean he’d have to hit even better if he goes over to first base.
8. Chris Lee, LHP
The only people who seem to think that Lee will be a starting pitcher are ones who work for the Orioles. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts but does get a lot of ground balls, so the O’s are probably hoping that combination works out. BP is less optimistic, rating his future potential as a 7th or 8th inning reliever:
There’s not a real swing-and-miss offering in the arsenal yet. Lee has to ramp up the effort to get the fastball to the top end of this range, and he has reliever mechanics to begin with. The delivery is herky-jerky even when he isn’t maxing out for the low 90s, and he throws across his body with a slight crossfire. The stuff and command is fringy enough that it’s unlikely he could go through a major-league lineup multiple times anyway.
Lee only threw 51.1 innings before suffering a lat strain and missing the rest of the season last year. Don’t bet on him taking his game to another level, but if he does, the Orioles will have something interesting on their hands.
9. Ofelky Peralta, RHP
MASN’s occasional in-game minor league updates have been getting excited for Peralta for two years now. Again, they’re just about the only ones, because every prospect profile talks about how his command of his pitches is almost non-existent, with problems repeating his delivery. Good thing the Orioles have such a great track record of developing pitchers, right? Oh, wait. He’ll only be 20 in April. There is time.
10. D.J. Stewart, LF
The folks at MLB.com think so highly of Stewart that he’s the 26th-ranked prospect... in the Orioles system. Stewart is even below someone named Irving Ortega, who I’ve never heard of before right now. But their scouting capsule on him sounds a little nicer than that:
Stewart is physically strong with a quick left-handed stroke, and his patient approach has long made him an on-base machine. The Orioles adjusted his setup to make him more upright and closed off at the plate, which has helped him catch up to inner-half velocity and begin to show power during games. An all-state running back in high school, Stewart has close to average speed and is a better athlete than his stocky build might suggest. He has good instincts as a runner and defender, though a below-average arm limits him to left field.
The problem for Stewart is he was a late first round pick and he hasn’t looked like one yet. Interestingly, he’s performed better with each level the Orioles have promoted him - so if he can continue that up into Double-A Bowie he might actually convince some skeptics that he’s still really a prospect. If not, we’ll be sighing at another draft bust and looking at all the players the O’s might have picked instead.
This post is already over 1,500 words and 85% of the people who started it are probably not still reading, so here’s the rest of the bunch, in order:
11-15: Austin Hays, OF; Tanner Scott, LHP; Anthony Santander, OF; Alex Wells, LHP; Brian Gonzalez, LHP
16-20: Matthias Dietz, RHP; Aneury Tavarez, OF; Joe Gunkel, RHP; Christian Walker, 1B/OF; Garrett Cleavinger, LHP
21-25: Cedric Mullins, CF; David Hess, RHP; Randolph Gassaway, OF; John Means, LHP; Drew Dosch, 3B
From Sisco all the way down to the end, hopefully these guys finish 2017 with higher stock than they started it. That’s not how it works with prospects, of course. Some will get hurt, some will run into a wall. Some might get traded. Others will get drafted and take the place of the promoted and the departed. And maybe in a year, the farm system will look better than it does right now.