Frederick isn’t very far from Baltimore, and if you want to see most of the top prospects in the Orioles system, you’re going to want to spend some time watching games there this spring and summer. Half of the O’s top ten prospects have started the season there.
All in all, eight of the top 30 Orioles prospects, as rated by MLB.com, can be found starting out at the High-A level. That includes a trio of players who were drafted out of college only last year and are skipping right from Aberdeen to Frederick.
The future of the Orioles starting rotation, if all goes well, is currently at this level. Even the half-forgotten Hunter Harvey might eventually see some time here once his rehab from Tommy John surgery reaches the phase where he’s actually pitching in games again.
If the Orioles are lucky, which we know they haven’t been lately with prospects, there are future big leaguers in both the infield and outfield for Frederick.
- RHP Cody Sedlock (#2 on the O’s top 30)
- LHP Keegan Akin (#6)
- RHP Ofelky Peralta (#18)
- LHP Brian Gonzalez (#21)
In short, just about any night you might go to see the Keys, you’re currently going to see a starting pitcher who legitimately counts as an Orioles prospect. Those are some good odds.
What really matters is how their development goes. For both Sedlock and Akin, drafted high by the Orioles out of the college ranks last year, a strong first half at Frederick could have them in Bowie in July. Sedlock may make it on the wings of a sinker that gets ground balls. Both have the ceiling of a #3 starter. The O’s could use the help.
Peralta and Gonzalez are a bit more out there on the fringe. Peralta is one of the rare Orioles international amateur signees, still a bit more than a week shy of turning 20 and already up at Frederick. He’s said to be capable of hitting 98 in short stints. You can guess his problem: He walks too many guys, surrendering 60 in 103.1 innings last season at Delmarva.
Gonzalez was the Orioles’ top pick in the 2014 draft, the year where their third round pick was their top pick. At 21, he’s still young for Frederick, though it would have been better if he hadn’t had to repeat Delmarva last year. He also has command on the list of things to work on, as he walked 58 batters in 147.2 innings last year - and 59 in 105.2 the year before that. Progress?
- Austin Hays (#8)
- Randolph Gassaway (#25)
Hays is the third of the players who skipped right over Delmarva. The Orioles are challenging him after picking him in the third round last season. A paragraph from his MLB.com scouting report to make him sound exciting:
Hays makes the ball jump off his bat with above-average bat speed and a short, handsy swing from the right side of the plate. Hays doesn't waste a lot of motion and has shown the ability to drive the ball across the whole field. Scouts believe he'll develop into an average hitter with similar power. It might be more gap pop as he climbs the ladder, although Hays has shown over-the-fence ability in the past, particularly in the past year.
Gassaway is making his way up to the Keys after a successful 50-game stint at Delmarva last year, in which he batted .330/.372/.511. It’s a long way from there to the big leagues, but it’s interesting that he finally developed some power after being drafted as a raw high schooler in the 16th round in the 2013 draft. Seven home runs in 216 PA could turn into 20+ in a full season.
- Ryan Mountcastle (#4)
- Jomar Reyes (#10)
The Orioles have treated Ryan Mountcastle like their top draft choice from 2015 even though he was their second pick - he signed sooner than D.J. Stewart and has done better, so he gets the treatment. They’re still pretending he’s a shortstop, although evaluators like ESPN’s Keith Law don’t think that Mountcastle will be able to stay in the infield at all. On the plus side, says Law, “he can mash a lefty and has the size to eventually hit for power.”
Reyes is repeating Frederick, but he’s still only 20 years old. In fact, he’s precisely two days younger than Mountcastle. If he gets back on track, these two might raise together for the last few steps up to the big leagues.
Reyes was the youngest position player in the Carolina League last season, and it showed in a .228/.271/.336 batting line. As a big, strong dude, it’s expected that he will probably not be able to stick at third base, but scouts remain hopeful that his raw power will start showing up in games more. Law believes that Reyes has the highest offensive upside in the system.
It’s one thing to say that the Orioles have prospects at this level and it’s another thing for them to actually develop and perform. In a world where everything works out, you could be talking about a significant percentage of, say, the 2020 Orioles roster being here with Frederick right now.
Things don’t tend to work out with the Orioles and prospects, but there is still some potential here and hopefully many of them are able to find a way to reach it and keep marching up towards the big league level.