The first weeks of the season I await the fateful day that the Orioles starters pass 100 plate appearances so I can write about them with at least a degree of authority. To pass the time I scour the minor league box scores to see who, if anyone is off to a hot start. Oddly enough, the Orioles have a decent chunk of hitters off to a hot start. So many that I have excluded the pitchers off to a hot start.
All stats in this post do not include the games from last night. While reading box scores to scout a player is foolhardy, I like to look at three things. Their strikeout rate, walk rate, and power production. Those numbers better translate across levels.
At the lowest level currently playing, the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Orioles have a couple of prospects off to a hot start. Ryan McKenna, the Oriole 2015 4th round draft pick, is a 20 year old center fielder who has .862 OPS to start the season.
McKenna has a .162 ISO and a 13.8 percent walk rate. However, he does have a 27.6 percent strike out rate. A little good and a little bad from a hitter who is supposedly an excellent defender in center field.
The standout hitter in Delmarva has been 2016 31st round pick Jake Ring. The 22 year old is a little old for the league, but won player of the week last week in the South Atlantic League. In 2017, he has posted 1.272 OPS with a .414 ISO, 10.8 percent walk rate, and a 26.2 percent strike out rate. Looks like he’s got a bit of swing and miss, but can draw a walk, and can hit the ball really really hard.
Moving up to Frederick we find Jomar Reyes, a previous top prospect who struggled last season in High-A is off to hot start. The 20-year-old international signee has a .897 OPS in the early going. He has posted a .141 ISO, a 4.4 percent walk rate, and a 19.1 percent strike out rate. He has never walked a ton, but has prodigious power potential. The strike out is manageable if he can keep up the damage on contact.
Another one of the few prospects that the were one the radar for the Orioles in the beginning of the season, Ryan Mountcastle has gotten off a great start. The 20 year old 2015 1st round pick has hit to a .919 OPS to begin 2017. That includes a .254 ISO, 4.2 percent walk rate, and a 15.5 percent strike out rate. Again, more patience would be better, but the strike out is manageable. Needs to keep up that power on contact.
The man of the hour in the Orioles organization, before he was felled by a hamstring injury, is Cedric Mullins. The 22-year-old 2015 13th round draft pick tore up Spring Training and has continued that tear into the 2017 regular season.
Mullins, making the jump from low-A to AA, has a 1.090 OPS with a .317 ISO, 6.2 percent walk rate, and a 13.8 percent strike out rate. An unspectacular walk rate (I sense a theme), but great contact skills and high power production from an allegedly plus defender.
Also in Bowie, Austin Wynns has raked to start 2017. The 26 year old has gotten his lumps in the Orioles organization as he has steadily moved up the ranks. He was drafted in 10th round of the 2013 draft and was one of four catchers the Orioles drafted that year.
Thus far, Wynns has a .154 OPS, .233 ISO, 8.3 percent walk rate, and a 12.5 percent strike out rate. Quite simply, he has been great at the plate is supposedly a good catcher as well.
Not much noise is being made in Norfolk as Chance Sisco is still settling into life in Norfolk, where many Orioles hitting prospects have gone to die.
I’d also like to shout out a few other guys. Randolph Gassaway at Frederick has a .849 OPS to start the season after posting a .919 OPS at two levels last season. Austin Hays, again at Frederick, has a .906 OPS after posting a .900 OPS last year in Abderdeen. Lastly, Aderlin Rodriguez at Bowie has a 1.014 OPS (with 4 home runs and 5 doubles) after posting a .891 OPS in 2016 at Frederick.
The season is still very young and many of these guys will fall off of the map. Some aren’t even prospects to begin with. But, all a guy can do at the minor leagues is play his best and hope he gets a chance to be noticed. These guys are popping up and are getting a chance to get noticed. We’ll see how long it lasts.