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The good and the bad of the top 10 Orioles prospects so far

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The performance of the top 10 Orioles prospects in April and May doesn’t give much reason to believe that help is on the way soon.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Chance Sisco is the top Orioles prospect - but he’s not hitting in Norfolk, or throwing runners out.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Two months of baseball may not be a full season, but it’s still quite a lot of action, especially for minor leaguers, whose seasons are a month shorter. If nothing else, it’s enough time to look at Orioles prospects and see who’s doing well and who’s having trouble.

As ever, it’s important not to scout players solely on their minor league stat lines. There’s a lot at play that might adjust how you should feel about certain stats. So these aren’t meant to be final judgments on who’s good and who’s not. It’s just a snapshot of the top 10 Orioles prospects and how they’re doing right now.

For most, there will hopefully be some improvement later. The Orioles are going to need some prospect help before too long, and if they don’t fall out of the race (or even if they do) they’re going to need some trade bait to dangle in July to try to get better returns than last year’s acquisitions of Wade Miley and a broken Steve Pearce.

It may turn out that the O’s farm system is in trouble as much as most independent evaluators think, no matter what Dan Duquette says about it. There’s a lot more struggling than there are successes, at least so far this season.

1. Chance Sisco - C - Triple-A Norfolk

Sisco hit so well for Double-A Bowie last year, posting an OBP over .400 and an overall OPS of .833, that you could optimistically wonder whether he might be ready for big league action at some point this season. A hot start for Norfolk would have been nice.

Alas, through 41 games, Sisco is batting just .245/.316/.364 and as for controlling the running game, his big weakness, it’s still a problem: Sisco has only thrown out seven out of 46 runners - just a 15% success rate. At the MLB level, the average catcher is throwing out 30% of runners.

2. Cody Sedlock - RHP - High-A Frederick

Sedlock was the top Orioles pick last season and when he jumped right over Low-A to start at Frederick this season, that was exciting. Less exciting is Sedlock’s performance at the level so far, as you never want to look at your top pitching prospect to see that he has a 6.20 ERA.

However, all is not lost, because Sedlock’s peripherals still look OK. He could do better about limiting walks, with 18 allowed in 49.1 innings, but he’s also struck out 45 batters. What’s more, he’s got batters keeping the ball on the ground a respectable 44.3% of the time, according to Fangraphs. Maybe he won’t race to the big leagues, but definitely don’t give up on him yet.

3. Hunter Harvey - RHP - The disabled list

Earlier this week, manager Buck Showalter said that Harvey should be back in real minor league games in late June or early July following his Tommy John surgery last year. Hopefully from there, he can get on the Dylan Bundy belated big league path.

4. Ryan Mountcastle - SS - High-A Frederick

It’s time for some good news, isn’t it? How about this: Mountcastle, at just 20 years old, has been blasting off on Carolina League pitchers for a .330/.358/.585 batting line through 50 games. Maybe he strikes out too much, maybe he doesn’t walk enough, but he’s hitting, dang it. And he’s sticking at shortstop for now, although he has committed seven errors so far.

5. Keegan Akin - LHP - High-A Frederick

The Orioles second round pick from last season also made the Aberdeen-to-Frederick jump to start this season. It’s also not going so great for him, as Akin has a 5.95 ERA through nine starts.

Akin, walking 22 batters in 39.1 innings, may be a bit more of a concern. That command hurts - and it probably is part of why batters are also hitting .301 against him.

6. Chris Lee - LHP - Triple-A Norfolk

Lee, as a pitcher at Norfolk who is on the 40-man roster and has minor league options remaining, could ride the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle if the Orioles wanted him to, but with the lefty sporting a 2.00 WHIP and a 6.86 ERA, they probably don’t want him to just now. Like many of the rest of these guys, Lee has a walk problem: 24 walks in 42 innings.

At least Lee is keeping the ball on the ground, like he’s supposed to, with a ground ball rate of 52.9%. But we probably shouldn’t expect to see him in an O’s uniform this season.

7. Austin Hays - CF - High-A Frederick

We’re due for some good news again, and Hays is here to provide it. Hays was the third of the 2016 draftees who skipped over Delmarva to start this season at Frederick. It’s going a lot better for him, as through 47 games, Hays is batting .314/.353/.555, displaying some solid home run power with 10 on the season to date.

It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the Orioles want to be with Hays. Could they try to squeeze him into Bowie’s outfield before season’s end? High-A is a long way from the big leagues, but for now it’s nice to see Hays succeeding where the O’s have put him.

8. Anthony Santander - whatever - The disabled list

The Orioles annual Rule 5 experiment has been on the disabled list all season. I’m not sure whether it says more about Santander, the Orioles farm system, or the people who do prospect rankings that he appears on a top 10 Orioles prospect list. Why they’re going through so much trouble to keep him is a mystery not yet answered.

9. Jomar Reyes - 3B - High-A Frederick

The good: After struggling at this level last season, Reyes, still just 20, was doing better this season, with a .321/.361/.436 batting line through 21 games.

The bad: Reyes punched a concrete wall, broke a finger, had surgery, and hasn’t played since April 28.

10. Tanner Scott - LHP - Double-A Bowie

How does a person walk 22 batters in 30 innings? I would really like to know. That’s what Scott has done so far this season. He throws pure fire, over 100 at times, which has also helped him strike out 43 batters.

Scott has been working as a starter for Bowie, though the Orioles are limiting him to three innings each go-round. I don’t know what that’s about - it’s pretty strange. Despite the walks, Scott is pitching to a 1.80 ERA for the season. If he can keep that up, that will work.

**

Nobody is a failure if they have had two months of struggle so far this season. Prospect growth is not necessarily linear. It doesn’t mean anyone is headed straight for the big leagues if they’re doing well through two months, either.

Hopefully by season’s end, there are more success stories than, “Well, if he does better next season, then maybe...” stories.