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Hays, Mountcastle headline MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Orioles prospects

If you want to get an idea of which prospects to follow in the minor leagues this season, MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects list is a good start. Here’s a breakdown of the rankings.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t heard, it’s baseball season again. That feels pretty great to say. We’re still a number of weeks away from real baseball being played, but those fake games kick off shortly. And for the Orioles, it might be a good thing that those real games don’t kick off for a little while.

Nonetheless, we have some prospect news — if you’d like to call it that. MLB Pipeline released its prospect rankings for the Orioles heading into the 2018 season on Tuesday. And since optimism is at its highest right about now on the baseball calendar, let’s get optimistic and look at where some of the future Baltimore all-stars rank as the year approaches.

Austin Hays at the top

It’s Hays’ world, and we’re just living in it. You don’t have to be told again what he’s done since he’s been with the organization — at least on this website, the fanfare has been documented. What’s most notable about this is the fact that he’s earned every bit of this rise to prospect stardom and, perhaps most importantly, he’s proven that he might not even need to be on a prospects list for very long.

Eyes are on the Orioles rotation and rightfully so. That’s the storyline that’ll dominate most news out of Sarasota this spring. But we shouldn’t take Hays’ performance lightly. It’s not the most pressing issue for Buck Showalter and company, but a quality spring from Hays would be quite welcomed.

Mountcastle stays strong at two

I wasn’t sure where Ryan Mountcastle would come in on the newest edition of the list, but it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that he stays here so high. He had no issues in Frederick and earned a promotion, but the .222 average over 39 games in Bowie didn’t inspire a terrible amount of confidence. But alas, not every prospect can be Austin Hays.

Mountcastle is good. His bat is praised by every evaluator that crosses his path, and at just 21 years old there’s plenty of time for him to become a star on the left side of the Orioles infield. What you’d like to see this year is continued improvement in the field and quality at-bats that lead to a higher on-base percentage. The power isn’t the concern — if he can consistently find his way on base, he’ll be knocking on the big-league door sooner rather than later.

Young, unproven arms in the top 10

You’ve heard of Tanner Scott (6) and Hunter Harvey (4) plenty.

The two season-long performances that I’ll be tracking heavily this year are those of D.L. Hall (5) and Brenan Hanifee (10).

Hall will be 19 for the entirety of the 2018 season and has yet to play above rookie ball, so it’s unclear where he’ll start the year and how much time he’ll get. But there’s real hope for the left-hander to make a difference once he gets rolling in the organization. He already owns a plus fastball, one that you’d imagine is going to get better with more work. 2019 and 2020 will be “the years” to see how he’s truly settling in. For this year, it’ll be good news if he can end the year inside of the team’s top five and at least work in a handful of productive innings along the way.

Hanifee is also only 19, but his work in Aberdeen last season warrants looks this season. He went 68.2 innings in the NY-Penn League last year, compiling a 2.75 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. His MLB Pipeline profile says he sits in the low 90s, but it’s his command that steals the show. It’s significant that he made the jump from 15 into the top-10. Especially being a 6’5” righty, he’ll have plenty of eyes on him throughout the next two years.

Best of the rest

I encourage you to read through the rest of those rankings — if for nothing else than to prepare for our minors recaps which will be published daily before you know it. But if you don’t, a few things that jump out...

  • Cedric Mullins comes in 7th. This is a big year for him, perhaps starting at Norfolk.
  • Alex Wells, who turns just 21 this year, is 11th. Remember, this is a guy who had a 113-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Delmarva last season. That’s very, very good.
  • Cody Sedlock ranks 12th, quite a disappointment when you consider where he was not too long ago. He’ll need a big year to prove he’s on the right track.