The ebb and flow of prospect acquisition and development means that not every level of a team’s minor league system is sharing equally in the prospect bounty at any given moment. For the Orioles, the team that’s getting the short end of the stick for interesting prospects this season, at least to start out, is their High-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys.
This is not a surprising state of affairs to have for the Keys, given that all that has happened is that last year’s light-on-prospects Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds roster has, with some exceptions, been bumped up a level to Frederick. Good for them all for getting one step closer to the big leagues. May they all find success this year.
Professional baseball can be a cruel game. Not all minor leaguers are equal and most aren’t going to make it. This fact need not be dwelled upon, but it also can’t be forgotten. There will be players worth keeping an eye on with Frederick, and later in the year they might even get more interesting if there are prospects surging up from this year’s Delmarva team, which has a lot more talent.
Orioles top 30 prospects on the Keys roster
Top 30 prospects list according to MLB Pipeline.
- LHP Alex Wells (11)
- RHP Cody Sedlock (12)
- 3B Jomar Reyes (21)
...and that’s it. The strength of the Orioles system is in Bowie this year and that’s just how it has worked out. That doesn’t mean that Frederick has no talent. In fact, the Orioles will be much better off if the three players above can do well this season, and if someone not on this list can break out from anonymity to get some prospect heat.
Wells, the 21-year-old Australian lefty, has been a favorite prospect of mine to follow for the past couple of years. What’s interesting about him is that he hardly ever walks anyone. Last year, in 25 starts with the Shorebirds, he walked just 10 batters all season. That’s incredible.
The knock against Wells is that he fits the “crafty lefty” mold in that he doesn’t have a lot of velocity and relies heavily on that command. This act is increasingly tougher to pull off against better hitters up each rung of the ladder.
So as far as the prospect rating world is concerned, Wells must prove himself anew at each level. Even if he succeeds here in Frederick, they will still be waiting to say, “High-A to Double-A is the biggest jump short of going to the majors!” This is not a very fun way to look at prospects, but it’s not wrong. It’s hard to be good enough to be a big leaguer.
Sedlock, turning 23 in June, is back for another taste of Frederick after the 2016 first round pick had a disaster of a year last year, posting a 5.90 ERA in just 90 innings of a season that was sidelined by vague and concerning forearm soreness. If those problems are truly behind him, Sedlock might force himself up to Bowie by midseason, where the O’s had surely hoped he would be by now anyway. In the meantime, here he is again, old for this level.
Reyes is back for a third taste of Frederick. A rare Orioles international amateur signee to actually get somewhere, Reyes struggled when he was challenged at Frederick at age 19 two years ago. Last year, he missed a lot of the season after punching a concrete wall. The big third baseman is said to have power potential that he’s yet to show in games.
If this is the year Reyes breaks that open - his power, not his hand again - he will be higher ranked in the O’s system next year, though he might also have to bounce over to first base, where things are a little clogged up in Baltimore right now, as you may have heard. On the other hand, if he doesn’t break it open, he might sink down into non-prospect status, seldom to be thought of again.
Others of note
Players at Frederick are “old for the level” if they’re older than, say, 22. If a guy is 25 and beating up the Carolina League competition, that just doesn’t mean much for his big league stock. If he’s 21 and doing the same, there’s hope he can go to Double-A and succeed and then keep climbing.
With this standard in mind, there are a handful of others on the Keys roster, born in 1997 (yes, you’re old and so am I) so still just 20 or 21, who, if they find success, could rise up the O’s prospect list and make themselves into something.
In addition to Wells and Reyes, those players are pitchers Jhon Peluffo and Ofelky Peralta, as well as outfielder Ryan McKenna. Peluffo and Peralta are, like Reyes, international signees.
Peluffo, from Colombia, posted a 3.50 ERA in 23 games with Delmarva last year. Peralta is back at Frederick after struggling there last season. He was just 20, so his development isn’t toasted by repeating a level. However, if he is once again walking 86 batters in 104.2 innings, which he did for the Keys last year, we probably won’t be hearing a whole lot more about Peralta in the future.
McKenna, a center fielder, was a fourth round pick back in 2015. He just turned 21 in February. He’ll likely have to find some power. The .256/.331/.380 batting line he posted for Delmarva last year is respectable enough for a center fielder - or perhaps a fourth outfielder, higher up - if he can field, but if he’s only capable of hitting seven home runs in 126 games, better pitchers will challenge and punish him.