John Means was an 11th round draft pick out of the University of West Virginia back in 2014, and was never regarded as a prospect with much of a ceiling during his time in the Orioles farm system. So far in 2019, the southpaw has been the team’s best pitcher and provided rare moments of excitement for a club (expectedly) wallowing in last place
If you follow the O’s with any regularity, then you are aware of the “big name” prospects in the organization. Yusniel Diaz and Ryan Mountcastle are on track to lead the big league offense within the next year or so. Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall are rotation fixtures in waiting. You know the rest.
There is no doubt that those players who contend for “Top 100” lists are important. They are the ones destined to be superstars, to win awards and to carry a team to the postseason. But baseball relies too much on individual performances to ignore the other, less well-known, youngsters. If the Orioles are to return to relevancy anytime soon, they will need to develop both top tier talent and viable role players.
These under-the-radar prospects are doing their part to expedite the Orioles rebuild process:
Mason McCoy, shortstop, High-A Frederick
The Carolina League has given McCoy absolutely no trouble at the plate this year. The 24-year-old is slashing .379/.416/.509 through 27 games and could be in line for a promotion to Bowie any day now. McCoy was a sixth-round senior sign out of the University of Iowa in 2017. As such, he has been older than most of his competition to this point in his pro career. The Eastern League could provide him with the challenge that he needs.
Drew Rom, left-handed pitcher, Single-A Delmarva
Rom was selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft and decided to sign rather than attend the University of Michigan. He has joined Rodriguez on Delmarva’s pitching staff and provided some quality outings thus far. The 19-year-old does not have a huge fastball, but he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, so there is room to grow. His 12.66 K/9 rate and 1.77 FIP in 2019 are encouraging.
Gray Fenter, right-handed pitcher, Single-A Delmarva
This is already Fenter’s fifth season in the Orioles organization, but Tommy John surgery in 2016 stalled his development. If his 32 strikeouts in 22 innings and .197 batting average against this season are any indications, the 23-year-old is firing on all cylinders once again. The former regime gave Fenter a $1 million signing bonus as a seventh-round pick in 2015 despite his allotted pool value being just $178,300. Clearly, there is a lot of potential there.
Ofelky Peralta, right-handed pitcher, Single-A Delmarva
It seems the Mike Elias braintrust is slowing things down with Peralta. After sputtering in Frederick over the last two seasons, Peralta has been sent back to Delmarva. So far, the results have been impressive. He has 31 strikeouts in just 20.1 innings of work, an ERA of 0.89 and a 0.74 WHIP. Scouting minor league box scores is dangerous, but those are cartoon-ish numbers. It probably helps that his fastball sits in the upper 90’s.
Cody Sedlock, right-handed pitcher, High-A Frederick
Sedlock shouldn’t really qualify as “under the radar.” He was a first-round pick in 2016. But for the last two years, the 23-year-old has either been injured or getting lit up on the mound with an underwhelming fastball, which knocked him down about a million pegs in the prospect world. He has made five starts for the Keys so far this season, consistently gone at least five innings and is yet to allow more than two runs in an outing. He may no longer be a top of the rotation type, but could still have a major role in Baltimore going forward.
Zach Jarrett, outfielder, Double-A Bowie
The son of former NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett started the year with Frederick, where he hit .306/.393/.444 over 21 games before quickly being promoted to Bowie, where he has struggled through his first eight games. It’s a big leap for Jarrett, who spent all of 2018 in Salisbury with the Shorebirds. The 24-year-old has shown good power since being a 28th round draft pick in 2017. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his strong performance at the plate once he fully adjusts to the higher level.
The Orioles minor league system is still relatively thin as a result of year’s of trading prospects for big league players and nearly complete neglect of the international market. That gives players like those mentioned above a better shot to make the bigs than they would stand in other organizations. How much of an impact they will have, if any, remains to be seen.