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Friday Bird Droppings: Where we’re soaking up praise for O’s prospects

Two more top-prospect lists came out yesterday, and optimism continues to abound for the Birds’ most high-profile youngsters.

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Grayson Rodriguez waves to the Camden Yards crowd
If prospect pundits are correct, Grayson Rodriguez should get accustomed to ovations from O’s fans.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

I don’t need to tell you that there’s a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming 2021 baseball season. Will spring training start on time? Will the regular season start on time? Will it be a full season or another truncated one? Will there be fans at ballparks, and if so, how many will be allowed, and how soon into the season?

All good questions, none of which have answers yet. But perhaps the biggest question — at least for Orioles fans — is, what will the minor league season look like?

The pandemic-forced cancellation of the 2020 minor league slate dealt a huge blow to the rebuilding Orioles, who saw their prospects lose a year of valuable development time. And while there’s reason to believe there can be some kind of minor league season this year, it’s no guarantee, especially if it’s not safe for fans to return. Already it’s rumored that the start of the Single-A and Double-A seasons could be delayed, which will further stunt the progress of minor league prospects.

We Orioles fans are jonesing to see those prospects get on the field again, especially as they continue to be heaped with praise from prospect publications. Yesterday, MLB Pipeline unveiled its top 100 prospects for 2021, and five Orioles made the list: catcher Adley Rutschman (No. 2), right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (27), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (69), lefty DL Hall (70), and outfielder Ryan Mountcastle (77).

Those are the same five O’s prospects who also made Baseball America’s top 100 list last week, albeit in a different order. BA also ranked Rutschman No. 2 overall (also behind the Rays’ Wander Franco), but was a bit more optimistic about the other four than Pipeline is, ranking Rodriguez 22nd, Hall 59th, Kjerstad 62nd, and Mountcastle 63rd.

The Athletic’s Keith Law, too, got in on the prospect rankings. Notably, he ranks Hall (49) rather than Rodriguez (55) as the Orioles’ top pitching prospect, but believes they both have No. 2 starter upside. Law ranks both Rutschman (6) and Kjerstad (85) a bit lower than the other two publications, and his list omits Mountcastle entirely, despite his impressive big league debut in 2020. In his prospect chat, Law said Mountcastle is a “LF only with no real history of patience or plate discipline before 2020.”

In any case, things are looking up for the Orioles’ farm system right now. But these prospects need somewhere to play in 2021, with only Mountcastle likely to be on the big league roster. Here’s hoping minor league stadiums can safely reopen this year so we can track the progress of these future O’s stars in the making.


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On this day in 1994, the Orioles signed Hall of Fame closer Lee Smith — MLB’s all-time saves leader at that point — as a free agent. He spent just one year in Baltimore but led the majors with 33 saves in a strike-shortened season, making the All-Star team.

On this date in 1998, the Birds signed longtime White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, but released him a month into the season after he went 2-for-16 in 12 games. And in 2002, the O’s traded prospect Willie Harris to the White Sox for outfielder Chris Singleton; Singleton had one mediocre season for the Orioles while Harris hung around the majors for a decade as a utility man.