In four drafts since taking over as Orioles GM, one thing that Mike Elias has done a bunch is draft outfielders. Every one of these drafts has seen the O’s pick at least two outfielders by the end of the third round. Last year’s draft was the most extreme of these to date, with the O’s using four of their first five picks on players who patrolled the outfield for their college teams. Two of those picks were used on outfielders John Rhodes and Reed Trimble.
With so many outfielders coming in all the time, it’s easy for prospects to get lost a bit in the shuffle. Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad have the shine of being former first round picks. Kyle Stowers played his way to the majors this year. Dylan Beavers and Jud Fabian were freshly drafted in the 2022 class, with Fabian’s name in our awareness the year before as well due to rumors the O’s wanted to draft him then.
Where do guys like Rhodes and Trimble fit in with such a crowded field? Each of these players missed some time this season due to an injury as well, keeping them farther from the radar. You can’t make a name for yourself if you don’t get to play. The good news if you’re an Orioles fan is that it doesn’t seem like the O’s absolutely need these two guys to pan out. If they turn into something, great. If they don’t, the O’s will hopefully already be set without them.
Although Rhodes was the second of these two players selected in last year’s draft, the Orioles gave the draft-eligible sophomore from the University of Kentucky more money, signing him to an overslot bonus of $1.375 million in the third round. Rhodes, now 22, is a righty batter who’s played all three outfield positions in his pro career to date. He missed about a month in the middle of the season on the injured list and about two weeks at the end of it, finishing with 83 games played between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie.
It’s fun any time an Orioles prospect makes it to Double-A the year after he was drafted. Rhodes certainly seemed like he had a handle on the level of competition at Aberdeen, batting .259/.389/.428 in 53 games before getting the promotion. That’s a great walk rate, decent doubles power, and he showed speed on the bases too, stealing 16 bags without being caught. Impressive!
The Bowie performance puts a bit of a brake on what might otherwise be uninterrupted hype, as Rhodes in 25 games hit just .189/.289/.267. Still a good walk rate, not as good everything else to do with hitting. He’ll probably be assigned there again to start next season.
At FanGraphs, Rhodes only checks in as the #40 prospect in the Orioles system, though they noted before the season that he is a “developmental prospect to watch.” Rhodes had been a catcher in high school until a back injury moved him into the outfield (Press Box Online), so in addition to being young for the draft class, he’s relatively fresh at his position. FG on some of his potential:
Rhodes’ swing is grooved and he swung and missed in the zone a lot in 2021, but he still reached base at a .400 clip and slugged a shade over .500 thanks to bat speed rather than lift in the swing. This is an athletic young player with experience at several different positions. ... He could be a power-centric, multi-positional player but there’s risk the hit tool bottoms out the profile here.
If Rhodes comes back to Bowie in 2023 and hits like he did in Aberdeen this year, he will be right back on the Orioles prospect radar, no matter how crowded the future outfield seems to be.
Trimble, who turned 22 in June, was also a draft-eligible sophomore last year. The Orioles chose him with their competitive balance pick at the end of the second round from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he’d hit 17 home runs in 59 games that spring.
Before Trimble could even get rolling towards his first full pro season, the team announced last December that he needed surgery for a labrum tear in his non-throwing shoulder. Trimble did not make it back to Low-A Delmarva, where he finished last season, until late July, so he only got to play in 31 games there, batting .291/.353/.393.
It’s not a lot of action, and those numbers don’t come with either the walk rate or the power of Rhodes. The Orioles have sent Trimble out as part of their Arizona Fall League contingent, so he can get in a few more weeks of games against some higher-level competition. The 6’0” switch-hitting Trimble has mostly played center field as a pro.
There was some excitement for a player they labeled “ultra-toolsy” from FanGraphs before this season. It’s not as common for college players to get the “toolsy” label, which generally refers to a player with lots of physical abilities that could translate to a good baseball player but not a lot of experience to see if that stuff can actually click. Between COVID wiping out his freshman year and the surgery robbing him of most of his first full pro season, he hasn’t gotten time to see if it will click.
FG likes the tools, though - Trimble rated as the #19 prospect in the system in their most recent update, writing this:
(Trimble) is an explosive rotator from both sides of the plate. He has pull-side power as a righty hitter but will take you deep to any field from the left side. Both of his swings have natural loft, but they’re not all that long because Trimble is so compact. He’s also a plus runner with gap-to-gap range in center field and an above-average arm.
There is not a shortage of players who have tools who can’t put that all together to make it to MLB. Trimble would not be the first or the last. The labrum surgery that cost him most of this season makes it an even steeper climb than it already was. Not much to do except keep an eye on him and see what happens, or if you don’t have the bandwidth to follow three dozen or more Orioles prospects, let someone like me keep an eye on him and tell you if something interesting happened.
Tomorrow: Cade Povich, Chayce McDermott (2022 trade acquisitions)