Baltimore Orioles 2019 Preseason Top 10

I will be breaking down my top 10 for each organization, one organization a weekday until Minor League Baseball’s opening day.

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Ryan McKenna in AFL. Courtesy: Aaron Whelan

The Orioles system got a real boost when they traded away Manny Machado, as the addition of Yusniel Diaz gives them a high quality top prospect. Had it not been for him at the top the Orioles would lack star power, but they do have so interesting pieces. Their outfield of the not-so-distant future all make my top 10, as does their future third baseman. They have interesting arms in the top 10 and just missing it, with some real upside, but don’t have the depth or top tier talent a rebuilding club would like to be able to tap into.

1)

Player: Yusniel Diaz
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’ Weight: 200 lbs.
Quick Report: Diaz was the key piece in the Manny Machado deal this past Summer, and his upside is second to none in the Orioles system. He has shown enough range to play center, although his future is more likely in right where his arm is one of the best in the minors. His two home runs in last seasons Futures Game may have put him on the map, but he has been a highly though of prospect since he was 17 and hit .348 in Cuba. The batting average is likely to take a big dip as there are real holes in his swing, but the bat speed and natural strength give him plus raw power. He could find himself in Baltimore by the end of the season and should be a key piece in the middle of their order for many years to come.

2)

Player: DL Hall
Position(s): LHP Opening Day Age: 20 2018 Highest Level: Low A
Bats: Left Throws: Left Height: 6’2” Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Hall has shown himself to be quite coachable, improving his change from a massive question to a potential plus pitch moving forward. His fastball can easily touch the mid-90s from an effortless delivery and really runs thanks to his slightly below 3/4 arm slot. His curve has long been considered a future plus pitch although it can get a little slurvy at times. In the end, Hall doesn’t have the upside of an ace, but he has an incredibly high floor for a prep arm and will likely prove to be a steal as the 21st pick in the 2017 draft.

3)

Player: Ryan Mountcastle
Position(s): 3B Opening Day Age: 21 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’3” Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Despite being an athletic infielder, the glove and arm still leave questions on where Mountcastle will end up defensively. He has good feet at third that could potentially allow him to stay there, but a future move to first or left may be in the cards. Regardless of where he lands, the bat will play. He has shown well in the AFL and he has put up consistent numbers in the minors. He has a busy load but gets his hands into position early and the swing itself is quick and direct that allows him to hit for power and average. He could very well do enough to earn a call-up this season, but for the sake of roster control expect his debut to be delayed to 2020.

4)

Player: Grayson Rodriguez
Position(s): RHP Opening Day Age: 19 2018 Highest Level: Rookie
Bats: Left Throws: Right Height:  6’5” Weight: 220 lbs.
Quick Report: Rodriguez struck out nearly three times the batters he walked in his brief debut in the GCL after being selected 11th overall last year. His fastball has been up to 97 but plays more in the mid-90s. He has a long arm path that does hide the ball well before getting to an inconsistent 3/4 slot. His fastball has good run to it, while he has shown a potential plus slider and a good feel for both a curve and change. He was a late riser in the draft, so there is still real rawness to his game, so there is plenty of boom or bust, but he does have the upside of a number two or three starter.

5)

Player: Austin Hays
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 23 2018 Highest Level: MLB
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’1” Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Orioles fans were hoping Hays would be on the Opening Day roster in 2018, not only was he not in the big leagues, he was back in AA, a level he hit .330 with 16 home runs in 64 games in 2017. His 2018 season did not go so well, hitting just .242 with 12 home runs in 66 games back at the level, but he did get 20 games in Baltimore at the end of the year. He has a quick bat that should allow the average to bounce back and is the reason he has demonstrated power. He can play right at a high level but can also hold down center, which he will need to do given Yusniel Diaz is the right fielder of the future in Baltimore.

6)

Player: Ryan McKenna
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 21 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 5’11” Weight: 185 lbs.
Quick Report: The most range of the outfield trio that could be all be in Baltimore by the end of the year, McKenna is also the one with the fewest tools. He showed well in the AFL this Fall, where he had one of the best averages in baseball’s “finishing school”. He has plus bat speed that currently translates to a lot of gap power, although there is a chance it turns into average or better home run power in time. He can really get down the line, making him a potential leadoff hitter, with a floor of a quality fourth outfielder.

7)

Player: Keegan Akin
Position(s): LHP Opening Day Age: 23 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Left Throws: Left Height:  6’ Weight: 225 lbs.
Quick Report: A second round pick in 2016, Akin makes up for his lack of length with a very strong lower half that allows him to demonstrate good balance and extension. The ball is quite hard to pick up out of his hand and has some run, making his low-90s fastball play up. His slider is inconsistent but should be at least average, as is his change. He shows a lack of fear on the mound, attacking hitters on the inner half of the plate with regularity and success. He should see time in Baltimore this season, although his ceiling isn’t much more than a third starter, he also has a higher floor than his raw stuff would suggest.

8)

Player: Dean Kremer
Position(s): RHP Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’3” Weight: 180 lbs.
Quick Report: Nobody in Minor League Baseball struck out more batters than Kremer last year, and that helped make him the clear second piece in the Manny Machado deal. He has a 3/4 arm action, although there is some bend in the arm making the ball come out more over the top. The fastball is low-to-mid 90s with some run while his best secondary offering is an above average curve breaking 12-6. His slider and change are fringe-average, and the change likely won’t improve beyond that, although his slider flashed potential, but is too often slurvy currently.

9)

Player: Jean Carlos Encarnacion
Position(s): 3B Opening Day Age: 20 2018 Highest Level: Low-A
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’3” Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Another mid-season acquisition, this time from the Braves, Encarnacion has plus raw power, although it has yet to show much in-game. The bat is long and inconsistent leading to far too many strikeouts, but it does allow for some lift. He will need to shorten up the swing to allow for better contact, which will ultimately result in better power numbers. He is currently a poor defensive third baseman but has too much athleticism and arm strength to make first base a good option. There is a chance he develops into a serviceable defender at third, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in right field sometime soon.

10)

Player: Zac Lowther
Position(s): LHP Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: High A
Bats: Left Throws: Left Height: 6’2” Weight: 235 lbs.
Quick Report: A very simple delivery with the ball coming out of a slightly low 3/4 arm slot allowing for some real run on his fastball and change. He has shown some flashes of the fastball having plus upside, although it is currently behind his change in terms of consistency. He had a K/9 of nearly 11 over two levels and a BB/9 just a touch over 2.5. He has command of all three pitches. His upside is limited due to the fact he doesn’t really have one standout pitch, but his command, movement, and deception could allow him to be a solid back of rotation arm in time.

Others of note:

Adam Hall – SS – 19 – Short Season A
Hunter Harvey – RHP – 24 – AA
Blaine Knight – RHP – 22 – Short Season A
Dillon Tate – RHP – 24 – AA
Cadyn Grenier – SS/2B – 22 – Low A
Luis Ortiz – RHP – 23 – MLB
Richie Martin – SS – 24 – AA

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