Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.
All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here.
**Editor’s note** Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson was originally ranked 26th on this list but was removed after he was returned to Los Angeles.
|14||Jean Carlos Encarnacion||21.0||A||3B||2021||40|
Other Prospects of Note
Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.
Wells is an elite strike-thrower who has walked just 52 hitters in 338 career innings, but he only sits 87-92. Proponents think his curveball (which is plus) and changeup (there’s dissent as to whether it really plays off of a 35 fastball) are good enough for Wells to lean on and pitch at the back of a rotation. Lee has shown typical lefty bullpen stuff at times (up to 97, above-average slider, cutter) but has also dealt with a myriad of injuries (shoulder, lat, oblique). He’s legally blind in his right eye but has been since birth, so it’s not really an issue. Gonzalez, 27, also has a 55 fastball/slider combination and we’re not sure why Baltimore hasn’t pushed him to the big leagues yet. His stuff ticked way up in 2017 and has been good for two years now. Rogers was part of the Britton deal and may open 2019 in the O’s rotation. He sits 88-91 and has an above-average changeup. Zimmermann has several average pitches and projects as a No. 5 to 7 starter. Bishop has been up to 94 with four average pitches in the past, but his stuff was down last year.
This is the only international player on this list who was signed by Baltimore. He’s a two-year DSL prospect who turns 20 in May. He has average bat speed, a frame that likely projects to third base, and a pretty, low-ball, left-handed swing. Xu (pronounced like ‘shoe’) isn’t really a prospect but is of note because he’s one of few players in pro ball from China. For all the flack the Orioles have rightfully received for their aloof international approach, they deserve some credit for poking around China, which due to the size of its population alone, probably has more athletes capable of baseball than are currently being developed.
Jomar finally performed during an injury-shortened 2017, then struggled again in 2018. He still has monster raw power and a 70 arm, and we think he’s worth monitoring especially because he might be getting something resembling a fresh start now that the org has new leadership. Neustrom was a two-year Big Ten performer with plus raw power and a bunch of average other tools, but he has very limited bat control. Escarra missed time with a shoulder issue and 45 or 50 hit, 55 power at first doesn’t quite get there, but he also has a chance to be a plus defender at the position.
Cleveland signed Cervenka, 26, out of the Czech Republic way back in 2011 and he has bounced around to a few teams on waivers and as a minor league free agent, but he’s gotten much better behind the plate and is now a 45 defender with a 45 arm and 55 raw power. He could be a third catcher. Wilkerson, 27, missed some of 2018 due to an amphetamine suspension and more of it due to oblique and hamstring issues. He has above average bat control and is a 40 defender at several positions. He may get a utility look in 2019. Alexis Torres is a 21-year-old who is a defensive fit at shortstop. His lack of physicality has been questioned, but he looked better with the bat late last summer.
The Orioles had some pretty clear issues to sort through as the 2018 season ended. It was widely assumed that GM Dan Duquette and/or manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t be returning, and that a number of personnel and long-term organizational issues were likely to be to dealt with. But questions remained. Would the new head of baseball operations have the autonomy to kickstart the non-existent international program? Would they get to rebuild everything, from the big league roster down to the analytics, scouting, and player development staffs, or would ownership insist that the new GM make a foolhardy attempt to compete?
Ownership now appears to be driven more by Peter Angelos’ sons than by the elder Angelos himself, and answers to these questions became more clear when they hired former Astros assistant GM Mike Elias to be the new Orioles GM. Elias brought with him a new analytical chief in curiosity king Sig Mejdal, and it’s safe to assume the rebuild will have structural similarities to the Astros’, with various departments all getting facelifts as part of the effort.
Of the 32 players we’ve ranked above, 18 are either freshly drafted or were acquired from other clubs since last summer, a parting gift from the previous leadership. Before Duquette got the okay to start a sell-off, this was a big league club that had little chance to contend and also a bottom five farm system, and we think he and his staff did an admirable job restocking the farm ahead of the deadline. 12 of the 24 prospects ranked 40 FV or better (those with notably positive trade value) were in the org before this time and the system, minus the summer’s draft and trades, would’ve ranked in a tie for 27th in baseball. We haven’t ranked farm systems yet this winter, but it would appear this system is about 20th at the moment.
And there’s still plenty of upward mobility here. There are a couple more trades to be made (Mychal Givens would seem the most obvious premium talent likely to move), the O’s have the first overall pick in June’s draft, and they may add international talent with the most remaining pool space in the ’18-’19 period. Sources indicate that the hire of Koby Perez to run the international program means the Orioles are going to be immediate players for top prospects in that market, and they have the bonus hammer to wield over the next 18 months across two bonus periods as they see fit. Elias has a lot of things to do in his first year, but the main focus has to be building a data and communication infrastructure for the org while also accumulating assets, something the Astros did better than anyone during the first few years of their organizational overhaul.