Baltimore Orioles, MLB

Baltimore Orioles: 5 prospects to watch as the Orioles continue their rebuild

The Baltimore Orioles’ major league roster offers little to get excited about, but there are some prospects who could help them soon.

If we do have a 2020 MLB season, the Baltimore Orioles aren’t going to contend. In fact, they likely won’t in 2021, either. They’re coming off back-to-back seasons of over 100 losses, and there’s little on the major league roster worth getting excited about.

However, the team’s minor league system has been getting better over the past couple of seasons. The amateur draft has helped them, while the Manny Machado trade in 2018 also injected some life into the farm system. Over the next year, there will be much more focus on their minor league players than on the major league team.

Whenever play resumes — and hopefully that will include the minor leagues — there are several players that we’ll need to monitor to ensure that the team’s rebuild is on the right track. Here, we’ll highlight five of them.

Austin Hays (OF): Hays figures to be the first of the team’s wave of young talent to have a major league impact; in fact, many thought he would break camp with the team this year. Drafted in 2016, he first reached the majors in 2017 but didn’t return until late last year due to injuries. Late last year, he put up a nice .947 OPS in 21 games while making some highlight-reel plays in the outfield. It would be interesting to see how he fares over a full MLB season.

Ryan Mountcastle (IF): Though he’s proven he can hit at every level he’s played, last year, Mountcastle really broke through. He earned Triple-A MVP honors after batting .312 with 25 home runs in 127 games. It’s still unclear where he will play defensively, though first base seems the most likely option. He was considered close to earning a call-up before the season was delayed; will he still get a chance this year? Chris Davis was the projected first baseman for the big league club, so it’s not like they have much of an excuse.

Adley Rutschman (C): MLB.com considers Rutschman, the 2019 top overall draft pick, to be the best catching prospect since Joe Mauer, an elite player both at the plate and behind it. He already got to play in full-season minor league ball last year and figures to quickly climb up the Orioles’ minor league ranks, projected to arrive in the majors next year. It’s too bad we haven’t gotten to start the season yet because Rutschman’s development was going to be the biggest baseball story in Baltimore this year.

DL Hall (SP): Now we get into the pitching, as Hall was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2017. He’s still on track to reach the majors next season, though he hasn’t pitched above Class-A ball or pitched 100 innings in a season yet. (He missed the end of 2019 due to injury.) Right now, he projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, though he still needs to work on command and consistency. In that respect, 2020 was going to be a key year for his development.

Grayson Rodriguez (SP): If Rutschman is the organization’s top prospect, the 20-year-old Rodriguez sits solidly at No. 2. Though he’s not projected to reach the majors until 2022, he has frontline starter potential. In Class-A ball last year, he posted a 2.68 ERA in 20 starts while striking out 129 batters in just 94 innings. There were going to be a lot of eyes on him this season; now it’s up to the Orioles’ minor league staff to help develop him into a star.

Honorable mentions: Pitchers Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, and Michael Baumann were all thought to have a good chance to reach the majors in 2020. We’ll have to keep an eye on them to see if they can be contributors this season.

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