Just like that, the month of April is already in the books. With a sufficient amount of minor league action under way, we can now take a look at who some of the early hot performers have been down on the farm among the Orioles top prospects. Prospect ranks are based on Tony Pente’s updated Top 30 Oriole prospects heading into 2017 published back on April 5th.
In case you’re unfamiliar with how this column works, it is based off of the Baseball America prospect hotsheet they post on a weekly basis that spotlights the top ten hottest performing prospects in the minors. The only difference is we only focus on Oriole prospects. The rankings are somewhat subjective but I tend to emphasize who had the best ERA, FIP, K/BB ratio and Opponent Average for pitchers and Average, Home Runs, and OPS for hitters and rank them as I see fit.
So far, there’s been a lot to like on the hitting front but the pitching prospects by and large have been struggling. Don’t tell that to the pitcher who surprisingly comes in at number one on the first edition of the HOTSHEET though. He didn’t crack our preseason prospect list but might be in it soon if he continues to pitch anything close to this over a full season. Without further ado…
1) John Means – LHP – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: HM
You may recall Means getting off to a tremendous start with the Keys last year (1.80 ERA over 9 starts, 50 IP, 43 H, 10 BB, 54 K, .228 AVG) and earning a quick promotion to Bowie where his Frederick success didn’t translate (4.69 ERA over 18 starts, 96 IP, 113 H, 25 BB, 51 K, .295 AVG). That kept Means off most prospect radars this offseason, save for MLB.com which lists him at 25 on their list. That could change in 2017 if Means can pitch anything close to this over a full season. He’s always exhibited above-average control of his three pitch mix but the question has been would his marginal stuff play at higher levels. We’ll see if he can keep this up. I also plan on watching some of his upcoming starts to see if I notice anything different about him this year, perhaps an improved secondary pitch?
2) Cedric Mullins – CF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: 17
No Oriole prospect’s stock has risen in a shorter amount of time then Cedric Mullins, who impressed so much in spring camp that the Orioles decided to skip him over Frederick and promote him directly to Bowie. He kept up his torrid spring pace with an equally hot start to his season with the Baysox. Unfortunately, he is currently sidelined with a strained hamstring otherwise I likely would have placed him first on this list. No word on when he will return yet but hopefully he can continue to build off his hot start.
3) Alex Wells – LHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)
Top 30 Rank: 8
The young Aussie is off to a nice start with the Shorebirds in his first taste of full season affiliated baseball. There are questions about whether Wells’s stuff will play at higher levels but there’s no doubt he has advanced control and command for someone his age.
4) Ryan Mountcastle – SS – Frederick Keys (A+)
Top 30 Rank: 10
Mountcastle has been killing it for Frederick thus far, leading the team in home runs and OPS one month into the new season. We know he can hit. The bigger question is can Mountcastle remain an infielder long term. That will be a “key” storyline to follow this season as he would suddenly become a much more interesting prospect if he continues to hit and can convince scouts he can stick somewhere in the infield – likely not at shortstop though.
5) Austin Hays – CF – Frederick Keys (A+)
Top 30 Rank: 5
While we would ideally like to see more walks from Hays, his aggressive approach at the plate certainly hasn’t hindered him to date. He currently leads the team in batting average and despite his aggressive tendencies, he’s striking out in just 15.7% of his plate appearances. Overall, this is a solid start for the 2016 3rd rounder, who may find himself in Bowie at some point if he continues to hit.
6) Jimmy Yacabonis – RHP – Norfolk Tides (AAA)
Top 30 Rank: HM
Yacabonis is off to a tremendous start as the Tides closer, having yet to allow an earned run or blow a save opportunity (4-for-4). He’s another guy like Means, whom we didn’t include in our top 30 but has been ranked by other publications so I figured he’d qualify for our prospect HOTSHEET as well. Yacabonis has a middle relief profile with a fastball that can bump mid 90’s, a slider that flashes above average, and a herky jerk delivery that help his stuff play up when his command is on. Alas, command has been an issue for him at times in the past so it’s impressive to see he has only issued one walk so far. Don’t be surprised to see him in Baltimore at some point this year he he continues to dominate down at Norfolk.
7) Zach Muckenhirn – LHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (A)
Top 30 Rank: 18
We were one of the few publications to have Muckenhirn listed as a Top 20 prospect coming into the 2017 season and that is looking like a good call so far. One potential area of concern going forward though is the fact the righties are batting .346 so far as opposed to lefties, who are batting .213. He’ll need to improve his effectiveness versus right-handed bats to sustain his early season success on the mound.
8) Jomar Reyes – 3B – Frederick Keys (A+)
Top 30 Rank: 26
Reyes had one of the more disappointing performances (down on the farm in 2016, prompting the Orioles to have him repeat Frederick this year. He’s still very young though and it’s nice to see him off to a good start at the plate after last year’s struggles. He was recently placed on the DL with a hand injury though. Hopefully, that doesn’t hamper his performance at the plate when he returns.
9) Drew Dosch – 3B – Bowie Baysox (AA) and Norfolk Tides (AAA)
Top 30 Rank: HM
Dosch has kind of slipped through the cracks a little after a disappointing 2015 campaign took him off most prospect radars. Given his second half performance in 2016 (.306/.364/.514 with 5 HR over 200 PA) and the hot start he is off to now between Bowie and Norfolk, his stock may be back on the rise.
10) Cody Sedlock – RHP – Frederick Keys (A+)
Top 30 Rank: 1
Sedlock would have ranked much higher on this list if not for his dud of an outing on Sunday (4.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 5 K) that inflated his ERA. Never-the-less, the 2016 first rounder is off to a solid start in his first taste of full season professional baseball.
- Randolph Gasssaway – OF – Frederick Keys (#23) .277/.330/.410 over 88 PA, 2 HR, 5 BB, 14 K
- D.J. Stewart – LF – Bowie Baysox (#25) .250/.322/.513 over 82 PA, 4 HR, 6 BB, 15 K
- Stefan Crichton – RHP – Norfolk Tides (#28), 2.89 ERA over 9.1 IP, 8 H, 0 HR, BB, 9 K, .242 AVG
- Garrett Cleavinger – LHP – Bowie Baysox (#21) 2.45 ERA over 11 IP, 11 H, HR, 3 BB, 13 K, .262 AVG
- Tanner Scott – LHP – Bowie Baysox (#20) 2.25 ERA over 12 IP, 5 H, 0 HR, 11 BB, 17 K, .132 AVG
The Not Sheet (Uh Oh)
As you can see, most of the pitchers ranked in the top 20 are off to rough starts. Akin in particular has at least shown dominant strikeout ability so perhaps he turns it on in May if he can show improved command as well.
- Chance Sisco – C – Norfolk Tides (#3) .246/.338/.368 over 64 PA, 0 HR, 7 BB, 18 K
- Chris Lee – LHP – Norfolk Tides (#7) 5.94 ERA, 16.2 IP, 24 H, 2 HR, 9 BB, 13 K, .348 AVG
- Gabriel Ynoa – RHP – Norfolk Tides (#14) 6.65 ERA, 21.2 IP, 35 H, 2 HR, 6 BB, 14 K, .361 AVG
- Jesus Liranzo – RHP – Bowie Baysox (#9) 8.68 ERA, 9.1 IP, 10 H, 3 HR, 10 BB, 10 K, .278 AVG
- Keegan Akin – LHP – Frederick Keys (#2) 5.85 ERA, 20 IP, 25, 4 HR, 11 BB, 30 K, .313 AVG
- Brian Gonzalez – LHP – Frederick Keys (#16) 5.12 ERA, 19.1 IP, 22 H, HR, 11 BB, 11 K, .297 AVG
- Ofelky Peralta – RHP – Frederick Keys (#11) 7.07 ERA, 14 IP, 12 H, HR, 15 BB, 18 K, .231 AVG
- Matthias Dietz – RHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (#12) 7.40 ERA, 20.2 IP, 21 H, 2 HR, 8 BB, 18 K, .273 AVG
Here are three guys that weren’t on any prospect radars to begin the season that are hitting well. Of the three, Rodriguez might be the most likely to make the jump onto the HOTSHEET as he was already coming off a pretty impressive year for the Keys last season but was old for the level.