With July now in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a look at how the baby birds fared during the month. Prospect ranks are based on Tony Pente’s mid-season updated Top 30 Oriole prospects published back on July 17th. Check that out if you haven’t already.
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 differences are we only focus on Oriole prospects and we do this on a monthly basis. 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.
Hitters dominated the list last month but this time around we have a pair young left-handed starters rounding out the top of the list. Number one on the HOTSHEET in particular has been on a historic run of quality pitching.
Without further ado…
1) Alex Wells – LHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)
Top 30 Rank: 9
That’s right. The young Aussie went the entire month of June without allowing a single earned run OR walk over 5 starts, spanning 31 innings. His current scoreless inning and walk streak sits at 36, a truly impressive run. Wells doesn’t have the most overpowering arsenal in the world but that might not matter in the long run if he continues to show exemplary command and control as he moves up the ladder.
2) Zac Lowther – LHP – Aberdeen Ironbirds (Short Season A)
Top 30 Rank: 21
Lowther (the Orioles competitive balance pick (#74 overall) from Xavier this year) is off to an impressive start for the Ironbirds, showing phenomenal control. According to this scouting report from 2080 baseball, he has a plus curveball and his fringe-average fastball velocity plays up due to a deceptive delivery and plus command. Development of his changeup as a righty-neutralizer will determine his ultimate ceiling.
3) Ben Breazeale – C – Aberdeen Ironbirds (Short Season A)
Top 30 Rank: 25
The Orioles drafted Breazeale in the 7th round and gave him a $10,000 bonus as a senior sign from Wake Forest in this year’s draft. That investment already looks like a tremendous steal with the scorching hot start Breazeale is off to, prompting Tony to include him in his updated Top 30 Orioles prospect power rankings. To date, Breazeale is batting .397/.480/.571 with 3 homers, 20 walks, and 30 strikeouts over 146 plate appearances in 30 games played. He currently leads the New York Penn League in batting average and on base percentage and it isn’t even close.
4) Austin Hays – RF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: 1
Hays continues to rake as he has all year long. July marked his first full month at Bowie and he didn’t skip a beat, showing impressive power by knocking out 8 home runs. Hays would appear to be the runaway favorite at this point for Orioles minor league hitter of the year. He’s even garnering national prospect attention now, recently appearing at number 99 on Baseball America’s mid-season Top 100 prospect update. Overall, Hays is slashing .331/.361/.609 with an organization best 26 home runs over 419 plate appearances in 98 games.
5) Cedric Mullins – RF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: 6
Had Mullins not been limited to 12 games this month due to a hamstring injury, he would have ranked higher on this list with the scorching performance he put up once he returned. Mullins is batting .327/.365/.564 overall with 10 home runs in 50 games in what has been an impressive breakout for the 22-year old center-fielder at Bowie after skipping Frederick all together.
6) Ademar Rifaela – RF – Frederick Keys (A+)
Top 30 Rank: 15
Rifaela had a huge power breakthrough in June that officially put him on the prospect radar. With another strong performance in July, Rifaela has squarely cemented his prospect status in what has been an out-of-nowhere breakout season for a guy no one ranked anywhere near a top 30 prospect coming into the year. Overall, Rifaela is batting .297/.353/.519 over 370 plate appearances in 95 games, with a Carolina League leading 19 home runs. His .297 average ranks third among qualified Carolina League leaders and he is fourth in the league with 62 RBI, numbers that put him in good position to win league MVP if he keeps this up.
7) John Means – LHP – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: UR
It’s been an up and down season for Means, who you may recall topped this list back in April when he pitched to a 1.40 ERA over five starts. After pitching to a 6.65 ERA over his next 10 starts in May and June, Means turned it back around in July.
8) Brenan Hanifee – RHP – Aberdeen Ironbirds (Short Season A)
Top 30 Rank: 13
The Orioles drafted Hanifee in the 4th round of the 2016 draft and he is off to a promising start with the Ironbirds after not pitching at all last summer. Ideally, we’d like to see a higher strikeout rate but it’s hard to argue with the early returns from a young guy with a projectable 6’5″, 180 pound frame.
9) Austin Wynns – C – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: 16
Wynns has always been regarded as a solid catch-and-throw guy but flew under the radar due to being an older prospect without much draft pedigree. With the strides he has made with the bat this year, he has improved his chances of developing into a solid backup if not a potential lower-tier starter. Overall he’s batting .291/.384/.426 with 7 home runs, 39 walks, and 51 strikeouts over 328 plate appearances spanning 81 games. He’s also thrown out an impressive 44% of would be base stealers (26-for-59) in his 69 starts behind the plate.
10) D.J. Stewart – LF – Bowie Baysox (AA)
Top 30 Rank: 24
Stewart had arguably his best month to date for the Baysox, showing an impressive blend of power, speed, and on base capability. His overall numbers aren’t sexy but he’s quietly been holding his own at AA this year (.264/.353/.433, 13 HR, 45 BB, 69 K, 402 PA, 15-for-16 in Stolen Bases) and deserves some recognition for that, considering many have written him off as a bust.
11) Chance Sisco – C – Norfolk Tides (AAA)
Top 30 Rank: 8
After a slow first two months, Sisco heated up at the plate in June and kept that going in July, albeit without much power production. Overall Sisco is batting a solid but not sexy .280/.340/.387 with 3 HR, 27 BB, and 82 K over 309 plate appearances. More concerning is the fact that he has thrown out just 21% of baserunners behind the plate and has committed 8 errors for a .986 fielding percentage.
12) Zach Muckenhirn – LHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)
Top 30 Rank: 26
Muckenhirn rounds out the list after posting his best monthly ERA since April. He’s still allowing a concerning amount of contact though as opponents have batted .318 against him on the season.
- David Hess – RHP – Bowie Baysox (#23) 4.15 ERA, 34.2 IP, 34 H, HR, 16 BB, 28 K, .260 AVG
- Tanner Scott – LHP – Bowie Baysox (#7) 3.21 ERA, 14 IP, 9 H, 0 HR, 11 BB, 17 K, .180 AVG
- Ofelky Peralta – RHP – Frederick Keys (#27) 3.60 ERA, 25 IP, 24 H, 0 HR, 17 BB, 20 K, .255 AVG
- Jhon Peluffo – RHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (#20) 3.28 ERA, 24.2 IP, 29, 0 HR, 4 BB, 15 K, .293 AVG
The Not Sheet (Uh Oh)
- Chris Lee – LHP – Norfolk Tides (UR) 6.35 ERA, 17 IP, 20 H, HR, 10 BB, 9 K, .294 AVG
- Gabriel Ynoa – RHP – Norfolk Tides (UR) 5.34 ERA, 28.2 IP, 34 H, 3 HR, 5 BB, 20 K, .296 AVG
- Jayson Aquino – LHP – Norfolk Tides (#19) 4.56 ERA, 23.2 IP, 32 H, 3 HR, 14 BB, 16 K, .337 AVG
- Jesus Liranzo – RHP – Bowie Baysox (#17) 5.52 ERA, 14.2 IP, 11 H, 3 HR, 13 BB, 19 K, .212 AVG
- Lucas Long – RHP – Bowie Baysox (#18) 4.84 ERA, 22.1 IP, 29 H, 2 HR, 3 BB, 15 K, .315 AVG
- Ryan Mountcastle – 3B/SS – Bowie Baysox (#2) – (Between A+ and AA) – .261/.299/.337 over 97 PA, HR, 5 BB, 19 K
- Brian Gonzalez – LHP – Frederick Keys (UR) 5.16 ERA, 22.2 IP, 29 H, 3 HR, 11 BB, 17 K, .319 AVG
- Cody Sedlock – RHP – Frederick Keys (#11) 7.43 ERA, 13.1 IP, 24 H, 2 HR, 8 BB, 8 K, .387 AVG
- Keegan Akin – LHP – Frederick Keys (#4) 5.97 ERA, 31.2 IP, 43 H, 3 HR, 16 BB, 25 K, .319 AVG
- Randolph Gassaway – OF – Frederick Keys (UR) – .253/.268/.337 over 97 PA, HR, 2 BB, 23 K
- Matthias Dietz – RHP – Delmarva Shorebirds (#22) 4.18 ERA, 23.2 IP, 25 H, HR, 12 BB, 15 K, .275 AVG
Here are two guys that had fallen off the prospect radar with poor performances over the first three months of the season that turned it around in July. A strong finish to the season could potentially get them back into the Top 30 prospect discussion as both are still young for their respective levels.
Ryan McKenna – CF – Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A)
Top 30 Rank: UR
Alex Murphy – C/1B – Frederick Keys (High A)
Top 30 Rank: UR