Baltimore Orioles: Top Ten Prospects for 2018

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 25: The Baltimore Orioles logo is seen on a batting helmet during the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on June 25, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 25: The Baltimore Orioles logo is seen on a batting helmet during the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on June 25, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /
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2. Ryan Mountcastle, SS

Birthday (age on opening day 2018): 2/18/97 (21)
2017 teams/levels played for: high-A Frederick Kays, AA Bowie Baysox
2017 Stats: .287/.312/.489, 538 PA, 18 HR, 8 SB, 17/96 BB/K

Info: In the 2015 draft, they went after one of the top talents in that season’s draft with the 36th overall pick with a Florida prep infielder with big upside. After three seasons of pro ball under his belt, Mountcastle is still playing at shortstop, in spite of that being one of the major questions that caused him to be available at the Orioles’ pick in the first place.

Mountcastle has remained at shortstop still as he’s progressed, not growing off of the position quite yet. He’s probably not a long-term shortstop, and when he was promoted to AA Bowie, his below average arm was exposed in a move to third base. Mountcastle’s natural athleticism has allowed him to cover ground well at short thus far, leading many to think he could handle second base well.

Mountcastle has filled into his 6’3″ frame well, and many believe he could end up at first base in the end, where he could be a good defensive first sacker with some development.

He has an aggressive approach at the plate that leads to plenty of contact with his incredibly quick bat and plus to double-plus raw power. In 2017, his power showed up very well in high-A in the Carolina League, not traditionally a spot where power shows up well. On top of his 18 home runs, he powered 48 doubles combined on the season as well.

Mountcastle does have good zone recognition, but he is aggressive, and he tends to go hard after pitches within the zone, which keeps his walk rate low (3.2%), but it also keeps his strikeout rate very reasonable (17.8%). As he moves into the upper minors, that will be something that could be exposed more often, and Mountcastle will need to show the ability to lay off pitches as well.

After just 39 games in 2017, Mountcastle is most likely tagged for a return to AA to open 2018, but his impressive 2017 season has him on the fast track to make an impression on the Baltimore roster as soon as the end of the 2018 season if he can keep up his impressive progression on the offensive end.

1. Austin Hays, OF

Birthday (age on opening day 2018): 7/5/95 (22)
2017 teams/levels played for: high-A Frederick Keys, AA Bowie Baysox, MLB Baltimore Orioles
2017 Stats: Minors: .329/.365/.593, 563 PA, 32 HR, 4 SB, 13/45 BB/K; Majors .217/.238/.317, 63 PA, HR

Info: While many were crazy over Kyle Lewis in the 2016 draft, imagining his impressive power translating from a small school college to professional baseball and how he could end up being the next great power hitter in the game, a select few were noticing a few of his opponents that season that also were quality players and had the chance to turn into possible major league players.

Hays was the co-leader in that clubhouse with now-Giants prospect Heath Quinn. Hays was selected by the Orioles in the 3rd round out of Jacksonville, and he immediately hit in the New York-Penn League, posting a .336/.386/.514 line with 4 HR and 4 SB in 38 games.

Hays has put himself into the discussion of the top power prospects in all of the minor leagues

The Orioles were aggressive with Hays in 2017, starting him with high-A Frederick in the Carolina League for his first full-season assignment. Typically not a great spot for a hitter, Hays came out dominating at the level, with 16 home runs in 64 games before being promoted to AA, where he accomplished exact same numbers. His pro debut wasn’t as tremendous as his other levels, but he also didn’t look overmatched, either.

Hays has put himself into the discussion of the top power prospects in all of the minor leagues with his hard work from the time he was a little-known high school prospect all the way through his time with coaches before games, where he’s known for his work to improve his game.

Hays is an impressive defensive outfielder, the type of guy who likely would fit as a passable center fielder, but he would be an above-average or even plus defensive right fielder. He is not blessed with elite speed, but gets good reads off the bat to allow his good straight-line speed to play up.

Hays has work to do in recognizing high-level breaking pitches, but that is really the last developmental thing he has left to do in the minor leagues before he’ll be ready to take over in the major leagues, and with Adam Jones a free agent after 2018, he could find himself having to strap on his center field cleats in 2019 in Baltimore.

Next: Newcomer to watch