Sunday, January 26, 2020

2020 Frederick Keys Prospect Preview

2020 Frederick Keys Prospect Preview

The past year has been a transition for the Orioles organization as they have gone from an old school organization headed by Dan Duquette to a modern organization under Mike Elias who was hired from the Astros.  

In 2019 Elias did not have time to hire a new staff in the minors leagues so the minor league staff had a number of people that were retained from the Duquette regime and a few of Elias hires such as Chris Holt who was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator and is now the Director of Pitching.  This year Elias hired many more of his own staff, leaving only a few minor league staff from the Duquette era, including new Key Manager, Kyle Moore, that have bought into the changes.

The rebuilding Orioles traded Dylan Bundy to the Angels and Jonathan Villar to the Marlins this winter.  In exchange the Orioles received five minor league pitchers including Zach Peek (2019 6th round draft pick from Winthrop), Kye Brnovich (2019 8th round draft pick from Elon) and Easton Lucas (2019 14th round draft pick from Pepperdine) that could be on the Keys as some point in 2020.  

The pitching depth in the organization was already strong and the Orioles had selected a number of late round college pitching draft picks in their 2019 draft.  It is reasonable to expect a few of these pitchers to emerge and make it to Frederick in 2020 as well.

In the minor league, the Astros frequently piggyback two starting pitchers who pitch between three and six innings in a game.  I expect that with all the all pitching depth in the Orioles organization to see piggybacking starting pitchers to become a regular occurrence between Delmarva and Bowie in 2020.     

The Duquette regime did leave Elias a few presents.  The Orioles last two first round draft picks under Duquette and Director of Amateur Scouting, Gary Rajsich were high school pitchers that have turned into top prospects.  In addition, the ineptitude of the 2018 Orioles resulted in the first overall draft pick in the 2019 draft. 

Best Guess on Prospect Assignments

Position  Prospect  Assignment
SP Grayson Rodriguez Likely to spend at least most of the year in Frederick
2B-SS Adam Hall Frederick
SP Drew Rom Frederick
SP Gray Fenter Frederick
P Adam Stauffer Likely to begin in Delmarva and could be promoted to Frederick in the second half.
P Leonardo Rodriguez Likely to start in Delmarva but could begin in Frederick if permanently moved to the bullpen.
C Adley Rutschman Likely to be in Frederick for the first month to half of the season.
CF Kyle Stowers Delmarva or Frederick
CF Zach Watson Delmarva or Frederick
C Maverick Handley Delmarva to start.  Could get promoted to Frederick at the same time Adley Rutschman gets called up to Bowie.
2B-SS Cadyn Grenier Frederick to start. Ideally he will get off to a nice start and earn a promotion to Bowie for the second half.
RF Robert Neustrom Frederick
SP Blaine Knight Frederick to start.   Could be promoted to Bowie in the second half based on performance.
P Ofelky Peralta Likely to start in Frederick but could begin in Bowie if permanently moved to the bullpen.
SP DL Hall Bowie
SS Darell Hernaiz Aberdeen or Delmarva

New 2020 Keys Prospects

The Orioles had a very strong team in Delmarva in the Sally League in 2019 and the prospect core of that team will be on Frederick in 2020.

Grayson Rodriguez (6'5" 220 lbs DOB 11-16-99 RHP 1st round 2018) was a surprise selection as the 11th overall pick.  The last time the Orioles made a surprise first round pick with a high school pitcher was in 2009 with Matt Hobgood.  Hobgood ended up being a bust.  However, Rodriguez' first full season was a huge success and put Rodriguez  on the map as a big time pitching prospect.

Rodriguez throws in the mid to upper nineties and has a plus slider and a potential plus curveball.  In 2019, Rodriguez added a change up that has the potential to make Rodriguez an elite pitcher.

Rodriguez just turned twenty and has yet to pitch above full season A.  There is still a long way to go and a lot that can go wrong. However, Rodriguez appears to have all the tools to be a front end starter.

Adam Hall (6'0" 170 lbs DOB 5-22-99 SS RR 2nd round in 2017) has a non-traditional baseball background growing up in Bermuda and moving to Canada at twelve.  As a result, the Orioles wisely had Hall spend 2018 with Aberdeen in the NY Penn League before moving to full season ball with Delmarva in 2019.

Hall split time between second base and shortstop in 2019 until Cadyn Grenier was promoted to Frederick and then played shortstop the rest of the season.  Hall probably does not have the arm strength to be shortstop in the majors so his future is likely at second base.

For someone with his lack of experience, Hall has an impressive hit tool and above average speed.  At this point, Hall is not a power threat.

Drew Rom (6'2" 170 lbs DOB 12-15-99 LHP 4th round 2018) not the hardest thrower, but extremely polished .  Rom is likely to be among the youngest players in the Carolina League in 2020.

Rom was very impressive as a 2018 high school draft pick that more than held his own competing against a lot of 2018 college draft picks.  He had 122 strikeouts in 95.1 innings.  Rom closed out the year with five no hit innings on August 28th, rebounding from his worse game of the year the previous start. 

Gray Fenter  (6'0" 200 lbs DOB 1-25-96 RHP 7th round 2015) the Orioles signed Fenter for one million dollars which was more than five times the slot value of $178,300.  Fenter had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2016 season.  He struggled to regain his form in 2017 and 2018.

At 23 years old in Delmarva for 2019, Fenter finally put it together.  In 94.1 innings, Fenter only allowed 61 hits and 43 walks and struck out 123 strikeouts. 

Adam Stauffer (6'7" 240 lbs DOB 1-13-99 RHP 18th round 2017) huge, late round, cold weather high school pitcher who barely pitched his first two years as a pro.  

In 2019 Stauffer dominated in five starts in the NY Penn League (25.1 innings 14 hits, 8 walks 3 earned runs and struck out 29).  Stauffer was promoted to Delmarva on July 13th, where his outings were shorter but still very impressive (18.2 innings allowing only 8 hits, 2 earned runs but 11 walks while striking out 31).

Stauffer is not the hardest thrower, but with his height, he has excellent extension.

Leonardo Rodriguez (6'7" 215 lbs DOB 11-25-97 RHP 2016 IFA) given his size and the Orioles lack of international prospects, there was some buzz about Rodriguez in spring training of 2018, but he mainly pitched in the GCL as a 21 year old and did not pitch that well. 

However, Rodriguez did show improvement in 2019 with Aberdeen.  In 71.1innings, he allowed 47 hits and 25 walks while striking out 80.  He is 22 year old that has yet to pitch in full season ball and a move to the bullpen seems likely.    

Returning Keys Prospects

Aside from DL Hall, who went on the IL the last part of the season, there were very few prospects on the Keys in the second half of the season.  The returning Keys prospects can all be described as fringe.

Cadyn Grenier (5'11" 188 lbs DOB 10-31-96 SS RR 1st round CBA 2018) the 37th pick in the 2018 draft.  He was a rather unexciting selection due to his lack of upside. Grenier had a difficult 2019 season and it is hard to project Grenier beyond a utility role at the major league level.  Given Grenier's lack of power and experience in the PAC 12, 138 strikeouts in 385 at bats was way too much.

In my looks at Grenier on defense, he did not standout which was disappointing given his reputation.  However, recently listed Grenier as the Orioles best defensive prospect.

Robert Neustrom (6'2" 208 lbs DOB 11-12-96 RF RR 5th round 2017) was promoted from Delmarva in the Sally League on July 24th.  Neustrom does not have any glaring weaknesses but does not do anything well enough to standout.  He is like a less advanced (2 years younger) Zach Jarrett.

Blaine Knight (6'3" 165 lbs DOB 6-28-96 RHP 3rd round 2018) There were a number of college pitchers in the Carolina League in 2019 that were 2018 draft picks and began the year in full season A before getting promoted in the Carolina League.  Prospects such as Kris Bubic, Jonathan Stiever, Tim Cate, Jonathan Bowlan, Austin Cox, Cody Morris, Brett Conine and Thad Ward made smooth transitions to Carolina League.  However, Blaine Knight was the first 2018 college pitcher that was promoted from full season A to the Carolina League and it was a much more difficult transition than expected.

Blaine Knight was a star SEC pitcher at Arkansas.  In five starts for Delmarva he seemed much too advanced for that level (26.2 innings pitched, 11 hits, 4 walks and 33 strikeouts with a 0.56 WHIP 0.68 ERA and .125 BAA). Expectations were high when Knight was promoted to Frederick, but it did not go well (83.2 innings, 89 hits, 39 walks and only 56 strikeouts with a 1.53 WHIP and 6.13).

Knight has decent stuff but his command was not nearly as sharp as expected.  Knight should be in the Keys starting rotation in 2020 and will look to rebound.

Either Frederick or Bowie

Brenan Hanifee (6'5" 215 lbs DOB 5-29-98 RHP 4th round 2016) statistically had an up an down year in 2019 that was not nearly as good as Hanifee was in 2018 for Delmarva. Sometimes statistics do not show the full picture.

When Hanifee pitched on opening day in 2019, he appeared to throw his sinking fastball exclusively.  Over the course of the year, he seemed to make progress with his off speed pitches and was even throwing more fastballs up in the strike zone.  Hanifee was not always consistent and that is reflected in his numbers.  However, I do believe that Hanifee made progress in 2019 that in the long term will give him a chance to be more successful at higher levels than the Sally or Carolina League.  

Ofelky Peralta (6'5" 195 lbs DOB 4-20-97 RHP 2013 IFA) can not seem to get over the hump in High A.  Peralta actually made his Keys debut on April 11, 2017 when was still a teenager.  In 2017 and 2018 with Frederick, he struggled with his command and  consistency.  

In 2019, Peralta began the year in Delmarva where he got off to a great start (in April 20.1 innings, he only allowed 2 earned runs, 10 hits and 5 walks while striking out 31).  Peralta was called back up to Frederick on July 7th.  Once again consistency and command were issues that made his overall numbers mediocre.  However, in three of his last five appearances, Peralta threw six scoreless inning stints.

It seems inevitable that Peralta's future is as a reliever where he can throw in the upper nineties.  He is likely to be back in Frederick if he is still being used as a starter, but could move to Bowie if he transitions to the bullpen.   

Likely to be Promoted from Frederick to Bowie

DL Hall - The youthful looking Hall, who is perhaps generously listed at 6'2" 195 pounds does not appear to be very intimidating on the mound.  However, his stuff can only be described as nasty.  

The fastball can get up to the mid nineties with a lot of life.  The curveball is also a plus pitch and the change up is a work in progress but has a lot of potential.

Hall areas of improvement are with command and efficiency.  If he can limit the walks and if he is able to get more outs early in the count, he is likely a front end of the rotation starter.

Notable Orioles Draft Picks

Round  Pick Player Age Position School Bonus
1 1 Adley Rutschman 21 C Oregon State $8,100,000
2 42 Gunnar Henderson 17 SS John T. Morgan Academy $2,300,000
2 71 (CB) Kyle Stowers 21 CF Stanford $884,200
3 79 Zach Watson 21 CF Louisiana State $780,400
4 108 Joseph Ortiz 20 SS New Mexico State $450,000
5 138 Darell Hernaiz 17 SS Americas HS $400,000
6 168 Maverick Handley 21 C Stanford $250,000
7 198 Johnny Rizer 22 OF Texas Christian $15,000
8 228 Griffin McLarty 20 P Charleston $170,000
9 258 Connor Gillispie 21 P Virginia Commonwealth $125,000
11 318 Andrew Daschbach 21 1B Stanford $250,000
12 348 Kade Strowd 21 P West Virginia $125,000
13 378 Dan Hammer 21 P Pittsburgh $150,000
14 408 Mason Janvrin 21 CF Central Missouri $125,000
15 438 Kyle Martin 21 P Fordham $125,000
16 468 Shelton Perkins 22 P James Madison $100,000
17 498 Morgan McSweeney 21 P Wake Forest $125,000
19 558 Jensen Elliott 22 P Oklahoma State $125,000
21 618 Toby Welk 22 3B Penn State (Beaver) $1,000
22 648 Jake Lyons 20 P Oklahoma State $125,000
24 708 Andrew Martinez 21 SS California-Santa Barbara $115,000
29 858 Houston Roth 21 P Mississippi $150,000

With a record of 47-115 in 2018, the Orioles truly earned the 1st pick in the 2019 draft.  The Orioles used the 1st pick on Adley Rutschman, the consensus top pick. They also drafted several college outfielders that have a good chance of being in Frederick in 2020 and a number of their late picks were pitchers from decent college programs that they signed for low six figure deals. 

Johnny Rizer, a college senior signee and Toby Welk, a small college signee were below slot draft picks that impressed in 2019.

 Adley Rutschman (6'2" 216 lbs, DOB 2-6-98 SR C) A case of mononucleosis and the Orioles desire to have Rutschman play in the playoffs with the talented Delmarva Shorebirds, prevented Rutschman from reaching the Carolina League in 2019.

Rutschman should be on the Keys for the first part of 2020.  He is a power hitting catching prospect with strong defensive skills.  

Kyle Stowers (6'3" 200 lbs, DOB 1-2-98 LL CF) Listed as a centerfielder, Stower is more likely a corner outfielder.  Stower had two solid years as a everyday player at Stanford.  He has a well rounded game.  

Stowers struggled more than expected in 55 games at Aberdeen in the NY Penn League.  

Zach Watson (6'0" 160 lbs  DOB 6-25-97 RR CF) Watson is a strong defense centerfielder who had three productive years as an everyday player at LSU.  

Watson's upside is a lead off hitting everyday centerfielder.  The most likely outcome is a fourth outfielder. 

Maverick Handley (5'11" 205 lbs DOB 3-10-98 RR C)  strong defensively, the question is how much Handley will hit.  Handley improved as a hitter at Stanford and had a good Junior season.  He struggled in 41 games at Aberdeen in the NY Penn league with a .535 OPS.  Handley could have a chance to move up to Frederick when Rutschman is promoted to Bowie.  

One Down the Road Prospect to Monitor

The Orioles have a major revenue competitive disadvantage in the American League division with the Yankees and Red Sox.  In the past they also created another competitive disadvantage by essentially ignoring the international free market in Latin America.  

The Orioles are looking to enter the international market under Mike Elias, but it will likely take years to build the relationships needed to sign the top talent in Latin America.  In the meantime, the Orioles are aggressively making mid level international signings hoping to find a few sleepers.  In addition, they traded Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox for two very young international prospects in July.  It is far to early to determine if the Orioles have any standouts.

Darell Hernaiz 6'1"170 lbs DOB 8-3-01 SS RR 5th round in 2019) did not turn eighteen until August.  Hernaiz has a nice speed and power potential combination and had flashes of success in the GCL. Obviously, he has a long way to go.

Perhaps most impressive is that Hernaiz only made one error in 24 starts at shortstop. By comparison, second round draft choice Gunnar Henderson had nine errors in 21 games. 

It will be interesting to see if the Orioles wait until June and assign Hernaiz to Aberdeen or if they are aggressive and assign him to Delmarva.

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