With the 2021 Baltimore Orioles season about to begin, the Orioles own a farm system full of intriguing prospects ready to make an impact. Years of drafting in the top of the first round, trading key players, and finally investing in international free agents have given Orioles’ fans a reason to be optimistic.
2021 Baltimore Orioles: Major League Ready
Last season, the Orioles called up slugging first baseman/outfielder Ryan Mountcastle, drafted 36th overall in 2015, and Orioles’ fans were excited to watch the youngster hit. In 35 games last year, Mountcastle hit .333/.386/.492 with five home runs. Perhaps even more surprising was that Mountcastle, who isn’t exactly known for his glove, only committed one error and graded as an average fielder. While he likely will never be competing for a Gold Glove, he will likely find himself in the middle of the order ready to make an immediate impact.
The next name that could potentially join the 2021 Baltimore Orioles roster is 2019 number one overall pick Adley Rutschman. Rutschman is a tantalizing prospect that currently ranks as the number two prospect in most minor league rankings. With a strong arm and high impact bat, Rutschman may make his debut this year. The only thing possibly holding him back is a lack of minor league at-bats but he did spend the entire 2020 season as the best player at the Orioles alternative site.
The last top prospect that could make an impact for the 2021 Baltimore Orioles is left-handed pitcher DL Hall, the team’s first-round pick in the 2017 draft. Hall profiles as a true flame thrower, consistently hitting between 96 and 99 with his fastball. He also has a changeup, curve, and slider helping him strike out 116 batters in only 80.2 innings of minor league ball in 2019. Like Rutschman, Hall spent the 2020 season at the alternative site continuing to polish his game. The one concern with Hall is a high walk rate, but if he can show improved command he could factor into the rotation soon.
Couple Years Away
DL Hall isn’t the only flame thrower in the organization. Joining him is baseball’s 27th ranked prospect, the 6’5 Grayson Rodriguez. Like Hall, Rodriguez has an upper 90s fastball, strong changeup, curve, and a slider. The 2018 first-round pick dominated the minors in 2019 with 129 k’s in only 94 innings with a 2.68 ERA. Unlike Hall, Rodriguez also has a good command of the plate and had a WHIP under 1. Very shortly, the Orioles will likely have Rodriguez and Hall as a fearsome one-two punch. Perhaps the 2021 Baltimore Orioles may feature both in their rotation.
In the 2020 draft, the Orioles selected outfielder Heston Kjerstad out of Arkansas. Kjerstad, who ranks as the 69th prospect in baseball, is likely a few years away from the majors. But he did hit .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs in 150 college baseball games. He was having a terrific junior season before the Covid-19 pandemic halted his season and while he won’t be on the 2021 Baltimore Orioles, he will soon be patrolling the outfield at Camden Yards.
The Orioles also possess the intriguing second-round pick from the 2019 draft, Gunnar Henderson. Henderson is a 6’2 shortstop and has drawn comparisons to Corey Seager. Henderson only has one year of big-league experience but many in and around the system believe he will be the biggest riser in the Orioles’ system this season.
While there is a lot of optimism around the other candidates, both for the 2021 Baltimore Orioles but also for the near future, some other intriguing candidates are rounding out the system. Yusniel Diaz, the key piece in the Manny Machado trade, is still lurking in the system. Inconsistent play has stalled his career a bit but he could find himself in the lineup, especially if the team decides to move Anthony Santander.
Meanwhile, Terrin Vavra posted a .409 OBP in 2019 while playing around the diamond, Dean Kremer has averaged over 10 strikeouts per nine innings and Jordan Westburg is coming off a strong final season at Mississippi State.
While some of these players may not factor in the 2021 Baltimore Orioles season, the future is certainly bright in Baltimore.
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