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|1. Chance Sisco, C|
|Born: 02/24/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: Victor Caratini, Tucker Barnhart, Lou Marson, John Ryan Murphy, Blake Swihart|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Among all qualified catchers in any Class AA league, Sisco’s overall production as measured by Weighted Runs Created Plus topped the position (135 wRC+). Fun Fact Part II: Sisco’s closest 21-year-old competitor, Jacob Nottingham, was 48-percentage points behind him, 135 vs. 87. Fun Fact Part III: Here’s a list of 21-year-old qualified backstops to post a 130 wRC+ in any Class AA league since 2006: Chance Sisco. Fun Fact Part IV: The second best showing by a qualified 21-year-old backstop in Class AA since 2006 was a 115 wRC+ by Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2006) and Hank Conger (2009).
Needless to say, Sisco’s campaign last season with the Bowie Baysox was – quietly – one of the better, and highly underrated years in recent memory.
Taken in the second round out of Santiago High School in Corona, California, 61st overall, in 2013, Sisco slugged an impressive .320/.406/.422 with 28 doubles, one triple, and four homeruns in 112 games in the Eastern League. He also got a brief four-game taste of the International League at the end of the year as well.
For his career, the lefty-swinging backstop is sporting an impressive .323/.402/.434 tripe-slash line, with 75 doubles, seven triples, and 18 homeruns in 358 total games.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote about the young catcher in last year’s book:
“Just to add a little bit of context to Sisco’s dominant showing with Frederick last season, consider the following: no 20-year-old catcher with 300 or more plate appearances in the Carolina League topped Sisco’s 140 wRC+ mark since 2006, the first year FanGraphs’ minor league data is available. He has a very promising offensive foundation in place, particularly for a catcher: an above-average eye at the plate, 15- to 17-homer potential, and a hit tool that could threaten a .300 average annually. He’s always shown some platoon splits so that’ll bear watching. Defensively, he…remains a work in progress.”
So there’s a few points that I want to make here:
- Despite some tremendous production at each stop of his minor league career – especially for a catcher – Sisco’s been incredibly overlooked as a prospect. After doing some digging only ESPN’s Keith Law had the baby basher listed among his Top 100 list heading into last season (he ranked Sisco as the 81st overall prospect). He failed to crack the lists of Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com. This despite the fact that he topped the league average mark in High Class A by 40% as a 20-year-old. I had him ranked as the 63rd overall MiLB’er and the top prospect at the position.
- With that being said, he’s still showing some platoon splits in smaller sample sizes. But the overall production, peripherals, and offensive toolkit are just too good to ignore. And it might just be a case of not getting enough at bats against southpaws.
Simply put: Sisco is one of the best catching prospects in minor leagues; it’s time to start taking notice. In terms of offensive ceiling, think something along the lines of .290/.380/.420. His defensive remains a work in progress for sure; according to Clay Davenport’s defensive runs saved, Sisco posted a -15 last season.
He’s very likely the reason the O’s didn’t lock Matt Wieters up to a long term deal. Don’t expect him to step in and become an instant contributor on day one with the big league club. He’s going to struggle for a bit before things start to click.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
|2. Ofelky Peralta, RHP|
|Born: 04/20/97||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Chad James, Ervis Manzanillo, Mauricio Robles, Wilmer Font, Tyler Chatwood|
|Height: 6-5||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Pop Quiz #1: Among teenage arms with 100+ innings in the Sally last season, where did Peralta’s strikeout percentage, 22.4%, rank? The answer: first. Pop Quiz #2: Among all teenage arms with 100+ innings in either Low Class A league, where did Peralta’s strikeout percentage rank? The answer: still first. Pop Quiz #3: Over the past four seasons there have been seven other teenagers to post at least a 22.0% strikeout percentage in Low Class A (minimum 100 innings); name them. The answer: Justus Sheffield, Grant Holmes, Alex Reyes, Jose Berrios, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Sims, and Lance McCullers.
Can you spot the trend?
Let me help you out: All seven pitchers were – or still are – considered top prospects.
Needless to say, Peralta’s 2016 season put him in with some pretty damn good company. The Dominican-born lefty, who stands an imposing 6-foot-5 and 195-pounds, threw 103.1 innings with Delmarva, punched out 101 and walked 60 to go along with a 4.01 ERA and a 3.77 FIP.
Projection: I did a quick – or maybe not-so-quick – study to help provide a bit of a better picture in terms of Peralta’s production last season. Since 2006, there were 33 other instances of a 19-year-old pitcher throwing at least 100 innings with a 22.0% strikeout percentage in Low Class A.
Now of those 33, I would consider 26 of them as eventual top prospects. Here’s a quick list: Alex Reyes, Archie Bradley, Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Blackburn, Grant Holmes, Henry Owens, Jake McGee, Jarrod Parker, Jesse Biddle, Jonathon Niese, Jose Berrios, Justus Sheffield, Kyle Crick, Lance McCullers, Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler, Michael Bowden, Michael Fulmer, Michael Pineda, Nick Adenhart, Omar Poveda, Robbie Erlin, Shelby Miller, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Tyler Glasnow.
(A note: while some didn’t pan out, they were at one point all considered top prospects.)
But Peralta walked a shit ton of guys. So let’s tighten the reins a bit. Here’s the list of aforementioned names to walk at least 13% during that season: Reyes, Bradley, Crick, and Glasnow.
There’s a lot of volatility in terms of Peralta actually achieving his ceiling. But, simply put, he’s likely the best pitching prospect you’ve never heard of. Yet
Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|3. Ryan Mountcastle, SS|
|Born: 02/18/97||Age: 20||Bats: R||Top CALs: Richard Urena, Yamaico Navarro, Carlos Tovar, Adrian Marin, Arismendy Alcantara|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 195||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact Part I: The 19-year-old former first round pick posted a quietly impressive 112 wRC+ in Low Class A last season, the third best showing among all teenage shortstops. Fun Fact Part II: He finished with the sixth most doubles in either Low Class A league. Mountcastle, the 36th overall pick two years ago, hit .281/.319/.426 with 28 doubles, four triples, 10 homeruns, and five stolen bases with Delmarva. And for his brief two-year career, he’s sporting a solid .286/.321/.416 triple-slash line through his first 168 games.
Projection: Similarly with Peralta, I did a quick little study using my trusty database. Between 2006 and 2016, there have been just 23 other 19-year-old shortstops to make at least 450 trips to the plate in the South Atlantic League. It’s a rare group, certainly, but one would have to assume that if a prospect is seeing that much time at a premium position against significantly older competition then he’d be a legitimate big league prospect, right?
Wrong. Big time.
The only tangible prospects of the bunch were Trevor Story, Tim Beckham, Brendan Rodgers, Alen Hanson, Javier Guerra, and Jose Peraza.
So let’s tighten the constraints a bit, shall we?
Now of those 23 teenage shortstops, nine of them – including Mountcastle – finished their respective seasons with at least a 100 wRC+.
Guess who makes up the majority of that list? Yep, all six of the above list players.
So the fact that Mountcastle joined such an elite group suggests he has a very promising shot at developing into some type of big leaguer down the line. He doesn’t walk all that much, but he has surprising power with a little bit of speed and a solid hit tool. If the defense grades out as at least average, which the raw data suggests, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see him develop into a league average starter. And just in case you needed further convincing, consider the following: Mountcastle slugged .302/.332/.455 with a 123 wRC+ from May 1st through the end of the year.
Ceiling: 2.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2019
|4. Hunter Harvey, RHP|
|Born: 12/09/94||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: N/A
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 175||Throws: R|
Background: It’s been an emotional roller coaster the past couple of years for the son of former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey, the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up. The young right-hander, as I quipped in last year’s book, has seemingly been snatched right out of the pages of a William Shakespeare story. The 22nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, Harvey was nearly unhittable across his first two seasons, but he was quickly diagnosed with a strained flexor mass during the 2014 season – the same injury, by the way, that led to Dylan Bundy’s Tommy John surgery. The Orioles took a more cautious wait-and-see approach with Harvey and opted to let the promising ace rest and rehabilitate his aching elbow.
Once he made it back, a comebacker slightly fractured his right fibula. So, of course, he missed a lot more time.
He eventually finds his way to the Instructional League where he, once again, feels some discomfort in his elbow. So the Orioles – once again – shut him down.
Fast forward to last season. Harvey makes five appearances, throwing just 12.2 innings, before eventually succumbing to Tommy John surgery. At the time of this writing, he was reportedly nearing the point where he could begin throwing again.
Projection: 12.2 innings since the end of July 2014. It’s assumed – by me – that he likely won’t make his way back to the mound until at least the middle of 2017, so Harvey’s wonky elbow has forced him to miss basically three full seasons.
Personally, I don’t want to criticize Baltimore’s handling of the young right-hander, especially since I don’t have all the medical information in front of me. But after being diagnosed with the same injury as Dylan Bundy, which led to TJ surgery, it took an awful long time for the organization to push Harvey under the knife.
At this point, he could be anything. Here’s hoping the kid makes it back to full health.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
Risk: High to Extremely High
MLB ETA: 2019
|5. Cody Sedlock, RHP|
|Born: 06/19/95||Age: 22||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jordan Meaker, Dyllon Nuernberg, Matias Carrillo, Dylan Prohoroff, Heath Bowers|
|Height: 6-3||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: To describe the University of Illinois product as one of the “pop up” guys in last year’s draft class would be unfitting. Sedlock, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander, barely sniffed the mound during his first two years with the Illini, throwing just 31.2 innings as a true freshman and another 31.1 innings during his sophomore season. And while the peripherals were stellar – he posted a 59-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio – very few people saw Sedlock morphing into one of the most complete collegiate arms in 2016, even after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League two years ago (29 IP, 26 K, and 7 BB). However, in 14 starts with the Fighting Illini, Sedlock fanned 116 and walked just 31 to go along with a 2.49 ERA. He eventually finished 18th in the nation in strikeouts. The Orioles grabbed Sedlock with the 27th overall pick last season and sent him to Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League. He would throw another 27.0 innings, while averaging 8.3 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 with a 3.35 FIP.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about him prior to last year’s draft:
“Just to kind of put these into perspective, consider the following two anecdotes:
- Between 2011 and 2015 there was only one Big Ten pitcher – Maryland’s Mike Shawaryn – to throw more than 100 innings and average 10 K/9. Sedlock would be the second.
- Again, between 2011 and 2015, there have been only 13 pitchers to throw 100+ innings, average 10+ K/9, walk fewer than 3.0 BB/9, and surrender fewer than 0.4 HR/9. Five of which were first round picks: Mark Appel, Trevor Bauer, Chi Chi Gonalez, Jon Gray, and Aaron Nola.
Big Ten pitchers have been – for the most part – utter disappointments in professional baseball. Obviously, former teammate Tyler Jay would be one of the outliers. Anyway, Sedlock isn’t particularly overpowering, but he’ll average around 7.5 K/9 in professional ranks with solid control/command.
He hasn’t been put through the ringer in terms of wear-and-tear, so there may be some projection left in his right-arm. Look for him to be a solid #3/#4-type arm.”
For what it’s worth, I pegged Sedlock as a second round talent.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|6. Keegan Akin, LHP|
|Born: 04/01/95||Age: 22||Bats: L||Top CALs: A.J. Puk, James Brandhorst, Roman Madrid, Eric Lauer, Yunior Novoa|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 225||Throws: L|
Background: After a completely dominating junior campaign, the 6-foot, 225-pound southpaw became the only player in Western Michigan University history to get drafted before the third round (in the normal June draft). Akin, the eventual 54th overall pick, was mind-boggling good in 17 starts for the Broncos, throwing a career best 109 innings with an impeccable 133-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a stellar 1.82 ERA. And, of course, that dominance continued during his tour with Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League. In another 26 innings with the IronBirds, the hefty lefty punched out 29, walked just seven, and finished the year with a 1.04 ERA.
Projection: It’s obviously pretty easy to dismiss gaudy numbers from a player hailing from a non-traditional baseball school, but Akin handled himself quite well during his jaunt through the Cape Cod League two summers ago. In 33.1 innings with the Bourne Braves, he fanned 39, walked 13, and posted a 2.70 ERA. He looks like a tremendous value pick in the second round with the upside of a mid-rotation caliber arm with the floor of a dominant relief arm. Oh, by the way, he finished third among all Division I pitchers with 133 strikeouts as well.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
MLB ETA: 2019
|7. Trey Mancini, 1B|
|Born: 03/18/92||Age: 25||Bats: R||Top CALs: Joe Mahoney, Joey Terdoslavich, Nick Evans, Jordan Patterson, Allen Craig|
|Height: 6-4||Weight: 215||Throws: R|
Background: The Orioles have done an exceptional job squeezing out as much value as possible from one-dimensional sluggers over the past several seasons, including Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, and Steven Pearce, all of whom immediately come to mind. But it’s those sluggers, along with others, that have delayed the arrival of the former Norte Dame bopper. Mancini, an eighth round selection back in 2013, went from nondescript, older-ish first base prospect during his second professional season to one the most lethal bats in the minors leagues in 2015. Splitting time between Frederick and Bowie, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound first baseman slugged a mind-warping .341/.375/.563 with 43 doubles, six triples, and 21 homeruns – the type of performance that forces scouts, analysts, and talk-heads to pay attention.
So with all heads pointed firmly in his direction leading up to last season, Mancini produced another solid season in the International League – though far from his previous levels of production. In 125 games with Norfolk, the 24-year-old first baseman slugged .280/.349/.427 with 22 doubles, five triples, and 13 homeruns. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 24%.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book when I ranked him as the team’s seventh best prospect:
“Again, here’s some perspective for you: Among all stateside minor league hitters, Mancini finished in the top five in doubles and tied for eighth in overall production (169 wRC). He was an eighth round pick three years ago. And as much as I want to say that this smacks of being a complete fluke, I’m not completely convinced he can’t develop into a dominant big league bat. He still walked the same amount, the power took a noticeable uptick but (A) he slugged a lot of doubles two years ago and (B) he was an absolute force to be reckoned with during his time with Notre Dame, and even though his BABIPs were high, they aren’t that far out of line with his 2013 and part of his 2014 showing.
And here’s something to keep in mind: Paul Goldschmidt, arguably the top hitter in the majors right now, absolutely annihilated the minor leagues but never garnered a whole lot of positive reviews. Could Trey Mancini be the next Paul Goldschmidt? Hell, even if he develops into 80% of that he’ll be a league average player. CAL is a little optimistic, comparing him to Mitch Moreland, owner of a career 101 wRC+ in 2,259 big league plate appearances.”
So his dominant production came falling back to earth, but a 124 wRC+ is nothing to sneeze at either. CAL remains a bit optimistic, again, by comparing him to Allen Craig, owner of a career 113 wRC+. Between that and last year’s Mitch Moreland mention, that seems like a logical offensive ceiling.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: Debuted in 2016
|8. D.J. Stewart, LF|
|Born: 11/30/93||Age: 23||Bats: L||Top CALs: Marc Wik, Casey Craig, Joe Holden, Max Kuhn, Michael Suchy|
|Height: 6-0||Weight: 230||Throws: R|
Background: Fun Fact: Prior to the Orioles’ selection of Stewart in the first round two years ago, the last time the franchise grabbed a collegiate outfielder (from a four-year school) in the opening round was all the way back in 1999 when they grabbed former Ball State stud Larry Bigbie and Providence College product Keith Reed. Stewart, a three-year starter at Florida State, was an absolute monster at the plate, leaving the school as a career .344/.481/.570 triple-slash line with 54 doubles, four triples, 27 homeruns, and 24 stolen bases in 177 games.
But after the club grabbed him with the 25th overall pick two years ago, Stewart look absolutely dreadful during his debut in the New York-Penn League, batting an underwhelming .218/.288/.345 with an 89 wRC+.
And let’s just say the start of the 2016 season didn’t offer up a lot of hope either.
The stocky outfielder “batted”, a term used in the loosest of senses, a Stephen King-horrific .215/.376/.349 with just 12 extra-base hits through his first 45 games. Something seemed to click in the corner outfielder once the calendar flipped to June as he batted .275/.378/.426 with 16 doubles, three triples, six homeruns, and 16 stolen bases over his final 76 contests, 59 of which came after his promotion to High Class A.
Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to the 2015 draft:
“An OBP-machine. Through his first 165 games Stewart owns a .488 OBP. To put that into perspective a bit, look at some of the more notable careers of some past collegiate hitters: Kris Bryant (.486), Michael Conforto (.376), Colin Moran (.452), D.J. Peterson (.463), Mike Zunino (.393), Dustin Ackley (.489), Pedro Alvarez (.451).
Stewart owns an elite eye at the plate – he’s walked 18.4% of his career plate appearances and a staggering 25.8% this season – and enough pop to develop into an annual 15-HR threat. At 6-foot and 230 pounds, he’s not overly quick, but his above-average hit tool helps compensate.
He won’t be your prototypical run-producing corner outfield bat, but has better-than-average production.”
So let’s update that a bit, shall we?
He’s still walking a crap-ton in his professional career (13.1%). But between his 183 career games, he’s been abhorrent for about half and pretty good the other half? Which one’s the real Stewart?
He just looks…blah.
Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2018
|9. Anthony Santander, LF/RF|
|Born: 10/19/94||Age: 22||Bats: B||Top CALs: Gavin lavalley, Marcell Ozuna, Johermyn Chavez, David Winfree, Juan Kelly|
|Height: 6-2||Weight: 190||Throws: R|
Background: Pop Quiz Part I: How many 21-year-old minor league bats slugged at least 20 homeruns? Answer: seven (Travis Demerritte, Willie Calhoun, Tyler O’Neill, Rowdy Tellez, Chris Iriart, Sandber Pimentel, and Anthony Santander). The young outfielder got off to a blistering start in the Carolina League, going 4-for-11 with a pair of homeruns in his first two games, and never looked back as he set career bests in doubles (42), homeruns (20), OBP (.368), and walk percentage (9.4%) en route to tallying a .290/.368/.494 triple-slash line. For his career, Santander is sporting an impressively underrated .271/.343/.449 in 347 games. The Orioles grabbed Santander from the Indians in the Rule 5 draft.
Projection: Well, since I blew the answer above to my second question, I’ll just come out and state the impressive: his 42 doubles tied for the seventh best mark among all minor leaguers (including the Mexican League). The power’s always been there for Santander; he posted an ISO above .180 in 2012 and 2015, so the 20-homer surge should be a repeatable – if not surpass-able – skill. The plate discipline has been steady average. So the question is, what’s not to like?
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
MLB ETA: 2018/2019
|10. Garrett Cleavinger, LHP|
|Born: 04/23/94||Age: 23||Bats: R||Top CALs: Jeff Beliveau, Billy Bullock, Michael Theofanopoulos, Sean Newcomb, Kyle Landis|
|Height: 6-1||Weight: 210||Throws: L|
Background: A dominant relief arm for the University of Oregon during the overwhelming majority of his three-year career. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound southpaw left the school with an immaculate 1.94 career ERA while averaging 13.34 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine innings. The Orioles grabbed him in the third round, 102nd overall, two years ago. Cleavinger continued to miss plenty of sticks during his debut, but his questionable control flared up as he walked 18 hitters in just 25.0 innings of work. Last season the front office pushed him up to the South Atlantic League for the start of the year – where he was simply overpowering: 39.0 IP, 53 K, 11 BB, and a 1.38 ERA. But, once again, following his promotion to High Class A, his control issues reared its ugly head again: 37.1 IP, 49 K, 23 BB, and a 4.82 ERA.
Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Cleavinger heading into the 2015 draft:
“As ridiculously dominant as he’s been in his career – he’s averaged 14.42 punch outs since he left high school – one has to wonder how he’d perform in the rotation. The Cincinnati Reds have transitioned several former collegiate hurlers – Tony Cingrani, Nick Howard, and Michael Lorenzen – so Cleavinger could be on the franchise’s radar.
Cleavinger owns a high floor – he’s a potentially fast-moving backend reliever – with a potentially high ceiling as a starter.”
I expressed doubt that the Orioles would push him into a starting role in last year’s book, which still seems to be the case.
Despite battling his control demons in the second half of last season, I would expect Cleavinger to see some significant time in Class AA next season. He’s shown the ability to pound the strike with some level of consistency, but if he can ever zero in on it – watch out.
Ceiling: 1.5-win player
Risk: Moderate to High
MLB ETA: 2017/2018
Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com