Baltimore Orioles' Midseason Prospect All-Star Team
It's been a tremendous year for the Baltimore Orioles.
The first half of the MLB season ended with the club four games up on the Toronto Blue Jays in the volatile American League East, several players (Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Darren O'Day) in the midst of career years, others in the midst of breakout campaigns (Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton) and the team as a whole able to overcome a massive injury (Matt Wieters) in the heart of its lineup.
Down on the farm, the year has been equally kind.
The Delmarva Shorebirds and the Bowie Baysox are in the playoff hunt, while players such as Christian Walker, Mike Yastrzemski and Chance Sisco are having breakout campaigns, and several others have already contributed greatly to the big league club's success.
As it's the time of year for recognition, it seems unfair to leave out the minor leaguers, some of whom have been toiling away in the organization for close to 10 years.
Let's take a quick look at which stars have shined the brightest.
Orioles' Minor League Leaders (Hitting)
- .347, Chance Sisco (A)
- .334, Niuman Romero (AA)
- .315, Drew Dosch (A)
- .315, Michael Burgess (A+)
- .311, Ronald Bermudez (AA)
- 73, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 65, Niuman Romero (AA)
- 61, Glynn Davis (A+)
- 58, Christian Walker (AA)
- 55, Drew Dosch (A)
- 111, Dariel Alvarez (AA)
- 109, Drew Dosch (A)
- 109, Trey Mancini (A/A+)
- 108, Niuman Romero (AA)
- 108, Christian Walker (AA)
- 29, Michael Burgess (A+)
- 21, Conor Bierfeldt (A)
- 21, Jeff Kemp (A)
- 20, Adrian Marin (A+)
- 20, Glynn Davis (A+)
- 12, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 5, Gregory Lorenzo (A)
- 4, Glynn Davis (A+)
- 4, Michael Burgess (A+)
- 4, Jason Esposito (A+)
- 20, Christian Walker (AA)
- 15, Michael Burgess (A+)
- 14, Dariel Alvarez (AA)
- 11, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 9, Conor Bierfeldt (A)
- 77, Christian Walker (AA)
- 68, Dariel Alvarez (AA)
- 67, Michael Burgess (A+)
- 63, Trey Mancini (A/A+)
- 62, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 28, Gregory Lorenzo (A)
- 18, Glynn Davis (A+)
- 17, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 9, Adrian Marin (A+)
- 8, Jay Gonzalez (SS)
- 64, Niuman Romero (AA)
- 38, Christian Walker (AA)
- 36, Glynn Davis (A+)
- 36, Drew Dosch (A)
- 33, Cord Phelps (AAA)
- 88, Gregory Lorenzo (A)
- 87, Brendan Webb (A+)
- 80, Mike Yastrzemski (A/A+)
- 80, Christian Walker (AA)
- 77, Jason Esposito (A+)
Orioles' Minor League Leaders (Pitching)
- 12, Tyler Wilson (AA/AAA)
- 8, Sebastian Vader (A)
- 7, Dylan Rheault (A)
- 7, Steven Brault (A)
- 6, Hunter Harvey (A)
- 8, Mike Wright (AAA)
- 8, Mitch Horacek (A)
- 7, Luc Rennie (A)
- 7, Suk-min Yoon (AAA)
- 7, Brady Wager (A+)
- 22, Oliver Drake (AA)
- 14, Jimmy Yacabonis (A/A+)
- 7, Preston Guilmet (AAA)
- 5, Jon Keller (A)
- 5, Robert Coello (AAA)
- 109.2, Tyler Wilson (AA/AAA)
- 104.0, Tim Berry (AA)
- 103.1, Branden Kline (A+)
- 99.0, Parker Bridwell (A+)
- 94.1, Steven Brault (A)
- 36, Kelvin De La Cruz (AAA)
- 35, Oliver Drake (AA)
- 32, Brock Huntzinger (AAA)
- 28, Tim Alderson (AAA)
- 28, Preston Guilmet (AAA)
- 3.01, Hunter Harvey (A)
- 3.04, Sebastian Vader (A)
- 3.18, Kevin Gausman (SS/AAA)
- 3.25, Mitch Horacek (A)
- 3.34, Steven Brault (A)
- 1.64, Robert Coello (AAA)
- 1.67, Jon Keller (A)
- 1.95, David Richardson (A)
- 2.28, Steven Hensley (AA)
- 2.52, Oliver Drake (AA)
- 99, Mitch Horacek (A)
- 98, Tyler Wilson (AA/AAA)
- 94, Parker Bridwell (A+)
- 93, Hunter Harvey (A)
- 91, Tim Berry (AA)
- 47, Parker Bridwell (A+)
- 37, Nick Additon (AAA)
- 34, Tim Berry (AA)
- 32, Hunter Harvey (A)
- 31, Mike Wright (AAA)
Catcher: Chance Sisco, 19 Years Old
Chance Sisco was ticketed to Oregon, where he was a crown jewel in its 2013 recruiting class. It took a $785,000 bonus to dissuade him, and the O's have been reaping the benefits of his presence ever since.
In his 31-game debut with the Gulf Coast League O's affiliate, Sisco lit it up. He posted a .371/.475/.464 line and drove in 11 runs. He showed uncommon plate discipline for an 18-year-old, posting a 17-21 walk-to-strikeout mark.
The O's felt so confident about Sisco's hitting ability that they moved him to Low-A Delmarva to start the 2014 season. He's proved capable at the level, posting a .347/.408/.470 mark with 19 doubles and 44 RBI in 71 games. One could argue that he's hands-down the top hitting catcher in all of the minor leagues.
To gauge that, let's take a look at how he stacks up against some of the other top catching prospects, each of whom ranked among Baseball America's top 50 prospects:
Sisco has been ferocious against right-handers (.369/.421/.502) and is finally starting to improve against lefties after spending the first two months of the season hitting just above .100 against them.
He earned praise from Baseball America's Matt Eddy for his performance in June, during which he hit .404 with eight doubles and a 12/17 BB/K ratio in 24 games.
He currently leads the South Atlantic League in batting average and ranks among the top 10 in all of the minors.
On an interesting note, Sisco has yet to win any league honors on the year, and despite six catchers making the Sally League All-Star Game, the 19-year-old was not one of them.
Season line: .347/.408/.470, 40 R, 19 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 44 RBI, 23/51 BB/K, 1 SB
1st Base: Christian Walker, 23 Years Old
Baltimore's farm system has gotten some huge breakout performances from prospects, but none has been as eye-opening as Christian Walker, the former two-time NCAA College World Series champion.
Walker whet the front office's appetite with a strong showing last year (.300/.362/.453) and a surprise appearance in the Futures Game, but he didn't show much of the power that he was so heralded for in his younger days (he once beat Bryce Harper in a home run derby).
This year, that has not been the case.
Through 93 games, Walker has launched 20 long balls, putting him within striking distance of the minor league home run leaders. His total is second in the Eastern League, while he paces the circuit with 77 RBI. He hasn't been just a home run machine, however, as he's maintained a .301 average and has drawn a career-high 38 walks.
Walker has twice been named Eastern League Player of the Week and was an easy selection for the league's All-Star Game. He also seems a likely bet to be one of eight hitters participating in the Home Run Derby.
Once All-Star festivities wrap up, it wouldn't be a total surprise to see Walker bumped up to Triple-A to finish out the season. However, the O's have a glut of position players at Norfolk, so he might find more regular playing time by sticking with Bowie.
Season line: .301/.369/.521, 58 R, 15 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 77 RBI, 38/80 BB/K, 2 SB
2nd Base: Niuman Romero, 29 Years Old
It shouldn't come as a total surprise that Niuman Romero is tearing up the Eastern League this season.
After all, he has played more than 420 games at the Double-A level. That's almost half of the 1,000 in which he has participated in his 10-year career.
Still, let's give some props to a journeyman who is easily having the best year of his career.
In addition to his league-leading .334 average, Romero also ranks among the top five in hits, runs, on-base percentage and walks. The latter two categories he leads by a considerable margin. Despite being just slightly more than halfway through the 2014 season, Romero is already two walks away from setting a career best in that statistic, while he's also within striking distance of setting highs in doubles and runs.
Baltimore is Romero's seventh organization in 10 years, but he may have finally found a home in an organization that is very keen on giving guys second chances (see Steven Pearce, Nelson Cruz).
Surprisingly, Romero was left off the Eastern League All-Star team, denying his bid for a third consecutive appearance.
Season line: .334/.440/.430, 65 R, 17 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 64/44 BB/K, 6 SB
Shortstop: Garabez Rosa, 24 Years Old
Garabez Rosa is in the midst of his eighth season with the Orioles, so it's very easy to forget that he's not even 25 years old.
Like many of the players on this list, he is enjoying a career year, complete with a recent selection as an Eastern League All-Star.
Rosa has never been too flashy, and there's nothing about his stat line this year that screams "future superstar," but he has nevertheless been a solid addition to a stacked Bowie lineup that leads the Eastern League in batting average.
Most surprising, Rosa has been able to maintain a solid .274 average despite having one of the worst BB/K ratios in all of baseball at 5/66. While that number may be shocking to most, it's actually in line with numbers he posted in 2009 (9/79), 2011 (9/104) and 2013 (8/77).
He's a month or two away from setting career highs in doubles, runs and RBI, and he's already tied his career best with seven home runs.
Rosa may not have much value as a high-level prospect, but there's still a major league future ahead of him as a utility infielder.
Season line: .274/.285/.412, 38 R, 20 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 5/66 BB/K, 2 SB
3rd Base: Drew Dosch, 22 Years Old
Drew Dosch was a solid performer at Youngstown State, and he carried that over to the professional ranks.
In his first season since signing as a seventh-round pick in last year's draft, Dosch has shown all the tools that could one day carry him to the big leagues.
His .315 average places him just outside the top 10 in the South Atlantic League, while he ranks inside the top 10 in hits (second), runs (10th) and at-bats (fourth).
After a solid but unspectacular April (.290/.320/.344), Dosch took off in May and June, hitting a combined .332 with nine doubles, 21 RBI and a 21/24 BB/K mark. The 22-year-old has shown few weaknesses, hitting .375 against lefties and .301 against right-handers. He's been a true road warrior, posting a .350/.425/.439 line away from Perdue Stadium.
Dosch was named to the Sally League All-Star squad and appears to have been rejuvenated by the break, hitting .337 with eight RBI and a 12/14 BB/K ratio since.
The O's don't have many prospects at third base, and with Manny Machado currently manning the position at the big league level, they don't need any, but Dosch appears to be the best of the crop.
Season line: .315/.387/.393, 55 R, 14 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 36/62 BB/K, 4 SB
Outfield: Dariel Alvarez, 25 Years Old
Dariel Alvarez joined right-hander Hunter Harvey on the field this past weekend in the Futures Game, a contest pitting the top international prospects against the best the United States has to offer.
This has been a banner year for Alvarez, whom the Orioles signed out of Cuba last season. He's among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category including hits (111) and RBI (68). He ranks second among all O's farm hands in RBI to teammate Christian Walker, and the two have combined to form one of the most dangerous 3-4 hitting combinations in the minor leagues.
Together, Alvarez and Walker have hit .305 with 35 doubles, 34 home runs, 145 RBI and 110 runs.
Just imagine what those stats will look like if the front office keeps both sluggers at Bowie for the remainder of the season.
That, of course, is a very slim possibility.
It may seem like a footnote, but Alvarez was also named to the Easter League All-Star team.
Season line: .309/.332/.487, 52 R, 20 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 68 RBI, 13/35 BB/K, 7 SB
Outfield: Mike Yastrzemski, 23 Years Old
The grandson of Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Yastrzemski is making a name for himself in his first full season with the Orioles.
Just 86 games into the season, Yastrzemski has posted a .308/.365/.530 line; accumulated 21 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers and 17 stolen bases; and earned a promotion from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Frederick. While he did the majority of his damage with Delmarva, he hasn't slowed down since his bump to Frederick, hitting .312 with 19 RBI and five steals in just 23 games.
The 23-year-old has earned Player of the Week honors and was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star team last month.
Since the calendar turned to July, he's been one of the top hitters in all of baseball, posting a .353/.404/.608 line with nine extra-base hits and 13 RBI in just 12 contests.
Season line: .308/.365/.530, 73 R, 21 2B, 12 3B, 11 HR, 63 RBI, 27/80 BB/K, 17 SB
Outfield: Glynn Davis, 22 Years Old
Not many undrafted free-agents go on to have the kind of success that Glynn Davis has had.
Picking up after being passed on 1,525 times in the 2010 draft, the Orioles brought Davis in mostly due to his local connections. Despite not facing much in the way of high-level competition at the Community College of Baltimore County, Davis thrived after signing, hitting .284 with 16 doubles and 24 steals in a 69-game cameo.
He found middling success over the next two years, the majority of which were spent with Delmarva and Frederick.
This season, his second full season with the High-A Keys, Davis has blossomed. His .289/.363/.385 line doesn't scream power hitter, but Davis is excellent at small ball. He's notorious for beating out bunt-hits and does most of his damage as soon as he gets on base. To that end, he's racked up 24 extra-base hits this season to go along with 18 stolen bases.
He's among the organization's leaders in runs, hits, triples and steals, and if he can stay healthy for the remainder of the year, he should establish new career bests in RBI, walks and stolen bases.
Earlier this year he was named to his second All-Star squad, this time as a member of the Carolina League.
Season line: .289/.363/.385, 61 R, 20 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 30 RBI, 36/66 BB/K, 18 SB
Starting Pitcher: Hunter Harvey, RHP, 19 Years Old
It's still early, but it looks like the Orioles got a steal in Hunter Harvey, the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft.
After signing quickly, Harvey went right to work and wowed scouts with two plus offerings (fastball and curveball) in the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. Showing advanced poise and control, Harvey posted a 33/6 K/BB mark in 25.1 innings.
The O's felt confident enough in his ability to allow him to open the 2014 campaign with Delmarva, and the 19-year-old has thrived in one of the best rotations in all of the minor leagues. Rarely working more than five or six innings, Harvey has dominated, save for a recent rough patch that saw him surrender 11 earned runs over two starts, lasting only six innings.
Minus those two outings, Harvey has only allowed more than two earned runs in three of his 13 starts. In nine of those, he's surrendered one or fewer runs.
More good news? Batters are barely hitting above .200 against him and were well under that mark until his rough stretch in June. He's struck out 93 batters in just 77.2 innings, and his strikeout rate of 10.8, per Baseball-Reference.com, is one of the highest among starters in the South Atlantic League.
In addition to being named to the Sally League All-Star squad and earning a spot on the U.S. squad in the Futures Game, Harvey was also recently named the 31st-best prospect in the minors by Baseball America.
With plenty of starting talent in front of him, there's no need to rush Harvey, which means he'll likely stay at Delmarva for the remainder of the season.
Season line: 6-4, 3.01, 15 GS, 77.2 IP, 56 H, 26 ER, 5 HR, 93/32 K/BB, .202 AVG
Starting Pitcher: Tyler Wilson, RHP, 24 Years Old
With 12 victories in just 19 starts, Tyler Wilson has a very good chance to finish among MiLB leaders in wins.
Fortunately for O's fans, it's not just the wins that are piling up for the former 10th-round pick.
There's no denying that Wilson has been Baltimore's most consistent pitcher at any level in 2014. He's allowed three runs or less in 16 of his starts and has racked up 13 quality starts. He's gone at least seven innings in seven of his last nine outings and, not surprisingly, has picked up wins in seven of his previous eight.
A midseason promotion to Triple-A hasn't slowed him down, as he's gone 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts, extending his winning streak to seven games.
He's already eclipsed 100 strikeouts for the third consecutive season and has continued to show above-average command, walking just 28 batters in 116.2 innings.
As always, Wilson has continued to shine despite beliefs that his stuff isn't good enough to compete against top-notch competition.
If Wilson continues to pitch like he has (7-0, 2.50 ERA since June), a late-season big league call-up might not be out of the realm of possibility.
Season line: 12-5, 3.47, 19 GS, 116.2 IP, 124 H, 45 ER, 11 HR, 104/28 K/BB, .274 AVG
Starting Pitcher: Mitch Horacek, LHP, 22 Years Old
A ninth-round pick last year, Mitch Horacek signed for $100,000 and quickly got to work, dominating hitters in the New York-Penn League.
In 12 outings, he posted a 2.78 ERA and a 45/7 K/BB mark in 64.2 innings. He had a WHIP under 1.00, and he surrendered just one home run.
This season he took his place in the dominant Delmarva rotation and has thrived.
In 17 starts for the Shorebirds, the lanky lefty has struck out 104 batters over 97.1 innings while holding down a 3.42 ERA. His ERA has been drastically inflated over his past four starts, in which he has surrendered 23 hits and 15 runs in just 21.1 innings.
It's become somewhat of an afterthought that he posted a 1.60 ERA over six starts in May and a 27/4 K/BB mark over four starts in June.
Despite the losing record, Horacek should find himself climbing significantly up Baltimore's prospect depth chart by the end of the season.
Season line: 5-8, 3.42, 17 GS, 97.1 IP, 93 H, 37 ER, 6 HR, 104/21 K/BB, .252 AVG
Starting Pitcher: Steven Brault, LHP, 22 Years Old
Steven Brault was picked by many as a player to watch coming into the 2014 season.
An 11th-round pick out of little-known Regis College, Brault shows a good low-90s fastball and two potential above-average pitches in a changeup and slider. Both have come on strong this season, as Brault has carved up South Atlantic League hitters with little difficulty.
Brault has been consistent, posting monthly ERAs of 3.21, 2.88 and 3.09 before hitting a wall in July, where he's 0-2 with a 4.70 mark. Even more impressive has been Brault's control. He's walked just 19 batters in over 100 innings while racking up 89 strikeouts. He hasn't issued a walk in six of his 17 appearances.
Before a dud performance on June 26 (6 IP, 10 H, 5 ER), Brault had posted some pretty incredible numbers for June: 2-1, 1.73, 26 IP, 22/2 K/BB.
He appears to have powered through his midseason rut, as his last two starts have seen him allow just two earned runs in 11 innings.
Also, he can sing.
Season line: 7-6, 3.32, 17 G, 16 GS, 100.1 IP, 83 H, 37 ER, 4 HR, 89/19 K/BB, .227 AVG
Relief Pitcher: Jon Keller, 21 Years Old
A former national champion at the University of Tampa and a 22nd-round pick by Baltimore in 2013, Jon Keller has passed every test thrown at him so far.
A starter in college, the O's let him continue on that track to get some innings late last season, and Keller shined in five starts in the Gulf Coast League.
This season, due in part to an overcrowded rotation at Low-A Delmarva, Keller has moved to the bullpen, where he's been lights-out. In 23 outings spanning 54 innings, the right-hander has allowed just 36 hits and 10 earned runs. His 1.67 ERA is second among all O's minor league relievers. He's been racking up strikeouts by the truckload and now has 62 in just 54 innings, compared to just 14 walks.
Keller has used the sink of his fastball to generate a ton of ground balls, making him even tougher to hit.
A middle reliever by trade, Keller has managed to chalk up five saves so far, and with his dominance, it's definitely worth wondering whether the O's will be moving him back to the rotation.
Season line: 3-0, 1.67, 5 SV, 23 G, 54.0 IP, 36 H, 10 ER, 62/14 K/BB, .188 AVG
Relief Pitcher: Oliver Drake, 27 Years Old
After more than three years of starting in the Baltimore organization, Oliver Drake moved to the bullpen and has found astonishing success.
The 27-year-old journeyman posted a 1.74 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 31 innings, holding batters to a .173 batting average last year.
This season, Drake was installed as the full-time closer, and he's been just as dominant. In 35 appearances, he has racked up 22 saves while holding down a 2.45 ERA and 11.3 strikeout rate, per Baseball-Reference.com.
During June, Drake was unstoppable...literally. He made 12 appearances, allowed eight hits and no runs, and struck out 18 batters in just 12.1 innings. He racked up 10 saves as well.
It's worth noting that 2014 marks Drake's second full season at Double-A Bowie and the fourth consecutive year in which he's spent time with the Baysox.
Still, it's hard to argue with those numbers.
Season line: 2-1, 2.45, 35 G, 36.2 IP, 28 H, 10 ER, 1 HR, 46/12 K/BB, .209 AVG