Anyone who has followed Orioles baseball since the hiring of GM Mike Elias has seen the incredible upturn of the once barren O’s farm system. And in the last three years, that farm system, quite literally, has gone from worst to first.
Of this stacked farm system, five names truly stick out. But before we start, let’s remember that this is just a pre-season list. I have no doubt in my mind that we don’t see at least two more of prospects in the Orioles’ system also touch the top-100 by season’s end.
The first, and most obvious, is the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, Adley Rutschman. The switch-hitting catcher out of Oregon State has done nothing but live up to expectations since his professional debut. In all levels of the minor he has played in, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick has dominated.
Rutschman spent a majority of his 2021 season in Double-A Bowie, where he not only torched his competition, but also got to catch the Orioles No. 2 prospect and Baseball America’s No. 6, right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez. More on him later.
So far in his professional career, Rutschman holds a slash line of .278/.387/.485 and a .871 OPS. The 23-year-old shows power from both sides, with 63 XBH in 160 minor league games.
Defensively, Rutschman is a wizard. Enough said.
At this point, it’s a countdown to when we see Rutschman behind the plate in an Orioles uniform. In 99 games behind the plate, the young catcher has a .991 fielding percentage and has caught 33% of base stealers. Even better, he can play first base, where he has a .995 fielding percentage in 246.1 innings.
The next on our list is the No. 6 overall prospect, Grayson Rodriguez. Yes, the Orioles have a pitcher in the top-10. Don’t forget to pick up your jaw.
The flame-throwing right-hander has excelled so far in his professional career. In three seasons split between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, Rodriguez has also been dominant, as he currently holds a 2.41 ERA and a .934 WHIP.
In 216.1 professional innings, Rodriguez has struck out 310 batters. That’s a lot, if you couldn’t already tell. Also, he holds a 12.9 K/9 ratio and a 5.5 H/9 ratio. He is striking out nearly three batters for every base hit he allows; that’s good stuff.
Rodriguez is another we are just counting down to see in Baltimore, and we cannot wait for the battery combination of Rutschman and Rodriguez.
The next player the Orioles have in the top-100 is left-handed pitcher D.L. Hall at No. 52 overall. Hall is another tall flame-thrower who fools a serious number of hitters with his arsenal.
Hall has pitched 217 professional innings with a 2.99 ERA. Another strikeout guy, Hall has recorded 284 Ks in his career. He has a massive breaking ball that plays very well off his fastball, and most hitters do not like that.
Although his 2021 season ended early due to an injury, Hall has fully recovered from his surgery and has begun throwing off the mound again. Great news for O’s fans.
The next prospect on our list is No. 57 overall, shortstop Gunnar Henderson. For some reason, Henderson seems to be overlooked as a top prospect in baseball. The 2019 second-round pick embarrassed the competition in Low-A Delmarva, where he finished his stint with a .312 average and a .944 OPS.
Henderson can hit the ball anywhere on the field, exemplified by his 57 career XBH, a lot of which went to the opposite field. Still only 20 years old, Henderson has a lot of room for improvement, and I have no doubt he will be an infield phenom for the Orioles very soon.
The fifth and final prospect to make this list is outfielder Colton Cowser, who ranks No. 98 overall. By the end of this season, he will certainly be in the top-70 at least. Drafted in 2021, Cowser was easily the best hitter in all of college baseball.
In just 32 professional games, Cowser wasted no time, as he recorded 10 XBH, with 34 RBI and seven stolen bases. He walked more times than he struck out (25 BB to 23 K) and finished with a .490 OPS.
Cowser is a Juan Soto style of hitter, who will not sacrifice an at-bat going after bad pitches, which gives him a greater chance at hitting, while also taking walks at an unreal rate. For someone who can also steal bases, his presence on the base paths in those 32 games was extremely exciting, as he scored 30 runs.
It’s only getting better in Birdland, as the Baby Birds will be wearing black and orange very soon!
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