When describing the Orioles' 55-player pool of prospects who will be in Sarasota, Florida, this month for their fall instructional camp, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias noted that it’s a younger group than the one that was at the Bowie camp, which was full of players largely on the major league radar.
That’s certainly true, but what’s more striking is that this is a new group. Only a small portion has much experience in the minors, with a majority of the invitees either coming from the Orioles' 2019 or 2020 draft class, their trades over the past 12 months or their burgeoning international scouting operation.
All fit tidily into five groups all of which represent a significant piece of where the organization hopes to find young stars in the years to come. The camp opens Monday and runs for three weeks,
The top prospects
Catcher Adley Rutschman, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and left-hander DL Hall
Even a list of mostly green prospects would feel empty without this group, who were the Orioles' first-round picks in each of the three drafts preceding 2020 and represent their consensus top three prospects.
Each was at the Bowie camp, leaving some question as to how much work they’ll get in at the camp in Sarasota. The pitchers, specifically, could get some mechanical work after pitching for most of the summer. As good as Rutschman is, any opportunity he could have to improve and help bring along those around him is one he certainly won’t waste.
These three might be the headliners where the Orioles are concerned, but represent just a small part of what they’ll be trying to accomplish in Sarasota.
The new guys
Right-handers Carter Baumler, Kyle Brnovich, Noah Denoyer, Thomas Girard, Zach Peek and Brandon Young; left-hander Easton Lucas; infielders Coby Mayo, Anthony Servideo, Terrin Vavra and Jordan Westburg; outfielders Dylan Harris and Hudson Haskin
This is a group with different backgrounds, but only a handful of them have much professional baseball under their belts. This group is lacking 2020 top pick Heston Kjerstad, who Elias said isn’t at camp with an unspecified non-baseball related medical issue, but has the rest of the 2020 draftees, including Westburg, Haskin, Servideo, Mayo and Baumler.
Undrafted rookies Denoyer, Girard, Young and Harris will all get some on-field integration into the Orioles system.
Peek and Brnovich, who were acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy in December, were 2019 draftees who never pitched in a game after they were picked. Lucas pitched in short-season ball with the Marlins organization before he was traded for Jonathan Villar in December.
Only Vavra, who was in Bowie camp after being part of the package that acquired Mychal Givens for the Colorado Rockies, has any kind of minor league track record in the bunch.
The Orioles prioritized youth in many of these trades, and the fruits of that mean that in a year in which there were only five rounds in the draft, they have a pretty large group of newcomers to integrate into the system. To borrow their own terminology, they’ve expanded the talent base in a year where not many teams have.
The 2019 draftees
Right-handers Connor Gillispie, Dan Hammer, Morgan McSweeney, Shelton Perkins and Houston Roth; catchers Jordan Cannon and Maverick Handley; infielders Andrew Daschbach, Gunnar Henderson, Darell Hernaiz, Joey Ortiz and Toby Welk; outfielders Johnny Rizer, Kyle Stowers and Zach Watson
Rutschman technically goes in this category too, and Henderson was one of the biggest beneficiaries from the Bowie camp in terms of experience against high-level pitching. But for the most part, this was a really difficult year for a draft class the Orioles felt good about. There could have been so many breakouts among this group — all of those right-handers have the type of bat-missing breaking balls and low-to-mid 90s fastballs to have dominated at Low-A Delmarva and put themselves on the map.
The rest are college hitters, save for Hernaiz, who would have made for an impressive lineup at Delmarva in the first half of the season and likely High-A Frederick in the second half. Hernaiz, along with his pal Henderson, might end up being the best of the bunch in terms of upside.
An optimist’s view will be that that group will just begin its quick ascent up the farm system next year. But they’ll have a lot of company in the low minors, even with the shortened draft, and it’s still unclear what a year away from the game will do for all of them.
The international signees
Right-handers Randy Beriguete, Héctor López and Luis Sánchez; left-hander Luis Oritz; catcher Ricardo Rivera; infielders José Cosma, Roberto Martínez, Erinson Placencia, James Rolle, Leonel Sánchez and Dax Stubbs; outfielders Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony and Luis González
These 14 international signees signed for a total of $3.19 million and represent the deepest group of such players the organization has had in years. Almost all came into the organization after the team resumed signing Latin American players under former executive vice president Dan Duquette and continued with Elias and senior director of international scouting Koby Perez,
Some got to play in the Dominican Summer League last year and were going to be coming stateside in the spring to get acclimated to life at the complex in Sarasota, but instead that transition was delayed until now. González, Ortiz and Sánchez each signed for $400,000 or more to represent the highest bonuses in the bunch, but López and Acevedo have been generating some buzz in the organization at one point or another. Even one or two players becoming productive major leaguers from this group would represent a positive development for the organization, though this is just the beginning of a long-term process for the group.
The old guard
Right-handers Blaine Knight and Ofelky Peralta; left-handers Zac Lowther, Zach Muckenhirn and Drew Rom; catchers Brett Cumberland and Cody Roberts; infielders Rylan Bannon and Adam Hall
The only thing to really tie this group together is the fact that they predate the Elias regime, though their presence here makes it clear they’re part of the future. Each has a specific reason for being there. Cumberland has become a popular figure with the new player development staff, while Bannon was at Bowie camp and is looking to make an impression before he needs to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection purposes. Rom, Peralta and Knight are all interesting low minors arms who the team wants to see in person, while Lowther only got a taste of Bowie camp because of an injury this summer.
Hall is the rare holdover infielder from the previous regime who has a chance to make a real impact. He got stronger during the shutdown and could be on the verge of turning his gap power into something more.
That group will largely be important to supplementing the high-minors talent as all these young players get their first full-season experiences next summer.