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Adley Rutschman, Yusniel Diaz headline Orioles’ prospect-heavy list of spring training nonroster invitees

Adley Rutschman and Yusniel Diaz, the current and former top prospects in the Orioles system, highlight a prospect-laden group of nonroster invitees who will attend spring training next month, the team announced Tuesday.

Including the Orioles’ nonroster players and those they added to the 40-man roster this winter, six of the club’s top nine prospects in Baseball America’s organizational rankings and 15 of their top 30 will be in Sarasota, Florida, this spring with the major league team.

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Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, is one of four nonroster catchers, including minor league free agents Bryan Holaday and Taylor Davis and Czech minor leaguer Martin Cervenka.

Diaz, who was the centerpiece of the 2018 trade of Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, is back in camp for a second straight season after impressing in Sarasota in 2019 before having an uneven season at Double-A Bowie. He and Mason Williams are the only nonroster outfielders, with the 40-man roster featuring plenty of options there with Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr., Cedric Mullins, Stevie Wilkerson and DJ Stewart.

Infielders Rylan Bannon and Mason McCoy, who landed on Baseball America’s top-30 prospect rankings thanks to strong 2019 seasons, are part of a group that includes minor league free agents Dilson Herrera and Malquin Canelo, as well as José Rondón, who was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk after a cameo in Baltimore last season.

The most prospect intrigue, however, is on the pitching side. Several pitchers the Orioles outrighted in the past year — including Ty Blach, Marcos Diplán, Tom Eshelman, Eric Hanhold and Chandler Shepherd — will be in major league camp alongside minor league free agents Brady Rodgers and Rob Zastryzny, plus Christian Alvardo and Hunter Cervenka, who spent part of last season with Norfolk.

Left-handers Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, and Bruce Zimmermann (Loyola Blakefield) — all of whom spent most of 2019 impressing at Double-A Bowie — add young pitching depth and the possibility that the Orioles could focus more on the future than the present with camp this year.

In the first spring training under the new front office in 2019, right-hander Dean Kremer and right-hander Zach Pop were the only pitching prospects to get invited to camp as the focus was more on filling out the rosters in the high minors. Kremer and Pop both got injured in camp and didn’t get much of a showcase, though Kremer will be in camp as a rostered player this spring.

Same goes with November roster additions Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan McKenna, who along with Diaz were the highest-rated position player prospects in camp last year.

This year, there are far more players who were on offseason prospect lists. Rutschman is the club’s consensus No. 1, and Diaz hasn’t fallen far from his lofty perch from last offseason. Wells, Lowther and Zimmermann are likely to start the year at Triple-A Norfolk, giving them seasoning at a level the Orioles feel is vital for players before they reach the majors.

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Considering left-hander Keegan Akin was off the roster and in a similar position last spring — when he didn’t receive a camp invite and wasn’t called up later in the season — going to spring training could bode well for these young left-handers ahead of their Rule 5 draft years.

Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota Feb. 11, and the first full-team workout is Feb. 17.

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