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Three Orioles prospects make Baseball America’s top 100 list

Posted on 22 January 2018 by Luke Jones

Just two years after being completely shut out on Baseball America’s list of top 100 prospects, the Orioles have three entries for the first time since 2014.

Outfielder Austin Hays, catcher Chance Sisco, and third baseman Ryan Mountcastle all appeared on the 2018 list released Monday and reflect a farm system showing some improvement in terms of its positional talent. Of course, the absence of any pitching prospects doesn’t bode well for an Orioles club still needing to fill three spots in its starting rotation for the upcoming season.

Hays ranked 21st on the list after a sensational 2017 campaign in which he hit a combined .329 with 32 home runs, 32 doubles, 95 runs batted in, and a .958 on-base plus slugging percentage between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. The third-round pick from Jacksonville University became the first player from the 2016 amateur draft to reach the majors last September, hitting .217 with one homer, three doubles, and a .555 OPS in 63 plate appearances for Baltimore. The 22-year-old is expected to compete for a major league job this spring.

Sisco made the top 100 list for the second straight year, but he dropped from No. 57 in 2017 to No. 68, which could be related to some of the doubts about his defensive skills and whether he’ll stick as a catcher at the major league level. The 2013 second-round pick will turn 23 next month and made his major league debut last September, hitting two home runs and two doubles in 22 plate appearances after batting .267 with seven homers, 22 doubles, and a .736 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles may still add a veteran catcher, but Sisco could find himself in a timeshare behind the plate with veteran Caleb Joseph this coming season.

Mountcastle came in at No. 71 on the list after an impressive season at the plate split between Frederick and Bowie, batting a combined .287 with 18 homers, 48 doubles, and an .802 OPS in his age-20 season. His bat is quite intriguing, but major questions persist about what position the 2015 first-round pick will ultimately play as he moved from shortstop to third base upon being promoted to Bowie last July.

The Orioles did have five pitchers on their top 10 prospect list released by Baseball America earlier this offseason, but none are considered close to making the jump to the majors. Former first-round pick Hunter Harvey is still considered the most promising of the group, but the 23-year-old has pitched just 31 1/3 innings because of various ailments over the last four years. Others such as 2016 first-round pick Cody Sedlock and 25-year-old left-hander Chris Lee have also dealt with some health concerns.

Below are the Orioles who have appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list over the last decade:

2017: C Chance Sisco (57th)
2016: none
2015: RHP Dylan Bundy (48th), RHP Hunter Harvey (68th)
2014: RHP Dylan Bundy (15th), RHP Kevin Gausman (20th), LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (65th)
2013: RHP Dylan Bundy (2nd), RHP Kevin Gausman (26th)
2012: RHP Dylan Bundy (10th), SS Manny Machado (11th), 2B Jonathan Schoop (82nd)
2011: SS Manny Machado (14th), LHP Zach Britton (28th)
2010: LHP Brian Matusz (5th), 3B Josh Bell (37th), LHP Zach Britton (63rd), RHP Jake Arrieta (99th)
2009: C Matt Wieters (1st), RHP Chris Tillman (22nd), LHP Brian Matusz (25th), RHP Jake Arrieta (67th)
2008: C Matt Wieters (12th), RHP Chris Tillman (67th), RHP Radhames Liz (69th), LHP Troy Patton (78th), OF Nolan Reimold (91st)

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Orioles promote outfield prospect Hays from Double-A Bowie

Posted on 05 September 2017 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of MILB.com)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles have promoted their fastest-rising prospect to the major leagues as outfielder Austin Hays was called up from Double-A Bowie on Tuesday.

A third-round pick out of Jacksonville University in 2016, Hays was preparing to play in the Eastern League playoffs for the Baysox before receiving the call from Baltimore. The 22-year-old hit .328 with 16 home runs, 15 doubles, 41 RBIs, and a .956 on-base plus slugging percentage in 64 games for Single-A Frederick earlier this season before being promoted to the Double-A level in June. Hays impressively didn’t miss a beat playing against tougher competition, batting .330 with 16 homers, 17 doubles, 54 RBIs, and a .960 OPS in 64 games for the Baysox.

Ranked 99th on Baseball America’s mid-season top 100 list released in early July, Hays has seen his stock rise dramatically and has started receiving national attention in his first full season of professional baseball. The right-handed hitter and thrower was ranked as Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect behind catcher Chance Sisco in the same publication’s top 10 list for the organization released in late July

Hays was also named one of five finalists to be Baseball America’s minor league player of the year on Tuesday.

It remains unclear what role Hays might fill this month, but it would be surprising to see him removed from a minor-league playoff experience if the Orioles intended to mostly sit him on the bench. Hays has played in both center field and right this season, making it possible that he could see action in right field against left-handed pitching.

Joey Rickard has served as the primary right fielder against lefties, but he is hitting just .223 with a .560 OPS since the All-Star break. His .283 average against southpaws is respectable, but his .706 OPS against lefties reflects his lack of power.

To make room for Hays on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated left-handed pitcher Jayson Aquino for assignment. Considered a candidate for the major league starting rotation this spring, Aquino has pitched to a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts for the Tides this year and has made only two starts and four appearances for Baltimore, posting a 7.43 ERA.

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