With no minor league season last year and a limited high school and college season, producing our 2020 Top 30 prospects list was done with the least amount of confidence in some time.
The list included five players that came out of the abbreviated 2020 First Year Players Draft that included three college players, outfielder Heston Kjerstad (#4) , shortstop Jordan Westburg (#8) and outfielder Hudson Haskins (#14), along with two high school overslot draftees in third baseman Coby Mayo (#15) and pitcher Carter Baumler (#16).
That means nine players from the 2019 draft dropped off the list and some are still interesting players. So with that in mind, here are some players to keep an eye on in 2021 split between upper level players (AAA/AA level) and lower level prospects.
Upper Level Players to watch
Aston Goudeau (RHP) – This 28 year old right-handed pitcher made his major league debut with the Colorado Rockies last year but struggled (7.56 ERA, .437 XWOBA) in his limited innings. He was waived by the Rockies but claimed by the Pirates, with the Orioles claiming him two weeks later when the Pirates tried to sneak him through waivers. Goudeau had a solid 2019 in AA at 26-years old and may be a late bloomer. He has a 93-94 fastball, high spin rate 11-6 curveball and change. He will most likely be AAA starting pitching depth but may get a look in the spring.
Isaac Mattson (RHP) – One of the four pitchers acquired in the Dylan Bundy last offseason, Mattson pitch in the alternate camp this summer but did not get a call to the big league club. He spent most of 2019 at Double-A, overall pitching for three teams putting up a 2.33 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He throws a 90-93 MPH fastball that reportedly has a high spin rate but his breaking ball doesn’t miss a lot of bats and there are questions on how his stuff will hold up at the big league level. He was placed on the Orioles 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft so he’ll be in competition for a bullpen spot this spring, but could start the year in Norfolk (AAA).
Mac Sceroler (RHP) – One of the two Rule 5 draft picks this offseason, the 25-year old was taken from the Reds where he posted a 3.69 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 26 games (20 starts) at high Single-A Daytona in 2019. He averaged 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Director of pro scouting Mike Snyder talked about Sceroler “We were attracted to the four-pitch mix. It’s a good fastball, good traits and flashes of power. He leverages the curveball downhill. Throws the slider for strikes and for chases and he can get a lot of awkward swings on a plus-splitter.” It might be tough for him to stick jumping all the way from High-A ball to the majors, but if the orioles like the arm enough he could stick in the bullpen.
Tyler Wells (RHP) – The second of the Rule 5 picks from the Twins, this hulking (6-foot-8, 265) right-hander missed all of 2019 with elbow reconstruction surgery but was pitching well in AA as a starter in 2018. Snyder said, “
“Tyler Wells is an interesting case. There are some similarities to Sceroler in that we’re drawn to the full assortment of weapons he has in his bag, both with lefties and with righties. He’s a 6-8 monster. He’s a starter who works all four quadrants of the zone with the fastball. He features two interesting breaking balls and a plus-changeup. He executes them well and throws them for strikes.
“For him, he missed the 2019 season. He had elbow reconstruction in May of 2019, so 2020 would have been largely a lost season for him anyway and in that respect the shutdown probably wasn’t as detrimental to him as it might have been for the development of some other players.”
Probably a real long shot to make the team, but I guess the Orioles thought he was worth a look.
Chris Shaw (1B/OF) – Big left-handed hitting 1B corner outfielder was claimed off waivers from the Giants this November. Made his major debut in 2018 and got a cup of coffee in 2019, but has struggled at the major league level slashing .153/.244/.222/.466 with 31 strikeouts in 82 PAs. Despite being on the 40-man roster, wasn’t invited to the alternate camp by the Giants until late in August, and then was DFA’d, suggesting they feel there are just too many holes in the swing. He’ll go into spring training and compete for a DH spot, but he’s a DFA candidate if room is needed on the 40-man roster and will most likely be AAA depth if he’s still in the organization.
Ramón Urías (SS/UTL) – The 26-year old infielder made his major league debut with the Orioles last year and will go into spring training in competition for the shortstop, second base or utility job. Hit well in his 27 PAs (.967 OPS) but struggled defensively at shortstop. Probably doesn’t have the consistency to stick as an everyday SS, but he’s got a great opportunity to win a job this spring.
Brett Cumberland (C) – Switch hitting catcher has shown some decent plate discipline and a little pop, but his defense is suspect and he’s probably just AAA/AA catching depth at this point. Every once in awhile he shows flashes though that keeps him on the deep radar.
Steve Klimek – RHP: Got a velocity bumped and actually sat in the mid-90s at times to offset an inconsistent but occasionally plus curveball and slider. Needs to command the ball better to have success in the majors.
Lower Level Players to watch
These are players who will most likely play a A-ball or lower this year with some upside.
The Orioles just signed two 17 Dominican players highlighted by catcher Samuel Basallo from the Dominican Republic for $1.3 million and Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernández for $1.2 million. you read about their potential and the other players signed by going here.
Toby Welk (3B) – A senior sign in 2019, Welk showed an ability to barrel the baseball during his professional debut, but he’ll play most of 2021 at 24-years old so he’s a guy who was hurt by the lack of 2020 minor league season. With several draft picks going to need a place to play at SS or 3B, Welk will need to find playing time and take advantage of that time by producing or he will get buried in a system ripe with guys needing playing time that plays his position.
Zach Watson (CF) – The Orioles 3rd round pick in the 2019 draft despite being a senior, Watson handled himself ok in Delmarva in 2019 after getting off to a less than steller start in Aberdeen. He has a little pop and is decent defensively, but needed some swing work and losing a 2020 season hurt a guy who will now play at 24-years old his season and has just 68 PAs above rookie ball. There is a little upside here though.
Jake Zebron – RHP: Flashed stuff that opened some eyes but can’t maintain his stuff. May need to move to pen at some point if he can’t get stronger, but worth watching.
Erison Placencia – SS: Don’t know a ton about this 17-year old, but he made just two errors in 26 games at SS and put up an incredible .500 OBP in 110 PA in the Dominican Summer League. Has a projectable body at 6-foot-1 and 170.
Stiven Acevedo – OF: Signed for $275K by Dan Duquette in 2018, at 16-years old (turned 17 in early August) he was one of the youngest players in the DSL last year and held his own. At 6-foot-4, 185 pound he has an intriguing frame to build upon.
Josue Cruz – 1B: 18-year old left-handed hitting first baseman who makes a huge strides in the DSL last season hitting 11 home runs and collected 12 doubles in 281 PAs. Has some contact concerns but has a 6-foot-4, 175 pound frame to build on.
Jake Lyons – RHP: Big hulking right-hander showed some promise in his first half season of pro ball at Aberdeen. Probably has a relief profile but an interesting guy particularly for a 22nd rounder.
From Luke Siler:
Elio Prado – CF: Part of the return for Andrew Cashner, Prado is a 17 year old centerfielder with an older player’s game. He reportedly has an advanced bat and good instincts in CF. How power and his body develop will determine his future.
Luis Ortiz – LHP: The other Luis Ortiz. A 400K signing in this year’s J2 International signing period, Ortiz is a big physical 17yo lefty who has t93mph and spins a promising curveball. He repeats well for his age and has a starter’s delivery. Big upside.
Johnny Rizer – OF: Rizer was a senior sign in 2019 and a guy who I watched play in college a bit. He was always a tweener, solid well-round toolset, but not enough power for a corner and not the range to handle CF regularly. With the caveat that he was performing against younger competition, Rizer came out and showed some power, making a 4th outfield role more likely.
Dan Hammer – RHP: I watched Hammer in college and he was always terrible. Solid stuff, potential for three average pitches as a starter, but no feel to pitch, poor command. As a pro, those things disappeared and suddenly he was throwing strikes and landing his slider and changeup. The stuff is there for a #5 starter if he can hold it in longer outings and get to average command.
Connor Gillispie – RHP: One of the best starting pitchers in the NCAA statistically, 2019 pick Gillispie is under 6′ tall, but features a high spin fastball at 90-93mph and a plus slider. He’s really a two-pitch guy and the body doesn’t lend itself to much more velocity, but he could be a fun bullpen arm.