The “elite talent pipeline” that executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias vowed to bring to Baltimore has already deposited several soon-to-be stars to an up-and-coming Orioles squad.
Catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson, for instance, have already broken through in the majors, and that first main wave of prospects will continue. Though player development and deployment can be difficult to predict, it seems likely that starter Grayson Rodriguez, left-hander DL Hall, and infielders Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz could move up to the big club this year.
But after those well-publicized names, Baltimore has another wave that could arrive in 2024.
That’s part of the pipeline Elias envisioned when he first arrived in Baltimore, determined to create a self-sufficient organization that maximizes its scouting and development to win at the highest level. The introduction of Rutschman and Henderson certainly helped; Rodriguez should boost the rotation.
And beyond them, the next crop of talent will continue to develop. The current wave is well-known, but here are several of the top prospects who are likely to spend this year working through the minors — players who could be rapid risers yet aren’t as near to a major-league breakthrough as Rodriguez, Westburg and the rest.
Left-hander Cade Povich
At the trade deadline midway through the 2022 season, Elias made a move with the future in mind, sending closer Jorge López to the Minnesota Twins. Left-handed prospect Cade Povich was part of the return package. He finished the season in Double-A Bowie and ranks as the Orioles’ No. 14 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
For all the pitching talent on the major league roster, Povich is one of the few prospects further down the pipeline with clear starting pitching pedigree. The 6-foot-3 hurler can touch 95 mph on his fastball, a plus changeup, a slider and a curveball. That four-pitch arsenal helped him rack up 148 strikeouts in 114 innings between the Twins’ High-A affiliate and two levels of the Orioles farm system.
Povich has a chance to reach Triple-A Norfolk quickly this season, although with a 6.94 ERA in his first 32 1/3 innings of Double-A ball, Baltimore could start him back at that level to further improve his velocity and command.
Right-hander Chayce McDermott
Right-hander Chayce McDermott was a midseason acquisition from the Astros as part of the deal that sent first baseman Trey Mancini to Houston. The 24-year-old has serious heat on his fastball for a starter, topping out around 98 mph. His off-speed pitches, such as his curveball and slider, have shown growth, although his changeup hasn’t been as promising.
Still, he displayed his strikeout ability in college at Ball State and continued it in the majors, averaging 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season across two levels with two organizations.
McDermott finished the year with Double-A Bowieand, like Povich, he struggled to adjust to the rise in level. His walk rate rose to 6.8 per nine innings — a career high, albeit in a 26 2/3-inning sample size. That coupled with a 6.08 ERA for the Baysox, up from his 3.60 mark with High-A Aberdeen.
After Rodriguez, there’s a gap in quality starting pitching prospects. But Povich and McDermott could fill it, even as they navigate the step-up in hitting at Double-A and beyond.
Shortstop Frederick Bencosme
Among the top 11 Orioles prospects are five infielders, ranging from the MLB-ready Henderson and Westburg to ones just further off, such as Connor Norby. But the next crop of highly touted infielders will likely involve shortstop Frederick Bencosme, who is quickly becoming one of Baltimore’s first apparent successes in international scouting under Elias.
When Elias arrived, that was an area he had to overhaul. Former general manager Dan Duquette relied mainly on the draft to build out his system, neglecting the international scouting that can take an organization to another level when paired with strong draft classes.
Enter Bencosme, who signed in 2020 for just $10,000. Two years later, the 19-year-old shortstop ended the season with High-A Aberdeen. The power isn’t there, although that could come with time and age, but Bencosme has displayed an aptitude for contact. He struck out in just 13.3% of his plate appearances between rookie ball, Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen last season.
Plus, an ability to play second and third base gives him the flexibility to fit into Baltimore’s long-term infield plans.
Infielder Coby Mayo
On the other end of the spectrum, there aren’t many better power hitters among Baltimore’s minor league ranks than third baseman Coby Mayo. The 21-year-old was a fast riser last season, jumping from rookie ball to Double-A Bowie — and hitting 19 homers in the process.
Mayo could project as a first baseman in the future, although his defense at third is strong enough to keep him on the left side of the infield. Mayo, who ranks as the No. 7 prospect in the Orioles’ farm system, hit for average, too. In his 34 games for the Baysox, Mayo posted a .250 average with a .729 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Westburg, Norby and Joey Ortiz all reached Triple-A last year. Mayo should reach that — if not higher — by the end of 2023.
Outfielder Hudson Haskin
The Orioles outfield is crowded, with Kyle Stowers breaking through and three starters — Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander — all remaining under team control through at least 2025. That complicates the path for Stowers and No. 4-ranked prospect Colton Cowser, unless a trade opens a route.
Should that happen, though, outfielder Hudson Haskin could be in position to take advantage. The 23-year-old was selected in the second round of the 2020 draft and established himself at Double-A Bowie, taking advantage of a hitter’s park to blast 15 homers to go with a .264 average.
Haskin can play all three outfield spots, but he struck out 101 times in 109 games — an area of his game that will need to improve to be included as one of the prime players in the next wave of prospects.