Welcome to the third installment of my series 2021 Diamonds in the Rough. In this article, I will breakdown two hitting and two pitching prospects from the Baltimore Orioles farm system.
In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.
To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team's latest MLB.com Prospect Rankings.
Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.
2021 Baltimore Orioles Diamonds in the Rough
Elio Prado, OF (Unranked)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 Hit | 45 Power | 55 Run | 50 Field | 45 Arm
Highest Level: Dominican Summer League (DSL)
Mike Elias on Elio Prado: "He's a center fielder with some pop, runs well. He's been stealing bases. We've had eyes on him that like what they see. We'll see what we get. There's a lot of development ahead for him." #Orioles
— WNST Baltimore Positive (@WNST) July 13, 2019
Initially signed by the Boston Red Sox during the 2018 international signing period, Elio Prado was acquired by the Orioles in 2019 as part of the Andrew Cashner to Boston deal.
Prado is a talented teen with a shed full of tools. In 2019, over 60 games during Prado's professional debut in the DSL, Prado hit .300/.403/.396 with 3 HR and 12 SB. Prado has the potential to develop into an above-average power-speed threat with a high OBP. In addition, Prado has demonstrated advanced plate discipline. In 2019, Prado had nearly as many walks as strikeouts (36/30 K/BB) and a stellar 13.4% K%.
At this point in Prado's young career, his power has yet to catch up with his other tools. In Prado's first 220 professional ABs, he has only compiled 15 XBH and a meager .396 SLG. However, at 19 years old, Prado has room to add significant strength to his slender 6-foot, 160-pound frame. For a toolsy teen like Prado, additional strength often leads to additional power.
Prado's hands move quickly through the zone and his long arms provide good extension over the plate. A unique combination of plate discipline and plate coverage bodes well for the development of Prado's hit tool.
Though Prado has above-average speed and compiled 12 SB over just 60 games in his professional debut, he also was caught stealing 10 times (in 22 attempts). An aggressive baserunner, Prado will need to reduce his unsuccessful attempts and I think he will with more experience.
While Prado primarily played CF during his professional debut (39 games), he also spent some time in both corner outfield positions (8 games in RF and 9 games in LF). Prado is a plus defender with good acceleration and is beyond his years with respect to route running and ball tracking in the outfield.
There is a lot to like in Prado's profile from a fantasy perspective. If added strength to Prado's projectable frame translates to increased power, while not detracting from his speed, Prado could realistically develop into a high caliber OBP asset with the potential for 15 HR-15 SB, with upside for more.
Maikol Hernandez, SS (Unranked)
Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 Hit | 50 Power | 50 Run | 55 Field | 55 Arm
Highest Level: Gulf Coast League
Here's Maikol Hernandez, one of five international prospects you should know.
Here are scouting reports, video, potential signing bonuses and where they're expected to sign: https://t.co/cNBBpvNTzG pic.twitter.com/aBo9YoFwcq
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 27, 2020
When former Houston Astros Assistant GM and International Scouting Director Mike Elias took the reigns as the Orioles GM in 2018, he committed to build an "elite pipeline" in Baltimore and improve the Orioles' anemic analytics and international scouting departments. Particularly, Elias vowed to increase the Orioles scouting presence in Latin America.
Further, Elias expressed his hope to be able to make seven-figure international free agent signings by 2021. For reference, the highest bonuses given out by the Orioles during the 2019 signing period were between $400,000 - $500,000, which represented the largest international class in Orioles franchise history.
As hoped, the Orioles made their first two seven-figure international free agent signing during the 2021 signing period. Those two signings alone exceeded the bonuses given out by the Orioles' during the 2016 and 2017 signing periods combined.
One of those signees was 17-year old Venezuelan SS Maikol Hernandez, who the Orioles signed for $1.2 mil. Per MLB Pipeline, Hernandez was the #30 ranked prospect from the 2021 international class. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates were also linked to Hernandez prior to signing with Baltimore
Hernandez is a tall, lean and athletic 6-foot-3, 175-pound right-handed hitter who has drawn physical comparisons to the likes of Manny Machado, Carlos Correa and Alex Rodriguez. In fact, Elias is often credited as the driving force behind the Astros selection of Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School with the first overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft.
Though extremely young, Hernandez projects as a potential five-tool player and has already displayed solid speed and strength. Hernandez has a silky smooth swing and sprays the ball all over the field with noticeable pop. According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, "you don't usually see guys with that size and that power-and-speed combination." Only 17-years old, Hernandez will undoubtedly add strength to his athletic frame.
Further, Hernandez is a smooth mover at SS where he demonstrates fluid athleticism and a strong arm. Hernandez has quick feet, good balance and graceful body control in the field. However, because of Hernandez's physical maturity and size at such a young age, some speculate a future move to 3B. See also Manny Machado and Alex Rodriguez.
Simply put, Hernandez has sky-high upside. When a 17-year old prospect draws physical comparisons to the great Alex Rodriguez (my favorite all-time player), I get downright giddy. Hernandez already has flashed potential for above-average tools across the board and he just getting started.
There is inherent risk with a young inexperienced player such as Hernandez. However, his mouth-watering five-tool upside makes him well-worthy of closely monitoring as he begins his professional career.
Though deep dynasty managers will have to play it slow with Hernandez, I project him as a fast riser through prospect lists.
Drew Rom, LHP (#23)
Bats: L | Throws: L
Tools: 50 FB | 50 CH | 55 SL | 45 KNCV | 45 CNTRL
Highest Level: A
Drew Rom struck out 8 batters in just 3.2 innings in his full season debut. FB 86-91, command and feel for his offspeed and breaking pitches are quite advanced for a teenager. Here’s a look at a curveball and his best changeup of the day. #Orioles pic.twitter.com/wKSFgvCJMp
— Luke_Siler (@The_Luke_Siler) April 7, 2019
The Orioles drafted Drew Rom out of High School in the 4th round (118 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft.
During Rom's Senior year at Highlands High School (KY) in 2017, Rom compiled a masterful 116 Ks over 60 IP. Rom has carried that success into his professional debut in 2018 and 2019.
Over 126 IP across his first two professional seasons, Rom has posted a fantastic 2.64 ERA, 1.127 WHIP and 155 Ks with only 33 BBs. Further, Rom increased his K/9 from 8.2 over 30.2 IP in 2018 to 11.5 over 95.1 IP in 2019.
Standing at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Rom is a long, lanky, left-hander with above average athleticism. Rom takes advantage of his lanky frame and generates a long stride and solid extension on the mound. In addition, Rom has good arm speed and deceives hitters with his 3/4 arm slot and crossfire finish.
Though Rom's fastball only sits around 90 MPH, it has the potential to add some velocity as Rom adds strength. Despite lower velocity, Rom's fastball plays up due to his deceptive motion, elite command and good movement. Moreover, Rom's fastball possesses well above average spin rates and elite backspin.
Rom also sports an upper 70s sweeping slider and a split-changeup, both of which have flashed above-average. In addition, Rom has started to integrate a knuckle curve into his arsenal. The knuckle curve compliments Rom's sweeping slider due to its increased vertical break. Rom relies heavily on his slider, which has good two-plane break and favorable spin rates. Though Rom currently under-uses his split-change, it tunnels well off his fastball and has shown significant improvement.
Rom has good command and movement on all of his pitches. As a result, Rom tends to generate early, weak ground-ball contact and minimize pitch counts.
In addition, Rom has embraced the analytic approach that Elias brought over from the Astros. According to Rom: "I’m learning new information every day, especially with the new front office that came over from the Astros...[t]he amount of data that they have is unreal and they are teaching us how to use it and be better on the mound. We’re learning about spin rates, which counts where we most use our fastballs and how predictable we are. What the ball seems to do movement-wise and how to get better with that."
Rom has the potential for three-above average pitches, though his fastball is known more for command than velocity. This combination will likely serve to keep Rom in the rotation and minimize his bullpen risk.
From a fantasy perspective, Rom will likely serve as a high-floor, lower-ceiling SP option, with some strikeout and ratio upside. If Rom continues to display elite command, he will likely continue to rise up rankings until his debut. However, increased velocity on Rom's fastball could put him over the top and give him a ceiling that few fathom.
Though the Orioles 2021 rotation is a sight for sore eyes, Orioles fans have a lot to look forward to with a potential future rotation including Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, Rom, and...
Luis Ortiz, LHP (#23)
Bats: L | Throws: L
Tools: 55 FB | 45 CH | 55 CB | 50 CNTRL
Highest Level: N/A
Here's 17-year-old LHP Luis Ortiz, one of the most promising signings from the Orioles international class.
Video + scouting report from an unusually active international front in Baltimore: https://t.co/n943JYXAUZ pic.twitter.com/VtPL36W4Rd
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) December 14, 2019
When most people think of Luis Ortiz on the Orioles, they think of the 25-year old former top 100 MLB prospect who the Orioles acquired in the Jonathon Schoop trade with Milwaukee in 2018. That Luis Ortiz signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers during the offseason.
This Luis Ortiz represents another successful venture by Elias and the Orioles into the international free agent markets.
The Orioles signed Ortiz for $400,000 during the 2018-2019 international signing period.
Per MLB Pipeline, "Ortiz is a big, strong lefty with an excellent pitcher’s body and the potential to have an exciting three-pitch mix." Recent reports have the 18-year old Ortiz already standing at an impressive 6-foot-4, 185 pounds.
Ortiz possesses an above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s and has already touched 95 MPH. Further, Ortiz's fastball may more consistently hit higher velocities as he continues to fill out his projectable frame.
In addition, Ortiz possesses an upside sweeping curveball and a developing changeup. Ortiz's sweeping curveball has good spin and late break and could pose a formidable combination with his above-average fastball. Though Ortiz's changeup is currently a distant third pitch, it has shown improvement and plays well off his fastball. Ortiz will need to continue to develop his changeup to avoid falling victim to a two-pitch bullpen profile.
Though still very raw, Ortiz is aggressive and attacks the zone with confidence with all of his pitches.
According to Koby Perez, Orioles senior director of international scouting, Ortiz “kind of embodies what we are looking for in a young kid, which is pitchability plus stuff. It gives us a good advantage when he can command that stuff at such a young age. He has a very good curveball and his fastball is consistently in the low 90s. He can get some extra when he needs it. He’s a mature body kid, physically mature for his age. The fact he can command pitches and go right after hitters, we’re super excited about him.”
Yet to make his professional debut, Ortiz already ranks #30 on MLB.com's 2020 Orioles Top 30 Prospects.
Given his relative youth and inexperience, Ortiz may take some time to fully develop. However, if Ortiz can continue to improve upon his secondary offerings, he could offer solid mid-rotation upside. Ortiz has the size and stuff to give him a high ceiling worth monitoring in deeper dynasty leagues.
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