After a last-place finish in the American League East in 2017, the Orioles continued to trend in the wrong direction last year, losing a franchise-record 115 games en route to Major League Baseball's worst record.
The Orioles' sharp plummet into a non-competitive abyss pushed then-general manager Dan Duquette to begin a long-overdue rebuild in July, when the club dealt many of its more-valued big assets in exchange for prospects.
Trading franchise cornerstone Manny Machado to the Dodgers netted the organization a five-player package of prospects -- four of whom rank among the Orioles' Top 30 prospects for 2019, including two inside the Top 10 in outfielder Yusniel Diaz and right-hander Dean Kremer -- and they continued to acquire young talent when they traded away Kevin Gausman, Zack Britton and Jonathan Schoop in separate Deadline deals. In total, trade acquisitions comprise a third of the Orioles' new Top 30 list.
The Orioles opted not to renew Duquette's contract after the season and replaced him with Mike Elias, who had been instrumental as the assistant GM and scouting director for the Astros' expedited rebuild and return to prominence. With Elias came Sig Mejdal, and together they should bring an analytics-driven approach, along with a heavy emphasis on scouting, both domestic and abroad, that could quickly improve the franchise's trajectory.
In joining the Orioles, Elias inherits a farm system that stands out more for its depth than high-ceiling prospects. That's especially true on the mound, as pitchers occupy more than half of the spots on the team's new Top 30.
Many of those hurlers have come into the system via the Draft, reflecting the previous regime's internal effort to target young, high-ceiling arms with early picks and then stockpile high-probability arms from the college ranks in subsequent rounds.
Perhaps more important, as the owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, the Orioles are poised to add some real high-ceiling talent in the coming year, while a strong emphasis on international scouting could pay huge, long-term dividends for an organization that had willfully neglected having an international presence.
In the meantime, Orioles fans soon could see many of the team's Top 30 prospects in the big leagues, as this year's list features 20 players that have an ETA of either 2019 or 2020.
Here's a look at the Orioles top prospects:
- Yusniel Diaz, OF
- Ryan Mountcastle, 3B
- DL Hall, LHP
- Austin Hays, OF
- Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2018 preseason list to the 2019 preseason list:
Jump: Zac Lowther (2018: 17 | 2019: 8) -- The Xavier southpaw continued to miss a lot of bats, averaging 11.0 strikeouts-per-nine across two levels, and finished his first full season with a 0.98 WHIP.
Fall: Cody Sedlock, RHP (2018: 12 | 2019: NR) -- The 2016 first-rounder has struggled to stay healthy as a pro, pitching through a balky elbow in '17 and thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms last season, though he avoid surgery for both injures.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 55 - Yusniel Diaz (Mountcastle, Hays, Ryan McKenna)
Power: 55 - Mountcastle (Jean Carlos Encarnacion)
Arm: 70 - Jackson
Defense: 60 - Cadyn Grenier (Richie Martin)
Fastball: 70 - Zach Pop (Cody Carroll)
Curveball: 60 - Dean Kremer (Hunter Harvey)
Slider: 60 - Branden Kline (Rodriguez, Pop, Carroll)
Changeup: 55 - Alex Wells (Hall, Dillon Tate)
Control: 60 - Wells (Brennan Hanifee)
How they were built
Draft: 17 | International: 1 | Trade: 10 | Free agent: 0 | Rule 5: 2
Breakdown by ETA
2019: 14 | 2021: 8 | 2022: 2
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 2 | 3B: 2 | SS: 4 | OF: 5 | RHP: 11 | LHP: 5