Check out five O's prospects on the rise

October 21st, 2022

This story was excerpted from the Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Take it from a top Orioles prospect who has seen recent Minor League action in person -- even after the big league arrivals of some heralded youngsters -- there are still plenty of exciting players coming through Baltimore’s farm system.

“The talent that’s in our organization is crazy,” said outfielder Heston Kjerstad, ranked as the O’s No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline. “There are guys that don’t even get talked about that should, that are unreal baseball players.”

So while players such as Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, DL Hall and Kyle Stowers have arrived in the Majors, plenty of depth remains in the O's farm system, which was the best in all of baseball in MLB Pipeline’s most recent rankings.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the system as the club enters the offseason.

3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year

SS Darell Hernaiz (O’s No. 16 prospect)
Hernaiz, a 21-year-old who can play second, third or shortstop, was a fifth-round pick by Baltimore out of Americas High School (El Paso, Texas) in the 2019 MLB Draft. He progressed through three levels this year (Single-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie), but he spent most of his time in Aberdeen, where he batted .305/.377/.456 with five homers, 13 doubles, three triples, 29 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 60 games.

“The bat really came on this year -- a lot of contact, a lot of hard line drives, got on base,” Orioles director of player development Matt Blood said. “He’s still growing into his strength and power. He’s just a very toolsy, young player.”

SS Frederick Bencosme (O’s No. 25 prospect)
Bencosme, who is only 19, played 44 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2021, after signing with the O's out of the Dominican Republic in August of ‘20. This year, he batted .336/.410/.432 with 13 extra-base hits across 59 games with Delmarva, then he had a 12-game stint with Aberdeen late in the season.

“A lot of balls in play, a lot of line drives, and he showed some maturity in regards to the way he plays the game, especially offensively,” Blood said.

RHP Justin Armbruester (O’s No. 30 prospect)
Armbruester, a 12th-round pick out of the University of New Mexico in the 2021 MLB Draft, logged 117 innings in '22, his first full year of pro ball. The 24-year-old posted a 4.02 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 53 2/3 frames for Aberdeen, then he recorded a 3.69 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 63 1/3 innings for Bowie.

“Throws hard, really good breaking ball,” Blood said. “He just had a fantastic year, and I think next year, he’ll continue on this trajectory.”

2 possible breakout players to watch in 2023

RHP Carlos Tavera
According to Blood, Tavera has “plus stuff” due to his unique arm angle, the tremendous spin on his fastball and his above-average breaking ball. The 24-year-old, who was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Texas at Arlington in the 2021 MLB Draft, was limited to 57 1/3 innings in '22, his first full year of pro ball, due to injuries. But Tavera showed potential while pitching to a 4.40 ERA and notching 81 strikeouts over 16 starts for Aberdeen.

RHP Daniel Lloyd
The 22-year-old Lloyd was a 14th-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in the 2021 MLB Draft. Lloyd opened '22, his first full year of pro ball, by recording a 4.21 ERA in 13 relief appearances for Delmarva. But Blood said Lloyd “really came on” after he moved up to Aberdeen, where he posted a 4.11 ERA and struck out 53 in 46 innings over 17 games (two starts).

1 big question for next season

When will Grayson Rodriguez arrive in MLB?
It may not take long to get this answer. The 22-year-old right-hander, who is Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect and the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball, likely would have reached the big leagues in 2022, had he not missed three months due to a right lat strain.

Rodriguez will have an opportunity to earn a spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation in Spring Training. But if he doesn’t crack the Opening Day roster, he shouldn’t be in the Minors for much longer. He went 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 97 strikeouts over 69 2/3 innings in 14 starts for Triple-A Norfolk this year.