With an instructional league roster comprised of 18 Top 30 prospects, the Orioles have no shortage of talent in camp this fall in Sarasota, Fla.The group includes three of the team's top picks from the 2016 Draft in first-rounder Cody Sedlock and second-rounders Keegan Akin and Matthias Dietz, all of
With an instructional league roster comprised of 18 Top 30 prospects, the Orioles have no shortage of talent in camp this fall in Sarasota, Fla.
The group includes three of the team's top picks from the 2016 Draft in first-rounder Cody Sedlock and second-rounders Keegan Akin and Matthias Dietz, all of whom spent their successful pro debuts pitching together at Class A Short Season Aberdeen.
"I think that was a huge, very productive time having that group together in Aberdeen," Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said. "Good players feed off of each other, and it's almost an internal competition in a good way. I think that's what you saw with those guys this summer -- a competition."
O's at instructs
Selected with the No. 27 overall pick out of Illinois, Sedlock, the Orioles' top-ranked prospect, pitched as advertised during his time with the IronBirds, posting a 3.00 ERA over 27 innings (nine starts). The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander's impressive four-pitch mix allowed him to hold opposing hitters to a .158 average, while his heavy sinker, specifically, helped him to produced twice as many ground-ball outs fly outs.
"[Cody] has a good arm and body and, overall, he's an extremely athletic pitcher," Graham said. "It's a plus fastball with plus life, especially to his arm side and down, and we think his slider has the potential to be a 70-grade pitch."
Performance-wise, Akin (Orioles' No. 8) was the most impressive of the group. After a dominant junior campaign at Western Michigan, the 21-year-old left-hander began his career by recording a 1.04 ERA over nine starts. He allowed just 15 hits in 26 innings, with 29 strikeouts and seven walks. Dietz (Orioles' No. 7) didn't fare as well, however, as the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder logged only 18 2/3 innings across seven starts and finished his pro debut with a 4.82 ERA.
"Both Akin and Dietz have looked really good. Specifically, Akin threw the ball extremely well in camp, much like he did during the season. Dietz was very impressive, too, and there's a very high upside with him," said Graham.
Also opening eyes this fall has been outfielder Austin Hays, the Orioles' third-round pick in this year's Draft. Playing on the same loaded Aberdeen squad as the aforementioned hurlers, Hays (Orioles' No. 14), 21, paced the IronBirds in most offensive categories including average (.336), on-base percentage (.386), slugging (.514) and home runs (four).
"Hays had a very good camp," said Graham. "He's a natural hitter and we love how the ball comes off his bat. He takes an aggressive swing, but it's always under control. And he's kind of a throwback hitter in that he doesn't use batting gloves or wear a shirt under his jersey. He's just built to play baseball."
When the Orioles drafted Ryan Mountcastle and Alex Murphy, they did so with each player's offensive potential in mind. So one can only imagine the organization's excitement this year when they both posted double-digit home runs for Class A Delmarva.
Murphy, the Orioles' No. 21 prospect, paced the Shorebirds with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs over 124 games in what was his first fully healthy pro season since the Orioles made him a sixth-round pick out of high school in 2013. But while his progress at the plate may have been an encouraging sign, the organization would like to see the young catcher -- he also saw considerable time at first base -- continue to make gains behind the plate.
"Murph showed power this year, and that's something that usually comes later with good hitters," noted Graham. "He's going to catch, play some first base and DH next year, but it's the bat that's going to get him to the big leagues."
As for Mountcastle (Orioles' No. 6), the 2015 first-rounder posted a solid .281/.319/.426 batting line with 10 home runs and 28 doubles in 115 games.
"Ryan is making good strides with his understanding of the strike zone and pitch selection and recognition, and the ball is coming off his bat more aggressively as he continues to get bigger and stronger," said Graham of the 19-year-old shortstop. But like Murphy, Mountcastle, after committing 21 errors at shortstop in 2016, has room to grow defensively.
"He's working hard to get better defensively. Everybody recognizes that he doesn't have a plus arm at shortstop, but the fact of the matter is he's athletic with good hands and has really worked hard to get better there."
Hurlers on the mend
It was nearly one year ago when Orioles No. 30 prospect Branden Kline was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. But after a season spent rehabbing, the 25-year-old right-hander was back on the mound in instructional league and beginning to make up for the lost time.
"He had two live batting practice sessions during the last week of instructional league during which he threw the ball extremely well," Graham said. "He's healthy and feels great and will now head home for a normal offseason."
Left-hander Chris Lee (Orioles' No. 9) also is working his way back towards being healthy after a left shoulder injury prematurely ended his 2016 campaign in early July. The 6-foot-3 southpaw, a member of Baltimore's 40-man roster, was plenty good before getting hurt, though, going 5-0 in seven starts (eight appearances), with a 2.98 ERA in 51 1/3 innings.
"Chis is not throwing at this point but will begin a throwing program in December -- just a normal throwing program that players use to get ready for big league camp. He says he feels great, though, which is the biggest thing," said Graham.
Meanwhile, Lazaro Leyva (Orioles' No. 23), whom the Orioles signed for $750,000 out of Cuba in September 2014, failed to take the mound in '16, as he spent the entire season on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. The 23-year-old right-hander was viewed by many as a potential breakout candidate after a strong U.S. debut in 2015 that saw him post a 2.90 ERA and allow just 31 hits in 40 1/3 innings between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues.
"With Leyva, the shoulder issue forced us to shut him down several times and then bring him along slowly," Graham said, "but the ball looked great coming out of his hand during a couple live BP sessions during instructional league. He has some kind of live arm."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.