The Orioles are still in the early stages of their rebuild, but the farm system is already starting to see dividends from the franchise's renewed focus in minor league talent.
The team saw four prospects make MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, including 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman at fourth overall.
Many of those highly rated prospects will play key roles in the success of the team's rebuild. Prior to their eventual Major League debuts, the only chance fans will have to see them play with big leaguers is at Spring Training each year.
Considering their future importance, and potentially short-term impact as well considering the youth of the Orioles roster, fans will be keyed in on these prospects in the Grapefruit League this year.
Let's run through three position players and three pitchers fans should pay special attention to in February and March, starting with the aforementioned best prospect in the system.
Adley Rutschman, C
Any conversation about the Orioles has to start with the best draft prospect in nearly a decade. Rutschman is, according to some evaluators, the greatest catching prospect ever. By all accounts, he looks like the future face of the franchise, and potentially all of Major League Baseball.
The Orioles have already announced that Rutschman will receive an invite to Spring Training, an exciting moment for fans in Baltimore who hope to see him play. Rutschman almost certainly won't play in the big leagues in 2020, so this will be the best chance fans get to watch him play this season. Don't miss it.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B
Mountcastle won the International League MVP in 2019, which is less impressive than it sounds. It means he enjoyed a strong season at the plate, but not strong enough to get called up to the big leagues.
Questions about his defense have plagued Mountcastle from the moment he was drafted, but his bat is close to Major league-ready. A strong spring could earn him his first opportunity in Baltimore, an exciting moment for the top 100 prospect.
Yusniel Diaz, OF
The centerpiece of the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers, Diaz hasn't enjoyed the same success in Baltimore that he did with Los Angeles. He's still considered one of their better prospects, however, and will have every chance to earn a spot in the Orioles outfield one day.
That day may come in 2020, and his spring training performance will give fans a chance to see both how healthy Diaz is and how much he has continued to develop.
Akin has never been the Orioles' best pitching prospect, but he's been in their second tier of prospects for a while now. Akin had a tough 2019 in Triple-A, pitching to a 4.73 ERA, but is still considered one of the O's eight contenders for a starting rotation spot. It's possible a juiced ball may have inflated his stats last season, but the Orioles can't know that for sure.
He may not be the highest-profile prospect this year, but considering his potential role with the team out of the gate, Akin is perhaps the most compelling prospect to watch out for at this year's Spring Training.
A secondary piece behind Diaz in the Machado trade, Kremer has seen his value take off with the Orioles. The 24-year-old struggled during a brief stint in Triple-A, but he had a strong overall year after spending the bulk of the season in Bowie.
Kremer is one of the best strikeout pitchers across the minor leagues, striking out over one batter per inning, and he looks like a future staple in the middle-to-back end of the Orioles rotation. He has less experience than Akin at the upper levels of the minor leagues, but as one of the O's most successful minor league pitchers, all eyes will be on his performance this spring.
Baumann had a terrific 2019 season, with a 2.98 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across two levels, on his way to being a co-recipient of the Orioles' Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award alongside Grayson Rodriguez. Like Akin and Kremer, he's a little older at age 24, so the Orioles will need to give him his shot sooner rather than later. He almost certainly won't start the season with the big league team, but this spring will give him an opportunity against Major League hitters.
The breakout star of last year, Baumann can dominate when he's on the mound, as evidenced by his no-hitter at Double-A Bowie in July. He could provide some highlight-reel moments in Florida.
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