20. Henry Urrutia, OF
Date of Birth: 2/13/87
Height/Weight: 6’5″/200 lbs
Acquired: Signed by the Orioles as an international free agent in July 2012
The number-20 slot in the prospect rankings is an interesting one. There are plenty of ways an evaluator of talent can look at the spot, generally reserved for a low-level prospect or a fringe Triple-A player. I choose to use the lower slots in my top-20 rankings for players who have a greater likelihood of impacting the big-league club in a given year. Almost 29, Urrutia hardly qualifies as a prospect in the eyes of most, but the Orioles have never really given him a shot at sticking in the big leagues.
In Cuba, Urrutia was one of the purest hitters in the league. He batted .397/.461/.597 in his final year with Las Tunas of the Cuban National Series. That was all the way back in 2009. It took until 2013 until the Orioles were actually able to get Urrutia into a professional, American game. He endured an arduous journey following his defection, and lost a great deal of strength in the process. Urrutia arrived with the Orioles as a skinny singles hitter. It’s now been almost three years since he debuted with the Orioles, but Urrutia has still played only 34 big-league games, batting .272/.287/.337. He hit his first home run last season, a walk-off shot against the New York Mets. It was one of the better moments in a disappointing second half for the Orioles.
This season, Urrutia could finally see his chance to stick with the Orioles for a full season. The right field situation is still murky, but there should be openings on the field and the bench for a quality left-handed, outfield bat. Urrutia exhibited a more refined approach at the plate with the Triple-A Tides last year, and could finally be fully adjusted to life in America. He will never be a huge power threat, but should deliver professional at-bats when called upon. His defense is not elite, but not horrific. If there is one player in the farm system deserving of a fair shot at the 25-man roster, it is Urrutia.
19. C.J. Riefenhauser, RP
Date of Birth: 1/30/90
Height/Weight: 6’0″/195 lbs
Acquired: Acquired by the Orioles in December 2015 from the Seattle Mariners with Mark Trumbo for Steve Clevenger
Riefenhauser was traded twice following the conclusion of the 2015 season. First, he was traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Mariners in the Logan Morrison/Nate Karns swap. The Tampa Bay-Seattle trade was completed on November 5, 2015. Less than a month later, the left-handed specialist was on his way to a new team, this time being moved from the Mariners to the Orioles for Steve Clevenger. He has since been designated for assignment to make room for Odrisamer Despaigne. The Orioles are still waiting to see if another team has claimed Riefenhauser.
Riefenhauser was a 20th round pick out of Chipola College in 2010, and has had a solid minor-league career to date. The 2016 season could be a make-or-break year for the 26-year-old. In six seasons in the minors, Riefenhauser has a 2.77 ERA across 448.0 innings. He posted a 1.30 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 and 2014. Riefenhauser has limited walks and home runs for the most part in his career to date. He made his big-league debut for the Rays on April 19, 2014, and made 17 appearances for them last season. Riefenhauser got off to a slow start at the big-league level last year, but finished strong with a 2.16 ERA in September and October. The lefty has a low-90s fastball that is not overpowering and a solid curveball and changeup. He has typically commanded the strike zone in the minor leagues, but has been slightly more inconsistent at the big-league level.
The Orioles will have a crowded bullpen in 2016, further complicated by the presence of Bundy, who will serve as a de facto Rule 5 pick out in the bullpen. Brian Matusz seemingly has the primary left-handed specialist role nailed down. Most teams utilize seven-man bullpens in this era, and the Orioles already have six spots that seem set in stone — Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Matusz, Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, and Dylan Bundy. Some combination of Jason Garcia, Chaz Roe, T.J. McFarland, and Riefenhauser can claim the final bullpen slot. As was the case last season, the proverbial shuttle bus back and forth to Triple-A Norfolk will likely be running rather frequently in 2016.
If Riefenhauser does not make it through waivers and is claimed by another team, slot Jason Garcia in here. Last year’s Rule 5 pick showed some good potential down the stretch. Much of his season was spent rehabbing from dead arm developed in spring training. Garcia has good velocity, and with his Rule 5 season in the books, can continue on his development path.
18. Tanner Scott, RP
Date of Birth: 7/22/94
Height/Weight: 6’2″/200 lbs
Acquired: Drafted by the Orioles in the 6th round of the 2014 Draft
Tanner Scott is a rare breed of left-handed pitcher. Armed with a fastball nearing triple digits, he has the potential to develop into an elite relief pitcher. That heat was what prompted the Orioles to pay over $400,000 more than slot value for Scott when they drafted him out of Howard Junior College. Based on pure, raw stuff, Scott could be viewed as a much better prospect, but he still has a long way to go developmentally.
The Orioles tried Scott as a starter in Rookie Ball after drafting him, but he is still far too raw to succeed in that role. Outside of his plus-fastball, which received an 80 on the 20-80 scale, Scott still has a lot of work to do. His delivery is a work in progress, as are his secondary pitches. In his rookie season, Scott struggled to throw strikes, walking 20 batters in 23.0 innings. The 2015 season got off to a late start for the 21-year-old after he broke his hand in the offseason punching a wall.
Transitioning to the bullpen suited Scott, and that will be his role should he ever reach the big leagues. He made 18 appearances, throwing 42.1 innings, striking out 65, and walking 22. Though Scott allowed just a .229 BAA, he pitched to a 3.83 ERA thanks to his walk rate of nearly five per nine. He did not allow a home run. There is still a great deal of room to grow for Tanner Scott, but as he continues to refine his delivery, command his triple-digit fastball, and develop a better feel for his slider, the Orioles could find themselves with a left-handed relief option with unheard of velocity from that side of the mound.
17. Parker Bridwell, SP
Date of Birth: 8/2/91
Height/Weight: 6’4″/190 lbs
Acquired: Drafted by the Orioles in the 9th round of the 2010 Draft
Based on pure stuff alone, Bridwell would rate higher on this list. At times he has looked like an elite starting pitching prospect. The consistency just has not been there, unfortunately. Bridwell has now pitched in parts of six minor-league seasons, recording a 26-41 record with a 4.82 ERA. He has shown signs of progress each of the past three seasons, striking out almost exactly a batter an inning since 2013. Though his strikeout rate has improved, Bridwell still has a 4.44 ERA across those three seasons and 381.1 innings.
The Orioles may need to consider trying Bridwell out of the bullpen. He has good velocity on his fastball, and throws downhill from his 6’4″ frame. He must learn to command that fastball, however. Bridwell’s best pitch is his changeup, and he also throws an above-average slider. To have any level of consistent success, the tall righty must work through his command issues. At 24 years old, Bridwell is in danger of becoming a fringe prospect if he cannot turn in more consistent results. The Orioles did think enough of Bridwell to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but he struggled in the Arizona Fall League.
16. Mike Yastrzemski, OF
Date of Birth: 8/23/90
Height/Weight: 5’11″/180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted by the Orioles in the 14th round of the 2013 Draft
The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school in the 36th round, but elected to attend Vanderbilt University. Drafted as a college senior, Yastrzemski has a limited ceiling, but is an all-around solid player with some power in his bat, good speed, and a strong arm. He is a mature hitter at the plate with a good eye.
Yastrzemski excelled in 2014, his first full professional season. As a 23-year-old, he made his way through Single-A, High-A, and Double-A, batting .288/.346/.490 with 64 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases. Yastrzemski feasted on Single-A pitching, over a year older than his competition. He has hit some rough patches with Double-A Bowie. In 171 games at the Double-A level, the outfield prospect, now 25, has batted .247/.314/.383. He has also seen his stolen base success drop, converting on only half of his 18 attempts.
Yastrzemski needs to put a down 2015 in the past and move forward in 2016. He is a hard-working prospect who can play all three outfield positions. There is not a ton of upside left with Yastrzemski, but with minor improvements on offense, he could make himself into a fourth-outfielder type at the big-league level.