The Baltimore Orioles added 4 of their top prospects — infielder Ryan Mountcastle, left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin, right-handed pitcher Dean Kremer, and outfielder Ryan McKenna — to the 40-man roster Wednesday, November 20th.
Wednesday’s roster moves takes Baltimore’s 40-man roster from 35 to 39, leaving flexibility for more potential moves throughout the winter. The moves also ensure the 4 prospects will not be eligible for December’s Rule 5 draft.
Mountcastle, 22, is the organization’s #4 prospect and the MLB’s #64 prospect, according to MLB pipeline. He won the International League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2019 after batting .312 with a .871 OPS and 25 home runs for Triple-A Norfolk. Mountcastle is no doubt one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, and projects to be above average at the plate for years to come. It’s his defense that has kept him from reaching the major leagues to this point in his career. Norfolk experimented with Mountcastle at third base, first base, and both corner outfield spots in 2019, after playing shortstop for Double-A Bowie in 2018. He is below average in the field, which has resulted in him being viewed as a future first base/DH when he reaches the majors, which can hopefully be in a full-time role this season.
Akin, along with Mountcastle, spent all of 2019 with Triple-A Norfolk. Last season, the 24 year old left-hander and Orioles 2016 second round pick posted a 4.73 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 24 starts across 122.1 innings of work. Akin excels at forcing swing and misses and weak contact, although he can be susceptible to the long ball and struggles forcing ground balls. He features an above average slider, and average changeup, and a fastball that can reach 95 mph, according to MLB pipeline. Akin will be given an opportunity to crack the Orioles starting rotation this season.
Kremer, 23, drafted in the 14th round by the Dodgers in 2016, came to the Orioles as a part of the package for All-Star Manny Machado at the 2018 trade deadline. Kremer started the 2019 season with Class-A Advanced Fredrick as he recovered from an oblique injury that kept him out of spring training, but spent most of last season with Double-A Bowie. There, he posted a 2.98 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 84.2 innings pitched across 15 starts. He worked his way up to Triple-A Norfolk to end the season, where he struggled with a 8.84 ERA in 19.1 innings of work. His best pitch is the curveball, which he uses along with his 91-95 mph fastball to produce strikeouts. To round out his 4 pitch repertoire, he is working on a slider and changeup, although both still need some work. Kremer looks to add to an Orioles pitching staff that ranked in the bottom 3 in the AL in ERA, hits, home runs, and strikeouts last season.
McKenna struggled in 2019 after coming off a breakout 2018 season which saw him soar up prospect rankings everywhere. The 22 year old outfielder started the season as the organizations #7 prospect, but after hitting .232 with a .686 OPS at Double-A Bowie, he finished the season ranked #13, according to MLB pipeline. His speed to go along above average defense in the outfield, something the organization is lacking, makes him an intriguing option for a future Orioles outfield potentially featuring Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays, and Cedric Mullins. Anticipate McKenna starting the year in Bowie and hopefully making his way up to Norfolk, setting himself up for a late 2020 or early 2021 major league debut.
By leaving one spot open on the 40-man roster, second year General Manager and Executive VP Mike Elias may be planning on making a selection in the Rule 5 draft next month, December 12th. Last year, the Orioles held the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, selecting Richie Martin, a shortstop in the Oakland Athletics organization. The most notable Orioles Rule 5 selection of recent history is Anthony Santander, coming from the Cleveland Indians organization. Santander had a breakout 2019 campaign, batting .261 with a .773 OPS and 20 home runs (4th best on the team) in only 93 games.
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