Mon, January 18, 2021, 10:14 AM
Rutschman among Orioles’ 5 prospects in BA Top 100 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
There may not have been a minor league baseball season in 2020, but that didn’t stop the Orioles’ farm system from taking a step forward in its rebuild. Baseball America released its annual prospect rankings Monday and included five Orioles players in the top 100, highlighted by catcher Adley Rutschman in the number two spot.
Baltimore had just three players on BA’s list last winter, which included Rustchman (then No. 5), right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez (35) and lefty DL Hall (47). Rodriguez leapt up to No. 22 in the 2021 edition while Hall fell to 59th. Joining them this year are outfielders Heston Kjerstad (62) — the No. 2 overall pick in 2020 — and Ryan Mountcastle (63), who just tied for eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Rutschman, 22, entered last season as the first player to debut on the three major prospect rankings as a consensus top-5 prospect since Bryce Harper. He made the Orioles’ 60-man player pool in 2020 but never appeared in the majors, spending his summer at the team’s alternate training site in Bowie. The 2019 No. 1 pick will likely return there, this time to play Double-A, when this upcoming season begins.
Of the Orioles' five top-100 players, only Mountcastle has a spot on the 40-man roster. The 2015 first-round pick hit .333 with five homers and an .878 OPS in 35 games last season. He retains rookie eligibility into 2021 and is expected to have a spot in the everyday lineup by Opening Day. Mountcastle has struggled to find a permanent position defensively but will have the chance to hold down left field this year.
Baltimore’s five prospects are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers for the fourth-most in the sport behind the San Diego Padres (7), Toronto Blue Jays (6) and Miami Marlins (6). Rays shortstop Wander Franco is the No. 1 player for the second year in a row with Rutschman, Mariners outfielders Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic, and Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson rounding out the top five, respectively.
Across the DMV, the Nationals failed to have a single prospect crack BA’s Top 100. They're the only team in the sport without one.