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Sisco, Mancini once again lead Orioles' stars

Baltimore system shows balance as recent Draft picks also stand out
October 7, 2016

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball.

If Minor League systems were judged strictly by wins and losses, one would think the Orioles didn't have much to be excited about in the 2016 season. That wasn't the case.

Though none of Baltimore's domestic Minor League affiliates qualified for their league's playoffs -- the teams combined for a 318-381 (.455) overall record -- the system showed its balance with All-Stars hailing from a variety of levels, Draft classes and positions.

Orioles Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Chance Sisco, Bowie (112 games), Norfolk (4 games): After helping Double-A Bowie capture the Eastern League crown a season ago as a late callup, Sisco returned to the team in 2016 hoping to build off the experience. The 2013 second-round pick delivered, hitting .320 with 28 doubles, four homers and 44 RBIs for the Baysox.

Despite being the youngest player at his position at the level, Sisco led all of Double-A with a .406 on-base percentage. The California native committed just eight errors in 83 games behind the plate before being called up for a late-season cameo with Triple-A Norfolk.

"[He has] really a pure swing and understands the strike zone, recognizes pitches, uses the whole field," Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said. "Defensively, he's getting better. His receiving is getting better, he blocks well, his throwing is getting better. He's a young 21-year-old catcher who is continuing to improve."

First baseman -- Trey Mancini, Bowie (17 games), Norfolk (125 games), Baltimore (5 games): Baltimore's 2015 Minor League Player of the Year proved his breakout season was no fluke. The 2013 eighth-round pick out of Notre Dame homered seven times in his first 17 games with Bowie to force a promotion to the International League, where he hit .280 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs in 483 at-bats.

Mancini didn't stop there. Once the 24-year-old reached the big leagues in September, he went deep in each of his first three starts for the big club, joining Rockies rookie Trevor Story as the only players ever to do so. Graham said Mancini has a chance to earn a significantly longer big-league look next season.

"He's certainly a guy who fits into the plan," Graham said. "He can be a right-handed DH, with Chris Davis at first base. Trey is going to have to work his way into the lineup, but what he's done this September shows that he has the potential to help the big league club win."

Second baseman -- Corban Joseph, Bowie (22 games), Norfolk (85 games): After producing a middling first half with Norfolk, the 27-year-old Joseph slashed .336/.401/.490 in 45 games after the All-Star break, helping the Tides hang around the International League South Division race until the last week of the season. He finished the year with a .315 average across two levels, the highest of his nine-year Minor League career.

"He was probably the most consistent offensive player, and he did everything for Ron Johnson and that [Norfolk] club," Graham said. "He hit everywhere in the lineup. I think 'consistent' is the very best word to use for him. Defensively he played solid at second base; offensively he produced every day."

Third baseman -- Drew Dosch, Bowie (113 games): Dosch returned to the Eastern League, where he spent 68 games a season ago, and initially experienced some of the same struggles that led to a .238/.286/.307 batting line last year. Like Joseph, though, the second half was another story. Baltimore's 2013 seventh-round pick hit .306 with 11 doubles, six triples and five homers while driving in 25 runs in 47 second-half games, raising his OPS 124 points to .718.

"Sometimes with young players, it's just a matter of time and experience," Graham said. "Dosch played very well defensively. Offensively, his second half was as good as anybody's in baseball. Dosch kind of put himself back on the map with that second half this year."

Dosch finished his third Minor League season with career highs in home runs (9), triples (9) and slugging percentage (.412).

Shortstop -- Ryan Mountcastle, Delmarva (115 games): In his first full season, Mountcastle, 19, held his own in the middle of the Shorebirds lineup. The No. 36 overall pick in the 2015 Draft batted .281 with 28 doubles, 10 homers and 51 RBIs, leading Delmarva to the lone winning record (73-66) among Baltimore's domestic affiliates.

"Really impressive for a first-year player in full-season baseball," Graham said. "Really impressive offensively. Very mature approach to hitting.... This is a guy that the quality of his at-bats were really impressive. He'd work the count; he'd hit the ball to all fields. He hit in the middle of the lineup all year."

Outfielders -- Christian Walker, Norfolk (131 games): Walker has become an Organization All-Star mainstay as this is his fourth nod for the Orioles in five seasons. The Pennsylvania native compiled nearly identical numbers to the ones he produced with Norfolk in 2015, though he improved his batting line a bit from .257/.324/.423 to .264/.321/.437.

The 2012 fourth-round pick showed an especially proficient glove in his first season in the outfield, after playing exclusively at first base over his first four professional seasons. Over 90 games in left field, he finished with three errors in 135 chances.

"I think you have to be pleased with what he's done," Graham said. "He gives you a solid at-bat every time out there. He's one of those guys that can hit for power, he can hit for average, he can drive in runs. The fact that he played the outfield so well this year shows the versatility."

Cedric Mullins, Delmarva (124 games): Though he lacks Mountcastle's pedigree, Mullins could challenge his teammate as the most impressive player to emerge from Delmarva. Taken in the 13th round of the 2015 Draft, the 22-year-old led the Shorebirds with 141 hits, 37 doubles, 10 triples, 240 total bases, 79 runs and 30 steals while finishing fourth on the team with a .273 average.

"[His season] was a nice surprise, but it's also a good Draft pick," Graham said. "When you get a guy in the 13th round that did what he did offensively this year -- when you look at his doubles, his triples and his home runs and stolen bases -- that's a pretty complete package."

Austin Hays, Aberdeen (38 games): The Orioles selected Hays in the third round of this year's Draft out of Jacksonville University, and the 21-year-old found his footing rather quickly. Hays led Class A Short Season Aberdeen with a .336 average and added four homers along with 21 RBIs and a .900 OPS over 140 at-bats.

"He's another good Draft pick. There's some good upside to him," Graham said. "He's a guy who has plus arm strength and a chance to be a plus outfielder. He runs well. I think he'll hit for average as well as hit for some power. I really like his tools. Anytime you get a player with those kinds of tools, it's really exciting for player development."

Designated hitter -- Yermin Mercedes, Delmarva (91 games), Frederick (31 games): Back in the South Atlantic League for a second straight season, Mercedes seemed to have everything clicking at the plate in 2016. The native of the Dominican Republic finished as the circuit's batting champion with a .353 average in 91 games for Delmarva. After an August promotion to Class A Advanced Frederick, Mercedes ended the year with a combined .345/.404/.570 batting line and 20 homers.

Right-handed starter -- Cristian Alvarado, Delmarva (27 games, 27 starts): Alvarado's previous career high for strikeouts had been 69, achieved during the 2013 Dominican Summer League season. The 22-year-old more than doubled that total in 2016, leading the organization with 148 punchouts over 148 innings.

Though Alvarado's 3.41 ERA was good for 12th among South Atlantic League pitchers, the native of Venezuela ranked fourth on the Class A circuit with a 3.16 FIP.

"He did a really good job of getting ahead of hitters and did a really good job of putting hitters away with two strikes, and it's all about command and control," Graham said. "He didn't always overpower guys; he pitches in the low-90s. But more important than anything was his ability to throw his off-speed stuff for strikes, command his fastball and throw the breaking ball for strikeouts."

Left-handed starter -- Alex Wells, Aberdeen (13 games, 13 starts): Wells cracked the Orioles' top 30 prospect list in 2016 -- slotting in at No. 29 -- and it's no surprise as the Australian southpaw shined in his first professional season. The 19-year-old put together the third-best ERA (2.15) in the New York-Penn League and notched 50 strikeouts while walking nine. His 0.91 WHIP led all qualifying pitchers on the circuit.

"He has poise and composure and maturity," Graham said. "Really good delivery. Commands the heck out of the baseball. He has the ability to throw his curveball for strikes, the ability to throw his changeup for strikes. This is a very mature pitcher for his young age."

More Organization All-Stars

Relief pitcher -- Ryan Meisinger, Delmarva (16 games), Frederick (19 games): Meisinger was a force out of the bullpen, often pitching two or even three innings at a time. The 22-year-old right-hander rang up 94 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .212 batting average. Meisinger's 1.57 ERA between the two levels dropped his career mark over two seasons to 1.65.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21.