The first of four teenagers on the Baltimore Orioles preseason top 30 prospects list is Lamar Sparks at number 22. His Gulf Coast League teammate, Gray Fenter, was number 23 and I profiled him earlier today. The 19 year old was selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2017 amateur player draft. He was never i highly touted recruit coming out of high school. Perfect game ranked him as the 32nd best recruit coming out of Texas, and number 457 nationally.
Sparks got off to a hot start in the Gulf Coast League. In his first month in Sarasota, Sparks slashed .278/.361/.333 with 13 runs scored in 14 games.
His average dipped the next month, falling to .222. He was able to get on base more thanks to earning 25 walks in 107 plate appearances, pushing his on base percentage to .406.
Sparks struggled against right handed pitching in his first pro season. In 121 plate appearances against righties, Sparks had a .188 batting average 31 strikeouts and 22 walks.
On the other hand, (pun intended) Sparks raked against left handed pitching. He slashed .347/.467/.490 with 11 walks and only eight strike outs in 60 plate appearances.
Sparks’ has impressed some in the Orioles organization with his speed, defense and strong arm. Sparks stole 11 bases in 13 attempts and MLB.com rates his running at 60 which is tied with Cedric Mullins and Adam Hall for top on the list. He also has the best arm strength on the list at 70.
MLB.com estimates his arrival to the MLB to be in 2021. Sparks could be a quality option at the top of the lineup if he can cut down on the strikeouts and improve his average.
Sparks shows a quick right-handed bat with present raw power from the right side of the plate, though there is some length to his swing that leads evaluators to question the future utility of his hit tool. He showed both swing-and-miss tendencies as well as on-base skills during his debut, recording 39 strikeouts and 33 walks in 42 games. Sparks has the speed and range needed to stick in center field, while the well above-average arm he showcased on the mound as a prep would also make him a clean fit in right.
While Sparks’ ceiling is tied to his potential as a hitter, his speed, defense and strong arm also suggest he’ll have a solid floor. He will need time to refine his game in the Minors, but the Orioles have liked what they’ve seem from the toolsy outfielder so far.
MLB.com scouting grades (20-80)
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 70 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
MLB ETA: ETA