Orioles minor league rundown: Norfolk Tides season recap

Elaina Ellis

A look at some of the names, intriguing and otherwise, that spent time at the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, in the 2013 season.

It seems like as long as Dan Duquette is in charge of things, it's always going to be hard to assess anything that goes on at Norfolk on some levels, because it's become clear that it is a taxi squad for the big club first and foremost. Although top positional prospects Jonathan Schoop and L.J. Hoes began the season at Norfolk, the roster seemed to be more characterized by journeymen and projects like Mark Hendrickson, Jason Pridie and Tsuyoshi Wada.

The Tides began the season on an absurd run powered by the offensive exploits of Pridie, Travis Ishikawa, Danny Valencia and Russ Canzler, but cooled off after the game of Dan Duquette roster roulette commenced. The Tides ended their season at a respectable 75-69, but the only position players to log over 100 games with the team were Pridie and Yamaico Navarro (though L.J. Hoes played 99 games before getting called up and subsequently traded).

Ishikawa, Hoes and Valencia comfortably had the best offensive for the Tides logging wOBA's of .418, .384 and .376. Of that trio, only Valencia has made a positive contribution to the big club.

Jonathan Schoop: After being named the organization's top positional prospect on several preseason lists, the 21 year old Curacao native was limited to 70 games with the Tides this year due to a back injury. Schoop struggled early on in the season, appeared to be getting on track when he got hurt and never quite found his stride after his return. He'll be playing Fall ball in Arizona to get some additional reps.

Schoop showed a not-quite-but-if-you-squint-sort-of-Jonesian reverse-platoon split (.271/.311/.407 against righties, .211/.273/.366 against lefties) and nice pop away from cavernous Harbor Park (.475 SLG on the road). I'd be curious to see how his power plays at Camden Yards.

Henry Urrutia: Is there anyone that could have predicted the season of Henry Urrutia? Even international scouting guru Fred Ferreira has to be gobsmacked. After languishing for months in Haiti after defecting from Cuba, the former switch hitting outfielder made his stateside debut with the Bowie Baysox to a small degree of fanfare.

While most of his damage done in American professional baseball was done in the Eastern League, Urrutia demonstrated that he was up to the task of the International League. In 30 games at Norfolk, Urrutia slashed at a .316/.358/.430 rate. Like Schoop, he did much of his damage on the road (.479 SLG away vs. .349 at home). Urrutia will also log some time with the Surprise Saguaros this Fall. He was selected to the Futures Game earlier this year and has been named the organization's 2013 Brooks Robinson Award winner.

Kevin Gausman: The 2012 first rounder's first full season in professional has to be considered a success. After making eight starts at Bowie to rave reviews, Gausman was promoted to the big club, demoted to Norfolk, promoted again and finally left in Norfolk to stretch out and regain his footing...before getting called up to close out the season in Baltimore.

Gausman's first start at Norfolk was a disaster. He allowed a home run, two doubles and seven earned runs. Overall, Gausman walked nine and struck out 33 in eight games at AAA while allowing one home run. Gausman has to be considered a leading contender for a slot in the 2014 rotation.

Mike Belfiore: At the end of the season, a guy who a lot of people thought would be a prime candidate for an early season call up, is sitting at home while many of his colleagues are contributing in a playoff chase. Maybe this says the most about Belfiore's season. Belfiore wasn't terrible and he struck out over a quarter of the batters he faced in 2013, but at this point, he seems best reserved for lefties. Belfiore ended up striking out 80 in 72.2 IP with a 3.22 ERA and 28 walks.

Eddie Gamboa: The Cal State alum was another great story sort of akin to that of the great Cuban defector. Gamboa was viewed merely as a curiosity, a pitcher in his late 20s struggling to maintain relevance by committing whole hog to the knuckleball, until a pair of outstanding outings put him in on the map. At Bowie, Gamboa threw two hitless outings, one of which happened to come on the heels of a one hit outing and from there he was sent to Norfolk.

Gamboa is notable, not unlike brother in arms R.A. Dickey, in that his fastball hovers in the low 90s and that he throws two different knucklers (one in the upper 60s and one in the upper 70s). Gamboa didn't exactly distinguish himself in his nine AAA starts, but he pitched a couple solid games, a couple very good games and a few more subpar games. Gamboa's walk rate almost doubled from a not awful 7.7% at Bowie to 13.7% at Norfolk. How much of that is attributable to the plate discipline of AAA hitters and how much to Chris Snyder's ability or lack thereof to handler knuckleballers? I don't know.

As for next year, the Tides roster could be stacked as one imagines Mike Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez and Dylan Bundy will all be seeing time there. Will any one of them be there together? The modus operandi of the Warehouse is truly mysterious.

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