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2015 Norfolk Tides preview

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Some of the top prospects in the system have graduated to the bigs, but there's talent worth watching at the Birds' AAA affiliate...

Will this be Tyler Wilson's year?
Will this be Tyler Wilson's year?
Christopher McCain

Overview

The Tides are skippered by Ron Johnson and finished the 2014 season with a 65-79 record. It's amazing to look at last season's roster and see how many player eventually passed through Baltimore. Overall, 59 players made an appearance for the 2014 Tides, but a quick survey of their peers show this isn't really that unique. During the last few seasons, the Tides have tended to be on the older side (about 27-28).

Players to Watch

Tyler Wilson: While never displaying spectacular stuff or eye popping numbers, Wilson has methodically worked his way up through the system and achieved results at every stop. Wilson's effort culminated in a Jim Palmer Award last year and a solid spring has put him in the conversation as a player who could contribute to the 2015 Orioles.

Dariel Alvarez: In his first full season in the organization, Alvarez wowed observers with his defensive chops, but there are still questions, fair or not, as to whether his bat will play against more advanced pitching.

Christian Walker: After socking 20 homers at Bowie, Walker earned a callup to Norfolk and finished his first taste of AAA with six homers and a .763 OPS.

Mike Wright: The 2011 3rd round draft pick had a rough time adapting to AAA, but seemed to turn things on in the last month of the season. On August 21, he took a no hitter into the ninth against the Durham Bulls, but ultimately came away with one hit, eleven strikeout performance.

Michael Almanzar: The O's stashed the 2014 Rule 5 draft pick on the DL for most of the season and was eventually forced to return him to the Red Sox, but apparently think enough about him that the they've re-acquired him twice since. The only Tide younger than Almanzar on Opening Day will be Christian Walker.

Bullpen: After earning 39 saves with the Baysox over the last couple seasons, Oliver Drake will open the season at AAA for the first time in his career; stalwart Steve Johnson returns for his fifth season in Norfolk; former Oriole Pedro Beato will begin the season in Norfolk after stints with the Red Sox and Mets.

Also of Note

Fan favorite Nolan Reimold opens the season at Norfolk as does personal favorite Eddie Gamboa; now fully healthy and adjusted to life in the states, this may be a make or break season for Henry Urrutia; Chris Parmalee is still only 27, has a bit of pop and shows a little of the positional flexibility that Buck Showalter tends to favor; former top prospect Michael Bowden was recently acquired by the O's for cash considerations.

Staff

Johnson returns for his fourth season as Tides skipper coming off his first losing season. Of course what do wins and losses mean at AAA with so much roster turnover? Buck Showalter seems to put a decent amount of stock in Ron Johnson's opinion so that counts for something. Sean Berry is the new face on the Tides coaching staff. Berry was the hitting coach for the Houston Astros (unceremoniusly sacked during the 2010 season) and minor league hitting coordinator for the Padres. Once and future boss Dan Duquette thought enough of Berry during his playing days that he acquired him (along with future Oriole Archie Corbin) from the Royals for middling starter Chris Haney. Mike Griffin and Jose Hernandez round out the staff.

Promotions

Not even accounting for standard fare like the summertime fireworks display and the businessperson special, the Tides schedule offers little in the way of inventive promotions. On July 24 and August 21, the Tides are giving away free ballcaps; the Tides will be giving out team baseball cards on June 11, July 1 and August 20; Tides flip flops are the featured item on June 26. If you like a little more personality out of your minor league promotion, Reggie the Purple Party Dude will also be in attendance at the June 26 game. I have no idea what that sentence means. The following evening, the Tides will host a Star Wars night. No word as to whether or not there will be special jerseys for the occasion, as trend seems to dictate around the minors.

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The Tides open their 2015 season with a nine game road trip starting Tuesday at Charlotte, but don't play their home opener until April 18.