Delmarva typically boasts a bevy of young talent. In 2011 an 18 year old Manny Machado ranged the middle infield alongside 19 year old Jonathan Schoop. In 2012 Dylan Bundy laid waste to South Atlantic League hitters, while a 19 year old Eduardo Rodriguez began to make himself into a prospect of note. 2013 introduced Orioles fans to Josh Hader and Christian Walker. While last season provided us with our first glimpse of the talented Mr. Hunter Harvey.
The 2015 Shorebirds won't feature a big-name prospect a la Manny, or Dylan, or a 1st Round draft pick such as Harvey. But they do have a solid core of kids who bear monitoring as possible farm system headliners in the near future. So who should you be scooping out should you find yourself in the friendly confines of Arthur Perdue Stadium? Let's have a looksee...
Jomar Reyes, 3B
Shorebirds Manager Ryan Minor is listed at 6'7" and 240 lbs. The just-turned 18 year old Reyes may soon eclipse his manager on both fronts. He is gigantic. And within that stout frame lies the potential energy capable of swatting baseballs into the stratosphere. In a farm system which does not boast much raw power, Reyes exudes it from his pores. He played 53 games for the Gulf Coast League O's in 2014 managing a slash line of .285 / .333 / .425 with 4 home runs and a 38:15 K:BB ratio. In his Evaluating the Prospects write-up, Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel place Reyes 6th in the O's farm system hierarchy, noting that Reyes is more than just a thumper:
"Reyes also has the surprising ability to hit and work counts, given his size and age. One scout said his at-bats are just as advanced as Christian Walker or Dariel Alvarez, two of the more advanced hitters in the system. A big reason for that consistency is Reyes’ balanced, low-effort, loose, repeatable swing mechanics."
Reyes will be one of the youngest players in the SAL, and a strong season could push him all the way to the top of the O's prospect list come this time next year.
Brian Gonzalez, LHP
While the Shorebirds will not feature a 1st Round draft pick, they will feature a first-overall draft pick in the person of Brian Gonzalez. The 19 year old southpaw was the O's first selection in 2014, albeit in the 3rd Round, after the 1st & 2nd round selections were forfeited with the signings of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, and the Competitive Draft Lottery awarded pick (#37 overall) was sent to Houston in the Bud Norris deal.
After signing Gonzalez made 8 starts in the GCL squad wherein he yielded but 1 unearned run. That'll garner some attention. So the power that be sent him packing from his native Florida with a ticket marked 'Aberdeen' on it's destination. He made two starts for the Ironbirds, and yours truly got to see him pitch in Aberdeen in the second of those starts. My (totally uninformed) impressions from my notes: he's a thick kid; going to have to work hard on his conditioning. Good frame to build on. Fastball 88-89 with little natural movement. Moves ball around zone well. Curve and Change 72-74 with good arm action.
The bulk of the O's pitching prospects have now ascended to the AA & AAA levels. The club will be counting on Gonzalez to develop into part of the next wave of young arms as the previous generation moves up to the majors.
Jonah Heim, C
The Orioles stocked up on catchers in the 2013 draft. Chance Sisco in the 2nd round, local product Alex Murphy in the 6th round, Austin Wynns in the 10th round, and Jonah Heim in the 4th round. Sisco received the bulk of the attention last season after a stellar full-season debut with Delmarva. Heim will look to follow in that path in '15. A long and lean (listed at 6'3", 190 lbs.) switch hitter, he hasn't found much in the way of statistical success thus far between the GCL and Aberdeen. But he has time to develop at the plate as he won't turn 20 until late June. Thus far the organization has seen to refining his skills as a backstop. MLB.com wrote the following concerning his receiving skills:
While still very young, Heim has already shown excellent, receiving, blocking and throwing skills. He's mature beyond his years, calling his own game and working extremely well with pitchers. Heim moves well behind the plate and his strong arm has already helped shut down running games.
So while Sisco demonstrated himself to be a threat with the bat in '14, it may be Heim who is the one to watch as the ultimate future backstop in Baltimore.
After those three there isn't much to get excited about. 24 year old OFer Elier Leyva was signed out of Cuba. But if you are a 24 year old playing in Low-A, well...we'll see. 3Bman Austin Anderson slashed .307 / .354 / .407 for Aberdeen last season, one of the few bright spots for the Ironbirds' dismal offense. But he will serve a 50 game suspension at the outset of the season after testing positive for an amphetamine over the winter. John Means is a 6'3" lefty drafted out of West Virginia last year. He will pitch in the rotation and could be a fast mover through the system. RHP Derrick Bleeker converted from an outfielder to a bullpen arm last year and could be of interest very quickly.