As the Orioles continue to dominate the AL East, the four minor-league affiliates have been consistently entertaining watches over the course of the first month of the year. And while the talent within the organization isn't exactly impressive or deep, there have been quite a few notable surprises thus far.
Of course, with the noticeable lack of dominant prospects the disappointments have been fairly noticeable as well. I suppose with this organization, that's just to be expected.
Encouraging or not, here's a look at a few 2016 surprises and duds for each O's minor-league affiliate. Note that these are not necessarily the best/worst players at every level, simply names that have jumped off the paper thus far.
Catcher Audry Perez has simply shown up to the park and mashed this season. Through 63 at-bats, he's hitting .397 with a .435 on-base percentage and 11 RBI.
Perez has been in the minor leagues since 2008, but he's on pace to have his best season as a pro player yet. Undersized at 5'10", he's unfortunately not in any position to make it to the major leagues in this organization with Caleb Joseph and Matt Wieters dominating behind the dish. For now, he's a 27-year-old potential trade-away option to keep an eye on.
With an opportunity to make a real immediate difference, Odrisamer Despaigne has continues his spring training struggles with a very underwhelming start to the season with the Tides. His 0-4 record is summed up nicely with a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, allowing 35 hits over 30 innings.
Vance Worley has greatly out-performed the 29-year-old, pretty much all you need to know about the former Padre's chances of making a 2016 appearance with the Orioles.
After a slow start to the year, Mike Yastrzemski is quickly making a name for himself in an organization that could greatly use prospects in the outfield department.
He's hitting .292 on the year, successfully reaching base in his last 10 games. His on-base percentage of .375 has been helped by his patient at-bats and crafty style of play. With five HRs and five doubles, there's enough pop there to be intriguing as the minor-league season rolls along.
Right-hander Jason Garcia has had a very bumpy early start to the season, compiling a 5.84 ERA over five starts. His ugly, ugly, ugly 2.11 WHIP says it all, easily the worst mark amongst pitchers on Bowie's roster.
He did throw well against Erie on Sunday, hopefully a sign of good things to come. Otherwise, his chances of seeing a promotion in 2016 will be as good as mine and yours.
Matthew Grimes, the 6'5" right-hander from Georgia Tech has dominated the opposition this season, posting a 2.03 ERA over his first six starts. He hasn't missed as many bats as you'd like to see, but he's kept runs off the board in key spots to pick up three wins on the young season.
Grimes has 22 strikeouts over 31 innings. An 18th-round pick in 2014, good signs are aplenty for the 24-year-old Frederick arm.
This one goes to young outfielder Josh Hart, who is hitting at .154 through his first 78 at-bats of the season.
Just 22 years old, Hart has near team-lows in nearly every hitting category, including a rough .212 on-base percentage. Chalk it up to a minor slow start all you want, but there's no reason for Hart to not be progressing. He spent all season in Frederick last year, hitting at .255 over 424 ABs.
Out of nowhere, catcher Yermin Mercedes has caught fire and not turned back. Hitting .364 on the season, Mercedes leads the team in average, doubles (9) and RBI (19).
At 23 years old in just his second season playing pro ball in the states, Mercedes is at the very least an intriguing up-and-comer to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Right-hander Francisco Jimenez has gotten off to a rough start through the first five starts of the season. The 21-year-old is 2-3 with a 7.13 ERA in 24 innings, allowing just 23 hits but 20 runs and 12 walks in the process.
On the seventh against Asheville in his last outing, he lasted just 2.2 innings, surrendering nine earned runs over eight hits. This is only his second full year in the states after making 13 appearances last season.
*All stats before games on 5/10*