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Catching up with Orioles prospects in the Arizona Fall League

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The Orioles have a slew of prospects playing for the Desert Dogs in Arizona under a manager of their own.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It may be the offseason for Major League Baseball, but games are still being played in the Arizona Fall League. Baltimore has seven prospects playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs — managed by the Orioles’ own Dave Anderson — which also includes players from the White Sox, Indians, Dodgers and Yankees. Anderson spent this past season as the minor league infield instructor for the O’s.

Of the seven Orioles rostered on the Desert Dogs, four are relief pitchers and three are position players. Below is a quick summary on each.

Pitchers

Tanner Chleborad is a relief pitcher drafted in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has appeared in nine games for the Desert Dogs, throwing 10.2 innings with a 1.69 ERA, four walks and eight strikeouts, while opponents are hitting .325 against him.

This past season at Bowie he was 6-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 62.1 innings.

Tyler Erwin is a southpaw relief pitcher drafted by the Orioles in the 23rd round of the 2016 draft. He spent the 2018 regular season pitching for the Frederick Keys in the Carolina League, where he went 4-4 with a 1.58 ERA in 68.1 innings.

His time pitching for Desert Dogs has not gone as well. In eight Fall League innings, he has a 6.75 ERA, a .343 opponents’ batting average, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. Of his nine appearances, six were scoreless outings, but the other three were a different story. His most recent appearance, on November 6, he allowed five hits and three runs in 0.1 innings.

Jay Flaa had a solid 2018 campaign in Double-A with the Bowie Baysox, pitching to a 3-1 record with a 2.77 ERA and an impressive .155 opponents batting average. He allowed 35 hits and 28 walks in 65 innings to go along with 67 strikeouts.

But the right-handed reliever has not fared as well in limited Fall League action. In nine innings, he’s allowed 11 hits, six earned runs, nine walks, five strikeouts and two home runs. He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA and .306 batting average against. He had a couple poor back-to-back outings on October 18 and 23, when he allowed two runs in one inning and four runs in 0.2 innings, respectively. Both of his home runs allowed came during that October 23 appearance.

Enigmatic left-hander Chris Lee has performed well overall as a starter for the Desert Dogs. He spent the 2018 regular season pitching between three different levels in the Orioles system, including the Gulf Coast League, International League and Eastern League. Overall, he finished with a 6.75 ERA in 32 innings pitched.

He is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings with seven walks and eight strikeouts in the Arizona Fall League. The walks have been an issue for Lee in the past. His worst outing of the fall came on October 23, when he allowed three runs in 1.1 innings. But his very next time on the mound, on October 29, he responded with his best outing — five scoreless innings with one hit, one walk and two strikeouts.

Position Players

Originally signed by the Indians, then later claimed by the Orioles off of waivers from the Giants, catcher Martin Cervenka had a strong 2018 season with Bowie. At the plate, he slashed .258/.317/.457 with 15 home runs and 60 RBI while playing for the Baysox.

His bat has been slow to warm up in the Fall League though. In 42 at-bats, he has a .214/.233/.381 batting line with one home run and nine RBI. He may have started out cool with the Desert Dogs, but more recently, he has eight hits in his past 26 at-bats, good for a .307 average during that time span.

Infielder Steve Wilkerson, who got a cup of coffee with the O’s this past season, is another inclusion on the Desert Dogs roster. The switch-hitter was an 8th round selection by the O’s in the 2014 Draft. He split his 2018 minor league at-bats between Rookie League, Double-A and Triple-A, slashing .263/.321/.455 with four home runs and 15 RBI. In 46 major league at-bats, he hit .174/.224/.239 with zero home runs and three RBI.

With the Desert Dogs, Wilkerson is hitting .286/.377/.357 in 56 at-bats with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts, showing an ability to hit for average and work the count. But he does show extreme splits as a switch-hitter — he’s hitting .200 in 10 at-bats against left-handers and .304 in 46 at-bats against right-handers.

Outfielder Ryan McKenna is having a strong AFL season after a standout regular season when he hit .315/.410/.457 with 11 home runs, 53 RBI and nine stolen bases with Frederick and Bowie. He was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 4th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.

In 54 at-bats with the Desert Dogs, McKenna is slashing .370/.485/.648 with one home run, seven RBI and two stolen bases. He is still showing an advanced eye at the plate, with 11 walks versus 15 strikeouts. His stock is sure to be on the rise yet again after this impressive Fall League performance.