The first thing to know about Cameron Bishop is that he ended up an Oriole despite the club’s best efforts to bungle the whole situation.
Entering July 7, 2017, the final day for signing draft picks, the O’s still hadn’t reached a contract agreement with Bishop, their 26th-round selection. After a heavy day of negotiating, the Orioles finally struck a deal for $605,000 — except they didn’t submit the written agreement to MLB until several minutes after the deadline.
Losing out on a promising draft pick because they couldn’t file paperwork in time seems like a blunder perfectly befitting the Orioles. Fortunately, MLB took pity on poor Bishop, who — had the signing been disallowed — might have been forced to play independent ball for a year before re-entering the draft in 2018. MLB decided to honor the agreement, salvaging what could have been an unfortunate situation for both the player and the club.
That wasn’t the first time that Bishop almost didn’t become an Oriole. Had the O’s signed their fourth-round pick that year, Texas prep right-hander Jack Conlon, they wouldn’t have had the funds to ink Bishop to an overslot deal. Once Conlon opted not to sign, the Birds reinvested those savings into Bishop.
However circuitous a route it took, Bishop made his way to the Orioles and hit the ground running. In his first taste of professional ball in 2017, Bishop laid waste to opposing hitters in eight starts for short-season Aberdeen, posting a 0.78 ERA and racking up almost as many strikeouts (38) as baserunners allowed (39).
How did the 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefty, currently ranked the Orioles’ 20th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, fall to the 26th round? Signability concerns were one reason — hence the O’s drafting him only as a backup option to Conlon. But it also didn’t help that he missed his entire junior year at UC Irvine with an oblique injury. In his two-year college career, Bishop went 7-5 with a 4.59 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 102 innings.
Bishop, 22, is fully healthy now and spent the entire 2018 season at Low-A Delmarva, where there’s some good and some bad to be found in his overall numbers.
Bishop posted a 2.94 ERA, one of three Shorebirds starters (along with DL Hall and Brenan Hanifee) to clock in under the 3.00 mark. Bishop was a control artist, walking only 20 batters in 125.2 innings, giving him a 1.4 BB/9 rate that led the team. By avoiding free passes, Bishop was stingy with allowing baserunners overall. His tidy 1.011 WHIP was, again, the best of any regular Shorebirds hurler.
Bishop averaged 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which isn’t a shabby mark by any means, but it indicates that he wasn’t quite blowing hitters away. Still, combined with the minuscule walk rate, Bishop’s strikeouts-to-walks mark was an excellent 4.95. That, too, led Shorebirds starters, if you don’t count Zac Lowther’s brief six-game stint in Delmarva.
Perusing Bishop’s 2018 game logs, one thing you could count on him to do was give his team a chance to win. In his 22 starts, Bishop never allowed more than four runs, and he always pitched at least five innings (save for his final outing, when he was pulled after four because the O’s were limiting his innings). That’s a pretty impressive display of consistency.
Questions remain, however, about whether Bishop’s stuff is good enough for him to succeed in the majors. MLB Pipeline wrote:
Bishop can run his fastball up to 95 mph, albeit with little feel for where it’s going. He features a pair of breaking balls in a curveball and slider, both of which currently grade as fringe-average but stand to improve with experience. The same can be said for his changeup, too.
The scouting report also cautions that “Bishop’s feel for pitching leaves quite a bit to be desired,” though it adds that he has “the pure arm strength to become a late-inning reliever should (starting) not work out.”
Based on Bishop’s impressive 2018 in Delmarva, he should open the 2019 season at Single-A Frederick at age 23. He’ll need to keep refining his repertoire — and preferably missing a few more bats — if he hopes to continue his progression to the big leagues.
Perhaps someday in the future, Bishop will find himself firmly entrenched in the Orioles’ rotation alongside 2018 draftee Blaine Knight. The O’s will just need to find some as-yet unidentified players named King, Queen, Rook, and Pawn to join them.