After making the Eastern League playoffs and beating the Nationals Double-A affiliate in the first round, the Orioles Double-A prospects of the Bowie Baysox only have to get through Double-A Trenton, a Yankees farm team, to win their league title in a best-of-five series that gets under way tonight.
Unfortunately and even unfairly for the Baysox, they’re going to have to do more than just triumph over their Double-A counterparts in order to win the league title in the series. Trenton is scheduled to have MLB-caliber starting pitchers in each of the first two games of the series, with lefty Jordan Montgomery set to start tonight’s series opener and righty Luis Severino set to pitch in the second game tomorrow.
These are not the only erstwhile big leaguers who could appear in the series. During Trenton’s three-game sweep of the Phillies Double-A affiliate in Reading, reliever Dellin Betances made an appearance on his rehab road as well, as did 23-year-old infielder Thairo Estrada.
With Yankees manager Aaron Boone telling reporters Monday that the injured Giancarlo Stanton could return to the team next week, an appearance by him in this series seems possible as well. That’s a lot of guys whose careers have already passed the Double-A level who will be parachuting in for the league championship against a lot of Orioles prospects who are playing at the most advanced level that they’ve ever played. If the Baysox win this series, we can be sure that they deserve it.
Montgomery, 26, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t pitched at the MLB level since early last May. The South Carolina product has posted a 3.84 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 167 strikeouts in 182.2 innings as an MLB player. He was used for just three innings and 44 pitches in Game 1 of Trenton’s series against Reading, so he might not be too long for tonight’s game. He’s expected to be followed against Bowie by Betances and then former Orioles farmhand Stephen Tarpley, who’s yet another big leaguer doing rehab over the next few days. Sheesh.
The 25-year-old Severino also has yet to pitch at the big league level this season due to injuries that have included both a grade 2 lat strain and inflammation of his rotator cuff. He holds a 3.51 ERA and even better 3.38 FIP in 96 MLB games, with 572 strikeouts in 518 innings. Severino also had a three inning outing during the course of Trenton’s sweep of Reading.
Waiting behind the rehabbing MLB starters are two of the Yankees top seven prospects, pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Albert Abreu. Schmidt was the Yankees first round pick in 2017, selected even though he had Tommy John surgery the month prior. He just reached the Double-A level late this season and limited Reading to just an unearned run in six innings in relief of Montgomery in Game 1 of that series.
One bit of consolation for the Baysox is that the Trenton lineup is not similarly loaded with either prospects or MLB players, unless Stanton drops in. Estrada, though he has big league experience, is more of a utility player there. Only 12 of the Yankees top 30 prospects are position players and none of them are with the Thunder. There are a lot of players there who probably don’t have the MLB in their future.
That’s good news for Bowie, whose pitching staff has been a strength for much of the year. That’s true even after prospects Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann earned promotions to Triple-A towards the end of the season, because it leaves Bowie with lefties Zac Lowther and Alex Wells and righties Michael Baumann and Cody Sedlock, all of whom have gotten good results with the Baysox this season.
According to MASN’s Steve Melewski, Baumann lines up in Game 1 against Montgomery, with Sedlock, Lowther, and Wells to go in the subsequent games.
The Baysox lineup is not without some interesting players. In contrast to the Thunder, whose position players aren’t on the Yankees top 30 prospects list at all, Bowie has four of the Orioles top 30 prospects just among its hitters, plus Cedric Mullins, who plummeted from the O’s Opening Day roster back down to Bowie before reversing the decline.
If the likes of Yusniel Diaz, Ryan McKenna, Mason McCoy, and Brett Cumberland want to open some eyes, lighting up the rehabbing MLBers couldn’t hurt.
In case you did not know, the Trenton Thunder have an official bat dog:
We had a full @TrentonThunder team practice today before the start of the @EasternLeague Championship Series tomorrow night. I watched from the field and then waited for the guys in the dugout. pic.twitter.com/29bEqfSOnC— Rookie (@BatdogRookie) September 9, 2019
Good luck all around to Bowie as they play for the title. They might need it.