Minor league baseball is back, and boy, has it been a blast.
This past week, the Orioles’ four affiliates took the field for their first competitive game action since 2019, and prospects galore flashed their skills at all levels of the organization. Every Tuesday all season long here at Camden Chat, we’ll be recapping the highlights, lowlights, news, and notes from throughout the farm system, with updates on the Orioles’ best prospects and other minor leaguers of note. And stick around to the end to vote for the Minor League Player of the Week. Let’s get started!
TRIPLE-A NORFOLK TIDES
This week: 2-4
Season record: 2-4, fifth place (3 GB) in Southeast Division
The Tides lost their first three games before taking two of the next three in Jacksonville. Their next six-game series, though, will take them on the road to Charlotte, and they won’t get to play their home opener until May 18, their 13th game of the season.
Norfolk’s best player in the early goings was Jahmai Jones, acquired in the Alex Cobb trade, who collected four extra-base hits, five RBIs, and a team-leading four walks for a .924 OPS. He did commit two errors, but still, I’m more than ready to give him a chance at everyday duty with the Orioles, who have gotten pitiful production out of second basemen so far.
The Tides’ rotation is not the prospect-studded staff we’d once predicted, instead largely full of minor league veterans and journeymen. But it still included Alexander Wells, who, unfortunately, had a rocky season debut Sunday, getting tattooed for five runs and seven hits in two innings.
Tyler Nevin, the Orioles’ #23 prospect who has faced skepticism about his power potential, bashed two home runs. Meanwhile, Yusniel Diaz started out poorly — 1-for-12 in his first three games — and just when he started to heat up in the next three, this happened:
In Jacksonville, Triple-A Norfolk's Yusniel Diaz had an RBI double in the ninth inning and left the game with discomfort in his thigh/upper leg. #orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) May 9, 2021
OF Yusniel Diaz (#8 ranking by MLB Pipeline)
This week/season stats: 6 G, .200/.222/.360, 1 HR, 6 RBI
2B Jahmai Jones (#18)
This week/season stats: 6 G, .227/.333/.591, 1 HR, 5 RBI
DOUBLE-A BOWIE BAYSOX
This week: 3-2
Season record: 3-2, fourth place (2 GB) in Southwest Division
The Baysox got off to a roaring start, winning their first three games of the year, before dropping two and getting rained out in Sunday’s scheduled finale. Bowie’s rotation was especially eye-popping in those three victories, as starting pitchers DL Hall, Kyle Bradish, and Kevin Smith combined for 13.2 scoreless innings, striking out 22. (2016 first-rounder Cody Sedlock failed to join the fun, allowing five of the six batters he faced to reach base on Saturday.) The Baysox bullpen isn’t particularly prospect-laden, but shout out to left-hander Nick Vespi, a 2015 draft pick, who had 10 strikeouts in two relief appearances.
The Bowie offense, too, doesn’t boast many highly ranked prospects, except of course the best one of them all, Adley Rutschman. The 2019 top overall pick went just 4-for-21 (.190) while splitting his starts at catcher (three) and first base (two), though he did homer and led the club with four RBIs. Third baseman Patrick Dorrian, acquired for Yefry Ramirez in 2019, hit a team-leading two home runs and posted a 1.446 OPS.
C Adley Rutschman (#1)
This week/season stats: 5 G, .190/.320/.381, 1 HR, 4 RBI
LHP DL Hall (#4)
This week/season stats: 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K
IF Terrin Vavra (#11)
This week/season stats: 3 G, .300/.533/.500, 0 HR, 2 RBI
RHP Kyle Bradish (#13)
This week/season stats: 1 GS, 4.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7 K
LHP Kevin Smith (#17)
This week/season stats: 1 GS, 4.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 5 K
HIGH-A ABERDEEN IRONBIRDS
This week: 5-1
Season record: 5-1, first place in North Division
So far, the Ironbirds are the heavyweights of the Orioles’ farm system, streaking out to a 5-0 start before a Sunday loss denied them a six-game sweep in Wilmington. Like the Tides, the Ironbirds now face another six-game road series in Hudson Valley before they finally make their home debut next week.
Of course all eyes are on Grayson Rodriguez, the Birds’ top pitching prospect, and he did not disappoint in his first two starts, throwing a combined 7.1 innings (as the Orioles handle him with kid gloves) and allowing just one run while striking out 12. So far the entire Aberdeen rotation has been nails. Drew Rom and Kyle Brnovich each worked five scoreless innings in their season debuts, Blaine Knight tossed four scoreless, and Garrett Stallings allowed just one run in five innings. The Ironbirds’ rotation ERA is 0.68. That’ll do!
With pitching like that, a team barely needs offense, but the Ironbirds have seen an early breakout by 2019 fourth round pick Joey Ortiz, who has a .348 average and 1.010 OPS and caught the notice of The Athletic’s Keith Law, who wrote last week, “He’s gotten stronger and his swing has some more loft to it now for line-drive power. ... With his defensive ability, he doesn’t have to hit a ton to be a real prospect, and these adjustments look like they’ll get him there.” Ortiz has gotten more playing time at short than Adam Hall, the most high-profile hitting prospect on Aberdeen, who’s off to a slow start at 2-for-14.
RHP Grayson Rodriguez (#2)
This week/season stats: 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 12 K
IF Adam Hall (#12)
This week/season stats: 4 G, .143/.150/.143, 0 HR, 1 RBI
LOW-A DELMARVA SHOREBIRDS
This week: 3-3
Season record: 3-3, t-second place (3 GB) in North Division
The only O’s affiliate to start their season at home, the Shorebirds dodged the rain to split their six-game series with Salem. As expected, the talented infield has been the most fascinating group to watch for Delmarva. Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, the Orioles’ top two infield prospects, combined for three home runs and 10 RBIs, with Henderson going deep in his first Low-A at-bat on Tuesday. Catcher Jordan Cannon also swatted two. Darell Hernaiz and first baseman J.D. Mundy each contributed a roundtripper. And while Anthony Servideo is batting just .133, he has an incredible 11 walks in 26 plate appearances.
The early allocation of playing time between Henderson, Westburg, Hernaiz, and Servideo — all of whom were drafted as shortstops — has been intriguing. Each of the four has started at least once at shortstop, all but Servideo have started at third base, and Hernaiz and Servideo have split time evenly at second. Servideo has made three errors, while the others have combined for just one.
Nobody has stood out in Delmarva’s starting rotation, but in the bullpen, Leonardo Rodriguez, a rare international amateur signing from the Dan Duquette era, struck out seven batters in three scoreless innings in his season debut.
IF Gunnar Henderson (#5)
This week/season stats: 5 G, .222/.300/.556, 2 HR, 3 RBI
IF Jordan Westburg (#6)
This week/season stats: 5 G, .263/.364/.421, 1 HR, 7 RBI
OF Hudson Haskin (#15)
This week/season stats: 5 G, .190/.227/.190, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Who was the Orioles’ minor league player of the week?
This poll is closed
DL Hall, Bowie (4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K)
Jahmai Jones, Norfolk (.924 OPS, four extra-base hits, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
Joey Ortiz, Aberdeen (.348 AVG, 1.010 OPS, 2 triples)
Grayson Rodriguez, Aberdeen (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 12 K)
Tuesday’s scheduled games:
- Norfolk: at Charlotte, 7:04 PM. Starter: TBD
- Bowie: vs. Reading, 6:35 PM (home opener). Starter: DL Hall (0-0, 0.00)
- Aberdeen: at Hudson Valley, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD
- Delmarva: at Fredericksburg, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD