When your favorite baseball team is not very good, there’s not much that a fan can do about it except look at the minor league box scores and hope that better days will be coming eventually. Orioles fans have been living this life for nearly three years now, since it became apparent that the 2018 team was going nowhere. The action that really matters is happening away from Baltimore.
In 2021, minor league teams are regularly scheduled for Monday off days, offering an opportunity to look back on each affiliate’s week. Tuesdays on Camden Chat will feature these weekly reviews of the good and bad news from the farm for the past week, focusing particularly on how the team’s top prospects with the most hopes riding on them have been performing.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 1-5 vs. Charlotte Knights (White Sox)
- Season record: 3-9, last place of seven teams (6 GB) in Southeast Division
The Orioles highest-level minor league affiliate looked like it would be an interesting team to keep an eye on before the season began. That hasn’t quite borne out through two weeks of action. Part of that is because pitchers like Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther have made stops on the Orioles rather than just pitching in Triple-A. It is fun to see prospects in Baltimore, but add that to Mike Baumann debuting at lower levels while he works his way back from an injury, and a Norfolk starting rotation that looked interesting on paper just hasn’t been.
Norfolk’s position player group also looked interesting before the season and that hasn’t quite worked out yet. Neither Yusniel Diaz nor Jahmai Jones played this week. Diaz has been day-to-day with an injury to his upper leg and according to MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, is headed for the injured list. Jones is already on the injured list due to an oblique issue.
The top Tides hitters for the week were Stevie Wilkerson and Austin Wynns, whose prospect days are long past. The success or failure of the rebuilding effort probably does not hinge on these erstwhile Orioles. Brett Cumberland, one of the prospects from the Kevin Gausman trade with the Braves, also had a good week and is batting .282/.364/.487 through 10 games. This may be of interest to anyone who’s tired of looking at poor-hitting and poor-fielding Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco on the MLB club.
Your favorite Australian lefty and mine, Alexander Wells, had a second consecutive rough outing. He sits at an unsightly 14.29 ERA through two games. Reliever Isaac Mattson returned from Baltimore and gave up three runs in one inning. Whoops.
The Tides will not play their first home game until today.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Rylan Bannon (#22 ranking by MLB Pipeline) - 6-27 hitting this week to drop his season OPS to .726. MASN’s Roch Kubatko wrote this week that the “ideal arrangement” keeps Bannon in Norfolk until the summer.
- IF Tyler Nevin (#23) - 4-24 hitting this week to give him a season batting line of .167/.222/.417. The decent slugging percentage is because he has four homers, including two this week.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 6-0 vs. Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies)
- Season record: 9-2, first place of six teams (1.5 game lead) in Southwest Division
Adley Rutschman hit a home run that went so far that it hit off of Adley Rutschman’s face on the Jumbotron. Really:
This was a heck of a week for the Baysox offense overall, as they scored 9+ runs in four of the six games, including a 13-12 10-inning donnybrook that saw Reading score three runs in the top of the 10th only for Bowie to walk it off after scoring four in the bottom of the inning. Rutschman’s home run above was part of the Baysox coming back from a 9-6 deficit in the ninth in that game to send it to extra innings.
Five Bowie hitters who played in all six games had an OPS of .962 or better for the week. That included Rutschman, as well as infielder Terrin Vavra (Pipeline’s #11 prospect) who was 10-24 across the week’s series and added five walks besides. Rutschman is working on the impressive “more walks than strikeouts” through 11 games, with 13 walks to 12 strikeouts. Hell yeah! Rutschman has a .957 OPS for the season. Vavra, with nine games played, is at 1.210.
The guy who’s really been on fire for this team so far is Patrick Dorrian, a name you had probably never encountered before Paul mentioned him in this roundup last week. As a general rule, it’s not worth getting too excited about guys in their age 25 season who are just hitting Double-A.
Still, through ten games, this dude is hitting .333/.511/.909, and with a BABIP of .300, he doesn’t look to be due for much batted ball luck regression. He’ll probably have to do this for another month at least to get on any radar. I’ll be rooting for him to do it. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a late bloomer from out of nowhere. Dorrian was named the Player of the Week for the Double-A Northeast league.
The pitchers took a back seat to the hitters this week. Kyle Bradish had another scoreless outing. The righty from the Dylan Bundy trade has struck out 14 batters in 9.2 innings so far this year. DL Hall had one good start (nine strikeouts in five scoreless innings) and one bad one (four walks, five hits in a 2.2 inning outing). It’s worth remembering there will be bumps in the road for even the hyped guys.
Other prospect of note:
- P Kevin Smith (#17) - started one game this week, allowing two runs in 3.2 innings to up his season ERA to 2.16 through two starts.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 3-3 vs. Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
- Season record: 8-4, first place of five teams (2 game lead) in North Division
The IronBirds are like the Tides in that they have yet to play a home game in 2021. That changes today. As a reminder, minor league team schedules for this season involve six-game series with one day off before the teams go elsewhere.
One name looms larger than all others on this roster: Grayson Rodriguez. Here’s some video of him mowing down eleven batters in his start this week:
Watching something like this, it’s easier to believe in better days coming for the Orioles eventually. It’s not going to be this year that we see Rodriguez in Baltimore, but you can kind of talk yourself into, maybe late next year? Rodriguez has now struck out 23 batters in 12.1 innings across his first three games. So far, he is a lot better than the competition.
The “other” Kyle from the Bundy trade is Kyle Brnovich. He had a 5.2 inning outing this week where the only hit or walk he allowed was a solo home run. It’s his only run allowed through two starts; he’s struck out 11 men in 10.2 innings to date. Couldn’t have asked for much better of an Orioles system debut. Brnovich wasn’t really on any pre-season Orioles prospect lists. If he keeps this up, that’ll change for midseason updates.
A bit more of a downer is the IronBirds offense. The team is collectively hitting .219/.345/.332 over their first 12 games, with only six home runs combined. Yowza. The two prospects in the lineup from Pipeline’s Orioles Top 30 are a big part of why, so far. Adam Hall struck out 13 times in five games this week. For the season, he’s hitting just .139/.184/.222. Kyle Stowers was just 3-16 for the week, though he did draw seven walks.
Other notable prospects:
- P Drew Rom (#27) - One start this week, with two runs allowed in four innings. Rom struck out six batters.
- P Garrett Stallings (#28) - Two starts, one very good (five scoreless innings) and one very bad (six earned runs in 2.1 innings), inflating his season ERA to 5.11.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 6-0 vs. Fredericksburg Nationals
- Season record: 9-3, tied for first place of four teams in the North Division
The Nationals affiliate that Delmarva swept this week is the only winless team in minor league baseball. They are 0-12.
One reason why Fredericksburg remains winless is that they had Gunnar Henderson dropping hits on them like de la O this week. He racked up ten hits in five games, half of which were extra-base hits, and drove in 13 runs. That’ll work. This followed a strong first week as well, so Henderson is now batting .341/.404/.609 in 2021. Apply sunscreen before prolonged exposure to this batting line, or you will get burned. This hitting earned Henderson the Low-A East Player of the Week honors.
The Orioles 2019 second round pick was getting some anticipatory hype in spring training, being named on most people’s “Who will be a top 100 prospect a year from now?” lists. Pipeline, which updates its list each time a top prospect accumulates enough service or playing time to lose prospect status, has added Henderson at #99, once again giving the Orioles five top 100 prospects on this list. Ryan Mountcastle graduated from prospect status upon reaching 150 big league at-bats.
Baumann, mentioned in the Norfolk section, made a two-inning rehab start for the Shorebirds. Mike Elias said on a MASN Orioles broadcast that Baumann should be at the Norfolk level in a couple of weeks, but will remain with Delmarva for now while he shakes off the rust.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Jordan Westburg (#6) - Posted the highest OPS of any Shorebirds player on the week, and is over 1.000 for the season (1.024 in 10 games)
- OF Hudson Haskin (#15) - 9-23 hitting with only four strikeouts in five games, also stole four bases
- IF Anthony Servideo (#25) - One of four Shorebirds hitters above a 1.000 OPS for the week; 17 walks against just 11 strikeouts for 2021
- IF Darell Hernaiz (#29) - 5-19 over the week with no extra-base hits for the 2019 fifth rounder
Last week’s choices for the CC minor league player of the week were Rodriguez, Hall, Jones, and Aberdeen infielder Joey Ortiz. Rodriguez received 42% of the vote to take down the first week’s title. This week, it might be someone else’s turn.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week?
This poll is closed
Patrick Dorrian, Bowie (Double-A Northeast Player of the Week, 3 HR in 6 games)
Grayson Rodriguez, Aberdeen (11 strikeouts, no walks in five innings)
Gunnar Henderson, Delmarva (Low-A East Player of the Week, 13 RBI)
Terrin Vavra, Bowie (.417/.533/.750 batting)