Minor league seasons began for the Orioles affiliates on May 4. At the MLB level, John Means threw a no-hitter on May 5. That was pretty much the most recent day where both the MLB team and the farm were exciting. The O’s are an absurd 7-26 since that no-hitter.
The minor league system has been keeping the good times rolling. Three Orioles affiliates sit in first place in their divisions. Two of these affiliates have the best record in their league. The Double-A Bowie Baysox continue to have the best winning percentage in the entirety of minor league baseball.
With no Monday games scheduled across the minor leagues in 2021, each Tuesday minor league recap on Camden Chat will be a look back at the week in review. Here’s how things went for the Orioles farm system in the sixth week of minor league action.
News and promotions
On Monday afternoon, the Orioles announced promotions within the farm system. The biggest name among them is Kevin Smith, currently MLB Pipeline’s #15 Orioles prospect. Smith, who arrived from the Mets in the Miguel Castro trade last year, is headed up to Triple-A Norfolk after posting a 1.04 ERA in his first six games, including 37 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Also on the way up is Greg Cullen, part of last year’s Tommy Milone trade. Cullen is headed to Double-A Bowie after a ten-game stop in Delmarva. At 24, it’s a much more age-appropriate level for him. Cullen has mostly played second base as a pro.
The Bowie roster will be joined this week by Yusniel Díaz (#8 in system) as he goes out on a rehab assignment. The headliner from 2018’s Manny Machado trade played in just six games for Norfolk before getting hurt this year.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 3-2 vs. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)
- Season record: 13-20, sixth place of seven teams (10 GB) of Southeast division of Triple-A East
After three weeks of baseball, the Tides were 4-14. In the three weeks since, they’ve gone 9-6. As ever with the minors, wins and losses really only matter to the organization to the extent that prospects and prospect-ish players are contributing, or failing to contribute.
This week saw five Tides batters post over a 1.000 OPS for the week. That includes two players who are from the O’s top 30 list: Jahmai Jones (#16) and Tyler Nevin (#21). Jones returned from the injured list with five hits and three walks in four games played. He’s only played ten games at Norfolk for the year due to the injury he just returned from, so I wonder when the O’s will feel like he’s done enough to get a big league look.
Another standout infielder for the week was newcomer Domingo Leyba, a waiver claim from last week. Leyba had been hitless in 22 at-bats for the Diamondbacks before getting dumped onto waivers. He hit three home runs in five games for the Tides this week. As Orioles second basemen are hitting a combined .207/.268/.324, some improvement from the minors would be nice.
I’m also going to shout out my current favorite non-prospect, NASCAR scion Zach Jarrett, son of Dale and grandson of Ned. Jarrett added two home runs this week and in 17 games since being promoted to Norfolk, the 26-year-old has hit .300/.391/.517. He has my curiosity and may soon have my attention. Sometimes you get a late bloomer. See: Yastrzemski, Mike.
Here’s Jones hitting a homer that exited the Jacksonville stadium:
Other notable prospects
- LHP Zac Lowther (#9) - Struck out four batters in four scoreless innings this week, though he also walked two and hit a batter. It’s been a rocky road in both Norfolk and Baltimore for the funky lefty. His Triple-A ERA after this outing his 5.28.
- RHP Kyle Bradish (#12) - The Jumbo Shrimp got to Bradish for four runs in five innings this week to up his Norfolk ERA to 3.44. He’s racked up 23 strikeouts in 18.1 innings since being promoted to this level.
- LHP Alexander Wells (#17) - Another guy whose 2021 ride has been bumpy but was good this week. Wells gave up a run in five innings, with three hits, five strikeouts, and no walks allowed. It leaves him with a 6.35 ERA and 1.500 WHIP for the season.
- INF Rylan Bannon (#20) - Remains on the injured list. Last game played: May 27. Season OPS before injury: .545.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 4-2 vs. Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
- Season record: 25-9, first place of six teams in Southwest division of Double-A Northeast
Bowie is where the action is, for now. Three of the team’s top four prospects are here: Adley Rutschman (#1), freshly minted top pitching prospect in baseball Grayson Rodriguez (#2), and DL Hall (#4).
Of this trio, it’s Rodriguez who had the best week. He struck out six batters in a five inning scoreless start where they got just two hits and two walks against him. He’s now struck out 14 batters in 10 innings since joining Bowie. The O’s have yet to push Rodriguez past 71 pitches in a 2021 start. I remain interested about when that will happen.
Hall gave up just one hit while striking out ten batters in a 4.2 inning start, but he still walked four batters, and the one hit was a home run. Hall has walked one out of every eight batters faced for the season.
The Double-A Northeast Pitcher of the Week was neither Rodriguez nor Hall. Cameron Bishop took the honors with nine scoreless innings across two outings this week, with twelve strikeouts and no walks. Perhaps he, like Smith, will get a Norfolk look before long.
Rutschman socked a pair of dingers this week and “only” had an .852 OPS, lowering his batting line through 34 games to a simply pedestrian .294/.428/.521. He has hit ten home runs. The only area where he’s not excelling is throwing out runners, with just 3/14 caught so far.
The possible Cadyn Grenier prospect revival had another strong week as the infielder racked up 11 hits in six games, drew three walks, and stole three bases besides. A 24-year-old at Double-A is old for the level, so his .315/.394/.477 season batting line is only worth so much, but I’m keeping an eye on him. This is better than I ever thought he’d do two months ago.
Rodriguez is going to make his first home start for the Baysox tonight. To riff on Rodriguez throwing heat, the Baysox are running a contest for people who bring in an empty, decorated gas can.
Other notable prospects:
- RHP Mike Baumann (#7) - He’s being brought along slowly after last summer’s forearm soreness. Lifted after 47 pitches and four innings in his one outing this week, he gave up two hits, no walks, and no runs while striking out four batters.
- INF Terrin Vavra (#10) - His 5-23 for the week is only a .217 average, but he added seven walks onto that for a .400 OBP, plus two steals. His 30 game season line remains interesting: .263/.413/.447. At 24, Vavra is also old for this level, though he came with more prospect stock baked in than Grenier.
- INF Joseph Ortiz (#29) - The O’s 2019 fourth rounder got promoted to Bowie after an .816 OPS in 19 games at Aberdeen. He now has an .837 OPS in 13 games for the Baysox after hitting two dingers and drawing three walks this week.
Ortiz can also play some defense:
Joey Ortiz continues to flash the leather and the arm!— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) June 13, 2021
This man is FOR REAL! pic.twitter.com/g1YvE8LDCZ
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 1-5 vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays)
- Season record: 20-14, tied for first place of five teams in North division of High-A East
Kyle Stowers (#22) played in three games this week and hit three bombs. The O’s 2019 second round pick is now up to six in 30 games this year. Add that to walks in 16% of his plate appearances and you get a fine batting line with an eye-popping OBP: .255/.385/.473.
This was the second week at this level for 2020 second rounder Jordan Westburg (#6) and it went better for him at the plate than the first week. Westburg was 6-24 and added four walks. He’s yet to homer in 10 games for the IronBirds, but the .379 OBP is interesting. We’ll see what his performance looks like once he settles in more at this level.
It was not a good week for the Aberdeen staff overall. They allowed seven or more runs in four games and gave up double digit runs twice. The O’s top 30 prospects who are a part of the Aberdeen rotation were not exempt from this. Drew Rom (#25) held the Hot Rods to a run in six innings on Tuesday, then took one on the chin on Sunday, giving up seven runs in four innings. The ball was flying in that Sunday slugfest; the teams combined for eight home runs in a 13-11 donnybrook. Rom still struck out six, so that’s something.
Other notable prospects:
- INF Adam Hall (#11) - Keith Law’s preseason sleeper pick hasn’t woken up quite yet. Hall was 6-24 this week, but he had no extra-base hits and drew no walks. With a .222/.282/.269 line through 29 games, there’s room for improvement.
- RHP Garrett Stallings (#26) - Four runs on seven hits in a 4.2 inning start against Bowling Green this week. Only four walks issued in 32.1 innings this year, but he’s got a 5.29 ERA. The home run bug has really bit him. According to Fangraphs, 30% of his fly balls have turned into homers.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 3-2 vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland)
- Season record: 23-11, first place of four teams in North division of Low-A East
They had to play around a lot of rain this week. One game was suspended, then after it was finished the next day, the regularly scheduled game was rained out. A Friday doubleheader was also rained out. Whew.
Gunnar Henderson (#5) was not deterred by the scheduling oddities, picking up eight hits in 20 AB for the week, including two doubles and a triple. This keeps his season OPS over 1.000. Hard not to like that. For the year, Henderson has committed four errors apiece at shortstop and third base. It’s not a concern for his development, yet.
Was he the only prospect on this team to have a good week? No! Darell Hernaiz (#27), who at 19 is the youngest player on Delmarva and one of the youngest in the league, is coming on strong in June. He added another 7-17 week and stole four bases. 2020 second rounder Hudson Haskin (#13) also OPSed over .800 for the week, right about in line with his season total batting of .302/.404/.431.
Other notable prospects:
- INF Anthony Servideo (#23) - On the injured list, last game played June 1.
Bonus minor league news
Baseball America reported on Monday that rookie-level Gulf Coast League action will get under way on June 28. The Orioles are fielding two GCL teams this season. The Dominican Summer League is set to begin on July 12.
A less-heralded minor leaguer took the Camden Chat Minor League Player of the Week honors for last week, as a plurality of 40% chose to recognize outfielder Johnny Rizer for his 12 hit effort in the week. Rizer dipped just a bit this week by “only” going 6-19. Previous weeks have all seen top prospects honored: Rutschman, Rodriguez, Henderson, and Westburg.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week?
This poll is closed
Domingo Leyba, Norfolk (three dingers in O’s organization debut week)
Cadyn Grenier, Bowie (11-23 hitting, over .500 OBP in 6 games)
Cameron Bishop, Bowie (12 K in 9 IP, league’s Pitcher of the Week)
Kyle Stowers, Aberdeen (3 HR, 8 RBI in 3 games)
Gunnar Henderson (8-20, 2 2B, 1 3B to keep OPS above 1.000)