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Orioles minor league week in review: Henderson heats up in High-A, Diaz’s struggles continue

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No O’s affiliate had a winning week, but Delmarva remained in first place while Bowie is right in the thick of the race.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles-Media Day USA TODAY NETWORK

When the MLB draft wraps up this afternoon, the Orioles will have added 21 new prospects to their system (barring any who don’t sign). In the coming weeks, we could be seeing an influx of newcomers reporting to the Birds’ affiliates — and a reshuffling of the O’s top prospects lists. In the meantime, let’s check in on the past week of Orioles minor league baseball, from Triple-A to the Dominican Summer League.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

This week: 1-4 vs. Durham Bulls (Rays)
Season record: 24-32, sixth place (15.0 GB) in Southeast Division

You guys, we need to talk about the Manny Machado trade. which was finalized three years ago this week. Three players from that deal remain in the O’s organization, all at Norfolk, and here are their season stats:

  • Yusniel Diaz (#8 prospect): .167/.228/.274, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 26 K in 22 games (including an 0-for-16 this week)
  • Rylan Bannon (#20): .172/.245/.312, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 9 BB, 19 K in 24 games (including 2-for-13 this week)
  • Dean Kremer (graduated from prospect list): 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 9 BB, 25 K in four starts (including one disastrous 1.2-inning, seven-run start this week)

One word: ouch. The Machado trade, made by GM Dan Duquette in his final year, was the first and biggest deal of the Orioles’ rebuilding effort, involving the Birds’ most talented bargaining chip. The O’s needed to absolutely nail it. Instead, it’s hard to imagine a more nightmarish outcome than for the prize prospect Diaz, who was already in Double-A at the time of the deal, to still have not reached the majors three years later while collapsing at Triple-A, and for Kremer, the second-best piece of the return, to be stalling out in the minors after a dreadful first taste of the bigs (6.59 ERA in 16 starts). Even Bannon, who opened some eyes last year at Bowie, has regressed.

We’re only halfway through the season, obviously, and there’s still time for those players to turn things around and the trade to look salvageable. But it sure doesn’t look like Duquette did the incoming O’s regime any favors on his way out the door.

Other notable prospects:

  • RHP Kyle Bradish (#12): Bradish’s lone start this week was forgettable, a five-run, four-inning performance in which he surrendered nine baserunners (six hits and three walks) while fanning six. He’s still finding his footing at Triple-A, with a 4.63 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in eight starts.
  • LHP Kevin Smith (#15): Though Smith allowed just one run and struck out six in his start this week, he labored through it, getting pulled after 3.1 innings with 85 pitches thrown. Overall he’s holding his own in four starts at Norfolk, posting a 3.63 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 25 strikeouts and seven walks in 17.1 innings.
  • 2B Jahmai Jones (#16): Everyone’s favorite “why isn’t he in the majors yet?” prospect had a down week, going 4-for-19 (.211) with 11 strikeouts, though he did bash a homer, one of just two the Tides hit this week. His season OPS is a solid .860.
  • LHP Alexander Wells (#17): Now we’re talking: Wells posted his longest and most dominant start of the season, going six innings, giving up just two hits, and fanning six while walking none. He’s thrown 11 scoreless innings in July.
  • IF Tyler Nevin (#21): Just three hits, all singles, for Nevin in four games this week, lowering his season OPS to .778. He’s been used a lot more at third base lately, starting 13 of his last 28 games at the hot corner after playing exclusively first base and right field for his first 20.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

This week: 2-4 vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
Season record: 33-25, third place (1.0 GB) in Southwest Division

The Baysox, who in April held the best record in minor league baseball, are now only fifth best in the Northeast League alone, behind the Southeast Division’s Somerset and Portland as well as Southwest Division co-leaders Akron and Erie. They’ve lost four series in a row.

Bowie’s offense this week was powered by outfielder Kyle Stowers (#22 prospect), who led the team with nine hits and seven walks, batting .474 with a 1.300 OPS. The 2019 second-round pick has adjusted nicely since moving up to Bowie from High-A Aberdeen; he’s increased his AVG, OBP, and SLG, while his walk and strikeout rates have stayed the same. At 23, he’s about a year young for the level.

As for the pitchers, no Bowie starter worked more than five innings, and all gave up at least two runs (including rehabbing Orioles ace John Means, who threw three innings Friday and coughed up two homers). Still, they flashed some excellent control. If you take out a lousy start by Ofelky Peralta, the Baysox rotation — Means, Grayson Rodriguez (#2 prospect), Mike Baumann (#7), Kyle Brnovich, and Cody Sedlock — combined for 24 strikeouts and zero walks. Nice! The Bowie pitching staff’s 624 strikeouts this year rank second in the league behind Somerset.

Other notable prospects:

  • C Adley Rutschman (#1): The Orioles’ top prospect played four games this week — going 5-for-13 with a double and a homer — before jetting to Denver for the All-Stars Future Game, where he flied out and walked. It would be nice if the O’s told Rutschman not to rejoin the Baysox and to just report directly to Norfolk (or, dare I say, Baltimore?).
  • LHP DL Hall (#3)/ 2B Terrin Vavra (#10)/ IF Joey Ortiz (#29): Elias provided a few updates on the injured Baysox trio this week, telling reporters that Hall (elbow tendinitis) will resume throwing this month and Vavra should return in August. Unfortunately the news isn’t good for Ortiz, the 2019 fourth-rounder. He’ll undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum and will miss the rest of the season. The 22-year-old finishes his abbreviated season with a .265/.353/.449 line, four homers, and 17 RBIs across 35 games at Bowie and Aberdeen.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

This week: 3-3 vs. Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
Season record: 33-26, second place (6.0 GB) in North Division

A showdown against the division-leading Renegades gave the IronBirds a chance to pull closer, but instead a series split left them in exactly the same position they started the week.

The biggest success story of this week was #5 prospect Gunnar Henderson, who finally began to make his mark at the High-A level after a slow start. Henderson crushed three home runs this week, collected eight hits, posted a 1.106 OPS, and scored six runs, all tops on the team. He did all that damage in the first four games of the series before taking an 0-for-8 in the last two.

Also putting on a good show was Henderson’s teammate on the left side of the infield, Jordan Westburg (#6). Westburg collected seven hits, including a homer, and drew a team-high five walks. He and Henderson each made three starts at shortstop and three at third base as the O’s evaluate their defensive versatility. Catcher Maverick Handley contributed six hits and a club-best seven RBIs.

On the mound, prospects Drew Rom (#25) and Garrett Stallings (#26) each threw five innings without allowing an earned run. Rom racked up six strikeouts but walked three, while Stallings was tagged for six hits but issued only one free pass.

Other notable prospects:

  • IF/OF Adam Hall (#11): With seven hits this week, Hall is incrementally improving over his disastrous May and June performances, but he didn’t manage any extra-base hits. He’s sporting just a .652 OPS this season, with 67 strikeouts and 19 walks.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

This week: 2-4 vs. Salem Red Sox
Season record: 37-21, first place (4.0 games ahead) in North Division

Though the second-place Red Sox cut two games out of Delmarva’s division lead this week, the Shorebirds still sit fairly comfortably in front and remain the Orioles’ winningest affiliate. Their best pitching performance this week came from right-hander Noah Denoyer, who threw six quality innings Saturday and didn’t allow an earned run, with six strikeouts and no walks. Denoyer was the only Shorebirds hurler to throw more than four innings this week, as Delmarva continues to alternate its pitchers between starting and long relief assignments to spread the innings around.

The Shorebirds have been getting plenty of production from their first basemen this season. They started the year with J.D. Mundy, who batted .324 with a 1.038 OPS in 20 games, and after his promotion to Aberdeen on June 1, TT Bowens picked up the mantle. Bowens, a 2020 undrafted free agent from Central Connecticut State, crushed two of Delmarva’s three home runs this week, and overall has an .888 OPS and nine homers in 28 games. He’s nearly two years older than the average Low-A player, though.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Hudson Haskin (#13): A pair of doubles highlighted the week for the 2020 second-rounder. He’s got a .272/.372/.421/.792 line this year.
  • IF Darell Hernaiz (#27): Hernaiz was just 3-for-17 and also committed two errors at shortstop in Friday’s nightcap of a doubleheader. The 19-year-old, playing against guys nearly three years older than him on average, has posted a .633 OPS in 48 games in his first taste of full-season ball.

Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League

Down in the FCL, third baseman and 2020 fourth-rounder Coby Mayo (#14 prospect) is hitting .320 with a .770 OPS for the Orioles Black, though with no home runs and just one walk in eight games so far. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez (#28) is 6-for-23 (.261) with an RBI, while fellow 2019 international amateur signing Luis Ortiz (#30) has had a rough go so far, allowing six earned runs, eight hits, and five walks in his first 5.2 professional innings for the Orioles Orange.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Summer League kicked off its season yesterday, with the Orioles carrying two clubs in the league. The Birds’ first-ever seven-figure international signings, shortstop Maikol Hernandez (#18 prospect) and catcher Samuel Basallo (#24), each played well in their debuts, with Basallo going 2-for-3 with a double and RBI and Hernandez walking twice and stealing a base.

**

Last week, the aforementioned TT Bowens became the eighth consecutive position player to win our Player of the Week honors after Grayson Rodriguez won in week 1. Other winners include Henderson, Westburg, Rutschman, Johnny Rizer, Cadyn Grenier, Mundy, and Pat Dorrian. This week we’ve got one candidate from each affiliate, with two pitchers and two hitters on the ballot.

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league Player of the Week?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Alexander Wells, Norfolk (6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 6 K, 0 BB)
    (93 votes)
  • 40%
    Kyle Stowers, Bowie (.474 AVG, 1.300 OPS, 7 BB)
    (183 votes)
  • 35%
    Gunnar Henderson, Aberdeen (.320 AVG, 1.106 OPS, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
    (162 votes)
  • 3%
    Noah Denoyer, Delmarva (6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 0 BB)
    (17 votes)
455 votes total Vote Now

Tuesday’s scheduled games:

  • Norfolk: at Memphis, 8:10 PM. Starter: TBD
  • Bowie: at Erie, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD
  • Aberdeen: at Hickory, 7:00 PM. Starter: TBD
  • Delmarva: at Down East, 7:00 PM. Starter: TBD