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Orioles minor league week in review: A wave of promotions opens room for 2021 draftees

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Seven O’s prospects are headed to new levels after last week, opening up some roster space for newly signed players.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles
Mike Elias is giving some of his prospects a new challenge.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The draft picks are coming soon to the Orioles minor league system. The team has already signed the top two picks, outfielder Colton Cowser and infielder Connor Norby, from its college-heavy draft class, and that means it’s time to make room on those rosters. The O’s started doing some of that this week with a slew of promotions. More will likely be on the way as more picks get signed.

Each Tuesday on Camden Chat features a recap of the week of minor league games that just took place, with a specific focus on how the team’s top 30 prospects (as ranked by MLB Pipeline) have been performing both lately and overall this season.

The minor league system is now busier at any point than it has been so far this year. This past week saw the beginning of play in the Dominican Summer League, where the Orioles are fielding two teams. Add those to the two teams in the Florida Complex League (what used to be known as the Gulf Coast League) and the four full-season affiliates and there’s a lot going on. This recap will mostly focus on the teams at the A-ball level and higher.

The promotions

According to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, there were a total of seven players moved up in between minor league weeks. Only one of these is on the team’s top 30 prospect list, as #13 prospect Hudson Haskin is heading up from Delmarva to Aberdeen after OPSing .792 for the Shorebirds in 57 games. Since Haskin is also an outfielder, his promotion feels like it could be making room for Cowser to jump in right there.

Joining Haskin in Aberdeen will also be pitchers Ignacio Feliz (minor league Rule 5 draft; 1.05 ERA in 43 innings), Zach Peek (part of the Bundy trade; 4.37 ERA in 45.1 innings), and Ryan Watson (2020 undrafted free agent; 2.14 ERA in 33.2 innings).

Two players are headed from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie: Outfielder Zach Watson (2019 third round pick; .745 OPS in 56 games for IronBirds) and pitcher Ryan Conroy (2018 eighth round pick; 4.10 ERA in 37.1 innings this year). Additionally, outfielder Robert Neustrom (2018 fifth round pick; .831 OPS in 62 games this year) is headed from Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Congratulations to all of these guys and best of luck at the next level.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • This week: 0-6 vs. Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)
  • Season record: 24-38, last place (19 GB) of seven teams in Triple-A East’s Southeast division

The month of July has been unkind for the top Orioles affiliate. They’re just 1-10 in their last two weeks worth of games, and have now lost eight in a row following this brutal six-game sweep by Memphis. The Redbirds scored six or more runs in five of the six games in the series.

Among the pitchers who got absolutely pasted over the course of the series are Zac Lowther (#9 prospect, 5 ER in 0.1 IP start), Kyle Bradish (#12 prospect, 5 ER in 1.2 IP start), and Kevin Smith (#15 prospect, 3 ER in 0.2 IP start). Dean Kremer gave up eleven runs, eight earned, over nine innings across two starts this week. Just brutal stuff. Not much to do except hope it’s a bump in the road for most or all of them. For Kremer, it’s been more of a fall into a canyon than a bump in 2021.

The news was not all bad for the Tides as three of their position player standouts continued to do their thing. At the top of that list was Jahmai Jones (#16) who continues to state his case for an MLB promotion. In this six game series, Jones batted .346, with five of his nine hits for extra bases. That added up to a 1.101 OPS for the week to boost his season batting line to .288/.397/.507. No, I don’t know why he’s not with the Orioles yet.

Jones homering into the bullpen in Memphis:

Other notable prospects:

  • LHP Alexander Wells (#17) - Did not pitch for Norfolk this week; he’s currently on the MLB taxi squad
  • IF Rylan Bannon (#20) - Two homers in five games, but he only batted .158 and is OPSing .583 for the season
  • OF/1B Tyler Nevin (#22) - 8-24 hitting in the series with three doubles and a homer; AAA season OPS of .800
  • OF Zach Jarrett (unranked) - The NASCAR scion just keeps hitting and getting on base. Walked seven times this week and upped his Norfolk batting line to .245/.356/.500 in 43 games.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • This week: 4-2 vs. Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
  • Season record: 37-27, second place (1 GB) of six teams in Double-A Northeast’s Southeast division

The Erie team that Bowie faced this week includes two of Pipeline’s top 15 prospects in the game: Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. I make note of this because Grayson Rodriguez (#2) carved up that lineup like a nice holiday ham in his start this week, striking out twelve batters in five innings, with just two hits and a walk allowed. He struck out Greene twice and Torkelson once.

For the year across two levels, batters are hitting .153 against Nightwing. (Dick Grayson, aka Robin of Batman fame, later becomes Nightwing. Yes, I’m a nerd.)

Three Bowie batters OPSed over 1.000 for the week, including the just-promoted Neustrom. Kyle Stowers (#22) added another two bombs to his season total. He’s hit six in 24 games since joining the Baysox. Love to see it.

Here’s what it looks like when Rodriguez strikes out 12 guys in one game:

Other notable prospects:

  • C Adley Rutschman (#2) - Not a week for the “Promote Adley now!” crowd, as he went just 3-22 with six walks to one strikeout. He’s now got an .869 OPS for the year.
  • RHP Mike Baumann (#7) - Struck out eight batters with two walks allowed in his six inning start this week. Needs more like that to get his season ERA down from 5.79 and WHIP down from 1.347.
  • RHP Kyle Brnovich (unranked) - Another righty from the Bundy deal, pitched five scoreless innings this week. Sub-1.00 WHIP in four games since joining Bowie.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • This week: 3-3 vs. Hickory Crawdads (Rangers)
  • Season record: 36-29, second place (6.5 GB) of five teams in High-A East’s North division

There was a brutal 20-2 defeat this week for Aberdeen. The silver lining for the O’s prospect watcher is that it wasn’t any of the ranked guys who took it on the chin.

This was a good week for a pair of Aberdeen infielders who’ve taken some lumps at the level. Gunnar Henderson (#5) went 8-26 for the week, though he did strike out ten times. It’s a big step in the right direction after an early adjustment period. Adam Hall (#11) was 7-24 in the series, with a double, triple, and home run. He needs more weeks like that as well. Each of these players stole two bags this week.

Drew Rom (#25) added two more good outings to his ledger over this series. In nine innings between the two, Rom struck out eight batters with three walks and three earned runs allowed. For the season, Rom has a 2.87 ERA and 1.149 WHIP in 13 games, and he’s got a 7-0 record. I wonder when one of these promotions will be him going up to Bowie.

Other notable prospects:

  • IF Jordan Westburg (#6) - Even in a ho-hum week, he still hit 7-24 and doubled three times. Now batting .286/.385/.442 in 40 games since promotion to Aberdeen.
  • RHP Garrett Stallings (#26) - His one start this week was cut short by rain at two innings, with one run allowed.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • This week: 2-4 vs. Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers)
  • Season record: 39-25, first place (+3 games) of four teams in Low-A East’s North division

With Haskin’s promotion to Aberdeen, only one player on the current top 30 Orioles list remains active with Delmarva. That’s Darell Hernaiz (#27), who batted 8-22 for the week with a stolen base, though with no extra base hits, it didn’t help his slugging percentage much. Hernaiz, who at 19 is the youngest player on the team and one of the youngest in the league, is now hitting .265/.317/.328 for the season. It’s not Manny Machado phenom territory, but that’s enough that the prospect world might call it “holding his own.”

One of the better Shorebirds hitters for the week was Jean Carmona, who you may have forgotten was the minor leaguer acquired for Jonathan Schoop in 2018. Carmona’s still just 21 years old. He hit two homers this week and walked five times, adding up to a 1.101 OPS. If you really want to follow some deep prospects, it may still be worth having him on your radar. He now has a .785 OPS with Delmarva after about a month.

Carmona hitting his second homer of a game:

Two Delmarva starting pitchers posted scoreless outings for the week. Noah Denoyer (2019 UDFA) added five scoreless innings to his 2021 tally, with five strikeouts and no walks. He sits at a 2.89 ERA through 12 games and with new draft picks coming, it seems he deserves an Aberdeen chance. So does a 2020 UDFA, Brandon Young, whose four scoreless innings this week give him a 2.96 ERA and 1.139 WHIP with 12 games pitched.

Florida Complex League

FCL Orioles Black is 8-6. FCL Orioles Orange is 1-14. That’s a bit less fun.

Coby Mayo (#14) is on the Black team with a .275/.383/.325 batting line through 12 games. Also on that team is Mishael Deson, the third player in last year’s Mychal Givens trade. The just-turned-19-year-old outfielder has played in ten games, batting .360/.429/.400 so far.

An age-appropriate standout on the Orange roster is Moises Ramirez, a rare Dan Duquette-era international signing. He’s also 19 and has hit .358/.393/.509 in 15 games to date.

Dominican Summer League

Orioles 1 is 3-2. Orioles 2 is 1-4. The rosters are populated with many of the Mike Elias international signings of the past two periods, including this year’s seven-figure bonus guys, Maikol Hernandez (#18) and Samuel Basallo (#24). They’ve only played in four games to date, so don’t panic over Hernandez hitting 2-14 or Basallo hitting 2-12 to start their careers.

The injured

Unfortunately, it’s a substantial list with a new addition this week.

  • LHP DL Hall (#4) - Elbow tendinitis, has not pitched since June 12. 3.13 ERA, 1.011 WHIP in seven starts.
  • OF Yusniel Diaz (#8) - Did not play this week due to turf toe. .502 OPS in 22 games for Norfolk.
  • 2B Terrin Vavra (#10) - Back strain, has not played since June 13. .263/.413/.447 in 30 games for Bowie.
  • RHP Carter Baumler (#19) - Last year’s fifth round pick had Tommy John surgery last fall and won’t pitch this year.
  • SS Anthony Servideo (#23) - Sore hip, has not played since June 1. .246/.489/.311 in 20 games for Delmarva.
  • SS Joey Ortiz (#29) - Labrum tear, out for year. .265/.353/.449 in 35 games between Aberdeen and Bowie

**

In last week’s minor league player of the week poll, Stowers was the plurality choice with 40% of the vote, narrowly ahead of Henderson, whose 36% of the vote was nearly enough to make him the first repeat winner of the poll series. Weekly winners to date: Rodriguez, Henderson, Westburg, Rutschman, Johnny Rizer, Cadyn Grenier, J.D. Mundy, and Patrick Dorrian. Rodriguez’s week 1 victory was the only time a pitcher has been chosen.

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Jahmai Jones, Norfolk (1.101 OPS including two homers in 6 games)
    (98 votes)
  • 7%
    Robert Neustrom, Bowie (earned AAA promotion with 1.008 OPS week)
    (28 votes)
  • 63%
    Grayson Rodriguez, Bowie (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 12 SO)
    (239 votes)
  • 2%
    Jean Carmona, Delmarva (also OPSed 1.101 for the week with two homers)
    (9 votes)
374 votes total Vote Now