It was another exciting week on the Orioles’ farm, with a number of prospects flashing their potential even as three of the four affiliates lost their series. The Birds’ top two picks from this month’s draft, Colton Cowser and Connor Norby, signed their contracts and reported to Sarasota to work out, with the expectation they’ll join Delmarva later this season. In the meantime, the Orioles’ current top prospect continued to show the world why he’s a force to be reckoned with, even as the front office inexplicably leaves him stuck in Double-A.
Let’s break it all down in Camden Chat’s minor league week in review.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
This week: 1-5 vs. Gwinnett Stripers (Braves)
Season record: 25-43, seventh place (23.0 GB) in Southeast Division of Triple-A East
Remember June, when the Tides were inching back toward respectability? Yeah, uh, so much for that. They’ve been absolutely horrific in July, losing 13 of their last 14 games. They won the opener of this week’s Gwinnett series to snap an eight-game slide, only to lose the final five games of the set.
The best Tides hitter this week was their newest one, outfielder Robert Neustrom, whose first six games since getting promoted from Bowie couldn’t have gone much better. The 2018 fifth-round pick collected six hits and led the club with two home runs, including this unconventional one:
If you’re looking for quality pitching, you won’t find much of it at Norfolk, where the only decent starting performance this week was Konner Wade’s six-inning, one-run victory Tuesday. Dean Kremer’s season-long struggles at every level continued when he was tagged for three runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings Saturday, which actually lowered his Norfolk ERA to 6.98. Prospects Kyle Bradish (#12 per Pipeline) and Kevin Smith (#15) were also shaky, combining to allow eight runs in seven innings, though Bradish (one walk, seven strikeouts) had much better control than Smith (four of each). Knuckleballer Mickey Jannis was tattooed for nine runs in his outing without getting out of the fourth inning.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Yusniel Diaz (#8)/LHP Zac Lowther (#9): Injuries have felled these two top-10 prospects, as Lowther was placed on the IL with a strained left shoulder last Tuesday, while Diaz is suffering from turf toe and missed the entire week, though he remains on the active roster.
- 2B/OF Jahmai Jones (#16): While the drumbeat continues for the Orioles to promote Jones, he didn’t do much to help his cause this week, going 3-for-22 with seven strikeouts. He made five errorless starts at second and one in left field.
- IF/OF Tyler Nevin (#21): Just like Jones, Nevin had only three hits in six games and struck out seven times. Nevin’s 12 home runs still lead the Tides, but he has just one in his last 16 games.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
This week: 4-2 vs. Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies)
Season record: 41-29, second place (2.0 GB) in Southwest Division of Double-A Northeast
Seriously, you guys, what is it going to take to get Adley Rutschman out of Bowie? The top prospect in baseball continues to lay waste to Double-A pitching, and this week was his best yet: a .409 batting average (9-for-22), 1.506 OPS, three home runs, three doubles, a whopping 11 RBIs, and seven more walks to boost his league-leading total to 51. Plus he continues to do things like this defensively:
Don't. Run. On. Adley. Rutschman. pic.twitter.com/NGMa2r2Ejk— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) July 22, 2021
Rutschman’s dominance earned him Double-A Northeast League Player of the Week honors. Offensively and defensively, he’s proved everything he needs to prove at this level. This would have been the perfect time for the Orioles to announce his promotion to Norfolk, seeing as the Baysox are going on the road for the next 12 games while the Tides come home for the week. Heck, after the Futures Game would have been the perfect time, too. And yet...still nothing. Come on, Mike Elias! Give this guy a challenge already.
While Rutschman dazzled, his fellow much-hyped battery mate Grayson Rodriguez (#2) proved to be mortal. In his lone start this week, Rodriguez was pulled in the second inning after throwing 46 pitches, giving up four runs. His first inning was fine — three strikeouts, sullied by a solo homer — but he couldn’t get out of his own way in the second, issuing two walks, a hit batsman, and a bases-loaded double to bring about an early exit. Even still, his Bowie ERA sits at 2.83. Yeah, I think he’s going to be fine.
Other pitching prospects sparkled this week. Mike Baumann (#7) continues to rebound impressively from his disastrous start to the season, twirling six shutout innings this week in which he struck out seven, walked one, and allowed two hits. Baumann, whose Bowie ERA stood at 12.79 on June 6, has turned in strong outings in six of his last seven starts to lower that mark to 4.89. His sluggish start probably dashed any hopes of Baumann making it to the majors this season, but it’s good to see he’s back on track.
Meanwhile, righty Kyle Brnovich, not currently ranked as a top-30 prospect but making a bid to become one, was sensational on Thursday, racking up five scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, no walks, and just three hits allowed. The 23-year-old from the Dylan Bundy trade has been sensational in his first professional season, posting a 2.45 ERA in five Double-A games after a 2.36 ERA in eight starts at Aberdeen. He’s got 75 strikeouts and just 13 walks.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Kyle Stowers (#23): Speaking of guys who have given their prospect status a jolt, Stowers — who homered and lashed three doubles this week — is hitting .302/.408/.585 with seven homers in 30 games for Bowie, even better numbers than he had at Aberdeen before his June promotion. The 2019 competitive balance round pick is still strikeout-prone, but it’s certainly not holding him back as yet.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
This week: 2-4 vs. Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
Season record: 38-33, second place (8.5 GB) in North Division of High-A East
Despite being two years apart in age, Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg seem to be joined at the hip as prospects. They rank consecutively on Pipeline’s list (Henderson #5, Westburg #6), they’ve spent this year as teammates both at Delmarva and Aberdeen, and they play alongside each other on the left side of the infield (Henderson started two games at short and four games at third this week; Westburg, four at short and one at third). And this week, they were the two best hitters on the IronBirds. Each batted .381 with an OPS over 1.000, and the duo combined for six extra-base hits, eight runs, five RBIs, and seven walks. Westburg now has an .850 OPS at Aberdeen and Henderson .783.
The two best pitching prospects for Aberdeen are lefty Drew Rom (#25) and righty Garrett Stallings (#26), and neither disappointed this week, with each delivering a strong five-inning, three-hit performance. Stallings blanked the Renegades while Rom allowed a solo homer, and the two combined for 11 strikeouts. They earned Aberdeen’s only two wins of the week. Rom, a 2018 fourth-rounder, is a perfect 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA and 9.7 strikeout rate this year while being more than two years young for the level.
Righty Zach Peek, another piece of the Bundy trade along with Bradish and Brnovich, made his High-A debut after being promoted from Delmarva last week. He led the IronBirds with seven strikeouts this week, continuing his fantastic 13.0 K/9 rate this year, and recorded a four-inning save despite allowing four runs.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Adam Hall (#11): Hall played just two games this week (going 1-for-5) and didn’t make an appearance after leaving Wednesday’s game in the fifth inning. There’s presumably an injury situation here, though I haven’t seen one reported.
- OF Hudson Haskin (#13): Haskin, last year’s second round pick, was another prospect making his Aberdeen debut this week following a strong 57 games at Low-A. He had five hits, all singles, and two RBIs in 19 at-bats.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
This week: 2-5 vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland)
Season record: 41-30, second place (0.5 GB) in North Division of Low-A East
It was a rare seven-game week for the Shorebirds — who played a Wednesday doubleheader to make up a May rainout — and it wasn’t a good one. Their rough series dropped them behind the Salem Red Sox in the North Division, marking the first time since early May the Shorebirds are not in first place.
The Shorebirds tied for the fewest runs this week (26) of any of the 12 teams in the Low-A East League, despite a .769 OPS that was fourth-best. It was one of those weeks where they just couldn’t buy a clutch hit, batting .170 with runners in scoring position. The star of the offense was outfielder Lamar Sparks, who stroked 11 hits — five more than any other Shorebird — and homered. The 22-year-old Sparks has been in the Orioles’ system since 2017 but saddled by injuries; this year is his first out of rookie ball.
On the pitching side, unheralded righty Noah Denoyer is opening some eyes this year, and that continued with a six-inning, one-run quality start this week. The 23-year-old undrafted free agent holds a tidy 2.70 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 53.1 innings this season, though he’s also walking a batter nearly every two innings.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Darell Hernaiz (#27): The 19-year-old is holding his own against competitors who are, on average, about 2.5 years older than him. Hernaiz collected six hits this week and is 14 for his last 41 (.341).
Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League
The big news down in the FCL was Coby Mayo (#14 prospect), last year’s fourth round pick, powering the first three home runs of his professional career — two for the Orioles Black squad, one for Orioles Orange. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez (#28) and lefty Luis Ortiz (#30), two of the top signings from Elias’ inaugural international amateur class in 2019, are off to slow starts. Gonzalez is batting .207 with a .648 OPS and one homer, while Ortiz has a 6.17 ERA in five relief appearances. Keep an eye on righty Jean Pinto, part of the Jose Iglesias trade return, who has a 1.80 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 20 innings so far.
Weather wreaked havoc out in the DSL, with the Orioles 1 squad playing just one game this week and Orioles 2 playing two. Shortstop Maikol Hernandez (#18) is 2-for-12 in five games, and catcher Samuel Basallo (#24) is 2-for-16. Hernandez and Basallo were the Orioles’ first-ever seven-figure international signings, part of the 2020 amateur class.
Last week, Grayson Rodriguez’s 12-strikeout performance earned him Camden Chat’s player of the week honors for the second time this year, making him the first repeat winner in our poll (and still the only pitcher to win). He won’t be a candidate this week after his dismal outing, but his teammate Rutschman could become our second repeat winner after taking home the honors in week 4. Other winners this year include Henderson, Westburg, Johnny Rizer, Cadyn Grenier, J.D. Mundy, Patrick Dorrian, and Stowers.
Who is your Orioles minor league Player of the Week?
This poll is closed
Robert Neustrom, Norfolk (1.041 OPS, 2 HR, 4 RBI in first week at Triple-A)
Adley Rutschman, Bowie (.409 AVG, 1.506 OPS, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 7 BB, Double-A Northeast Player of the Week)
Mike Baumann, Bowie (6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W)
Kyle Brnovich, Bowie (5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K)
Gunnar Henderson, Aberdeen (.381 AVG, 1.119 OPS, 3 2B, 5 BB, 3 SB)
Lamar Sparks, Delmarva (.423 AVG, 1.115 OPS, 11 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
Tuesday’s scheduled games:
- Norfolk: vs. Durham, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD
- Bowie: at Richmond, 6:35 PM. Starter: TBD
- Aberdeen: vs. Bowling Green, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD
- Delmarva: at Fredericksburg, 7:05 PM. Starter: TBD