The 2021 Orioles season has been one ongoing reminder that the better Orioles future we started dreaming about by necessity three years ago is not yet the present. One week of minor league action pronounces neither success nor failure for the rebuilding project, but it’s certainly a lot more fun when there’s good news to discuss.
Tuesdays on Camden Chat feature a recap of the last week’s worth of minor league games, with specific focus on how the team’s top 30 prospects (as ranked by MLB Pipeline) have been performing. Now that the draft pick signing deadline has passed, Pipeline will soon be updating their prospect rankings to include 2021 draft picks and any movement based on new 2021 information. This has not happened yet, so for this week, the list is the same that it has been.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 5-2 vs. Durham Bulls (Rays)
- Season record: 30-45, sixth place (20 GB) of seven teams in Southeast division of Triple-A East
There have been more bad weeks than good ones for the top Orioles affiliate this season, something that has often been reflected in the performance of the ranked prospects. This week had a pleasant reversal of that trend, especially among pitching prospects.
Mike Baumann (#7) made his long-awaited Triple-A debut this week. Thanks to rain, this turned into a five inning complete game. Baumann’s Tides debut saw him give up two runs on four hits with 74 pitches thrown in five innings. Baumann struck out four and did not walk anyone. I think we can call that something to build on.
This was a good week for a couple of pitching prospects who’ve taken some lumps since being promoted to Norfolk. They are Kyle Bradish (#12) and Kevin Smith (#15), who each had an ERA of 0.00 for the week. Bradish allowed only an unearned run in a 5.1 inning start. Smith’s 4.2 inning outing saw him give up just one hit, though he walked four while striking out four. These guys need to put up some more zeroes. Smith has a 5.26 ERA through seven Norfolk starts. Bradish is slightly lower at a 5.09 ERA in 11 starts.
The Most Interesting Man In Norfolk, Jahmai Jones (#16) had a pair of home runs on the week, though with just 4-23 hitting and no walks, his overall batting line took a dip. Jones now has an .811 OPS for the year. I’d still rather see him play second base instead of Pat Valaika in Baltimore right now. By the way, one of Jones’s home runs was an inside-the-parker:
TIDES ARE RUNNING WILD!!!! Norfolk gets another inside-the-park home run!!!! This time it's @jamjones7 crushing a pitch off the centerfield wall and races around to score! Harbor Park goes wild!!!#SCtop10— Norfolk Tides (@NorfolkTides) July 31, 2021
B5 | Norfolk 8, Durham 2 pic.twitter.com/TLn8lZGDDf
Other notable prospects
- IF Rylan Bannon (#20) - Hitless in 13 at-bats for the week. Drew six walks to keep a .316 OBP. Season line: .141/.247/.281 of 38 games. Like an elementary school report card, needs improvement.
- OF/1B Tyler Nevin (#21) - 4-23 hitting with no extra base hits or walks. Nevin’s performance has sagged in the last month, with a .603 OPS.
- OF Robert Neustrom (unranked) - The 2018 fifth round pick is hitting .268/.367/.561 in 13 games since getting promoted to this level. It’s going to take more than that to force himself into the picture, but it’s a nice start.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 5-1 vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
- Season record: 46-30, second place (2 GB) of six teams in Southwest division of Double-A Northeast
The first question I ask myself every time I sit down and look at some Bowie results is: How did Grayson Rodriguez (#2) do? This week’s answer is not one of the more exciting ones. Nightwing’s lone start was two innings, cut short by rain, and it wasn’t great while it was going on. He walked three men in two innings, and that’s after his start two weeks ago went just 1.2 innings with two walks and a hit batter and four runs allowed.
OK, so how did Adley Rutschman (#1) do? He hit a home run this week, which is nice, but only had four hits in 24 at-bats overall. There’s nothing to complain about with Rutschman’s season batting line of .271/.396/.498, except maybe that he hasn’t been promoted to Norfolk yet. Enjoy Rutschman’s home run:
That's 16 dingers in 70 games for @Orioles top prospect (MLB No. 2) Adley Rutschman of the @BowieBaysox. pic.twitter.com/ezKZHfj9tx— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 28, 2021
One guy who didn’t have any problems hitting this week was Kyle Stowers (#22). The outfielder posted a .989 OPS over his six games this week and in 36 games for Bowie, the 2019 second round pick is batting over .300, OBPing over .400, and slugging over .500.
Keep an eye on the strikeouts. Stowers has gone down on strikes in 31.5% of plate appearances this season. At the MLB level, only three qualified batters have struck out that often in 2021. Stowers has made it work so far. I like his eight home runs since being promoted to Bowie.
Other notable prospects
- LHP Drew Rom (#25) - The 21-year-old Rom made his first start at the level this week, striking out six in a five inning outing where he gave up a run on four hits and two walks.
- RHP Cody Sedlock (unranked) - The top O’s pick from the 2016 draft has had an up-and-down season that’s been swinging up lately. In two starts this week, Sedlock struck out 13 batters in 11 innings with just one walk. Over the last month, his K/BB ratio is 30/2.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 1-5 vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays)
- Season record: 39-38, second place (10.5 GB) of five teams in North division of High-A East
Two weeks ago, the IronBirds were 13 games above .500. Things have gone in the other direction since then, mostly because they are giving up a ton of runs. Aberdeen’s pitching/defense allowed five or more runs in all five losses this week.
One guy who did his best to make up for the pitching struggling is infielder Jordan Westburg (#6), who had maybe his best week yet in the two months since he was promoted to this level. Westburg smashed three homers and two doubles while hitting 7-22 overall, and he added six walks for a .500 OBP for the week. In 51 games for Aberdeen, Westburg is hitting .299/.407/.497. I wonder if he has any chance of seeing Bowie - a second in-season promotion - before the end of September.
Less successful at the plate this week was Westburg’s fellow infielder Gunnar Henderson (#5). Henderson homered once in five games this week, but had only two hits in 20 at-bats. As a 20-year-old in High-A, his .737 OPS through 34 games is acceptable if not hype-intensifying. Last decade, Manny Machado’s age 19 season saw him have a .739 OPS at the MLB level.
Other notable prospects
- OF Hudson Haskin (#13) - 7-25 hitting with a pair of stolen bases in his second week of action since being promoted to Aberdeen. Across two levels, Haskin has 20 steals in 25 attempts this year.
- RHP Garrett Stallings (#26) - Bombed for six runs in one four-inning start this week. Stallings has pitched in 15 games for Aberdeen, with a 4.53 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and 6.2 K/BB ratio.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 2-4 vs. Fredericksburg Nationals
- Season record: 43-34, second place (2.5 GB) of four teams in North division of Low-A East
For some time now, the lowest Orioles full-season affiliate has only had one active player from Pipeline’s top 30 prospects list. That’s Darell Hernaiz (#27), who ended up as one of the more productive Shorebirds hitters this week. Among his four hits in four games were a double and a home run. Hernaiz started off the season slow, but he’s now OPSing .790 for the last two weeks, which isn’t bad for a guy who’s still younger than this year’s college draftees.
Could that change when the top 30 list is updated? Maybe, although I’d be surprised if the Shorebirds get any more top 30 Orioles prospects until 2021 picks are added to the list and assigned to the level. In the meantime, one guy I’m keeping an eye on is Jean Carmona, acquired for Jonathan Schoop in 2018 and only reaching full season ball this year.
If you scour the comments of Camden Chat you’d find me off-handedly dismissing Carmona as a bust on that basis. He may deserve a bit better than that. Now 21, Carmona went 8-27 this week with two doubles and a home run, good for an .826 OPS for the week. The infielder now has a .774 OPS in 38 games since joining this level.
Other notable prospects
There just aren’t many to be found here. This team was loaded when the season began and dudes got promoted. One of the few pitching standouts this week was reliever Adam Stauffer, a 19th round pick back in 2017 who’s 22 now. Stauffer pitched four scoreless, hitless innings this week to get to a 2.36 ERA and 1.019 WHIP for the season, with 43 strikeouts in 34.1 innings.
Florida Complex League
There are two Orioles affiliates here. Orioles Black is 12-9. Orioles Orange is 3-20, with the worst record of the 18 teams in this league.
2021 first round pick Colton Cowser made his professional debut for Orioles Orange yesterday, turning in a 2-4 performance, including a home run, in his first game. Coby Mayo (#14) continues to put up good numbers in Florida, now hitting .339/.453/.548 in 20 games. Another prospect currently on the Pipeline top 30 is outfielder Luis Gonzalez (#28). The 18-year-old is batting .190/.320/.317 through 21 games played.
19-year-old Stiven Acevedo, an outfielder who was part of Mike Elias’s first July 2 class with the Orioles, has also had an intriguing first few weeks in Florida. Through 18 games, he is hitting .352/.446/.463. Acevedo’s 19th birthday was yesterday. Here he is with a birthday homer:
#orioles OF prospect Stiven Acevedo turns 19 today, and he celebrated with this Home Run!! Happy Birthday Stiven #hitter #offense #prospects pic.twitter.com/7EW8hK82Mv— Eric-Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) August 2, 2021
Dominican Summer League
This league also has two Orioles affiliates. Orioles 1 is 4-7. Orioles 2 is 6-7.
Orioles 1 is the team with the Orioles two seven-figure bonus players from the delayed 2020 July 2 class. Catcher Samuel Basallo (#24) is hitting .214/.267/.357 through nine games. Shortstop Maikol Hernandez (#18) has also played in nine games so far, hitting just .160/.313/.200. It’s a long way from the DSL to Baltimore.
Mike Elias updated the status of a number of Orioles minor leaguers prior to the trade deadline. Some news was better than others.
- OF Heston Kjerstad (#3) - Remains sidelined due to myocarditis. Elias said “we may get some good news soon.”
- LHP DL Hall (#4) - Out for the year with what’s now being called a stress reaction with a bone in his throwing elbow.
- OF Yusniel Diaz (#8) - Has not played since July 11 due to turf toe, although he’s yet to be placed on the injured list.
- IF Terrin Vavra (#10) - Out since June 13. Elias said he could be doing rehab games within a week from now and is a candidate for the Arizona Fall League.
- IF Adam Hall (#11) - Return expected around mid-August for a quadriceps strain that’s sidelined him since July 21.
- 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) - Has not played since June 1. Underwent surgery for sports hernia, out for season but could play in fall league.
- SS Joey Ortiz (#29) - Has undergone season-ending shoulder surgery for a torn labrum.
I think maybe it’s not good when more than a quarter of your top prospects are currently injured, although I don’t know if that’s better or worse than league average.
Rutschman romped to a victory in last week’s player of the week poll, having been the choice of 86% of our voters after a week in which Rutschman won Double-A Northeast Player of the Week honors and OPSed 1.506. That’s his second win of the year, joining Rodriguez, who’s also won two. Neither of these guys have a chance to get a third win this week.
Winners to date: Rodriguez x2, Rutschman x2, Henderson, Westburg, Johnny Rizer, Cadyn Grenier, J.D. Mundy, and Stowers.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week?
This poll is closed
Kyle Stowers, Bowie (.989 OPS this week)
Jordan Westburg, Aberdeen (3 HR, .500 OBP this week)
Jean Carmona, Delmarva (8-27 this week including 3 XBH)
Colton Cowser, FCL (homer in first pro game)