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Orioles minor league week in review: The party is here, for now

Orioles prospects are back! Grayson Rodriguez began his season as good as advertised.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
The face when you strike out seven guys in four scoreless innings.
Photo by Phelan Ebenhack/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The refrain has been a familiar one for Orioles fans for the last few years. The fun in the organization, and the hope of a better future, is all to be found in the minor leagues. The opening games of the 2022 season for the big league team have done little to change this narrative. A number of players are expected to arrive during the year, but they are not here yet.

Each Tuesday on Camden Chat this season, since there are no scheduled minor league games on Mondays, we will once again be recapping the week that just finished for the O’s farm, with a particular eye on players who are on top Orioles prospects lists. Maybe if we’re lucky, by June some of these guys will be showing up in our regular Orioles coverage.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • This week: 3-3 vs. Charlotte Knights (White Sox)
  • Next: at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (4-1, Yankees)
  • Season record: 3-3, tied for fifth place (2 GB) of ten teams in International League East

Until he arrives in Baltimore, the first guy whose performance I want to know about will be Grayson Rodriguez. (Well, it’s kind of a tie between him and Adley Rutschman, but the latter hasn’t played yet due to that strained triceps from spring training.) Rodriguez made the Friday night start for the Tides, holding Charlotte to just a hit and a walk in a four-inning start. He threw only 61 pitches, so we can be pretty sure this was a planned short start. Rodriguez dominated them with seven strikeouts. I am looking forward to when he can be fully unleashed.

Do you want to see all seven of Rodriguez’s strikeouts? Yeah, you do. Here you go:

The first series for the Tides was a good one for a couple of players whose prospect stars have fallen of late who are trying to get back on the radar. Yusniel Díaz (#28 on our composite list) has already hit two homers in five games with a small sample size but still impressive OPS of 1.333. Jahmai Jones (#21) is not far behind at a 1.111 OPS. It’s going to take more than one good week for these guys to rebuild any hype (same for Rylan Bannon, .900 OPS through six games) but hey, it’s a nice start for them.

This was also a good week for a number of Tides pitchers. One who you won’t find ranked on any prospect lists but who could pitch his way into the Orioles bullpen anyway is Cole Uvila, a former Rangers draft pick who the O’s took in the minor league Rule 5 last year. Uvila has already pitched in three games; he’s yet to allow a baserunner while striking out four. Worth keeping an eye on.

Other notable prospects:

  • C Adley Rutschman (#1) - Hasn’t played yet.
  • OF Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) - Hit by a pitch during the first game and has not played since for “precautionary reasons.” Tough sell to keep calling it that after five days.
  • P Kyle Bradish (#8 tied) - Spent a few extra days in extended spring training, has not pitched yet.
  • IF/OF Terrin Vavra (#12) - Hasn’t socked dingers like some teammates, but a .273/.333/.455 line will get him to the big leagues in some role.
  • P Kyle Brnovich (#22) - Walked four, struck out two in a four inning start with two earned runs allowed. Cut down the walks!
  • P Kevin Smith (#24) - The only Norfolk starter to pitch twice already, Smith has allowed two earned runs in 7.2 innings. Problem: Six walks and a HBP. Throw strikes!
  • OF Robert Neustrom (unranked) - The O’s 2018 fifth rounder is with Díaz in the two homer club. If he follows up on this .938 OPS start, he may play into the roster picture somehow.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • This week: 1-2 vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
  • Next: at Binghamton (1-2, Mets)
  • Season record: 1-2, tied for last place (1 GB) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest

There are no grand pronouncements to be made after three games. What can be said is the first series could have gone better for Gunnar Henderson (#3 tied), who went just 2-12 over his first few games. His older infield teammate Jordan Westburg (#6) has already homered twice in a 5-13 first weekend. Hudson Haskin (#18 tied) exceeded even that, blasting three home runs in one game on Wednesday. Add in another three doubles and six of his seven hits so far went for extra bases.

Pitcher Antonio Velez (unranked) only joined the organization within a week of Opening Day in the Tanner Scott/Cole Sulser trade. He made a nice first impression, striking out seven in four scoreless innings where he gave up a hit and two walks. Velez is one more guy in the pile of “not a lot of velocity” pitchers the O’s have collected. Many of the rest have had rocky beginnings at higher levels. It’ll be worth seeing if Velez can earn his way to a higher level and avoid the same fate once he gets there.

Other notable prospects:

  • P D.L. Hall (#3 tied) - On the development list, which means he is still in Sarasota building up innings before joining the affiliate.
  • IF Joey Ortiz (#14) - 2-10 with a triple through three games. He did take a pair of walks, so he ends up with a .708 OPS so far.
  • P Drew Rom (#15) - The lefty had a season debut to forget. He was socked for three runs in only three innings as batters hit .429 against him.
  • IF Adam Hall (#28) - Four hits in two games with a pair of stolen bases. Good start to try to rebound.
  • P Logan Gillaspie (#29) - The 40-man roster reliever went 1.2 scoreless innings in his debut outing, striking out three batters.

A little bit of slick defense from Ortiz. The Orioles infield could probably use this:

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • This week: 3-0 vs. Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies)
  • Next: vs. Wilmington (2-1, Walgreens)
  • Season record: 3-0, first place of five teams in South Atlantic League North

Five players in the top 23 O’s prospects are in Aberdeen’s lineup. If this team is putting up lots of runs, it’s probably a good sign. They dropped 22 runs in three games on the Phillies affiliate. That’ll work. Topping the chart for now is John Rhodes (#23), who played in only two games but already has six hits and a pair of walks for a .900 OBP. Yes, it is a small sample size.

Last year’s first round pick Colton Cowser (#3 tied) is beginning at this level. He’s 4-12 through the first weekend, with two doubles and a triple; he’s also walked three times and stolen a base. Coby Mayo (#7) homered in his first at-bat of the season, though he ended up finishing the series with just 2-13 hitting.

The draft picks and trade acquisitions that Mike Elias has made since coming to town mean that this Aberdeen roster is currently completely bereft of any pitchers who are among the top 30 Orioles prospects. That doesn’t mean none of them will ever be big leaguers, but there simply aren’t any must-follow pitching prospects here yet.

One guy who’s become a favorite would-be sleeper among Orioles Twitter prospect hounds is Jean Pinto. His first outing stunk, with four earned runs allowed in just two innings; he walked three and gave up three hits. Better luck next time.

Check out Cowser showing off some speed with a triple that turned into a little league home run thanks to a throwing error (never mind he would have been out by a mile with a good throw):

Other notable prospects:

  • IF Connor Norby (#11) - 5-14 hitting through three games; he’s yet to draw a walk, for which he was known in college, but as is said often here: Small sample size.
  • IF César Prieto (#16 tied) - The recently-signed Cuban also went 5-14 this week with no walks or extra bases for a perfect Magnum slash line, .357/.357/.357.
  • IF TT Bowens (unranked) - The undrafted free agent from 2020 will have to mash to get anywhere. 6-12 hitting with two doubles and a homer for a 1.517 OPS is a nice beginning.

Low-A Delmarva

  • This week: 1-2 vs. Fredericksburg Nationals
  • Next: at Lynchburg (0-3, Guardians)
  • Season record: 1-2, fourth place (2 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North

Everything I said about Aberdeen’s pitching staff is true of Delmarva’s entire roster. One of the team’s top 30 prospects is here as the season begins. Elias’s drafts and trades have not filled this roster up with current household names. There are, however, a number of still fairly young players with promise getting their first taste of full season affiliates. If the O’s are fortunate, some of these players are future top prospects.

The one guy on our composite ranking is Darell Hernaiz (#29 tied), the fifth round pick in Elias’s first draft. Still only 20, Hernaiz is back at Delmarva after playing 94 games here last season. He went 6-13 over the first weekend, with no walks or extra base hits, for another identical slash line: .462/.462/.462.

A few of Elias’s deep cut trade acquisitions are now hitting this level. Noelberth Romero (unranked) arrived for Andrew Cashner back in 2019. His two-game OPS of 1.262 leads the team so far. Mishael Deson (unranked, Mychal Givens trade) went 5-13 with a double for an early .847 OPS. Less successful in the first weekend was Isaac De Leon (unranked, Richard Bleier trade), with one hit in eight at-bats. It’s early.

Romero hit a home run on Saturday that may not have landed yet:

Other notable prospects:

There are none, for now.

**

Each week last season, we asked people to pick an Orioles minor leaguer of the week based on their performance. There were a total of 13 different weekly winners across the season, with multiple wins for all of Rodriguez, Rutschman, Stowers, and Westburg. Here are your choices for the first week of 2022 minor league action:

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week ending 4/10?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Grayson Rodriguez, Norfolk (7 SO, 4 shutout IP in AAA debut)
    (144 votes)
  • 47%
    Hudson Haskin, Bowie (three home runs in one game)
    (215 votes)
  • 3%
    TT Bowens, Aberdeen (1.517 OPS through first three games)
    (18 votes)
  • 16%
    Yusniel Díaz (two homers, 1.333 OPS through five games)
    (77 votes)
454 votes total Vote Now