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Orioles minor league week in review: Norfolk continues hot start with near-sweep

The Tides won five of six this week thanks to Kyles Bradish and Stowers, while a slew of 2021 draft picks have put Aberdeen atop its division.

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
Kyle Bradish: Coming soon to an Orioles game near you?
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The minor league season has kicked into high gear, as the Orioles’ three non-Norfolk affiliates each played their first full, six-game series this week. And while there are still a few significant prospects who haven’t yet played due to injuries — looking at you, Adley Rutschman and D.L. Hall — there’s been no shortage of standout performances by those who have. Here’s our weekly roundup of Orioles minor league action.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • This week: 5-1 at Scranton Wilkes/Barre RailRiders (Yankees)
  • Next: vs. Durham Bulls (4-8, Rays)
  • Season record: 8-4, second place (1 GB) in International League East

At 8-4, the Tides matched their best start to a season since they became an Orioles affiliate in 2007, and it came on the strength of a near-sweep of the Yankees’ Triple-A club. Only a 1-0 loss in the series finale denied them a perfect week. Better yet, the Tides’ success came largely on the backs of actual prospects rather than veteran minor league roster fillers.

Let’s start on the mound, where you know you’ve had a good week as an O’s pitching prospect when you upstage even Grayson Rodriguez. That’s exactly what Kyle Bradish did, earning International League Pitcher of the Week honors after two dominant starts against the RailRiders this week. Bradish, tied as the #8 prospect in Camden Chat’s composite top 30 list, retired 12 of 14 batters in his season debut last Tuesday, striking out six without walking anyone. He followed it up with another two-hitter Sunday, a three-strikeout, two-walk effort. He needed just 67 pitches to get through five innings, and likely could’ve pitched deeper into the game if the O’s weren’t being careful with their youngsters’ arms.

The aforementioned Grayson Rodriguez (#2 prospect) was no slouch himself, racking up eight strikeouts in a five-inning start this week. Like Bradish, he was lifted after 67 pitches, and was an efficient, strike-throwing machine, issuing no walks. Both right-handed hurlers are making a case for a major league promotion in John Means’ absence, with Bradish expected to arrive a bit ahead of Rodriguez.

Norfolk’s offense was explosive this week, rattling off back-to-back games with 12 or more runs. On Thursday, the Tides pounded out 16 hits and four homers; on Friday, 15 knocks and three long balls. The offensive surge coincided with the return of Kyle Stowers (#8, tied), who was hit by a pitch in Norfolk’s season opener and missed a week. He made up for lost time, bashing two home runs and four doubles this week while driving in seven. Also impressive was Tyler Nevin (unranked), who collected 10 RBIs, including eight in one game Friday.

Other notable prospects:

  • C Adley Rutschman (#1) - The Birds’ top prospect, still rehabbing a triceps injury suffered in spring, has yet to make his season debut. But Mike Elias said this week that Rutschman will return to game action “very soon.”
  • IF/OF Terrin Vavra (#12) - Vavra has been the straw that stirs the drink atop the Norfolk lineup, posting a .467 OBP and reaching base 14 times this week. The versatile 24-year-old has a .407 OBP this season while playing second base (four starts), center field (five), and left field (one).
  • 2B Jahmai Jones (#21) - Just a 4-for-19 (.211) week for Jones, though he contributed two doubles and three walks.
  • RHP Kyle Brnovich (#22) - The other Kyle B. from the Dylan Bundy trade, Brnovich was no Bradish, giving up three runs and three walks in a four-inning start this week.
  • LHP Kevin Smith (#24) - Despite his status as an okayish prospect, Smith was removed from the Orioles’ 40-man roster this week and went unclaimed, remaining in the organization. He continues to battle his control, walking two batters in three innings this week.
  • OF Yusniel Diaz (#28) - Poor Yusniel. No sooner had he gotten off to a torrid start — a 1.269 OPS in his first six games — than he suffered a hamstring injury in his first at-bat this week and landed on the IL. Will the snakebitten prospect ever stay healthy?

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • This week: 3-2 at Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
  • Next: vs. Akron RubberDucks (5-4, Guardians)
  • Season record: 4-4, fourth place (1.5 GB) in Eastern League Southwest

All eyes are on Bowie’s prospect-laden infield, where both Gunnar Henderson (#3, tied) and Jordan Westburg (#6) had solid weeks, with the former reaching base 11 times and the latter clubbing two homers and posting an .860 OPS. Joey Ortiz (#14) was less successful, batting .190 with one walk and six strikeouts. The three have been rotating around the diamond, with Henderson making starts at shortstop and third base, Ortiz at short and second, and Westburg at all three.

Pitching-wise, Drew Rom (#15) was Bowie’s standout this week, unleashing a dominant start in which he struck out eight batters over five scoreless innings, four of which were perfect frames. The 22-year-old southpaw, a holdover from Dan Duquette’s final draft in 2018, could be in line for a promotion to Norfolk sooner rather than later.

Other notable prospects:

  • LHP D.L. Hall (#3) - Still building up his workload at extended spring training.
  • OF Hudson Haskin (#18) - Following a great opening week, Haskin was hit by a pitch on Wednesday and hasn’t played since, though it doesn’t appear he’s been placed on the IL.
  • OF Adam Hall (#27) - Hall struck out nine times this week while reaching base eight. The former shortstop prospect has exclusively played outfield so far this year.
  • RHP Logan Gillaspie (t-#29) - The right-hander pitched twice this week, giving up one run. I continue to wonder why the O’s deemed a 25-year-old Double-A reliever to be worthy of a 40-man roster spot this offseason, but I’m not the expert.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • This week: 3-3 vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals)
  • Next: at Greensboro Grasshoppers (4-5, Pirates)
  • Season record: 6-3, tied for first place in South Atlantic League North

Outfielder Donta’ Williams, last year’s fourth round pick, paced the Aberdeen offense this week with a 1.133 OPS, seven hits, five walks, six RBIs, and even a team-leading three steals. Fellow 2021 draftee Connor Norby (#11 prospect) presented himself well, too, drawing a club-best six walks and popping a homer. On the other end of the spectrum was first round pick Colton Cowser (#3, tied), who suffered a miserable week that included 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

The first pitcher the O’s selected in last year’s draft, fifth rounder Carlos Tavera, worked 6.1 innings over two starts this week, striking out nine. Intriguing right-hander Jean Pinto, acquired in the Jose Iglesias trade, was much better in his second High-A start than in his first. He gave up two runs in four innings this week, with a nifty 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Elsewhere, righty Jensen Elliott hurled a long relief effort of four near-perfect innings with six strikeouts, while Ignacio Feliz was bombed for eight runs in a dismal 1.2-inning start.

Other notable prospects:

  • 3B Coby Mayo (#7) - The 20-year-old slugger didn’t go yard this week, but he did collect two doubles and a triple.
  • IF Cesar Prieto (t-#16) - The 2022 international signee from Cuba swatted two of the IronBirds’ three home runs this week, his first professional roundtrippers. He’s batting .297 in his short career, though he has yet to draw a walk in nine games.
  • OF John Rhodes (#23) - A 3-for-18 week for the 2021 third rounder. Not much else to say.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • This week: 3-3 at Lynchburg Hillcats (Guardians)
  • Next: vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (5-4, Cubs)
  • Season record: 4-5, fourth place (3 GB) in Carolina League North

This Shorebirds club is chock full of international prospects — both those signed by the Orioles and acquired in trades — which is something we haven’t seen in a stateside O’s affiliate in a long, long time. Among this week’s standouts was a rare, pre-Elias international signing, outfielder Isaac Bellony, whom the Dan Duquette regime signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican in 2018. Bellony thumped two home runs and two doubles as part of a team-best eight-hit week. Darell Hernaiz (29th, tied), too, homered twice and doubled twice, posting a 1.118 OPS for the week, and also flashed some impressive leather.

On the mound, 18-year-old righty Moises Chace, part of Elias’ first international class in 2019, had a spectacular Delmarva debut, striking out seven batters in four scoreless innings. Perhaps the strangest stat line of the week belonged to right-hander Dan Hammer, a 13th-round pick in 2019, who pitched 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run — yet issued seven walks and two hit by pitches. He likes to live dangerously, is all. What else would you expect from a guy named Dan Hammer?

**

Last week, Hudson Haskin’s three-homer game propelled him to victory in our first player of the week poll, with 47 percent of the vote. His injury this week eliminated any chance of a repeat victory. It’s a mostly Norfolk-heavy field of candidates this week. Who ya got?

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week ending 4/17?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Kyle Bradish, Norfolk (9 IP, 1 ER, 9 K, International League Pitcher of the Week)
    (253 votes)
  • 12%
    Tyler Nevin, Norfolk (.913 OPS, 9 H, and an 8-RBI game)
    (45 votes)
  • 15%
    Kyle Stowers, Norfolk (2 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBI, 1.308 OPS)
    (55 votes)
  • 0%
    Drew Rom, Bowie (5 IP, 0 ER, 8 K)
    (2 votes)
355 votes total Vote Now