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Orioles minor league week in review: Aberdeen keeps rocking, the rest struggle

One Orioles affiliate has the best record in its league. The rest are below .500.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Grayson Rodriguez had a good week for Norfolk. Many of his teammates did not.
Photo by Phelan Ebenhack/MLB Photos via Getty Images

For a minute there, it almost seemed like some of the excitement that’s been exclusively in the Orioles minor leagues for a while was getting some MLB work in. The Orioles spent the first week and a half of May doing an impersonation of a good team. It seemed like Adley Rutschman was coming imminently. The Orioles got swept by the worst-in-the-AL Tigers, their next ten games are against the Yankees and Rays, and Rutschman still isn’t here. Back to the minor leagues we will have to go for excitement.

Each week throughout the minor league season, Tuesdays on Camden Chat will feature a roundup of the past week of action on the Orioles farm, with a particular focus on Camden Chat’s composite top O’s prospects. It’s been fun down there more weeks than not since the season began. We can hope that will continue even once Rutschman and others get promoted.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • This week: 1-5 vs. Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)
  • Next: at Charlotte Knights (15-21, White Sox)
  • Season record: 15-21, three-way tie for sixth place (9 GB) in International League East

This was not a good week for this team. This will not be the last time this sentence is written about an affiliate in this review. May in general has not been very good for the Tides, who are 3-10 in the month, and losers of five straight. They lost the Top Prospect Duel (Grayson Rodriguez and Matthew Liberatore as pitchers, with Adley Rutschman and Nolan Gorman in the lineups) and a bunch of other games besides.

The Tides have a number of problems lately. One of them is this: People keep getting hurt. Fresh additions to the injured list this week were Jahmai Jones (#21, elbow inflammation) and Yusniel Diaz (#28, hamstring again). Among prospects of note, they join Terrin Vavra (#12, last played April 20) and Kyle Brnovich (#22, Tommy John surgery this week) on the IL. It’s not great! Diaz was hitting 6-16 for the week with three stolen bases when he got hurt again.

With the top three Orioles prospects at this level now, we all might have hoped for better. Rutschman still seems to be getting his feet wet. He was just 3-21 at the plate, though he did add four walks for an OK-looking .308 OBP in six games. Was I hoping for more like a 13-21 so he’d have to be called up yesterday? Yeah. Baseball seldom delivers what I hope for.

Rodriguez fared a bit better in his lone start this week. Although the Tides came out on the wrong end of that Prospect Duel game, Grayson rebounded from a couple of shaky early innings to strike out eight batters over five innings. He threw 81 pitches while allowing a run on three hits and two walks. I’m looking forward to see when the Orioles push him to a 100 pitch threshold. We’re not there yet.

Here’s Rodriguez striking out fellow top 100 prospect Gorman:

D.L. Hall (#3 tied) is also here. The Orioles are still not really pushing Hall past about four innings or 65 pitches. The pitch count kept him from even completing four innings in either of his two starts this week. He allowed three runs across 6.2 innings. Impressive: 11 strikeouts. A little concerning: Four walks and two hit batters in the same time. As with Rodriguez, I’m looking forward to when they push him a little farther.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) - The good news: Two-thirds of his hits went for extra bases. The bad news: That’s because he only had three hits in 19 at-bats. Stowers is OPSing .711 for the season.
  • RHP Mike Baumann (#13) - Baumann continues going for multi-inning stints out of the Tides bullpen. He pitched once this week, giving up two runs while striking out six batters in three innings. Although he ranked this high on our composite list, I’m starting to feel like the team thinks other pitchers have moved past Baumann.
  • LHP Kevin Smith (#24) - Smith spent some time on the injured list and came back ... to also allow two runs in three innings and end up as the losing pitcher in a game. Still, through six Norfolk games, Smith is holding hitters to a .182 average.
  • RHP Logan Gillaspie (#29 tied) - The 40-man roster reliever racked up five scoreless innings of relief across two games in this week. Two hits and no walks. Not bad.
  • LHP Nick Vespi (unranked) - The 26-year-old lefty’s scoreless streak continued. Vespi added another 2.2 innings with a 0.00 ERA to his season tally and now has a 0.63 WHIP through 12 outings this season. I dig it.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • This week: 1-5 at Reading Fightin Phils
  • Next: vs. Hartford Yard Goats (19-14, Rockies)
  • Season record: 13-18, last place of six teams (6 GB) in Eastern League Southwest

Three of the five Baysox losses this week were only by one run, including both ends of a doubleheader (still seven inning games in the minors) on Sunday. Across the week, they suffered a loss where they scored ten runs, and another loss where they scored six.

One Bowie player who continues to pull his weight is GUNNAR HENDERSON (#3 tied) who carried an on-base streak from every game this season into that Sunday doubleheader, when an 0-4 finally snapped it. I keep putting his name in all caps because he’s still just 20 years old - three years younger than the average player in his league - and he’s rocking. He drew eight walks in six games this week, and is OPSing .937 for the season. I like this guy.

Other prospects on the Baysox roster were ahead of even him. Fellow infielder Jordan Westburg (#6) has scuffled some across the first month, but he turned it on this week with 6-21 hitting that included four doubles and a home run. He paid a price when not connecting hard, striking out 12 times, but it was good for a 1.019 OPS for the week. He’ll need some more like this to bring up his season OPS from .763.

With Hall promoted to Norfolk, one big draw from the Bowie staff is elsewhere. The next guy on the list was Drew Rom (#15), who landed on the injured list ten days ago. Also on the IL: A couple of interesting-to-date unranked arms in Zach Peek and Brandon Young. Sigh. This pitching staff got wrecked pretty good this week, allowing 11 runs in two different games. Let’s move on.

Other notable prospects:

  • IF Joey Ortiz (#14) - A .273/.385/.500 week for the shortstop is a nice boost, but like Westburg, he needs more of these. He’s OPSing just .670 through 28 games.
  • OF Hudson Haskin (#18 tied) - Homered for the first time in nearly a month this week, after having picked up four in the team’s first six games. Haskin is hitting just .154 through the first two weeks of May. He’s still OPSing .916 for the season, but is heading the wrong way.
  • OF Adam Hall (#27) - Remains on the injured list. Last game played May 1.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • This week: 5-1 at Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
  • Next: vs. Rome Braves (19-14)
  • Season record: 24-7, first place (7.5 game lead) of six teams in South Atlantic League North

As has been the case what feels like every week I’ve sat down to do one of these minor league weekly updates this year, Aberdeen is the only place where the team is cranking out the good news. Even that feels like it comes with an asterisk, because though the team scored 5+ runs in five of the six games this week, it was mostly not the big-name prospects cranking out that offense.

For instance, there is justifiably much hype for Coby Mayo (#7). Mayo went just 3-23 this week, though he did add his 7th home run of the season. Mayo is a younger 20 than Henderson and also one of the younger players in this league, but still, it’d be nice to see him rebound a bit from his current .233/.295/.474 batting line. The power is great!

Last year’s first round pick, Colton Cowser (#3 tied), walked six times in as many games this week and flashed some speed with three stolen bases. It’s been a bit of an odd season for Cowser, who’s striking out a lot more than ever before, nearly 34% of his plate appearances, even as he’s walking at about a one-in-six clip, which is great. Less great: Last year’s second rounder Connor Norby (#11) was hit in the head in his first plate appearance this week, came out of the game, and did not play again. Norby is now on the IL, though this was said to be an unrelated non-baseball thing.

The IronBirds pitching staff did its part this week. The largely-unheralded staff of guys continues to plug away. Perhaps opportunities will await in Bowie later for the most successful of them. The youngest guy in the rotation is 21-year-old Jean Pinto (unranked), who made two starts this week, combining to allow two runs in seven innings. Impressively, Pinto has struck out 36 batters in 26 innings this year, though this does come with a 4.85 ERA.

Other notable prospects:

  • IF César Prieto (#16 tied) - Returned from a hamstring injury mid-week, picking up right where he left off by going 6-12. Prieto has a 1.086 OPS across 21 games. He just turned 23 a week ago. I wonder when a spot will open at Bowie for him.
  • OF John Rhodes (#23) - Rhodes only had two hits this week, but he still managed to drive in five runs. He was on base a lot though, walking six times, which enabled him to steal four bases. Last year’s third rounder is OPSing .912 in 26 games. I see you, John.
  • RHP Justin Armbruester (unranked) - A brief shoutout for this 23-year-old, who gave up two runs in a six inning start this week. Armbruester has a 3.08 ERA across six starts, and impressively, an 11.3 K/9 and 8.25 K/BB ratio.

Oh yeah, and one more pitcher I might not have even thought to mention has earned Pitcher of the Week honors for the league. Congratulations to Connor Gillispie (don’t confuse him with Logan Gillaspie):

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • This week: 1-5 vs. Salem Red Sox
  • Next: vs. Fredericksburg Nationals (19-13)
  • Season record: 10-23, last place (9.5 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North

The Orioles lowest affiliate holds the distinction of having the worst team batting line in the Carolina League and the worst team ERA in the league as well. That’s how you end up 10-23. It’s true that this is a young team, but not any younger than the league average. Shorebirds batters are 20.7 years old against a league average of 20.8. Pitchers are 21.9 years old, exactly league average.

The team’s lone guy on our top 30 remains Darell Hernaiz (#29 tied). Hernaiz added his sixth homer of the season this past week, but it was one of only three hits in six games. Even so, Hernaiz is holding an .865 OPS for the season. This is a repeat at this level after he posted a .691 OPS as a 19-year-old here last year.

A hot hitter for Delmarva this week - really the only hot hitter - was 20-year-old outfielder Isaac Bellony (unranked), whose 11th inning three-run home run on Sunday snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Shorebirds. Bellony also had two doubles earlier in the game. He’d been hitless the three games prior to this, but the one big game gives him a good week. Through 27 games, Bellony is sitting on an .807 OPS.

Delmarva’s last-in-the-league pitching staff is not without a couple of names I’m keeping an eye on. 19-year-old (turning 20 next week) righty Juan De Los Santos (unranked) was the Shorebirds pitcher to make two starts this week. He notched 14 strikeouts in 11 innings, allowing three earned runs. De Los Santos has a 1.97 ERA and 1.06 WHIP for the season, holding batters to a .188 average against him.

De Los Santos picking up seven strikeouts in one of his outings, courtesy of the On The Verge Orioles prospect podcast:

Other notable prospects:

That remains all, for now.

**

The performance by GUNNAR HENDERSON heading into last week’s roundup post made him the runaway winner, being chosen by 83% of our readers for the Orioles minor league player of the week poll. He’s the fifth different winner this season, after Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, and Mayo. This week won’t be the week for our first repeat, as none of those past winners are on this poll. Make your choice!

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 5/9-5/15?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Grayson Rodriguez, Triple-A Norfolk (5 IP, 8 K in the Battle of the Prospects)
    (37 votes)
  • 16%
    Jordan Westburg, Double-A Bowie (.286/.400/.619 batting for the week, 5 XBH)
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    Justin Armbruester, High-A Aberdeen (6 IP, 2 ER, 8.25 K/BB ratio across whole season)
    (7 votes)
  • 62%
    Juan De Los Santos, Low-A Delmarva (2 starts, 14 K in 11 IP, 3 ER, 1.97 ERA for season)
    (134 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now