In the fourth season of the Mike Elias-led Orioles rebuild project, it feels like it’s about time to start seeing some prospects at the MLB level. O’s fans have gotten the barest taste of this in the last week, with pitching prospect Kyle Bradish (our composite list’s #8 Orioles prospect) getting to make his debut. This was the first of hopefully many, but the rest simply aren’t here yet, so in the meantime we’re watching Rougned Odor and Chris Owings get at-bats and Travis Lakins Sr. soaking up innings.
Our eyes must remain turned to the farm for dreams of a better Orioles team. Each Tuesday on Camden Chat, with no minor league games scheduled on Mondays, we’ll be running through the last week of action in the system, with a particular focus on the top prospects who are being counted on to make their way up the ladder.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 1-5 at Gwinnett Stripers (Braves)
- Next: at Nashville Sounds (16-7, Brewers)
- Season record: 12-12, sixth place (2 GB) of ten teams in International League East
This was a brutal week for the Orioles highest affiliate, a pattern we’ll see repeated throughout this week’s update. The offense scored two or fewer runs in four of the six games, while the pitching staff and defense gave up five or more runs in all five losses.
The guy who matters the most here - at least until Adley Rutschman passes through - is Grayson Rodriguez (#2). This was not a good week for the O’s top pitching prospect. Rodriguez faced Gwinnett twice. In one game, he gave up three runs over four innings, while in the second, he gave up five runs in only 3.1 innings. One tough week shouldn’t cause a panic. It’s worth remembering that even the best of these prospects will stumble here and there. You may also be interested to know that the segment of Orioles Prospect Twitter dedicated enough to be watching the games felt his defense let Rodriguez down.
The Tides have a pair of non-40-man relievers who have yet to allow an earned run this season. Nick Vespi, a lefty, struck out four batters across 2.2 innings over this week. I’d rather see him in Baltimore than Paul Fry right now. Cole Uvila, a minor league Rule 5 pick this past winter, added 2.1 scoreless innings. I’d rather see him in Baltimore than Travis Lakins Sr.
The only hitter who had a positive week is unranked outfielder Robert Neustrom, who racked up 10 hits while teammates scuffled all around him. Neustrom, 25, improved to a .274/.354/.488 batting line in 22 games. He also stole four bases this week. That looks big league-y, if a space opens up in the Orioles outfield. Fellow outfielder Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) went 5-24 for the week. He’s OPSing .874 for the season, still pretty good even with a tough week.
At the bottom for Norfolk this week was Rylan Bannon (unranked), who began the season quite well but went 0-19 over these six games, and is now on an 0-26 hitless streak. The Manny Machado trade is the gift that keeps on never being given.
The Tides injury list is regrettably long and getting longer. Currently on it: Terrin Vavra (#12, hamstring), Kyle Brnovich (#22, UCL/possible Tommy John), Kevin Smith (#24), and Yusniel Díaz (#28, hamstring).
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 1-5 at Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
- Next: vs. Harrisburg Senators (12-9, Walgreens)
- Season record: 9-11, fifth place (3.5 GB) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest
One level down from Norfolk, the hitters also failed, scoring one or fewer runs in four of six games. The pitchers were a little less bad - Bowie lost a couple of these games by 2-1 and 3-1 scores. They were also dealt 8-0 and 9-1 losses.
Let’s start with some good news. Gunnar Henderson (#3 tied) just turned in a week where he walked more times (7) than struck out (5). He showed off some speed in stealing three bases. Still just 20 years old, Henderson is one of the youngest players in this whole league. Through 20 games, he’s batting .250/.427/.438. I’m down with that OBP.
Then there was the bad news. Infielder Jordan Westburg (#6) went just 3-28 for the week and did not draw a walk for an unsightly .357 OPS. Fellow infielder Joey Ortiz (#14) was little better with 2-18 hitting, though at least he walked three times.
Okay, but were the ranked pitching prospects any better? No, sorry. Drew Rom (#15) allowed nine baserunners and three runs in a three-inning start. 40-man reliever Logan Gillaspie (#29 tied) gave up two runs in two innings.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Hudson Haskin (#18 tied) - Like Henderson, walked more (5) than struck out (4) this week. Thanks to three homers in the first weekend, still riding a 1.102 OPS in 16 games, though note he’s homerless since April 19.
- IF/OF Adam Hall (#27) - 3-15 hitting isn’t going to fuel a prospect revival story, though he is still batting over .300 for the young season.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 5-0 vs. Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies) with one game suspended
- Next: vs. Brooklyn Cyclones (11-10, Mets)
- Season record: 15-5, first place (3.5 game lead) of six teams in South Atlantic League North
This is where the fun was at, with Rutschman and D.L. Hall (#3 tied) both here for one-week assignments. Rutschman did everything you could have wanted from a guy who’s already conquered this level, going 6-13 with two walks and no strikeouts in his four games played. He’s heading up to Bowie for this week, as is Hall, whose one four-inning start saw him strikeout six while holding Jersey Shore scoreless.
Topping even those Rutschman numbers in the past week was Coby Mayo (#7) who was 7-21 with four home runs in five games. That will tend to help the slugging percentage. Mayo’s now hitting .260/.326/.558 in 19 games. I hope he’s got some more great weeks coming. César Prieto (#16 tied) hit 4-11, though he left a game with a hamstring injury that’s been diagnosed as Grade I. That’s the grade you want to hear if your favorite team’s prospect has a hamstring strain. Grade III is the worst.
Aberdeen’s pitching staff continues to be made up of mostly anonymous guys looking to pitch their way into slightly less anonymous status. One frequently mentioned possible sleeper before the season, Jean Pinto (unranked), gave up two runs in a five inning start and now has a 6.60 ERA across four starts.
Another one I’m keeping my eye on is Noah Denoyer (unranked), a 24-year-old, 6’5” righty being used for multi-inning relief. He tossed three scoreless innings this week, striking out four batters, and has now struck out 16 across 12 innings with a 2.25 ERA for the season.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Colton Cowser (#3 tied) - 6-15 across four games this week, which added up to a .400/.500/.600 batting line. That’s a good small sample, though it’s a concern that Cowser has struck out in 34.5% of plate appearances so far this year.
- IF Connor Norby (#11) - The one Aberdeen hitting prospect who didn’t join the parade this week; he went just 3-18 for the week, though he’s still OPSing .866 for the year even with that.
- OF John Rhodes (#23) - Last year’s third round pick went 4-14 with a double and a homer. Through 16 games, he’s still OPSing over 1.000 and has stolen three bases.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 1-5 at Augusta GreenJackets (Braves)
- Next: at Columbia Fireflies (7-14, Royals)
- Season record: 6-15, last place (8 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North
The trend established by Norfolk and Bowie resumes here. Delmarva gave up six or more runs in four of the six games for the week, and scored two or fewer in three games. That’s a good way to end up going 1-5.
The lowest-level full season affiliate simply doesn’t have the big prospects that are higher up. Elias’s college-heavy drafts have already passed by the Low-A level, and his biggest international signing classes have not arrived here yet. The result is one guy in our composite top 30 on this team currently: Darell Hernaiz (#29), who’s back at Delmarva after playing 94 games here last year.
Hernaiz had a nice week, going 6-22 with four of those hits for extra bases. He’s only played in 16 games so far this year, but it’s hard to complain about a .313/.353/.641 batting line so far. Maybe when the cycle of promotions begins, the infielder will be able to take the spot in Aberdeen of someone who’s gone up to Bowie.
Topping Hernaiz’s performance this week was outfielder Isaac Bellony (unranked). Born in St. Thomas but signed out of the Dominican Republic, Bellony was one of the players signed in Dan Duquette’s desperate sweep of the Caribbean in late July 2018 where he was trying to convince one or more Angeloses that he could pull off a rebuild. The outfielder went 6-17 over five games, and is now OPSing .867 on the season. A 30.1% strikeout rate will not do in the long haul. Perhaps he can play his way into further attention.
Pitchers are a similar story here. The roster is full of guys who only the most utterly dedicated of Orioles prospect watchers will be following, in hopes that a few reach the level where merely thorough observers find them to be worth keeping an eye on. This week, I’ll name drop Juan De Los Santos (unranked), an Elias signing with some of that leftover 2018 international money. The 19-year-old De Los Santos allowed a run over four innings this week and now has a 1.59 ERA, with batters hitting just .190 against him.
Other notable prospects:
Through three weeks, the following players have won the prestigious Orioles minor league player of the week poll, as judged by Camden Chat’s readers. The winners so far: Haskin, Bradish, and Prieto. The O’s recent signing from Cuba took 69% of the vote in last week’s poll after hitting four home runs the previous week.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for the week ending 5/1?
This poll is closed
Robert Neustrom, Norfolk (10 hits, 4 stolen bases, .842 season OPS)
Gunnar Henderson, Bowie (7 walks, 3 stolen bases, .865 season OPS)
Coby Mayo, Aberdeen (4 home runs in 5 games)
Darell Hernaiz, Delmarva (6-22 hitting including 4 XBH)