There have been times this year where you can almost convince yourself that something different and exciting is starting to happen with the Orioles. There have been plenty of other times where the Orioles keep reminding us that they are not quite there yet and that there will have to be some changes to the roster to get anywhere good.
For several years now, it has been apparent that if the Orioles are going to be able to sustain success, the improved talent is going to have to come from their minor league prospects. Each Tuesday on Camden Chat, we take a look at the last week of minor league game action, with a particular focus on players from the preseason composite top Orioles prospect list.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 3-3 vs. Gwinnett Stripers (Braves)
- Next: vs. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (25-23, Marlins)
- Season record: 23-25, tied for sixth place (8 GB) of ten teams in International League East
With Adley Rutschman now in Baltimore, the big draw from the Norfolk lineup has been removed. It falls to those left behind to try to make the case for their own big league promotions. Friends, they mostly did not do this, at least not for this week. Outfielder Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) followed up five home runs from two weeks ago with only one this week; he went just 3-18 across five games. Stowers is still at an .875 OPS for the season.
Due to the variety of injuries suffered by the Tides, Stowers is actually the only system top 30 prospect active in the Norfolk lineup right now. There are a couple of erstwhile Orioles trying to play their way back up to the bigs. Tyler Nevin (unranked) was just 2-13 for the week in four games. Rylan Bannon (unranked) also went 2-13, except unlike Nevin he did not draw any walks. He’s OPSing .697 for the year. Previously-interesting outfielder Robert Neustrom (also unranked) took an even uglier 1-15 to drop his OPS to .769.
Norfolk’s pitching prospect contingent is much more exciting right now, on account of Grayson Rodriguez (#2) and D.L. Hall (#3 tied) both being in this starting rotation. They each made one start this week, combining to give up zero runs across 11 innings. Hall, still building up his pitch count, allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out six in a four inning outing.
Rodriguez rocked for seven innings, scattering two hits, walking none, and striking out ten. Nightwing is now up to 76 strikeouts in 50.1 innings in his age 22 season. One can’t help but wonder if we’ll see him in an Orioles uniform before the month of June comes and goes.
Do you want to see the video of all ten of Rodriguez’s strikeout pitches? Yeah, of course you do.
On The Verge #BabyBird of the day for May 27:— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) May 28, 2022
Norfolk Tides RHP Grayson Rodriguez- 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Rodriguez is now 5-1 with a 2.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .175 BAA, and a 76/14 K/BB in 50.1 IP.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Terrin Vavra (#12) - Hamstring injury, last played April 20. Set to begin a rehab assignment at a lower affiliate this week.
- RHP Mike Baumann (#13) - Took the loss in his one game this week after allowing three runs in two innings. Baumann has a 4.91 ERA in his big league innings this year, 5.40 at Triple-A.
- IF Jahmai Jones (#21) - Had Tommy John surgery this week, and also was designated for assignment. Rough.
- RHP Kyle Brnovich (#22) - Out for the year after earlier Tommy John surgery.
- RHP Kevin Smith (#24) - One relief outing this week, allowing a run in two innings. Smith, outrighted from the 40-man earlier this year, has a 1.478 WHIP in 22.1 IP.
- OF Yusniel Diaz (#28) - Hamstring, last played May 13.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 2-4 vs. Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
- Next: at Altoona Curve (22-23, Pirates)
- Season record: 16-27, last place (10 GB) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest
Until such time as he is promoted to Triple-A, it seems like Bowie is going to be the GUNNAR HENDERSON (#3 tied) show. The still-just-20-year-old had another week of excellence here, with 5-19 hitting that included two doubles and a triple. He walked five times and only struck out four, expanding his “more walks than strikeouts” margin for the season to 40-31. His season batting line of .287/.446/.529 makes me happy.
GUNNAR was not even Bowie’s best hitter this week, with outfield prospect Hudson Haskin (#18 tied) one-upping him with a 6-20 week that featured two doubles and a homer. Haskin now has an .872 OPS through 38 games. Jordan Westburg (#6) continued a solid May, batting 8-23 in this six-game set to keep him above an .800 OPS for the season. Joey Ortiz (#14) didn’t miss the party either, going 5-19 with two doubles and a homer. Ortiz needs more weeks like this: His season OPS is a tepid .656.
Here’s Ortiz making a nifty play on defense. If the guy starts hitting, we’re going to have something:
The Baysox pitching staff, on the other hand, did miss the party. As far as ranked prospects go, this is a thin group right now, with only Drew Rom (#15) currently making the cut. Rom got pasted in his one start this week, allowing three runs in only 2.1 innings. The 22-year-old soft-tossing lefty has fine rate stats (27 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, and a 3.86 strikeout/walk ratio) but not a great ERA at 4.76. Other starters, all unranked players acquired in trades by Mike Elias, got wrecked: Garrett Stallings, 5 ER in 5 IP, Zach Peek, 3 ER in 1.2 IP, Antonio Velez, 7 ER in 10 IP.
Other notable prospects:
- IF César Prieto (#16 tied) - Freshly promoted to Bowie this week after a 1.000 OPS at High-A, Prieto’s debut AA week saw 5-22 hitting with no walks.
- OF/IF Adam Hall (#27) - 4-13 hitting across four games this week, with three stolen bases. .291/.380/.429 batting line overall may keep him in the picture.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 5-1 vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (Walgreens)
- Next: vs. Hudson Valley Renegades (20-24, Yankees)
- Season record: 31-12, first place (9.5 game lead) of six teams in South Atlantic League North. This is the best record in minor league baseball.
The only series that this team has lost was two weeks ago. They immediately returned to form with several close victories over the Nationals High-A affiliate. The exciting prospect at this level this week was Darell Hernaiz (#29 tied), freshly promoted to this level and still only in his age 20 season. Hernaiz had a strong Aberdeen debut, 7-22 hitting with a pair of extra base hits, and added a perfect 4-4 in stolen base attempts. The 2019 fifth round pick will be worth a closer follow if he fires off more weeks like this.
Coby Mayo (#7) was in the “more walks than strikeouts” club this week, with four walks against three strikeouts. That helped him to a .381 OBP for the week despite only 3-16 hitting. Mayo added his 10th homer along the way. The top two picks from last year, Colton Cowser (#3 tied) and Connor Norby (#11), had better averages but did not bring any power. Cowser drew seven walks along with 4-18 hitting. Norby, playing for the first time in a couple of weeks after dealing with a swollen eye, was 2-7 across two games.
I have written before and will write again that there are not many pitchers on the Aberdeen staff who are at a level where their performance plus their age gives them prospect stock. It’s mostly guys doing their best to earn a promotion where continued strong performance might get them attention. This week, last year’s fifth round pick, Carlos Tavera (unranked), added 4.2 scoreless innings to his season tally, striking out six while walking only one. Tavera now has a sub-1.00 WHIP in eight starts this season. Nice work for the 23-year-old.
Other notable prospects:
- OF John Rhodes (#23) - Has not played since May 18; landed on the injured list this week.
- RHP Jean Pinto (unranked) - A preseason favorite among some in the Orioles prospect world, Pinto last pitched on May 21 and is on the injured list.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 1-5 at Charleston River Dogs (Rays)
- Next: at Myrtle Beach Pelicans (32-13, Cubs)
- Season record: 16-29, last place (10 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North
With Hernaiz’s promotion to Aberdeen, this team was almost left without any top 30 Orioles prospects. I say almost, because this week marked the full-season affiliate debut for Carter Baumler (#20), the O’s fifth round pick in the shortened 2020 draft, who then had Tommy John surgery and missed all of last year. It’ll be a little while before he’s full steam. For now, he can hang his hat on a successful Delmarva debut, as he struck out five batters in three scoreless innings. His progress will be worth following.
Though this was another unfortunate week in the win-loss column for the Shorebirds, it was not without some noteworthy individual efforts. 20-year-old outfielder Isaac Bellony (unranked) hit for the cycle in a five-hit game on Sunday, part of a 9-24 week overall. Bellony’s .866 OPS for the season is of interest. Bellony was one of the Dan Duquette late July 2018 panic international signings; if he turns into anything at all, that will be a plus for the rebuilding project.
Bellony’s cycle in action:
The one Delmarva pitcher who’s been doing well here at an age-appropriate level has been Juan De Los Santos (unranked). His previous start before this past week was cut short when he was struck in the elbow by a line drive. De Los Santos’s return to the mound doesn’t look great, as he gave up six runs, four earned, on nine hits in a four inning start. One bit of good news is he didn’t walk anyone and struck out five, so hopefully he still had something positive to carry towards the coming week’s series. The 20-year-old De Los Santos has struck out 44 in 40 innings this year; he’s nearly two years younger than the average player in his league.
Bonus Heston Kjerstad note
The Orioles top pick in the 2020 draft has been a hard luck prospect up to this point. The outfielder’s long road back from myocarditis looked to finally be complete when he suffered a hamstring strain in spring training. He’s on the road back from that at last, getting into games in extended spring training over the past week. That was right about in the middle of the 8-12 week timetable given when he suffered the injury.
Choices were limited last week, with Kyle Stowers taking 70% of the vote over Grayson Rodriguez in a head-to-head poll. Across seven weeks, there have been seven different poll winners. Up to now, winners have been: Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, Henderson, and De Los Santos. Our first repeat winner is possible this week. The choice is yours.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 5/23-5/29?
This poll is closed
Grayson Rodriguez, Triple-A Norfolk (seven scoreless innings, 10 strikeouts)
Hudson Haskin, Double-A Bowie (7th homer of season, .967 OPS in six games this week)
Darell Hernaiz, High-A Aberdeen (.318/.400/.455 in debut week at the level)
Isaac Bellony, Low-A Delmarva (hit for the cycle, now OPSing .866 on the year)