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Orioles minor league week in review: Aberdeen clinches playoff spot with first half title

Norfolk’s newest infielders stayed hot, Aberdeen got a combined no-no, and for Delmarva, Heston Kjerstad kept going.

Cleveland Guardians v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

After a week where at the big league level, the Orioles split two games on the road in Toronto and won two of three at home against the Rays, the optimists of Birdland are probably wondering whether (or convincing themselves entirely) the tide is turning for better fortunes. Those two teams in particular have obliterated the Orioles lately, with the Rays rather infamously going 18-1 against the O’s last year. Something different certainly happened in the last week.

If different, better things are going to happen for the rest of the season or beyond, it’s probably going to take some help from the Orioles 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. If we’re lucky, these guys will bring long-lasting good times in the near future.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • Last week: 2-4 vs. Syracuse Mets
  • Coming week: at Lehigh Valley IronPigs (36-30, Phillies)
  • Season record: 32-34, sixth place (5.5 GB) of ten teams in International League East division

Let’s start with the excellent news. Week two of Norfolk’s new-look infield went about as well as week one did. GUNNAR HENDERSON (#3 tied) and Jordan Westburg (#6) just kept on rolling for another handful of games. Each of these guys had seven hits for the week, four of which went for extra bases. GUNNAR walked five times for a .444 OBP over six games; Westburg stole a pair of bases. They both remain over a 1.000 OPS at the level after two weeks.

Ahead of both of them, somehow, was fellow infielder Rylan Bannon (unranked). The six games against Syracuse saw Bannon homer three times and draw six walks - he was over a .500 OBP for the week. Bannon leads Norfolk with 42 RBI. He’s got a .774 OPS at Triple-A for the season.

It was a bad week for Norfolk pitchers overall, as the team surrendered 13 or more runs in three of the four losses. Tough way to win! We can begin with good news here as well: D.L. Hall (#3 tied) was not among those who sucked. Hall’s one start this week saw him strike out 11 batters. That would be good in any start but it’s even more impressive considering it was a 4.1 inning start. Of course, a 4.1 inning start itself isn’t too impressive.

Hall allowed a run on four hits and two walks. According to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, Hall hasn’t been ruled out to jump into Bruce Zimmermann’s spot in the big league rotation. I note that Hall’s last start of 89 pitches was a season high, and he has not gone beyond five innings this year. He has struck out 66 batters in 38.2 innings. In montage form, Hall’s 11 strikeouts:

Norfolk season-to-date stats.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) - Played only two games for Norfolk this week since he was busy making his MLB debut. 1-8 in his Tides hitting.
  • IF/OF Terrin Vavra (#12) - Did not join in the infield’s good fortune. 6-22 hitting gives a decent batting average, but only one extra-base hit and two walks do not give a good OPS.
  • RHP Mike Baumann (#13) - Did not pitch for Norfolk, did pitch one scoreless inning for the Orioles. Optioned back to Norfolk yesterday as MLB’s 13-pitcher roster limit finally took effect after years of talking about it.
  • Injured list: RHP Grayson Rodriguez (#2, lat strain), RHP Kyle Brnovich (#22, Tommy John), OF Yusniel Díaz (#28, hamstring, rehab moving to Aberdeen)

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • Last week: 4-3 vs. Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets)
  • Coming week: at Erie SeaWolves (35-28, Tigers)
  • Season record: 25-38, last place (12 GB) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest division

One player earned himself a promotion from Bowie to Norfolk after this week. That’s right-hander Chris Vallimont (unranked), a random waiver claim guy from a month ago who arrived in the organization with a 10.9 BB/9. Vallimont struck out 13 men over two starts this week, walking just two; in three Bowie starts, he has a 4.75 K/BB ratio. That’ll work. Good luck at Norfolk.

This was a good week for the Baysox offense, and most of their ranked position players had at least a mixed bag sort of week. Joey Ortiz (#14) went 8-30 while playing in all seven games. César Prieto (#16 tied) was 10-28, which is the Magnum .357 batting average. Not much power from either guy for the week, so they’re not high up the OPS board. At the top there is Adam Hall (#28), who followed a clunker week with a 1.214 OPS across the five games he played.

Some slick fielding from Ortiz in action:

At the moment, only one player from our rankings is on Bowie’s pitching staff. That’s Drew Rom (#15), who had nothing to write home about after allowing four runs in four innings. Just 22, Rom has a 4.26 ERA and 1.526 WHIP in 10 starts, but also 47 strikeouts in 38 innings. Rule 5 draft eligible after this season, I think we’ll see him added by the deadline date in the offseason.

Chugging along still are Noah Denoyer and Zach Peek (unranked), who combined to give up three runs across ten innings in these games. Denoyer has a 0.695 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 27.1 innings since being promoted here. Peek has a 1.088 WHIP through nine starts. I’m watching to see if they keep it up. There could be more churn coming with the Norfolk pitching staff, if Mike Elias wants to keep moving on from some underperforming guys - such as this past week’s removal of Zac Lowther from the 40-man roster. That would open up opportunities for those below.

Bowie season-to-date stats.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Hudson Haskin (#18 tied) - 3-20 with only one XBH and no walks. Season OPS is .767.
  • C Maverick Handley (unranked) - Adley’s future backup? Handley hit .333 across four games this week, with two doubles and a dinger. He’s up to an .820 OPS this year.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • Last week: 5-2 at Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies)
  • Coming week: at Wilmington Blue Rocks Tu-Th/home vs. Wilmington Fri-Sun (32-30, Nationals)
  • Season record: 43-20, first place (10.5 game lead) of six teams in South Atlantic League North division. Aberdeen has clinched the first half division title, guaranteeing a postseason berth.

Vallimont’s promotion opens up a spot at Bowie. That’s going to Justin Armbruester (unranked), who got bumped up a level even though his start this week saw him give up four earned runs in four innings. He’ll hit Double-A after having posted a 1.118 WHIP and 3.5 K/BB ratio in ten starts. Good luck to Justin.

The IronBirds had a combined no-hitter this week! Starting pitcher Peter Van Loon (unranked) might be the next guy in line for a Bowie promotion. The 23-year-old struck out six in five innings. He’s sporting a 2.66 ERA with an 11.3 K/9 in 13 games. I dig it. I also dig strikeout machine Ignacio Feliz (unranked), who sent five guys down on strikes in a four inning relief stint this week. Feliz has racked up 76 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. That’s a 15.0 K/9. Dude.

With Colton Cowser (#3 tied) and Coby Mayo (#7) here to begin the season, there was always a reason to be excited about this lineup. Each of their season’s got off to a slow start but has really come on lately. Cowser and Mayo each had two dingers this week and topped 1.000 OPS over five games. Cowser even added three stolen bases for good measure, giving him 16 in 17 tries this season. He’s up to an .805 OPS for the year; Mayo’s not far behind at .782.

Mayo’s second home run of the week was his 12th of the season, which happens to be tied for the lead of any player in the Orioles organization.

Aberdeen season-to-date stats.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF John Rhodes (#23) - Returned from the injured list and played in two games, in which he hit 2-7 with a homer. Rhodes was doing well when he got hurt. We’ll see if he picks up where he left off.
  • IF Connor Norby (#11) - Not a week to remember; he went just 4-24 and struck out 12 times with no walks. .747 OPS this year. Needs a rebound.
  • IF Darell Hernaiz (#29 tied) - Quietly did not play from June 5 to June 18. 1-4 with a double, walk, and two stolen bases in one game this week. Hernaiz has seven steals in 12 games since getting promoted to this level.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • Last week: 1-5 at Salem Red Sox
  • Coming week: vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (33-30, Guardians)
  • Season record: 20-42, last place (13.5 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North division

This is the Heston Kjerstad (#10) ... you can’t really call it a comeback, more of a “Finally arrived!” tour stop until further notice. After all that the outfield prospect has been through, you can’t really have hoped for much better than what he’s done once finally getting onto the field. Alternating between full games as a DH and half-games as an outfielder, Kjerstad tallied an 8-19 week. He’s batting .423/.467/.539 over seven games. If he’s still hitting like that when the Orioles are satisfied he’s full-go, I wonder how long before they bump him up into the Aberdeen mix.

Kjerstad ripping a couple of doubles in the same game:

Of modest interest, if only because this team’s 20-42 record is in part because they don’t have many strong performers, is another guy who only debuted at Delmarva last week, Frederick Bencosme (unranked). This 19-year-old infielder was in the Dominican Summer League last year and has already been assigned to a full-season affiliate. Bencosme was 9-21 at the plate this week and is hitting .394 through nine Low-A games. With only one XBH, the ISO (isolated slugging) isn’t good, but hey, he’s young.

The Shorebirds have another “Finally arrived!” tour going on with pitching prospect Carter Baumler (#20). After three scoreless three-inning stints, Baumler was roughed up a little bit, allowing two earned runs over a 2.2 inning start thanks to three hits and three walks. He struck out another five batters, giving the 20-year-old a 41.7% strikeout rate through four outings.

Delmarva season-to-date stats.

Bonus Florida Complex League

At the moment, it’s not that much of a bonus. This rookie-level affiliate has started off 2-9. The good: Samuel Basallo (#25), still only 17 years old until August, is hitting .318/.360/.364 through six games. Not as good: Shortstop Maikol Hernández (#16 tied), another seven-figure signing from last year’s international class, is only at an .091 batting average across six games. Don’t panic after six games.

FCL Orioles season-to-date stats.

Double Bonus Dominican Summer League

Records do not thrill here either. Orioles Black is 3-8; Orioles Orange is 4-8. It’s Orioles Black that has the team’s two top 50-ranked signings from this year’s class: Braylin Tavera (unranked on our early composite list) and Leandro Arias (#26).

Tavera’s $1.7 million bonus is the largest ever given out by the Orioles to one of these players. There’s much to enjoy in the 17-year-old outfielder’s pro debut, and he notched a pair of multi-hit games this week to give a batting line through 11 games of .306/.390/.472. He’s been playing center field.

DSL Orioles Black and Orioles Orange season-to-date stats.

**

Last week’s winner of the minor league player of the week poll was Jordan Westburg, who took 66% of the vote among the four choices for his excellent debut week in Norfolk. There have been nine different winners in ten weeks, with only GUNNAR HENDERSON winning twice. Other winners: Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, De Los Santos, Stowers, and Rodriguez. There is no chance for a repeat winner this week.

Poll

Who is the Orioles minor league player of the week for 6/13-6/19?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Rylan Bannon, Triple-A (three home runs, 1.424 OPS in six games)
    (71 votes)
  • 8%
    Chris Vallimont, Double-A (earned promotion with 13 K in 10 IP)
    (28 votes)
  • 3%
    Colton Cowser, High-A (8-21, two homers, three stolen bases)
    (12 votes)
  • 65%
    Heston Kjerstad, Delmarva (first full week, .981 OPS in five games)
    (212 votes)
323 votes total Vote Now