Each week at Camden Chat, we recap the latest happenings in the Orioles’ prolific minor league system, with particular focus on Camden Chat’s top 30 prospects list. And while each affiliate played just three games last week — following a four-day hiatus for the All-Star break — several prominent O’s prospects continued to shine.
The 2022 draft picks
The big news from last week is that the Orioles have reportedly reached agreement with Jackson Holliday, the #1 overall pick, on an $8.19 million signing bonus, though the O’s have not yet made it official. The club did, however, announce the signings of two of its top four picks, outfielders Dylan Beavers (#33 overall) and Jud Fabian (#67 overall), and the two newest Orioles were introduced to the Baltimore media Saturday. Both are expected to report to Sarasota shortly and begin their professional careers in the Florida Complex League.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- This week: 0-3 at Durham Bulls (Rays)
- Next: at Memphis Redbirds (51-42, Cardinals)
- Season record: 44-49, eighth place (7.0 GB) in International League East
D.L. Hall (#3 tied) kicked off the Tides’ second half by pitching just one inning Friday night, in which he gave up one run and two hits but struck out two. For those hoping his short stint meant that the O’s were on the verge of calling Hall to the bigs, alas, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The Tides simply had each of their pitchers toss abbreviated outings this week to work them back into the mix after the four-day All-Star hiatus. No Norfolk pitcher worked more than two innings this week with the exception of Kyle Bradish (#8 tied on our preseason list, since graduated), who threw 4.2 innings in a rehab start and gave up two runs on four hits, fanning six.
Elsewhere, Bruce Zimmermann tossed two scoreless innings as he tries to work his way back to Baltimore, and Nick Vespi maintained his perfect 0.00 Triple-A ERA with his 19th straight scoreless appearance for the Tides, earning him a promotion back to the Orioles’ bullpen yesterday.
Playing just three games didn’t stop Kyle Stowers (#8 tied) from having a fantastic week, as he led the Tides in hits (four), home runs (two), runs (three), and RBIs (four). We’re just one week away from finding out whether the O’s trade anyone at the deadline — Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, etc. — that might open up a spot for Stowers in the major league lineup. With an .889 OPS, 17 home runs, and an improving strikeout rate (down to 25 percent this year, compared to 32 last season), he certainly seems ready for an extended opportunity.
Elsewhere, Ryan Ripken — nephew of Billy, to get one last use out of Mark Brown’s recurring joke — announced his retirement from baseball. Cal Jr.’s progeny joined the O’s organization in 2017 and played 48 games at Norfolk last year, but was never productive enough (career .597 OPS) to earn a major league call-up.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Gunnar Henderson (#3 tied): Henderson is back on the upswing after a mini-slump to begin July, getting hits in all three games this week to extend his hitting streak to seven. He also homered Sunday, his first dinger since he hit for the cycle June 28.
- IF Jordan Westburg (#6): Westburg went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI in the opening game of the series and 1-for-9 after that. He’s still plugging along with a .298/.329/.543 line in 35 games at Triple-A.
- 2B Terrin Vavra (#12): Three more hits, including two doubles, this week for Vavra, who leads the Tides with a .324 average and .435 OBP this year. Perhaps a major league spot will open for Vavra at the trade deadline as well. He deserves one.
- RHP Mike Baumann (#13): Baumann’s lone appearance saw him give up two runs, three hits, and two walks in two innings.
- OF Yusniel Diaz (#28): Just one hit in eight at-bats this week for Diaz, who has dipped to a .679 OPS for Norfolk. But at least he’s healthy?
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- This week: 2-1 at Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
- Next: vs. Altoona Curve (13-8 second half, Pirates)
- Second-half record: 13-7, first place (0.5 games ahead) in Eastern League Southwest
- Overall season record: 40-49
The Baysox series win in Richmond vaulted them into first place, and they’ll have a chance to extend that lead with six games coming up against the Curve, who are half a game behind them in the standings.
Lefty Drew Rom (#15) was excellent this week, tossing five scoreless innings Saturday without walking a batter, striking out seven and surrendering just three hits. In 15 starts with the Baysox this year, Rom is 6-1 with a 3.62 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine. The relatively soft tossing southpaw doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as D.L. Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, but he continues to put up numbers. Meanwhile, former top-30 prospect Brenan Hanifee made his second straight three-inning, one-run start for Bowie as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
On offense, let’s talk about Joey Ortiz (#14), whose bat has heated up in a big way this month. With another three great games at the dish this week — five hits and three walks in 14 plate appearances — the 2019 fourth-round pick has a .355/.397/.532 line in 17 games in July. If Ortiz can put up halfway decent offensive numbers to pair with his big-league ready defensive skills, the O’s will have themselves a player.
Shout-out to Shayne Fontana, a 23rd-rounder in 2019 who is having a breakout offensive season with an .883 OPS (fueled by a fantastic .414 OBP) in his second year at Bowie, where he struggled in 2021. Fontana was the king of timely hitting this week, collecting seven of Bowie’s 12 RBIs. All four of his hits in the series drove in at least one run, and he added a sac fly.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Colton Cowser (#3 tied): Despite just one hit this week, Cowser still posted a cool .429 OBP thanks to three walks. He’s been an on-base machine at Bowie with a .463 OBP.
- IF Coby Mayo (#7): Mayo suffered back spasms during his third game with Bowie on July 1 and hasn’t played since, but he’s set to rehab in the FCL in the coming days, per the Baltimore Sun’s Andy Kostka.
- IF Connor Norby (#11): After taking a 1-for-11 this week, the 2021 second-round pick is in a 1-for-21 slump.
- IF Cesar Prieto (#16 tied): Forget Prieto’s on-field performance this week (three hits and an RBI) — you must read Sports Illustrated’s fascinating article about Prieto’s risky escape to the United States from Cuba and the people who helped him pull it off.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- This week: 2-1 at Greenville Drive (Red Sox)
- Next: at Asheville Tourists (10-13 second half, Astros)
- Second-half record: 13-11, third place (1.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North
- Overall season record: 56-34
The Orioles’ 2020 first-rounder Heston Kjerstad (#10) hasn’t yet taken High-A by storm the way he did Low-A, but he was a perfectly fine 3-for-12 with two walks this week. In eight games for Aberdeen, he’s batting .185 with one extra-base hit. He’ll have plenty of time to get acclimated. A couple of unranked prospects, Collin Burns and Toby Welk, were the IronBirds’ best hitters this week, combining for 11 hits, three homers, and 10 RBIs. Welk, a 21st rounder in 2019, is on rehab from Bowie after suffering a left knee sprain in April.
On the pitching side, every Aberdeen hurler was limited to three innings or fewer this week. A couple of Roths had wildly different results — Houston Roth struck out five in three scoreless innings, while Nick Roth gave up three runs and five hits in one inning. Carlos Tavera, the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in 2021, allowed one run in three innings, lowering his season ERA to 3.93.
Other notable prospects:
- OF John Rhodes (#23): With a five-hit week, including a homer, Rhodes is quietly putting up a solid season for the IronBirds. Last year’s third-round pick is slashing .245/.382/.408 in 54 games, and he’s also a perfect 14-for-14 in steal attempts.
- IF Darell Hernaiz (#29 tied): Hernaiz played just one game in this series but made the most of it, going 2-for-4 with a home run on Friday.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- This week: 0-3 vs. Fredericksburg Nationals
- Next: at Lynchburg Hillcats (10-14 second half, Guardians)
- Second-half record: 8-16, sixth place (10.0 GB) in Carolina League North
- Overall season record: 29-60
The Shorebirds, who have lost more than two-thirds of their games, are in dire need of some roster fortification. They may get it in the coming weeks with an infusion of 2022 draft picks, headlined by Holliday, but until that happens they’ll continue to slog along.
Just one prospect from our top 30 list is active for the Shorebirds. Outfielder Reed Trimble (#18 tied) finally made his return to full-season ball after undergoing surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder in December. Trimble, a competitive balance round pick in last year’s draft, struggled in 16 games for Delmarva last year but is off to a 3-for-9 start this time around.
Great to see Reed Trimble back on the field. RBI double here. pic.twitter.com/W9C0I2yfK2— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) July 24, 2022
Infielder Frederick Bencosme is quickly emerging as an intriguing player, leading the team with five hits this week to lift his line to .372/.434/.434 in 35 games. The 19-year-old from the Dominican signed with the Orioles in August 2020. And shortstop Luis Valdez, who reached base just twice this week, nonetheless swiped two more bases, giving him 47 for the season in 58 attempts.
A Shorebirds pitcher I’m keeping an eye on is 18-year-old Dominican lefty Deivy Cruz, part of the 2020-21 international signing class. In his outing this week he struck out six batters in three innings...but also issued a whopping six walks. In five appearances for Delmarva he’s managed a superb 1.33 ERA despite walking 17 batters in 20 innings. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League
The Orioles’ international efforts have improved dramatically since the Mike Elias regime took the reins, but they’ve still got some catching up to do before their pipeline is as prolific as most other teams. The FCL Orioles, a club made up of mostly Elias signings, is 7-27, second-to-last in their 16-team league. They’re averaging 3.82 runs per game, also second-to-last, and have the worst team ERA in the league at 7.19. Not great! Shortstop Maikol Hernandez (#16 tied) has struggled mightily, batting a woeful .119/.279/.155 in 24 games. On the plus side, catcher Samuel Basallo (#25) has impressed with a .785 OPS in 25 games while showing off a rocket arm.
This was strike 3 so it didn’t count, but Basallo had another laser down to 3rd that would have smoked the runner by half a foot. What an arm!! pic.twitter.com/Jg0V3DG2uu— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) July 25, 2022
The Birds’ two affiliates in the DSL aren’t faring much better, with Orioles Black carrying a 15-21 record and Orioles Orange 11-23. The Orange club has the very worst offense of any of the 49 DSL teams, averaging an atrocious 2.91 runs per game. They do, however, have a team ERA of 3.77, tied for eighth best. Orioles Black, meanwhile, boasts the most high-profile prospects of the 2021-2022 class, including outfielder Braylin Tavera (currently hitting .196 with a .623 OPS in 29 games) and #26 prospect Leandro Arias (.220 AVG, .661 OPS in 29 games).
Last time around, Cowser won our player of the week poll with 59 percent of the vote, his second win in the last three weeks. He’s our third multi-time winner, joining Kjerstad (three wins) and Henderson (two wins). Other winners this year include Hudson Haskin, Bradish, Jean Pinto, Mayo, Juan De Los Santos, Stowers, Rodriguez, and Westburg. Stowers could become a two-time winner this week amidst a field of otherwise new candidates.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 7/18-7/24?
This poll is closed
Kyle Stowers, Norfolk (4 H, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
Shayne Fontana, Bowie (7 RBI in three games)
Joey Ortiz, Bowie (reached base in 8 of 14 PAs, .571 OBP)
Drew Rom, Bowie (5 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, W)
Collin Burns, Aberdeen (6 H, 2 HR, 2 DO, 4 RBI)