All year long, we’ve been marveling over the success of the Orioles’ farm system, with prospects putting on impressive performances at every rung of the ladder. This week, that talent pipeline grew even stronger, as the O’s welcomed much of their 2022 draft class into the system.
It won’t take long for those new faces to become regulars in Camden Chat’s daily minor league recaps. Ten members of their latest draft crop have were assigned to Low-A Delmarva yesterday: Dylan Beavers (competitive balance A round), Max Wagner (second), Jud Fabian (competitive balance B), Silas Ardoin (fourth), Cameron Weston (eighth), Adam Crampton (ninth), Bradley Brehmer (12th), Jared Beck (13th), Adam Retzbach (14th), and Reese Sharp (20th). Meanwhile, #1 overall pick Jackson Holliday, the 18-year-old prep shortstop, will remain in the Florida Complex League for now.
Other prospects are climbing the ladder, as well. Left-hander Drew Rom and right-hander Ryan Watson were promoted from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Two trade deadline acquisitions, Cade Povich and Chayce McDermott, moved up to Bowie from High-A Aberdeen, and speedy infielder Luis Valdez bumped up from Delmarva to Aberdeen.
Clearly, there was a lot going on in the Orioles’ minors this week. Let’s delve into the details in our weekly recap.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 3-3 at Rochester Red Wings (Nationals)
- Coming week: vs. Durham Bulls (62-49, Rays)
- Season record: 51-59, seventh place (10.5 GB) in International League East
Considering that their opponent entered the series mired in a 17-game losing streak, the Tides probably could’ve hoped for better than a series split. They did extend the Red Wings’ skid to 19 in a row before Rochester rallied for three consecutive wins. Nationals prospect C.J. Abrams, a key return in the Juan Soto trade, paced the Red Wings with six hits and three stolen bases, earning a promotion to the majors.
The Tides brought their bats to the series, with five hitters tallying six or more hits. Among them was Gunnar Henderson, Baseball America’s newly minted #1 prospect in baseball, who did a little bit of everything — eight runs, a homer, four RBIs, four walks, and two stolen bases. What he also did a lot of, unfortunately, was strike out: 13 whiffs in 26 at-bats. Still, the buzz for his anticipated MLB debut continues to grow, whether it happens this season or next.
The star of the week was Jordan Westburg, who led the Tides with two homers, nine RBIs, and six walks, a cool .304/.448/.652 slash line for the series. It was a nice recovery from his previous two weeks, in which he batted an ugly .114/.279/.143 with no homers. A few more weeks like this and he’ll be right in the call-up conversation alongside Henderson. And don’t forget Kyle Stowers, who frankly should be in the majors already (no offense, Brett Phillips, but you provide...well...no offense). Stowers posted a .951 OPS for the week and bashed his 19th home run.
With DL Hall up in Baltimore for a cup of coffee, the Norfolk rotation was light on legitimate prospects this week. What remained wasn’t pretty, with veteran Matt Harvey getting rocked for seven runs and four homers in two starts, and both Chris Vallimont and Mike Baumann getting chased in the first inning of their respective outings, giving up nine runs combined. (Exiled Oriole Bruce Zimmermann fared better, holding Rochester to one run in five frames.) Good news, though: top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez is on the mend from the lat strain that has sidelined him since June 1. Rodriguez has begun throwing bullpen sessions in Sarasota and is expected to return to an affiliate before the end of the year.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Yusniel Diaz: Diaz hit .304 with two doubles this week, but also struck out nine times without drawing a walk. Will he get another opportunity with the Orioles beyond his lone major league at-bat earlier this month?
- OF DJ Stewart: OK, he’s not a prospect, and he’s long since been jettisoned from the 40-man roster. But he’s still hanging around the Orioles’ farm system and bashed two home runs on Sunday. The Orioles have enough outfield depth that they’ll likely part ways with Stewart this winter, but perhaps he’ll find a role in a different organization.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 2-5 at Akron RubberDucks (Guardians)
- Coming week: vs. Somerset Patriots (22-16 second half, Yankees)
- Second-half record: 26-13, second place (1.5 GB) in Eastern League Southwest
- Overall season record: 53-55
The RubberDucks slowed down Bowie’s second-half momentum, taking five of seven to drop the Baysox into second place in their division (behind the Erie SeaWolves, who swept their six-game series in New Hampshire). Bowie’s prospect-laden lineup didn’t have its best week. Top-of-the-lineup staples Colton Cowser and Connor Norby, the Orioles’ first two picks in the 2021 draft, each managed just one extra-base hit in the series. Still, they combined for 10 walks and posted OBPs of .346 and .357, respectively, which isn’t too shabby. Joey Ortiz, the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month in July, was only 4-for-22, but one hit was a homer. The best performance belonged to infielder Cesar Prieto, who led the Baysox with nine hits and also homered.
On the mound, Drew Rom’s final week at Double-A before his promotion wasn’t a particularly good one. In two outings, he was racked for 12 hits, eight runs (six earned), five walks, and a hit batsman. His 12 strikeouts were nice, at least. It was a microcosm of his whole season to this point; Rom has been hit-prone (10.1 H/9) but whiffs a lot of dudes (11.0 K/9), and at 22 he was 2.6 years younger than the average Double-A player. Now he’ll be facing even older competition at Triple-A. Ryan Watson, meanwhile, finished his Bowie career with an impressive 3.41 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 9.5 K/9. Good luck to both of them with Norfolk.
Elsewhere, Justin Armbruester and Garrett Stallings each delivered a quality start this week. The latter has really turned his season around of late. Since bottoming out with a 10-run debacle in Erie on June 26 that pushed his season ERA to 10.08, Stallings has a 1.73 mark in his seven games since, striking out 42 batters in 36.1 innings. He was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July and has picked up where he left off in August. And a tip of the cap to reliever Easton Lucas, acquired in the Jonathan Villar trade in 2019, who worked 2.1 scoreless innings and hasn’t allowed a run since June (15.2 innings ago).
Last night for Bowie, Justin Armbruester struck out three while taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning. He's now 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and a 41/5 K/BB in 40.2 Double-A innings. pic.twitter.com/OBCRpjij2Y— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) August 13, 2022
Other notable prospects:
- IF Coby Mayo: Mayo returned to the Baysox for the first time since suffering back spasms July 1. He’s still getting acclimated to the level — he’d played only three games at Double-A before the injury — and went 4-for-19 this week.
- OF Hudson Haskin: Despite no extra-base hits this week, Haskin had some productive at-bats, picking up a team-best five RBIs. The 2020 second rounder is quietly posting an .831 OPS at Bowie this year, but has been overshadowed by his higher-profile teammates.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 3-3 at Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
- Coming week: vs. Asheville Tourists (20-20 second half, Astros)
- Second-half record: 22-19, third place (1.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North
- Overall season record: 65-42
It doesn’t particularly matter if the IronBirds win the division in the second half — they’ve already clinched a playoff spot by winning the first half — but they’re right in the thick of the race anyway. Winning both halves would certainly give them some nice bragging rights.
This was a good week on the pitching side, where only two hurlers allowed more than two runs, and a couple of newly acquired prospects played prominent roles. Most impressive was lefty Cade Povich, the prize arm of the Jorge López trade with the Twins. If you’re wondering how Povich could follow up the six shutout innings he threw in his organizational debut Aug. 6, here’s how: by throwing another six shutout innings on Friday, fanning eight. That’ll do! It was enough to convince the Orioles that he’d mastered the level, so up he goes to Bowie. Joining him is Chayce McDermott, acquired from the Astros in the Trey Mancini deal, who finished his brief IronBirds career with a four-inning, seven-strikeout start this week, giving up two runs.
Now the bad news. It was a rough week for Heston Kjerstad, both statistically and behaviorally. He batted just .125 (2-for-16), and in Sunday’s finale, he was pulled from the game after one at-bat. A commenter on Steve Melewski’s tweet noted that Kjerstad slammed his bat instead of running out a grounder that turned into a double play. Kjerstad, who was the feel-good story of the year a month ago when he dominated Delmarva in his professional debut, has had a rough go of things since his promotion to age-appropriate High-A. He’s batting .191/.278/.321 with two home runs, eight walks, and 26 strikeouts in 22 games at Aberdeen.
It was a pretty unremarkable week all around for the Aberdeen offense, aside from outfielder Billy Cook, who led the club in hits (seven), runs (five), and steals (two), and bashed two of the club’s three home runs.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Darell Hernaiz: The 2019 fifth-rounder collected the only non-Cook home run of the week and also tripled, though he hit just .192. He’s got a strong .822 OPS in 49 games at High-A while being 2.5 years young for the level.
- RHP Jean Pinto: Pinto, acquired from the Angels with Stallings in the 2020 José Iglesias trade, has shifted to the bullpen after making 15 starts. The result: two straight outings of three scoreless innings, notching a save in each.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 3-3 vs. Carolina Mudcats (Brewers)
- Coming week: at Salem Red Sox (20-21 second half, Red Sox)
- Second-half record: 16-26, sixth place (10.5 GB) in Carolina League North
- Overall season record: 37-70
The Shorebirds’ roster is about to receive a huge shot in the arm with the addition of 10 of this year’s draftees, but there are a couple guys worth keeping an eye on in the meantime, chief among them Frederick Bencosme. The 19-year-old Dominican infielder, signed as an international free agent in August 2020, has taken Low-A by storm since his promotion from the FCL. With seven more hits this week, he’s batting .353 with a .434 OBP in 51 games, with more walks (26) than strikeouts (23). He’s a long way from the majors, but color me intrigued.
And how about the pitching performances this week from unheralded prospects? Righties Juan De Los Santos and Yaqui Rivera — combined age: 39 — teamed up to throw a one-hit shutout on Friday, with Rivera retiring all 15 batters he faced, fanning six. Right-handers Dylan Heid (four scoreless innings, six Ks) and Ryan Long (three scoreless, seven Ks) also fared well in long-relief outings.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Luis Valdez: The 22-year-old speedster reached base only five times this week but still had six stolen base attempts, though he only broke even. Valdez finished with 59 steals in 73 attempts at Delmarva before taking his wheels to Aberdeen.
Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League
It was the most exciting week of the season in the FCL, where a slew of the Orioles’ 2022 draft picks congregated to begin their professional careers, headlined by #1 overall pick Jackson Holliday. The wunderkind shortstop went 2-for-6 with a walk and a stolen base in two games. The Birds’ second, third, and fourth picks — Dylan Beavers, Max Wagner, and Jud Fabian — briefly stopped by before their assignment to Delmarva. Fabian got off to the hottest start, reaching base in 11 of his 17 plate appearances, with five hits and six walks.
Holliday records his first professional career hit in his first at bat— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) August 10, 2022
In the DSL, most of the attention falls on Dominican outfielder Braylin Tavera, the highest-paid international signee in Orioles history. After a slow start to his pro career, Tavera has been red-hot of late, boosting his OPS by 92 points (to .726) in his last eight games. A fellow 2021-2022 signee, Venezuelan infielder Aron Estrada, has been phenomenal for the Orioles Black squad, batting .363 with a 1.030 OPS in 40 games.
Last week’s player of the week poll was the most tightly contested we’ve ever had, with Norby defeating Povich by a mere three votes (191 to 188). Never think that your vote doesn’t matter! It was Norby’s first win, but it’s Povich who gets another crack at it this week. Previous player of the week winners include Kjerstad (three times), Cowser (twice), Henderson (twice), Stowers (twice), Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, De Los Santos, Rodriguez, Westburg, Ortiz, and now Norby.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 8/9-8/14?
This poll is closed
Jordan Westburg, Norfolk: 7-for-23, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 BB, 1.100 OPS
Cade Povich, Aberdeen: second straight outing of six shutout innings, 7 Ks
Yaqui Rivera, Delmarva: retired all 15 batters he faced, six Ks