Against just about everyone's expectations, the Orioles have managed to string together two straight winning months. A just-over-.500 June was followed by an amazing July that had the O's season record above .500 at multiple points. It's been fun to watch. The best part is that it's no longer so hard to see a better future coming for the Orioles.
When Mike Elias was hired as GM of the Orioles, he said that he wanted to do this right so he only had to do it once. The building of the elite talent pipeline he has contemplated has been ongoing for years and it seems like it's now on the verge of bearing fruit that will help the team for years to come. Each Tuesday on Camden Chat, we've been looking at the performance of the team's top prospects, focusing mostly but not only on the composite top O's prospect list we put together before the season.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 2-3 at Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)
- Coming week: vs. Nashville Sounds (59-39, Brewers)
- Season record: 46-52, eighth place (7.5 GB) of ten teams in International League East
Can anyone stop GUNNAR HENDERSON? It doesn't seem like the Memphis pitching staff could, anyway. The 21-year-old Orioles infielder continues blistering the pitchers at this level. The five games against Memphis saw him on base safely literally half of the time, with nine hits including two doubles and two homers, and he stole a base too. Henderson is now hitting .291/.401/.541 in 40 games for the Tides. He's hit a combined 16 homers in 87 games between Bowie and Norfolk this year. He's in the top ten if not the top five of every midseason prospect list update. What a dude.
Were it not for that absurd performance by Henderson, we might be talking about Kyle Stowers instead. The outfielder played in four of the games for the Tides this week, collecting seven hits, though only one went for extra bases. Stowers continues to lead all O's minor leaguers with 17 homers. He's got an .896 OPS for Norfolk.
Things were less exciting on the pitching side for the Tides this week, as the team gave up five or more runs in four of the five games played. That included a particularly crummy outing for D.L. Hall last Tuesday, in which Hall was absolutely dunked on for six runs while failing to complete the first inning. Hall gave up six hits, including two homers.
Hall was denied the chance for a rebound start, at least temporarily, by a Sunday rainout. One bad outing isn't going to change whatever the plan is for him, but it would be a lot more fun if he was dominating every time out and practically forcing the promotion.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Jordan Westburg - Has cooled off substantially and is losing the exclamation point after his name in my minor league recaps. Westburg had just one hit in 14 AB this week, closing out a July where he only homered once and OPSed .561.
- OF Yusniel Díaz - Forgotten until yesterday but not gone, Díaz went 5-16 at the plate this week. That's a solid .313 average - but with no XBH, a not-solid .313 slugging. .677 OPS for the season. Díaz was recalled when Trey Mancini was traded. We’ll see how long of a chance he gets to play in MLB.
- IF Rylan Bannon - Hey, it's another hitting prospect from the Manny Machado trade who's struggled this week. Bannon went 2-14, though he walked four times. His season OPS is a more-respectable .756, but it probably tells us something that Terrin Vavra got the MLB promotion this week instead.
- Injured list - RHP Grayson Rodriguez has been out since June 1 with his lat strain. RHP Kyle Brnovich is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 5-1 vs. Altoona Curve (Pirates)
- Coming week: at Harrisburg Senators (10-17 second half, Nationals)
- Season record: 18-8 second half record, first place (one game lead) in Eastern League Southwest
A quick promotion note: Outfielder Shayne Fontana is headed up to Norfolk. Fontana hasn't featured in many of these weekly updates because he's been a 25-year-old at Double-A. In 42 games, he's posted a .278/.417/.481 line. Good for him, and good luck at Norfolk.
What does a player have to do to slug 1.000 over a week of games? Hot-as-hell infielder Joey Ortiz has the answer for us. Start out by batting over .500 - he hit 14-27 in six games. Then have half of your hits be for extra bases, with four doubles and three homers. Then, presto! A 1.000 slugging percentage and an Eastern League Player of the Week honor. Ortiz finished July with a 1.112 OPS to even out his poor June. If he rides this hot streak for much longer, there might be another infielder in the Norfolk picture very soon.
And not far behind Ortiz is Colton Cowser!, who has inherited the ! from Westburg. Cowser! only trailed Ortiz's 1.536 OPS for the week by seven points, batting 11-21 with five XBH and four walks. Cowser! is now 24 games into his Bowie stint and that batting line is amazing: .342/.491/.683. He's blossomed since this promotion. It's great.
Bowie hitters really blasted off on the Curve's pitchers overall this week. Of the six players who batted at least 20 times, the worst OPS for the week was .757. Three of them were over 1.000 - Connor Norby whacked three home runs in five games.
Altoona has had one of the better Double-A staffs so far this year. They were fourth in their league in ERA until getting torched for double digits in four of these games.
Baysox pitchers were good overall this week. The biggest names around on the staff were not. Drew Rom was trashed for four runs in a five-inning start, allowing two home runs. For the season, the 22-year-old lefty has struck out 85 batters in 69.2 innings.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Hudson Haskin - 5-19 for the week, with a double, homer, three walks, and a stolen base. He's got 11 homers in 73 games.
- IF César Prieto - 7-22 hitting in five games, though unlike his teammates, he added no home runs to his season tally.
- RHP Ryan Watson - The 24-year-old 6'5" righty is one of many unheralded pitchers in the system. One run in five innings this week. He has a 1.057 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 in 81.1 innings this year. It's something.
- Injured list - Coby Mayo started a rehab assignment with the FCL Orioles this week. RHP Zach Peek last pitched on July 2.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 2-3 at Asheville Tourists (Astros)
- Coming week: at/vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (15-15 second half, Nationals)
- Season record: 15-14 second half record, third place (2.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North. Aberdeen already clinched a playoff spot by its first half division title.
The main guy I’ll be keeping an eye on for as long as he’s with this team is Heston Kjerstad. The good news for Kjerstad is that he hit two home runs in five games this week. These are the first two homers he’s hit since joining Aberdeen. The bad news is that he only went 4-19, and actually had an OBP lower than his batting average because he didn’t walk - and he did strike out eight times. A work in progress! The fact that it’s finally in progress is its own progress.
A few Aberdeen hitters excelled at the plate this week. Among these, the most interesting prospect is John Rhodes, the Orioles third round pick from last year. Rhodes hit 7-17 with four doubles over four games and swiped a couple of bags. The IronBirds announced last night that Rhodes is promoted to Double-A. Good luck to him up there. There’s a spot in the outfield now with Fontana joining Norfolk.
It wasn’t a good week for the Aberdeen pitchers either. They allowed five, seven, eight, nine, and 17 runs in their five games. Earlier interesting pitcher Jean Pinto really got socked, wearing a nine run (seven earned) outing in only 2.2 innings. With four walks, he couldn’t find the strike zone, and allowing six hits, he couldn’t get them out when he did find the strike zone. Still just 21, Pinto has hit some bumps at this level. He sits on a 4.79 ERA and 1.448 WHIP through 18 games pitched. The 10.6 K/9 is good.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Darell Hernaiz - 5-18 at the plate this week. That’s a fine batting average but with no extra base hits it’s also not a good slugging percentage (.278).
- RHP Chayce McDermott - The 23-year-old acquired from the Astros for Mancini has been assigned to the IronBirds. He is the #12 prospect in the O’s system per MLB Pipeline, jumping ahead of Mike Baumann. He’s been alternating making starts and long relief outings with Houston’s High-A team, topping out at about 85 pitches per outing. We’ll see if the O’s stretch him out more than that.
- Injured list - RHP Seth Johnson, also part of that Mancini trade, is technically now on Aberdeen’s injured list. He’s headed for Tommy John surgery. Johnson is Pipeline’s #8 Orioles prospect - though I think they haven’t reconsidered his position with the surgery news. FanGraphs slotted Johnson in at #12 after revising his stock down due to the TJ; he was in their MLB-wide top 100 before the surgery news. (McDermott is #24.)
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 5-1 at Lynchburg Hillcats (Guardians)
- Coming week: vs. Augusta GreenJackets (10-18 second half record, Braves)
- Season record: 13-17 second half record, fifth place (7.5 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North
The Shorebirds are probably not far off from getting a mass addition of players from the 2022 Orioles draft class. They signed 18 of their 22 picks ahead of yesterday’s deadline, 16 of which were from college. There will be some roster movement - some up, some down, some out.
One guy who might be playing his way up is 19-year-old infielder Frederick Bencosme, about whom I never thought once before 2022. This dude just keeps getting hits, firing off a 6-20 week with a double, triple, and home run, and he drew four walks. I have no idea what to make of his .888 OPS in 40 games.
Quick shoutouts to some other hot hitters for the Shorebirds this week: Isaac De León, Trendon Craig, Noelberth Romero, Mishael Deson. These guys all had at least five hits. De Leon had 10. The one with the best numbers for the season so far is the outfielder Craig, a 20th round pick and overslot signing last year, who went 8-16 and drew four walks. Craig has not flashed any power to date and had no XBH this week; he’s hitting .262/.385/.350 this week. The other guys need some more hot weeks.
Delmarva’s pitching staff continues to consist of largely anonymous guys trying to be something other than anonymous. 18-year-old Deivy Cruz has a nice-looking 1.03 ERA through six games here, tossing a six inning start this week with just two unearned runs allowed. Cruz’s problem is walks: He’s issued 19 free passes in 26.1 Delmarva innings. Only two this week.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Reed Trimble - Recently returned from offseason surgery. 4-20 hitting this week and 7-29 through eight games so far. Still getting his feet wet.
- Injured list - RHP Carter Baumler is dealing with shoulder inflammation. Last pitched June 15. IF Anthony Servideo is back on the shelf with a groin strain.
Bonus Florida Complex League
For the time being, it’s not much of a bonus. This team has an 8-30 record and it’s full of performances you’d expect with that record. One guy who’s standing out is one of the seven-figure international signings from last year: Catcher Samuel Basallo, who’s still just 17 years old, turning 18 next week. In 29 FCL games, Basallo is hitting .287/.358/.472, with five home runs. Not bad! In 21 games as a catcher, he’s thrown out 32% of runners.
Double Bonus Dominican Summer League
There is also not much of a bonus here. Orioles Orange is 15-25. Orioles Black is 16-23. These are young teams. The average age of the hitters on each team is under 18 years old. Pitchers are averaging about 19 years old. The Black team has Braylin Tavera, just given a seven-figure bonus from the O’s this year. He’s hitting .206/.362/.294 through 32 games. I dig the OBP.
A fellow 17-year-old who’s acquitting himself well: Aron Estrada, a switch-hitting infielder signed from Venezuela this year. Estrada is OPSing 1.053 over 31 games.
Last week’s winner in the minor league player of the week poll was Stowers, his second win of the season. Stowers had 33% of the vote to 28 for Rom and 27 for Ortiz. He became the fourth multi-week winner this year, along with three-time winner Kjerstad and two-timers HENDERSON and Cowser! Other winners: Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, Juan De Los Santos, Rodriguez, and Westburg.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 7/26-7/31?
This poll is closed
GUNNAR HENDERSON, Norfolk (two homers and .500 OBP this week)
Joey Ortiz, Bowie (14-27, three homers, 1.000 SLG this week)
John Rhodes, Aberdeen (7-17, 2 SB, earned promotion)
Frederick Bencosme, Delmarva (6-20, 3 XBH, four walks)