The good news just keeps on coming for the Orioles’ much-ballyhooed farm system.
This week, updates from both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs placed six O’s prospects in their respective top 100 lists, indicating that the elite pipeline of talent Mike Elias intended to build is, indeed, continuing to churn out skilled young players. A slew of new prospects from the 2022 draft made their professional debuts this week, while those who have been in the organization all season continued to shine.
Let’s recap all the action, with a focus on the players from Camden Chat’s newly updated composite prospect rankings.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 2-4 vs. Durham Bulls (Rays)
- Coming week: at Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (62-55, Marlins)
- Season record: 53-63, seventh place (12.5 GB) in International League East
This week, as most weeks, was the Gunnar Henderson show in Norfolk. The Orioles’ #1 prospect, and the best prospect in all of MLB according to Baseball America, continues to do absolutely everything he can do at Triple-A. The 21-year-old led the Tides this week in hits (seven), runs (five), and RBIs (eight) — including a walkoff single on Saturday — and now has a .289/.388/.520 slash line with 11 homers, 40 RBIs, and 33 walks in 58 games at Norfolk. My attitude since the beginning of the year has changed from, “I wonder if there’s any chance Gunnar could make his MLB debut this year?” to “I swear I am going to flip a table if Gunnar isn’t called up today.” Fortunately, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, Henderson will debut this year.
One could also make an argument for fellow infield prospect Jordan Westburg (#6 tied) to get a cup of coffee in the bigs this season. After a week that featured five hits, five RBIs, and five walks, Westburg is hitting .265/.340/.487 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. While he might not have the ceiling of Henderson, he could be a more natural fit at second base, where the O’s have an immediate need. Westburg has started 31 games at second this year, compared to Henderson’s two.
The other top-10 prospect still at this level, lefty DL Hall (#4), began his conversion to relief for the Tides after his one-and-done start in the majors two weekends ago. His first outing was, well, very DL Hall-esque. He allowed just one hit and struck out four in two innings, but also served up three walks. Control continues to be a problem for him, even in short stints.
The Birds’ second-best lefty pitching prospect, Drew Rom (#15), made his Triple-A debut and opened eyes with nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings. He too struggled with command, issuing four walks, but held Durham to one run. Unranked righty Ryan Watson, who was promoted along with Rom last week, was less successful in his debut at this level. Working in relief for the first time since April 20, Watson gave up two runs, two walks, and four hits in 2.1 innings.
Other notable prospects:
- RHP Grayson Rodriguez (#2): Baseball’s best pitching prospect is continuing his ramp-up from the lat strain that has sidelined him since June 1. MLB.com’s Zachary Silver reports that Rodriguez will pitch a live batting practice and a sim game in Sarasota this week, then will rehab in the minors and maybe even make his MLB debut this season. I wouldn’t count on that last part happening, but it’s good to see him back on the mound.
- RHP Mike Baumann (#20 tied): Baumann, who began the year in the Orioles’ bullpen, hasn’t found his way back to Baltimore since June 19. This week he hurled a solid, five-inning start, giving up two runs and six hits.
- IF Adam Hall (unranked): Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s been going on with Hall this year. After starting the year at Bowie, he was assigned to the FCL Orioles for nearly two months despite no announced injury. He finally got back to the Baysox for three games last week, then moved up to Norfolk for two. Hall, whom Keith Law ranked as the Orioles’ #6 prospect as recently as February 2021, has dropped out of the Birds’ top 30 entirely.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 3-3 vs. Somerset Patriots (Yankees)
- Coming week: vs. Altoona Curve (24-20 second half, Pirates)
- Second-half record: 29-16, tied for first place in Eastern League Southwest
- Overall season record: 56-58
The Baysox are making a strong push for a second-half pennant, which would send them to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last seven seasons. They’re currently tied with Erie, the Tigers’ affiliate, and those two teams will start a six-game series against each other one week from today. First, the Baysox will have to get past a decent Altoona club.
It was another fantastic week for scalding hot shortstop Joey Ortiz, who banged three home runs as part of a seven-hit week. Though Ortiz is merely tied as the 24th-best O’s prospect in our updated composite rankings — probably because he was hitting .206 with a .596 OPS through June — he has become a completely different hitter of late. Since the start of July, Ortiz has a ridiculous .361/.430/.658 line and 11 homers in 41 games, with almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (23). Something tells me he’ll be rocketing back up those prospect rankings soon enough.
If Ortiz is the hottest hitter in minor league baseball right now, Colton Cowser (#5) might be a close second. The 2021 first-round draft pick has been mashing the ball since the day he got called up to Bowie, June 28. With another eight hits and five walks this week, Cowser maintained his over-1.000 OPS (currently 1.020), which includes an unheard-of .464 OBP. And this is a 43-game stretch, not exactly a tiny sample size. By this time next year, O’s fans may be salivating for Cowser’s callup the same way they are now for Henderson — if Cowser hasn’t already debuted by then.
The Baysox pitching staff faced an unexpected challenge when Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton joined Somerset for a rehab assignment. The Bowie hurlers, though, were unfazed, holding the former NL MVP to an 0-for-7 performance. Righty Justin Armbruester was particularly effective, striking out Stanton twice. That’s a nice feather in his cap, for sure. I’m sure he’s looking forward to striking out Stanton in the majors one day.
Elsewhere, trade acquisitions Cade Povich (#16) and Chayce McDermott (#19) both made their Double-A debuts, with very different results. The lefty Povich, part of the Jorge Lopez trade, worked five strong innings: two runs, two walks, six strikeouts. The righty McDermott, acquired for Trey Mancini, was shelled for eight runs and couldn’t find the strike zone, issuing six walks.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Coby Mayo (#6): Mayo’s ill-timed back injury July 1, three days after his Double-A promotion, has put him behind schedule in adjusting to the level. He was 3-for-18 with 10 strikeouts this week and is batting .184 in 13 games for Bowie.
- IF Connor Norby (#12): It was a solid week for Norby, whose eight hits included two doubles and a homer, plus a couple of steals for good measure. His .883 OPS at Double-A is nearly 150 points better than it was at High-A (.736) in nearly the same number of games.
- IF César Prieto (#14): With a 2-for-16 week, Prieto continues to find rough sledding at Double-A. He has just three homers in 70 games at Bowie and hasn’t shown quite enough OBP skills (.317) to make up for the lack of power.
- OF Hudson Haskin (#22): The 2020 second rounder had an excellent week, bashing two homers in five games. For the season, he has 13 dingers and an .850 OPS.
- OF John Rhodes (#23): Rhodes managed just one hit in 15 at-bats, though he did draw four walks. Last year’s third rounder has had a slow start since moving up to Bowie, slashing .154/.277/.231 in 11 games.
- RHP Garrett Stallings (unranked): Stallings’ first start of the week — a six-inning, two-run effort — continued his recent run of dominance, in which he posted a 1.91 ERA in an eight-start stretch. But Somerset raked him the second time around (six earned runs in 4.1 innings).
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 4-3 vs. Asheville Tourists (Astros)
- Coming week: vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (23-25 second half, Nationals) — three games in Aberdeen, three in Wilmington
- Second-half record: 26-22, second place (1.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North
- Overall season record: 69-45
Even after losing many of their first-half stars to promotion — including Cowser, Mayo, Norby, Prieto, and Rhodes — the IronBirds continue to play quality baseball in the second half. It helps when surprise contributors like Billy Cook erupt for a massive offensive week. The unranked utility man, last year’s 10th rounder, crushed three home runs and collected 12 RBIs this week, laying waste to Asheville pitching. Even with the monster week, Cook is batting just .207 with a .708 OPS overall.
The most high profile name in Aberdeen’s lineup, 2020 first rounder Heston Kjerstad (#9), reached base 10 times, though with just one extra-base hit. He also stole a base, part of a baserunning bonanza in which the IronBirds swiped 12 bags without being caught. Not surprisingly, speedy shortstop Luis Valdez notched four of those — giving him 63 steals in 77 attempts this year — but he was bested by Darell Hernaiz (#24 tied), who swiped five. Hernaiz has 27 steals in 30 attempts across two levels this year, and is OPS’ing .820 for Aberdeen.
On the pitching side, Ignacio Feliz had himself a week. On Tuesday, the right-hander started against Asheville and racked up 10 strikeouts in 5.2 strong innings. Five days later, he closed the series by pitching two scoreless innings of relief for a save. Righty Jean Pinto (#28 tied) too, piled up the Ks, whiffing 11 batters (and walking none) in a five-inning start, holding the Tourists to one run. And it was a good week to be an IronBirds righty reliever named Daniel. Daniel Federman and Daniel Lloyd each worked four innings of long relief without allowing an earned run, combining for 11 strikeouts.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 3-3 at Salem Red Sox
- Coming week: vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (21-27 second half, Guardians)
- Second-half record: 19-29, sixth place (10.5 GB) in Carolina League North
- Overall season record: 40-73
The flailing Shorebirds got a much-needed boost this week with an influx of 2022 draft picks to their roster, and their two competitive balance round picks — Dylan Beavers (#10 prospect) and Jud Fabian (#17 tied) — were immediate standouts, especially the latter. Fabian’s introduction to Delmarva saw him smack six doubles and a home run while also walking five times, good for a 1.395 OPS. Can’t get much better than that. Beavers reached base 12 times himself and kicked in six RBIs. Welcome to the system, guys!
The guys who had already been playing in Delmarva for a while made some noise, too. Catcher Creed Willems, the Orioles’ only high school draftee in 2021, had his best week of his pro career, tallying two doubles, a triple, and a home run in four games. He has a lot of ground to make up to improve his .565 OPS, but it’s a good start. Outfielder Reed Trimble (#28 tied) had seven hits, a homer, and four walks, and hitting machine Frederick Bencosme — not known for his power — bashed a roundtripper and drove in seven.
This series wasn’t exactly a pitching clinic, with the two clubs combining for 91 runs in six games, including one game with a 17-10 final score and another that was 11-10. Still, don’t blame the Shorebirds’ newest pitchers, as 2022 draftees Cameron Weston, Reese Sharp, and the seven-foot Jared Beck combined for five innings of one-run ball in their professional debuts.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Max Wagner (#20): The Orioles’ second round pick this year, Wagner contributed five hits and four RBIs in his first week.
Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League
The FCL and DSL clubs will conclude their 2022 seasons today, which prompts the question: what becomes of Jackson Holliday (#3 prospect)? The first overall pick in this year’s draft has played his first seven pro games for the FCL Orioles, batting .368/.552/.579 with nine walks and just one strikeout. Will the O’s give Holliday a taste of Delmarva, or shut down the 18-year-old for the season when the FCL wraps up? The team, by the way, is 15-39, but has seen a promising performance by catcher Samuel Basallo (#17 tied), a 2021 international signing from the Dominican Republic. Basallo, 18, has a .781 OPS in 42 games. Maikol Hernandez (#26 tied), a Venezuelan infielder, had a brutal introduction to stateside baseball, batting .159/.281/.207 with no home runs in 41 games.
The DSL Orioles Orange squad is 24-34 and Orioles Black is 23-33 with one game to play. The biggest name in the DSL was Braylin Tavera, the Orioles’ highest paid international signing in club history, who batted .246 with a .733 OPS and a team-leading 34 walks in 46 games for Orioles Black. The Dominican outfielder is 17 years old. The club’s best hitter was second baseman Aron Estrada, a 17-year-old Venezuelan, who batted .368 with a 1.053 OPS in 44 games, with more walks (26) than strikeouts (22).
In last week’s poll, Povich rebounded from his razor-thin margin of defeat in the previous week for a blowout win, garnering 72 percent of the vote. We’ve had 14 different winners in our 19 weeks so far: Kjerstad (three times), Cowser (twice), Henderson (twice), Kyle Stowers (twice), Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, Juan De Los Santos, Rodriguez, Westburg, Ortiz, Norby, and now Povich.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 8/16-8/21?
This poll is closed
Joey Ortiz, Bowie: 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 1.124 OPS
Billy Cook, Aberdeen: 3 HR, 12 RBI, 8 H, 6 R, 1.110 OPS
Ignacio Feliz, Aberdeen: 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 12 K
Jean Pinto, Aberdeen: 5 IP, 1 ER, 11 K, 0 BB
Jud Fabian, Delmarva: 9 H, 6 2B, 8 R, 5 BB, 1.395 OPS