What a difference a few months make. At the start of this Orioles minor league season, 2022 seemed like another year for hoping that maybe players would play well enough that you could start to imagine next year being the good year for the Orioles. Here we are in August and it’s starting to feel like this year might be the good year. Mike Elias said it’s liftoff from here. Now, we’re anxiously wondering when a prospect might displace each underperforming MLBer.
Every Tuesday on Camden Chat, we’ve been rounding up the previous week of minor league action, covering both the handful of prospects who are getting the most hype and some other hopefuls who are trying to play their way into the next wave. If you’ve been following all year, you know things have been going pretty well, and this week wasn’t an exception.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 2-4 vs. Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
- Coming week: at Rochester Red Wings (47-58, Nationals). This team has lost 17 straight games.
- Season record: 48-56, seventh place (10.5 GB) of ten teams in International League East
If you’re like me, every time there’s a slumping big leaguer lately, you start to wonder whether he could be replaced by a prospect. This is especially true for guys who haven’t hit much at all this season, like Rougned Odor and now Brett Phillips. Couldn’t they somehow be GUNNAR HENDERSON or Kyle Stowers?
Both of those prospects continued to fuel that kind of feeling with their hitting over the last week. It’s been all season long for these guys. GUNNAR was 8-24 in his at-bats, including his 17th home run, and ninth for Norfolk in 46 games. He drew three walks as well, keeping his Tides OBP over the .400 mark. Just sensational stuff. Stowers wasn’t far behind this week, 7-22 over six games, adding three walks also. Stowers’s OPS for the Tides is .898. One wonders when he’ll get his chance.
Henderson’s excellence has been recognized by another prospect list update. The folks at Baseball America have updated their top 100 to reflect draft additions and season performance/injuries, and they have a new #1. It’s Gunnar!
GUNNAR going opposite field for the Tides last week:
Less successful this week was Jordan Westburg, who went just 3-21 at the plate. Add five walks for a less-horrible weekly OBP (.308), but he’s really scuffled after early hot hitting for the Tides. Westburg’s last 28 days batting split is now .164/.263/.194 and his last homer was over a month ago. That’s not gonna get you in the “Promote him now!” conversations.
Then there’s D.L. Hall. He was pretty good for much of July and has gone back into more confusing territory since. This was a two-start week for him. Start one was not good, with Hall issuing five free passes in a four-inning start that also saw him give up six runs. He pitched again on Sunday and was better, allowing two runs in 5.1 innings. Hall struck out eight batters in that second outing and walked another three.
Hall has struck out 114 batters in 70 Norfolk innings this year. That’s amazing, striking out 36% of hitters. He’s also walked 44. That’s not amazing. I feel like I’ve been the low guy on hype for Hall all year but how can I expect instant MLB success when his BB/9 is 5.7?
Other notable prospects:
- RHP Grayson Rodriguez - Elias said Rodriguez has progressed in his recovery from a lat strain to throwing from flat ground at 120 feet distance, though there’s still no timetable for going on a rehab assignment.
- IF Rylan Bannon - One way you know Bannon got passed up by other prospects is that the Orioles quietly put him on waivers, where he was claimed by the Dodgers, his former organization, yesterday.
- RHP Mike Baumann - If you go off the MLB Pipeline prospect list, he’s the #13 guy in the system right now. He’s on the 40-man but hasn’t pitched for the Orioles since June 19. Struck out seven batters in a five-inning, one-run start this week. Walked three.
- RHP Chris Vallimont - Also on the 40-man after an earlier season waiver claim. 0.00 ERA this week due to three unearned runs in five innings. He struck out four and walked three; 11 walks in 33 innings since joining Norfolk.
- RHP Yennier Canó - Let’s not forget about the newest 40-man pitcher from the Jorge López trade. He, uh, he gave up eight runs, six earned, in 1.1 innings across two outings this week. So maybe we should forget this week for him.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 6-0 at Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)
- Coming week: at Akron RubberDucks (15-16 second half, Guardians)
- Season record: 24-8 second half, first place (3 game lead) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest
Some words once sung by Destiny’s Child applied to the Senators this week: They were not ready for this jelly. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Minor league pitchers are just minding their business and then suddenly there’s Connor Norby dropping in to go 11-26 with three home runs out of the leadoff spot, and if you get scared and start throwing it out of the zone he’ll just draw four walks in six games.
Norby leading off a game with one of his home runs:
Connor Norby with a leadoff home run. His 16th of the season. 431 feet to center. pic.twitter.com/B8F90uH6z1— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) August 7, 2022
Norby was hardly the only star as the Baysox dropped double digit runs on the Senators twice. Hudson Haskin even topped Norby’s 1.377 OPS for the week, though he did it in one fewer game; Haskin was 7-17 with two doubles, three triples, and six walks. Just keep on rolling down the line: Joey Ortiz hit 10-24, walked six times, homered twice, and Colton Cowser! had 11 hits in 28 at-bats with “only” one homer.
Norby and Cowser have each now played 30 games for the Baysox. Norby’s batting line is impressive: .277/.381/.555. Hell yeah, right? Check Cowser’s: .355/.486/.636. Also hell yeah!
Bowie’s most notable pitching prospect remains Drew Rom. The 22-year-old lefty labored through a 3.2 inning start this week, allowing four runs, three earned, in only 3.2 innings. For the season, Rom has a 4.05 ERA in 17 starts, but his rate stats look good: 10.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9.
Other notable prospects:
- OF John Rhodes - The recently-promoted outfielder brought a bit less jelly to the party, hitting 5-20 with only one XBH.
- IF César Prieto - 5-22 with three doubles in six games. Prieto is hitting .276/.316/.370 in 59 games in his first pro season in America.
- RHP Zach Peek - The team announced this week that he had Tommy John surgery.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 4-2 vs./at Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals)
- Coming week: at Hudson Valley Renegades (20-15 second half, Yankees)
- Season record: 19-16 second half, third place (1.5 games back) of six teams in South Atlantic League North. Aberdeen clinched a playoff spot with a first half division title.
This week for the IronBirds saw the Orioles organizational debut for two of the pitchers acquired in last week’s pre-trade deadline deals. You could not have asked for much better of a first impression from Cade Povich, who arrived from the Twins. Povich took a perfect game into the fifth inning, a no-hitter into the sixth, and ultimately tossed six innings with just one hit allowed. He walked none and struck out eight. For this start, Povich was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week.
A Povich montage, with natural sound only because Aberdeen doesn’t bother providing a broadcaster:
Cade Povich was lights out in his Aberdeen debut!— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) August 7, 2022
6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K pic.twitter.com/jdihxUiqk1
Also debuting this week was Chayce McDermott, who came from the Astros for Trey Mancini. McDermott’s start was interrupted by rain, so he only had the opportunity to pitch one inning. That was still enough time for him to strike out three batters. I’m looking forward to seeing what these two guys can do between now and the end of the season.
Rehabbing Double-A prospect Coby Mayo topped the hitters for the week. Every one of his four hits in 15 at-bats went for extra bases. Not much to build excitement there since Mayo’s already proven he’s above this level, but it’s good news he’s gotten through the games here still healthy. I assume we’ll see him back with Bowie in this coming week.
Infield prospect Darell Hernaiz is still hot too. The just-turned-21-year-old went 9-22 over six games this week, raising his OPS in 43 games since joining Aberdeen to .853. Hernaiz has been splitting time between second, third, and shortstop with the IronBirds. He’d never really gotten onto the prospect radar before this year, but he’s still young and enjoying some High-A success. It’s going to be interesting if he continues to show promise.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Heston Kjerstad - Not much to say about the Finally Arrived Tour this week. He went 5-22 and is OPSing .620 through 17 games. There’s time to make adjustments.
- RHP Jean Pinto - The youngest player to spend the whole season with Aberdeen, Pinto has hit some bumps. Appeared in one game in relief this week, pitching three scoreless innings for a save, though he still walked three guys. Not sure if this is the start of a piggyback or if he’s in the bullpen for good.
- RHP Seth Johnson - The pitcher received from Tampa in the Mancini three-team trade is technically assigned to Aberdeen; he had Tommy John surgery this week (expected at time of trade) so it’ll be 2024 before we really see him in action.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 0-6 vs. Augusta GreenJackets (Atlanta)
- Coming week: vs. Carolina Mudcats (18-18 second half, Brewers)
- Season record: 13-23 second half, last place (11.5 GB) of six teams in Carolina League North
The college-heavy Orioles draft class is presumably coming soon, perhaps as soon as this week, but for now it’s mostly the same players who’ve been grinding out results throughout this season, not many of whom have much prospect stock or who have proven to even be potential sleepers. The Shorebirds record throughout the season has reflected this.
Three Delmarva batters topped a .900 OPS for the week. At the top of this list was outfielder Mishael Deson, who was also part of the trade that brought Vavra and Tyler Nevin to the Orioles. Deson went 7-18, including a home run. Isaac De León was 6-19, also with a home run, and stolen base machine Luis Valdez went 6-19 as well, giving him a chance to steal three more bases. Valdez has now swiped 56 bags in 67 tries this year.
None of this trio has an overwhelming OPS number - the best of the bunch is De León at .731. Deson and Valdez have almost zero power. What all three of them are doing is walking a lot, which is at least a good sign for pitch recognition. De León’s walk rate is especially notable: 18%. One in six times he walks! Perhaps the other skills will come.
One pitcher was highlighted in this space last week: Deivy Cruz. He was bombed for six runs in 2.1 innings in his start this past week, issuing an unsightly six free passes. Moving on.
Bonus Florida Complex League
The 2022 draft class has trickled into games starting this week. None of them have done anything noteworthy yet. According to Elias, Jackson Holliday is expected to debut for this affiliate later this week.
The team is 9-34. There just hasn’t been much excitement here at this level, which will hopefully change as Elias’s international signing classes show more quality. One guy who has been carrying his weight is catcher Samuel Basallo, who added two more hits yesterday and is now batting .290/.359/.476 in 33 games. Still just 17 until later this week, Basallo is nearly three years younger than the average competition. He’s also thrown out a third of runners this season!
Double Bonus Dominican Summer League
As with the FCL Orioles, these are teams that just don’t have a ton going for them yet and hopefully will in the near future. Orioles Orange is 18-30. Orioles Black, which has the most recent seven-figure Orioles international signing, Braylin Tavera, is 20-25. The Black team played an 11-inning game yesterday where they absolutely blew the doors off in the top of the 11th, scoring 14 runs in the frame to end up winning, 21-7 over DSL Padres.
The game was a good one for Tavera, who was on base five times. The 17-year-old outfielder is now hitting .229/.397/.322 through 34 games; he’s drawn walks in nearly 20% of his plate appearances as a pro. Outpacing Tavera is another outfielder from the signing class, Raylin Ramos, who had four hits yesterday to improve his season batting line to .299/.380/.441. DSL pitchers as a group have a 5.2 BB/9 - these guys don’t throw many strikes, but still, good on the batters who can recognize it.
In last week’s poll, Ortiz waltzed to his first win of the season, picking up 79% of the vote among the four choices on the poll. He is our twelfth different winner of the season. Repeat winners are: Stowers (four times), Kjerstad (three), HENDERSON (two) and Cowser! (two) Other winners: Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, Juan De Los Santos, Rodriguez, Westburg, and now Ortiz.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 8/2-8/7?
This poll is closed
Connor Norby, Bowie (three home runs, on base 15 times in six games)
Joey Ortiz, Bowie (two home runs, 11 RBI, on base 16 times in six games)
Colton Cowser!, Bowie (11-28, one home run, on base 14 times in six games)
Cade Povich, Aberdeen (no-hitter into 6th, 8 K in 6 IP in org. debut)