The minor league season is now officially cooking, as the Double-A, High-A, and Low-A affiliates just completed their first full week of baseball. Nearly every notable O’s prospect is in action, and by and large they’re showing the kind of potential that has put the Orioles atop the minor league organization rankings in most publications. Let’s recap the week on the farm, with particular focus on the prospects in Camden Chat’s composite rankings.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 3-3 at Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
- Coming week: vs. Rochester Red Wings (5-9, Nationals)
- Season record: 10-4, first place (0.5 game lead) in International League East
The Tides sit a half game ahead of fellow 10-win club Syracuse thanks to having one game rained out. This week included both a three-game skid and three-game win streak to salvage a series split. Norfolk’s starting pitching put up a strong performance this week, with none of their six starters giving up more than two earned runs, and the star of the show was lefty Drew Rom (#18 tied). The 23-year-old southpaw, a fourth round pick in 2018, completely deafened the Sounds, working 11 scoreless innings over his two starts. Rom surrendered just five hits, walked four, and struck out nine.
Rom has a 1.69 ERA over three starts this year and is keeping himself in the conversation if the Orioles need help for their rotation, if you can imagine such a thing. Right-hander Noah Denoyer (#25), too, blanked Nashville with five shutout frames in his first career Triple-A start.
Outfielders Colton Cowser (#5) and Hudson Haskin (#17) paced the offense. You’re surely familiar with Cowser, the Orioles’ first round pick in 2021, who heated up with 10 hits and six walks this week after starting the season 2-for-24. But Haskin, who tends to be a more overlooked prospect despite his status as a 2020 second-round pick, has been the Tides’ best hitter so far. The 24-year-old added another 10 hits to his ledger this week, giving him a team-leading 18 knocks and 1.152 OPS in 13 games this season. He had to leave Sunday’s game, though, with left hamstring tightness.
Other notable prospects:
- LHP DL Hall (#4): Hall is still building himself up after a delayed start to spring training, and his lone start this week was a mixed bag, with just two hits allowed but three walks in four innings. It might be a minute before he’s a candidate to return to the Orioles, at least as a starter.
- IF Jordan Westburg (#6): Westburg played just two games this week, hitting his third home run, before suffering lower back tightness that sidelined him the rest of the series.
- IF Joey Ortiz (#7): Ortiz had a nice week that included a little league home run in the series finale. He didn’t play Saturday, with the O’s holding him out of the lineup in case they needed to call him up after Ramón Urías took a pitch off his head in Chicago.
- IF Connor Norby (#9): After a sensational start that earned him Player of the Week honors in last week’s poll, Norby fell into a slump, going just 3-for-18 with no extra-base hits.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 2-4 vs. Akron RubberDucks (Guardians)
- Coming week: at Altoona Curve (3-6, Pirates)
- Season record: 4-5, fifth place (1.0 GB) in Eastern League Southwest
It’s Heston Kjerstad’s world, and we’re all just living in it. The Orioles’ #10 prospect has had a roller coaster of a pro career so far — from being picked second overall in 2020 to missing nearly two full years with myocarditis and a hamstring strain — and now he’s very much on the upswing again. Kjerstad smacked a whopping four home runs this week, giving him five for the year in just nine games. He’s slugging .800, OPSing 1.229, and even leads the team in stolen bases with three. Is there anything he can’t do? [swoon]
Did you miss either of Heston Kjerstad's home runs from the last two days? Don't worry, he just hit another. pic.twitter.com/hZ6u35kNWt— Bowie Baysox (@BowieBaysox) April 15, 2023
Elsewhere, John Rhodes and César Prieto, tied at #23 on the prospect rankings, contributed seven RBIs and eight hits this week, respectively. The highest ranked prospect on the Baysox, infielder Coby Mayo (#8), went homerless amid a quiet week.
Two pitching prospects acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Cade Povich (#12) and Chayce McDermott (#18 tied), delivered almost identically stellar outings this week. Each went five scoreless innings and walked two, though Povich had one more strikeout (seven) and allowed one fewer hit (two). Povich, part of the Jorge López trade return, tossed his gem three days after his 23rd birthday. McDermott, acquired from Houston in the Trey Mancini trade, has started his year with eight scoreless innings. Another trade acquisition, right-hander Garrett Stallings — picked up from the Angels for José Iglesias in 2020 — made two starts this week, twirling six scoreless, two-hit innings in his second one.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 2-4 at Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
- Coming week: vs. Jersey Shore BlueClaws (2-7, Phillies)
- Season record: 4-5, tied for third place (3.0 GB) in South Atlantic League North
Pitching has been an issue for the IronBirds, who have used 18 different pitchers in nine games and hold a collective 5.35 ERA, fourth-worst in the 12-team South Atlantic League. The standout of the group so far is right-hander Trace Bright, the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in last year’s draft, who racked up eight strikeouts this week and has an eye-popping 18 Ks in eight innings this season. With numbers like that, you might say that Trace Bright’s future is...Trace. (Wait. I did that wrong.) Righty Jean Pinto, another piece of the Iglesias trade, had an eight-strikeout game as well. Pinto, who is repeating the High-A level this year, has a 1.93 ERA in two starts.
Nobody particularly stood out on the offensive end this week, as no IronBirds hitter had more than four hits in the six-game series. Prospects Dylan Beavers (#11), Jud Fabian (#13), Max Wagner (#16), and Frederick Bencosme (#20) combined to hit .153, though Beavers at least smacked a homer. Ah well. They’re only just getting their feet wet in the pros, especially Beavers, Wagner, and Fabian, who were drafted with the Orioles’ second, third, and fourth picks last season.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 2-4 vs. Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (White Sox)
- Coming week: at Fredericksburg Nationals (3-6)
- Season record: 4-5, tied for third place (1.5 GB) in Carolina League North
After a hot start, the Shorebirds have lost four in a row, leaving them with an identical 4-5 record as the Baysox and IronBirds. Their offense wasn’t to blame, as they averaged better than six runs per game during the six-game series against the FredNats. That surge was led by revitalized catcher Creed Willems, who bashed three home runs and drove in eight. Willems, the only high schooler the Orioles drafted among their 21 picks in the 2021 draft, had a terrible first full year in the pros last season, batting .190/.264/.321 with 68 strikeouts in 68 games. This year, he’s finding his second go-round in Delmarva much more to his liking.
CREED WILLEMS!!!— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) April 16, 2023
4th home run of the season. Now hitting .444. pic.twitter.com/tPbPRxlZ99
Last year’s #1 overall pick, Jackson Holliday (#3 prospect), contributed three extra-base hits and six walks this week, giving him a season batting line of .355/.487/.581. That’ll play! One wonders how much longer until the 19-year-old’s inevitable promotion to High-A. A tip of the hat also to Stiven Acevedo, who went 11-for-18 (.579) and didn’t strike out all week.
The Delmarva pitching staff is largely bereft of notable prospects, and none of their starters pitched particularly well this week. A few relievers did, though, including Yaqui Rivera, Reese Sharp, and Hugo Beltran, who each worked four or more innings without allowing an earned run.
Other notable prospects:
- C Samuel Basallo (#14): The Birds’ top international prospect collected eight hits this week, but also struck out eight times without drawing a walk. Between Basallo and Willems, the Shorebirds have gotten plenty of production out of the catcher position.
Last week’s Player of the Week poll winner, Norby, brought in 54 percent of the vote after knocking 12 hits in his first eight games. Trace Bright came in second with 30 percent. This week’s poll offers three new candidates. Who ya got?
Who was the Orioles Minor League Player of the Week for the week ending 4/16?
This poll is closed
Drew Rom, Norfolk: 11 IP, 0 ER, 9 K in two starts
Heston Kjerstad, Bowie: 4 HR, 8 H, 6 R, 1.401 OPS in six games
Creed Willems, Delmarva: 3 HR, 8 H, 6 R, 1.292 OPS in five games