The month of April has been a fun one to be an Orioles fan so far. The team brought the second-best record in the American League into Monday’s game and the action on the farm system brings near-daily excitement, even on days like Sunday where most of the games are rained out.
The past week of games brought prospects pacing their respective leagues at two different levels. Colton Cowser was awarded Player of the Week honors for the International League, while down in Low-A, Jackson Holliday won the same award for the week. Holliday’s thrashing of the Carolina League is now at an end as the Orioles announced on Monday that he’s being promoted to High-A Aberdeen.
Each Tuesday on Camden Chat, we look back at the last week of action on the farm, with a particular focus on prospects from the composite top 20 list and how they’ve been doing over the course of the whole season to date. Right now, the Orioles have two teams in first in their respective divisions and two that are in last.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 5-1 vs. Rochester (Nationals)
- Coming week: at Charlotte (10-11, White Sox)
- Season record: 15-5, first place (2 game lead) of ten teams in International League East
With four of the team’s top 10 prospects in the Tides lineup, plus no-longer-prospect Kyle Stowers, it’s great to see a week where Norfolk just blew up the opposition. They scored nine or more runs in half of this week’s games, including a 17-7 stomping on Sunday.
Cowser led the way, earning that Player of the Week honor by dropping nine hits, including three home runs and ten runs scored. That bumped up his season batting line to .289/.407/.474 after a bit of a slow start. If any of the Baltimore outfielders go into extended slumps - even more than Anthony Santander’s already is - you might start to wonder when Cowser will arrive to displace somebody.
The center fielder added this onto his defensive highlight reel in the same game where he hit two homers:
Joey Ortiz was not any slouch either. He didn’t put any balls over the fence like Cowser did, but he went 9-21 for the week, including two doubles and a triple. Ortiz elevated his season OPS to .865. Jordan Westburg did nicely as well, adding 5-16 hitting with three walks and a couple of stolen bases.
Lefty pitching prospects DL Hall and Drew Rom each started one game this week, arriving at five innings with two earned runs allowed in different ways. Rom ended up with a complete game due to Saturday’s rain-shortened game. At 91 pitches, he probably wasn’t going any farther. Rom gave up seven hits and struck out five. Hall’s outing saw him give up five hits and two walks. He also hit a batter.
Others of note:
- IF Connor Norby - 7-23 across Norfolk’s six games, which is a nice average, but with only one extra-base hit, just a .681 OPS
- OF Hudson Haskin - Last played April 16, now on injured list with hamstring injury
- RHP Noah Denoyer - Two innings of scoreless relief this week for the 40-man pitcher. 1.50 ERA and 0.833 WHIP in 12.1 IP for the season.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 1-4 at Altoona (Pirates)
- Coming week: vs. Richmond (9-6, Giants)
- Season record: 5-9, last place (3.5 games back) of six teams in Eastern League Southwest
Bowie was kind of the opposite of Norfolk this week, scoring just one in three of the five games played. Despite this, some of the hitting prospects did well for themselves this week.
Coby Mayo (hon) was at the top of the pack in this series, hitting two home runs as part of a 5-17 series. Mayo’s up to an .827 OPS for the season after that. Exceeding Mayo’s average, if not his power, is fellow infielder César Prieto, who’s hit safely in 12 of 14 games so far this season. After adding 9-19 to his tally, Prieto is hitting .397 so far this season.
Mayo blasting one over the fence in Altoona:
On The Verge #BabyBird of the day for April 19th:— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) April 20, 2023
Bowie Baysox 3B Coby Mayo: 2/3, HR, RBI, 2 BB
Mayo reached base 4 times yesterday, hit his second home run in as many days, and is now at an .872 OPS. pic.twitter.com/HGeGJ7adrp
The highest-ranked pitching prospect here is Cade Povich, from last year’s trade of Jorge López. Povich had a tough time this week, giving up five runs in four innings. If you want to feel better about it, he struck out seven batters to give him a 12.8 K/9 for the year. Chayce McDermott, from the Trey Mancini trade, walked three batters and gave up two hits in a 4.1 inning outing, allowing two runs (one earned).
Others of note:
- OF Heston Kjerstad - Came back down to earth, adding no home runs this week while hitting just 3-16. Still OPSing .981 in 13 games.
- RHP Justin Armbruester - The 2021 12th round pick just keeps getting results, pitching a 5.1 scoreless start. 1.26 ERA in three games to date.
- OF John Rhodes - Hitless in 15 at-bats this week. Still Bowie’s RBI leader on the season in spite of that, with 11.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 1-4 vs. Jersey Shore (Phillies)
- Coming week: at Wilmington (7-7, Nationals)
- Season record: 5-9, tied for last place (5.5 games back) of six teams in South Atlantic League North
With Holliday heading up to Aberdeen starting this week, the IronBirds will have the top six players the Orioles drafted and signed last year on their squad. This talent group pre-Holliday hasn’t brought a prolific offense to the team yet; they’re scoring 4.21 runs per game, second-worst among South Atlantic League teams.
Out of those 2022 picks, the best one this past week was Max Wagner, who had a double and home run in his 5-19 batting, with three walks and four stolen bases on top of that. Nice work! He needs some more good weeks as he scuffled before this; he’s still at only a .497 OPS for the season. It was a pick from two years ago who stood out the most here: Reed Trimble hit two doubles and a triple in his 5-17 batting. Trimble also walked three times and added three stolen bases. Like Wagner, more of this is needed to turn his season around.
Wagner hitting one out towards I-95:
Fire us up Max Wagner pic.twitter.com/YMWgyvi5zY— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) April 23, 2023
Of the top 30 Orioles prospects on the composite list, zero are Aberdeen pitchers. It is not where the talent in the system is right now. An early-start standout was Trace Bright for striking out a ton of guys in his first two starts. He was blasted for four runs (two earned) while recording only two outs in a start this week. Oh well.
Others of note:
- OF Dylan Beavers - A favorite in my household because my wife randomly predicted the Orioles would draft him right before they announced the pick. 4-18 this week including four walks; .768 OPS in 13 games.
- OF Jud Fabian - 4-17 with a home run, three walks, a stolen base. .665 OPS so far.
- IF Frederick Bencosme - A hitting machine at Delmarva last year, Bencosme hasn’t found his footing at Aberdeen yet, including an 0-13 week just past.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 4-1 at Fredericksburg Nationals (one game suspended)
- Coming week: vs. Salem Red Sox (8-7)
- Season record: 8-6, tied for first place of six teams in Carolina League North
Holliday picked up the Player of the Week award and figuratively sails up to Aberdeen after batting 9-20 with two home runs, plus six walks and a stolen base, in his final week with the Shorebirds. The pitchers of the Carolina League could not stop him and now he is a problem for more advanced pitchers.
With Holliday heading off to the next level, that leaves 18-year-old catching prospect Samuel Basallo, one of the Orioles first seven-figure international signings two years ago, as the most interesting prospect going here at the Low-A level. Basallo is also having a dominating first taste of full-season affiliate action, which continued in the most recent week. Basallo drove in ten runs with 8-21 hitting, including a double, triple, and home run. The .333/.365/.583 batting line is an exciting early sign for this young talent.
The big dude Basallo getting his triple:
One pitcher from the top 30 sits at Delmarva. That’s Juan Nunez, also from that López trade. Nunez, 22, only made it to Low-A late last season. He added a five inning start this week, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five. Nunez now sports a 5.40 ERA across three starts, with a 1.629 WHIP. He had some major command issues in his first couple of starts.
Others of note:
- IF Carter Young - Overslot signing by the Orioles last year does not really have it going yet as a pro. 2-13 hitting this week, .432 OPS in the season to date.
- C Creed Willems - Leads Delmarva with four homers, though he didn’t add any this week. Left Friday’s game early with a hand injury and hasn’t played since then. 3-10, though no extra-base hits, now OPSing 1.310.
- RHP Yaqui Rivera - The youngest Shorebirds pitcher (just 19) picked up a two-inning save this week, striking out three batters over the hitless appearance. 1 ER in 8 IP so far and a 0.875 WHIP to date.
The overwhelming winner of last week’s minor league player of the week poll was Kjerstad, who won with 71% of the vote in a three-way poll. He joins Norby on the list of those who’ve made it into the winner’s circle this year. There will not be a repeat winner this week.
Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week for 4/18-4/23?
This poll is closed
Colton Cowser, Norfolk (3 HR, Intl. Lg. Player of the Week)
César Prieto, Bowie (nine hits, including two three-hit games)
Jackson Holliday, Delmarva (9-20, 2 HR, 6 BB, earned promotion)