You know it, you love it, it’s the Orioles minor league week in review, where we recap all the action up and down the organization over the last seven days. Let’s dive right in.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 3-2 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees)
- Coming week: vs. Worcester Red Sox (31-32)
- Season record: 43-19, first place (7.5 game lead) in International League East
The Tides, who were without several of their best hitters the week before, were back to full strength — and then some — in this series. Colton Cowser (Camden Chat’s #5 prospect) and Hudson Haskin (#17) returned from injuries, Joey Ortiz (#7) recovered from illness, and, most excitingly, Heston Kjerstad (#10) made his Triple-A debut after last week’s promotion from Bowie. Our first look at a Kjerstad-fueled lineup had to wait a couple of days, as poor air quality caused by the Canadian wildfires scrapped the first two games in Scranton, but the clubs managed to play five games in four days starting Thursday. And the Tides just continued to win.
The bolstered offense lived up to its promise, with Norfolk bashing 12 homers in the five games. Of the 13 Tides hitters who appeared in the series, nine of them went deep, from prospects like Ortiz, Haskin, and Connor Norby (#9) to organizational players like Robbie Glendinning, who hit two in three games. Terrin Vavra, recently demoted from the Orioles, socked two as well. And Kjerstad hit his first Triple-A homer, albeit in an unconventional way. Look at that hustle! Heston went 5-for-20 in his first week at this level.
The painfully-ready-for-the-big-leagues Jordan Westburg (#6) just continued to tear up Triple-A, adding two more dingers to bring his team-leading total to 17. And while he’s known more for his bat than his glove, Westburg also flashed the leather.
On the pitching side, Grayson Rodriguez (#2 on CC’s list, since graduated) made some strides in his second start since his demotion, pitching a quality start — six innings, three runs — and racking up 10 strikeouts while inducing a league-best 28 swings and misses. It’s a good step. Meanwhile, DL Hall (#4) is still in the “de-load” phase as the O’s work him back from injury. This week he worked 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings but walked four. And Drew Rom (#18 tied) struck out eight in five innings but put 12 runners on base.
Norfolk, with the best overall record in its league, is close to clinching the first-half International League crown, and could do so this week. The Tides are seven games better than the next best team (the St. Paul Saints of the West division) with just 12 games remaining in the half. Assuming the Tides clinch, they would host the best-of-three League Championship Series in September against the second-half league champ.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 5-1 at Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
- Coming week: vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (25-31, Giants)
- Season record: 23-32, sixth place (7.0 GB) in Eastern League Southwest
The Baysox had a great week, with only a loss in Sunday’s finale denying them a six-game sweep. Bowie’s run totals in the victories were six, seven, eight, nine, and 10 runs, which is both aesthetically pleasing and a sign that the Baysox offense didn’t miss a beat even without Kjerstad. The top prospect on Bowie, Coby Mayo (#8), powered his eighth home run, and also drew six walks from a Richmond staff that was perhaps not interested in pitching to him.
Outfielder John Rhodes and infielder César Prieto, tied as the #23 prospects, both had productive weeks. Prieto was a hit machine, collecting a team-leading 11 hits despite sitting out one game, and drove in nine runs. Rhodes showed more pop, with four of his 10 hits going for extra bases, including his fourth home run of the year. Shayne Fontana, back with Bowie after a month and a half at Triple-A, collected two homers and nine RBIs in his return.
The two key pitching prospects the Orioles acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Cade Povich (#12) and Chayce McDermott (#18 tied), have taken divergent paths of late. McDermott, the right-hander obtained from Houston in the Trey Mancini trade, made two starts this week and gave up just three runs (two earned) in nine innings, striking out 12. The 24-year-old lowered his season ERA to 2.56 to go with a 1.20 WHIP and 11.1 K/9. Only once in 12 outings has he surrendered more than two runs. However, his sky-high walk rate — 5.6 BB/9 — will need to come down before he gets considered for a promotion to Triple-A.
Povich’s season, meanwhile, has gone off the rails. With a forgettable four-inning, four-run, five-walk performance this week, this third rough outing in a row, the lefty has a 5.55 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 11 starts. He’s still striking out plenty of hitters, with 13.2 K/9, but like McDermott he’s struggling with his control, issuing more than a walk every two innings. The 23-year-old Povich came over from Minnesota in the Jorge López trade.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 3-3 vs. Asheville Tourists (Astros)
- Coming week: vs. Brooklyn Cyclones (24-32, Mets)
- Season record: 28-28, fourth place (4.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North
It’s Jud Fabian’s world, and we’re all living in it. The Orioles’ #13 prospect earned South Atlantic League Player of the Week honors with a tremendous series in which he went 11-for-19, homered three times, doubled thrice, scored eight runs, and drove in 11 runs, boosting his RBI total to a league-leading 43. He even stole a couple of bases just for the heck of it. The 22-year-old, selected No. 67 overall in last year’s draft, now has a superb .297/.401/.517 line in 50 games in his first full pro season.
Fabian stole the spotlight from Jackson Holliday (#3), but the Orioles’ uber-prospect had a strong week, walking a team-leading seven times and tallying six hits for a .483 OBP in six games. Beefy catcher Creed Willems, in his second week at High-A, managed only three hits, but two of them were dingers.
The IronBirds’ starting rotation had an excellent week. Four of their hurlers — Alex Pham, Daniel Lloyd, Cooper Chandler, and Trace Bright — each threw scoreless starts of four innings or longer. Pham’s was the most eye-popping of the bunch. The 23-year-old right-hander dazzled with five hitless innings and racked up a whopping 11 strikeouts, lowering his season ERA to 2.58. It’s the second time this year Pham has had a five-inning, 11-strikeout performance. A former 19th round pick who stands at 5-foot-11, Pham doesn’t get a lot of prospect buzz, but he’s opening eyes this year. Like others, though, he needs to cut down on the walk rate (4.6 BB/9).
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 1-5 vs. Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers)
- Coming week: at Salem Red Sox (25-30)
- Season record: 25-31, fifth place (9.5 GB) in Carolina League North
A rough series against the first-place Wood Ducks sent Delmarva tumbling another four games down the standings. But don’t blame Carter Young (#27 tied), who went 10-for-22 and OPS’d 1.227 for the week. Young is slashing .441/.500/.706 in June as he tries to bounce back from a sluggish first two months. It was a quiet week for Delmarva’s best prospect, Samuel Basallo (#14), who was 4-for-21 with no extra-base hits.
There weren’t many pitching standouts for the Shorebirds, unless you’re in to strikeouts, in which case Juan Nunez’s 15 Ks (in nine innings over two outings) might catch the eye. The 22-year-old righty, another piece of the López trade with Minnesota, is striking out 11.8 batters per nine. The strangest pitching line of the week belonged to right-hander Wyatt Cheney, who gave up five runs, none of them earned. The Shorebirds committed six errors — one by Cheney himself — and had a passed ball in his Thursday outing.
Last week, Jordan Westburg became the first three-time winner of our player of the week poll, earning 54% of the vote to top Donta’ Williams (39%). Previous winners have included Holliday (twice), Norby, Kjerstad, Cowser, and Lewin Díaz. No repeat candidates are on the ballot this week, so we’ll have another first-time winner.
Who was the Orioles minor league player of the week for 6/6-6/11?
This poll is closed
César Prieto, Bowie (11-for-23, 9 RBI, 1.022 OPS)
Jud Fabian, Aberdeen (11-for-19, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R, South Atlantic League Player of the Week)
Alex Pham, Aberdeen (5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 11 K; second 11-K outing of the season)