August is typically an exciting time of year for the Orioles’ minor league system, and this year is no different. This is when the Birds’ latest crop of draftees start to make their professional debuts and, hopefully, begin a steady climb up the organizational ladder. The Orioles’ first round pick from the 2023 draft, Enrique Bradfield Jr., arrived at Delmarva this week and did not disappoint, but he wasn’t the only new draftee making waves.
Let’s check in on the new guys, plus all the prospects we’ve come to know quite well, in our weekly minor league wrap-up. All rankings mentioned in this article come from MLB Pipeline’s recently updated Top 30 Orioles prospects list.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 1-5 at Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)
- Coming week: at Memphis Redbirds (17-22, Cardinals)
- Second-half record: 21-18, tied for fifth place (3.5 GB) in International League East. Norfolk won the division in the first half and has already qualified for the playoffs.
The Tides haven’t exactly dominated their opponents the way they did in the first half, and this week extended a losing streak to six games before salvaging the finale of their series against Jacksonville. With prospects like Grayson Rodriguez and Jordan Westburg graduating to the majors and César Prieto and Drew Rom getting traded, the Tides’ roster isn’t as stout as it once was, though they’ll now be getting Colton Cowser back. That’s good news for Norfolk, if not so much for Cowser.
Coby Mayo (#4 prospect), who had started August just 1-for-19, found his footing this week. Mayo had five hits, four of them for extra bases, including his third Triple-A homer (and 20th across two levels). He also drew a team-leading four walks. Heston Kjerstad (#3) and Joey Ortiz (#6) were the only Tides hitters to play all six games this week. Each had seven hits, and Kjerstad homered. He’s one behind Mayo this season, with 19 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. Connor Norby (#7) was fairly quiet, with a .729 OPS for the week. And things weren’t great for forgotten outfielder Kyle Stowers, who struck out in 12 of his 20 at-bats.
On the mound, right-hander Chayce McDermott (#11) twirled another strong start, working five innings of one-run ball, giving up just two hits and striking out six. He didn’t walk anyone, though he did plunk two batters. It was McDermott’s third straight start of 5+ innings, 6+ strikeouts, and one or no runs. Unlike the previous two weeks, though, McDermott did not win IL Pitcher of the Week honors. (That award instead went to Jacksonville’s Edward Cabrera, a veteran big leaguer who pitched against Norfolk this week, with six shutout innings and 10 strikeouts Saturday.)
In MLB Pipeline’s updated rankings, McDermott is now the Orioles’ top ranked pitching prospect aside from DL Hall (#10), having leapfrogged Cade Povich (#12). Both those lefties were in action this week as well, with Povich delivering a solid five-inning, two-run start, while Hall — now pitching in relief — gave up two runs but struck out six in 2.2 innings over two games. It sure feels like the O’s are lining up Hall to join the major league bullpen by September, if not sooner.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 4-2 at Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
- Coming week: vs. Altoona Curve (16-21, Pirates)
- Second-half record: 21-18, tied for second place (1.0 GB) in Eastern League Southwest
The Baysox were the only O’s affiliate with a winning record this week, which was — probably not coincidentally — Jackson Holliday’s first full week back from illness. The #1 prospect in baseball was a one-man wrecking crew on Thursday, going 5-for-6 with a triple. It was his fifth game this season with four or more hits (his second for Bowie). He led the club in hits (nine), runs (seven), and RBIs (five) this week. John Rhodes (#21) also homered.
Jud Fabian (#14) had his strongest week for Bowie in a while, bashing a pair of home runs. His overall slash line at Double-A is still just .173/.279/.420, so he’s got more work to do. Among two recently promoted hitters, Dylan Beavers (#9), the top-ranked non-Holliday prospect at Bowie, was just 4-for-20, while unranked catcher Silas Ardoin reached base 10 times. Recently red hot Billy Cook (#28) cooled off with a 2-for-16 performance, and Max Wagner (#15) took a 3-for-22 in his debut week at Double-A.
Right-hander Alex Pham (#30) has now cracked Pipeline’s Top 30, and with good reason — he’s posted a 2.23 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in nine games (eight starts) at Bowie after similarly dominating High-A. He started two games this week and went five innings each time, struggling a bit in the first but impressing in the second (five innings, one run, five strikeouts, no walks). Aside from Pham, the most interesting Baysox pitchers this week were erstwhile major leaguers Tyler Wells and John Means. Wells, now two weeks into his minor league reset, put five runners on base in 3.1 innings this week. Means, finally starting his rehab from Tommy John surgery, worked two scoreless innings Thursday.
The Jackson 5 approve of this play. pic.twitter.com/WKoxGkoQ2k— Bowie Baysox (@BowieBaysox) August 10, 2023
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 2-4 at Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
- Coming week: vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (14-28, Nationals)
- Second-half record: 19-22, fifth place (6.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North
It’s kind of amazing that the IronBirds’ overall record isn’t uglier, considering they just suffered a 13-game losing streak in which they were outscored by 51 runs. Aberdeen managed to snap the skid with a pair of wins this week, even though only one hitter was the least bit productive. It’s exactly who you think it is. Samuel Basallo (#5), now a top-five O’s prospect, collected seven hits — no other IronBird had more than four — and bashed his first home run at the High-A level. He’s starting to heat up in his second week since his promotion to Aberdeen. Carter Young, a 2022 draftee, also was promoted to Aberdeen last week, but played only one game for reasons unknown.
Another prospect who just entered the Orioles’ top 30, right-hander Juan Nuñez (#29), had a forgettable start this week — 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 BB — but his 11.1 K/9 rate in 86 innings this year has opened some eyes (as has his 5.1 BB/9 rate, for opposite reasons). The 5-foot-11 righty was one of the four pitchers acquired in last year’s Jorge López trade. Righty Daniel Lloyd made a pair of starts this week and gave up three runs in eight innings. The best outing belonged to Kyle Virbitsky, the other piece of last winter’s Cole Irvin/Darell Hernaiz trade, who worked five scoreless innings and fanned five.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 2-4 at Carolina Mudcats (Brewers)
- Coming week: vs. Salem Red Sox (18-24)
- Second-half record: 17-24, sixth place (9.5 GB) in Carolina League North
It was a big week at Delmarva, where first round pick Enrique Bradfield Jr. (#8), along with several other 2023 draftees, debuted. The book on Bradfield was that he brings game-changing speed, and that certainly held true in his first week with the Shorebirds, where he racked up eight (8!) stolen bases in just four games. He also walked nine times, giving him a cool .619 OBP. Couldn’t ask for a much better start.
But Bradfield was upstaged by the Orioles’ 10th-rounder, Matthew Etzel, who picked up eight hits and drove in nine runs. He hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and OPS’ed 1.073. Etzel, a 21-year-old outfielder, was selected 301st overall from Southern Mississippi. Second round pick Mac Horvath, who debuted at #13 in Pipeline’s rankings, was 3-for-11.
None of the just-drafted pitchers have made it to Delmarva yet, but there are a couple of interesting arms on this roster nonetheless. Lefty Luis De León (#27), now a ranked prospect on Pipeline, pitched three innings of long relief this week, but has been a starter most of the season. He mowed through the FCL and now has a 1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 15 innings for the Shorebirds, with 17 strikeouts. Pipeline’s bio praises De León’s “three-pitch mix and the ability to land it for strikes in the future.” Sounds promising! Also performing well this week was 19-year-old lefty Deivy Cruz, who threw five scoreless innings. For a guy who’s 2.6 years young for the level, Cruz is more than holding his own (3.36 ERA, 9.7 K/9), albeit with some control issues (4.6 BB/9).
Florida Complex League
Several 2023 draftees have started filing through the Orioles’ rookie league affiliate, including third-round right-hander Kiefer Lord, but it’s also been a landing spot for some rehabbing O’s pitchers. The injury-plagued Carter Baumler (#23), a 2020 draftee who had pitched just four professional games before this season, is back on the mound in the FCL. He’s made three appearances so far and tossed six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. And right-hander Zach Peek, acquired in the Dylan Bundy trade back in the day, has returned after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. In 0.2 innings on Friday, he gave up four runs, though only one was earned. FCL fielders probably aren’t the best.
In a head-to-head showdown last week, Chayce McDermott (72%) easily defeated Billy Cook to become just the second pitcher to win our player of the week poll. Other one-time winners include Norby, Kjerstad, Fabian, Cowser, Lewin Díaz, and Rodriguez. Multi-week winners include Westburg (three times), Mayo (twice), Holliday (twice), and Ortiz (twice). We’ve got a couple of fresh faces in this week’s poll, along with a familiar candidate.
Who was the Orioles’ minor league player of the week from August 8-13?
This poll is closed
Jackson Holliday, Bowie (.346/.433/.462, including a five-hit game)
Enrique Bradfield Jr., Delmarva (9 BB, 8 SB in Low-A debut)
Matthew Etzel, Delmarva (8 H, 2 HR, 9 RBI also in Low-A debut)