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Orioles minor league week in review: Pitching shines in Aberdeen, Bowie keeps pace in playoff race

Some unheralded pitchers up and down the O’s organization delivered quality performances this week.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Coby Mayo tagged two dingers in Norfolk’s big comeback win.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Time really flies, folks. The Orioles’ 2023 minor league season is starting to wind down. The Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League wrapped up operations a week ago. High-A Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva have just two weeks remaining, and Double-A Bowie has three, barring a postseason appearance.

It’ll be tough to call it quits on what’s been an exciting and productive season on the Orioles’ farm. But before that happens, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in the meantime, and this past week was no exception. Here’s how the O’s affiliates — and their top prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline — fared in the last few days.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • Last week: 4-2 vs. Durham Bulls (Rays)
  • Coming week: at Worcester Red Sox (31-19)
  • Second-half record: 28-23, 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.

Any discussion of the Tides’ week must begin with their most incredible win of the year, a 10-run comeback against the Bulls on Saturday night. After trailing 11-1 in the third, Norfolk plated 11 runs from the fifth inning on, backed by a pair of home runs by Coby Mayo (#4 prospect). Mayo now has six dingers at Triple-A and 23 across two levels this year, leading all O’s minor leaguers. Not far behind him is Heston Kjerstad (#3) with 19, though he didn’t homer this week. He did have seven hits though, including two doubles.

Connor Norby (#7) led the Tides with eight hits and seven runs in a strong week, but it was a quiet series for Colton Cowser (#2) and Joey Ortiz (#6). Cowser went just 3-for-20 with 10 strikeouts, though he still has an .848 OPS in his two weeks since returning to the minors from the Orioles. Ortiz batted .217 with a .660 OPS this week.

The Birds’ top two pitching prospects in the minors, Chayce McDermott (#11) and Cade Povich (#12), both had some issues in their starts this week. Povich was nearly unhittable — just one hit in six innings — but was extremely wild, issuing five walks. He had seven strikeouts to go along with it, at least. McDermott was both wild and hittable, giving up three runs, four hits, and four walks in 3.2 innings. Justin Armbruester (#20) delivered the best outing by a starter, working five scoreless frames of one-hit ball. The right-hander, a 12th-round pick in 2021, has a 2.51 ERA this month.

Norfolk season stats

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • Last week: 3-3 at Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
  • Coming week: at Akron RubberDucks (23-28, Guardians)
  • Second-half record: 28-23, tied for second place (1.0 GB) in Eastern League Southwest

After winning three of the first five games to pull into a first-place tie with Erie, the Baysox let a 4-0 lead slip away late in Sunday’s finale, dropping them back to a game behind the SeaWolves. Still, their fight for a playoff spot remains very much alive for the season’s final three weeks. They’re the only O’s affiliate that has a chance of joining the already-clinched Norfolk in the MiLB postseason, while both Aberdeen and Delmarva are close to elimination.

This week’s Baysox star was unranked right-hander Connor Gillispie, who fired 10 scoreless innings across two starts this week, with as many strikeouts (nine) as hits allowed. The 25-year-old righty was part of Mike Elias’ first draft in Baltimore in 2019, selected out of VCU in the ninth round. He has a 3.75 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 24 games this year. Also worth mentioning is right-hander Trace Bright, freshly promoted from High-A, who delivered four scoreless innings in his Double-A debut.

Dylan Beavers (#9 prospect) was the sparkplug of the Bowie offense this week, reaching base 13 times — eight hits, four walks, and a HBP — for a .542 OBP. Beavers is off to a smashing .350/.458/.438 start in his first 20 games in Double-A. Fellow 2022 draft pick Jud Fabian (#14) provided the thump, hitting two home runs. Aside from Beavers, every Bowie outfielder homered this week, including one apiece by John Rhodes (#21), Billy Cook (#28), and the unranked Donta’ Williams. Perhaps Jackson Holliday (#1) should have tried playing out there; he went homerless this week and had just four hits in 21 at-bats. It happens to the best of us.

Bowie Baysox

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • Last week: 3-3 at Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees)
  • Coming week: at Jersey Shore BlueClaws (30-24, Phillies)
  • Second-half record: 26-27, fifth place (5.5 GB) in South Atlantic League North

The IronBirds and Renegades didn’t exactly break out the heavy lumber in this series. Friday’s 6-5 final was by far the highest scoring affair; no other game featured more than six combined runs. Aberdeen posted the worst AVG (.156), OBP (.239), and OPS (.519) of any of the 12 Sally League teams this week. On the flip side, their 2.65 team ERA was best in the league.

We’ll start with the positive news, where an Aberdeen staff mostly light on pitching prospects — with only one hurler on the Orioles’ top 30 list — excelled. That one prospect, Juan Nuñez (#29) was fine, giving up one run in four innings, but it was righty Kyle Virbitsky who twirled the most dominant outing of the week, shutting out Hudson Valley over seven innings with just one hit allowed on Tuesday. Getting another look at him later in the series, the Renegades tagged Virbitsky for six baserunners in three innings Sunday, but hey, that first outing was still impressive. Cooper Chandler, Jake Lyons, and Logan Rinehart each worked four scoreless innings this week. Rinehart, acquired for the DFA’d Eduard Bazardo at the trade deadline, has begun his O’s career with 12.1 scoreless innings of relief.

As for the Aberdeen offense...yikes. Elio Prado was the only one of the IronBirds’ 14 batters who managed more than four hits this week, going 6-for-20. Everyone else was flat-out bad. The IronBirds struck out a not-nice 69 times and walked just 17, both worst in the league, and had three different hitters with nine strikeouts and no walks (including #22 prospect Creed Willems). The lineup sorely missed #5 prospect Samuel Basallo, who played just three games before landing on the seven-day concussion IL.

A name I was surprised to see on this week’s roster: Adam Hall, who I had completely forgotten was still in the organization. The 2017-drafted infielder, once a top-five O’s prospect, has all but fallen off the radar after two subpar seasons. He was activated off the 60-day injured list recently and played two games for Aberdeen this week, going 1-for-6 with a double and a steal.

Aberdeen season stats

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • Last week: 3-3 at Lynchburg Hillcats (Guardians)
  • Coming week: at Columbia Fireflies (26-28, Royals)
  • Second-half record: 23-30, fifth place (8.5 GB) in Carolina League North

You could hardly have found a more closely matched series. After an 8-0 Delmarva win in the opener, each of the other five games were decided by just one run. The 2023 draftees at this level continued to acclimate themselves well to their professional careers. Tenth rounder Matthew Etzel reached base 10 times this week and is slashing .296/.418/.444 in 16 games at Low-A. Second rounder and #13 prospect Mac Horvath’s four hits this week all went for extra bases—three doubles and a homer. First rounder Enrique Bradfield Jr. (#8) had only two hits in four games but added two more steals to his total. He’s 15-for-17 in stolen base attempts at Low-A.

Not many pitchers from the 2023 class have made their way to Delmarva, and don’t expect that to change. MASN’s Steve Melewski reported that the Birds’ highest drafted pitcher Jackson Baumeister (#25 prospect), among others, will not pitch this season. One guy who has arrived is seventh rounder Teddy Sharkey, who picked up a scoreless save in his Low-A debut. The right-hander led the team with five strikeouts this week despite throwing only two innings. He really took a bite out of the Hillcats! How can you not root for a guy named “Sharkey”?

A couple of promising arms have returned from injury. Seth Johnson (#16), the former Rays prospect who came over in the three-team Trey Mancini deal last year, is back on a mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery immediately after the O’s acquired him. He had a clean two-inning appearance in his Shorebirds debut, retiring six of the seven batters he faced. And 2020 draftee Carter Baumler (#23) threw three solid innings in his first outing for Delmarva since June of 2022. He’s coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.

Delmarva season stats


Last week, in an all-pitcher ballot, then-IronBirds righty Trace Bright earned 66% of the vote to win player of the week for the first time. He joins other one-time winners Norby, Kjerstad, Fabian, Cowser, Lewin Díaz, Grayson Rodriguez, and McDermott. Holliday and Jordan Westburg have won three times each, and Mayo and Ortiz twice apiece.

We’ll add another pitcher to our list of first-time winners this week, a showdown between two hurlers who tossed a lot of zeroes. Who ya got?


Who was the Orioles’ minor league player of the week from August 22-27?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Connor Gillispie, Bowie (10 IP, 0 R, 9 H, 9 K over two starts)
    (179 votes)
  • 32%
    Kyle Virbitsky, Aberdeen (7 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 4 K in first start of the week)
    (87 votes)
266 votes total Vote Now