SALISBURY—The first half of the 2019 season was magical for the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Orioles’ Single-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. They had a 48-21 record, second best in all of professional baseball, to win the league’s Northern Division first-half title.
The Shorebirds won 24 of their first 28 games, and had eight All-Stars. Two of them, pitcher Zach Matson and catcher Daniel Fajardo, have been promoted to High-A Frederick.
Pitchers Ofelky Peralta, Grayson Rodriguez and Drew Rom, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin and designated hitter Seamus Curran were also picked and remain with Delmarva. Turchin was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
In the second half of the season, they’ve won six of their first seven.
“it’s been everything I thought it would be,” Shorebirds manager Kyle Moore said. “Fortunately for me, the organization gave me a bunch of talented players so that makes the year go by fast and it also makes my job a little bit more fulfilling when you can see some difference when the players get better and they’re already pretty good players.”
Moore, 33, is in his first full season as a minor league manager. He’s been in the Orioles’ system as a player and coach since 2010.
“I’ve been part of a bunch of teams in this organization that won and lost and have been right in the middle,” Moore said. “But nothing’s more fun than winning. When you’re trying to develop and then you win a little bit, it’s just like, really gratifying.”
Moore has an interesting mix of coaches. His pitching coach is 37-year-old Justin Ramsey, a longtime veteran of college baseball in his first season in professional ball.
In the early months of the season, Delmarva’s hitting coach was Tom Eller, a longtime coach at Harford Community College who’s moved on to the Aberdeen IronBirds. Eller’s replacement was 68-year-old Dan Radison, who’s coached in the major leagues.
Ramsey said the transition from college to the minor leagues hasn’t been difficult.
“You’re essentially working with the same-age kids just with a lot more ability,” Ramsey said. “Their openness to learn with the system we have in place has made it a lot easier.”
His first professional pitching staff includes the best prospect in the Orioles’ organization, Rodriguez. The team’s No. 1 draft pick last season is 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 11 starts.
Rom, has a 5-1 record with a 1.46 ERA in 12 games, and Gray Fenter, who at 23 is four years older than Rodriguez and Rom, is 5-1 with a 1.82 ERA in 12 games.
“They all want to get better. They’re all thirsty,” Ramsey said.
Blaine Knight, who was the organization’s pitcher of the month in April, was promoted to Frederick after going 3-0 with an 0.68 ERA in five starts.
“Obviously, good players make good coaches,” Ramsey said. “I look even better when I get to work with players like this right now.”
The Orioles’ emphasis on analytics has spread throughout the system.
“Nobody’s going to shove it down your throat, but if you want to figure anything or any player in any other organization, you can find out anything,” Moore said. “Here, information is welcomed.”
Hall and Cadyn Grenier, who’s at Delmarva for the second straight year, can play both second and short.
Grenier, a teammate of Adley Rutschman’s at Oregon State, and Hall are different. Hall grew up in Bermuda until he was 12 before emigrating to Canada.The 20-year-old homered in Wednesday’s win over Lakewood and is hitting .323 with three homers and 28 RBIs.
Moore managed Hall last season with Aberdeen, and has him for the second straight year.
“He’s a young player from Canada, and you never know when those guys are going to get it,” Moore said. “When they get it, it usually moves fast for them.
“He may have come along a little slower than we wished, but in the second half of last year when he got hot, he sort of got it, and he’s been off to the races ever since.
Moore decided he needed to focus Hall differently, and he likes the results.
“Mentally, he set some different kind of goals that weren’t so batting averaged-based, high school-type goals,” Moore said. “We worked on his mental makeup and what he hopes to achieve at the park every day.
“When we got that right, his results took care of itself as opposed to coming to the park and trying to get three hits and trying to hit .300. He’s coming to the park trying to be a pro about everything he does.”
Grenier isn’t upset about repeating a level. He came from college to the Shorebirds last year, and is savoring a special team.
“Everybody has a lot of fun in here,” Grenier said. “There’s great chemistry. You don’t see that with every professional team. To have that is pretty special, and I think that’s been part of the reason that we’ve had such a successful season already.”
Ramsey, whose college experience includes stints at Sacramento State, Long Beach State and Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale, has had an enjoyable ride so far.
“The differences are we play games every day and we don’t have to recruit,” he said. “Instead of practicing three or four days a week, we have early work and then play a game. I’m not making phone calls every night trying to get the next talented player to come join the program … the ability to just focus on the player development is just awesome.”