Because of the Major League Baseball draft, Todd Karpovich’s minor league report is running on Tuesday this week.
Although much of the focus is on the progress of the Orioles’ higher draft picks, a number of undrafted players are thriving in the minors. Last year, because of the draft, which was limited to five rounds, teams were permitted to sign undrafted free agents for $20,000. With a 20-round draft, that will continue this year.
Infielders TT Bowens and J.D. Mundy, and right-handed pitchers Ryan Watson and Brandon Young were among eight undrafted college players signed by the Orioles last season.
It’s a credit to the club’s scouts to find players who flew under the radar of other teams, according to executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
“We have a great scouting staff and a group of analysts in the front office that are targeting and identifying these guys,” Elias said.
Young is 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 games, including eight starts, at Low-A Delmarva. He has 50 strikeouts and 20 walks during that stretch. Last season, he got his first taste of pro ball at the Orioles’ Fall Instructional League camp in Sarasota, Florida.
Young was a highly touted pitcher at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but he was not selected in the two-day, 160-player MLB draft last year. He went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA with team-leading 37 strikeouts in a team-high 24 2/3 innings for Ragin’ Cajuns before the 2020 season was shut down because of Covid-19.
Bowens was named the Low-A East League Player of the Week for June 28-July 4. He played in all six Shorebirds games, going 12-for-22 (.545) with a .630 on-base percentage while slugging 1.045 for an OPS of 1.675. Bowens had two doubles and three homers while driving in six runs. He walked four times while striking out just three times.
Overall, Bowens is batting .258 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs after a slow start to the season. He was Named MVP of the Northeast Conference Tournament in 2017 after hitting .636 with a 1.363 SLG in three games for Central Connecticut State University.
Mundy, who played at Radford, has been strong at Aberdeen and is batting .292. He was named the organization’s top position player for June and leads the Orioles’ minor-league affiliates with 12 homers.
Watson was a standout player at SEC power Auburn where he had a 1.23 ERA in five appearances for the Tigers during his senior season in 2020, which was shortened because of the pandemic. Watson made 58 appearances for Auburn, including five starts. He had a 4.67 ERA, with 79 strikeouts and 35 walks in 90 2/3 innings.
Watson is 3-1 with 0.90 in 10 appearances, including three starts for the Shorebirds. He has been a promising pitcher in the minors.
Elias is confident the Orioles can find more of these players after this year’s draft, which concludes Tuesday.
“It feels a little different this year when it comes to the post-draft, undrafted free agents,” Elias said. “This is a new thing, starting in 2020. You’re capped at $20,000 to sign these guys. What’s different this year is that there’s 20 rounds.
“All these kids were hoping to be drafted as of today, so to call them and talk about being a post-draft signing, it’s not something we do anyway. But all these kids are deserving of and hoping to be going in the draft, so as soon as the draft ends, as soon as Day 3 ends, that’s when we’ll start our process and make them aware of the opportunity that’s here with our player development and our desire to raise players internally and the opportunity to make it to the big-league level as home-grown players.
“We’ll be able to sell them on that opportunity. We’re going to wait until after the draft comes, and probably a lot of them are going to come from players who were on our draft board but didn’t get selected.”
Futures Stars: Adley Rutschman, who is the No. 2 prospect in all of MLB behind Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco. leads Double-A Bowie with 18 multi-hit games. He’s had two hits 14 times, and three hits four times. Overall, Rutschman is batting .283/.413/.507 with 12 homers, 37 RBIs and 42 runs in 56 games. Rutschman was selected to participate in the MLB All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in Denver. He flew out to the left field in the second inning before walking in the fourth. He was replaced by Cleveland’s Bo Naylor in the bottom of the fourth. The National League beat the American League, 8-3. … Norfolk reliever Marcos Díplan entered the All-Star Futures Game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. He struck out San Francisco’s Heliot Ramos with an 81-mile-per-hour curveball. Díplan allowed home runs to Brennen Davis of the Cubs’ organization and Francisco Álvarez of the Mets’ organization before departing in the sixth.
Relief: Since June 15th, the relievers for Triple-A Norfolk have a 2.74 ERA (31 earned runs, 102 innings). During that span, Evan Phillips leads with 11 1/3 scoreless innings while Dusten Knight is second with 11.0 scoreless innings. Phillips also leads in relief strikeouts with 13, leading Shawn Armstrong, Cody Carroll and Knight, who have 12 over that stretch.