Players to watch at Orioles' Instructional League camp - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Players to watch at Orioles’ Instructional League camp

DL Hall
Photo credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A number of the Orioles’ top prospects reported to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Florida on Monday for four weeks of instruction. There are intriguing players and storylines to watch.

Heston Kjerstad’s progress:  Kjerstad was the Orioles’ first draft choice in 2020, the second overall pick, and because of the canceled minor league season and myocarditis, enlargement of the heart, he wasn’t able to play.

The condition carried into this year. After a brief stay in Sarasota, the 22-year-old outfielder from the University of Arkansas went home and didn’t return until last month, when he posted a video of himself hitting.

It will be interesting to see how quickly he makes up ground. Boston Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who started Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night, missed 2020 because of the same ailment but was able to pitch this season.

There aren’t any organized games during the Instructional League, so Kjerstad’s professional debut will come next spring if he remains healthy.

Colton Cowser’s fast start: Cowser, who was the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, made a strong first impression. After seven games in the Florida Complex League, where he hit .500 (11-for-22), Cowser hit .347 with a home run and 26 RBIs in 25 games for Low-A Delmarva.

The 21-year-old outfielder from Sam Houston State could start next season at High-A Aberdeen and follow the path of Kyle Stowers, who was promoted twice, to Double-A Bowie and to Triple-A Norfolk. Stowers shared the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year award with top prospect Adley Rutschman.

Along with Yusniel Diaz, Stowers is in the Arizona Fall League and not at the Instructional League camp.

Pitching prospects: Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in minor league baseball, isn’t in Sarasota. DL Hall, the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2017 who missed time this past season because of an elbow injury, is there. The 23-year-old left-hander began the season ahead of Rodriguez, who started at Aberdeen.

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In seven starts for Bowie, Hall was 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings before hurting the elbow, which ended his season.

The best-case scenario for Hall is that he recovers fully, as Mike Baumann did from his forearm injury, and ends 2022 with the Orioles, but not before a stop at Norfolk.

Class of the infield: In 2019, Gunnar Henderson was the Orioles’ second-round draft choice. In 2020, Jordan Westburg was the 30th overall pick in the draft. Both began the year at Delmarva and advanced to Aberdeen before ending it at Bowie.

Henderson and Westburg both play shortstop and third base. Henderson hits left and is just 20. Westburg, 22, hits right-handed.

In his first full professional season, Henderson hit .258 with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs and an .826 OPS. Westburg made his pro debut with a .285 average, 15 homers and 79 RBIs and an .868 OPS.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if both Henderson and Westburg ended 2022 with the Orioles.

40-man roster decisions: The Orioles could use the Instructional League to help them make decisions on the 40-man roster. Last year, infielder Rylan Bannon was added to the 40-man roster after his time at the Instructional League.

The Orioles have a few prospects in Sarasota who are trying to convince the team that they should be protected.

One is infielder Adam Hall, who was the team’s second-round pick in 2017. Hall had a solid year at Delmarva in 2019, hitting .298 with five home runs, 45 RBIs and a .780 OPS.

This past season was more challenging for the 22-year-old, who was born in Bermuda but raised in Canada. Hall hit .248 with three home runs and 27 RBIs and struck out 100 times in 81 games at Aberdeen.

Right-hander Ignacio Feliz, who was 4-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 21 games for Delmarva and Aberdeen, and right-handed relievers Félix Bautista and Adam Stauffer are also in need of protection.

Bautista, 26, has been a professional since 2013. This past year, he was 1-6 with a 1.54 ERA and 11 saves in 40 games for Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk. He struck out 77 and walked 30 in 46 2/3 innings.

Stauffer was the Orioles’ 19th-round pick in 2017 and was 3-5 with a 3.48 ERA and two saves for Delmarva and Aberdeen.

DL Hall is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft and will be added to the 40-man roster next month.

Under the radar: When the Orioles traded Andrew Cashner to Boston in July 2019, they received two young players. The two, infielder Noelberth Romero and outfielder Elio Prado, have advanced in the system and are in Sarasota.

The 19-year-old Romero hit .229 in 40 games in the Florida Complex League. Prado played in the Dominican Summer League in 2019 but has yet to play in the U.S.

Another prospect, right-handed pitcher Jean Pinto, acquired as part of the trade for José Iglesias last December, was 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 14 games in the Florida Complex League and Delmarva. Pinto struck out 84 and walked just 17 in 66 2/3 innings.

Garrett Stallings, a right-hander who was acquired with Pinto, is also in Sarasota. Stallings was 10-6 with a 4.67 ERA in 23 games for Aberdeen and Bowie.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

 

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    October 19, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for the review Rich. Looking forward to seeing a lot of these players with the Orioles next season.

  2. ptjhu

    October 19, 2021 at 8:20 am

    This really is a gathering of the potential 2024 Baltimore Orioles team: OFs Colton Cowser, Hudson Haskin, John Rhodes, Reed Trimble and Donta’ Williams. Infielders Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Coby Mayo, and Connor Norby. Pitchers D. L. Hall and Carter Baumler.

    I mean, *THIS* is why I’m excited for the future — and it doesn’t even include whomever Mike Elias takes at #1 (Brooks Lee or Termarr Johnson or Jace Jung or Elijah Green) in 2022.

  3. TxBirdFan

    October 19, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Good article Rich, Thanks. I’ve seen some of these names a lot and it would be great to watch them progress. In an ideal world, who does your crystal ball say will be the O’s positional players, say in 2023/2024? OF seems to be pretty crowded.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 19, 2021 at 9:43 am

      Thank you, Tx. I’m not into predicting a 2023 lineup. Too many unknowns.

      • Buzz1979

        October 19, 2021 at 11:43 am

        Oh, absolutely, 2022 is hard enough!

  4. Orioles20

    October 19, 2021 at 9:51 am

    I guess D.L Hall is fully healthy. I’m starting to get a tad concern with him. He’s still hasn’t thrown a full year worth of innings. It’s going to be good to see Kjersted back out there. One thing I noticed is the international prospects that will be there. Seems like Elias is going to be aggressive with someone of those guys.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      October 19, 2021 at 10:14 am

      Orioles20,

      This is part of a pattern we are seeing over the last two Drafts w the strategy that Elias and Sig Mejdal are employing; lots of 3B, SS, and CF’ers who are highly skilled hitters w strong strike zone judgement and demonstrated high OBP. Not many Pitchers to be found ANYWHERE…. very strange to me, but I’m starting to think that when they need top Pitching, they will easily be able to trade some of their top Hitting Prospects to get it…

      It’s a bold approach, but when you see the carnage of injured pitchers throughout the Game he is probably onto something…

      The Starting Pitcher for Akron that totally shut down the BaySox in one of their Playoff games this September was acquired from the Rays a month earlier…

      Will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

  5. Icterus fan

    October 19, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Rich, I believe you said that this is closed to media, so does that mean a total fan blackout? No video clips to tantalize us with?
    No fuel for the ol’ hot stove?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 19, 2021 at 12:01 pm

      Marty, perhaps the Orioles will release some video clips. I would have loved to have gone.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 19, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Rich … I’ll be on the lookout for Prado & Romero. 😉

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 19, 2021 at 7:39 pm

      I’m sure you’ll be having Pepsis together, Ken.

  7. Letsgetmikey

    October 19, 2021 at 8:24 pm

    Speaking of players to watch, how bout Evan Phillips. Who would have guessed. Good for him.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 19, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      He’s a very nice man.

  8. Bhoffman1

    October 19, 2021 at 8:38 pm

    Evan Phillips just got 5 outs then reverted to his Oriole ways. From being released by the worst team in baseball to the NLC series. I’ve always said the O’ produce the best castoffs

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 19, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      Bruce, it’s amazing that Evan Phillips is on the NLCS roster and David Price isn’t.

    • Buzz1979

      October 19, 2021 at 9:50 pm

      Unbelievable! The 217 million dollar man!

    • Bhoffman1

      October 20, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      Rich we all know that Phillips has major league quality stuff. His problem was control. Under the Dodgers astute coaching he could do well. This are so many ex O’s that make it on contenders. I hope that trend ends and we develop talent here.

  9. millboy

    October 20, 2021 at 6:28 am

    Exciting times…hopefully a hand full of these guys work out and become major leaguers…help erase the era of Billy Rowell, Matt Hobgood and others

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 20, 2021 at 8:19 am

      I think that era was erased with the drafting of Wieters, Machado, Bundy and Gausman.

  10. MDNative58

    October 26, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    The majority of successful franchises pitching has at least half of the staff signed from free agent Latin American countries. We are just beginning to mine that fertile vein of talent. It’s going to take years before it bears fruit but Elias is doing everything exactly right and it will be fun to watch it happen.

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