The Orioles have the major’s top-ranked farm system, according to MLB Pipeline, and there is excitement growing around their young prospects.
A number of the young players could have a short stay in Triple-A Norfolk or Double-A Bowie before they make their major league debut in 2022.
Here’s a preview:
2021 Record: 48-72
2022 Manager: Buck Britton
Top 2021 Performers/Prospects
Catcher Adley Rustchman
312, 5 HR, 25 RBIs .896 OPS
Outfielder Kyle Stowers
.272, 3 HR, 11 RBIs .773 OPS
Right-handed pitcher Kyle Bradish
5-5, 2.46 ERA
Left-handed pitcher Kevin Smith
3-6, 6.23 ERA
Outfielder Yusniel Diaz
.157, 4 HR, 14 RBIs .476 OPS
Outlook: Buck Britton, who succeeds Gary Kendall at Norfolk, has a strong familiarity with the top prospects in the Orioles’ organization as the manager at Bowie. Britton will work with a talented team with a roster that includes six of MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects — Grayson Rodriguez (2), Kyle Stowers (8), Terrin Vavra (14), Kevin Smith (18), Jahmai Jones (22) and Yusniel Diaz (26). Infielder Rylan Bannon is also part of the roster and will push to join the Orioles this season.
There was some speculation that Rodriguez would start with the Orioles out of spring training. However, Rodriguez will open the season with the Tides and will likely make his major league debut later in the season.
In addition, the Tides have pitching depth with Kevin Smith, Kyle Bradish, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells, who made his major league debut in 2021.
Bradish and another top prospect, DL Hall, are being held back in Sarasota to monitor innings. Bradish has been placed on the Development List. Hall is considered the Orioles’ top pitching prospect behind Rodriguez. He could start in Bowie or Norfolk when he’s cleared to leave Sarasota. Hall threw a fastball that touched 100 miles per hour in spring training and is ranked 52nd on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects after missing much of 2021 because of a left elbow injury.
Last year, 41 players appeared on the active rosters of Norfolk and Baltimore. Fourteen made their major league debut and that trend should continue this season.
Norfolk also will get a boost from Kyle Stowers, who shared the organizational award for the top minor league position player with catcher Adley Rutschman. Stowers led all Orioles’ minor leaguers with 27 homers, 51 extra-base hits, 231 total bases, and 85 RBIs. He sould also be on the fast track to the major league club once his strained right triceps muscle heals.
“Obviously, it’s exciting,” Britton said of his new position. “I understand the responsibility of it. It’s nice that they think highly enough of me to take on the challenge. I’m looking forward to it. ”
The Tides open the season against Charlotte on Tuesday night.
2021 Record: 73-47
2022 Manager: Kyle Moore
Top 2021 Performers/Prospects
Right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez
9-1, 2.36 ERA
Left-handed pitcher DL Hall
2-0, 3.13 ERA
Shortstop Jordan Westburg
.232, 4 HR, 14 RBIs, .752 OPS
Second baseman Terrin Vavra
248, 5 HR, 20 RBIs, .818 OPS
Second baseman/third baseman Joey Ortiz
.233 4 HR, 9 RBIs, .780 OPS
Left-handed pitcher Drew Rom
3-1, 3.83 ERA
.283, 17 HR, 42 RBIs, .938 OPS
Outlook: Bowie advanced to the Double-A Northeast League Championship Series, where it was swept by Akron. Britton was named the winner of the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award and was awarded a promotion to Norfolk. Now, Kyle Moore will manage Bowie. He has been in the Orioles’ organization as a minor league player, coach, and manager since 2010. He began his managerial career with Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League in 2018. In 2019, he managed Low-A Delmarva, and Aberdeen again in 2021 when it moved to High-A.
“It’s such a big jump from A-ball to Double-A,” Moore said. “At such a young age, 36 years old, I can’t say that I saw this for myself happening so quickly, but super excited that it did and really fortunate to get this opportunity from the Orioles … It means a lot that they trust me to do this with this club.”
Infielders Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg highlight Bowie’s roster. Expectations are high for both players and they could earn a promotion to Baltimore this season. Henderson is the 64th-ranked prospect in MLB, according to MLB Pipeline. Joey Ortiz, another player with a high ceiling, also will see some time in the infield.
Right-handed pitcher Logan Gillaspie, who was added to the 40-man roster last November, is a player to watch. Other pitchers headed to Bowie include Cameron Bishop, Tyler Burch, Ryan Conroy, Nolan Hoffman, Conner Loeprich, Easton Lucas, Morgan McSweeney, Zach Peek, Shelton Perkins, Drew Rom, Garrett Stallings, Adam Stauffer, Matthew Vogel, Ryan Watson and Brandon Young.
Bowie opens the season on April 8th against Richmond at Prince George’s Stadium.
2021 Record: 58-61
2022 Manager: Roberto Mercado
Outfielder Shayne Fontana — .241 5 HR 32 RBI, .734 OPS
Second baseman Adam Hall — .248, 3 HR 27 RBIs, .672 OPS
Shortstop Gunnar Henderson — .230, 9 HR, 35 RBIs, .775 OPS
Shortstop Jordan Westburg — .286, 8 HR, 41 RBIs, .858 OPS
First baseman Andrew Daschbach — .268, 8 HR, 35 RBIs, .802 OPS
Right-handed pitcher Brandon Young, 1-2, 4.24 ERA,
Stowers — .275, 7 HRs, 32 RBIs, .900 OPS
Ortiz — .289, 8 RBIs, .816 OPS
Outlook: Moore’s promotion to Bowie opened the door for an unconventional hire in Aberdeen. Roberto Mercado, 42, stepped down from an 18-year career as dean of students at New Britain (Connecticut) High School to manage the IronBirds. Mercado was also New Britain’s baseball coach and did some work with international youth teams and in the collegiate Cape Cod League for seven years.
“The one thing that’s been important in my career is be where your feet are,” Mercado said. “Work your tail off. Never look for your next job. Always continue to be the best where you’re at and enjoy the process of where you are, and opportunities will come when you least expect it.”
Colton Cowser, the Orioles’ No. 4-ranked prospect, could lead a strong lineup at Aberdeen. Cower was the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft from Sam Houston State and split time between the rookie-level Florida Complex League and Low-A Delmarva. Cowser slashed .375/.490/.492 with two homers, eight doubles and 34 RBIs over 120 at-bats.
Coby Mayo has bounced back from a knee injury that kept him out three months last season. Mayo, the Orioles’ 17th-ranked prospect, is looking to show he could play third base for the big league club sometime in the future.
John Rhodes (No. 23), Billy Cook and Donta’ Williams could provide Aberdeen with one of the best outfields in High-A ball. Jacob Teter and TT Bowens, César Prieto and Connor Norby should make up a strong infield. Anthony Servideo and Darrell Hernaiz will push for the job at shortstop.
Aberdeen will open the season at Jersey Shore on April 8th.
2021 Record: 68-51
2022 Manager: Felipe Rojas Alou Jr
Outfielder Colton Cowser — .347, 1 HR, 26 RBIs, .904 OPS
Second baseman Connor Norby — .283, 3 HR, 17 RBIs, .847 OPS
Outfielder Hudson Haskin — .275, 5 HR, 33 RBIs, .792 OPS
Third baseman Coby Mayo — .311, 5 HR, 26, RBIs, .963 OPS
Outfielder Reed Trimble — .169, 6 RBIs, .461 OPS
Shortstop Darell Hernaiz — .277 6 HR, 52 RBIs, .690 OPS
Shortstop Anthony Servideo — .246, 7 RBIs, .801 OPS
Outfielder John Rhodes — .266, 2 HR, 18 RBIs, .715 OPS
Outlook: Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. has been a longtime member of the Orioles’ organization and is getting his first opportunity to manage in the U.S. after taking over the Shorebirds.
Delmarva finished last year with a winning record for the third straight season, and the Shorebirds should have continued success with the talent in the Orioles’ pipeline.
The Shorebirds were an exciting team last season and set a franchise record for most runs scored in a season (720), on-base percentage (.358), and slugging percentage (.396).
While Delmarva lost all of its key players from 2021 to higher affiliates, there is still plenty of talent. International prospect Mishael Deson could start in center field with Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony, Luis Gonzalez and Luis Valdez also competing for time in the outfield.
The infield could consist of five new players with Josue Cruz, Isaac De Leon, acquired from Miami in August 2020 in exchange for reliever Richard Bleier, Ryan Higgins, Moises Ramirez and Noelberth Romero, acquired from Boston in 2019 as part of the trade for starter Andrew Cashner.
Shortstop Darell Hernaiz returns to the Shorebirds after slashing .277/.333/.358 with six homers as one of the youngest players in the league last year.
The outfield will showcase Deson, who went 4-for-23 at Delmarva last season after slashing .369/.416/.515 with three homers and 11 stolen bases in the Florida Complex League. Fellow outfielder Davis Tavarez spent the last week of July with Delmarva before returning to the FCL where he hit .326/.400/.462.
Also competing for playing time are Bellony, who posted a .804 OPS in the FCL last season, and Valdez, who is making the jump from the Dominican Summer League, where he hit .333 with 21 stolen bases.
Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2020, is out for an extended period because of a hamstring injury. He could make his professional debut with the Shorebirds when he returns.
The rotation will have Carter Baumler, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery, along with Moises Chace, Raul Rangel and Luis Ortiz, who are international signings.
Several new pitchers will look to make their mark at the next level, including Chace who had a strikeout rate of 12.89, which led Orioles FCL pitchers (20 innings or more). Lopez dominated the FCL last season with a 2.39 ERA and Rangel was likewise as good in the FCL with a 3.25 ERA. Hector Lopez dominated FCL hitters last season with a 2.39 ERA, while Rangel was equally effective with a 3.25 ERA.
Delmarva will open against the Fredericksburg Nationals on Friday, April 8th at Perdue Stadium