Minor Monday: Ten Orioles prospects who've improved in '23 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Minor Monday: Ten Orioles prospects who’ve improved in ’23

Photo Credit: Patrick Stevens

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A baseball season isn’t made in a month, especially not April or May. Some players deal with injuries early in the spring, others adjust to new roles or tweaks to their approach at the plate or on the mound.

A scorching streak in July or August doesn’t always stand out, since it’s already folded into three or four months of work leading into it. But it’s still there, and can be indicative of a player’s growth over the course of a season.

That’s certainly true throughout Baltimore’s farm system this summer, where the following 10 players have all enjoyed strong stretches since the calendar turned to July (and a few of them were already doing just fine before then, too).

Outfielder Dylan Beavers, Bowie. The No. 33 pick in last year’s draft had already started to shake off a May slump by the time the weather turned warmer, but his work in the last six weeks has been especially torrid.

He slashed .397/.494/.691 in July to secure a well-earned promotion from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie and hasn’t stopped hitting since. He’s hit .300 with seven walks in 47 plate appearances with the Baysox, and while the power hasn’t been there yet, he had 10 extra-base hits in June and 11 in July with the IronBirds.

Infielder Collin Burns, Bowie. The important thing for Burns isn’t so much what he’s done in his first week with the Baysox, but rather what he did in working his way back from injury once he got to Aberdeen last month.

The third-year pro, a sixth-round pick out of Tulane in 2021, slashed .269/.337/.392 with 13 stolen bases in 82 games for the IronBirds last season, and then slashed .265/.358/.373 with seven steals in 22 games in July and early August. He promptly had two hits and two stolen bases in his Double-A debut on Wednesday.

Left-handed pitcher Deivy Cruz, Delmarva. The 19-year-old southpaw has been stretched out from a guy who was working three innings early in the season to four or five on a regular basis in recent months. He’s been in control more often than not of late, allowing runs in just two of his last seven appearances and getting through at least four innings in each of them.

In six outings in July and August, Cruz is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 27 innings. He has exactly a strikeout an inning in that span, and has walked only six, a distinct improvement over his work earlier in the year.

Shortstop Jackson Holliday, Bowie. The top prospect in the minors and last year’s No. 1 overall pick. Holliday set a goal at the start of the season to reach Bowie. He got there in mid-July and has mashed Double-A pitching, slashing .380/.443/.582 in his first 19 games.

His 1.025 OPS ranks second in the Eastern League over the last month, and he’s hit three homers and added 10 RBIs in his first 79 at-bats at Double-A. After meeting his goal from the spring, he may well exceed it in the next month and a half.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, Norfolk. The 2020 first-rounder has basically been the same player with the Tides that he was at Double-A Bowie earlier in the season. He slashed .310/.383/.576 with the Baysox in 46 games, and has managed .327/.394/.558 in 52 games at Triple-A.

The stretch since his promotion to Norfolk includes a July when he hit .387 and slugged .640 while adding a Futures Game appearance to his resume. He’s cooled a little in August (.280/.315/.420) but is still thriving in what is on pace to be his first full minor-league season.

Right-handed pitcher Conner Loeprich, Bowie. The right-hander, who was originally drafted by Pittsburgh and was acquired for international bonus money in 2020, has basically had three parts to his season. After limiting opponents to one earned run in 10 appearances in April and May, he was tagged for eight runs over five innings in his first three June outings.

Since then? The 25-year-old reliever is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA, including 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the victory against Somerset on Sunday.  He has 27 strikeouts against six walks in his last 23 1/3 innings.

Right-handed pitcher Chayce McDermott, Norfolk. The third-year pro, who was part of Baltimore’s haul from Houston in the Trey Mancini deal last year, didn’t exactly struggle in the first three months of the season. In fact, he earned a promotion from Double-A Bowie in early July.

Of course, making the jump to Triple-A and thriving illustrates just how much of a stride McDermott has hit over the last six weeks. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in six outings since July 1, with 34 strikeouts in 28 innings. Opponents are hitting .115 against McDermott since he debuted with the Tides.

Infielder Joey Ortiz, Norfolk. Truth is, it would be difficult for Ortiz to be much better than his nine June games with the Tides, when he hit safely in each outing and had multi-hit showings in six of them. That stretch was wrapped around his most recent stint in Baltimore, when he had only six trips to the plate over nearly two weeks.

He’s hit .352 with three homers and 12 RBIs since the start of July, and slugged .514 in that span. While the slugging is actually down a little from earlier in the year, 16 of his 50 hits since July 1 have gone for extra bases.

Right-handed pitcher Ángel Vargas, Delmarva. A 2019 free agent signing, Vargas struggled as a 21-year-old at Delmarva last season and began this year in the complex league before returning to Delmarva at the end of June.

After allowing a run in his first outing, Vargas has permitted just two runs (one earned) over 10 2/3 innings in his last six outings. That includes a scoreless two-inning appearance Sunday to earn the victory. Vargas has 18 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings since re-joining the Shorebirds.

Right-handed pitcher Cameron Weston, Aberdeen. After losing two months at the start of the year to injury, the 2022 eighth-rounder has settled in well at High-A. The Michigan product is 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA in six outings (two starts) since July 7, and his strikeout numbers (34 in 25 innings) have been promising.

One other number of note on the right-hander: He’s yielded just one home run in 38 innings all season.

RAVENS NEWS from BaltimoreSports.com

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