We’re still on Gunnar Henderson MLB promotion watch, because it hasn’t happened yet.
The midseason updates to farm system rankings are in and the Orioles are still at #1. That’s according to MLB Pipeline’s list of the 30 systems, where the O’s have been at the top since last year’s midseason update. It’s an impressive mark for the organization that even despite graduating preseason #1 prospect Adley Rutschman to the majors, where he’s made an immediate impact, they’ve managed to keep themselves at the top.
One way you know that things have been going well for the farm has been the steady stream of prospects who’ve been performing at their existing level that they keep earning midseason promotions. There was another batch of these yesterday, headlined by 2021 first round pick Colton Cowser. One more exciting bit of player movement coming this week: Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez is set to begin a rehab assignment with High-A Aberdeen.
As we’ve been doing every Tuesday this season on Camden Chat, this is a roundup of the last week of minor league games to take a look at who’s hot and who’s not, with a particular focus on players from our composite list of top Orioles prospect rankings.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
- Last week: 3-3 at Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)
- Coming week: vs. Lehigh Valley IronPigs (68-55, Phillies)
- Season record: 56-66, seventh place (11.5 GB) of ten teams in International League East
For those of us out there, and this certainly includes me, who are looking for GUNNAR HENDERSON to dominate every week and practically force a callup, well, this wasn’t the week for that. Henderson went 4-20 across this week’s six-game series.
If you’ve listened to Mike Elias talk about Henderson’s Norfolk performance, you’ve probably heard him mention strikeouts increasing at Triple-A. That was on display in this series, as 10 of his 20 at-bats ended in strikeouts. Since joining Norfolk, he has a 26.9% strikeout rate. Among Orioles with at least 200 plate appearances, that would be second-highest, behind Jorge Mateo’s 28.6%. It’s 30.3% since the start of July.
Another player in the “When will he get to Baltimore?” chatter is pitching prospect DL Hall. Now being used in relief, Hall had one good outing this past week (two scoreless innings, no walks, four strikeouts) and one bad one (two runs allowed in 1.1 IP). We’ll find out on Thursday if Hall is an expanded roster arrival.
One other candidate could be Mike Baumann, who kept the Jumbo Shrimp scoreless in a five-inning start this week. In ten games since returning to Norfolk in late June, Baumann has a 3.35 ERA and has held batters to a .220/.304/.340 batting line, which could make him a good player to fill a needed bulk inning role in the bullpen and maybe even get a spot start when the O’s play four games in three days against the Blue Jays starting with a Monday doubleheader.
Sometimes lost behind the Henderson hype is Jordan Westburg, who had one of the better weeks among Norfolk batters. Though he only had five hits in 22 at-bats, two were home runs, and he drew four walks while only striking out once. After a poor July, Westburg has rebounded with an .851 OPS in August.
Other notable prospects:
- LHP Drew Rom – Made his second Triple-A start this week, adding five innings where he gave up a run on four hits and two walks. Rom has only allowed two runs in 9.2 Norfolk innings so far.
- RHP Chris Vallimont – The 40-man roster pitcher threw six innings across two games this week, allowing just a run on three hits. The 25-year-old needs to close with some more outings like this to improve on his 5.98 ERA.
- OF Yusniel Díaz – With the news that Cowser is on the way up to Norfolk, it seems like Díaz’s days could be numbered – though he’ll probably at least finish out the season here. 4-17 hitting this week with two doubles and six strikeouts, right around his season OPS of .670.
Double-A Bowie Baysox
- Last week: 4-2 vs. Altoona Curve (Pirates)
- Coming week: at Erie SeaWolves (33-18 second half, Tigers)
- Season record: 33-18 second half, tied for lead (with Erie) in Eastern League Southwest
The Double-A regular season ends on September 18, so the coming six-game head-to-head series between the two currently-tied division leaders is going to give somebody the edge. You know, unless they split the series. The Baysox will be without Colton Cowser and Joey Ortiz, who were promoted to Norfolk, but will be gaining infielder Darell Hernaiz from Aberdeen.
If you want to know what was the last push that got Cowser promoted, it’s this: He fired off another week above a 1.000 OPS for Bowie, piling up 10 hits in 23 at-bats. Ortiz’s promotion comes on the heels of a week with 8-24 hitting, where he walked (3) more than struck out (2).
Topping the power charts for the Baysox was one guy who didn’t get promoted: last year’s second round pick Connor Norby, who joined Bowie alongside of Cowser. Norby blasted three more home runs this week, giving him 12 in 48 Bowie games. It’s impressive power – a .254 ISO (isolated slugging, or slugging percentage minus batting average), which would be top 10 among qualified batters at the MLB level.
This was another week of bumpy results for the O’s trade deadline acquisitions, Chayce McDermott and Cade Povich. McDermott has carried over the command issues he had in the Houston system, walking six batters over 9.1 innings in two games this week. That’s part of why he gave up seven runs. Povich fared even worse in the ERA department, allowing a full Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) in a five inning start. Home runs have bitten both of these guys since joining Bowie.
A pitcher who had a very good week is Justin Armbruester, the 6’4” 23-year-old righty who was not on any radar at the start of this year on account of being a 12th round pick last year. Armbruester allowed a run in 5.2 innings this week, striking out eight batters. He’s put up good rate stats for Aberdeen and now Bowie this year and is worth at least having on the fringe of the conversation for the next wave of pitchers.
Other notable prospects:
- IF Coby Mayo – 5-11 in three games, then was hit by a pitch in his first time up on Saturday, left the game and didn’t play Sunday either. Hopefully it won’t be an extended absence.
- OF Hudson Haskin – Over five games, five hits in 21 at-bats. Still an interesting season batting line of .274/.368/.469 for the 23-year-old outfielder.
- IF César Prieto – Five hits in 26 at-bats with only one walk does not get you many plaudits. .671 OPS in 76 games at this level for the former Cuban pro player in his first year of American pro ball.
High-A Aberdeen IronBirds
- Last week: 4-2 vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals)
- Coming week: vs. Hickory Crawdads (24-30 second half, Rangers)
- Season record: 30-24 second half, third place (2.5 GB) of six teams in South Atlantic League North. Aberdeen already earned a playoff spot with its first half division title.
Hernaiz earned his promotion after a week in which he went 8-22, only struck out once, and stole four bases. He moves up from Aberdeen with an .832 OPS in 60 games, and an impressive 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts. Added to his swipes in Delmarva, he’s stolen 31 bags in 34 tries this season.
One guy who will not be joining Cowser and Hernaiz in the “three levels in one season” club is Heston Kjerstad. We all know what Kjerstad has been through to get even this far and I know we’re all rooting for him. This does not change that the results just aren’t there yet. He was 5-21 at the plate this week with only one extra-base hit and is OPSing just .624 in 33 games for the IronBirds.
The infield replacement for Hernaiz arrived before Hernaiz even left. There was a midweek promotion for Delmarva hitting machine Frederick Bencosme – who won’t turn 20 years old until Christmas and is in his first season in US-based leagues, having risen no higher than the Dominican Summer League last year. After batting .336 for the Shorebirds, Bencosme was 2-9 in his first at-bats for Aberdeen. He’s one to watch after this aggressive promotion.
Other notable prospects:
- RHP Jean Pinto – No earned runs in one four-inning start this week, though errors cost him three unearned runs. Pinto needs to improve the command, but his Aberdeen season K/9 of 10.6 doesn’t suck for a 21-year-old who, like Bencosme, is getting his first taste of the US minors this year.
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
- Last week: 4-2 vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (Guardians)
- Coming week: at Fredericksburg Nationals (33-20 second half)
- Season record: 23-31 second half, tied for fifth/last (10.5 GB) in Carolina League North
The last of the promotions this week went to Jud Fabian, the oldest of the high-round Orioles draft picks this year. Fabian went 8-22 in five games this week, with five hits for extra bases, including two homers. It’ll be up to Aberdeen’s opponents to try to stop him now. He was just better than this level.
A couple of other 2022 picks put up only slightly less gaudy numbers than Fabian for the week. Dylan Beavers still has an OPS over 1.000 in his first ten games with the Shorebirds, with four XBH out of six hits this week and six walks in five games. Max Wagner only played in three games, enough for him to get on base six times.
For much of this season, there weren’t many Delmarva pitchers worth following. That’s changed a little bit. Juan Nunez, acquired in the Jorge López trade, threw four scoreless innings this week, though he walked three batters and has now issued ten free passes in 7.2 innings for Delmarva. Yikes! The youngest player to throw a pitch for a full-season O’s affiliate this year, Deivy Cruz, allowed two runs in five innings. Cruz has struck out nearly a batter per inning for 46.1 frames, but he too has a high walk rate, with a 6.2 BB/9.
Other notable prospects:
- OF Reed Trimble – Once described in a FanGraphs scouting report as “a toolsy stick of dynamite,” Trimble has come on strong in August, including 7-19 hitting with a home run this week. Due to offseason surgery, Trimble has only gotten to play 24 games for the Shorebirds this year.
- RHP Carter Baumler – His return from Tommy John surgery was interrupted by shoulder inflammation. Last pitched June 15.
Last week, the just-promoted outfielder Fabian took down the player of the week poll as the plurality choice (48%) among the five players who made it onto the poll. He is the 15th different player to win one of these polls in 20 weeks. Multiple winners: Kjerstad (three times), Cowser, Henderson, and Kyle Stowers (twice each). Other weekly winners to date: Haskin, Kyle Bradish, Pinto, Mayo, Juan De Los Santos, Rodriguez, Westburg, Ortiz, Norby, and Povich.
Will we end up with another repeat winner this week? The choice is yours.