A cast of minor league veterans and intriguing prospects are hitting the cover off the ball for Double-A Bowie, including first base prospect Christian Walker and outfielder Dariel Alvarez.
Walker, despite not being on the 40-man roster and being behind Norfolk first baseman Brett Wallace on the proverbial depth chart, is being mentioned in some circles as an internal candidate to replace an injured Chris Davis in the short term. That speculation is likely premature, given his relative inexperience and the Orioles' 40-man situation.
But not including Tuesday's matinee against Richmond, Walker is on a tear to begin the season. The 23-year-old South Carolina product has five home runs and 19 RBIs, with a .320/.355/.515 slash line. His 25 strikeouts in 103 at-bats are troubling, and I haven’t seen enough in person to have a clear verdict, but the start is certainly intriguing.
Alvarez, the 24-year-old Cuban outfielder signed last summer, is someone I thought I had a good handle on after seeing him several times last summer. I was turned off by his wide-open stance, movement at the plate, and his difficulty judging breaking balls, but Alvarez has shown well for himself this month. Nearly half of his 33 hits entering action Tuesday — 11 doubles and three home runs — have gone for extra bases, and his .915 OPS is second on the team among full-time players.
Again, I haven’t made it to Bowie this year to check him out, but Alvarez's development could be another positive step as the Orioles brace themselves for a draft in which their first pick isn’t until No. 91.
Second-tier pitching prospects excelling
Behind Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Hunter Harvey, the Orioles have a cadre of serviceable arms who are showing well in Bowie.
Among the biggest names are left-hander Tim Berry and right-hander Tyler Wilson. Wilson is 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA, while Berry is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Wilson is showing his trademark command with just six walks, while Berry isn’t far behind with seven.
The Baysox bullpen is also keeping the team in games this season — a far cry from some of last year’s adventures at Prince George’s Stadium.
At the back end of the bullpen, Oliver Drake is occupying the closer's role with a major-league splitter to accompany his low-90s fastball. Drake has allowed two runs in 10 2/3 innings entering Tuesday, and has a run of five scoreless outings.
Red Sox connection
In my work with SoxProspects.com, I became familiar with several players who are now regulars with the Baysox. Journeyman major league veteran Niuman Romero (.364/.464/.455), outfielder Ronald Bermudez (.333/.371./.515) and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang (.271/.300/.435) all spent time in the Red Sox system.
Chiang was a notable part of the trade that brought former Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard to Boston, but he didn’t do much in the Seattle Mariners system.
None of the three add a skill set to the Orioles system that the organization doesn’t already have, but their presence is notable because of where they came from.