It's becoming something of an annual tradition. Each year, the Orioles' first-round pick — a pitcher, typically — opens his first full season with the organization by posting otherworldly numbers and generating a buzz the likes of which hadn't been seen since, well, the year before.
That run slowed a bit for 2013 top pick Hunter Harvey, who issued four walks and allowed a career-high four earned runs in five innings in a 4-0 loss Tuesday to Savannah for Low Class-A Delmarva. Compared to the total of seven earned runs he'd conceded in his career entering the start, four is a big number.
But the loss is just a bump in the road for a pitcher who, with every start, looks more and more like a steal at pick No. 22 last year. Harvey’s fastball, which sits around 92-93 mph and touches 95, is a pitch he can command all over the plate. His hard, sweeping high-70s curveball freezes hitters with its movement across the plate, and he’s developing a changeup as well. As with any young pitcher, his command can come and go throughout the outing. But I've seen him quickly adjust to regain control, something that may not have happened Tuesday.
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What the four runs do, however, is elminiate comparisons to fellow top prospect Dylan Bundy’s stint in Delmarva. Bundy allowed just seven base runners — five hits and two walks — and two unearned runs in 30 innings over eight starts before moving up to Frederick in 2012 and, eventually, the big leagues.
Harvey’s 2.08 ERA in five starts is only bad in comparison to Bundy. But for a 19-year-old in full-season ball, Harvey is showing more than enough to keep his buzz going.
The only Delmarva game I went to this year was a 15-inning affair, so I got familiar with plenty of their bullpen pieces. Most impressive thus far are the team’s closer, Jimmy Yacabonis, 6-foot-9 right-hander Dylan Rheault, and flamethrower Williams Louico.
Yacobonis has not allowed an earned run in nine appearances, with six saves to his credit. The towering Rheault is living around the plate, with only four walks in 14.1 innings en route to a 1.26 ERA.
And at 24, Louico is old for the level in Delmarva, but when you throw in the upper-90s, you get as long to figure it out as you need. The Haitian right-hander looks to be doing just that. Entering the year, he had walked as many batters as he struck out in affiliated ball. But his 14/5 K/BB rate this year is promising, no matter how small the sample.
Waiting to catch fire
Outfielders Conor Bierfeldt and Mike Yastrzemski, and first baseman Trey Mancini were stars last year for short-season Class-A Aberdeen, and led the Ironbirds to a division title.
Only Yastrzemski has done much in the South Atlantic League.
Yastrzemski is hitting .325 in his past 10 games to raise his average to .279 with a home run and 10 RBIs. Bierfeldt has the lowest average on the team at .156, after hitting .264 with 12 home runs a year ago, and Mancini is following up last year’s .328/.382/.449 campaign with a .245/.321/.309 line.