In a typical year, the Major League Baseball All-Star break would coincide with the all-star games for the high-minors and give the Orioles’ standout prospects some recognition for impressive first halves. This year, however, the MLB All-Star break falls at the midway point of the 20-week minor league season.
For the Orioles’ farm system, there have been success stories and impressive performances abound.
In lieu of a minor league update this week, here are The Baltimore Sun’s midseason All-Stars in the Orioles organization. (All stats through Tuesday’s game.)
Catcher Adley Rutschman
Beginning such exercises at catcher can be a little flat at times, so it helps when the organization’s top prospect and overall top high-minors hitter happens to slide in there.
Rutschman, who appeared this weekend in the MLB All-Star Futures Game in Denver, has looked every bit the star in his first full minor league season, entering Wednesday batting .279 with a .905 OPS and 12 home runs for Double-A Bowie. He’s slowed a bit lately, batting .206 with one home run in July. But it was a big one.
Honorable mention: Brett Cumberland’s combination of on-base ability and power delivered him to this point with eight home runs and a .776 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk.
First baseman J.D. Mundy
A free agent after last year’s shortened draft who signed out of Radford, the 23-year-old has slugged his way onto the radar by hitting 12 home runs with a .939 OPS between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen. Mundy has as many extra-base hits (27) as singles, a total that leads the organization.
He walked more than he struck out at the lower level, but that’s regressed after his promotion and he’s still getting a grasp on first base. But this kind of power seems legitimate.
Honorable mentions: Tyler Nevin is moving to all the corner infield and outfield spots at Norfolk this year to ensure there’s always a place for his bat in the lineup. He leads the team with 11 home runs.
Second baseman Jahmai Jones
An oblique injury kept Jones off the field for nearly a month, and given the way he’s hitting, has probably kept him from getting to the big leagues by now. The Orioles are steadfast that the player they got from the Los Angeles Angels in return for starting pitcher Alex Cobb does the bulk of his defensive development at a new position of second base in the minors either way.
Jones batting .280 with an .873 OPS between Aberdeen and Norfolk with a great approach and some power makes it tempting to see what he could look like at the highest level, though.
Honorable mentions: Adam Hall didn’t get much spring training because of injury and needed some time to settle in at Aberdeen, but is batting .341 with an .899 OPS and six steals in July.
Shortstop Jordan Westburg
Last year’s 30th overall pick was the organization’s player of the month in May at Delmarva and had an adjustment period at Aberdeen in June, but is back to being as good at the plate as he is with his big league defense at shortstop.
Westburg is batting .316 with a .928 OPS, six home runs and 16 steals between the two levels. He and Gunnar Henderson are forming a potentially star-studded left side of the infield at Aberdeen, one that could climb together to the majors in short order.
Honorable mentions: Joey Ortiz got stronger and added loft to his swing to make himself one of the organization’s shutdown success stories and top hitting prospects before a season-ending shoulder injury. Cadyn Grenier caught fire at Bowie right around the time Ortiz arrived and is continuing to hit the ball hard.
Third baseman Patrick Dorrian
The unheralded third base prospect started the season as hot as anyone in the Orioles’ farm system with five home runs in the first week of the season. He’s been up-and-down since, but the 25-year-old is Bowie’s everyday third baseman and still has an .874 OPS with 10 home runs in his first crack at Double-A.
Honorable mention: Division III cult hero Toby Welk is tied for fifth in the system with 32 walks and has a .741 OPS between Aberdeen and Bowie.
Outfielder Kyle Stowers
The Orioles’ 2019 competitive balance round pick does not get cheated when he unloads his compact left-handed swing, and considering he was among the NCAA leaders in exit velocity in 2019, it makes sense that such a skill has carried over.
He’s hit 11 home runs between Aberdeen and Bowie with a .919 OPS, but also leads the system with 77 strikeouts.
Outfielder Robert Neustrom
In a star-studded Bowie lineup, it’s Neustrom who is coming up with the timely hits for manager Buck Britton’s club. He leads the team with 47 RBIs thanks to a .366 average with runners in scoring position.
The 2018 fifth-round pick is batting a career-best .284 with an .816 OPS for the Baysox.
Outfielder Hudson Haskin
Without much fanfare, last year’s second-round pick is showing an intriguing skill set for the Shorebirds. He’s batting .271 with a .789 OPS and 13 steals while playing a good center field. The three most recent drafts have added plenty of outfield talent, but Haskin might have a unique kind of upside among that group.
Honorable mentions: Zach Jarrett is earning notice at Triple-A Norfolk in an unsettled outfield situation there, and Ryan McKenna was great there between major league stints. At Aberdeen, Zach Watson is a polished college outfielder with power and speed.
Designated hitter Gunnar Henderson
Henderson and Westburg’s friendship is centered around pushing each other on the field — literally — with the pair trying to keep the other from playing shortstop. In this case, Westburg knocked Henderson to the utility spot, but that’s no slight on the No. 42 overall pick from 2019.
Henderson was the Low-A East Player of the Week in May and had a .944 OPS with eight home runs at Delmarva, then didn’t get a hit for over a week once he got to Aberdeen. He’s rebounded since that challenge, and has raised his OPS to .670 for the IronBirds with a better July.
Starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez
Baseball America’s top pitching prospect in the game has performed at a level to earn that moniker this year between Aberdeen and Bowie. He has 85 strikeouts in 58 innings over 12 starts with a 2.02 ERA and 0.76 WHIP.
At age 21, this is a big league caliber arm just biding its time until the Orioles are good enough to require his services.
Starting pitcher Kyle Bradish
A tall right-hander with an over-the-top delivery, Bradish has become the focal point of the December 2019 trade of starting pitcher Dylan Bundy to the Angels. He didn’t allow a run and struck out 26 in 13 ⅔ innings over his first three starts at Bowie, but has had a more uneven experience at Norfolk.
For the Tides, the strikeouts are still there, but walks have come into play as well. He has a 3.33 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP over the two spots, though Bradish could still pitch himself into contention for a major league debut as he’ll need to be added to the roster this fall anyway.
Starting pitcher Kevin Smith
Smith, too, is a recent trade acquisition after coming to the Orioles last August from the New York Mets in a deal for reliever Miguel Castro. Like Bradish, he was incredibly impressive to start at Bowie, though Smith has been able to perform well at Norfolk as well.
The 24-year-old left-hander has 62 strikeouts with a 1.18 WHIP and 2.08 ERA in 43 ⅓ innings over 11 games in the high minors. Smith also needs to be added to the roster this fall, so it’s possible they do it earlier and give him a crack at the big leagues come September.
Starting pitcher DL Hall
Hall is on the injured list with an elbow issue the Orioles hope won’t be serious, and with good reason. His electric stuff was mostly in the strike zone before he got hurt, as the 22-year-old had 56 strikeouts in 31 ⅔ innings with a 1.01 WHIP through his first seven starts.
Starting pitcher Kyle Brnovich
Another part of the Bundy trade haul, Brnovich has a little funk to him and didn’t need long to show his potential in his first full season of professional baseball. He had a 0.84 WHIP with 48 strikeouts in 34 ⅓ innings for Aberdeen, and has carried that success up to Bowie. He has a 2.91 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 11 games this year.
Honorable mentions: Blaine Knight, Tuesday’s rough start for Bowie notwithstanding, is back to the form that made him one of the Orioles’ best pitching prospects entering 2019. Zach Peek, another Angels acquisition, is posting big strikeout numbers at Delmarva.
Reliever Shelton Perkins
All the 2019 16th-round pick has shown since joining the organization is an ability to miss bats. Perkins has 20 strikeouts in 17 ⅓ innings and has a 0.63 WHIP over the two lower levels this spring.
Reliever Dusten Knight
Knight was a minor league free agent better known for his backflips than anything else, but in striking out 20 in 19 innings with a 0.95 ERA at the back of the Norfolk bullpen, he might be known as a big leaguer before long.
Reliever Félix Bautista
An imposing 26-year-old right-hander who checks all the relief boxes, Bautista has 36 strikeouts and a 1.08 WHIP with a 1.33 ERA over 20 ⅓ innings between Aberdeen and Bowie.
Honorable mentions: David Lebron is more a piggyback starter than anything else, but his 2.45 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 33 innings at Bowie is noteworthy no matter the role. Undrafted pitcher Ryan Watson has a 0.90 ERA with over a strikeout per inning at Delmarva.