Once again, the Orioles’ top three prospects will be together in Bowie. This time, they’ll do so only a couple of steps away from the majors.
Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez will make his next start for Double-A Bowie, the Baysox announced Friday. There, he’ll join the two prospects who bookend him to make up Baltimore’s top three, catcher Adley Rutschman and left-hander DL Hall.
With the 2020 minor league season canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the trio was together at the Orioles’ alternate training site in Bowie before joining the club’s instructional camp in Sarasota, Florida, where Rodriguez and Hall “dominated,” as director of player development Matt Blood put it at the time.
Now, they’ll share Bowie’s rotation, pitching with Rutschman behind the plate. Rodriguez, a 21-year-old right-hander the Orioles selected 11th overall in 2018 out of a Texas high school, thrived in five starts for High-A Aberdeen, striking out 40 batters against five walks in 23 ⅓ innings while posting a 1.54 ERA. Hall, 22, has already had success for the Baysox, averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning with a 2.81 ERA through four starts. Before the season began, Hall said he and Rodriguez fuel each other through both encouragement and trash talk. Now, for the first time in a regular season, they’ll get to do that from within the same clubhouse.
“Me and him, we’re at each other’s throats every day,” Hall said. “It’s a good time, though. It’s all in fun and getting each other better. He might go out and throw really well, or I might go out and throw really well, and we’ll always have something to say to each other to bring each back down to Earth, just talk some crap sometimes. But it’s all in good fun, and it’s been good to develop a relationship with him and bounce things off each other to help each other out some.”
The first overall pick in 2019, Rutschman, 23, is the headliner of the group, batting .246/.441/.464 entering Friday with more walks than strikeouts. The Orioles’ Double-A roster includes three other top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America: right-hander Michael Baumann (No. 8), left-hander Kevin Smith (No. 18) and infielder Terrin Vavra (No. 22).
Bowie’s roster originally included No. 12 prospect Kyle Bradish, but he was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk last week after three scoreless starts for the Baysox. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias recently pointed to Bradish as an example of how the Orioles are handling their minor leaguers after a lost season: assign them to levels conservatively, and aggressively promote them accordingly.
“We’ve seen some really encouraging stuff so far,” Elias said. “We’ve got an incredibly talented group of young pitchers. Keeping them healthy during this two-year coronavirus calendar is going to be a challenge, and it’s something that’s at the forefront of all our minds. I think that normally a month of minor league play you take with a grain of salt, but in a lot of ways, this is the first data that we’ve gotten on some of these guys in well over a year and we’ve got to react to it, probably, a little more aggressively than we might otherwise.”