Outfielder Austin Hays and utility man Steve Wilkerson will each continue his respective season with Glendale in the Arizona Fall League in October, the league announced Thursday.
While the Orioles have five more allotted spots — four for pitchers and one for a catcher — the club opted to wait on deciding which players to send to the autumn showcase league that’s often referred to as a prospect’s finishing school.
Hays, the Orioles’ top prospect entering this season, will be trying to make up for the at-bats and playing time lost this season when an ankle injury cost him two months at Double-A Bowie. Instead of competing for a major league roster spot in spring training, Hays dealt with a shoulder injury and hit .224 with a .633 OPS before the ankle injury landed him on the disabled list.
He returned in early August and is batting .276 with an .817 OPS and 11 extra-base hits in 18 games.
Wilkerson, who was a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster as a utility player last fall after his AFL stint, was suspended 50 games for violating minor league baseball’s drug policy in the offseason.
Once active again, he made his major league debut June 20 and played in five major league games before an oblique injury put him on the disabled list. He was recently activated and optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk, but suffered a hamstring injury and will begin baseball activities next week.
Wilkerson has only 116 total plate appearances this season.
Both Hays and Wilkerson could be added to the Orioles’ major league roster once rosters expand and, in Wilkerson’s case, once he’s healthy, but the AFL will provide more consistent opportunities to develop and make up for lost time.
Another international signing
The Orioles announced they signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Damien Valdez, whose bonus of $200,000 is the second-highest the club has handed out this signing period.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a statement that Valdez is a “gifted, young left-handed hitter.
“He possesses a discerning batting eye and is capable of hitting the ball to all fields with power,” Duquette said. “We hope he develops into the type of player our fans enjoy seeing at Camden Yards.”