The Orioles called up the best prospect in baseball and became a surprise playoff contender. Might they repeat the former and finish the job?
On Monday, Baseball America released its updated list of baseball’s Top 100 prospects, with Triple-A Norfolk infielder Gunnar Henderson atop it. The 21-year-old has a .946 OPS for the Tides this season and has yet to face a pitcher younger than him. He had a relatively quiet July — still posting an .826 OPS — but came out strong in the first week of August, slashing .333/.429/.542 in last week’s series in Nashville.
If there’s one qualm in Henderson’s game this year, it’s the left-handed hitter’s performance against lefties, as he’s hitting .219 with a .702 OPS in those matchups. But he’s been much better in that regard since joining Norfolk in June, batting a respectable .258/.329/.484 against left-handers.
With opportunity seemingly available on the Orioles’ infield, it’s possibly only a matter of time before Henderson joins fellow 2019 draftee and No. 1 overall prospect Adley Rutschman in contributing to Baltimore’s playoff push.
But Henderson’s strong week wasn’t even among the top offensive showings this week on the Orioles’ farm. Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down five of the top performers in the Orioles’ prospect ranks and hand out some superlatives for those who didn’t make that cut.
1. Double-A Bowie outfielder Hudson Haskin
Haskin didn’t contribute to Bowie’s offensive onslaught this week against Harrisburg with any home runs, but he still delivered several extra-base hits. Baltimore’s 2020 second-round draft pick had two doubles and three triples among his seven hits, slashing .412/.600/.882 and walking more than he struck out. The latter in particular was a welcome development from a player who entered the week with three times as many strikeouts as walks this season.
2. High-A Aberdeen left-hander Cade Povich
Making his organizational debut after being one of the four pitchers the Orioles received from the Minnesota Twins for All-Star closer Jorge López, Povich shoved Saturday for the IronBirds. He didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning or a hit until the sixth as he finished six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. The 22-year-old was the most significant piece of Baltimore’s return, with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias saying the team was “very, very high” on him and sees him as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Double-A Bowie infielder Connor Norby
Entering the final week of July, Norby was hitting .229 since joining Bowie in late June. He’s raised that mark nearly 50 points since by hitting .347 the past two weeks while slugging .796 with six home runs. Half of those long balls came this past week as he thrived in the Baysox’s leadoff spot. His double-play partner, Joey Ortiz, built off an impressive July with a 1.325 OPS to open August.
4. High-A Aberdeen infielder Darell Hernaiz
After some struggles in his first full pro season, Hernaiz returned to Low-A Delmarva before earning a promotion to Aberdeen with an .852 OPS. With a .409/.500/.545 showing last week, he raised his OPS with the IronBirds to .853. The 2019 fifth-round pick turned 21 last Wednesday.
5. Double-A Bowie right-hander Ryan Watson
On Monday, the Orioles released two players they signed as undrafted free agents after 2020′s shortened draft in Norfolk outfielder Dylan Harris and Bowie first baseman J.D. Mundy. Meanwhile, Watson, another member of that undrafted group, continued his breakout season with two starts in which he struck out a combined 11 batters and allowed two runs over 10 innings. The 24-year-old has a 3.45 ERA in 19 outings, with more than a strikeout per inning and over five times as many strikeouts as walks.
The top prospect not featured so far
With Baseball America’s new Top 100 rankings, Henderson is obviously the Orioles’ top prospect. Ranked second and third in the system, respectively, are right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, recovering from a Grade 2 right lat muscle strain, and shortstop Jackson Holliday, who has yet to make his pro debut after being this year’s first overall pick.
That means this section falls to left-hander DL Hall, who in two starts showed both why he remains at Triple-A and how close he might be to reaching the majors. On Tuesday, he reached the 100-pitch mark for the first time as a professional, but it came as he walked five and allowed three home runs in four innings in a second straight rough start. He bounced back Sunday by pitching into the sixth inning on 99 pitches, striking out eight while allowing two runs.
International acquisition of the week
Delmarva right-hander Moisés Chace, a 19-year-old Venezuelan who was in the Orioles’ 2021 signing class, struck out five while allowing one run over four innings. In three outings since spending a month on the injured list, Chace has a 2.08 ERA, overcoming some walk troubles by limiting opponents to a .207 batting average.
The best former top-30 prospect of the week
Norfolk outfielder Robert Neustrom hasn’t quite built on his breakout 2021 season, though he’s been a solid contributor for the Tides most of the season. From May through July, he hit .219 with a sub-.700 OPS. He got off to a strong start to August, batting .316 with a .985 OPS while going 4-for-4 on steal attempts. There’s not a clear path to the majors for him, but more weeks like that will help create one.
Time to give some shine to …
Baltimore Orioles Insider
In the Orioles’ clubhouse, infielders Terrin Vavra and Tyler Nevin have adjacent lockers. In Delmarva, the third player in the 2020 Mychal Givens trade with the Colorado Rockies had a strong week. Outfielder Mishael Deson went 7-for-18 with an OPS over 1.000 while walking and striking out four times each. After missing much of July — and turning 20 during his absence — Deson has hit .318 upon his return.
A handful of Orioles draftees made their professional debuts in the Florida Complex League last week, with Dylan Beavers, Jud Fabian, Silas Ardoin, Adam Crampton and Adam Retzbach collectively going hitless in six at-bats but finding ways to reach an aggregate .467 on-base percentage.
In the Dominican Summer League, outfielder Braylin Tavera, who received a franchise-record $1.7 million signing bonus in January, went 6-for-12 and walked five times to post a 1.334 OPS.
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