Considering the lack of a minor league season in 2020 and all the detriment that caused for the Orioles, the last week of the minor league regular season for all the affiliates except Triple-A Norfolk is bittersweet.
It’s a shame the shortened season is nearly over, but following it has been a bright spot in what’s been a difficult year at the major league level for the Orioles (46-97).
Double-A Bowie is still pushing for a playoff spot, and the Triple-A season runs until the major league season ends at the beginning of October. For everyone else, the push to end the season on a high note is on. Many are already doing so.
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. Low-A Delmarva outfielder Colton Cowser
Everything the Orioles saw in top pick Colton Cowser coming out of Sam Houston — the contact skills, the impressive approach and the undeniable production — has shown itself as the fifth overall pick has gotten settled with the Shorebirds.
Cowser had 11 hits, including a double, in 20 at-bats last week against Fredericksburg and is batting .377 with a .986 OPS in 20 games there. It’s been an up-and-down month for many of the new draft picks at Delmarva since they arrived in the middle of last month, but Coswer is showing that he might not need to return to the Shorebirds to start 2022 but perhaps start in High-A Aberdeen instead.
That would put him on track, with continued success, to follow footsteps of someone like Kyle Stowers and possibly end up in Triple-A next year. The Orioles said he could move fast when they drafted him, and he just might.
2. Triple-A Norfolk infielder Tyler Nevin
Nevin, one of three players acquired in what’s shaping up to be a shrewd trade of reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies last summer, hit a pair of home runs with a .930 OPS this week for the Tides against Durham to perhaps launch him into a productive end of the season.
Nevin, 24, is hitting well this summer for the Tides, and his corner infield/outfield profile will require more production at the major league level to justify an everyday spot. But even though he seems blocked at those positions on the Orioles’ depth chart at the moment, some of the players ahead of him, such as Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini, could be viable trade options this offseason, creating a chance for Nevin to break through — provided he hits next year.
3. Double-A Bowie first baseman Andrew Daschbach
In less than a month at Bowie, the 2019 11th-round pick out of Stanford has shown himself to be a member of the Orioles’ growing group of intriguing first base sluggers. He hit three home runs out of his five hits this week in Harrisburg for a .970 OPS, and since he was promoted to the Baysox on Aug. 17, Daschbach has seven home runs in 24 games.
While Nevin is the closest to the majors, there’s plenty of interesting first base bats emerging in the Orioles’ system, Daschbach among them. Others include J.D. Mundy, TT Bowens, and Jacob Teter.
4. Double-A Bowie right-hander Kyle Brnovich
As two-start weeks go, they don’t get much better than what Brnovich did in Harrisburg for the Baysox. He allowed just an unearned run in five innings each outing, striking out six while allowing five hits and hitting a batter Tuesday and yielding two hits while walking two, hitting two and striking out five Sunday. The impressive week lowered Brnovich’s ERA from 4.44 a week ago to 3.65 since he joined the Baysox in mid-June.
Over stints with Aberdeen and Bowie, Brnovich has a 3.16 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP with 118 strikeouts in 91 innings. Out of 332 pitchers in the minors with at least 80 innings this year, Brnovich ranks well in nearly all the relevant rate stats. A product of the Dylan Bundy trade to the Los Angeles Angels, Brnovich’s success at Double-A makes him another interesting arm the Orioles brought in for a player who wasn’t going to do much to help them long-term.
5. Double-A Bowie left-hander Drew Rom
Speaking of success at Double-A, these last two starts have brought some for Rom, who has for the second straight full season been one of the Orioles’ top minor league starters without much fanfare.
He struck out seven in five shutout innings Friday, allowing three hits without a walk for his best outing of his eight with Bowie. Rom, a 21-year-old lefty with an advanced pitch mix, struck out 113 with a 1.18 WHIP and a 3.33 ERA in 22 games (19 starts) between Aberdeen and Bowie this year.
The challenges that lefties without premium stuff face in the American League East shouldn’t be lost on the Orioles, but it seems as if Rom will be the latest to breeze through the minors before he’s challenged in their system.
The top prospect not featured so far
Ho-hum. Adley Rutschman hit two home runs, doubled once, and walked four times for an .832 OPS in six games against Durham, and he’s batting .323 with a .910 OPS and 11 extra-base hits in the last month at Norfolk. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick has been one of the most consistent and productive hitters in the minors all season and has done nothing to dissuade anyone from the idea that he won’t need much time in the minors in 2022 before he finally joins the Orioles.
Mike Elias acquisition of the week
Ryan Hartman was claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros and outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk not long thereafter, but he has proven to be useful high minors pitching depth in an organization that’s lacking that type of arm. Hartman started twice this week for the Tides and allowed three runs on eight hits without a walk and seven strikeouts over 10 ⅓ innings. He had two outings that spanned seven scoreless innings before that.
The best former top-30 prospect of the week
Cody Sedlock, a first-round pick in 2016, has taken off in his first crack at Triple-A over the past month, with a season-high eight strikeouts in six innings of two-run ball Friday against Durham. Sedlock has allowed four home runs in four outings at Norfolk, but not much damage otherwise, as he has a 2.75 ERA with 22 strikeouts and a 1.02 WHIP in 19 ⅔ innings.
Time to give some shine to …
It’s been a difficult year for infielder Adam Hall at Aberdeen after a spring training injury cut short his season prep time, but perhaps he can finish strong and launch himself into next year on a better note. He hit .333 with an .817 OPS this week, and is batting .345 with a .930 OPS and a stolen base in September.
Between the two Florida Complex League teams, outfielder Davis Tavarez had eight hits, including two doubles and a home run, in 14 at-bats. At age 22, Tavarez is one of a handful of international signees who are holdovers from the last front office before there was a renewed emphasis on the Latin American market.
Today, 7:05 p.m.
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