Had MLB not decided there should be minor league playoffs midway through the season, every Orioles minor league player outside the Triple-A Norfolk Tides would be heading home after Sunday’s games concluded.
Instead, the Tides will play on for the next two weeks and be joined in the coming days by the Bowie Baysox, who won Sunday to clinch a spot in the Double-A Northeast playoffs. They’ll pitch Gray Fenter and Grayson Rodriguez Tuesday and Wednesday at Prince George’s Stadium, the only Orioles minor league team with a chance at a domestic title.
Whether it’s players who started there or those who passed through or ended there, Bowie has been a pit stop for almost every top prospect the Orioles have in their system this summer. It’s only fitting they won as often as they did, and some of the players listed here are a recent reason why.
For the final time this summer, 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 infielder Jordan Westburg
The slow start for last year’s 30th overall pick at Bowie, which was his third level of the season after dominating Low-A Delmarva and taking care of High-A Aberdeen, feels like a long time ago. Westburg had 11 hits, including a home run, for a 1.005 OPS last week as the Baysox pushed for their playoff spot.
Westburg hit .143 with a .432 OPS in his first two series for Bowie, then .286 with 11 extra-base hits and a .944 OPS in his next three. Over three levels in his full-season debut, Westburg is batting .285 with an .865 OPS, 47 extra-base hits, and 17 steals. There’s going to be a wave of top prospects at Norfolk trying to push for a call-up quickly next spring. Westburg will be one of them.
2. High-A Aberdeen right-hander Brandon Young
The Orioles feel good about the way they’ve amassed skilled pitchers to develop in the low-minors this year. Young, an undrafted free agent who finished well at Aberdeen, is at or near the top of the list. He started twice last week and pitched eight innings over the two outings, striking out 13 and allowing just one hit without a walk.
It brought the 6-foot-6 right-hander’s season to an end with a 3.45 ERA with 114 strikeouts and a 1.21 WHIP in 84 ⅓ innings between Delmarva and Aberdeen. He allowed five runs in his first start for the Ironbirds, then pitched to a 2.82 ERA in his last 11 there. The Orioles believe Young is one of many pitchers primed for a leap once the innings restrictions are lighter and he can use his pitch mix deeper into games. For him and so many other young pitching prospects, this was a strong foundational year.
3. Double-A Bowie left-hander Drew Rom
If Bowie’s season had ended this week, the 21-year-old Rom would be going home happy. He pitched five perfect innings with seven strikeouts on Friday, ending an impressive season spent between Aberdeen and Bowie with a 3.18 ERA, 120 strikeouts and a 1.12 WHIP in 107 ⅔ innings. His last three starts at Bowie were scoreless, with 18 strikeouts and five hits allowed while walking one across 14 innings.
Rom has cruised through the minors with little resistance in his first two full seasons, and the parallels to other lefties without premium stuff — Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells — are easy to see. All he can do now, though, is dominate where he is with an eye toward what will work in the big leagues. Like those two did in Bowie in 2019, he’s right on track.
4. Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Kyle Bradish
Promoted in May after three starts in Double-A, there’s been a much more traditional set of developmental challenges for Bradish with the Tides.
Bradish allowed an unearned run on four hits with eight strikeouts in five innings on Friday, his third good start in as many tries in September.
There were times earlier this summer when it seemed like Bradish, who is a lock to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this fall, could be added to the roster early and get a start or two at the end of the season. His uneven time at Triple-A has made that feel less urgent, but the Orioles aren’t exactly flush with alternatives and can be strict adherents to the development plans they set for their players.
5. Low-A Delmarva third baseman Coby Mayo
Not every high school draftee had the path Mayo did this summer, starting in extended spring training and then playing in the Florida Complex League before getting the last month of the season at Delmarva. But the Orioles’ plan with Mayo was one that clearly worked.
He ended his month at Delmarva by going 8-for-25 with a home run among his three extra-base hits this week against Salem. After batting .329 with a 1.005 OPS in the FCL, Mayo hit .311 with a .963 OPS and five home runs in 27 games for Delmarva.
Of the 68 players aged 19-or-younger with at least 100 plate appearances above rookie ball this season, Mayo was third in OPS, 15th in strikeout rate and walk rate, and his wRC+ of 159 was second-best of the entire group.
The top prospect not featured so far
It took some creative use of these categories to fit all the deserving parties in, meaning Adley Rutschman’s impressive week that led to a 1.072 OPS — four extra-base hits including a home run and two triples plus more walks (four) than strikeouts — gets shuffled to this spot. It was the best week in the high minors in the whole system, but at some point, what else is there to say about Rutschman? He will continue to do this for two more weeks in Norfolk, and it will continue to be impressive.
Mike Elias acquisition of the week
Pat Dorrian had a white-hot start at Bowie and ended his regular season with three home runs and a double in a six-hit week. Acquired in 2019 for right-hander Yefry Ramirez in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dorrian spent the entire season with the Baysox and hit .246 with an .836 OPS and 22 home runs. Only Kyle Stowers (27) had more home runs on the Orioles’ farm this year, while the only full-season players with a better OPS were Rutschman, Stowers, and Westburg. That’s really good company, and he’s earned being mentioned in the same sentence.
The best former top-30 prospect of the week
Tyler Nevin, still just 24, was knocked off the Baseball America midseason prospect list by an influx of 2021 draftees. But he’s trying to give the Orioles a reminder that he’s not to be given up on yet with a powerful finish.
He homered twice while going 7-for-21 with four walks last week for the Tides, giving him four home runs in September. He’s batting .267 with an .862 OPS this month and enters the final two weeks of the season with a .229 average and an .703 OPS in his first Triple-A season.
Time to give some shine to …
Hard-throwing relievers can come in many forms from many places, and a pair of them impressed in the high minors for the Orioles this week. Félix Bautista, who began the season at Aberdeen and quickly rose to Bowie then Norfolk, had three scoreless innings over three outings for the Tides. Over the three levels this summer, the 26-year-old has a 1.65 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 73 strikeouts in 43 ⅓ innings.
At Bowie, Logan Gillaspie — a minor league free agent signed mid-season — was integral in their playoff-clinching win Sunday. He struck out seven in three shutout innings, ending a week where he struck out 10 in five clean innings.
The FCL season ended with some recent international signings completing good debuts stateside. Right-hander Raul Rangel, a member of the July 2 class in 2019, struck out 45 in 36 innings with a 3.25 ERA and an 1.17 WHIP between the two teams. Infielder Moises Ramirez, who was signed in August 2018 when the Orioles returned to the Latin American market, hit .314 with an .878 OPS and five home runs in 34 total games.