xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Breaking down the four most exciting position groups from the Orioles’ preliminary minor league rosters

Nearly 18 months without minor league baseball has done unquantifiable and perhaps significant harm to the Orioles’ rebuilding project, but come Tuesday, its return will allow things to get back on track.

After a month of preparation in Florida, the team broke minor league camp Friday and announced which prospects would be heading where ahead of minor league Opening Day on Tuesday.

Advertisement

Many of the assignments were expected, including the likes of top prospect Adley Rutschman and left-hander DL Hall at Double-A Bowie, Grayson Rodriguez at High-A Aberdeen, and young infielder Gunnar Henderson at Low-A Delmarva.

This isn’t a system that’s only driven by the big names, though. There are nearly 120 prospects headed to affiliates this weekend, with many more hanging back in Florida preparing for short-season leagues.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Among those who will be at the affiliates, here’s the most interesting position group at each spot in the Orioles’ minor league ladder.

Delmarva infielders

By using as many high draft picks on middle infielders as the Orioles have recently, with high school shortstops Gunnar Henderson and Darell Hernaiz in 2019 and college shortstops Jordan Westburg and Anthony Servideo in 2020, there’s quite a group of talented young infielders who will be making their full-season debuts in Low-A with the Shorebirds.

While Hernaiz only got to be part of the instructional league last year, Henderson went to the Bowie camp and improved against older pitching to give the organization glimpses of what they could have in him.

Both were among the most impressive players the team had at minor league spring training last month, and Westburg has also impressed since the Orioles took him 30th overall last summer. This group doesn’t represent the organization’s only investment in the infield lately, with millions spent on Latin American amateur infielders and several infielders added in trades. This is the highest-profile group of them in the organization, though.

Advertisement

There’s another wave of infielders with major league talent above them that’s much closer to the big leagues than this group. But there’s far more likely to be key pieces of the next contending Orioles infield starting the year with the Shorebirds than anywhere else in the system.

Aberdeen pitchers

Grayson Rodriguez will headline the rotation at Aberdeen, which is a small irony because he never pitched there when it was a short-season league. Now that it’s a full-season, High-A league, he will be one of the top pitchers to ever wear the uniform.

Behind him, this group will be a bit of a barometer for the state of the minor league pitching program in the third year of this project — though only the second year with actual baseball.

Blaine Knight will have something to prove after being back in High-A after struggling there in 2019, and Drew Rom was one of the better performers with Delmarva that year as well. But this staff features 10 2019 draftees that either the Orioles took or acquired in trades who have little to nl minor league experience.

Garrett Stallings, who the Orioles acquired for José Iglesias in December, and Kyle Brnovich, who the Orioles acquired for Dylan Bundy the previous December, are two imports in this group. Kade Strowd, Gonnor Gillispie and Morgan McSweeney are among their own selections who will begin a long-awaited first full season in High-A.

Many of the Orioles’ pitcher picks in 2019 were on the third day of the draft, and the team was able to target later-round picks who fit specifically what they were looking for. They followed that by taking one pitcher — high schooler Carter Baumler — in 2020, and he will be out all year after Tommy John surgery.

This group has a lot of development ground to make up, but if they make progress in 2021, it will be a big relief for an organization whose draft strategy with pitchers was essentially that they could develop less-heralded arms as opposed to selecting them high.

Bowie starting pitchers

It’s mostly familiar faces who will be in the Bowie rotation this year with 2019 minor league Coach of the Year Justin Ramsey as pitching coach, and the collective could push the 2019 Baysox rotation in terms of its depth and success this year.

DL Hall is the headliner, with the 22-year-old left-hander looking to show off a year’s worth of work at the alternate site and on his own to show consistency with his electric left arm.

A pair of trade acquisitions in Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith slot right into the rotation, with Bradish in particular a popular arm within the organization despite never pitching in a real game for the Orioles. The organization was also happy with the work Brennan Hanifee, also 22, did back home during the shutdown.

Add in former top pick Cody Sedlock, hard-throwing right-hander Ofelky Peralta, returned Rule 5 pick Gray Fenter, and a host of other interesting bullpen arms, there’s liable to be a lot of arms who can help the Orioles in the big leagues at some point collected in Bowie this year. That they’ll be pitching to Adley Rutschman on a daily basis won’t hurt the interest factor, either.

Norfolk infielders

While there’s a host of highly touted infielder at the lowest full-season level in the Orioles’ organization, there’s a chance for more immediate major league contribution from the group at Norfolk.

The headliner on the dirt there is Jahmai Jones, a 23-year-old second baseman acquired from the Angels for Alex Cobb this winter. He had a rocky spring training in big league camp but hit well (according to the box scores) in the alternate site games against the Washington Nationals. With the Orioles entering Friday with a .512 OPS from their second basemen, it’s not like there’s much stopping Jones from coming up whenever he’s deemed ready.

Same goes for Rylan Bannon, who also plays third base. Tyler Nevin, a corner infielder acquired for Mychal Givens from the Colorado Rockies last summer, and Richie Martin will join them as infield regulars this year.

It’s pretty easy to envision each of these four players at least spending some time with the major league team this summer. It would probably reflect poorly on the players involved if they remained on the roster and didn’t get to Baltimore. So given that, tracking their success as the season gets going at Norfolk will likely be a priority for the Orioles.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement