When the Orioles sent some of their top spring training performers — including Austin Hays, Chance Sisco and Anthony Santander — to the minors to start the season, it was a clear indication that the club didn't much value a month in the warm climes of the Grapefruit League to determine who is ready for the big leagues.

What's less clear is how long those players must stay in Triple-A before that determination changes.


With Sisco and Ryan Mountcastle starting to really hit at Triple-A Norfolk, Santander hitting a home run in his 26th-man cameo Wednesday before returning to Norfolk to continue swinging a hot bat, and Hays likely to get out of extended spring training soon, it's worth looking back at some of the precedents from executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and assistant GM Sig Mejdal when they were with the Houston Astros.

First, here's a glimpse of what some of the Orioles’ top prospects are doing in Norfolk, not counting Sunday's suspended game.

Orioles’ Pedro Severino finding success with opportunity that arose after Nationals put him on waivers

With Pedro Severino out of minor league options, the Washington Nationals had to pass him through waivers once they decided he wasn’t going to make their roster this spring. The Orioles claimed him, and a little more than a month into the season, both they and Severino are better for it.

First baseman Ryan Mountcastle: .370 batting average, .916 OPS, five home runs, seven doubles, one triple with an 11-game hitting streak. This is his first taste of Triple-A, so he's got just 119 at-bats there.

Catcher Chance Sisco: .293/.381/.522, five home runs, six doubles with an eight-game hitting streak. Combined with his previous two years at Triple-A, he's hit .266/.347/.412 with 17 home runs and 34 doubles in 580 at-bats for Norfolk.

Outfielder Anthony Santander: .279/.306/.394, two home runs, six doubles in 104 at-bats at Norfolk. Santander, 24, spent most of his 2018 season at Double-A Bowie after his Rule 5 demotion, so he got just 11 games at Norfolk last year for a .250/.277/.392 line with four home runs and nine doubles in 148 Triple-A at-bats.

Additionally, outfielder Cedric Mullins is batting .304/.396/.522 with a pair of home runs and two triples in 11 games since he was sent down after a tough start to the season in the big leagues. With the hope that Hays plays center field going forward, perhaps the Orioles will promote Mullins back to the majors once Hays is ready to play at Norfolk. Hays would give Norfolk four outfielders who would require everyday plate appearances, and putting one at designated hitter would mean one of Sisco or catcher Jesús Sucre (who is temporarily inactive) would sit every day. That's not ideal.

Outfielder DJ Stewart is batting .250, but with an .806 OPS thanks to his 21 walks in 27 games. He remains the type of player who probably won't blow people away with his minor league numbers, but there's no reason to think he won't hold his own in the majors like he did last September.

This exercise really applies to the trio of Mountcastle, Sisco and Santander, though. And it's instructive to note that even if Elias and company don't look at any of these players as of the caliber that the future stars they had in Houston, there's not the urgency to start winning that developed with the Astros.

But here's the Triple-A stats that some of the more notable Astros accumulated before they got their major league looks, particularly in the early part of the club’s rebuild. Houston was losing 100-plus games every year, and in a similar position of playing for draft picks the way the Orioles are.

Long stay at Camden Yards gives Orioles chance to get settled, shake home blues

Friday, the Orioles began a nine-game homestand with a 3-10 record in Baltimore. Both manager Brandon Hyde and outfielder Trey Mancini pointed to this season’s slow start at Camden Yards as a case of a small sample size.

Outfielder George Springer

The front office of general manager Jeff Luhnow, which included the current Orioles' brain trust, didn't draft Springer out of Connecticut, but they were certainly glad they inherited him. All Springer did was hit in the minors, batting .311 with a 1.50 OPS and 18 home runs in 62 games in 2013 when he got his first taste of Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was back in Oklahoma City the following year for 13 games to start the season and hit .353 to give him a .319/.431/.630 batting line in 270 Triple-A at-bats. Springer only seemingly got that extra couple weeks in Triple-A in 2014 to delay his free agency a season, though he wasn't down long enough to delay his reaching salary arbitration, so that all certainly factored in.

Infielder Jonathan Villar

Villar, a current Oriole, was the Astros' No. 4 prospect after the 2011 season, but fell a bit after the first draft of the new regime. But he made it to Triple-A in his age-23 season and hit .277/.341/.442 with 31 steals and 30 extra-base hits in 339 Triple-A at-bats before he was promoted in 2013. He was up-and-down until he was traded in 2015.

Outfielder Domingo Santana


Like Villar, Santana didn't end up in the long-term plans in Houston, but he was 21 when he made it to Triple-A in 2014. He hit .296/.384/.474 with 45 extra-base hits in 443 at-bats before getting a September call-up, but he was back there the next year and only got a two-week cameo in the big leagues the next year despite batting .320 with a 1.008 OPS before he was traded. Outfield, however, was a deep position for the Astros at that point.

Infielder Carlos Correa

The first draft pick of Luhnow's regime, which had a heavy influence from Elias, was a very good one. He was promoted to Triple-A in May 2015 and hit .276/.345/.449 in 98 at-bats there before he was called up the majors and won the AL Rookie of the Year award. He's probably not applicable.

After that, the Astros started having much greater ambitions, so they started to be more aggressive. Perhaps because they were better players than the inherited ones, the likes of Correa, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker weren't long for Triple-A before they got major league looks to help a team that wanted to win World Series.

It doesn't help the non-center field outfielders that two of the Orioles' best bats, Trey Mancini and Dwight Smith Jr., are written in pen at the corner outfield spots each day. Renato Núñez and Chris Davis have designated hitter and first base locked down, which is bad news for Mountcastle.

The company line will be that there's no rush, and that's probably right. If the Orioles think player development is going well in Triple-A, there's no reason other than getting fans excited to add anyone to the major league roster. But as the season progresses, if these players keep hitting, the conversation will take over discourse about the Orioles.

Feeling healthy, Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey now seeking consistency with Double-A Bowie

Feeling healthy, Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey’s goal becomes consistency. Making Wednesday’s rough showing, which raised his ERA to 6.20 with Double-A Bowie, more confounding was that it followed his best start of the season.

What's to come?

Another welcome day off because of rain Sunday means the Orioles continue their homestand at 1-1 with three games against the Boston Red Sox and three against the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards.

Boston is playing like a far better team than the one the Orioles split a four-game series with last month. Since that win on Marathon Monday on April 16, the Red Sox are 11-6, and winners of six of seven. They're also pitching much better, so some of the success the Orioles had at the plate in that series will be tested.

Regardless of the opponent, Brandon Hyde and his Orioles will hope for more games like Saturday’s than Friday’s. The Orioles' split this weekend made them 4-11 at Camden Yards this year, and it'll be fascinating to see whether another clunker of a homestand will diminish interest in this team even further.

What was good?

Having two rainouts certainly helped, but the Orioles' bullpen had its best week of the season in the five games this week. In 15 2/3 innings, they struck out 20 batters against seven walks with a 1.021 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA.


While the bullpen was responsible for the walk-off loss on Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox in the second game of the doubleheader, their run of (relative) success actually goes back 10 games. Things went sideways April 27 in Minnesota when Tanner Scott and Jimmy Yacabonis gave up four home runs in two innings between them, but neither are in the majors at this point.

The resulting six runs from those blasts mean the Orioles' bullpen has a 4.26 ERA in the last 10 games, with a 1.042 WHIP and 32 strikeouts against 14 walks in 31 2/3 innings. The peripherals are much better than the results, and all of it is much better than the nightmare that preceded it. If they can do it over the next 10 games, maybe this group will prove itself to be for real.

Schmuck: Orioles living down to expectations, and that's why they call it rebuilding

The Orioles had way more roster moves than victories during the first full month of the season, but that's to be expected in the early stages of a rebuilding project.

What wasn't?

In his three starts preceding Friday's, Dan Straily didn't give the Orioles much length but pitched well enough, with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 14 innings. His 4 1/3 innings of nine-hit, five-run ball with three walks against two strikeouts was a step in the opposite direction.

Straily is a unique piece for the Orioles in that they made a long-term sacrifice in ditching Rule 5 utility man Drew Jackson to sign him, and Jackson would be valuable now with the team's lack of center field depth, to say nothing of his talents. Straily was a short-term solution to what appeared to be a burgeoning pitching crisis, and a few good months can turn him into a trade chip at the deadline.

Other teams will evaluate on the stuff, not the stats, but early-season struggles can make it difficult to overlook the midseason stats.

On the farm

A pair of Delmarva Shorebirds were named the top pitcher and player in the Orioles' farm system, and the success in Low-A of right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (0.89 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings) is well-documented. The position player, infielder Adam Hall, is just as interesting.

Hall, the 19-year-old former second-round pick, had a great end to the season at Short-A Aberdeen last year to earn August Player of the Month honors in the organization, and doubled up thanks to a .354/.453/.456 line with six extra-base hits and 11 steals in 14 tries in April. He had a lot of work to do after he was drafted out of Canada in 2017, beginning 2018 in extended spring training, but is batting .314 with a .797 OPS in his minor league career since Aberdeen opened its 2018 season.