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New Orioles prospects Díaz, Kremer, Pop join Double-A Bowie after 'roller coaster' trade from Dodgers

Last night in a coaches' office north of Little Rock, Ark., three of the prospects the Orioles acquired for All-Star shortstop Manny Machado — outfielder Yusniel Díaz and pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop — were called in and learned their careers had changed forever.

Upon their arrival Thursday at Double-A Bowie, where the next chapter of their baseball life began with a handshake and a black Orioles T-shirt and shorts waiting for them in lockers, they reflected on the shock, then excitement for the opportunity to push for their big league dreams elsewhere.

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"Honestly, it's been a roller coaster of emotions," Pop said outside the Baysox clubhouse. Me and Dean and Yusniel were sitting there in Tulsa and you get called into the coach's office. 'Hey what's going on?' Next thing you know, you've been traded — just like that. It doesn't really sink in at first, and they tell you they appreciate everything you've done, that type of deal.

“Then, it starts to hit you: I'm really not staying here anymore. It was cool to experience that, but it's going to be a good thing. I'm pretty excited about this next chapter."

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"It's been a little hectic," Kremer said. "It has kind of caught everybody by surprise. I know that I hadn't thrown in a while, but having my name said on TV, that you're not going to play for the Dodgers anymore, you're going to play for the Orioles, it comes as a shock. It doesn't matter what team, you've still got to go out and perform."

While Díaz, the star Cuban center fielder who homered twice in Sunday's MLB All-Star Futures Game, was the centerpiece of the deal and had been publicly connected to the Orioles since the weekend, the deal came as a surprise to the other pieces, including infielder Rylan Bannon, who will report on Friday, and infielder Breyvic Rivera, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Díaz said that despite all that, he's excited to get back onto the field. He hasn't played since Sunday, a showing on a massive stage that he called "a beautiful moment," and was so convinced he'd been traded that he posted a goodbye message to the Dodgers organization on Instagram on Wednesday morning before taking it down, as the deal wasn't yet official.

He was traded Wednesday night, and Thursday afternoon, Baseball America released its Orioles midseason top-10 prospect rankings with him ranked No. 1. He viewed the trade as an honor, given how much the Orioles coveted him.

"This week has been great," Díaz said, via interpreter Andres Pavia. "I'm just excited to go out and play for the Orioles now. Everything's finalized, so I'm ready for a new beginning. ... I'm just grateful. I feel like I'm wanted, and I mean something for this team, and I just want to thank God that now the Orioles have put so much faith in me. I'm going to do everything I can to put my name in good company."

Peter Schmuck hands out letter grades for the Orioles at the nonmathematical midpoint of the season.

Díaz was hitting .314 with a .906 OPS and 20 extra-base hits for Double-A Tulsa at the time of his trade, with the home runs in the Futures Game his last act representing the club.

"Could have seen it coming, that he'd perform that well on that big of a stage," Kremer said.

His new teammate, Ryan Mountcastle, was in the U.S. dugout during the Futures Game as Díaz was putting on his show.

"It's a hell of a game to watch him hit like that," Mountcastle said. "Two home runs? It was a pretty good first impression."

While Díaz's primary position is center field, he'll rotate between that and the corner outfield spots with 21-year-old breakout prospect Ryan McKenna. Austin Hays, who is currently working out and rehabilitating his ankle injury with Bowie, will also join that rotation once he's healthy.

Once Bannon arrives, he'll play more second base than his traditional position of third base, as the Orioles have Mountcastle as Bowie's everyday third baseman. There's not expected to be any conflict for playing time there.

If Bannon is anything like his fellow Dodgers transplants to Bowie, he'll be eager to get going in his new uniform. He'd hit .296 with 20 home runs and 17 doubles for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, and both Kremer and Pop said teammates were left in awe at his at-bats on a regular basis.

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The foursome of new Baysox are the first wave of what's expected to be a major influx of young talent into the Orioles system, one that could be supplemented by the trades of pending free agents such as Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Brad Brach and Danny Valencia.

That comes with opportunities that might have been harder to earn in a loaded Dodgers farm system with a contending major league roster, and they’re eager to take advantage.

Kremer made one start for Tulsa after posting a 3.30 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 79 innings for Rancho Cucamonga, and will join the rotation as early as Sunday. Pop, 21, will try to carry on the 1.03 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings he accumulated over two levels as he makes his Double-A debut. They all know there's plenty of incentive to carry on their success with the rebuilding Orioles.

"It's pretty important," Pop said. "It says a lot about how I'm viewed, and how the organization views young players. To be able to get put in this organization where a lot of emphasis is placed on youth is pretty special. There's going to be a lot of opportunities for a lot of players. Hopefully, we can just go out there and perform."

Said Bowie manager Gary Kendall: "I think it should be good. We're an organization right now that needs help. I look at our clubhouse, and our players are ready to embrace them and see how they fit in and see how they're going to help this Double-A club and add to the culture that they're already in. I think it's going to be a really nice fit."

“We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games, trying to develop. And if they can help in any regard to do both of those things — either help us win games and develop down the stretch, it’s just going to be a good fit for both sides, both the guys who were out here and the new guys. I’m excited about it.”

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