Welcome to Overreaction Of The Week, my over the top, uninhibited, Baltimore sports-fan takes on this week’s Orioles activity.
The Orioles haven’t given us much good news to write about, so let’s take a look around the much maligned farm system to see how things are going. The team and the fans are hoping for an influx of talent from trading the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, etc. but let’s take a look at who’s already here.
Norfolk Tides: The Tides are 36-30 and sit in second place in the International League South division, half a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays affiliate Durham Bulls. They’ve been paced by their offense and solid starting pitching. One of the impressive players has been an Orioles top prospect, left fielder DJ Stewart. So far, he has posted an impressive .277/.371/.458 slash line even though has dealt with some minor injuries. This is a major boon for the Orioles, as Stewart may turn out to be the left handed hitting outfielder for whom they’ve been searching. Stewart’s .829 OPS is good for 15th in the entire International League and he has solid numbers against both right handed and left handed pitchers, which indicates he can be a contributor as an everyday player in left field. In a crowded outfield with only one optionable player, the question remains when he’ll be able to make an impact at the Major League level. Also, now that Chance Sisco has been optioned down, his bounce back will be a story to watch.
Bowie Baysox: The Baysox may actually be home to more of the Orioles intriguing prospects than Norfolk. At this point, Bowie is the home to Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, and starting pitcher Keegan Akin. While Hays scuffles at the plate, the others have thrived, but Akin has been dominant. In 13 starts, he has thrown 74.2 innings with a 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 78 strikeouts. He has shown swing and miss stuff and is continuing to develop into a potential piece in the starting rotation. One concern in Bowie is Hunter Harvey, who recently experienced some shoulder discomfort. My fear is that he hurt his shoulder due to some altered mechanics to compensate for the elbow, but that’s just a guess, I’ll leave it to the team doctors. Despite his age, Harvey already has a CVS receipt’s worth of injuries, so this is very worrying and something worth keeping an eye on.
Frederick Keys: The Keys have picked up some steam, sitting half a game above .500 despite Bowie hogging all the best prospects. They have been, somewhat surprisingly, been lead by CF Ryan McKenna and 2B Preston Palmeiro. McKenna was ranked as the Orioles 29th best prospect at the beginning of the season, but he is killing Carolina league pitching. He’s slashing .377/.467/.556, and leads the entire Carolina league with a 1.023 OPS. If the outfield wasn’t so crowded in Bowie, McKenna may well have earned himself a promotion based on his performance so far. His partner in crime has been Palmeiro, Rafael’s son. While he may not have that same sweet swing, he’s putting up numbers offensively. He’s slashing .279/.342/.446, very healthy numbers for a young second baseman. On the hill, Alex Wells has continued his strong performance from last season and sits in the league’s top 20 ERAs. While he doesn’t have the same strikeout efficiency as someone like Akin, Wells relies on his command of the strike zone to get outs.
The influx of minor league talent is coming. The trades of top flight veterans like Machado and Britton will bolster the minor league depth and return players who will be good to great Major Leaguers.
I think the guys in the system already don’t get enough credit. The Orioles may not have several top-flight prospects, but they are developing players that will be solid Major Leaguers. While expectations are high for someone like Austin Hays, there is always a Cedric Mullins or DJ Stewart that may fly under the radar and can be an impact player. Don’t completely write these guys off, they’ll be wearing Orange and Black soon. With the addition of some top tier talent, the Orioles might be back in business sooner than we think.