As the Orioles continue to add new players to a farm system that is already highly ranked through the MLB draft, the prospects among the ranks currently continue to work. Baltimore has been in this position before, with its second first overall pick in four drafts under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.
In 2019, the Orioles drafted catcher Adley Rutschman, and now he’s emerging at the major league level. On Sunday, Baltimore recruited shortstop Jackson Holliday, the son of seven-time MLB All-Star Matt Holliday, out of Stillwater High School in Oklahoma. He begins another cycle for the Orioles, rejuvenating a prospect corps in which several of the top recent draft picks are approaching the majors.
“A combination of having all the data available to us, communication, effective logistics and resource planning has allowed us to finally get to this point,” said Orioles director of preliminary operations Brad Ciolek. “Clearly our player development coaches do a great job on that side of the organization.”
Going into the All-Star break, it was another strong week for Baltimore’s minor leaguers. The fresh crop, with 12 picks in the first two days of the draft, will report to the Florida Complex League for the rookie ball after signing their contracts.
Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down five of the top performers in the Orioles’ prospect ranks and deliver some superlatives for those who didn’t make that cut.
1. DL Hall, left-hander from Triple-A Norfolk
As Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2017, Hall is moving up with Triple-A Norfolk, and a promotion to the Orioles seems to be coming sooner rather than later. The 23-year-old southpaw dealt with pitch tilt in two starts in June, leading to nine earned runs against him in 7 2/3 innings. But with that behind him, Hall has begun to cry.
In his last four starts, Hall has struck out 40 batters, walked eight, allowed eight hits and allowed just one earned run. His two performances last week did not include earned runs with four hits, five walks and 18 strikeouts. There’s no denying his ability to cultivate swings and misses. Perhaps there’s still a lull in walk numbers, but he allowed just one free pass in five innings on Sunday.
2. Gunnar Henderson, Triple-A Norfolk infielder
In addition to playing in the MLB Futures Game in Los Angeles, Henderson had a good week for Norfolk. In the Futures Game, he batted leadoff and scored two runs. He showed off his speed as he ran from home plate to first in 4.19 seconds, according to Statcast. Henderson, who ranks as the Orioles’ second-best prospect, according to Baseball America, also had two 3-pointers as part of his three hits in three games for the Tides, raising his season OPS to .889 since being promoted to Triple- A.
3. Double-A Bowie infielder Joey Ortiz
Since the promotions of Jordan Westburg and Henderson to Norfolk, Ortiz has gotten more regular playing time at shortstop for Bowie. And beyond what he’s done on the field, Ortiz’s production at the plate has been especially impressive. The former 2019 fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State had seven hits last week, including two home runs, to post a 1,283 OPS.
4. Colton Cowser, Bowie’s double-A outfielder
For the second week in a row, Cowser finds himself in the minor league report, riding off a solid July since his call-up from High-A Aberdeen to Bowie in late June. In five games last week, Cowser hit three homers as part of five hits, and while his strikeout rate has been a concern, he only struck out twice in 19 at-bats. Cowser was Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2021 and ranks as the organization’s sixth-best prospect. He is starting to climb closer to the pinnacle.
5. Ignacio Feliz, Aberdeen High-A right-hander
Feliz began the year as a reliever for Aberdeen, but the 22-year-old has been used more regularly as a starter since late May. He produced the best outing of his season last week, going six innings for the first time and allowing just one hit with two walks and seven strikeouts. Feliz has bounced from the Cleveland Guardians to the San Diego Padres before the Orioles pulled him off waivers. His development has been slow, but he looked strong last week.
Best unfeatured prospect so far
With Rutschman graduating from the prospect rankings and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez rehabbing his right wing muscle injury in Florida, the top-ranked prospect yet to be discussed in detail is Westburg, the Mississippi State infielder who plays for Triple -To Norfolk. By his standards, the No. 4 prospect had a quiet week: Westburg hit .211 with four singles and one walk with five strikeouts. But his overall performance has been better: He has a 0.903 OPS in 32 games with Norfolk.
International Acquisition of the Week
With the ability to play the entire infield, Roberto Martinez has found more of a home at first base for Low-A Delmarva, and that’s where the 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic did most of his damage this week. He recorded eight hits with five doubles while driving in three runs. Martinez struck out five times in five games, which is a knock on his game: In his 25 games for the Shorebirds, he has 27 strikeouts and six walks.
The best prospect of the week in the top 30
After Baseball America updated its midseason prospect rankings, outfielders Yusniel Diaz and Robert Neustrom were dropped from the top 30 list. But both hitters struggled this week with Norfolk, leaving outfielder Zach Watson as the former top-30 prospect of the week. In nine at-bats with Double-A Bowie, he homered and singled, driving in two runs in the process. Overall, Watson’s work at the plate has been poor, hitting .190 despite six home runs showing some success from the former 2019 third-round pick out of LSU.
It’s time to give a little shine to…
Featured primarily as a starter for Low-A Delmarva, right-hander Ryan Long compiled the best start to his season on Friday. He went six innings for the first time, allowing three hits and a walk without allowing a run. He also fanned five batters. A 17th-round pick in 2021, Long is playing his first season with an affiliate.
short season snippets
There will be a new crop of players in short-season ball later this summer after the draft, but some standouts this week include 18-year-old outfielder Wilmer Feliciano in the Dominican Summer League. In four games, he homered and doubled as part of four hits. Ángel Tejada, shortstop for the Florida Complex League, added four hits in three games. And third baseman Toby Welk, in the FCL on a rehab assignment, had two hits in two games.
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
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