There are certain names in the baseball world that, when you hear them, you immediately think of some of the greats. Orioles prospect Mike Yastrzemski has one of those names, and after his recent promotion to Triple-A, he may finally be turning things around.
Yastrzemski, 27, is the grandson of baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, and has long been a fan favorite when talking about O’s prospects. The ceiling was high, to the point that even O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette stated at FanFest prior to the 2015 season that Yastrzemski was a possible replacement for the departed Nick Markakis.
At the time, that kind of praise was warranted. Yastrzemski had been performing very well since being drafted by the O’s in the 14th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He even made his way all the way to Double-A Bowie for 43 games in the 2014 season.
Unfortunately for the O’s and Yastrzemski, things did not pan out the way many had thought and hoped. He began to struggle at the plate.
In 2015, he played the entire year with the Baysox and hit just .246 with 30 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 59 RBIs and 63 runs scored. Those are not terrible numbers, but were not what many were expecting.
In 2016, he began the season at Bowie, where he hit .268 with 11 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and 27 runs scored over 33 games. He got a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk for the first time. Unfortunately, he could not get the bat going. He hit just .221 and had 98 strikeouts in 94 games.
He began the 2017 season on the disabled list and did not get his first taste of game action until May. After struggling at the plate for the Tides, he was sent down to Bowie. To his credit, instead of sulking and throwing in the towel, Yastrzemski responded by hitting .386 with 13 extra-base hits and a .436 OBP in 20 games. The O’s elected to move him back up to Norfolk for the remainder of the season. He played in 40 games after that and hit .250 with 16 extra-base hits and 38 strikeouts.
Now 27, Yastrzemski was placed on the Baysox roster to begin the 2018 season, partially due to the players on minor league deals that happen to be outfielders and partially due to his performance. Over 27 games with the Baysox this year, he hit just .202 with 11 extra-base hits and 30 strikeouts.
Those numbers normally wouldn’t result in a promotion, but thanks to players opting out of their minor league deals (Michael Saunders, Alex Presley), Yastrzemski was promoted to Norfolk the last week. The promotion came to Yastrzemski instead of guys like Austin Hays or Cedric Mullins, and moving one of them up helped with a logjam of outfielders at Bowie.
As if sensing this could be his last shot, Yastrzemski has responded to the promotion with a very hot bat. He is hitting .357 (10-for-28) with six extra-base hits and boasts a .471 OBP. Despite having played just eight games in the International League this season, he is already tied for the league lead in triples with four.
I’m certainly not saying that Yastrzemski is going to turn into the player we all thought and hoped he would a few years ago, but I find it very encouraging that he has begun his latest stint in Norfolk on such a tear. Perhaps he truly does feel he is in the midst of his last chance - only he knows that - but he is certainly swinging the bat that way.
Josh Michael blogs about the Orioles for Baby Birdland. Follow him on Twitter: @BabyBirdland. His opinions on the Orioles will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s longstanding initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.