Josh Michael: Checking in on the Gulf Coast League Orioles

There may be a little over a month left in the 2018 season for the big leaguers, but minor league affiliates are nearing the end of the campaign, and for some, the season has already concluded. The Orioles’ Rookie-level affiliate, the Gulf Coast League Orioles, wrapped up their season Saturday and despite their record, there were some standouts worth mentioning.

The GCL Orioles did not do so well this season record-wise, as they finished the year 13-42, the worst record in the GCL. They managed to win just four road games all season and lost their last 10 games.

Obviously, you don’t want to see an affiliate go through a season like that, but there were some players that had very good seasons despite the number of losses. I am going to highlight two offensive players and two pitchers that stood out the most.

1B/OF Juan Montes: This is not a guy most Orioles fans know anything about - and for good reason. Montes spent his first four years in the organization with the O’s Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate, where he showed glimpses, but didn’t put it all together.

This year, Montes came stateside for the first time and flourished. Over 29 games with the GCL Orioles, Montes hit .301 with two homers, five doubles, 13 RBIs and scored 12 runs. He also posted a .389 OBP and he led the team in average (among those with at least 60 at-bats).

3B Jared Gates: If you want a feel-good story, Gates is your guy. The Orioles signed him on July 13 as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas and the 22-year old showed he deserved a shot. Over 28 games, Gates hit .289 with one homer, five doubles, 11 RBIs and scored nine runs. He also posted a .323 OBP. He finished the year in style, collecting at least one hit in each of his final seven games, hitting .423 over that stretch.

RHP Grayson Rodriguez: O’s fans may not have heard much about Gates and Montes, but they know Rodriguez. The 2018 first-round pick out of Central Heights (Texas) High School showed why the Orioles used the 11th overall pick on him.

Rodriguez appeared in nine games (eight starts) and posted a minuscule 1.40 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP over 19 1/3 innings. He struck out 20, walked seven and held opponents to a .236 batting average. He started his career with a bang by not allowing an earned run over his first six starts. In fact, seven of his nine appearances this season saw him not yield an earned run. It will be interesting to see what the O’s elect to do with him next season, whether to have him start with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds or limit his innings a bit and have him pitch for the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds. Regardless of where he starts next season, there’s no denying it’s great news to see him get off to such a solid start.

LHP Drew Rom: Rom was the O’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft out of Highlands (Kent.) High School and he, too, got his professional career off to a terrific start. Over 10 games (nine starts), Rom posted a 1.76 ERA and a ridiculous 0.85 WHIP over 30 2/3 innings. He struck out 28 batters while walking six and holding opponents to a .183 batting average. Rom finished the year in style by tossing three no-hit innings against the Red Sox Gulf Coast League affiliate.

The win-loss record for the GCL Orioles may not have been pretty, but it’s good to see that several players still performed well.

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.

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