Not all young players will thrive instantly in their first seasons of pro baseball like Dylan Bundy has. Bundy plays on a Single-A Delmarva squad filled with some young talent but some of his teammates have already experienced some struggles at the minor league level.
This time last year Nicky Delmonico was playing for Farragut High in Knoxville, Tenn. In June, the Orioles selected him in the sixth round of the draft. To get him out of a firm college commitment to Georgia, he was signed to an overslot bonus of $1.525 million that is a larger signing bonus than 10 first round picks got.
Orioles officials obviously are high on Delmonico, who won’t turn 20 until July, but they figured that he may struggle early on in the South Atlantic League and he has.
The lefty swinger is batting .176 with one homer, nine RBIs and a .538 OPS after his first 13 games. He was hitting just .132 in the first 10 games before going 4-for-13 the past three games with a double, homer and five RBIs.
Delmonico told me he feels he can handle taking some early 0-fers as he adjusts to pro ball at this level.
“If you get three hits out of 10, you hit .300,” he said during the Shorebirds’ recent media day. “You know there will be ups and downs in this sport. You can’t quit, you can’t give up. It’s a long season. Have a short memory because there’s another game the next day.
“I felt really good (during spring training). Got a lot of at-bats in. Got to go up for five big league games and just see the way they go about their game and just learn from them. It was really good just to take all that in.”
Before the season, Baseball America named Delmonico as the Orioles sixth-best prospect. Here is what BA said about him:
The Future: The Orioles may challenge Delmonico with a low Single-A assignment to open his pro career, though they believe he may struggle there at first. But they like his makeup and think he’ll develop into an impact bat.
Delmonico was raised on the game. His father, Rod, was the head coach at Tennessee from 1990-2007 and managed the Netherlands team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Delmonico’s brother, Tony, plays in the Dodgers organization and another brother, Joey, is a senior playing on the team at the University of Georgia.
But it was those days spent as a bat boy for his dad’s teams at Tennessee that really stand out for Delmonico. He got to rub elbows with many players that are now in the major leagues.
“Some of my favorite players were Chris Burke, J.P Arencibia and Luke Hochevar. They went about it the right way and I was able to see from the dugout what they did. They took a team to Omaha (for the college World Series). Just their demeanor and everything toward the game (I could learn from),” Delmonico said.
It was also on that field there where Delmonico began to develop what has turned into a sweet swing from that left-handed batter’s box.
“It really comes from when I was a bat boy for my dad a long time ago. After the games he’d always take me and throw to me. He taught me everything about my swing. He knows my swing more than I do. If he sees something wrong, he knows exactly what to do to fix it. He’s been great for me,” Delmonico said.
With two other players on the Delmarva team that also play third base in Jason Esposito and Connor Narron, Delmonico has gotten his starts at first base so far, but also could play some at second and third for the Shorebirds. Delmonico caught some in high school but is not expected to catch this season.
As he learns to adjust and hit against some older and more experienced pitchers in the South Atlantic League, Delmonico said he is very comfortable as a Shorebird. He said he has really enjoyed his first few months in the Orioles’ organization.
“It’s been welcoming. Fans and teammates both. There is a lot of love and support in this organization. We have a bunch of good guys and good teammates here. We are really comfortable together, inside and out of the locker room,” he said.
Bonus coverage: Click here to read a story about Delmonico from the day after he signed with the Orioles last August. It went right down to the final hours before he decided to give up his college scholarship for a pro contract. He explained that an emotional phone call with his brother led him to becoming an Oriole.