Two of the Orioles' top pitching prospects were on the mound last night for Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, and they pitched the Tides and Baysox to wins.
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, who threw four scoreless innings in his Triple-A debut, got his first win at that level as Norfolk won big 12-5 at Scranton. Rodriguez, baseball's top pitching prospect, allowed three hits and two runs, one on a solo homer, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 67 pitches after throwing 61 in his season debut.
Through two starts, he is 1-0 with an ERA of 2.00 and a 0.55 WHIP for the Tides. Over nine innings, he has walked one and fanned 15.
Norfolk bashed four homers in improving to 6-3 with five wins in six games. Norfolk's 6-3 start is its best since 2015, the year they were last in the International League playoffs.
Outfielder Kyle Stowers absolutely crushed one to right for his first homer of the year. Johnny Rizer hit a two-run shot, his third. Patrick Dorrian’s two-run shot was No. 1 and Jacob Nottingham hit a three-run homer, his second.
The Tides are nine homers away from hitting 5,000 in franchise history.
Bowie won 10-2 at Binghamton to get to 3-3. Lefty Drew Rom threw five scoreless innings on two hits with eight strikeouts. He had allowed three runs in three innings on opening night last Friday. But Rom was dealing last night in his 74-pitch outing and is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA after two outings.
Rom is ranked as the Orioles' No. 11 prospect via ESPN and is No. 15 on FanGraphs.com and The Athletic and No. 17 by Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.
Bowie put up 10 runs despite striking out 17 times. Toby Welk went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three RBIs. Zach Watson hit a two-run single and Joey Ortiz a two-run double.
Wilmington bashed high Single-A Aberdeen 13-3, but César Prieto went 2-for-5 and is batting .286. Lynchburg beat low Single-A Delmarva 6-2. Mishael Deson had a single and double, and drove in both Delmarva runs.
Watson dazzled for Bowie: You won’t find his name on any Orioles top 30 prospects lists. The FanGraphs.com O’s prospects list goes 45 deep, but right-hander Ryan Watson of the Bowie Baysox didn’t make the cuts.
But on Wednesday night, he made a stunning debut at the Double-A level, throwing four scoreless innings on 45 pitches with no walks and seven strikeouts as Bowie won 4-3 at Binghamton. This followed up a strong 2021 for Watson, who went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Aberdeen. He had a 2.2 walk rate, fanned 11 batters per nine and recorded a 1.18 WHIP.
Then the Rumble Ponies couldn’t get to him in that game as he was throwing his fastball from 93 to 96 mph with a strong swing-and-miss slider.
Watson was a guest Wednesday night on my postgame show on WBAL Radio and I asked him what his strikeout pitch was that night.
“It was probably my slider,” he said. “I felt like it was tunneling really well off the fastball, especially when they were looking for the fastball. They were looking fastball, and it would break out of the zone and it was too late for them to react.”
During the 2020 season when the First-Year Player Draft was just five rounds, the Orioles signed some players after that draft who have done well on their farm. That list includes JD Mundy, Brandon Young and TT Bowens. And it also includes Watson, who pitched at Auburn University and had an ERA of 1.23 in 7 1/3 innings to start his senior year in 2020 before the pandemic ended that season. He had been drafted in the 39th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school, but didn’t sign. A few years later, the Orioles would get him.
“There were a couple (of teams showing interest in me in 2020),” he said. “But Baltimore was definitely the one showing the most interest and the one I had the most contact with before signing in ’20. So it was a no-doubter for me who I was going to sign with after the shortened Covid season and the shortened draft.”
So for now, Watson flies under the radar as an unranked prospect. Does he care about that?
“It doesn’t really bother me. I use it, I guess you could say, as motivation you know. I’ve always thrown with a chip on my shoulder. That doesn’t really bother me, but I guess you could say that adds a bit of extra motivation,” he said during the WBAL Radio interview.