A trio from O's 2021 draft helped Bowie turn its season around (plus O's note)

The Double-A Bowie Baysox have a record that is under the .500 mark at 43-47. But they are just a ½ game out of first place in the second half. And since May 19, they have been playing .589 ball at 33-23.

Infielder Coby Mayo was a big reason for that. He had an OPS of 1.027 in 78 games with Bowie until his recent promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. On July 14, the Baysox added shortstop Jackson Holliday, now ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the sport by both Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com.

But as the Baysox have played better since a slow start, three somewhat unheralded position players with varying levels of success on the stat sheet, have been fixtures in the lineup. Billy Cook, who can play all over the diamond on defense and outfielders John Rhodes and Donta' Williams have all had some nice stretches of play for Bowie. All three are members of the Orioles’ 2021 draft class.

After a slow start – and he was hitting under .200 well into May, Cook’s bat has heated up big time. Baltimore’s 10th-round pick out of Pepperdine in that 2021 draft, Cook posted an OPS of .885 in May, .909 in June and it’s 1.017 in July. So yeah, that bat is hot.

“He started out with some struggles and now he is one of our top offensive producers,” manager Kyle Moore said in a recent interview. “Made some good adjustments. I feel like this staff was doing some of our best coaching earlier when our team was struggling. John Rhodes has done tremendous making some adjustments, Donta Williams, OPS over .800 in June and earlier he scuffled badly.

“Those three guys can fly under the radar in this organization because of all the prospects that we have. But all three can be major league players. Those three have made great improvements. Some of the highlights of our year with those three.”

In 78 games with Bowie, Cook, 24, is batting .269/.337/.466/.803 with 16 doubles, two triples, 12 homers and 48 RBIs.

“Cook is the one guy that is doing all of the offensive production things well. He gets on base a lot, he’s stealing a whole bunch of bases and he’s driving in runs. I’ve hit him everywhere from leadoff to eighth and have asked a lot of him. Super adaptable. And so, I think he’s been our guy that has produced the most runs in a bunch of different ways,” Moore said.

Rhodes was the club’s third-round selection out of the University of Kentucky in 2021. The 22-year-old recently had a three-homer game and has shown improved defense in the outfield corners.

In 69 Baysox games, he is batting .242/.331/.435/.766 with 17 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 41 RBIs. His OPS was .985 in June. Rhodes is the top 30 player among this trio, ranked No. 19 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 26 via Baseball America.

“Rhodes, he’ll shock you with his RBIs,” said Moore. “He drives in runs and he has a knack for it. Part of that is batting in the middle of the lineup, always third, fourth or fifth. And we try to hit him spots where somebody ahead of him is getting on base. But he has a knack for situational hitting.”

Williams, 24, the O’s fourth-round pick out of Arizona in 2021, is a plus defender who keeps making highlight-reel catches and plays in center field. While he has hit just .183 with an OPS of .619 for the year, his OPS was .858 in June, and he has shown signs of more consistency on offense.

“Donta' has made a giant physical adjustment,” said Moore. “Donta' came in with a totally different stance, his hands were different, different approach. And Sherm (hitting coach Sherman Johnson) has kind of redone that a bit. And it’s been like a rocket ship. It’s been with like a .140 (average) with a .500 OPS to his last month hitting .250 with an .800 OPS. His physical adjustments are finally in play. Sherman, who has played in the big leagues and a lot at Triple-A, saw it right away.”

That included lowering his hands a bit, getting more athletic in his stance and adding a mini leg kick.  

This trio has been solid for Bowie and on the Baysox roster pretty much all season.

Cook is a player that scouts have been asking about more and more as the year went on and his bat got going. Plus, he has proven very versatile on defense and has become a fixture batting first atop the Bowie lineup.

“Cook can play all over, second base, right, center and left. He is like a Steve Pearce. He could play first today in the big leagues. Center? Yep. He can really run and really throw and if his offense stays like it is he’s going to play in the big leagues,” predicted Moore.

Bowie went 5-1 last week against Harrisburg and are contending for the top spot in their division in the second half at 12-9. As the Baysox started rolling off more wins, this trio of young talent started to flash some solid potential.

The latest Orioles win: It was another close game, it was another O's close win. They scored in the ninth on Colton Cowser's RBI double and Cionel Pérez got the save as they beat Philadelphia 3-2. 

The O's AL East lead grew to 2.5 games over idle Tampa Bay as they won their third in a row and they have also won five of six and 13 of 16. They are 8-3 since the All-Star break.

Dean Kremer gave up just one run over seven innings. It was the 12th time this year an O's starter went seven innings or more and they are 11-1 in those games.

In O's team history, just three clubs have won more of their first 100 games than this club and they all played in the World Series.

Best 100 game records in O's history:

1969: 69-31
1979: 67-33
1966: 66-34

Four O's teams including this one went 62-38. The others were in 1970, 1971 and 1997.  



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