Taking another look at the minor league rosters

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Now that the minor league baseball season has begun, let’s take yet another look at the opening day/break-camp rosters and provide a few thoughts on the four Orioles full-season affiliates at Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, high Single-A Aberdeen and low Single-A Delmarva.

NORFOLK

Pitchers: Diógenes Almengo, Kyle Brnovich, Marcos Diplán, Conner Greene, Ryan Hartman, Blaine Knight, David Lebron, Zac Lowther, Ofelky Peralta, Grayson Rodriguez, Cody Sedlock, Kevin Smith, Cole Uvila, Nick Vespi, Alexander Wells.

Catchers: Brett Cumberland, Chris Hudgins.

Infielders: Rylan Bannon, Patrick Dorrian, Cadyn Grenier, Jahmai Jones, Mason McCoy, Terrin Vavra.

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Adding the finishing touches to the new left-field wall at the Yard

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It was a cloudy day at Camden Yards, but the ballpark was still looking beautiful today as workers were putting the final touches on the new configuration in left field.

It’s going to take quite a drive to hit the ball out in an area where once players hit what some would call “Camden Yards specials,” balls hit in the air that would be outs in most parks, but not in Baltimore.

The Orioles are intending for the park to play more fairly now. Since 1992, more homers have been hit in Baltimore than any other park, and nine of the other current major league venues have been around that entire time. More homers were hit at Camden Yards in the last 20 seasons, and 18 of the parks now in use have existed in that span.

As the final panels on the padded wall were going up today, the ballpark looked very ready for a game, and there will be one there on Monday for the home opener against Milwaukee.

“They are just putting the finishing touches on it and certainly it will be ready for our home opener against Milwaukee,” said Jennifer Grondahl, Baltimore Orioles senior vice president of communications and community development. “I think I’ve heard our players talking about it a little bit and they seem excited. The pitchers are certainly excited.

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Taking a shot at projecting the pitching staff

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The Orioles will begin the season with 15 pitchers on their 28-man roster. The rosters must decrease to 26 players and 13 pitchers beginning on Monday, May 2. But here is a guess at how that group of 15 could look starting Friday at Tropicana Field.

My group of pitchers includes 15 of the 21 hurlers that are currently on the club’s 40-man roster, so no 40-man roster moves would be needed to start the year with this group.

This is just a guess and how I might set it up, and as we know, putting me in charge is not a good idea. But on a blog, I can run things!

Lefty John Means gets the opening day start Friday and we already knew that. Last year at Boston in the opener, he led the Orioles to their first opening day shutout since 2005. He gave up just one hit over seven innings, throwing 97 pitches in a 3-0 win.

That was the Orioles’ first shutout in an opener since they beat Oakland 4-0 as Rodrigo López threw six scoreless innings. It was the sixth opening day shutout in club history.

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An infield in transition in Baltimore (plus a trade with Miami)

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The Orioles may be headed for a transition year with their infield. The players that take the field on opening day on Friday in St. Petersburg will surely be pushed from behind by some of the club’s top prospects.

How soon those prospects arrive is an open-ended question, but surely the Orioles have them - both in quantity and quality - and the infield on opening day 2023 could look very different. Or maybe sooner than that.

Ramón Urías has cemented a starting infield spot this spring, a spring he began with a leg up on the competition after batting .279/.361/.412/.774 in 85 games last year. That produced an OPS+ of 111, and he is still youthful at 27. It’s just a matter of where he plays, with second, short and third all possible. Just not all at once.

The rest of the group, to be nice, lacks much in the way of big league stats, but Jorge Mateo, no doubt, intrigues with his blazing speed, and he did produce a .748 OPS in 116 O’s plate appearances last year. Rougned Odor and Kelvin Gutiérrez are in the mix, and Odor could start at second with Gutiérrez at third. Chris Owings, Shed Long Jr. and Richie Martin remain on the camp roster, and Martin has certainly hit well under the Florida sun.

But it’s the infielders on the rise that probably most excite Birdland. There are a few top 10 prospects and a decent group that will be at Double-A or Triple-A, not to mention a few ranked players expected to begin at high Single-A Aberdeen as well.

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More O’s minor league break-camp roster information

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The Orioles, in conjunction with their affiliates at low Single-A Delmarva, high Single-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie announced their break-camp rosters today. The rosters could still change between now and opening day on Friday for those three clubs, but the bulk of the rosters were set today with this announcement.

Earlier, in this entry, we detailed the Triple-A Norfolk break-camp roster. The Tides open their season tomorrow night at home versus Charlotte. Left-hander Kevin Smith is expected to start that game.

The Bowie roster can carry 28 players, while the A-ball teams in Aberdeen and Delmarva feature 30-man rosters.

DELMARVA

Pitchers: Carson Carter, Moisés Chace, Shane Davis, Juan De Los Santos, Daniel Federman, Thomas Girard, Conor Grady, Dan Hammer, Kelvin LaRoche, Yeankrlos Lleras, Daniel Lloyd, Ryan Long, Hector López, Alejandro Méndez, Eduard Monroy, Preston Price, Raul Rangel

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Rising to No. 1 in the farm system rankings

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They are No. 1. The Orioles have the top farm system in all of Major League Baseball. They do according to both ESPN, which listed them atop its rankings in mid-February, and according to MLBPipeline.com, which rated the O’s No. 1 when updating its rankings earlier this week.

When Baseball America released its latest organizational ratings in January, the Orioles were rated at No. 4. They are No. 10 in the latest rankings via The Athletic.

When it comes to MLBPipeline.com, they first ranked the Orioles No. 1 late last August and kept them there in the newest update this week. The club has been on a steady rise in the last couple of years. In the 2020 MLBPipeline.com preseason rankings, the O’s farm was No. 13 and moved to No. 8 by midseason. Before the 2021 season, they got the No. 5 ranking and then moved to the top spot, which they now continue to hold.

In response to several questions I have been getting if the Orioles were ever No. 1 previously in these rankings, they were not.

“The Orioles are obviously struggling at the big league level, but the farm system is headed in the right direction,” MLBPipeline.com analyst Jim Callis said last summer when the club first moved to No. 1. “They have the best prospect in baseball in Adley Rutschman, who is the best catching prospect I have seen in three decades of covering prospects. They also have the game’s best pitching prospect in Grayson Rodriguez. They have built nice depth, especially in terms of position players.”

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With Jordan Lyles, O’s hope they added innings-eater and more

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When right-hander Jordan Lyles threw five innings for the Orioles in Friday’s win over Philadelphia, it was the first five-inning outing this spring by an O’s pitcher. Maybe someone did it on a back field or in a minor league game, but not during a spring training game.

It was a welcome sight, and the Orioles are hopeful he eats that many innings and more each game when the regular season begins next weekend.

Lyles was so efficient that he needed just 55 pitches to get through five innings, allowing four hits and two runs with no walks and two strikeouts. No O’s pitcher had exceeded three innings, and then Lyles got five.

O’s starters pitched the fewest innings in the American League last year. O’s starters averaged 17.50 pitches per inning, and that was also the worst mark in the American League. Five innings via that average would amount to 88 pitches, not 55.

“For a spring training outing, working on his pitches, his command, pitched five really good innings,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I know he feels good about getting the work in that he got. I thought he actually got better as the game went on. Breaking ball got a little better. That’s a veteran major league start right there, and happy to have him.”

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Tough day for the game, but excited about a project coming soon here

Tough day for the game, but excited about a project coming soon here
The fans of baseball have been here before. Been dealing with the emotional roller coaster which watching players and owners try to divide up a very big pie and fail to do so, can produce. The last 24 hours or so saw it appear the sides were about to produce a new collective bargaining agreement in the early morning hours of Tuesday, only to see that not happen by much later that afternoon. There is plenty of money to go around, they just can't seem to divide it up to make everyone happy....
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New Delmarva skipper can ask dad, brother about managing

New Delmarva skipper can ask dad, brother about managing
He is from a famous baseball family and proud of the Alou name. His dad played and managed in the majors, and his brother managed in the big leagues the last two seasons. There is family experience to draw on as the Orioles' Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. gets ready for his first season as a professional manager. The younger Alou will skipper the Orioles' low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds this year, following in the footsteps of both his dad, Felipe Alou, and his brother, Luis Rojas, who managed the...
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Analyst bullish on DL Hall, but future role is a question

Analyst bullish on DL Hall, but future role is a question
There is no doubt that the combination of an injury that limited him to seven starts last season and trouble at times in his career with control and command have dropped Orioles lefty pitching prospect DL Hall a bit on some top 100 prospects lists. But he hasn't dropped on all of them, and on one list, he actually moved way up, even though the outlet feels he could end up pitching in the bullpen in the majors. This is an interesting guy for publications to rank. Before 2021, Baseball...
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One analyst's take on O's No. 1 farm rankings

One analyst's take on O's No. 1 farm rankings
When FanGraphs.com placed six Orioles among its top 69 prospects this week in their ranking of the top 100 in baseball, it was certainly an impressive haul for the O's. But they were not the first outlet to rank six Orioles in the top 100, as ESPN beat them to it by a few days and the O's placed a half-dozen players among the top 98 in baseball. Six Orioles were in the ESPN top 100: 1 - Adley Rutschman 8 - Grayson Rodriguez 74 - Colton Cowser 94 - DL Hall 96 - Gunnar Henderson 98 - Coby...
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Piggyback pitching on the farm and Kjerstad close to pro debut

Piggyback pitching on the farm and Kjerstad close to pro debut
Especially at low Single-A Delmarva, but possibly at other affiliates as well, the Orioles could use a piggyback pitching system in some minor league games again this year. Last April in this story, we told you about this coming to the O's farm in advance of the start of the 2021 minor league season. It is essentially where one of the affiliates gets two starting pitchers or starting rotation candidates into the same game, with one going the first part of the contest and the other the second...
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New Aberdeen skipper ready for the challenge of pro ball

New Aberdeen skipper ready for the challenge of pro ball
When you talk to Roberto Mercado, a new member of the Orioles front office and player development staff, his excitement to work for the club in 2022 comes through. It's going to be a big adjustment for the 42-year-old Mercado. He was the head coach of New Britain (Conn.) High School from 2011-2021 with a record of 139-80 and dean of students at the school since 2004. But his baseball experience also includes time spent as an assistant coach in the summer wood bat Cape Cod League, one of the...
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A look at the O's haul of prospects on FanGraphs' list

A look at the O's haul of prospects on FanGraphs' list
Another outlet released a top 100 list (actually 114) on Wednesday, and this time the Orioles produced their strongest representation yet when they placed six players in the top 69 on the list released by FanGraphs.com. Adley Rutschman was yet again rated as the top position prospect and overall No. 1 prospect in baseball, as he was earlier by Baseball America, The Athletic and ESPN. But this time right-handed pitcher Grayson Rodriguez achieved his highest ranking ever, at No. 3. He had been...
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Will some prospects have a chance to play at three levels in 2022?

Will some prospects have a chance to play at three levels in 2022?
There were a few players on the Orioles farm that played at three levels last season. They got promoted twice, in other words, and that was impressive. Could we see more of that in terms of promotions coming in 2022? "I think last year was a unique situation," O's director of player development Matt Blood said this week from Sarasota. "We didn't have as much information to go off of (with no minors games in 2020). I think this year will be a little more normal in regard to those type of...
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Non-drafted JD Mundy swung a potent bat in 2021 season

Non-drafted JD Mundy swung a potent bat in 2021 season
During my series of interviews with the four full-season Orioles minor league managers, I talked with 2021 high Single-A Aberdeen manager Kyle Moore and we discussed a few of his players from last season. Today we'll take a closer look at first baseman JD Mundy. In this recent entry, we discussed pitchers Garrett Stallings and Jake Prizina. Among the 28 Orioles on the farm last season who had 300 or more plate appearance, Mundy was an impressive first in OPS at .926. Adley Rutschman was second...
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As rookie farm manager, Mercado can draw on Cape experience

As rookie farm manager, Mercado can draw on Cape experience
Earlier this year, the Orioles did, in fact, hire someone who this summer will make the big jump from manager of a high school team to manager of the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds. That is an accurate statement. But another accurate statement is that calling him a high school coach doesn't begin to provide the full story of the baseball experiences for 42-year-old Robert Mercado. In his new role as Aberdeen skipper, Mercado will draw often on his time, from 2014 to 2021, as an assistant...
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It's been busy during prospect ranking season

It's been busy during prospect ranking season
During a lockout, we can't say it's baseball season yet. Hopefully, sooner than later. But we can say it is prospect ranking season. Multiple outlets have been coming out with player and team rankings. Today let's review what we have seen so far. Six Orioles were in the ESPN top 100: 1 - Adley Rutschman 8 - Grayson Rodriguez 74 - Colton Cowser 94 - DL Hall 96 - Gunnar Henderson 98 - Coby Mayo Five Orioles were in the Baseball America top 100: 1 - Rutschman 6 - Rodriguez 52 - Hall 57 -...
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The birthday boy could still take his offense to a higher gear

The birthday boy could still take his offense to a higher gear
Ryan Mountcastle turned 25 on Friday. As he gets ready for his third big league season, let's take a look at a few ways he can take an impressive 117 career OPS+ and maybe even do a little better. After 140 plate appearances in his 2020 debut season, Mountcastle finished eighth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting and was still rookie-eligible in 2021. And he finished sixth in the voting after last season. Over 144 games and 586 plate appearances last season, he batted...
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Revisiting the 2020 Orioles draft class

Revisiting the 2020 Orioles draft class
On the night of June 10, 2020, Major League Baseball was not yet playing regular-season games, but was set to host its First-Year Player Draft. The draft would be limited to five rounds. That night the Orioles selected University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the No. 2 overall pick in the first round. That selection created some initial confusion, frustration and angst around Birdland. They did not select Vanderbilt's Austin Martin, as many fans had read they would in pre-draft...
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