When the Orioles made a series of minor league promotions on Monday, one was certainly no big surprise. Cuban-born infielder César Prieto, signed as part of the latest O’s international class in January, moved up from high Single-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie.
There he will join a talented infield that already includes ranked prospects in Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz. But the Orioles feel Prieto deserved to move up and certainly can co-exist on that roster where the first three players mentioned all have starts at multiple infield spots.
Henderson: 22 at third, 13 at short.
Westburg: 12 at second, 12 at third, 11 at short.
Ortiz: 17 at second, 13 at short, two at third.
Prieto, 23, hit .340/.381/.619/ with an OPS of 1.000 in 25 games with Aberdeen. He returned back to their active roster on May 11 after missing about 10 days with a right hamstring strain. As of Monday, Prieto led the O’s farm in batting average, slugging and OPS. He has six doubles, seven homers and 20 RBIs.
It's been a torrid hitting start for a player that some felt could move fast through the system because of his previous experience in the Cuban professional leagues.
On defense, he has started 10 games at shortstop, seven at second base and two at third base for the IronBirds. He's also served five times as the DH.
Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado is excited about Prieto’s hot start and how well he has been fitting in with his IronBirds teammates.
“It seems like every time he is up at the plate, he is barreling the baseball,” said Mercado. “Whether it’s an out or a double or he had that home run streak over in Greensboro where he knocked out four (in a three-game span). A great, great start so far.
"Been moving him around the infield. He can play second, short and third for us. Listens, wants to learn, wants to get better. The players just love him. He has an infectious personality and everyone just kind of gravitates toward him. It’s fun seeing those guys interact, a pleasure to watch. Really comes to work hard every day.”
I asked Mercado if a scout were writing up a report on Prieto, what would it say?
“Oh man, that he’s a tough out. I’m not sure where to pitch this guy. Has great plate discipline. Has a low strikeout rate (15.2 percent). Really commands the zone very, very well. Hits the ball hard to all fields and he can do it all man. I’m glad he’s on our team, I’ll tell you that,” he said, knowing full well he would probably not actually be on his Aberdeen team much longer.
One scout in a recent conversation, while noting that Prieto’s hit tool tops the power tool, said he may have added some weight and could become a 10-12 homer player in the big leagues one day.
If he maxes out his bat potential in the majors, it could be the difference between a player that could become a regular and one that is an All-Star. He profiles as a natural second baseman, but also is athletic enough to play those others spots and obviously has been doing that this year.
In January, on the first day of the new international signing period, the O’s added Prieto for a $650,000 bonus. That ties for the fourth-largest bonus the Orioles have handed out since Mike Elias became the club’s executive vice president and general manager.
Here are some of the other minor league moves from Monday:
* Infielder Darell Hernaiz from low Single-A Delmarva to Aberdeen.
* Pitcher Alex Pham from Delmarva to Aberdeen.
* Outfielder Elio Prado from the Florida Complex League roster to Delmarva.
* Infielder Shed Long Jr. from his Aberdeen rehab assignment to Triple-A Norfolk.
* Pitcher Carter Baumler from the FCL roster to Delmarva.
Baumler has been throwing in Sarasota on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. He was originally shutdown while pitching at instructional league camp in October of 2020. The O’s had selected him out of an Iowa high school in round five of the 2020 draft and he got an overslot $1.5 million dollar bonus.
Now he’s ready to join an affiliate and will likely pitch every Wednesday for the Shorebirds, starting with this week and pitch two to three-inning stints his first few times on the mound.
O's beat Gerrit Cole in the series opener: The Orioles pinned a loss on ace right-hander Gerrit Cole in their latest impressive win last night, beating the Yankees 6-4 in the Bronx.
The Orioles (18-25) have won four of five and improved to 8-5 in their past 13 games decided by two runs or less. While they are 7-6 at home versus AL East teams, they were 0-6 on the road until this victory.
Cole entered the series opener 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his past five starts and with a career record of 5-1 and 1.57 ERA against the Orioles. Then he allowed season highs in hits, run and earned runs. He allowed seven hits and five runs, all earned over eight innings. The Yankees are now 7-2 in his outings. He had given up three runs or less in each of his first eight starts.
Led by the bottom of their order and Austin Hays' big two-run single, the O's put up four runs in the third to take the lead. And later Ramón Urías hit a homer to right to break the 4-4 tie.
Rougned Odor, Urías and Robinson Chirinos, batting No. 6-8 in the order, went a combined 5-for-11 with two doubles, a homer, four runs and three RBIs.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles gave up three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in another solid start to improve to 3-4 with an ERA of 4.10.
In five starts in May, Lyles is 2-2 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and .244 batting average against. He has thrown six innings or more in four of those five outings. On the year, his 52 2/3 innings rank fourth-most in MLB.
The previous two times before last night the O's won a road series opener, at St. Louis and Anaheim, they went on to win those series. Now they need one win the next two nights to become the first team this year to win two series against a Yankees team that, at 29-13, has the best record in the majors.