Complete team effort leads Aberdeen to minors best record

They feature five players ranked among the Orioles' top 30 prospects on It has been that group of five and several more key contributors that have led the Orioles' high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds affiliate to the best record in all of minor league baseball through their first 35 games.

The IronBirds cooled off Friday night, losing 6-0 to Rome for their first shutout loss of the year. But their record of 26-9 is good enough to be playing .743 baseball and that is the best mark among 120 full-season clubs in the minors.

An MLB team winning at such a pace would go 120-42.

“The guys come to work every single day, man," Roberto Mercado, the Aberdeen manager and a first-year staff member in the O's organization said of his club on Friday afternoon. "They enjoy each other. There is a great team chemistry in the clubhouse. Guys enjoy being around each other. They will get here early and hang out before they start their workday. Lot of positive energy going around the club. And we have a great staff that has really helped prepare the guys. What a solid job they all have done so far."

The top 30 prospects include outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 4), infielder Coby Mayo (No. 7), infielder Connor Norby (No. 11), infielder César Prieto (No. 12) and outfielder John Rhodes (No. 23).

That group and others have led Aberdeen to the second-best team OPS in its league at .793 and helped produce 5.66 runs per game. An unheralded rotation and bullpen has led the pitching to staff to an ERA of 3.66, fourth-best in the league. Aberdeen has played mostly solid defense and has stolen 71 bases in 83 attempts.

They have been doing it all in winning six of their last eight, 10 of 13 and 16 of their past 20 games. They started 4-0 on the year and have not looked back.

Prieto, the international signee from Cuba in January, is batting .337/.380/.630/1.010. He and Double-A Bowie's Gunnar Henderson are the only O's farm regulars with an OPS over 1.000 with Henderson at 1.012 after he sat out Friday night.

“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. A great, great start so far. Been moving him around the infield and he can play second, short and third. He really listens, wants to learn, wants to get better. The players just love him. He has an infectious personality and everyone just gravitates toward him. Really comes to work hard every day."

We surely can’t say a player with an OPS of .751, an on-base percentage of .370 and with a 17.5 walk rate is struggling, but so much is expected when you are the No. 5 overall pick in the draft.

And Cowser knows that as well as anyone. The O’s tabbed him with that pick last summer and he tore it up at the lower levels on the Baltimore farm after the draft last year.

Indeed, so much expected of the kid.

So when he was not tearing it up earlier this year, some wondered why. But again his OPS is solid right now and his batting line is .229/.370/.381 through 32 games. The K rate is too high right now at 31.7, so something to work on for sure.

But Cowser has several tools the Orioles like and he has been a big reason for Aberdeen's strong record as Mercado notes.

And if he’s not leading the league in batting or OPS, that is fine right now as he continues to develop his game at Ripken Stadium and other locales around the South Atlantic League.

“He is handling it all (the ups and downs) extremely well,” Mercado said. “The way he approaches the game and how he carries himself is solid. It’s one of those abilities that you wish a lot of other guys had. He kind of goes with the flow. He understands the game and understands there are going to be times you will struggle a bit and he takes it in stride. I’ve said this to a lot of our guys - you can be tough on yourself, but don’t beat yourself up to the point where it’s a detriment to getting out of a slump.

“His OPS is .751, he’s walked 25 times. He has eight doubles, couple of home runs. He gets on base for us and he’s 11-for-12 stealing bases. He’s the full package and if it doesn’t happen on offense that day, he’s always out on defense tracking down balls and helping our pitchers out. There is nothing to be concerned with about Colton.”

Before anyone worries too much about Cowser, remember what happened at Aberdeen late last June. Henderson arrived via promotion from low Single-A Delmarva and went 1-for-31 in his first 11 games. Yep, Henderson was once batting .032 in A-ball.

It is just another part of the learning process when these talented players go through these ups and downs. Because it will happen to them in the big leagues too.

But what a great start overall for the IronBirds. 

By the way, I will have a lot more from my interview with Mercado over the next few days on this great record for Aberdeen and some of the many players behind that.

O's walk if off again: For the first time since Aug. 14-15, 2015, the Orioles have hit back-to-back walk-off home runs. In 2015, it was Manny Machado and Chris Davis on consecutive nights. This week it was Anthony Santander on Thursday and Rougned Odor last night.

Odor's two-run homer in the 13th inning gave the Orioles a wild, 8-6 win over Tampa Bay Friday night. It ended Baltimore's 15-game losing streak to the Rays.

The Orioles (16-24) are playing .400 ball and are on a pace to win 65 games.

For Odor, it was his third career walk-off homer and first since Aug. 3, 2019 for Texas against Detroit.

The Orioles have scored 17 runs in back-to-back games - their most in two straight games this year. Lefty Nick Vespi threw two scoreless to get the win in his MLB debut as the O's bullpen allowed just one earned run over 8 1/3 innings. 

The O's win matches their win total of all of last season versus Tampa Bay when they went 1-18 in the season series. 

The O's improved to 3-0 in extra innings and to 4-1 in games tied after the seventh inning. 

After the game last night, some props were coming the Orioles way from the visiting clubhouse.

Said Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays to reporters including “Watching them the last couple years, they’re not far off from competing -- their time is coming." 

Nevin producing with steadier playing time (plus K...
Vespi makes victorious debut, Orioles finally solv...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to