The 2018 minor league season will kick off Thursday, and I for one am extremely excited because the state of the Orioles' farm system has vastly improved over the past few years. Today, I want to highlight two pitchers that most O's fans are not very familiar with, but are prospects that I am very excited about.
First up is a lefty who almost wasn't even an Oriole. Cameron Bishop, 22, was selected by the Orioles in the 26th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal-Irvine. His signing almost didn't happen as the Birds submitted their $605,000 deal five minutes after the July 7 signing deadline, but after a corresponding investigation by Major League Baseball, it was determined the signing was valid because the two sides agreed to a deal prior to the deadline.
Thankfully, the deal went through because Bishop could end up being quite the steal. Due to a preseason oblique injury before his junior, he didn't pitch last year prior to being drafted. It's obvious he had good stuff and that's why you see a 26th-rounder get that kind of signing bonus.
Bishop, who stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 lbs., owns a good fastball that touches 95 mph, as well as a curveball, slider and changeup. When I saw him pitch this season, I did not see the command issues that some scouts stated Bishop has. I saw a guy mix speeds and move his fastball on both sides of the plate.
Other than one outing with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles (three innings, one strikeout, one hit, no earned runs) Bishop spent his debut profession season with the short-season Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds. As part of a stout Ironbirds rotation, Bishop went 1-1 with a 0.78 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and struck out 38 batters over 34 2/3 innings. I anticipate him being a starter for the time being, but the fact that he held left-handed hitters to a .043 batting average last year in Aberdeen lets you know that he could be extremely valuable as a reliever in the future, as well.
Another arm that Orioles fans will likely get to know this year is one of the spring training storylines, right-handed pitcher James Teague.
Teague, 23, was one of those extra players brought over from minor league camp this spring on a fairly regular basis, and he took advantage. Over eight appearances with the Orioles this spring, Teague did not allow a single earned run, while posting a 0.68 WHIP and striking out seven over 7 1/3 innings.
The 2016 37th-round pick out of Arkansas picked up right where he left off last season. After struggling with the low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to begin 2017, he was sent back down to the Ironbirds once their season began. Rather than sulking and throwing in the towel, Teague prospered. He went 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP over 16 appearances and 17 2/3 innings. He also struck out 29 batters and held opponents to a .066 batting average. His performance earned him a New York-Penn League mid-season All-Star selection.
He is set to begin the season with the high Single-A Frederick Keys as a part of their bullpen, but if he continues to pitch the way he did in spring training, I firmly believe you will see him in AA Bowie before the All-Star Break. We all know that in this organization, once you are in Bowie, you are one phone call away from the big leagues.
There are several prospects that will likely become familiar names to Orioles' fans throughout the 2018 season, but Teague and Bishop are two that I think could stand out the most.
Josh Michael blogs about the Orioles for Baby Birdland. Follow him on Twitter: @BabyBirdland. His opinions on the Orioles will appear here as part of MASNsports.com's longstanding initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.