Minor league notes on DL Hall, Frederick Bencosme and more

O’s left-handed pitching prospect DL Hall, tipping his pitches no longer, has been on a roll this month, allowing one earned run in three July starts. That is a big difference from how his June ended in back-to-back starts against Lehigh Valley.

In those two games, Hall allowed 12 runs (nine earned) over just 7 2/3 innings and gave up two home runs. Those were real outliers for him on the stat sheet. But it was during the second of those two starts that the Norfolk coaching staff noticed Hall was tipping his pitches in how he was holding his glove.

Before that outing was over Hall began to make an adjustment and he’s been rolling ever since.

His last three starts, Hall has allowed one earned run and six hits over 15 2/3 innings with seven walks to 30 strikeouts. He is 2-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 13 starts for Norfolk on the year. He will start tomorrow afternoon for the Tides and you have to wonder how close he will be to getting a big league callup after that.

Norfolk manager Buck Britton has watched Hall continue to work on his control and command. When he’s locked in, he’s really, really good. But other times he can get out of synch and off his game.

“At this level, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw,” said Britton. “He’s got electric stuff but when you are 2-0 and 3-1, guys are not afraid of 98 (mph). I think he’s come a long way. His misses are a lot smaller now and he’s done a nice job. But there are times he can go off the rails a bit and teams take advantage.

“But when he throws over the plate, it’s unfair at times. His first inning the other night (when he struck out the side Tuesday night), those guys had no chance. Zero chance.”

Two starts ago, Hall fanned 14 over six innings. He fanned eight and allowed one unearned run over 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday night against the same Worcester squad he faces tomorrow.

The Tides staff showed Hall exactly what he was doing in tipping his pitches and he clearly saw it too on video. And then they fixed it.

“It was an easy adjustment,” Britton said.

Credit to the Tides staff and Hall for finding out there was an issue and quickly fixing it.

Notes from the shore: At low Single-A Delmarva, the Shorebirds are struggling as a team but they are also featuring a heavy international roster with as of this week, over 20 players on the roster born outside of the United States.

The O's improved international efforts continue to make progress and now many of those players have made it to full-season ball at Delmarva. 

Among those excelling in various ways right now are speedster Luis Valdez and young hitting prospect Frederick Bencosme.

Valdez, 22, signed by the Orioles out of the Dominican Republic in May 2019, has a top of the scale, 80-grade speed tool and is among the fastest players in the organization. He has stolen 43-of-54 bases in 75 Shorebirds games through Thursday to lead both the Carolina League and all O’s minor leaguers. He ranks sixth in all of the minors in steals.

“He is probably the fastest guy in the org. He and Mateo would be a nice race,” said O’s director of player development Matt Blood. “He’s got 43 stolen bases before the All-Star break, pretty electric. And he’s a versatile player. Switch-hitter. He plays middle infield and center field and can play all over the outfield. He’s a little bit old for that level but he’s got some skills and is showing the ability to get on base more and more. He’s a really exciting player to watch.”

Valdez is batting .273/.361/.339/.700 with 55 runs, two homers and 18 RBIs. On July 10, he had a four stolen base game to tie a Delmarva team record. He has 64 steals in 110 career games since last season. Valdez has made 35 starts at second base, 28 in center field and five in left field.

Bencosme is a 19-year-old lefty batter with very good contact skills that has played three infield spots. A promising prospect that we ranked No. 11 in February on our initial listing of the top 20 Orioles international prospects on MASNSports.com.

He is batting .353/.419/.431/.850 with four doubles, a homer and 14 RBIs in the minors. He went 5-for-5 for the Shorebirds on June 19 and has 12 multi-hit games.

“He can play short, second and third and has really good bat-to-ball skills and has been getting on base. Real competitive and a good player and he’s young for that level. So he’s pretty exciting,” said Blood.

Bencosme (pronounced Ben-coss-may) last year had both low walk and strikeout rates when he was in the Dominican Summer League with a 7.0 walk rate and 11.4 K rate. Those numbers are 8.6 and 8.6 this year as he walked and struck out just 10 times each in 29 Delmarva games. He sure does consistently get bat to ball.

Bencosme was ticketed for the rookie-level Florida Complex League this year and played just two games there before the O’s moved him to Delmarva in early June, so he essentially skipped the FCL. Impressive for the young player that has started 18 games at shortstop, five at second base and two at third.

So far, his big stats have come with a low price. He was signed for just $10,000 by the club on Aug. 14, 2020.

And back at AAA: Meanwhile a later round selection from the Orioles' 2019 draft class is starting to get noticed for his relief work at Triple-A Norfolk. Right-hander Morgan McSweeney, taken by the club that year in round 17 out of Wake Forest, began this season at Double-A and moved up about a month ago.

In 20 combined games for the Baysox and Tides, he is 2-2 with a 3.76 ERA. Over 26 1/3 innings, he has walked 12 and fanned 27 with a 1.33 WHIP and .240 opponent batting average. His ERA in 7 2/3 innings at Triple-A only is 3.52.

He is throwing in the mid 90s with a couple of nice secondary pitches in his slider and changeup.

“He’s got three major league pitches and is throwing with better control this year. He’s in Triple-A and having success. He’s an interesting guy. He’s showing good consistency and execution of his stuff,” Blood said.

Streak ender: The Orioles' 10-game win streak ended 5-4 at Tampa Bay on Friday night despite Ramón Urías producing his first career two-homer game and Trey Mancini hitting No. 9.

The Rays scored four in the sixth to take a 5-2 lead and held off the Orioles to win for the 10th time in their past 11 AL East games. The O's fall to 15-20 in the division, but are 11-9 their past 20 AL East games.

Despite their improvement this year, the Orioles still have winning more often at Tropicana Field on their checklist. With Friday's loss they are 1-15 at that ballpark since the 2020 season began with 10 straight losses.

Orioles lineup vs. Rays
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