MLB's Spring Breakout series is nice showcase for young talent

The Orioles' Spring Breakout game has come and gone. They lost the seven-inning contest 3-1 on Thursday night in Bradenton to the Pittsburgh Pirates' prospects.

Who expected the O’s pitching prospects to outshine the hitters? But the O’s batters in that game got just one hit in 20 at-bats. And that was a bunt hit by Enrique Bradfield Jr. He blazed his way down the first-base line, showing off his 80-grade speed. Luis Valdez also showed off his speed in stealing two bases, leading to Jud Fabian’s deep sac fly in the Baltimore second.

But Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo, Samuel Basallo and Connor Norby went a combined 0-for-7.

The O’s chose to use just two pitchers, and lefty Cade Povich and right-hander Trace Bright each gave up one earned run. Each fanned four batters, and Bright in particular showed some swing-and-miss secondaries, including a big breaking curveball, to go with a lively fastball that he could elevate at 95 mph.

The game allowed the O’s to show off 15 of their top 30 prospects, seven from their top 10 and three from the top 100, including the No. 1 prospect in the game, Holliday.

The heavily hyped game aired nationally on MLB Network, although it was a bit of a surprise and disappointment that the network just picked up the Pirates' local broadcast of the game and didn’t use their own announcers for the telecast. After all their pre-promotion I expected to see the network go all out for this game. 

But that game and others in the series are a nice showcase for some of the young talent in the sport, and there were/are about 70 of the top 100 prospects in the game taking part.

A great showcase for young talent and the future of the game.

Some players on 40-man rosters were not in the game, including Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser of the Orioles. I was told the club could have easily included them, but not using them allowed the organization give a couple of other players roster spots and get them some recognition. It essentially allowed the O’s to show off even more prospects. They also included seven international players on their 26-man roster.

The game was fun to watch and seeing O’s top hitters trying to catch up with Paul Skenes' 102 mph heaters was pretty cool. Skenes won the battles with a 1-2-3 first inning on 11 pitches, which include six thrown at 100 mph or more. He struck out Holliday with a 3-2 changeup that was just off the plate.

The matchup lived up to the hype, even if the Pirates hurler won it this time.

The game served its purpose in letting us see some top prospects match up.

Here is hoping they do this again next year, and that the O’s will get to host at Ed Smith Stadium next time. There was some talk of trying to take this concept and make a tournament out of it. But I’m not sure how they could ask teams to tie up their young talent for more than one or two days for the event.

Triple-A note: Last September a star-studded group of Norfolk Tides won the International League championship in a best-of-three series against Durham, after losing Game 1. They then beat Oklahoma City (a Dodgers affiliate) to win the Triple-A championship game at Las Vegas Ballpark.

The Triple-A National Championship game this year is set for Sept. 28, also at Las Vegas Ballpark.

Both the IL and Pacific Coast League championships will be decided again in three-game series starting Sept. 24. The Triple-A season will be split into two halves, with the first half ending June 23 and the second half beginning June 25 and ending on Sept. 22.

The first-half winners in each league will host all three games of the championship series, and then Las Vegas Ballpark will host the one-game playoff for the third year in a row.

To remember how Norfolk won that last year, click here.

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