O's minor league championships and Gunnar on Westburg

When the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds played for the South Atlantic League championship this week, I wrote that the last two O’s minor league championship teams were the 2011 Single-A Frederick Keys and the 2015 Double-A Bowie Baysox.

And while Aberdeen fell short of a title, a reader on Twitter asked if they were the only O’s minor league titles. And the answer is certainly no since the Orioles have been playing in Baltimore since 1954.

I asked the club's public relations staff a question I have also often wondered about – how many minor league championships have O’s farm clubs won in team history? And, as with most minor league information one would seek, records are incomplete and hard to fully know since we are talking about so many teams in so many leagues over so many years.

But thanks to Nate Rowan and Liam Davis of the O’s staff, their research did produce a list of champions. And the O’s want to take a longer and closer look at this list this winter to produce as complete a list as they can for next year’s media guide.

So far, this is what can be confirmed.

Triple-A:

Rochester - 1997, 1990, 1988, 1974, 1971, 1964

Double-A:

Bowie - 2015

Charlotte – 1984, 1980

Single-A:

Frederick – 2011, 2007, 2005, 1990

Delmarva – 1997, 2000

Hagerstown – 1981

Miami – 1978, 1972, 1971, 1970, 1969

Wichita – 1955

Gunnar on Westburg: Now that Gunnar Henderson is an Oriole, he is no longer Jordan Westburg’s minor league teammate. But the two have played together a lot the last two seasons on the O's farm and became very good friends.

In the O’s clubhouse this week, Henderson expressed no surprise that his buddy continues to put up big numbers for Triple-A Norfolk in the International League.

Through last night’s game, over 134 games, Westburg was batting .268/.354/.504/.861 with 38 doubles, three triples, 27 homers and 103 RBIs. He’s also scored 95 runs and stolen 12 bases. He has filled up the stat sheet while also moving around the infield, playing 34 games at third base, 40 at second and 53 at shortstop.

“No matter what the day is, he’s going to come in and do his work. He stays consistent and just to be able to watch him every day and play beside him has been really fun. To be able to see him do all this and have all the success that he’s had is great," Henderson said. 

Westburg leads the O’s farm in doubles and RBIs, and is one behind Connor Norby for the organization homer lead. A right-handed hitter, he’s always been able to wear out right-center field, and now he can turn on and pull the ball with authority also.

“If they miss location in, he’ll turn on it, and if they go away with it, he’s really worked on driving those pitches, too. It’s been awesome to see him develop that approach and be able to execute it. You never have to worry that he will not give his best effort every day. He will," Henderson said. 

What will be his best future position?

“I feel like it just depends where they want him. Seen him play second, third and short well. Just wherever they want and he’ll do great there,” said Henderson. 

Henderson said Westburg is so driven because he loves the game so much, and he credits him, a player two years older, with helping him learn some important things during their time together.

“For me, he had the college experience so just like learning all the smaller routines and the fundamental side of baseball. He showed what to expect and how to go about things," Henderson said. 

While Henderson is Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, Westburg is now in the top 100, ranked as the O’s No. 5 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and No. 78 in the top 100. He is Baseball America’s No. 6 O’s prospect and No. 92 on the BA top 100.

He is finishing off a season where he could challenge Henderson for the O’s Minor League Player of the Year award. And Gunnar said Westburg has proven he’s ready for his big league chance.

“He’s ready. Whenever he gets the call, he’ll be more than ready,” he said.

Tough, tough loss: The Orioles led Houston 5-2 early in the game and 9-7 headed to the ninth but they lost to Houston 11-10 Saturday night in a marathon game at Oriole Park. Félix Bautista allowed four runs on 33 pitches in 1 1/3 as Houston finally put up some offense against the Orioles and rallied to win.

It was a damaging loss for the Birds, now 79-72, and they all are at this point in the year. With 11 games left, they are four games behind Seattle for the third wild card, 4.5 games back of Tampa Bay and 5.5 back of Toronto. 

They host Houston this afternoon to wrap up this four-game series and seven-game homestand before hitting the road for the final road trip that begins Monday at Boston. 

 

 

 

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