Ryan Ripken gives props to Orioles prospects

With Ryan Ripken no longer playing baseball and venturing into the sports media world, he’s finding platforms to pass along his knowledge of the game and opinions on prospects who were teammates or simply caught his eye from the sidelines.

Ripken created a Twitter account this year and used it to announce his retirement, though he hasn’t ruled out a return to the field if the right opportunity becomes available. Cal’s son will always be an Orioles fan, and he’s enjoying their resurgence this year and presence in the wild card race.

“Let’s be honest, no one expected it this year,” he said. “It’s been cool. Happy for a lot of the guys, especially that I know.”

Shortstop Gunnar Henderson could debut this summer. He turned 21 on June 29 and is battering older Triple-A pitching.

“He was one of the guys that, when you met him, you knew he was special,” Ripken said. “Obviously, his success has been tremendous. He’s so young and he’s adjusting so quickly is what I think has been so impressive.”

Scouts wonder whether Henderson will outgrow shortstop and perhaps move to third. Ripken can name at least one big shortstop in Baltimore who went on to have a successful career.

“Gunnar has the arm strength, he has the quickness to play, and the only thing is, when he’s so big you’re going to wonder if he can,” Ripken said. “I think you’ve got to let him try to play shortstop as long as you can, and then move him to a different position if that’s the case. I think he could very well profile at third base, but he can play shortstop. Let him play shortstop until he proves you wrong. And the only reason he wouldn’t play shortstop is if you have a guy you think is defensively better than him in the majors. Then, that’s what you go with.

“So, in this case, if (Jorge) Mateo comes back next year and he is your starting shortstop, unless you think that Gunnar is your long-term answer there at shortstop, you’re going to start who you think is going to be the best defensive shortstop. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to.

“The curiosity for me is where is Mateo going to fit in? Mateo looked initially as being a filler, filling the void, but now he’s turned into a possible guy who could be a longer-term solution in Baltimore. So, you add that into the equation.”

The math also includes Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz, two more shortstop prospects.

“Jordan Westburg impressed me in spring training,” Ripken said. “I love his footwork, I love him up the middle. I thought he was so consistent. Has good power, and defensively I love his versatility.

“Joey Ortiz was a sleeper one, a guy I followed on my own who I was impressed with. He’s swinging the bat extremely well, so he’s having a great stretch and you want to believe he can continue this moving forward. That’s going to be the biggest thing. After this hot streak, if it’s going into next year, whenever it ends, can you continue that?

“That’s what happened with Gunnar. Gunnar had a great season last year and came on the scene this year and was even better. So, if you can continue to build on that, that’s awesome. Kyle Stowers is another example. Can you be consistent the year before and follow it up with another performance to give people confidence. They’re exciting, and especially where infield is definitely a talking point for the Orioles moving forward.

“With all of them, they have the work ethic and ability. I’m curious to see how the rest of it unfolds for those infielders.”

So are the Orioles, who eventually could trade from a surplus.

“It’s definitely a great problem to have, and that’s what you want as an organization is to have so much talent that you have to make tough decisions,” Ripken said. “Not that it’s fun to make those tough decisions, but it’s a good problem to have, because that means you’ve done a great job bringing players up. And it also means players worked out for you.

“As we know, and this is just the reality of it, there are so many great prospects coming up for the Orioles on the position player side, but are they going to end up being All-Star caliber players or solid, productive players in the majors? You hope. They have the ability to do it. But until they go and do it, you’re not going to know that for sure.

“The hype is exciting, but just because the hype is there doesn’t mean that the execution is. I think Gunnar and Kyle Stowers have proven that they can handle the next step, but at the same time, there’s going to be growing pains, and you never know how guys are going to turn out. That’s why it’s great to have so many prospects, where you hope every one of them hit and you can trade pieces away, but there’s going to be a chance, unfortunately, that they might not live up to what they were expecting from the minors to majors”

Stowers returned to the Orioles yesterday, having his contract selected and starting in right field. Tasked with providing an offensive boost from the left side in the heat of a pennant race, but also vulnerable as a young player with only eight plate appearances in the majors.

He’s gone from getting his feet wet in Toronto to diving into the deep end of the pool.

“I would think if the Orioles weren’t in the race right now, we’d see a lot of this, starting to sort out and figure out where guys would fit. But right now, there’s a risk with bringing up a lot of young guys and figuring out where they fit, because that’s the reality of being a young player. You’re going to have growing pains,” Ripken said.

“Brandon Hyde and the team, you’ve come this far, you want to win. It’s a different situation that no one expected this year.”

Ripken is making frequent radio appearances on 105.7 The Fan and posting videos on Twitter and Instagram. He’s also busy taking care of a golden retriever puppy with his girlfriend, Jamie.

The first week recap: “More accidents happen, more chewing,” he said.

“I already feel overwhelmed, but it’s good. He’s adorable.”

Ripken had sports hernia surgery in December and couldn’t find a team to sign with as a minor league free agent after batting .167/.222/.233 in 48 games with Triple-A Norfolk.

“I had hoped that there would be an opportunity, but the opportunities that came about never came to fruition or it wasn’t the right fit,” he said. “And also, I asked myself - I just turned 29 - what the path was like. I’m a guy who fully commits to everything, so I was going to be fully committed to training and the opportunity, but also, I didn’t want to go into it if it really wasn’t going to be a realistic chance for me to go do this. I was ready to then focus my attention on the next venture. So, it was a hard decision to make it, but I think it was the right decision for me at this time.”

Ripken is exploring his options, with a preference for sports media.

“What that angle is going to be is to be determined,” he said. “I love sports. Baseball and football are two sports I follow the most, and obviously baseball, I lived it, grew up with it, played it, so it’s no secret I have a unique perspective with the game. I’m going to approach this and see what opportunities lie there, and never close the door on joining back with a team. But for right now, as I’m stepping away from my playing career, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and move back and see what other opportunities there are outside of baseball.

“As a kid my life was around the ballparks, had a short period of time through middle school and high school when it wasn’t, and then back to being a part. I feel like the majority of my life was around the baseball world, and I love it, but I’m excited about seeing what else is out there.”

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