Taking a look at a few pitchers excelling for Aberdeen (Gunnar Henderson honored)

None of the trio pitched for a big-time SEC school or were a high draft pick. One reaches the backend of a top 30 O's prospects list. But in an organization without a lot of touted, high-draft pick pitching, they are trying to make their way to Baltimore.

And with the starts that right-handers Alex Pham, Jean Pinto and Ryan Long have gotten off to for High-A Aberdeen (28-28), they might have that chance.

Pham, 23, selected in round 19 in 2021 out of the University of San Francisco, was recently named the Pitcher of the Month for May in the South Atlantic League. He went 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA over five starts allowing just 10 hits in 23 1/3 innings with 12 walks, 34 strikeouts, a .128 average against and 0.94 WHIP for the month.

“Everything has been working for him,” said Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado of a pitcher with a fastball in the 92, 93 mph range that has touched 95.8 this season. “The velocity is up a little bit. His cutter has been excellent and so has his curveball. He’s really been getting ahead of hitters and letting his stuff play in the zone. Done a tremendous job for us and big props to our pitching coach Austin Meine who has done a great job creating pitching plans for each pitcher and working on goals that each pitcher has here.”

Pham over 11 games and nine starts for the year overall, is 3-2 with a 2.58 ERA that ranks fifth-best in the league. Over 45 1/3 innings he has allowed 28 hits with 23 walks, 67 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. He’s just been solid and in his most recent outing pitched five hitless and scoreless with 11 strikeouts. 

“Last year he was a bullpen guy and now he is starting for us and seeing him get to 75 and 80 pitches and still being effective has been impressive. Also, he’s emptying the tank from pitch one - he’s in go mode. It’s not like let’s save something for later or the backend of the outing. He is getting after it from the first inning and has been a pleasure to watch.”

And tough to hit with a batting average against of .175 for the year that was just .128 in May.

“It’s his stuff, the hoppy fastball that he has that gets up to 24 inches of vertical break. His curveball is tough to handle and then add the cutter and changeup. He has the full package there. If he continues to mix well, he’s a tough guy to face,” said Mercado.

Pinto, age 22 from Valencia, Venezuela is 1-2 with a 2.78 ERA that ranks 10th in the SAL over 11 games, all starts. He went 4-6 with a 3.83 ERA last year at Aberdeen but has improved those numbers this season. And in the recently updated Orioles top 30 list by Baseball America, he comes in at No. 28.

Pinto was acquired by the Orioles on Dec. 2, 2020 along with pitcher Garrett Stallings in a trade for shortstop Jose Iglesias.

“Jean, we had the pleasure of having him last year and this year the K rate, the K percentage is up from last year,” said Mercado. “He is throwing the ball so well. Has 66 punchouts in 45 1/3 innings. He has that slider going and is throwing his changeup real well and his fastball velocity has continued to improve. He’s been working hard at that. He is a competitor with good stuff. We don’t have to worry about a pitch clock when he is on the mound. He doesn’t slow down and is ready to go every single pitch.”

For the year he has allowed 35 hits and just two homers with a .205 batting average against and 1.15 WHIP.

“The fastball is something where he has continued to increase the velocity, touching 93 this year. His slider has been a phenomenal pitch that he can locate really well. He has a curveball now and both that and his changeup have been effective pitches for him. Another guy that really gets after it with his work. He understands what he needs to continue to work on.”

Aberdeen right-hander Ryan Long took some momentum into this season off his pitching for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. He gave up one run in four innings in two games for a WBC ERA of 2.25 and showed a fastball that touched 96.7 mph in that event. He struck out Mike Trout when he faced Team USA and I wrote about that here earlier.

This season for the IronBirds, Long, over 11 outings, is 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. In 41 2/3 innings he has allowed 25 hits and just one homer with 13 walks and 52 strikeouts. He has a .176 average against and WHIP of 0.91.

“He’s pitched extremely well. He’s a fun guy to watch and is really in tune with what he wants to do,” stated Mercado. “A guy that is always taking notes in our meetings with pitchers and catchers. He is locked in even when he is not starting. He has a real plan out there and executes it really well. Another guy with a strong four-seam fastball, cutter/slider, curveball, change mix. The velocity is there, maxing out at 95.8 and average velo about 93. He has thrown well for us, another arm going well.”

Long was drafted in round 17 of 2021 out of Div. 3 Pomona-Pitzer in California. He had an ERA of 1.65 in mid-May and has continued his strong year since then as well.

“He is really locating and works his game plan with the catchers. Watches how guys are taking their swings and seeing how he can work against that. Ryan has very good stuff.”

And the velocity he showed in that small sample in the WBC is within reach also, Mercado believes.

“Credit to our pitching coach, he found some things that can help his velocity continue to increase. I think we can see higher than that (his season numbers to date) in the coming weeks with what they are working on. Some things are clicking in some minor adjustments he has been making.”

Mercado pointed out that some Aberdeen pitchers have worked and been evaluated at the Orioles' new pitching lab in Bel Air to further enhance their pitches and work on their games.

The work is paying off for Aberdeen, which has a team ERA of 3.75 to rank second in the SAL and a starting rotation ERA of 3.73 to rank second.

Right-hander Trace Bright got off to a fast start and is ranked No. 27 on the O’s top 30 by Baseball America. Righty Cooper Chandler, an undrafted pitcher out of Rice, has an ERA of 2.87 for Aberdeen.

Aberdeen's Jake Lyons was named the O's Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May with a 1.80 ERA over 20 innings with one walk to 35 strikeouts. Stunning numbers in the month for Lyons, who is 5-1 with a 3.11 ERA on the year. 

Gunnar Henderson honored: Henderson was named the American League Player of the Week on Monday. It was his first career weekly award and he is the first Orioles winner since Ryan Mountcastle in June 2021.

The 21-year-old hit .526 (10-for-19) with three home runs, six RBIs, one double, five runs scored, two stolen bases, a 1.053 slugging percentage and a .550 on-base percentage during the week. He capped that week going 8-for-13 in the three games against Kansas City. He has hit four homers his last seven games including his 462-foot three-run blast on Sunday.

And High-A Aberdeen's Jud Fabian was named South Atlantic League Player of the Week, batting .579 with three homers and 11 RBIs. 

Here is a tweet showing one of Fabian's recent homers.






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