Prospect list, Zimmermann update, Mateo and more

Baseball America has published its updated top 30 prospects list for the Orioles, and first-round pick Colton Cowser ranks fifth while beginning his professional career in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Heston Kjerstad, last year’s first-rounder, hasn’t appeared in a single game after being diagnosed with myocarditis, but he’s sixth.

This year’s second-round pick, infielder Connor Norby, is 10th.

A big jump was made by Double-A Bowie shortstop Joey Ortiz, who’s 12th in the system but done for the rest of the summer after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. I knew him when he was 29th on MLBPipeline.com.

Shortstop prospects are scattered everywhere, as you’d expect. Gunnar Henderson fourth, Jordan Westburg seventh, Maikol Hernandez 11th, Ortiz 12th, Darell Hernaiz 24th, Adam Hall 25th (listed at shortstop/second base). Anthony Servideo and Cadyn Grenier are missing, but the Orioles certainly like them.

If you can’t recite the top three, you haven’t been paying attention or Happy Hour started way too early: Catcher Adley Rutschman and pitchers Grayson Rodriguez (who struck out nine batters last night and allowed only one hit in 4 2/3 scoreless innings) and DL Hall.

Outfielder Yusniel Diaz has tumbled to 19th. Outfielder Reed Trimble, the supplemental pick this summer, debuts at No. 20.

Hunter Harvey still qualifies for the rankings and I’m not sure how, but he’s 23rd. The “graduates” include Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmermann, Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle.

A few other surprises: Left-handers Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells are 27th and 28th.

Baseball America isn’t playing around.

Zimmermann-Delivers-White-NYY-Sidebar.jpgZimmermann started the opener of Triple-A Norfolk’s doubleheader yesterday while on his injury rehab assignment. He tossed three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, walking four batters and striking out five. He threw a wild pitch and committed a balk, and was removed after 75 pitches.

The Loyola-Blakefield graduate hasn’t appeared in a game with the Orioles since June 13 but he’s nearing a return. He tossed three innings with Single-A Aberdeen to begin his assignment, allowing one earned run and two total. The initial plan suggested that he could be activated after two minor league starts, but we should know more later today or over the weekend.

Catcher Brett Cumberland was hit by a pitch in that first game of the twinbill, raising his season total to 27 and career total to 104. If this doesn’t become a Netflix documentary, I’ll have to do it myself.

Bowie received catcher Cody Roberts from Norfolk yesterday and yes, I had the same thought: They’re clearing room for Rutschman. But catcher Chris Hudgins, selected from the Royals organization in the Triple-A phase of last year’s Rule 5 draft, already advanced from Bowie to Norfolk on July 29.

In a development as shocking as grass growing, the Florida Complex League orange team’s game yesterday was postponed due to rain in Sarasota. But the black team played a doubleheader in Fort Myers.

It is possible.

Cowser has played in exactly one game, collecting a single and home run. Norby is still sitting on that 0-for-3 debut.

Maybe the Orioles should invest in a domed minor league complex.

Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells could be reinstated from the 10-day injured list prior to tonight’s series opener against the Rays at Camden Yards. Some lingering soreness in his right wrist after Monday’s live batting practice session has delayed his return.

Nothing to worry about, it seems, but once again the expectation that an injured player is coming back after 10 days is a mirage. When is the last time that actually happened?

Wells is going to get a chance to close. Manager Brandon Hyde wants to give him the ninth inning.

A lead also would be nice.

Wells is eager to take it. He isn’t hiding his enthusiasm for the assignment.

A reliever will be removed from the roster to accommodate Wells, assuming the Orioles stay with a 13-man pitching staff and four-man bench. Dusten Knight or Marcos Diplán could be making a quick turnaround, though Conner Greene also is on the bubble.

If asked in March, how many of you would have predicted that the roster in August would include Knight, Diplán, Greene and Spenser Watkins? Tyler Wells was questionable, based on the Orioles attempting to carry two Rule 5 selections.

Shaun Anderson didn’t arrive in the organization until July 3 and he squeezed out seven appearances - honestly, a few more than I thought he’d receive after allowing runs in the first four, though all three runs were unearned in his debut.

Besides Wells as closer, I’d also like to see Richie Martin stay in the lineup to get an early read on his ability to break camp next spring as the starting shortstop or primary utility player. It’s more beneficial to the Orioles, but I’m also curious.

There isn’t much more needed from Ramón Urías. It’s a rather large sample size and he’s more than capable of being a contributor in the middle infield. He can be trusted in the field. He’s been clutch with runners in scoring position. He passed the audition.

Give someone else a chance.

Of course, yesterday’s acquisition of Jorge Mateo on a waiver claim from the Padres further divides the team’s attention. He, too, must be evaluated, and he’s out of minor league options.

Mateo hasn’t hit in the majors, batting .195/.235/.310 with a 38/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 121 plate appearances, but his sprint speed of 30.6 feet per second ranks third in the majors behind Trea Turner and Tim Locastro. If only you could steal first base.

A rebuilding club like the Orioles is smart to check out Mateo, a top 100 prospect for three straight years, according to Baseball America.

Most of Mateo’s starts in the majors have come in center field, but we’re talking only seven. He’s primarily a shortstop, which sets up a middle infield of Mateo and Martin if the team is willing to pull back a little on Urías.

More likely is a rotation of the three players. And with Maikel Franco expected to be one-and-done with the Orioles, it makes sense to sit him a little more often. Mateo has played 20 innings at third base in the majors, none in the minors.

But what about Jahmai Jones?

Someone had to say it.

I’d also keep Anthony Santander in the lineup, for as long as his ankle permits, to see whether he can play through the last two months without another shutdown. And a hot finish could reheat the trade market. It seemed to cool after spring training.

Wouldn’t it also make sense to play catcher Austin Wynns a little more regularly and decide whether he’s going to back up Rutschman next summer? Pedro Severino is arbitration-eligible again this winter and a likely non-tender. And especially if he isn’t viewed as the primary starter in 2022.

Unless the club already has other plans that don’t include Wynns.

Trey Mancini hasn’t been the first baseman in five of the last six games and eight of 10.

I don’t have anything to add. It’s just interesting that he’s mainly been the designated hitter, with one game spent on the bench.

Hyde is trying to keep Mancini fresh as the summer grind really kicks in, but he also wants Mountcastle to gain more experience at the position and not be the primary designated hitter at his age.

I’m just making an assumption on the last part. Let’s run with it.

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