Another look at players in the fall instructional league camp

The fall instructional league camp is entering its fourth day down in Sarasota, Fla., more activity at the Ed Smith Stadium complex before pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Feb. 15.

Here are a few more participants who caught my eye when the Orioles shared their list with the media:

* They loaded up their camp roster with 17 of the 2021 draft picks, and they included outfielder/first baseman Billy Cook, a 10th-rounder out of Pepperdine University.

Cook, 22, led the West Coast Conference with 17 home runs in 33 games as a senior, the third-most in school history. But his most impressive power display might have come in his first professional season and is the reason why his name sticks with me.

ed smith stadium.jpgCook hit three home runs for Single-A Delmarva in a Sept. 4 game, including a pair of grand slams, and also doubled and drove in a team-record nine runs. He tied the Shorebirds record with three homers, last done by Collin Woody on Aug. 15, 2017.

The four extra-base hits also tied Woody’s record, and Cook came within one total base of that mark.

Half of Cook’s six home runs with Delmarva came in one very memorable game.

* Before executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias could get his international scouting department functioning at full speed, he swung a couple trades in 2019 spring training using international signing bonus slot money.

Elias obtained right-hander David Lebron from the Rangers on Feb. 24 and right-hander Xavier Moore from the Twins on March 3. Moore is in Sarasota among the 17 pitchers in camp.

The Rangers drafted Moore in the 16th round in 2017 and traded him to the Twins on the same day that he joined the Orioles.

Elias was waiting to spend internationally when the caliber of available players improved. The Orioles were much too late to the party to do anything else significant with the money immediately after his arrival.

Moore, 22, appeared in seven games with Delmarva this summer and allowed six earned runs with 11 walks and 27 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. He moved up to high Single-A Aberdeen in June, made 14 relief appearances and posted a 9.00 ERA and 1.526 WHIP in 19 innings.

The walks remained a problem, with Moore issuing 14, but he also struck out 23 batters.

* TT Bowens, 23, signed with the Orioles in June 2020 as an undrafted free agent out of Central Connecticut State. He was a red-shirt junior whose season was cut short by the pandemic, which also hacked the draft down to only five rounds.

The Orioles contacted Bowens on the first day that teams could reach out to undrafted players. He also reportedly heard from the Nationals, Red Sox and Dodgers.

Bowens, who posted a .306 average and .902 OPS with 21 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs and 72 RBIs in 96 games at Central Connecticut, thought about playing another year collegiately and improving his stock, which also had been lowered by torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees, but decided to join the Orioles.

They’re glad he did.

Bowens hit 18 home runs this summer between Delmarva (13) and Aberdeen (five), ranking among the most in the system. His homer on Sept. 17 provided all of the scoring in Aberdeen’s 1-0 win over Greenville.

The ACL surgeries led to an adjustment at the plate, with Bowens removing the leg kick without impacting his timing.

The Orioles also were sharp with their timing when contacting Bowens. Otherwise, he’d be hitting home runs in another organization.

* First baseman JD Mundy also signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020 out of Radford University. He’s also in Sarasota after batting a combined .291/.390/.536 with 20 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 72 games between Delmarva and Aberdeen.

Mundy, 23, went on the injured list with a fractured right thumb following his promotion to Bowie and didn’t play after Aug. 15.

Fearing a lack of playing time, Mundy transferred from Virginia Tech to Radford and batted .323/.425/.606 with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 74 RBIs in two seasons with the Highlanders. He earned first-team All-Big South honors in 2019, but the pandemic also influenced his draft status in 2020.

Before the shutdown, Mundy was batting .385/.468/.662 with a team-leading four home runs and 19 RBIs in 17 games. He tied for the team lead with six doubles and led the Big South Conference in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage.

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