Two Orioles minor league pitchers were named classification All-Stars by Baseball America. The publication names All-Star teams for each classification - Triple-A, Double-A and so on down the line. That involves three leagues in each classification in most cases and Baseball America selected six pitchers - five starters and one reliever for each team.
Double-A Bowie lefty Zac Lowther was named a Double-A classification All-Star. For the Baysox he went 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA. Over 148 innings he allowed 102 hits and eight homers with 63 walks and 154 strikeouts. He posted a .197 average against and 1.11 WHIP.
Lowther was both a midseason and postseason All-Star in the Eastern League. He finished first in the league in strikeouts, second in ERA, fourth in innings and tied for sixth in WHIP. Lowther led all O’s minor league pitchers in wins and strikeouts.
Lowther went 6 1/3 innings in the first Eastern League playoff series against Harrisburg, allowing one run. But Lowther went on the injured list during the Eastern League Championship Series with what is believed to be minor shoulder soreness.
Said Bowie manager Buck Britton during the Eastern League Championship Series: “Just general soreness. For a guy like that, it’s more important for the longevity of his career. We’d love to have him, but we’re worried about his future. It’s nothing serious, but there is no sense in trying to run a guy out there for one more start. He’s pitched a lot of innings and been a workhorse for us. No sense pushing the guy. He would have taken the ball, trust me. But we have to pull back the reigns a bit and get him ready for next year.”
Last season Lowther was co-winner with Keegan Akin of the Jim Palmer Award which goes to the Orioles’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Taken No. 74 overall in Competitive Balance Round B of the 2017 draft out of Xavier, the 23-year-old Lowther throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, and he is usually 88 to 92 mph.
“Hes at the top of the league in strikeouts,” Britton said. “He does that with a swing-and-miss fastball. He’s got a high spin rate and good hop on his fastball. Guys swing and miss at it. He is still developing his breaking ball and his changeup. But I think he’s got something special in that fastball that gives us time to develop those (other) pitches and keep his numbers where they’re at.”
In Low-A ball, Single-A Delmarva right-hander Grayson Rodriguez was named a Baseball America classification All-Star. Leading a Delmarva staff that broke the South Atlantic League record with 1,389 strikeouts (10.33 K/9), Rodriguez went 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA. Over 94 innings he allowed 57 hits and just four homers with 36 walks, 129 strikeouts, a WHIP of 0.99 and a .171 average against.
Rodriguez, who did not allow a run in three of his last six regular-season starts, would have finished first in the South Atlantic League in WHIP and third in ERA if he had enough innings to qualify for league leaders. He did finish tied for fourth in wins and tied for seventh in strikeouts.
Rodriguez was the Orioles’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April when he went 3-0 with an ERA of 0.54. His ERA was 1.47 after his first eight starts. He made the midseason All-Star Game in the South Atlantic League and started the game on the mound for the Northern Division All-Stars. He was also named a South Atlantic League postseason All-Star in addition to being named the league’s top right-handed pitcher and Most Outstanding MLB prospect.
Rodriguez, 19, was the O’s first-round pick last year, No. 11 overall. He throws a fastball, changeup, slider, curve and cutter and his changeup made major strides in 2019. Late in the year he told us during an interview at Oriole Park his fastball was topping out in the high 90s.
Delmarva pitching coach Justin Ramsey said of Rodriguez: “He was a first-rounder for a reason. His body works a little bit different than most, and that’s a good thing. The biggest thing I’ve found and been very impressed with: His aptitude and his willingness to listen and go apply has been awesome. For a guy that has had his success and been a first-rounder, there is zero settling, ‘Got it figured out.’ None of that. He’s coming in to get better every single day. That started with some of the things he applied in spring training to now. What he has done has been awesome.”
Since Ryan Mountcastle is a very unofficial Orioles minor league Triple Crown winner, batting .312 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs for Triple-A Norfolk and was also the International League MVP, he looks a lock to win the Brooks Robinson Award. It goes to the O’s Minor League Player of the Year.
But who have you got for the 2019 Jim Palmer Award? We should hear about the O’s minor league award winners very soon.