More players movin’ on up on the farm

We are not even a month into the minor league season and the Orioles moved four more players Sunday with promotions. More could be coming sooner rather than later.

Moving up from low Single-A Delmarva to high Single-A Aberdeen are shortstop/third baseman Jordan Westburg and first baseman J.D. Mundy.

Westburg-Runs-Shorebirds-Sidebar.jpgWestburg, 22, went 4-for-6 with six RBIs in his final two games with the Shorebirds. He batted .366/.484/.592 in 20 games with five doubles, a triple, three homers, 24 RBIs and an OPS of 1.075. He was the No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Mississippi State.

Mundy, 23, was signed by the Orioles out of Radford last year as a free agent after the draft. In 20 games with Delmarva, he batted .324/.461/.577 with six doubles, four homers, 20 RBIs and an OPS of 1.038.

“They’ve both been outstanding for Delmarva and they’ll make nice additions to that Aberdeen team,” O’s director of player development Matt Blood said Sunday on my “Extra Innings” radio show on 105.7 The Fan. “Westburg and Mundy, you look at the stats for the league, the Low-A East, both are at the very top of the league in OPS. They put together great at-bats. They hit for power, they walk.

“Westburg has played great defense this year (at) shortstop and third. He’ll continue to do that as he goes to Aberdeen. And Mundy has played really well. He just hits, hits the ball hard and he walks. His defense, he hadn’t really played a lot of defense in college, it’s been really encouraging. He has made huge strides defensively in the couple of months we’ve had him now. We’d like to continue to see that.”

So while those two players are moving up, for now at least, 19-year-old Gunnar Henderson is staying with Delmarva. Henderson, who leads all of the minors in RBIs, is batting .313/.391/.613 with six doubles, six homers, 30 RBIs and an OPS of 1.004.

“For now, he does (stay with the Shorebirds),” Blood said. “He’ll continue to play shortstop there and keep working. I think Gunnar has done a fantastic job this year and he’s a fierce competitor, too. I’m sure he’ll be sad to see Westburg go, but I’m sure he’ll say, ‘I’ll be right behind you.’ The Delmarva fans, watch him for as long as you’ve got him.”

Westburg and Henderson made quite a pairing in the Delmarva lineup and there was seemingly some thought of keeping them together and bumping both to Aberdeen. But that didn’t happen yet.

“Those two guys have a great sibling rivalry going on where they are competing really hard against each other, but also pulling really hard for each other. We have a phrase we use, iron sharpens iron. And they are the epitome of that where they make each other better on a daily basis,” said Blood.

Does this mean that Henderson, who turns 20 on June 29, should be expected to stay at Delmarva for a while now?

“I think the thing to keep in mind with us (is) our philosophy of very much we want to challenge the players and put them in an environment to challenge where their deficiencies are revealed and they know, ‘OK, I’ve got to work on this to go to the next level.’ And when we feel confident that that time has come for Gunnar, he’s going to move,” Blood said. “So I wouldn’t guess one way or the other in regards of why he didn’t move today. You know, he very well could move at any time.”

Two other players did move up, from Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie. They are outfielder Johnny Rizer and right-handed starting pitcher Blaine Knight.

Rizer, 24, hit .288/.373/.542 in 15 games with the IronBirds with six doubles, three homers, eight RBIs and an OPS of .916. He was selected in round seven of 2019 out of TCU. Knight, 24, was a College World Series star in 2018 at Tennessee before being draft in round three by the Orioles. In 2019, he struggled with an ERA of 6.19 at then High-A Frederick. But at High-A this year, he fared much better for Aberdeen. In four starts over 10 1/3 innings, he was 0-1 with an ERA of 2.61 with three walks and eight strikeouts.

“With Rizer, (Joey) Ortiz went up (from Aberdeen to Bowie) a couple of days early. Ortiz and Rizer are both guys that showed really well for Aberdeen,” Blood said. “Both can hit and played great defense, run the bases. Just smart players. And Knight has pitched great so far this year and we want to challenge him and get him into Double-A.”

The Baysox are stocking up on pitchers that are starter candidates to now include both DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, along with Knight, Kevin Smith, Ofelky Peralta, Cody Sedlock, Mike Baumann, Cameron Bishop and Gray Fenter.

Rodriguez, who went 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA and 0.69 WHIP for Aberdeen, leaves that club with a 15.4 strikeout rate and 1.9 walk rate. He walked five and fanned 40 over 23 1/3 innings as he moves to Double-A, where he will likely debut on Wednesday night at Hartford.

“We want to challenge our guys,” Blood said of this move. “When we see they are one of the best in the league, it’s time to move them up so they can be faced with their deficiencies and have to work on those things.”

Beyond continued success on the field and stat sheet, what does Rodriguez need to do to improve and keep advancing toward the major leagues?

“We just want to see him execute his pitches and his game plan,” Blood said. “In the lower levels, you can get away with more mistakes. You can get away with worse execution when you can just overpower and overstuff hitters. The more they move up, the more they have to be more fine-tuned with their execution, location and pitch selection. Now it’s just let’s get him to where he can use that stuff how he wants to, where he wants to on a consistent basis.”

On the farm Sunday: The Orioles had a perfect 4-0 day, including an Aberdeen rainout at Brooklyn.

In Double-A Bowie’s twinbill sweep of Harrisburg, catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Cadyn Grenier both homered in each game and drove in seven runs on the day.

Rutschman went 5-for-6 with three-run homers in each game. He’s now batting .293 with a 1.039 OPS. That OPS not only leads his team, but ranks fourth in the league and, yes, that (bat) did escalate quickly. Call off the concern for this player, which was always going to be proven foolish and unnecessary. He now ranks second in the league in RBIs.

Over his past three games, Grenier has gone 7-for-11 with a double, triple, three homers and eight RBIs, raising his average from .151 to .234.

Triple-A Norfolk beat Charlotte 4-1 as Mason McCoy hit a two-run homer in the Tides fifth win in the last six games. Delmarva blanked Lynchburg 8-0 to improve to 17-6 as Ignacio Feliz, Adam Stauffer and Brandon Young combined on a three-hitter.

The four O’s farm teams are a combined 57-33 (.633). Minus the Tides’ 8-15 mark, the other three clubs are 49-18 (.731).

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