The Orioles are excited to see their young minor league players on the field starting Tuesday for many reasons. They had a strong preseason camp in Florida leading to Friday’s release of the break-camp rosters. The organization feels a farm system that is now ranked fifth by MLBPipeline.com and seventh by Baseball America is robust. Final roster decisions were tough.
“I think what is interesting is, you can look and see how much the organization has changed in terms of depth of talent over the past year,” Orioles director of player development Matt Blood told me Friday. “Thanks to the draft, thanks to the trades that were made. That in itself has caused roster decisions to be more difficult and more competitive when you look at all the players that have been brought in.
“The camp went very well. There was great energy - players and staff. People are thankful to be back playing baseball again. We got a lot of done with a lot of competition and the morale seems pretty high going into the season.”
In this entry Friday, we provided the four full-season break-camp rosters for Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, high Single-A Aberdeen and low Single-A Delmarva.
We reported earlier in this entry that piggyback pitching will be seen on the O’s farm this year. Often, but not every night, two pitchers may piggyback with one starting and pitching about half the game and the other going the other half, give or take a few outs. One thing this does is allow the organization to essentially try out more candidates to see if they can be future starting pitchers. Some they already know that they are, others they may be learning more about. Not every starter though will be used this way.
“It will be a case-by-case basis, but you know for missing a season last year and for the pitchers that we have and wanting to build more length type of arms and more starters, this is the right path for the organization in general,” said Blood.
He also said he is not concerned that bullpen pitchers will miss out on getting work in with a piggyback system.
“This year, with the rosters being larger, we’ll have more pitchers on rosters and getting innings will be part of the equation. We also are going to ask our pitchers to throw to our hitters in live batting practice situations as needed as well. We’ll get creative and find ways to get everybody throwing to hitters in some way or the other.”
With opening day fast approaching on Tuesday on the farm, of this list of the O’s top 30 prospects by MLBPipeline.com, 23 have been assigned to a roster. Norfolk has eight of those top 30 players with Yusniel Diaz (No. 9), Keegan Akin (10), Zac Lowther (11), Ryan McKenna (15), Jahmai Jones (19), Alexander Wells (20), Rylan Bannon (23) and Tyler Nevin (24). Each other affiliate has five top 30 prospects on its current roster.
“I think there will be plenty of reps,” Blood said. “Some guys have their primary position and we also very much like to get guys experience at other positions as well. Each guy will have a position he’s servicing on and he’ll play that more often than the others, but we’ll also mix him into other positions as well throughout every week. Definitely an exciting infield there in Norfolk.”
Jones is expected to get most of his starts at second base with Martin at short and Bannon at third.
At Delmarva, the infield includes two 2019 draft picks in Gunnar Henderson and Darell Hernaiz and two from 2020 in Anthony Servideo and Jordan Westburg. All four were drafted as shortstops. All four are expected to see time at shortstop as they rotate there and also all four are expected to play some at second and third base.
O’s No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez is expected to be the opening day starter at Aberdeen with No. 4 prospect DL Hall starting at Bowie. It looks like Zach Peek is the Game 1 starter for Delmarva with Conner Greene going for Norfolk.
Going for the sweep: The Orioles have won the first two games of their series and road trip and today go for a three-game sweep at Oakland against a team that began last Sunday with a 13-game winning streak.
The Orioles also have a chance to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 4-4 on April 10. The Orioles have won three in a row and five of their last seven games.
The Orioles have won five straight starts by either John Means or Matt Harvey. Harvey has won his last three, going 3-0 with an ERA of 3.24. His last three-game win streak was from June 21-July 1, 2018.
The Orioles are 8-4 when either Means or Harvey start and 5-10 when anyone else does.