The Orioles certainly have some shortstops they like at higher minor league levels, including players like Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson, Mason McCoy and a few others. But they are also pleased so far with what they have seen this season from some talented, young shortstops playing at the lower levels.
In the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, they believe that 17-year-old Venezuelan Maikol Hernandez is already showing his solid tools despite modest offensive stats so far.
In January, the Orioles signed an international amateur class that included the organization’s first two international amateur seven-figure signees. And one was Hernandez, a right-handed hitter who got a signing bonus of $1.2 million. The other was catcher Samuel Basallo who was signed for $1.3 million.
Hernandez is already getting prospect recognition, ranked as the club’s No. 11 prospect by Baseball America and No. 19 by MLBPipeline.com. Baseball America says of Hernandez that he “is graceful and athletic and generates a combination of power and speed that stands out for his size. His power, in particular, has a chance to be plus as his body matures.” MLBPipeline.com states, “Hernandez reminds some scouts of a young Álex Rodríguez and Carlos Correa because of his body type. His swing is smooth and easy, with flashes of power potential and an ability to hit to all fields.”
At 6-foot-3 and 175 lbs. right now, Hernandez is tall and lanky and has a chance to add a few pounds to his athletic frame. He is already showing plus speed with a big arm that could eventually get a 65 or 70 grade.
In the DSL through 18 games, he is batting .182/.329/.259/.587 with three doubles, a triple and five RBIs. You love to see that he has walked 12 times with 10 strikeouts. So he is already showing some nice control of the strike zone at times. The Orioles are trying to take a player with a lot of tools here and develop a shortstop that can run well, throw very well and hit with power.
Hernandez is expected to move to the United States for next season in Florida ,where he would likely start the year in extended spring and eventually play games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.
Another young shortstop getting noticed already is 19-year-old right-handed batter Isaac De León. He was the player to be named when the Orioles traded Richard Bleier to the Miami Marlins last Aug. 1. Miami signed him on July 2, 2018 out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for $275,000.
In 30 games this year in the FCL, De León is batting .303/.378/.384/.762 with six doubles, a triple and 19 RBIs. He has walked nine times with 27 strikeouts.
De León has added some weight to his 6-foot-3 frame since entering pro ball and O’s officials are excited about his chance to stay at short on defense with some future power potential. De Leon’s idol is Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets.
De León very likely will begin full-season ball in the 2022 season and could very well begin the season as the starting shortstop at low Single-A Delmarva next spring.
On the farm Sunday: Low Single-A Delmarva completed a six-game sweep of Fredericksburg, beating the FredNats 10-2. Delmarva is 54-42 overall and 6-0 since it got an infusion of 2021 O’s draft picks.
O’s second-round pick Connor Norby hit his first pro homer, a two-run shot. His bat is heating up. Over his past three games, he is 4-for-10 with a double, triple, homer and five RBIs. Coby Mayo crushed a three-run homer out to left, a liner over the wall in the third, to provide a 7-1 lead. It was his first homer with Delmarva, which also got a two-run shot (No. 10) from Mason Janvrin.
Double-A Bowie saw right-hander Grayson Rodriguez allow a season-high five runs over 3 2/3 innings, but still beat Reading 11-8 for a fourth win in a row. Toby Welk hit a two-run homer and Patrick Dorrian added a two-run double and drove in three. Johnny Rizer had three hits, scored three and knocked one in.
Bowie (57-37) would be in the playoffs if they started today with the second-best won-loss record in the Double-A Northeast.
Triple-A Norfolk lost 11-7 at Charlotte, but infielder Rylan Bannon hit another homer. Over his last nine games, he is 14-for-32 (.438) with nine homers and 17 RBIs. High Single-A Aberdeen (48-45) was rained out.
Lack of runs and wins: The big club lost again, however. Atlanta beat the Orioles 3-1 and that is now 18 straight losses. The Orioles (38-85) have the longest losing streak in the majors since Kansas City lost 19 in a row in 2005.
The Birds scored just five runs in the weekend series, going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. As they get ready to face Dylan Bundy and the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, they’ve scored just 11 runs the past six games, 18 in 10 and 28 runs the last 13 games.
Click here for the video of my pregame appearance on “O’s Xtra” Sunday where we discussed the young shortstops mentioned in this story.