ABERDEEN - On the surface, one could see the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds’ record at 54-51 and feel like they’ve had a decent year, posting a winning record on the farm. But it you look deeper at all the players the club has moved up to Double-A Bowie this year - players that have the Baysox in a playoff hunt where Aberdeen is not - it tells you the IronBirds players and staff have done a real nice job during the 2021 season.
Their season-opening rotation of Grayson Rodriguez, Garrett Stallings, Kyle Brnovich, Blaine Knight and Drew Rom have all moved up. Knight, eventually, moved up two levels to Triple-A. That group allowed just one run over 23 innings as Aberdeen won its first five games and helped the IronBirds go 15-7 through May, the season’s first month.
On the position-player side, Jordan Westburg, Kyle Stowers, Joey Ortiz, Toby Welk, JD Mundy, Andrew Daschbach, Zach Watson, Johnny Rizer and Shayne Fontana are just a partial list of players that spent time in Aberdeen and later moved on and up.
“To sum it up at this point, I’m just really proud of the job we’ve done to get, like, 23, 24-plus players promoted to Bowie,” Aberdeen manager Kyle Moore said during an interview Friday afternoon at Ripken Stadium. “It’s something that is difficult as a manager when you get so much turnover you repeat (teaching and instruction) sometimes and keep teaching things, but I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the guys that are in Bowie right now that we feel like we put on a good path before they got promoted. They put in a lot of good work and we’re proud of that.
“It means our team right now has to fight and scratch to keep our record decent, but this is A-ball, and that’s what it’s all about. We’re teaching kids every day, every aspect of the game. From the simple fundamental to the most complicated we can get before they move up. It’s been a revolving door, but hopefully we did a good job with all those kids and we’ll try to keep doing it with all the kids we have now.”
Moore is in his fourth season as an O’s minor league skipper. He was here in Aberdeen in 2018 when the IronBirds were a short-season club and was skipper of that outstanding 2019 low Single-A Delmarva team that went 90-48.
As some of his key players moved up to Bowie, Moore was still keeping tabs on how they were doing.
“I do. Because we invested a lot of time with those kids,” he said. “I try not to take any energy away from what we’ve got to do here, but at the same time I’m fully invested in all of those players. Lot of connection with those guys. This whole (coaching) staff feels that way. I will shoot a guy a text and tell him, ‘Hey, way to go.’”
This is all part of a larger process on the farm of trying to produce talent up and down the system and keep players coming every year as part of that pipeline the Orioles front office is looking to build.
“Hopefully, this is just the start of something we are going to do for many years to come,” said Moore. “Hopefully, we create that pipeline that I’ve heard (executive vice president and general manager) Mike Elias speak about. From what I understand, that new draft class is really a good one too. So maybe this is not extraordinary but will become the norm around here, which would be awesome.”
This is the second affiliate I’ve been to since the O’s were ranked as the No. 1 farm by MLBPipeline.com. From Bowie to here in Aberdeen, players and staff have reasons to be proud of that.
“A lot of pride, and we take a lot of pride in the ground-level work that we do,” Moore said. “When you see No. 1 and No. 2 (from Baseball America) and get recognition, I don’t think there is any complacency there. It’s like, wow, we really have a good product here. And we better show up to do our job, because the product is good. And there are no off-days when you have the No. 2- and No. 1-ranked farm system in the world. It’s motivational. Time to go to work. We have good players.”
Moore would like to see his latest roster of players end this year with a winning record. That is important for development, too, he believes.
“I think there is something to be said for a winning season,” he said. “So, we’ve been battling every night to stay there. We got off to a super hot start and were probably 15 or so over (.500) at some point. We promoted a lot of pitching, but I think a winning record matters. It may not be at the top of the list for development - at the top is our players getting better every day. And we’re checking that box and now the second box for me is, are we winning? Do we have a chance to win just about every night?
Winning and learning how to do it can be a tool of sorts in baseball, like arm strength or power. We can’t quantify it the same way, but learning how to advance runners and/or make late-game plays that win close games is something pretty useful for all players to learn.
It starts here on the farm.
“I think winning is part of the development,” said Moore. “If you ask a guy to get a bunt down or you ask a guy to move a runner. You ask a guy to field his position coming off the mound late in a game - all that matters. Right now our game is in a place where some of that can get lost. But at the end of the day, you play in the AL East, you have to take care of the small things to win games. That is just the bottom line. We teach here that that is important and you better figure out here and now how to get that done.”
Big win for Bowie, Shorebirds still raking: Double-A Bowie got a two-run homer and two-run double from Kyle Stowers in a 6-3 win over Somerset. With that victory, Bowie (61-43) moves back into the second playoff spot in its league by a half-game over Somerset. Stowers and Jordan Westburg hit two-run homers in the first inning. It was No. 22 on the year for Stowers between Aberdeen and Bowie, and Westburg’s second in three games for the Baysox.
Starter Grayson Rodriguez threw five scoreless innings on one hit with seven strikeouts. He improves to 6-1 with a 2.76 ERA.
Low Single-A Delmarva beat Carolina 10-5 as Coby Mayo hit a three-run homer and two-run single for a five-RBI night. The Shorebirds are 12-4 since they got an infusion of 2021 draft picks and have scored 131 runs in those 16 games. That is an average of 8.2 runs per game.
Right-hander Dean Kremer threw well as Triple-A Norfolk blanked Charlotte 4-0. He pitched five scoreless innings. Over his past five games he has allowed five runs in 18 innings with two walks and 15 strikeouts.
The big club lost at New York: The Orioles lost 4-3 in 11 innings in the Bronx to the Yankees. They fall to 41-92 and have lost 18 of their last 19 division games. The O’s put runners on first and third with no outs in the 11th but failed to score. In the home half, Giancarlo Stanton’s single off Dillon Tate ended the game with a walk-off win for the Yankees.