Outfielder Zach Watson is only 20-20 player on O’s farm

BOWIE - When you look at the top home run hitters on the Orioles farm they are mostly a group of real big and strong players. Mostly, but not all. In that group of players who have the physical look of middle-of-the-order hitters is center fielder Zach Watson of the Double-A Bowie Baysox.

At 6-foot and 160 pounds, and with his speed, he has more the look of the speedy, leadoff type of hitter than a player with 20 homers, exceeded by just three players in the O’s farm system this year. But Watson has shown this year that he does indeed have pop in his bat while also maintaining enough speed to steal 24 bases this year between high Single-A Aberdeen and Bowie.

Prince-George's-Stadium-Interior-Banners-Sidebar.jpgHe is the only player on the Orioles farm this year with 20 or more homers and steals.

“It’s awesome,” Watson said about going 20-20 in an interview this week in Bowie. “All the hard work that I’ve put in. Using my speed on the base paths and trying to get everything that I can, trying to take that extra base. And the power really showed up this year.”

In 103 games this season between the IronBirds and Baysox, Watson has hit .249/.295/.466/.761 with 17 doubles, four triples, 20 homers, 62 runs, 24 steals and 64 RBIs.

On the home run leader list for Orioles affiliates he ranks only behind Kyle Stowers (27), Patrick Dorrian (21) and Adley Rutschman (21). In the stolen base category among O’s minor leaguers, he falls behind only Mason Janvrin (26-for-26 this year) and Adam Hall (25-for-26). Watson has stolen 24 times in 30 attempts.

He has been keeping pace with the big boys with his pop.

“Me and Pat (Dorrian) always joke back and forth. If he hits a home run, I have to hit one and if I do, he has to hit one. It’s all fun. But to be in the top of the organization’s home run leaders, it means something, for sure. It’s very special,” said Watson, drafted by the Orioles in round three in 2019 (No. 79 overall) out of LSU.

Not bad for a player who is not currently ranked among the Orioles’ top 30 prospects by either Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com.

“Really proud of how I’ve stayed through myself this year,” said Watson, 24. “Learned a lot. Just listened to the coaches and I have learned tons throughout the season, like laying off certain pitches. Really focusing on driving your pitch, trying to look for that one spot and laying off everything else. I feel like I swung at a lot at curveballs in the dirt in college, and I am not swinging at that very much anymore. Swing decisions is the biggest part I’ve tried to work on.”

And while he may be chasing less, he has not been walking more this year. Watson’s walk rate is more like that of Ryan Mountcastle when he was at similar minor league levels. At 4.9, Watson ranks 26th among the 26 players who have 300 or more plate appearances on the O’s farm this year.

But the speed and pop have been there this season. Watson posted a .745 OPS in 56 games with Aberdeen, and that number is .779 in 47 games with Bowie. He ranks 11th in OPS on the O’s farm.

About last night: It comes down to this today for the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Win at home versus Altoona and they are in the playoffs. Lose and their season is over. The top two teams in winning percentage will play for the championship of the Northeast next week. Here are the standings heading into the final day of the regular season today:

.610 - Somerset and Akron (72-46)
.605 - Bowie (72-47)

Somerset and Akron play each other and the winning team will be the No. 1 seed for the championship series. If Bowie wins they will pass the Somerset-Akron loser for the No. 2 seed. But a Bowie loss puts those two top teams in the championship series.

Knuckleballer Mickey Jannis (0-2, 7.27 ERA) will make the start for Bowie, which is seeking its third championship series appearance in team history, following 2015, when they won it all and 2019, when they lost in the finals.

Low Single-A Delmarva on Friday night set a new team season record for runs. Through 119 games this year after last night’s loss, Delmarva has scored 711 runs, surpassing the team mark of 700 by the 2000 team. And that was in 136 games that season.

Delmarva has also tied its club mark with 112 homers, needing one today for a new record. The team homer record was set in 2016 in 139 games. Delmarva is also chasing the team record for OBP (.343) set in 2000 and slugging (.391), set in 2016. Heading into the season finale today, the 2021 Shorebirds have a team OBP of .358 and slugging mark of .395.

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