One of the great joys of offseason baseball is the playing of leagues that give prospects a chance to refine tools and make up for lost time during the season. And one of those great leagues is the Arizona Fall League.
With the return of AFL action tomorrow, each team is allowed to send prospects to, what many call, a “finishing league.” This is a place where stars can be made, prospects can increase their pipeline rankings and some players get extra time they missed during the season.
The AFL is also known for letting MLB make experimental changes they are considering for baseball to see how they fair and if they will be considered in the future.
The changes this year are as follows:
- Pitch Timer
- Defensive Positioning Restrictions
- Larger Bases
- Automatic Ball-Strike System
- Pitcher/Catcher Communication Device called PitchCom
So with all these fun changes they are trying out, fans in Birdland have to be wondering who is making the roster for Mesa this year for our organization. Without further ado, here are your Orioles representatives!
Kyle Stowers OF
The “other” pick in 2019 blasted onto the scene in a big way for the Orioles this year. Making his way through three minor league levels, Stowers made his presence known.
Not only did he have a strong defensive effort, but his offense is what turned heads, as he blasted 27 home runs to lead the Orioles system. Adding 73 walks along with 125 hits in 124 games, Stowers looks like a future star and has a chance to be showcased even more this fall.
Yusniel Díaz OF
The main piece of the Manny Machado trade has seen his time with the Orioles be marred by injuries. Batting below .200 most of the year because of various time off with injuries, Díaz started to showcase some of the tools that made him a top prospect and a piece the Dodgers fought to let go.
His potential is there when healthy, as before this year he has hit .292 as a high point and a low of .262 before this year. He collected three straight seasons with 11 home runs and has batted in between 45 and 57 runs each season before this year. Díaz will get a chance to prove that the Orioles were right in trading for him, and a big fall could help him going into next year’s spring training.
Cameron Bishop LHP
At age 25, Bishop is running out of time to prove himself in the minors. After being promoted to Bowie, Bishop pitched to a 3-1 record with a 3.49 ERA across 12 games (three starts). He’s won 15 games in his career, but he also has 18 quality starts behind him.
He pitches to ground ball contact, which has helped him keep his home run numbers down, as he has allowed one home run every 15 innings across his career. A late round pick looking to make some noise, this lefty has a chance to prove he can pitch amongst the best prospects in the minors.
Greg Cullen 2B
In 2020, Cullen found himself being traded from the Braves to the Orioles in a deal that sent Tommy Milone to the Atlanta. A 2018 15th round pick, Cullen, having been a Braves organizational All-Star his first two seasons, was ready to make his place with the Orioles.
Moving up three levels for the Orioles and seeing him finish the season in Bowie, Cullen played 38 games on the farm, batting .259, with more walks than strikeouts and an OBP of .429. Cullen will get a chance to refine his defense and earn more playing time with a good fall turnout.
Logan Gillaspie RHP
The Orioles signed Gillaspie to a free agent contract this past June, and he worked his way up to Bowie by season’s end. Working primarily as a relief pitcher, Gillaspie would record four saves in five chances and pitch 41.2 innings for the Orioles.
Logan would pitch in 26 games and add five holds to his season. He will work on keeping the ball in the park, as he did allow seven home runs. However, he was close to a five-to-one strike out to walk ratio, as he tallied 10 more strikeouts than innings pitched. With some power behind his pitches, Gillaspie will look to improve his power pitches and work his way into future talk for the Orioles in a bullpen role.
Conner Loeprich RHP
In 2020, the Pirates would send Loeprich to the Orioles for cash in what the Orioles are looking to finesse into a true pitcher in the organization. He woukd strike out 57 in 56 innings pitched, but the home run was his down fall. In Aberdeen, Loeprich would allow a home run every four innings, which would make it hard on his team in the 14 games he pitched (12 starts). For his career, he averages 9.11 SO/9 and carries a decent 1.37 WHiP.
Loeprich carries a strong curve and likes to work down in the zone to initiate ground balls but needs some work in improving in that area. Looking to turn his career around and show the potential that had the Pirates thinking they found a late gem, Loeprich will need a strong AFL to prove that the Orioles made a good deal in trading for him.
Ramon Rodriguez C
A late spring signing by the Orioles, the 22-year-old catcher is looking to make his presence felt. Batting .253 for the Orioles while moving up from Delmarva to Bowie, Rodriguez is looking to improve his defense and maintain his offense.
Playing in 53 games, Rodriguez needs to improve behind the plate, where he had seven errors this season. Throwing out only 21% of would be base stealers, Rodriguez also had four passed balls. To maintain his career or his position, Rodriguez will need to take the extra time to refine his defense and improve his chances of remaining with the Orioles next year.
Nick Vespi LHP
A former 18th round draft pick, Vespi played for Bowie and Norfolk this year, compiling a 4-3 record, with a 4.19 ERA across 30 games and 38.2 innings pitched.
One of the big standouts for Vespi was that he was able to strike out 51 batters and maintain a WHiP of 1.24. It was the long ball that hurt Vespi the most, as he allowed a home run almost every six innings pitched. While his strikeout out to walk ratio was nearly three-to-one, Vespi will look to improve on limiting his home runs and grow his prowess as a strong reliever for the Orioles.
The Arizona Fall League completes play with it’s championship game on November 20. The Mesa Solar Sox is where you find the Orioles prospects play, as they look to build on their prospect stock and more. Be sure to tune in and keep a lookout for these Baby Birds to stake their claim in the Orioles’ rebuild.
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