Let’s take a look
Yesterday was a big day for the Orioles Minor League system. Really all minor league systems, but who cares about those hacks, right?
Anyway, position players reported to Minor League camps yesterday. I can already smell the hot dogs and nachos. Since the MLB and MLBPA are locked in a parody of Rock ‘Em – Sock ‘Em robots, we get to focus on the future in the present.
Where was I? Right – Minor League position players officially hit the fields yesterday, split between the back fields of Ed Smith Stadium and Buck O’Neil Complex at Twin Lakes Park.
March 16 to April 3 will offer a couple of awesome weeks for O’s fans to head out and watch their favorite O’s farm products play. Given that the Orioles have opened Minor League Spring Training workouts from March 10 to 15 to fans for free, there isn’t much reason not to catch a game or two (or all of them) after you watch some fundamentals.
The majority of games will be against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, with one brief tussle with the Atlanta Braves farm hands. The complete Orioles MiLB schedule can be found on MASN. On gamedays, gates will be open three hours before game time until the end of the game.
Triple-A Norfolk starts their season on April 5. The rest of the gang – Double-A Bowie, High-A Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva – start playing real ball April 8.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the players; we’ll get to the coaches in a bit.
Players on the 40-man roster cannot work out at team facilities, but they are being checked out at the Ed Smith and Twin Lakes facilities. While pitchers and catchers normally report earlier than position players, there is an early group of position players rehabbing from surgeries and any nagging injuries.
One of those guys, Shed Long, who signed his minors contract February 16, had right leg surgery in October. The Orioles are monitoring him and looking to see how quickly he can compete for a job.
Pitchers & Catchers:
Arriving way back on February 28, most have been doing their thing at Twin Hills Park. Notable exceptions include No. 1 MLB and Orioles prospect, Adley Rutschman, and No. 2 Orioles prospect and top MLB pitching prospect, Grayson Rodriguez. They are with the group working out at Ed Smith Stadium.
Orioles fans are giddy over the daydream of a Rodriguez – Rutschman battery (pun totally intended) at Camden Yards. There are exciting things in the future, and these two studs are a big part of those things.
With less than a month to go before the Tides begin their regular season, we will presumably see Rutschman catching Rodriguez heat soon. That will surely be fun.
The 40-man roster rules have a few pitchers of the future prohibited from official contact with the Orioles. According to MLBpipeline.com’s Orioles 2021 prospect rankings, D.L. Hall (No. 3), Kyle Bradish (No. 8) and Mike Baumann (No. 10), are players to watch for Orioles fans.
I don’t see too many issues arising from any lack of ‘official’ oversight by the MLB staff. Hall looks to make an impact with the big league club as soon as this season, and Bradish and Baumann are even closer to be big league ready.
The riches continue for the Orioles, since the seven other top-10 O’s prospects are non-roster players that can work out at team facilities during this lockout.
The MLB Rule 5 Draft may be another casualty of the lockout. The MiLB Rule 5 Draft went on as usual back in December. One of the players picked was Cole Uvila, seen as an unlikely pick by the Orioles. It may be even more unlikely he gets to the bigs, since he is already 28. Hope springs eternal in baseball, so we’ll hope for the best for him.
Among the position players in MiLB camp are Gunnar Henderson (No. 4), Colton Cowser (No. 5), Heston Kjerstad (No. 7), Connor Norby (No. 9), Kyle Stowers (No. 11), Adam Hall (No. 15), Coby Mayo (No. 17), and César Prieto (signed in January and assigned to Delmarva out of Cuba).
Prieto presents some extra excitement for Oriole fans. He has been touted as an All-Star-caliber second baseman in the future. At 22, he has time to develop and bring that talent with him to Baltimore.
With the Orioles highly reliant on the development of their prospects at this point, Minor League Spring Training brings a great deal of value to the MLB club. Keeping the plan moving forward and developing talent remains the focus.
Schedules were most likely altered yesterday with the arrival of new players. Workouts are due to remain spread out between the two sites.
There are a large amount of highly-touted players in the Orioles’ MiLB system. Let’s go with massive; a lot.
Oriole fans realize this is an uncommon place for the team to be. Fans also realize that the coaches guiding these players to the next level are a big deal.
The staff pushing O’s Minor League players to be the best are putting in just as much work. Let’s introduce you to some of these folks, who are, in many unseen ways, just as important as the players.
Tim DeJohn (“DJ”), previously a Minor League infield coordinator, has been bumped up to Double-A Bowie. This move allows him to continue his consistent upbeat message as he guides Oriole prospects along. Tim is the guy who reminds these players that things could be a lot worse when the summer sun is beating down, and they are away from their homes and families.
Eric Garfield, with the Eutaw Street Report, recently asked DJ how it feels to play such an important role in the Orioles organization.
Coaching sets the tone for the future of the entire organization. Things are moving along quite well, as we watch prospects prep for the 2022 baseball season and beyond.
Matt Packer, who’s been with the organization for several years, will be the skipper of the Sarasota Orioles when they hit the field in July. He continues to gel nicely with players and will bring excellent skills to bear when arguing calls with umpires. Perhaps not Earl Weaver level yet but, we can hope.
Packer connects well with the age group of the players, which makes it easier to push them to be better than they thought they could be.
The other Rookie League manager is Christian Frias. He is an encyclopedia on Orioles prospects and their development status.
He brings a desire to see players excel to the organization that will yield long-term positive results. And his knowledge of the overall system tells me he can add to the consistency the Orioles front office staff is looking for in the years to come.
These three coaches are among the many that are building the foundation for future long-term success at the MLB level. Many fans simply don’t realize how important these guys are to the organization.
Watching the current crop of players improve and move along in the O’s system should shine a light on the scope of a coach’s influence and importance. Without these unsung pieces of the puzzle, which includes translators, trainers and medical staff, the rebuild of the organization would not be possible.
The time for all this work leading to MLB wins when they matter is coming. We should all remember the contribution of these, and all baseball educators, when the Orioles are winning games and on top of A.L. and MLB standings.
Which player are you most excited to watch this spring? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter! And, make sure to use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content to show your Birdland swag!