After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructs have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Carter Baumler, RHP (No. 18); Randy Beriguete, RHP; Kyle Brnovich, RHP; Noah Denoyer RHP; Connor Gillispie, RHP; Thomas Girard, RHP; DL Hall, LHP (No. 4); Dan Hammer, RHP; Blaine Knight, RHP; Hector Lopez, RHP; Zac Lowther, LHP (No. 11); Easton Lucas, LHP; Morgan McSweeney, RHP; Zach Muckenhirn, LHP; Luis Ortiz, LHP (No. 29); Zach Peek, RHP; Ofelky Peralta, RHP; Shelton Perkins, RHP; Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (No. 2); Drew Rom, LHP (No. 23); Houston Roth, RHP; Luis Sanchez, RHP; Kade Strowd, RHP; Brandon Young, RHP
The Orioles played their first game against another organization, the Rays, on Monday, and they only had a small handful of intrasquad games, so work has been somewhat limited for the pitchers so far. It should come as no surprise that top pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall have been dominant when they’ve been on the mound.
Among the less famous names, a pair of right-handers have really impressed. Ofelky Peralta has been with the organization since he signed out of the Dominican Republic in September 2013. He’s shown promise, but has yet to pitch above Class A ball. That could change based on what he’s showing now, and the 23-year old pitched well against the Rays.
“He’s made some improvements,” Orioles farm director Matt Blood said. “He’s throwing strikes, in the upper-90s with his fastball. He has a changeup and he’s added a breaking ball.”
Carter Baumler is also making a very strong first impression, albeit in shorter looks. The Orioles took Baumler in the fifth round of the 2020 Draft out of the Iowa high school ranks, giving him a well-above-slot $1.5 million bonus to sign him away from his Texas Christian commitment. Given that he had just one outing before the shutdown and that he’s only 18, the Orioles are obviously being very cautious with how much he throws, but they’ve liked what they’ve seen.
“His demeanor, his size, delivery and stuff stand out,” Blood said. “Everything looks advanced for an 18-year-old kid. He’s very athletic.”
Jordan Cannon; Brett Cumberland; Maverick Handley; Ricardo Rivera; Cody Roberts; Adley Rutschman (No. 1)
Warning: An entry about Orioles catching is about to commence without discussing Adley Rutschman.
Baltimore’s catching depth in the farm system is lacking, but there are some developments at instructs that are promising. Brett Cumberland came to the Orioles in July 2018 in the Kevin Gausman trade with the Braves. His value lies mostly in his bat, and he’s 25, but he’s working to become a more viable option as an all-around player.
“He has offensive ability, as a switch-hitter, and it’s a really good at-bat,” Blood said. “The defense has always been the knock, but he’s played with some new stances and is getting more comfortable back there to be more productive on the receiving and blocking side of things.”
The flip side of that coin is Maverick Handley. The Stanford product was a sixth-round pick of the Orioles in 2019 mostly because of his defense, and he lived up to that, throwing out 63 percent of potential basestealers during his pro debut a summer ago. He also hit just .202/.298/.237 during his time with short-season Aberdeen, but he showed up in better shape and with the potential to impact the baseball more offensively.
“He came into camp having lost 20-25 pounds,” Blood said. “He’s still an above-average catcher and he’s put a lot of work into his offense and that’s improved. He’s taken himself to another level, which has been good to see.”
Rylan Bannon (No. 25), 2B; Jose Cosma, SS; Andrew Daschbach, 1B; Adam Hall, SS (No. 16); Gunnar Henderson, SS (No. 6); Darell Hernaiz, SS; Roberto Martinez, 2B; Coby Mayo, 3B (No. 24); Joey Ortiz, SS; Erison Placencia, SS; James Rolle, 1B; Leonel Sanchez, SS; Anthony Servideo, SS (No. 20); Dax Stubbs, INF; Terrin Vavra, SS (No. 13); Toby Welk, 3B; Jordan Westburg, SS (No. 7)
This is the area of greatest depth in the Orioles' system, with Blood getting excited talking about what he’s seen in Sarasota thus far, with new draftees (Jordan Westburg, Anthony Servideo, Coby Mayo), trade acquisitions (Terrin Vavra) and holdovers like Gunnar Henderson, Adam Hall and Rylan Bannon all performing well.
For the first time in a while, the Orioles have a number of big, strong, athletic prospects who can stay on the dirt. Mayo, the team’s fourth-round pick this year, is 6-foot-5 and has been showing off well-above-average power and big-time arm strength at the hot corner. But it might be the combination of the 6-foot-3 Henderson and Westburg that has stood out the most.
“They’re like two thoroughbred stallions,” Blood said. “Both can play shortstop, both can hit and both can run. It’s been really fun seeing them on the field together every day, competing. It’s exciting what our player procurement staff has done bringing in talent.”
Hudson Haskin has represented the 2020 Draft well, especially given that first-rounder Heston Kjerstad (No. 3) isn’t in camp because of a “medical non-sports-related reason.” Zach Watson, meanwhile, has shown up for the 2019 Draft with good all-around skills. But this group has something the Orioles haven’t had in some time: young talent from Latin America with a ton of upside.
Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony and Luis Gonzalez are all paying their first visit to the United States as the key acquisitions in Baltimore’s first notable splash in the international market in years. Bellony signed in July 2018 for $200,000, Acevedo signed in April 2019 for $275,000 and Gonzalez got $475,000 to join the organization in July 2019.
“Gonzalez has ridiculous power, he just needs overall approach refinement, but he can really drive the baseball,” Blood said. “Acevedo is a little taller and leaner, maybe a little bit better athlete with not as much power as Gonzalez. And Bellony is probably a little more advanced approach-wise, but a little less athletic than the other two.
“They’re great player development pieces. It’s exciting, a shot in the arm for the player development system to see players like this in camp.”