Orioles Minor League Spring Training report

April 23rd, 2021

As much as Adley Rutschman has been written and talked about, it would be easy to think he’s been a professional for eons. But even though he was drafted nearly two years ago, the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft and current No. 2 overall prospect has a grand total of 130 official at-bats to his name.

Sure, he got good experience both facing and handling more advanced pitchers at the Orioles’ alternate site last year and looked like he belonged in Spring Training this year. But those who can’t wait to see him in Baltimore should remind themselves that while it’s not going to take him long, he has only played 30 real games to date.

“At this point, it’s just a matter of him playing a full season of professional baseball,” Orioles farm director Matt Blood said. “He has to go through the ups and downs of that. Every single day, getting at-bats, learning to manage that. That’s the one thing he hasn’t been exposed to yet. He played a short season, he went to the alternate site, instructs, Spring Training, but he hasn’t played a full season of professional baseball. That’s what he needs right now.”

That’s what he’s preparing for now during Minor League Spring Training in Sarasota. Rutschman has made it abundantly clear he can handle himself against good competition and it would be hard to find anyone who doubts he could hold his own in the big leagues right now. But the Orioles want to make sure he doesn’t just tread water, but he excels when that call comes.

“Adley tends to compete wherever he is,” Blood said. “He’s been in a lot of different places, but for him now, it’s just getting back to real baseball and a real season and not so much a simulated season. That’s what all these guys need. He needs to go play. He’ll have stretches when he struggles, and that’s good, that’s what he needs, so he can learn how to handle that. He needs those reps and experiences.”

Camp standouts
The arms at the top of the Orioles’ Top 30 are continuing to show why they’re ranked where they are. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall are both in the Top 100, at No. 23 and 61, respectively. Blood thinks big right-hander Kyle Bradish belongs in the same conversation. 

Acquired in the December 2019 Dylan Bundy deal, Bradish looked more like a mid- or back-end of the rotation type of starter with the Angels. While he’s yet to throw an official pitch for the Orioles, everything the organization has seen since Bradish has come over points to that evaluation being a bit light.

“[General manager] Mike Elias and [pro scouting director] Mike Snyder and our group were really excited to get him,” Blood said. “We thought we were getting someone we really liked. When we saw him at the alternate site last year, it was evident he was in the mix with those other guys. It’s a unique and special fastball with a really tough breaking ball. He’s a competitive guy on the mound.”

And he’s fit right in with Rodriguez and Hall this spring, making it fun to think about Baltimore’s pitching down the road.

“It’s exciting to think about seeing them in a Major League rotation in the future,” Blood said. “They’re continuing to polish the consistency of what they do, being able to execute pitches to the location they’re trying to execute to. They have overwhelming stuff. As they learn, they’re going to perform even better. When those three pitch in a game back to back to back, it’s wow.”

Alternate site report
A pair of hitters the Orioles received in trades have continued to show they’re just about ready to help out at the big league level.

Jahmai Jones, No. 19 on the O’s Top 30, made a good first impression during big league camp in Spring Training after coming in the February trade for Alex Cobb. He’s turned it up a notch offensively as he’s gotten more comfortable in Bowie, Md.

“He’s had a bunch of hits, a handful of home runs,” Blood said. “We hope he’s going to be a major contributor in the future. It’s a matter of polishing some aspects of his game so he’s ready to stay when he gets up there, including continuing to learn and be fully comfortable at second base.”

Tyler Nevin came from the Rockies at last year’s Trade Deadline in the Mychal Givens deal. Phil’s son has shown glimpses in the past of tools, especially on the offensive side, but injuries have definitely slowed his progress. Like Jones, he played well this spring and has continued to swing the bat at the alternate site

“He has an advanced approach with all fields power,” Blood said. “He can play first, he can play outfield, we’re still exploring some third base. We really haven’t seen him play extended games, but he looks the part with good presence.”

In the Dominican
For years, the Orioles’ efforts in Latin America were basically nonexistent. That was obviously a point of emphases for Elias when he took over and there have been huge inroads made in terms of scouting and signing players, some of them high profile.

“It is new territory,” Orioles senior director of international scouting Koby Perez said. “It’s exciting now that we have a new academy coming and we’ve signed better players with significant upside.”

The hope is that new academy will be ready to open its doors at some point in 2022, but Baltimore hasn’t waited to make strides on the personnel front. And some of those exciting players have been showing off what they can do at the organization’s old facility.

When the most recent international signing period began in January, the O’s jumped in with both feet, handing out their first two seven-figure bonuses. One went to Maikol Hernandez ($1.2 million), a Venezuelan shortstop who was No. 30 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 international prospects list and is now No. 21 on the Orioles list. The other went to Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo ($1.3 million), who comes in at No. 27 on the team’s rankings.

“Basallo is a big strong, physical catcher,” Perez said. “He’s only 16 and he’s showing 105 mph exit velocities in batting practice. It’s real raw power and we’re excited about it. And he has a hose behind the plate.”

“Hernandez does everything so easy. Sometimes players this age show the tools, but they struggle early. He looks like he has tools and game knowledge.

“Once this minor league season is done, a lot of our international prospects will become known. There are going to b a lot of names no one’s every heard about that we feel good about. They’re going to start getting on people’s radars.”

Prospect we’ll be talking about in 2022
A fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State in 2019, Joey Ortiz has played in just 56 official games to date. But between those games and instructional league play, the shortstop has already established himself as one of the, if not the best defensive prospects in the organization. But it was hard to figure out what he might be beyond a defensive-minded utility guy because he wasn’t really impacting the baseball, with his .612 OPS during his pro debut providing some evidence. But he’s been a different guy since he reported to camp this year.

“Ortiz has gotten stronger, the bat has gotten louder,” Blood said. “He’s always been a really good defender, he’s a true shortstop. Now he’s added more noise to his offense. That’s elevated him to another level. I think he’s an every day Major League middle infielder. He’s a good baseball player who could do all the things before but the bat was light. The bat is no longer light. That completely changes his profile.”