On Monday, 55 Orioles prospects gathered in Sarasota, Fla. -- many for the first organized baseball they’ve played in months. In a year when no Minor League Baseball was played and teams industry-wide struggled to achieve their player development goals during a pandemic, the Orioles were happy to open their
On Monday, 55 Orioles prospects gathered in Sarasota, Fla. -- many for the first organized baseball they’ve played in months. In a year when no Minor League Baseball was played and teams industry-wide struggled to achieve their player development goals during a pandemic, the Orioles were happy to open their one-month instructional camp Monday with an eye toward salvaging some of that work.
It was especially important given the outsized role the Orioles’ improving farm system plays in their organizational rebuild, now near the conclusion of its second year.
“This takes on special meaning this year with the lack of a Minor League season due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. “And it’s going to be a very important player development, player evaluation, player planning event for our organization.”
Here is everything you need to know about Orioles instructional camp:
Where will it be held?
The camp is being held at the Orioles’ Ed Smith Stadium spring complex in Sarasota. It will be closed to fans and media due to protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic.
How long will it run?
The camp opened Monday and will run until near the end of October.
Who is running the camp?
The camp is being run by Aberdeen Ironbirds manager Kevin Bradshaw, who also functions as the Orioles’ Spring Training coordinator. The camp will be overseen by director of player development Matt Blood and might feature occasional appearances by big league manager Brandon Hyde. Elias did not disclose what other coaches would be involved when asked.
Who was invited?
Headlining the 55 players invited to instructional camp are 18 prospects on the Orioles’ Top 30 list, including No. 1 catcher Adley Rutschman, No. 2 righty Grayson Rodriguez, No. 4 lefty DL Hall, No. 6 shortstop Gunnar Henderson and No. 7 shortstop Jordan Westburg. Five of the Orioles’ six 2020 draftees, several international signees and three players signed as undrafted free agents this summer will also participate, none of whom were part of the Orioles’ Bowie camp during the regular season.
In short, the Orioles view this camp as an opportunity to evaluate and salvage development for many players who were not able to play competitively this summer. Forty-nine of the 55 participants were not part of the Orioles’ player pool during the regular season. Eight were part of the O’s most recent international signing class and have hardly played professionally.
Who won't be attending?
Heston Kjerstad, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick, won’t participate due to what Elias called an “undisclosed medical, non-sports-related reason.” As a team policy, the Orioles have not disclosed or commented on COVID-19-related issues, though there is no indication whether that applies to Kjerstad’s situation. Kjerstad, 21, was not a part of the O’s Bowie camp this summer, either. He has not played competitively since March.
“It’s not great, but I think the fact that he’s an advanced, high-level college hitter makes it a little less concerning that he ended up not getting much organized activity this year," Elias said. "It looks like that will be the case. That makes it, I think, a little more tolerable because he’s a pretty polished hitter. He’ll be able to pick up next spring where he left off, but for all these guys, this has been a concerning year and certainly this would not have been our plan. But this has been a hard year to predict the future.”
Also notably absent from the invite list were No. 9 righty Michael Baumann (right elbow strain), No. 22 infielder Tyler Nevin, No. 26 Cody Sedlock (not invited), No. 27 righty Brenan Hanifee (not invited) and No. 30 shortstop Cadyn Grenier (not invited).
The Orioles chose to shut down No. 12 lefty Kevin Smith and No. 28 righty Kyle Bradish because both pitched at the club’s alternate site this summer, and the club did not include Ryan Mountcastle, Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin, who debuted in the Majors in 2020. Also absent will be No. 19 lefty Alexander Wells, who resides in Australia.
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.