I watched more minor league baseball in 2021 than I have ever watched in every other year combined. There are a lot of reasons for that – MiLB.tv has gotten better at covering more games, absence in 2020 due to the pandemic made the heart grow fonder, and it was a much more enjoyable choice over the major league team on most nights. Of course as one of the co-hosts for BSL’s own ‘On the Verge’ I also felt an obligation to do so but it was far from a chore. The Orioles’ minor league teams are deeper than they have ever been before and there was something or someone to see on any given team any given night. There were a lot of unknowns going into last season, for obvious reasons, with players acquired in November 2019 not making their Orioles debuts until May 2021 and players drafted and signed in 2020 finally making their pro debuts. It turns out that the minor league coaching and player development has improved along with all the new talent acquisitions to give the Orioles either the first or second best farm system in baseball depending on which major outlet you look at. 2022 should be even more fun if that’s possible with another draft class heavy on bats that we got a sneak peek of at the end of last year joining the fray and we should finally see the efforts on the international front start creeping into the full season clubs. With a lockout still going on at the major league level and no end in sight I thought this was as good of a time as any to take an early look at what the opening day rosters could look like in the minor leagues, which will be starting their season on time regardless of what happens between MLB and the MLBPA.

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AAA Norfolk

2B Terrin Vavra
C Adley Rutschman
RF Kyle Stowers
LF Robert Neustrom
DH Yusniel Diaz
1B Tyler Nevin
3B Patrick Dorrian
CF Zach Watson
SS Cadyn Grenier

SP Grayson Rodriguez
SP Kyle Bradish
SP Kevin Smith
SP Blaine Knight
SP Cody Sedlock
SP Ofelky Peralta

RP Felix Bautista
RP Nick Vespi
RP Cole Uvila

Watchability Rating: 9/10

Depending on the new CBA or an extension along the lines of what Luis Robert signed with the White Sox before he made his major league debut Rutschman could very easily start the season at the major league level which he has more than proven to be ready for. But even if the service time rules stay the same and the Orioles decide he needs a little more “seasoning” in AAA it wouldn’t be long until he is in Baltimore rather than Norfolk. The same goes for Rodriguez who isn’t far from major league ready despite having yet to throw a pitch at the highest level of the minor leagues. Bradish will compete for a major league roster spot in spring training, as will Michael Baumann who I have making the team in this scenario. Even with those variables the Tides will have two borderline top 10 prospects in the system in the lineup everyday with Vavra and Stowers, at least until they show they’re ready to make their major league debuts. The rest of the lineup doesn’t have any organizational filler and I have the rotation rounding out with four guys who could get a taste of the big leagues in 2022 if they iron out some issues they showed in AAA last season. The bullpen will be filled with minor league signings and guys like Bautista and Vespi who should also have a chance to make the team out of spring training.  

AA Bowie

CF Hudson Haskin
2B Jordan Westburg
3B Gunnar Henderson
1B JD Mundy
SS Joey Ortiz
LF Johnny Rizer
RF Christopher Cespedes
DH Andrew Daschbach
C Maverick Handley

SP DL Hall
SP Drew Rom
SP Kyle Brnovich
SP Zach Peek
SP Garrett Stallings
SP Cameron Bishop/Brenan Hanifee

RP Adam Stauffer
RP Nolan Hoffman
RP Tyler Burch

Watchability Rating: 9.5/10

Bowie was the best team in the organization last season and early indications are that shouldn’t change in 2022. The three best shortstop prospects in the system will all be sharing the infield, at least to start the season. Its reminiscent of Delmarva last year when Westburg, Henderson, and Anthony Servideo all started the season healthy and in the lineup every day. Ortiz, Haskin, and Mundy will each be coming back from injuries so maybe guys on the bench like Adam Hall, Toby Welk, and Greg Cullen will get into the mix a little more early on. Speaking of coming back from injury… the guy who will most likely end 2022 as the Orioles top prospect, DL Hall, should be back in full force. I expect him to start back with Bowie again similar to Michael Baumann last season before making his way to AAA and potentially getting a taste of The Show by years end. The rest of the Baysox rotation will be loaded with under the radar breakout candidates that should prove that the pitching cupboard is far from bare by June or July. The bullpen should be full of hard throwing righties like Logan Gillaspie and Burch, who was acquired from the Phillies at the trade deadline last season in exchange for Freddy Galvis.

A+ Aberdeen

SS Anthony Servideo
CF Colton Cowser
2B Connor Norby
3B Coby Mayo
1B Jacob Teter
RF John Rhodes
LF Donta’ Williams
DH TT Bowens
C Connor Pavolony

SP Brandon Young
SP Jean Pinto
SP Carlos Tavera
SP Ryan Watson
SP Houston Roth
SP Noah Denoyer

RP Ignacio Feliz
RP Jake Lyons
RP Griffin McLarty

Watchability Rating: 8.5/10

High A Aberdeen is where most of the 2021 draft picks out of college will go after getting a chunk of playing time in low A Delmarva to end last season. They will be led by fifth overall pick Colton Cowser who made it look like he was playing little league in his brief professional debut. I wouldn’t expect him to stick around long, he should be in Bowie fairly quickly if he continues to perform. Norby and Mayo are both around the top 10 of the system, the first being a polished college hitter and the latter having huge upside with his tremendous power. Servideo will be coming off of surgery for a sports hernia after only playing 20 games with Delmarva but he showed off incredible plate discipline with 28 walks in that time. On the mound will be another batch of breakout candidates not the least of which is Jean Pinto who dominated the FCL and low A over 66.2 innings at the age of 20. The “throw in” in the Jose Iglesias trade to the Angels has a good shot at being a top 10 prospect in the system by seasons end. There is also Brandon Young who should be the first promotion to AA Bowie out of this group when space opens up as well as Carlos Tavera who was the first pitcher the Orioles selected in the most recent draft. Expect to see some piggybacking towards the end of the rotation with guys like Watson, Roth, Denoyer, Feliz, Lyons, and McLarty having a brighter future in the bullpen but who are good enough now to get past a couple times through a lineup at this level.

A Delmarva

CF Mishael Deson
LF Trendon Craig
RF Heston Kjerstad
1B Ryan Higgins
3B Moises Ramirez
DH Stiven Acevedo
2B Isaac De Leon
SS Collin Burns
C Brayan Hernandez

SP Raul Rangel
SP Keagan Gillies
SP Moises Chace
SP Dylan Heid
SP Justin Armbruester
SP Peter Van Loon

RP Daniel Lloyd
RP Conor Grady
RP Ryan Long

Watchability Rating: 8/10

The number one most interesting thing with a bullet about the Shorebirds to begin their season will be to finally see 2020 second overall draft pick Heston Kjerstad make his professional debut after battling myocarditis for the better part of a year. He was finally healthy enough to swing a bat full go at fall instructs and it will be all eyes on him when Delmarva opens up their season. It should be a short stop as long as he remains healthy and has maintained any of the ability that made him a draft pick of such regard. Rounding out the lineup will be a couple more 2021 draft picks and the first batch of international prospects to make it to full season ball en masse. It will be a mix of guys acquired in trades (Deson, De Leon) and players signed by Koby Perez and company (Acevedo, Ramirez, Rangel, Chace, Hernandez). These are the types of players that can show rapid growth and explode up prospect rankings which is something Orioles fans will be happy to be introduced to having been absent on the international front for so long.  I’m expecting the bulk of the pitching to be consisted of 2021 draft picks that were taken in day three of the draft (picks 11-20). It will be interesting to see which guys they stretch out for the rotation and which guys are left in the bullpen to start the year. A few of the more refined international arms should start the season with the Shorebirds with more to come as the season wears on and the FCL season gets well underway.

FCL Orioles

SS Maikol Hernandez
3B Anderson De Los Santos
C Samuel Basallo
LF Luis Gonzalez
DH Creed Willems
RF Elio Prado
CF Junior Lara
1B Josue Cruz
2B Noelberth Romero

SP Carter Baumler
SP Luis Ortiz
SP Deivy Cruz
SP Miguel Padilla
SP Cesar Alvarez
SP Anthony Morillo

RP Eduard Monroy
RP Yeancarlos Llera
RP Elchero Francisca

Watchability Rating: 9/10

Unless MiLB TV adds the Complex League games nobody will be watching this team play unless they’re viewing clips on Eric Garfield’s twitter account (which he mercifully gives us @Eric_Birdland) so the watchability rating is more theoretical here. The league also gets started a couple months later than the four full season clubs and will most likely be split into two team again so what am I even getting at here? Really its to highlight the excitement of the continued effort on the international front. The first two players signed for more than $1 million should make their stateside debuts (Hernandez and Basallo) and they also happen to be top 30 prospects in the system. Guys like De Los Santos, Gonzalez, Prado, and Willems have the tools to get there as well. On the pitching front this is where we should see Carter Baumler make his professional debut after undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted overslot in 2020. You may not recognize any of the other names listed in the rotation (other than Luis Ortiz who shares a name with a pitcher the Orioles received in the Jonathan Schoop trade to the Brewers that was disappointing to say the least) but there is a good chance you will have some of them on the tip of your tongue in a few years. You can also expect whatever players the Orioles select in the 2022 draft, including the next 1-1, to make their professional debuts here later in the summer.

Bob Phelan
Bob Phelan

BSL Analyst

Bob is a co-host of ‘On the Verge’ an Orioles podcast focused on the O’s farm system here on BSL. He used to run the baseball blog ‘The Oriole Report’ before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. ‘The Redbox Report’ movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by ‘The Redbelt Report’ MMA podcast in 2016. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @TheOrioleReport.