This week brings the return of minor-league action, as all four full-season levels are getting underway. The Baltimore Orioles farm system is once again stacked with talent, which is reflected in the Opening Day rosters of their minor-league clubs.

In the second part of a two-part series, I will preview the Opening Day rosters for the High-A Aberdeen IronBirds and Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds. These previews will include a listing of players from our preseason Top-50 prospects list on each team, along with some of the storylines that you will want to follow. In part one, I covered the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and Double-A Bowie Baysox.

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Aberdeen IronBirds (South Atlantic League)

Manager: Roberto Mercado

BSL Top-50 Prospects: OF Dylan Beavers (10), OF Jud Fabian (13), 3B Max Wagner (21), OF Reed Trimble (22), IF Frederick Bencosme (23) RHP Jean Pinto (24), RHP Trace Bright (40), IF Isaac De Leon (49), C Silas Adroin (50).

Overview: Although Aberdeen’s Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium is a challenging environment for hitters, the lineup features a few 2022 draft picks that could be poised for breakouts in their first full season of professional baseball. The pitching staff also presents some promise, especially in what could be a deep bullpen.

Best starting outfield in the farm system? All four Orioles full-season affiliates have talent in the outfield, but the starters in Aberdeen might represent the highest-ceiling group in the system. Beavers, the 33rd-overall pick in last year’s draft, flourished last summer after the Orioles adjusted his swing. This season, he will look to tap into the power he showed during his college career at Cal. Fabian, a fellow 2022 draftee, tore apart pitching in Delmarva before reaching Aberdeen late last season. Trimble will be playing his first full season after a shoulder injury kept him out of action for the first few months of last season. The athletic outfielder performed well with Delmarva after recovering from the injury and followed that up with a solid stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Will Max Wagner’s ascent continue? Wagner had a truly meteoric rise last year, going from a bench player for Clemson at the beginning of the season, to becoming their everyday third baseman and then a 2nd-round draft pick by the Orioles. After a brief stint with Aberdeen to end 2022, Wagner returns there for his first full season in 2023, where he will look to flash the power that allowed him to hit 27 homers at Clemson last year. An offensive breakout, combined with his usual solid defense at third base, would allow Wagner to rise even further up the prospect ranks.

Keep an eye on: Wagner is not the only standout in the infield, as Bencosme will look to build off a strong 2021 season across three levels. Aberdeen’s pitching staff was a big reason why they reached the South Atlantic League Championship last year, and a mostly new crop of pitchers will look to have similar success. Bright, a fifth-round pick out of Auburn in 2022, has an impressive fastball and slider combination as part of a four-pitch repertoire. Pinto had his ups and downs last year with the IronBirds but could get to Bowie quickly if he puts his command issues behind him. Nick Richmond and Daniel Lloyd are among the names that stand out in what could be a strong bullpen.

Delmarva Shorebirds (Carolina League)

Manager: Felipe Rojas Jr.

BSL Top-50 Prospects: SS Jackson Holliday (3), C Samuel Basallo (16), SS Carter Young (31), LHP Deivy Cruz (32), IF Anderson De Los Santos (42), Juan De Los Santos (44).

Overview: Headlined by Holliday, the Shorebirds break camp with a young roster that includes plenty of high-upside players. The lineup stands out in this regard, but there could be some highlights on the pitching side as well.

How far can Jackson Holliday go in his first full season? It has all been upward for Holliday since he was chosen with the first overall pick in last year’s draft. He performed well last summer between Delmarva and the Florida Complex League by walking more than he struck out, which was followed by a strong run with the major-league team in spring training. If there is anything to nitpick with Holliday so far—and you have to look deep to nitpick—it is that he hit the ball on the ground 50% of the time in 57 plate appearances at Delmarva last year. Should he flash more power this spring, Holliday will only be in Delmarva for a short amount of time, with promotions to Aberdeen and possibly Bowie coming his way later in the summer.

What can we expect from a talented catching tandem?

Basallo is a prospect on the rise, arriving in Delmarva after belting 11 home runs in 334 at-bats over two short-season levels since 2021. At 18 years old, he packs plenty of power and a strong arm behind the plate. He will now have to deal with the grind of a full season, an especially important development checkmark for a young catcher. Creed Willems spent most of last year in Delmarva, earning praise from many inside the Orioles organization for his work with the Shorebirds pitching staff. The 19-year-old struggled overall offensively but will hope that his strong final month at the plate (he posted an .833 OPS over his final 21 games) is a sign of things to come.

Keep an eye on: Read reports on Young, and you will struggle to find a consensus—either his offensive struggles at Vanderbilt are indicative of a long-term problem, or his raw skillset could translate into success with some adjustments. The Orioles are banking on their hitting program to unlock something with the bat after giving him a $1.3 million signing bonus out of last year’s draft, getting him to walk away from a transfer to LSU in the process. De Los Santos and Cruz both pitched well at Delmarva last year and will look to refine themselves this year.

Both the IronBirds and Shorebirds begin their seasons on Thursday, with the IronBirds at home against Wilmington and the Shorebirds heading to Salem. For more in-depth coverage of the Opening Day rosters of the Orioles affiliates, check out the latest episode of On The Verge.

Zach Spedden
Zach Spedden

Orioles Analyst

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues. Co-Host of The Verge: https://anchor.fm/the-verge

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