We are now at about the halfway point of the minor-league season, and the Baltimore Orioles farm system is seeing productive years from a variety of players. This includes consensus top prospects who are boosting their stocks, as well as some under-the-radar names that are worthy of recognition.
With that in mind, I teamed up with my On The Verge co-hosts Bob Phelan and Nick Stevens to put together the Orioles Mid-Season Minor-League All-Star Team. In creating this list, we looked more at overall production than prospect status. However, there are some clear examples of the best prospect at each position also being the best player. The list includes 10 pitchers, eight position players, plus a designated hitter.
All stats mentioned are current through July 9. Some players missed the cut due to lost time because of injuries (Terrin Vavra, John Rhodes, and Heston Kjerstad among them), but there might be an opportunity to recognize those players with our post season All-Star team in a few months.
Catcher: Maverick Handley, Bowie Baysox
Handley’s offseason work at Driveline has paid off, as he’s shedding his glove-first catcher label with the best offensive production of his career. Through 181 plate appearances, he is slashing .248/.376/.430 and has already hit more home runs in fewer games this season as compared to 2021 (six in 45 games, compared to five in 60). As for the defense? It’s still elite.
First Base: TT Bowens, Aberdeen IronBirds
After a solid professional debut in 2021, Bowens has shown signs of being a more complete hitter in his sophomore season, as his strikeout rate has decreased while his walk rate has increased from his numbers with Aberdeen last year. His .796 OPS, four home runs, and 123 wRC+ are also solid, considering that Aberdeen’s ballpark is not the most home run-friendly environment.
Second Base: César Prieto, Bowie and Aberdeen
One of the major international free agents signed by the Orioles this offseason, Prieto has perhaps been better than advertised by slashing .299/.343/.458 in 283 plate appearances. Although the power he showed at Aberdeen hasn’t translated to Bowie, he’s been a solid table-setter for the Baysox and showcased the contact skills that were so highly praised when he signed with the Orioles.
Third Base: Jordan Westburg, Norfolk Tides and Bowie
Thanks to a more pull-heavy approach at the plate , Westburg has tapped into his raw power to hit a farm-system leading 16 home runs while batting .280/.353/.541 in 329 plate appearances. With his production so far, Westburg must be making it more tempting for the Orioles to promote him to the majors later this summer.
Shortstop: Gunnar Henderson, Norfolk and Bowie
In full context, Henderson is having the best season of any Orioles minor-league hitter. He’s slashing .292/.425/.535 with 13 homers and has shown a vastly improved plate approach with 59 walks compared to 71 strikeouts. Making this even more impressive is that Henderson has consistently done this against older competition, as he just recently turned 21.
Outfielder: Colton Cowser, Bowie and Aberdeen
Cowser shook off a slow start to the season to dominate at Aberdeen over the month of June, and that production has carried over to Bowie. He is 11-for-33 (.333) in his first 10 games at the Double-A level and is hitting .267/.403/.435 overall. Along the way, he has played a solid centerfield and shown impressive speed on the bases, swiping 17 bags in 19 attempts.
Outfielder: Hudson Haskin, Bowie
Haskin has shown no ill effects from a thumb injury that cut his 2021 short, hitting .270/.348/.472 with 10 homers in 64 games at Bowie. Combine that with solid defense in centerfield, and Haskin is doing a considerable amount to boost his prospect stock.
Outfielder: Kyle Stowers, Norfolk
If he were not blocked by the Orioles’ current outfielders, there is no doubt that Stowers would be in the majors. For now, he will have to continue dominating at Norfolk, where he has 15 homers and an .870 OPS in 287 plate appearances. Most impressively, Stowers has maintained his power while dramatically reducing his strikeout rate, as he has struck out in roughly 23% of his plate appearances this season after fanning about 32% of the time last year.
DH: Coby Mayo, Aberdeen and Bowie
At just 20 years old, Mayo is impressing against older competition, as an .805 OPS and 13 homers at Aberdeen allowed him to earn a promotion to Bowie. He also continues to play a solid third base, with his impressive arm strength being one of the standout traits of his skillset.
Pitcher: Grayson Rodriguez, Norfolk
Before a lat injury abruptly halted his season, Rodriguez dominated at Norfolk, posting an 80:14 K:BB ratio, 2.09 ERA, and a 1.66 FIP in 56 innings pitched. Even if he does not throw another pitch this season, Rodriguez has put himself in the conversation for an Opening Day rotation spot with the Orioles in 2023.
Pitcher: Zach Peek, Bowie
Before a recent injury that is expected to cause him to miss significant time, Peek was one of Bowie’s most dependable starters. He delivered a 40:13 K:BB ratio in 45 1/3 innings pitched with a 3.57 ERA. At his best, Peek flashes the stuff of a potential mid-to-back-end starter in the majors, but has the mix of pitches and competitive demeanor to be successful in short outings.
Pitcher: Drew Rom, Bowie
One of the most dependable pitchers in the system in recent years, Rom is putting together another strong season, with a 3.54 FIP and a 65:18 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings. He is making a strong case for a promotion to Norfolk and, with Rule 5 eligibly looming this offseason, should land on the Orioles 40-man roster in the next few months.
Pitcher: Ryan Watson, Bowie
There have been few, if any, better breakout stories in 2022 than Watson’s successful conversion from primarily being a reliever to starting rotation stalwart. The right-hander has struck out 77 batters in 66 1/3 innings pitched, while walking just 15 and posting a 3.66 ERA to go with a 3.44 xFIP. Like Rom, Watson is making a strong case for a promotion to Norfolk, and his success as both a starter and a reliever in the minors gives him an intriguing profile.
Pitcher: Peter Van Loon, Aberdeen
Van Loon has been one of the consistent arms in a dominant Aberdeen pitching staff. Through 54 innings pitched, the right-hander has a 2.50 ERA and a 63:19 K:BB ratio. He was also part of a combined no-hitter that the IronBirds threw last month.
Pitcher: Jean Pinto, Aberdeen
Thanks to a dominant June, Pinto has moved beyond a shaky start to this season to build on the success that made one of 2021’s best breakout prospects. The right-hander has fanned 71 batters in 58 innings this season, while posting a 3.72 ERA and 3.46 xFIP at just 21 years old. At worst, Pinto is lining himself up to pitch in Bowie’s rotation at just 22 years old next season—at best, he could get there sooner, especially if he continues to gradually reduce his walk rate.
Pitcher: Ignacio Feliz, Aberdeen
After struggling last season following a promotion from Delmarva, Feliz has been steady for Aberdeen this year, striking out a system-leading 88 batters in 57 innings this season. Walks are still an issue for Feliz, but his pure stuff and ability to miss bats makes the converted shortstop one of the more interesting arms in the system.
Pitcher: Connor Gillispie, Aberdeen
Another solid arm in Aberdeen’s rotation, Gillispie has struck out 76 batters in 62 2/3 innings pitched this year. Although his walk rate is a bit high, the right-hander has offset that by yielding a lower percentage of fly balls and line drives while producing more groundballs than he did with Aberdeen last year.
Pitcher: Justin Armbruester, Bowie and Aberdeen
An excellent run at Aberdeen has been followed by an even better start at Bowie for Armbruester, who has struck out 20 batters without issuing just one walk in his first 18 innings with the Baysox. Overall, he has a 83:19 K:BB ratio in 71 2/3 innings pitched this season, with a 3.77 ERA.
Closer: Noah Denoyer, Bowie and Aberdeen
Few pitchers have been as dominant as Denoyer this season, who has fanned 67 batters in 52 innings this season while walking just 13 and producing a 2.25 ERA. Though used primarily as a reliever, Denoyer flashes an interesting four-pitch mix that includes a fastball he can run up to 96 mph. Rule 5 eligible after this season, Denoyer is making a strong case for a 40-man spot in a few months, and for a promotion even sooner.
For more on our mid-season All-Star team, listen to the latest episode of On The Verge.
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