Baltimore Orioles: Complete Winter League Roundup
Baltimore Orioles shortstop prospect Chris Clare started out hotter than the Australian heat to begin his first winter league experience.
A growing league that featured expansion teams from South Korea and New Zealand this season, the Australian Baseball League was the home for two Baltimore Orioles minor leaguers, shortstop Chris Clare and outfielder Guiyuan Xu.
Xu has struggled in affiliate ball since the Orioles signed him out of China in 2015. Across parts of three seasons, Xu has hit .207 with eight extra-base hits and a .263 on-base percentage. Affectionately known as “Itchy”, Xu was the first baseball player signed out of a Chinese MLB player development center, inking a $10,000 deal as a 19-year-old. While it would be unique to see him climb the organizational ladder, the odds of that happening are pretty slim.
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Playing for the expansion Auckland Tuatara, Xu hit .264 (.292 against RHP) with a .343 OBP and five doubles. Despite finally showing an ability to get on base, he did record a strikeout rate of 37% in his 91 at-bats.
The major story out of Australia was Frederick Keys shortstop Chris Clare. Through the first month of the season, Clare was hitting .410 with a .500 OBP before playing sparingly in the month of December. He finished his first winter ball experience with a .283 average, 383 OBP, 11 doubles, and a .764 OPS. Over his final 10 games, Clare failed to finish above the Mendoza-Line, but he did draw eight walks.
Clare’s ability to work deep into counts is impressive. Paired with his ability to handle the shortstop position, Clare will likely begin the year in Double-A with the Bowie Baysox and shouldn’t be overlooked. With a severe lack of middle infield prospects, Clare’s path to the majors is open, if he can capitalize on it.
Now we wait just a few more weeks before the return of baseball here in the states. Pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training in 19 days.