Baltimore Orioles: Five Eye-Opening Minor League Numbers
By Nick Stevens
Down on the farm, a number of Baltimore Orioles minor leaguers find themselves at or near the top of various statistical leaderboards.
We’re just over one month into the minor league season and I’ve got around 60 Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliate games under my belt. I traded in my teaching career for the 9-5 office life, so there’s plenty of time for baseball and with my first child set to arrive right at the conclusion of the season, I’m taking full advantage of the baseball-watching time I have.
While we very rarely get the privilege of watching MiLB’s top team, the Delmarva Shorebirds (no team in all of baseball has a better record than their 24-4 start), every affiliate has provided plenty of fun and eye-opening baseball.
Chance Sisco can’t stop hitting home runs, Ryan Mountcastle is on a fantastic run, pitchers are piling on the strikeouts at an alarming rate, and plenty of prospects outside of the conventional top 30 lists are making a name for themselves at all levels of the farm system. The first month of the season has been fun and if you haven’t checked in on the Baby Birds, you’re missing out.
A number of positive and surprising performances have been highlighted here at Birds Watcher over the past few weeks and I highly encourage you to browse through our minor league pieces to check them out.
To add to our growing library, I wanted to take stock of the first month of the season and check in on the minor league leaderboards. Sure, many prospects of the Baltimore Orioles are putting up big numbers, but how do they stack up to their peers?
I can’t highlight every number that deserves to be noted here, however, I have selected five in particular that I believe are not only impressive but show promise for continued positive development for each of these particular players. Without further ado, let’s make our first stop in the International League, home of the AAA Norfolk Tides.
Baltimore Orioles AAA affiliate- Norfolk Tides
1) IF Ryan Mountcastle’s line-drive rate: 33%
During a Tides’ broadcast a few days ago, Pete Michaud noted how Ryan Mountcastle was working with Norfolk hitting coach Butch Davis on sending the ball the other way and producing line drive contact. He’s been succeeding with both. His current 33% line drive rate is the second-highest mark in the International League, second to his teammate, Christopher Bostick. This is a 13% increase over his 2017 number in Bowie and an 8% increase over his performance in Frederick. Now 29 games into the season, Mountcastle has an OPS of .916 and is working a wRC+ of 130. Harbor Park is no match for one of the most exciting prospects in the Baltimore Orioles system.
2) OF DJ Stewart‘s walk rate: 17.8%
Pick a number, any number, and odds are that DJ Stewart is showing an improvement in that statistic, compared to his 116 games in AAA last season. He’s currently sporting a career-high 17.8% walk rate (with a 15.3% strikeout rate), which is good for fifth-best in the IL, behind the likes of Cavan Biggio (Blue Jays prospect) and Nate Lowe (Rays prospect who was recently called up). Only one O’s major leaguer has a double-digit walk rate- Rio Ruiz and his 11.1% mark.
Baltimore Orioles AA affiliate- Bowie Baysox
3) IF Rylan Bannon‘s wRC+: 172
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Baltimore Orioles Double-A affiliate. Hunter Harvey just threw six scoreless frames last night, but he’s struggled overall and made it through five innings just once in his first five starts. The bats have been quiet and wins have been scarce, but the team is loaded with talent and won’t stay down long.
The bright spot in the lineup has been Rylan Bannon. Bannon is currently hitting .308 with four home runs and is riding a six-game hitting streak, which includes a four-hit day back on May 2nd against the Erie Seawolves (Detroit Tigers affiliate). His wRC+ of 172 is good for ninth in the Eastern League. He’s comfortable at the plate and hasn’t been phased going up against some of the most elite pitching prospects in baseball. The glove is also pretty smooth. Keep an eye on him this season.
Baltimore Orioles A+ affiliate- Frederick Keys
4) RHP Cody Sedlock WHIP: 0.90
To be honest, coming into 2019, I had written off Cody Sedlock. Multiple injuries, struggles with velocity and command, and a few brutal outings all convinced me to think that was it for the former first-round draft pick. He’s back in Frederick where he is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts for the Keys. Each of his starts has lasted a minimum of five innings, with his last two going six full frames.
Sedlock’s 0.90 WHIP is the third-best mark in the Carolina League, among qualified pitchers. The funny part is Sedlock’s walk rate is currently sitting at 10.6%, the sixth-highest rate in the league. He’s walking a lot of guys, but not allowing hits, the second half of the walks + hits equation. Opponents are hitting just .156 against him. Only Reid Anderson of the Texas Rangers has allowed a lower batting average- .110. Is he back? I’m cautiously optimistic. While his ERA is 1.95, his FIP is 5.41 and xFIP is up to 4.54.
Baltimore Orioles A affiliate- Delmarva Shorebirds
5) Blaine Knight: Everything
The Delmarva Shorebirds are 24-4, but hold just a 3.5 game lead over the Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers affiliate). As usual, the South Atlantic League is fun and full of quality competition. The Shorebirds are a pretty experienced team with a number of players repeating the level, but the younger names are stealing the show.
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Blaine Knight was limited to just 10 innings last season with the Aberdeen Ironbirds, after the Orioles used a third-round pick on him in the 2018 MLB draft. He’s made five starts this season in Delmarva, working a 3-0 record and 0.68 ERA.
Knight is posting video game-like numbers during this small sample of five starts. Below are a few of his numbers and where they rank among qualified pitchers in the South Atlantic League.
- ERA: 0.68 (1st)
- K %: 34.4 % (5th)
- BB %: 4.2% (9th)
- Opponent’s batting average: .124 (1st)
- WHIP: 0.56 (1st)
Want to hear something even more ridiculous? He is currently riding a 23.1 scoreless inning streak. The last time Blaine Knight gave up a run was in the 4th inning of his first start of the season against the Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals affiliate). That game was my first look at Knight and it was love at first sight.
Since that 4th inning, Knight closed out his first start with 2.1 scoreless innings and has followed his debut with three-straight five-scoreless starts and a six-inning scoreless start back on May 2nd.