Shorebird of the Week – May 10, 2012

It’s highly unusual for a player just out of high school to make his pro debut with a full-season team. In the case of the Orioles, kids out of high school are generally ticketed for the Gulf Coast League Orioles, where the games are played during the day in front of sparse crowds.

But this year the Shorebirds are counting on three players who have made the jump from high school, and this week the position player of the group, Nicky Delmonico, is the Shorebird of the Week.

Delmonico didn’t sign until the last possible day in 2011 as he weighed the choice between taking the Orioles’ offer and playing at the University of Georgia. He opted to turn pro, but once he signed the Orioles saw little point in sending him to a minor league team for just a couple weeks so he’s making his debut here at Delmarva.

And since Delmonico comes from a baseball family – his father Rod was a coach at the University of Tennessee and his brother Tony is a Dodgers farmhand, with a second brother, Joey, playing at Georgia – it’s obvious the Orioles felt he could handle the full-season debut.

So far Nicky has done fairly well. After a bit of a slow start, his bat heated up to post current numbers of .264/2/18 with an OPS of .776 and 16 walks to go with 25 strikeouts. Plate discipline was thought to be one of Nicky’s strong points and he’s shown a decent eye at the plate for a raw rookie. Last year’s 6th round pick is just 19 (he’ll turn 20 in July) and the Tennessee native is holding down the first base position reasonably well considering he was drafted as a third baseman and projected as a catcher.

Those positions may well be in his future yet in all but three games he’s played in the field this year he’s played at first, with the remaining games at second base.

Obviously the Orioles don’t have to be in a hurry to move Delmonico up and unless he suddenly blooms into a .330 hitter it’s likely he’ll spend the 2012 campaign with the Shorebirds. Expect to hear a lot of ‘Crazy Train’ around Perdue Stadium because Delmonico selected it as his plate introduction song and he’ll be playing a lot.