If things had turned out ever-so-slightly different, I would have had dual repeat winners for the first time. Until the last week of the month, Darell Hernaiz was once again the clear leader of the band insofar as the top position player went, but instead of getting another award he got something more important: a long-overdue promotion to Aberdeen on May 24.
In the interim, this month’s eventual winner did something you don’t see every day: hit a natural cycle of (in order) single, double, triple, and home run. That 5-for-5 day last week (with another single added for good measure in a 14-6 win at Charleston) vaulted Isaac Bellony past the absent Hernaiz and into this month’s honor. The switch-hitting outfielder ended the month with a slash line of .250/4/20/.845 OPS, all of which led the qualifiers. (One hitter had a better average and OPS but in a limited number of at-bats, only 16.)
The 20-year-old native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was signed back when the Orioles were beginning their push to rebuild the international pipeline in the latter days of Dan Duquette’s tenure as general manager. (For context, Bellony was signed on July 27, 2018 – right in the midst of five major league selloff trades that brought over a dozen players to the Orioles’ starved minor league system. Those begat a haul that soon brought former Shorebirds Jean Carlos Encarnacion and Jean Carmona over.) Isaac showed some potential in the Dominican Summer League when he began playing in 2019, so after the year-long minor league hiatus he was promoted to the Complex League in Florida, hitting .259/4/11/.804 OPS overall, primarily for the Orange team (37 of 39 games.)
In the absence of Hernaiz, Isaac has become the primary offensive threat for the Shorebirds, and despite his average falling off a little bit in May, his overall .262/6/30/.843 OPS at the end of May led the remainder of the team in those slash categories. One item that may change in the future, though: like Cedric Mullins before him, future success may dictate the switch-hitting may be dropped as Bellony’s only 1-for-21 as a right-handed hitter this season. Given his stat sheet now has a handful of left-on-left at-bats, that may have already occurred.
Fans of the Shorebirds may have noticed the international flavor of the team this year, particularly as Bellony represents a product of the emphasis on scouting abroad. Isaac is the first homegrown international position player to be a Shorebird of the Month since 2017 (current Shorebirds coach Daniel Fajardo was the last) but I suspect there may be more in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, on the pitching side Daniel Lloyd was definitely in the mix for repeating the honor of Shorebird Pitcher of the Month, but instead I chose to honor another player recently promoted to Aberdeen.
Righthander Alex Pham was here at the very tail end of an extended 2021 season, pitching in three games as a wrap to a year that sent the Bay Area native from his senior campaign at the University of San Francisco to Wareham, Massachusetts for a brief pre-draft stint in the showcase Cape Cod League circuit to five games (and all of 6 2/3 innings) in the Complex League to two weekends and a week here. Looks like he pretty much covered all the corners of the country.
While Alex was unscored upon here, a couple rough outings in Florida contributed to an overall 3-1, 4.63 mark and 1.543 WHIP. A 12:3 strikeout to walk ratio was also promising for a guy not picked until the 19th round. (Just like Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame pitcher Josh Hader – granted, Hader is by far the most successful from that year’s round, just three of whom even made the Show.)
Pham didn’t show up here this season until the end of April, so I’ll take the liberty here of lumping in his single one-inning appearance with April to his May stats. It all worked out to a 1.59 ERA in six appearances covering 11 1/3 innings, where Alex allowed just eight hits and struck out 15 while walking seven for a 1.324 WHIP. Perhaps those aren’t eye-popping stats, but Orioles management has been aggressive with moving up the 2021 draft class and considering Alex will turn 23 later this fall they wanted to see how his outstanding breaking ball (it was very fun to watch batters react to it) would play at a higher level. (So far, so good – his Aberdeen numbers are a shade better than he had for the Shorebirds.)
Pham emerged from a scrum at the top of the pitching heap that included the aforementioned Lloyd as well as Hugo Beltran, Shane Davis, Alejandro Mendez, and Preston Price. Hopefully those who remain will keep making it hard to select the next Shorebird Pitcher of the Month.
I’ll be back to the normal first Thursday selection in July for the June honorees.
Late edit: I’ll have to hunt down an outfield photo of Bellony since he was promoted to Aberdeen just as this came out on June 9. I’m now 4-for-4 on promotions this season.