Shorebird of the Year – a 2022 season wrapup

We just missed our shot at history of the wrong kind.

Had the rain that fell on our area on September 11 managed to wait another few hours, we would have gotten the final scheduled game against Down East in and a loss would have saddled Delmarva with a 49-82 record, making the team the worst in Delmarva Shorebirds history. Instead, a rainout allowed the 2012 team (who finished 52-86) to retain that dubious distinction for another year.

Needless to say, it was a frustrating season to watch. But instead of running through stats like I have in previous years, I figured out I could use the same formulas that I used to determine Shorebird of the Month/Year to rank the 12 teams of the Carolina League in hitting, pitching, and fielding. So that’s what I did, with the team’s overall record determining the order.

  1. Charleston (88-44) – 5th in hitting, 2nd in pitching, 5th in fielding.
  2. Myrtle Beach (78-53) – 4th in hitting, 3rd in pitching, 7th in fielding.
  3. Fredericksburg (75-55) – 1st in hitting, 6th in pitching, 3rd in fielding.
  4. Carolina (69-62) – 7th across the board.
  5. Augusta (69-62) – 2nd in hitting, 8th in pitching, 10th in fielding.
  6. Down East (65-66) – 10th in hitting, 1st in pitching, 6th in fielding.
  7. Salem (64-66) – 3rd in hitting, 10th in pitching, 2nd in fielding.
  8. Lynchburg (63-68) – 6th in hitting, 4th in pitching, 9th in fielding.
  9. Kannapolis (58-74) – 9th in hitting and pitching, 1st in fielding.
  10. Fayetteville (55-75) – 12th in hitting, 5th in pitching, 10th in fielding.
  11. Columbia (52-79) – 11th in hitting and pitching, 3rd in fielding.
  12. Delmarva (49-81) – 8th in hitting, 12th in pitching and fielding.

The Orioles are supposed to have the number one farm system in baseball, and if you look at the teams above Delmarva it’s easy to see why: while Norfolk is a .5oo-style team playing out the string in AAA, Bowie just missed the Eastern League playoffs by one game in the second half of its season because they used many of the same players who propelled Aberdeen to the South Atlantic League first-half title (and eventually a playoff series win for first time in franchise history before losing in the final series.)

On the other hand, the story is different for the teams feeding Delmarva: the single Florida Complex League team finished second-to-last in the FCL with a 16-39 record, barely beating a split Astros team by percentage points. In the Dominican Summer League, the two Orioles squads finished fourth and fifth in the seven-team Baseball City Division with a combined 49-68 record: the Orange team was 26-34 and the Black team was 23-34. Last year I said, “Hopefully that’s a issue with diluted talent between two (FCL) teams and not a sign to come for the 2022 Shorebirds.” Sadly, it was and next year doesn’t look real promising either. It seems like our drafting is light-years ahead of our international signing, with the emphasis domestically being on college players who arrive almost ready for advanced-A so they don’t stay at Delmarva long. We seem to get the project guys and the guys who are needed to fill out the system.

But I had several guys who were picked as Shorebirds of the Month and immediately (if not sooner) were ticketed for promotion. This year I had ten players who were picked as Shorebirds of the Month; here’s a synopsis of how each fared:

  • Darell Hernaiz (April PP) – after slashing .284/6/25/.852 OPS in 32 games for Delmarva, Hernaiz was promoted May 24 to Aberdeen and only hit .305/5/29/.822 OPS for the Ironbirds. This resulted in a final promotion to Bowie, but the results weren’t nearly as good: .113 in 13 games before an injury ended his season prematurely.
  • Daniel Lloyd (April pitcher) – promoted June 6 after going 0-1 with a 4.21 ERA and 1.325 WHIP here, he almost duplicated those numbers with the Ironbirds: 3-4. 4.11 with a 1.326 WHIP there. For the season Lloyd has struck out 80 and walked 23 in 71 2/3 innings.
  • Isaac Bellony (May PP) – Isaac had two stints with Delmarva, hitting .289/6/34/.856 OPS for the Shorebirds overall. Those stats were padded a bit by a September week where Isaac went 12-for-20 in his five-game September return after being sent back down with a paltry .169/4/18/.559 OPS with Aberdeen. He never recovered after a 2-for-29 start there after his June 9 promotion, but the great week here increased his Delmarva average from .256 to its final .289 mark.
  • Alex Pham (May pitcher) – Alex was promoted a week before his month as Shorebird of the Month concluded with a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings with a 1.324 WHIP. His injury-marred season with Aberdeen concluded with a 5-2 record but a high 5.66 ERA and 1.403 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings. There was also a one-inning detour to Florida for a perfect appearance in August.
  • Trendon Craig (June PP) – After getting a late start from extended spring, Trendon came to the Shorebirds on May 10 and stayed through July, hitting .262/2/33/.734 OPS in 59 games. 27 more games in Aberdeen were enough to get his feet wet and slash a respectable .258/0/10/.630 OPS for the higher squad.
  • Carter Baumler (June pitcher) – Unfortunately, Carter was the only SotM of the first eight to not be promoted as an injury ended his season in mid-June. He hung on the active roster until July but never pitched after June 15, finishing his once-a-week regimen with a 1.54 ERA in four Wednesday starts covering 11 2/3 innings, striking out an eye-popping 20 but walking seven.
  • Frederick Bencosme (July PP) – A great contact hitter, Bencosme hit .375 in two FCL games before joining the Shorebirds on June 9 and slashing .336/3/29/.841 OPS in 59 games here. He wasn’t quite ready for Aberdeen, though, putting up only a .154 average in 12 games after being promoted August 27.
  • Dylan Heid (July pitcher) – Also received from the FCL in June (on the 23rd), Dylan parlayed a win and 2.25 ERA in four innings there to 31 2/3 innings here, with a 2-2 record and 4.55 ERA to go with a 1.516 WHIP. In 5 2/3 innings in Aberdeen, Dylan kept a 4.76 ERA and improved 1.412 WHIP. Overall, he fanned 64 and walked 31 for the season, getting a better ratio at each higher level.
  • Reed Trimble (August/September PP) – After going 0-for-6 in two FCL rehab games from offseason surgery, Reed was thrown into our fire July 22 and put together a nice stretch run, hitting .291/2/18/.747 OPS in the last 31 contests of his season.
  • Ryan Long (August/September pitcher) – Save for an injury that cost him three weeks in July and early August, Ryan was perhaps Delmarva’s best pitcher this season. His 7-5 record led the team in wins and 3.10 ERA was tops among those with 50 or more innings pitched. Add in a 73/31 strikeout to walk ratio and 1.252 WHIP and you’ll agree Ryan made some strides this season; in fact, the late injury may have cost him a promotion.

These are all good players, but none of them will join this list of Shorebirds of the Year, with that season’s Prospect of the Year in parentheses:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan (Brandon Erbe)
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa (Brad Bergesen)
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason (Zack Britton)
  • 2009 – Ron Welty (L.J. Hoes)
  • 2010 – Brian Conley (Tyler Townsend)
  • 2011 – David Walters (Jonathan Schoop)
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb (Dylan Bundy)
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst (Adrian Marin)
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco (Mike Yastrzemski)
  • 2015 – John Means (Jomar Reyes)
  • 2016 – Yermin Mercedes (Ryan Mountcastle)
  • 2017 – Alex Wells (no prospect award)
  • 2018 – Brenan Hanifee (DL Hall)
  • 2019 – Adam Hall (Grayson Rodriguez)
  • 2021 – Darell Hernaiz (Jordan Westburg)
  • 2022 – keep reading (Heston Kjerstad)

Ryan Long was my best pitcher, but I don’t think anyone made as much of a positive impact (while being here the requisite 88 scheduled games) as this guy:

While he was playing third base in this photo (taken April 24 vs. Myrtle Beach) it was almost as often Luis Valdez would be at third courtesy of a walk or single and a stolen base or two out of his 59 stolen bases. Only a promotion kept him from setting a team record.

Luis Valdez left the Carolina League August 16, nearly a month before play ended, yet still led the loop with 59 stolen bases (he added 12 more in a month for Aberdeen for good measure.) While there wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about for most of the season, by the time June came around it was a little like clockwork: if Valdez got a hit (he slashed .271/2/20/.689 OPS on the season for Delmarva, with a .347 on-base percentage) he would soon try for second, and if he succeeded would go for stealing third as well – assuming the catcher’s hurried throw didn’t end up in center field to move him up initially. With his 80-grade speed, this dude would steal on the toss back to the pitcher if he thought he could catch them unaware.

For being the most exciting player on an otherwise dull and hard-to-watch team, Valdez was the easy choice for Shorebird of the Year. Luis ended up in the running each month, but was beaten out by the guys who won. His consistency paid off, though, in the biggest prize.

I made the executive decision awhile back to end my Shorebird of the Month after this season, and I’m sticking by that one. But since I opted to create a second Substack page for my passion for baseball (called The Knothole) I not only created a place for my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame and Shorebird of the Week tracker to live on, but the excuse to keep going with the Shorebird of the Year – expanded to take both a pitcher and a position player. They’ll be eligible for the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame as a Shorebird of the Year just like John Means was (or Luis Valdez will be.)

So instead of placing my picks and pans here, I’m going to use it to debut The Knothole next Thursday. By then my updated tracker will be there as well as the Hall of Fame, which looks to have either one or two new members this season.