Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: April 2022

Back for another season, and I’m kicking it off with a very familiar face as my first Shorebird position player of the month.

My first Shorebird position player of the month for 2022 is carrying over his success from last season, when he was named the Shorebird of the Year. Here’s Darell Hernaiz during the opening weekend against Fredericksburg.

In fact, Darell Hernaiz is one of just a few Shorebirds of the Year to begin the next season with Delmarva. But unlike the others, who won simply as being the standardbearer on a well below-average team, Darell is stuck behind a whole host of more highly-regarded prospects on the left side of the infield, several of whom he shared time with here last season.

So while Darell’s still here, he’s spent his April crushing the competition to a point where Hernaiz is the unquestioned best offensive player on the team, slashing .322/5/16/1.009 OPS – all numbers which led the Shorebirds’ attack.

While Darell was highly placed as a 5th round draft pick in 2019 out of a Texas high school, the Puerto Rican native still languishes behind guys like Gunnar Henderson (drafted ahead of him in 2019), 2020’s Jordan Westburg and Coby Mayo, and Cesar Prieto, a Cuban shortstop signed this offseason and assigned to Aberdeen. Even though Prieto was hurt recently, the Orioles opted to move Greg Cullen’s rehab to Aberdeen rather than finally promote Hernaiz. Perhaps it’s the seven errors Hernaiz committed that keeps him here, but one has to wonder if Darell will be one of those guys who leaves as a six-year free agent and makes it with someone else. Meanwhile, he’ll hopefully just keep raking and contend for a back-to-back honor no one has done before.

I reached back to the tail end of 2021 to snag this photo of Daniel Lloyd, who was literally the last Shorebird pitcher fans at Perdue Stadium saw in 2021. Here he closed out the 4-3 win over Fredericksburg last September 12, receiving his lone decision from last season. That’s why I keep all my old photos!

We also have a somewhat familiar face as the Shorebird Pitcher of the Month, as Daniel Lloyd came up with the wave of 2021 draft picks at the tail end of last season. But while Daniel struggled a bit as a Shorebird in 2021 (1-0 but with a 6.17 ERA and 1.971 WHIP in nine appearances covering 11 2/3 innings) he’s done what many players have in their return to Delmarva: put up markedly improved numbers. In eight innings in April Dan allowed but one earned run and only five hits (and walks) while striking out 11. He only allowed a run in one of his five appearances in April and kept the streak going to begin May, running his ERA down to 0.90.

A South Carolinian born and bred, I’m sure Dan is enjoying the Shorebirds’ current week in Columbia, where he pitched for the University of South Carolina after starring at Summerville High School in the Charleston area. He was selected by the Orioles in the 14th round last season, and opened his career with one inning in the Complex League before reporting to Delmarva last August. Dan is one of a handful of pitchers who the Shorebirds retained this spring after many of them got our home cooking for the first time last season now that Delmarva no longer has a buffer team in Aberdeen for rookies out of the former Gulf Coast League.

Since Dan is only 21, he’s certainly at an appropriate level for his advancement and will probably see a lot of late-inning situations for the Shorebirds as the season goes on. At this time, Lloyd has not been in a save situation but the guys who get holds eventually get that chance, so we will see.

Unlike the position player competition, which Hernaiz dominated, the pitching came down to several guys as the month ended, with bad outings doing in a couple competitors. A very reasonable argument, though, could have been made for Juan De Los Santos to have grabbed the brass ring, and it was a close contest where Lloyd barely prevailed.

Pleasing predictions, 2022 edition

It’s been well over a year since I previewed what would become the 2021 Low-A East season by pontificating just what the talent level stacked up against our Shorebirds would be in the newly revamped league. As it turned out, my crystal ball wasn’t perfectly clear but it was polished enough to get most of the trends correct. (One thing I didn’t forecast was how aggressively the Orioles would move some of our prospects up. Our 68-52 record could have been 75 to 80 wins at least if some of our initial hot prospects stuck around.)

Now that we have a full season of minor league ball behind us after the 2020 hiatus, we can further see the trends and which teams should be the best. Even better, we already have a schedule in place so I can take things a step further and predict the overall records based on their schedule. (Hint: the southern teams that have to play a Charleston squad benefitting from a loaded Tampa Bay system 24 times apiece ain’t looking too good.)

That Charleston team looks to be the class of the now-resurrected Carolina League at this juncture. (Since more of the former SAL teams were moved up to High-A ball, they and the Carolina League switched spots on the minor league totem pole and the Shorebirds – who stayed in low-A – are now members of the CL. It’s nothing new: the former SAL lost two teams to the Midwest League a dozen years ago because of franchise relocations.)

Here are the predicted standings in each division:

Southern Division

  1. Charleston (Tampa Bay) 84-48
  2. Columbia (Kansas City) 67-65
  3. Myrtle Beach (Chicago Cubs) 60-72
  4. Augusta (Atlanta) 57-75

Central Division

  1. Carolina (Milwaukee) 76-56
  2. Down East (Texas) 75-57
  3. Fayetteville (Houston) 57-75
  4. Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox) 47-85

Northern Division

  1. Salem (Boston) 82-50
  2. Lynchburg (Cleveland) 67-65
  3. Delmarva (Baltimore) 66-66
  4. Fredericksburg (Washington) 54-78

I can already see people asking me, “Why are the Shorebirds picked so low when the Orioles have the #1 (or #3, or #8, depending on source) minor league system?”

It’s not like I wouldn’t like to see the Shorebirds succeed but to me their system is top-heavy as most of the key prospects are at the Aberdeen level or above. And if you look at the lower levels of the system as I did to compile this prediction you’ll notice those teams were mediocre at best last season compared to the competition.

However, if the Orioles have indeed truly struck gold with their international prospects signed over the last couple years they could quickly vault into contention in what should be a division that’s relatively competitive. The Shorebirds have to solve their issue from last season with beating Salem on a consistent basis, though, and right now the Red Sox seem to have a very good system at the Low-A level. (The Indians – oops, Guardians – always seem to be good at this level, too.) It appears each will take their turns beating up on Fredericksburg, and this year no divisional team has the advantage of playing the FredNats more than another, as we did last season.

There is also an argument that suggests that our 2021 draft class – which will make up a significant portion of the Shorebirds – carried the team to a 20-10 record after being called up en masse in mid-August so the team will be better than I’m predicting. But I had to consider that 12 of those 30 were against the aforementioned FredNats.

All in all, though, ours is a team definitely on the upswing. It should be a much more competitive summer than some of those I endured a decade ago so I wouldn’t mind being a little bearish on our prospects.

Odds and ends number 109

Because I did quite a bit of e-mail list pruning over the holidays – it was easier than shedding those holiday pounds, which are still there – it took a little longer for me to find compelling items I wanted to spend anywhere from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs on. So here we go again.

A cure for insomnia

You may not have noticed this while you were putting on pounds and using your gas-guzzling vehicle to drive around and buy holiday gifts, but Delaware now has a Climate Action Plan. Of course, it involves the folly of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions – as if our little state will make much of a difference on that front – and actions they term as “maximize resilience to climate change impacts.” They fret that “Delaware has already experienced over 1 foot of sea level rise at the Lewes tide gauge since 1900. By midcentury, sea levels are projected to rise another 9 to 23 inches and, by 2100, up to an additional 5 feet.” These are the people who can’t tell you if it will snow in two weeks but they’re sure of this one. Moreover, these assertions were easily swatted out of the park.

The only climate action plan we need is to first follow Virginia’s lead and ditch the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, since that’s simply a wealth transfer mechanism from middle-class pockets to utilities to government to entities they deem as those in need of “equity.” After that, it’s time to repeal every last renewable energy mandate and get back to reliable power, not dependence on arbitrary and capricious wind and sunshine for our electricity. The dirty little secret is that we need those fossil fuel plants as backup anyway so we may as well get our use out of them. Don’t believe me? Well, the Caesar Rodney Institute agrees:

Did you know Delaware has been mandating wind and solar power in addition to providing subsidies for both for over a decade? In 2021, the mandate required 21% power from wind and solar, increasing to 40% by 2035. So far, 90% of the wind and solar mandate is being met with out-of-state generation, with only 2% of electric demand met by in-state solar. At night, when it’s cloudy, and in winter, when solar power drops 40% compared to summer, reliable power is needed for backup.

“What Delaware Needs in State Electric Power Generation?”, Caesar Rodney Institute, December 26, 2021.

So we are subsidizing other states. Unfortunately, we are probably in the same boat for awhile but, rather than muck up the shipping lanes entering Delaware Bay with useless wind turbines or put hundreds of acres out of use for agriculture with ugly (and generally Chinese-made) solar panel farms, we could just build a series of natural gas generating plants with a minimal infrastructure investment in additional or expanded pipelines. It’s the better way.

Losing the hand

If you recall the 2010 election, the Beltway pundits bemoaned a missed opportunity in Delaware because Mike Castle lost in the Republican primary to TEA Party favorite Christine O’Donnell. (Some guy wrote part of a chapter in a book about this.) After their favored candidate lost, the Delaware GOP establishment took their ball and went home, resulting in a schism that still occasionally pops up to this day.

Well, Mike is back in the news as he was recently selected to be part of the board at A Better Delaware. As they describe it:

During 40 years in public office, Gov. Castle served two terms as governor, from 1985 to 1992, before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for nine terms. While in Congress, he served on the Financial Services Committee and on the Education and Labor Committee and was a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility and working across party lines to build bridges and form coalitions to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing problems.

“Former Gov. Mike Castle Joins A Better Delaware Board,” January 18, 2022.

What do we get when we reach across party lines? Our arm ripped off and beaten with it. Democrats in Delaware have zero interest in working with Republicans (let alone the conservatives who need to be in charge) so I don’t see the use of this relic who exemplifies everything that frustrates common-sense Delawareans about the Delaware GOP. If you want A Better Delaware, you need to elect people vowing to do whatever it takes to undo the forty years’ worth of damage done by the Democrats. They can shut up and sit down for awhile.

But it would be cool if Christine O’Donnell took a job there.

Tone-deaf

Anymore I use part of my odds and ends to pick on that crazy one from South Dakota, Rick Weiland. (You thought I would say Kristi Noem?) Just two weeks ago he wrote, “It has never been more important for the Biden administration and Congress to go bold and make sure everyone has enough high-quality masks to protect themselves and others.” Weiland was advocating for some boondoggle called the Masks for All Act.

Of course, we all know that two weeks later mask mandates were being dropped all over the blue-state country by Democrat governors who claimed to be following the science, and they did… right up to the point where the “science” affected their chances of holding on to any sort of power. It’s all about power, folks, and don’t you forget it.

But Weiland is the same nut who rails on about “insurrectionists” in Congress and deplatforming Fox News because it, “consistently downplays the seriousness of the pandemic, while amplifying risky treatment alternatives like ivermectin (and) is allowed to spew disinformation directly into the homes of millions of Americans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Yet people take this stuff seriously. I just thought you needed a good laugh.

Invading the Shore

Speaking of crazy people…

It took awhile, but now we seem to have a branch of Indivisible of our very own on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. “We are IndivisibleShore,” they write, “and are here to help you help progressive candidates win elections in Maryland, specifically The Eastern Shore and Eastern parts of the Western Shore.”

Well, that’s about the last thing they need – talk about an invasive species. Besides the Zoom training sessions, they also promise, “We have phone banking, door knocking (when safe) and postcard writing available. We also will be sponsoring music events and get togethers when safe.” One out of five ain’t bad if the band is halfway decent, as I’m quite aware that most musicians are on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

This guy gets it

Now we can come back to sanity.

One thing I recommend reading (or hearing, since it’s a brief weekly podcast) is the Castle Report. While Donald Trump was a fine president, I think Castle would have been Donald Trump on steroids when it came to trimming the government back to Constitutional levels (provided he had a like-minded Congress.) He’s the reason I joined the Constitution Party here in Delaware. (And somehow I’ve managed in one article to talk about two different guys surnamed Castle. Odd. Or maybe an end.)

This week he talked about the Canadian truckers’ convoy and it’s one of his best. One thing to ponder from his piece – ask yourself who this sounds like:

So, who is this man, Justin Trudeau, and what are his qualifications to hold the office of Prime Minister of Canada? Other than the fact that he was elected by a majority of Canadian voters, he has only one qualification and that is he is the son of the former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Pierre was of military age during World War ll but declined to serve. He built his fortune and his political career at home while Canadians were dying on the battlefields of Europe. Pierre was apparently a devout communist and never met or even heard of a murderous, dictator he didn’t love. He went to the Soviet Union to participate in the great achievements of Joseph Stalin. He wrote glowing praises of Mao’s regime in China. He had a friendly relationship with Castro and visited with him in Cuba. Some of the praise he heaped on Stalin was of new Russian cities built from the rubble of the great war, but he never mentioned the many thousands of slaves who died building those cities.

Justin seems to have nothing to recommend him to Canadians except he follows in his father’s communist footsteps. What, I wonder, is his own merit or his own achievement? He has no scholarly achievement, no publications to his name, no business experience, but he is an accepted legacy, member of the global ruling elite and, therefore, protected.

For example, as a young man, he often appeared in blackface and sang the Harry Belafonte classic, The Banana Boat Song. He now says he considers that racist but no resignation, and no groveling apology. He is also free to call the truckers racists because one truck flew a Confederate flag.

“Unacceptable Views”, Darrell Castle, The Castle Report, February 11, 2022.

It’s worth mentioning that the Canadians are just the first, as other nations have gotten into the act. But imagine this: thousands of everyday Canadians lined Canada’s main highway east from British Columbia to cheer these truckers on, in subfreezing weather. It was a little bit like a Trump rally in terms of enthusiasm, but instead of a political figure these folks were there for a political statement and not the opportunity to glom onto celebrity. That’s a key difference. Let’s pray for their success.

Play ball!

While the major leaguers are locked out and almost certainly won’t begin spring training on time, our Delmarva Shorebirds are on track to begin their spring training on February 28 and begin the regular season April 8, as they are unaffected by the lockout. There are lots of reasons to go to the ballpark already, but the Shorebirds have an interesting promotional schedule worth checking out.

It’s a good way to bring this 109th edition of odds and ends to a close.

Presenting: The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2021

It may now be a misnomer because three of this year’s four inductees were Shorebirds of the Month, but I also have a couple Shorebirds of the Year who were never a weekly/monthly honoree here, so I can be fast and loose.

Back when I decided to go to the monthly format, I made this honor more of a performance-based award than it had been previously. Sure, there have been players who were one-month flashes in the pan, but by and large the talent has come through and it’s beginning to show now that we’re four seasons into this new format. Two of the four inducted this year were selected in the first SotM season of 2017 and one comes from 2018. Only one holdout is from 2016, and, for the first time in six seasons we do not have a player from 2014 as they have finally cycled out after sending eight players to the Hall of Fame. I don’t foresee ever having that sort of success out of a single year again.

Given the big club’s era of rebuilding and lack of interest in trading away prospects, it’s no surprise that all four in my Class of 2021 debuted with the Orioles, although one didn’t stay long afterward.

I was a little shocked that Ryan McKenna would be my first honoree this season as he debuted April 5, in part because he was a position player at a time when the Orioles needed pitching. They would get it with my other three players: Zac Lowther on April 25, Jay Flaa two days later on April 27, and finally Alex Wells on June 26. It was so fast I thought I would have a huge class of six or seven, especially with the revolving door of pitcher tryouts the Orioles were having – 14 of their 16 major league debuts this season were pitchers. And while it’s true none of these guys made a great impact, they still gained the valuable experience that could make them better – I don’t see this as a repeat of the Class of 2011 where the majority of the guys only made the Show for that one season.

As we transition into the Elias era and players he drafted from 2019 on begin to close in on the brass ring, we still see a number of late Duquette-era players on the cusp of perhaps making up the Class of 2022 – assuming a full non-lockout season, of course.

Believe it or not, though, that Shorebird of the Week crop in 2014 still has a couple guys out there playing who have not debuted yet. But I would be shocked if the agate type featured David Richardson, Luis Gonzalez, or Mitch Horacek – teams may be desperate for pitching, but I don’t think they are that desperate to use journeymen pushing 30 if they’re not already there. Similarly, you have 2016 Shorebirds of the Week Jesus Liranzo, Ofelky Peralta, and Brian Gonzalez toiling in the AAA ranks last season. None are on 40-man rosters.

More realistically, we look at those who are still standing from 2017-19. Only Preston Palmiero and Steven Klimek are non-major leaguers still active from the 2017 honorees, and while Palmiero made it to AAA this season and hit well, he’s a long shot to make the Angels. Klimek is now a minor league free agent.

The odds are much better for the 2018 Shorebirds. DL Hall was the only Shorebird of anything placed on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, making him the safest bet of anyone who’s still waiting for his debut. The next most likely in this group is infielder Mason McCoy, but others with outside shots are outfielder Zach Jarrett and pitchers Tim Naughton and Brenan Hanifee. Brenan may be more of a 2023 candidate since he’s missed two seasons to injury – but the Orioles still like him and have waited on him since 2019, when he was at Frederick.

Even more so, the Shorebirds of 2019 were a loaded class. After Hall, the two best prospects to be potentially featured in the Class of 2022 are pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and outfielder Robert Neustrom. Also lurking in the wings from making it to Bowie are pitchers Drew Rom and Grey Fenter, who was picked in last year’s Rule 5 Draft by the Cubs and returned in spring training. Less likely to make the jump are infielder Cadyn Grenier, outfielder Johnny Rizer, and pitcher Ryan Wilson. They are coming into make-or-break seasons, with Grenier also available for the Rule 5 draft.

Missing 2020 means we have a big gap, and none of the Shorebirds I selected in 2021 made it past Aberdeen this season. It will be interesting to see how they fare as their success (or lack thereof) will determine what the classes of 2024 and 2025 look like.

With the publication of this post, I’ll bring the newly updated SotWHoF back live and allow you to read and enjoy.

Picks and pans from a Shorebird fan, 2021 edition

It’s been a loooooong two years since I last wrote some of these, and to be honest I thought a lot about it would change. But the funny thing? My first pick was the then-new concourse, but I never made it out there this season. Perhaps because it’s still underutilized despite my suggestions.

It was no surprise that attendance was down this season: no benefit of a “normal” offseason, having a somewhat shorter schedule overall, and getting a lot of questions about COVID restrictions after beginning the season with limited capacity all took their toll on the gate, which tumbled to a franchise-low 110,281 for the 60-game home season. Yet even the best six-game week only brought 14,249 to the park, which was about 4,000 fewer than an average pre-COVID six-game week would draw.

But I can’t really pan the staff this season, because if ever a group deserved a mulligan it was this one. Here’s hoping that, with the pandemic beginning to recede, 2022 will become a good comparable to 2019 – albeit with four fewer openings as the low-A schedule compressed to 132 games, 66 home and away. That makes a difference of about 12,000 fans. Drawing 200,000 once again next season would be an achievement but it’s doable. Getting back to full staff will also be a big help.

Because of the lack of staff, I can’t really pan the food too much – however, if I were to make a suggestion (and integrate my other idea) it would be nice to have a select-your-own sub (as in hoagie) station out on or near the concourse. It could even be cold subs or something not requiring a great deal of cooking, but I think it would be a nice idea for variety. Also, I wouldn’t mind them bringing the supreme pizza back – not that I ever recall eating it when it was here a couple years ago. (These guys make a surprisingly good pizza, even if it is just cheese or pepperoni.)

And now that we have some assurance that the team will be here, perhaps it’s time for more of those back-of-the-house improvements. (They did update the restroom at the entrance level concourse this year, refinishing it.) But even better, I think there could be a lot more done with the lobby and entrance to the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame.

In looking at it over the years, I think the original intent of the stadium was to have most of the people enter by going up the stairs to the upper concourse where most of the concession stands are, then work their way down to what used to be the general admission bleacher seats. The lower center entrance was probably envisioned more for the box seat holders, but it’s become the predominant entrance over the years to a point where the upper entrances were barely used this year. (Maybe once or twice.) I’m not sure how to do it without looking at a plan, but it seems to me that they could make it a better experience than just walking down a nondescript hall. If you get the kid’s perspective of going up the stairs then reaching the top, smelling the smells, and then crossing the concourse to see the green grass of the field – although that view is unfortunately blocked by the elevator tower – maybe you’ll understand why this is something that interests me.

But looking forward to 2022, it will be nice to have the full amount of time to prepare promotions for next season. We did manage several fireworks shows, Scrapple Night, and a Gallos de Delmarva night at the tail end of the season, so it wasn’t a lost season by any means. Get the giveaways to be available on their appointed night and we should be all right.

Speaking of picks, instead of predicting the 25 players we were going to get (which would have been nigh-upon-impossible given this spring’s situation) I predicted how the league’s teams would finish. Here’s how that turned out:

  1. Down East Wood Ducks (Texas) (72-48, 2nd overall, lost championship series)
  2. Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore) (68-52, 4th overall based on tiebreaker*)
  3. Charleston RiverDogs (Tampa Bay) (82-38, 1st overall, won pennant)
  4. Lynchburg Hillcats (Cleveland) (58-62, 7th overall)
  5. Columbia Fireflies (Kansas City) (48-71, 10th overall)
  6. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs) (59-61, 6th overall)
  7. Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Houston) (55-85, 8th overall)
  8. Salem Red Sox (Boston) (71-49, 3rd overall, won our Northern Division)
  9. Carolina Mudcats (Milwaukee) (68-52, 5th overall)
  10. Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (Chicago White Sox) (40-79, 12th overall)
  11. Augusta Greenjackets (Atlanta) (54-66, 9th overall)
  12. Fredericksburg Nationals (Washington) (44-76, 11th overall)

(*) We defeated Carolina in the season series, 8-4.

Given these numbers, I would say the surprises were Salem and Carolina, which didn’t look like they would have very good teams based on their systems but turned out to be two of the teams in contention until the final days. Lynchburg and (especially) Columbia, on the other hand, seemed to be the real underperformers. Aside from those outliers, though, teams tended to finish a position or two off where they were expected to be (except Myrtle Beach, who hit their 6th place target by a game over Lynchburg.) So maybe I’ll try again for next season, with the added bonus of knowing each team’s schedule.

So there you have picks and pans. I’m going to take it easy for a few days.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2021 season wrapup

There were a few fretful days when I wondered if I would be able to write this post.

We first had to endure the cancellation of the 2020 season thanks to the CCP virus and our reaction to it, then had to learn our fate as the powers that be at Major League Baseball sliced and diced the old minor league baseball system. Fortunately, we did not come out as Julienne fries.

Instead, we survived as the Orioles’ lowest full-season team in a hybrid regional league called the Low-A East that combined teams from the old South Atlantic League and demoted franchises from the former Carolina League and played an excessively divisional schedule where 96 of the scheduled 120 games (a season shortened by 20 games from our old format) were played against three teams: the Fredericksburg Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, and Salem Red Sox. (None of whom came from the old SAL. In fact, we did not play an SAL alumni team in 2021.) For long stretches of the season, the team did not emerge from the Maryland/Virginia combo and did not venture south of North Carolina all season. Before April is out next season, though, that will be rectified as the Shorebirds make a long road trip to Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina. It will be a 132-game campaign, which is slated to be the plan for the A-ball level going forward.

Once play began it was apparent we would have a successful team, but then aggressive player advancement by the Orioles meant our roll was slowed for awhile in the second half of the season, causing us to fall behind Salem in a division we led for much of the first half. The influx of (mainly) 2021 draft choices in mid-August turbocharged a team that had fallen off its early torrid pace to stand at 48-42, but even a 20-10 finish wasn’t enough to catch Salem – a team that was our nemesis all year. The Red Sox were one of two teams against whom we had a losing record (14-16) with the other being the Down East Wood Ducks (4-8). They were two of the top three teams in the league. Conversely, we were 25-11 against Fredericksburg, 17-13 against Lynchburg, and 8-4 against Carolina for a 68-52 mark overall, tied with Carolina for fourth out of the 12 teams. Had the league employed a more traditional 3 division winner + 1 wildcard format, we would have grabbed that number four slot based on the tiebreaker. As it was, we played spoiler – eliminating Salem from contention by beating them in the final game of the season and allowing the aforementioned Wood Ducks into the league championship series, where they fell in five games to Charleston.

Because I liked the team stats format I used for 2019, I’ll use pretty much the same with new numbers plugged in.

  • Our .253 average was good enough for 4th out of 12 teams. We came out of a July slump to post good numbers.
  • We scored a club-record 720 runs in 16 fewer games than it took the 2000 team to accomplish the old record of 700 – yet that was only third in the loop.
  • The Shorebirds finished fifth in the league with 1004 hits.
  • Power numbers were interesting: 187 doubles were 7th, but the 20 triples were dead last – one behind Fredericksburg. So figure out this logic: we were third in the league with a franchise record 113 home runs, beating the 2016 squad that had 112 in 139 games.
  • Just like runs, we had 646 RBI and finished third overall.
  • 1,570 total bases was enough for the fifth spot.
  • We drew 573 walks, second only to Carolina’s 642, and struck out 1,097 times to be second lowest behind Salem’s 1020.
  • The Shorebirds were sixth-best in both stolen bases (152) and getting caught (41.)
  • They were third in on-base percentage at .358 and fourth in slugging with a .396 mark, leaving them fourth in OPS with .754 overall.

We had record-setting pitching two years ago. This season, though, we were bested by a couple select teams in most categories.

  • In a more difficult year for pitching leaguewide, we finished second with a 4.14 collective ERA. Charleston led at 3.45.
  • We finished fifth in the league with 28 saves.
  • We threw the fifth-most innings at 1,028.
  • 929 hits allowed was fourth-best. Our 573 runs allowed was third but our 473 earned was second behind Charleston, who allowed 494 and 403 respectively. So while our pitching was frustrating at times, so was everyone else’s.
  • We again finished fifth with 95 home runs allowed.
  • We led the league by hitting only 55 batters, one fewer than Salem.
  • Our 1,161 strikeouts was only good for eighth, but our 432 walks was third. Strange stat of the year: one intentional walk. It was so unusual I had to see who allowed it (Jensen Elliott) and who he walked (Stephen Scott of Salem), way back on May 9. It was the one Sunday game I missed, for Mother’s Day.
  • Our 1.324 WHIP was second again, miles behind Charleston’s 1.176.

We had a rough season fielding with a .965 fielding percentage that was ninth, and our 148 errors ranked even worse in tenth leaguewide. We also finished ninth in double plays turned with 205, tied for fifth with 20 passed balls, and allowed 172 stolen bases to rank ninth. The 15% caught stealing was tenth out of the twelve teams.

In terms of the Orioles’ revamped minor league system, we have an incomplete grade thanks to the extension of Norfolk’s season – however, they’re still mired near the bottom of the Triple-A East at 51-75 as of this writing.

Thanks to a fortuitous rainout affecting the Somerset Patriots, Bowie didn’t have to endure a playoff game to make the Double-A Northeast finals with a 73-47 record. But they were swept out by Akron, who also won Bowie’s division as the top two squads came from the same division.

Aberdeen also finished second in its division, but well short of the playoff mark with a 58-61 record in the High-A East.

Out of eight teams in the South Division of the Florida Complex League, the two Oriole teams finished sixth and eighth – the Black team was 18-27 while the Orange team finished a league-worst 10-33. Hopefully that’s a issue with diluted talent between two teams and not a sign to come for the 2022 Shorebirds.

Unfortunately, the story was similar in the Dominican Summer League where the Orioles 2 team was 23-27 and finished sixth in an eight-team division and the Orioles 1 team was the #1 worst at 13-34. That’s not what you would expect from a farm system deemed to be the best in baseball right now.

Now it’s time to look at how my position players of the month fared.

We begin with J.D. Mundy, who did well enough in May to both win the position player honors and a promotion to Aberdeen before the month was out, based on a .324/4/20/1.038 slash line here in 20 games. In other words, he was picking up an RBI a game. Once promoted to Aberdeen, J.D. slowed down slightly with a .278/11/37/.881 OPS in 52 Aberdeen games before an injury ended his campaign a month early. Because he missed some time at the end of the season, it’s not known if he would have made the jump to Bowie like some others did but he may do so early on in 2022. He’s not going to be old (24) for the level he’s at, though.

June’s top position player was Mason Janvrin, who also eventually made it to Aberdeen despite a paltry batting line of .203/10/33/.664 OPS in 82 games here. In the season’s last two weeks Mason went 2-for-17 in 6 Aberdeen games, picking up a couple RBI along the way. Perhaps helping Mason was his being far and away the leader in drawing walks while with Delmarva, picking up a team-leading 47 free passes (second was 28.) Janvrin also led in runs with 68 and stolen bases with 25. Great speed and good batting eye, but not likely to advance much farther without another 60 points on his batting average. He will also be 24 next season.

He came here to succeed J.D. Mundy as primary first baseman, but TT Bowens had his own stellar month in July and soon advanced to Aberdeen himself after Mundy went down. Getting his first taste of pro ball this season, Bowens slashed .237/13/46/.786 OPS in 64 Delmarva games before doing even better in Aberdeen with a .259 average, 5 home runs, and 9 RBI to go with a .772 OPS. With another week or so on the team, Bowens could have been a serious contender for Shorebird of the Year but finished just short of the 2/3 of the season on the roster required. A popular guy here, but sort of a fringe prospect given his NDFA status – however, the improvement from level to level and appropriate age (another 24 year old next season) are plus marks for Bowens.

The only position player to play for the team start-to-finish, Darell Hernaiz won the Shorebird Position Player of the Month honor in August. Because he was here the whole time, Hernaiz led the team in numerous categories: 94 games played, 410 plate appearances, 372 at-bats, 103 hits, 52 RBI, a .277 batting average (as the top qualifier), and 133 total bases. For the season his numbers were .277/6/52/.690 OPS. Hernaiz won’t turn 21 until later on next season so he’s a guy who could make the Aberdeen squad in 2022 but may end up here for a couple months to see if he can get to elite level, like a .300 average with just a bit more pop.

The best of a late-season recharge of 15 players that came for the final 30 games, Coby Mayo won the September position player honors. Starting out in the Complex League, Coby tore the league up to the tune of .329/4/15/1.005 OPS in 26 games before 27 games of .311/5/26/.964 OPS hitting here. He turns 20 over the winter, and is in a similar situation as Hernaiz in that his numbers merit a promotion but his lack of experience may hold him back here until midseason.

Now let’s see how the pitchers did.

I began with Xavier Moore, who parlayed a good month-and-a-half with Delmarva (1-2, but with a 2.89 ERA, 1.232 WHIP, and a 27/11 K/BB ratio in just 18 2/3 innings spread over 7 appearances) into being my May Pitcher of the Month and to a promotion to Aberdeen, where he had the same won-lost record but blew up to a 9.00 ERA in 14 appearances covering 19 innings, where he allowed only 15 hits but a 23/14 K/BB ratio and 5 home runs. He was on a starter’s schedule but only threw an inning or two in each appearance. Moore may come back here to begin next season because he really didn’t show much at Aberdeen. He may be ticketed to be a late-inning guy for us next season; if so, he needs to pitch more frequently. Moore turns 23 over the winter.

June’s Pitcher of the Month was the “work fast, throw strikes” guy Jake Lyons. After putting together a good campaign for Delmarva [4-3, 3.69 ERA, 1.361 WHIP, and 85/34 K/BB ratio in 68 1/3 innings (11 starts in 19 appearances)] he got to pitch 3 games with Aberdeen where he went 0-1, 3.18 in 11 1/3 innings with a 0.971 WHIP and 17/3 K/BB ratio – sort of like he found another gear. He was a consistently good pitcher with Delmarva and should be the same for Aberdeen next season. In fact, Jake led the team in strikeouts but was only 3rd in innings pitched so that should tell you he has good stuff. He won’t be 23 until deep into next season, by which time he could be knocking on Bowie’s door with continued improvement. He could surprise some folks as a 22nd round choice.

In July I selected Noah Denoyer as the Pitcher of the Month. Out of those pitchers who would be closest to qualifying for league honors, Denoyer led in ERA with a 2.87 mark to go with a 5-3 record in 15 appearances (11 starts.) In just 59 2/3 innings Noah allowed but 45 hits and had a 71/25 K/BB ratio. Noah got another 12 innings in 5 appearances with Aberdeen and pitched to a 2.25 ERA and only bumping his WHIP up from 1.173 at Delmarva to an even 1.25 at Aberdeen. Denoyer will turn 24 just before spring training next season but he looks like he belongs with Aberdeen, too. Very good for a guy passed over in the 2019 draft.

Part of a two-player return in the Jose Iglesias trade, my August Pitcher of the Month had the most dominant stretch of the year during his run. Jean Pinto is a pitcher on the rise, moving up after 20 innings of 1.80 ERA, 0.75 WHIP ball in the Complex League to put up good numbers here. No, he didn’t match the almost absurd 28/4 K/BB ratio he had in Florida, but 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA, 56/13 K/BB ratio, and just 29 hits allowed in 46 1/3 innings here may give the 20-year-old (21 in January) Venezuelan a new challenge in Aberdeen to begin next season. He might elbow some older guys out of the way in doing so.

On the other hand, my September Pitcher of the Month may be auditioning to keep his career going. It’s not that Rickey Ramirez did a bad job during his time here, going 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.214 WHIP in 28 innings with a 39/12 K/BB ratio in 18 appearances (16 as closer with 4 saves) but the fact that he’s old for this level (turns 25 next month) and was a Rule 5 pick from the Twins – the sort of guy who gets lumped into the “organization player” category. To keep up, Rickey basically has to make it to Bowie at the end of next season. (To be fair, though, the rebuilding Orioles have given a number of older pitchers their first crack at the Show this season, so there’s still hope for a guy like him.) After all, he endured a disastrous 5 appearances in the Complex League, where his ERA was 8.44, just to get to Delmarva.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006. I’m also adding the Prospect of the Year, in parentheses. Some of these guys are now (or will be come December) in the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, in bold.

  • 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 – keep reading (Jordan Westburg)

The biggest problem I had with selecting a 2021 Shorebird of the Year was finding an eligible player. I’ve had a longstanding rule that the player I select as Shorebird of the Year has to spend at least 2/3 of the season here, which would have been 80 games this year. (They did not necessarily have to play all 80 – in the case of a starting pitcher that would have only been 16 starts.)

We cycled through a team-record 74 players this season, and when I say record I mean they smashed the sucker – per Baseball Reference, the highest previous total of Shorebird players in a season I found was 61 back in 2012, the midst of an era of otherwise forgettable 50-odd win teams. But now that Aberdeen isn’t a buffer team below us I suspect this high total will be the rule and my selections will be limited.

Only two position players actually played more than 80 games here this season: Darell Hernaiz, who led the team with 94, and Mason Janvrin with 82. Christopher Cespedes was also on the active roster long enough to qualify, although he only played in 70 games. On the other hand, most of the pitchers who made 15 or more appearances qualified – I think my three exceptions were Gregori Vasquez, Rickey Ramirez, and Jake Zebron. That left a field of 10.

Out of that group, there were really four pitchers and a position player who separated themselves from the field: Noah Denoyer, Jake Lyons, Houston Roth, and Adam Stauffer among the pitchers, and Darell Hernaiz as the position player. Unfortunately, the pitchers didn’t interest me for various reasons:

  • Stauffer threw just 39 innings before his promotion, which isn’t much of an impact.
  • Roth led the team in wins with 8 but faded noticeably at the end of the season to finish with 4.54 ERA, highest among the group.
  • Lyons was perhaps the most consistent in the field but didn’t dominate in any one category.

Out of the group, the best pitcher was Noah Denoyer, whose 2.87 ERA easily led my cadre of qualifiers. Noah put together a great season for an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to justify giving the award to a guy who threw less than 60 innings this season (and wasn’t a closer.) Compare that to my aforementioned 2012 campaign where, even with all those players, four pitchers exceeded 100 innings (and three of them are SotW Hall of Famers.) In a sign of the times, Roth led this season with 81 1/3.

Fortunately, we had a good, solid qualifying position player, a kid who improved himself most of the year and turned out to be a well above average performer when all was said and done.

After last year’s hiatus, we have an infielder as a SotY for a second straight year. This season it’s Darell Hernaiz.

It was that constant improvement and, quite frankly, the fact that the Orioles left him here to develop which tipped the scales toward Darell Hernaiz. There were a number of guys who, if they had stayed for a few more weeks, would have been contenders but going forward this award may be for the team turtles who advance slowly and steadily.

So all I have left for the 2021 Shorebird season is picks and pans next week, as well as some updates as required to the SotW Tracker before the Hall of Fame induction post scheduled for December 2. All this before we crank up another season with a home debut on April 8, 2022.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: September 2021

If you didn’t know me or didn’t read my website on a regular basis for years, it would be hard to guess what Jacob Julius, Nick Haughian, John Ruettiger, Dariel Delgado, and Mike Burke have in common. Yes, they all played for the Shorebirds but these are the five previous players who were honored in September as a Shorebird of the Week. In years past, whenever the season stretched for more than a handful of days into the month, I would have one last SotW honoree who oftentimes was the best of a small group who were left over as players who hadn’t yet been selected from the season.

This year is different, and may be unique once again. Given the delayed beginning to the season thanks to the CCP virus, we played a total of 17 games in September. It was a meaningful enough number that I decided to have one last crop of Shorebirds of the Month despite the shortened season and this season will be my first without a repeat winner.

If there’s one thing that can be said about Coby Mayo, he certainly has a game face to put on. But the kid had a September to remember, outgunning the more reputed Colton Cowser to be this season’s last Shorebird Position Player of the Month.

In the middle of August, the Shorebirds got a shot in the arm with fifteen new players, most of whom were draftees from 2021. One exception in that group was a player who was drafted in 2020 but was kept in Florida after spring training was completed this season to get a little more seasoning at that level. But all Coby Mayo did for the Shorebirds was slash .344/3/17/1.018 OPS for the month, terrorizing the various pitching staffs of Salem, Carolina, and Fredericksburg along the way.

Drafted in the 4th round of 2020’s abbreviated draft out of Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (yes, it’s that high school), Coby has given those fine folks something to be proud of as he finally made his long-awaited pro debut in the Florida Complex League back in June. Playing mostly for the FCL’s Orioles Black team, Mayo slashed .329/4/15/1.005 OPS in 26 total games before moving up to Low-A as a 19-year-old (he turns 20 in December.)

The third baseman showed no signs of stopping once he arrived here, hitting .311/5/26/.963 OPS and holding down third base in the 27 games he played here (out of 30 possible, a stretch where the team overall went 20-10.) Even with those gaudy numbers, though, there’s no guarantee he’ll be moving up to Aberdeen as the Orioles’ system is suddenly flush with a lot of great prospects on the left side of the infield. Mayo may well be here next April to start the season, but if he keeps up those numbers he won’t be finishing here.

On the other hand, my Pitcher of the Month may remind readers more of those obscure weekly honorees I alluded to earlier.

Coming out of nowhere as a minor league Rule 5 draftee, Rickey Ramirez showed the Low-A East what experience can do. We’ll see if he can return to High-A in 2022 after getting a taste of it in 2019.

Rickey Ramirez didn’t have the dominating month that some prior pitchers of the month have had, but instead was the steadiest of performers and rated high enough in all the categories to win the honor this month. His 10 innings of work this month was sterling, allowing just one earned run and seven hits, striking out 13 while walking three for a WHIP that was an even 1. He even picked up two victories for the month.

Rickey was another pitcher who was started slowly, making five appearances in the Complex League before moving up. And something about his approach must have resonated with the Orioles because the numbers in Florida were pedestrian at best, allowing five earned in 5 1/3 innings. For Delmarva, though, Rickey ended up 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 18 appearances covering 28 innings. He closed out 16 of his 18 appearances, garnering 4 saves (which joined a three-way tie for the team lead with Thomas Girard and Shelton Perkins.)

Unlike Mayo, who was a prized prospect, Ramirez was drafted in the 15th round by the Minnesota Twins out of Fresno State back in 2017. The Californian pitched two seasons in the Twins’ system, topping out at then high-A Fort Myers to begin 2019 but was eventually demoted to low-A Cedar Rapids.

He came to the Orioles as a minor league Rule 5 selection last year, and while these players are often footnotes to their new organizations, the Orioles put the comparative veteran (he turns 25 next month) in some prime spots. But it’s likely his time is running out unless he can latch on with Aberdeen next season because there aren’t many 25-year-old prospects toiling at this level.

As advertised, next week I’ll be revealing my Shorebird of the Year as I wrap up this most unusual of seasons.

The final day

This post is intended to be a pictorial diary of a day in the life, but it’s more than that.

I jokingly refer to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium as my “summer home” since I spend a lot of time there each season. Last Sunday they played their final home game against the Fredericksburg Nationals, and while I normally take my 35mm camera to get the player photos I use for Shorebird of the Month, I also have my cell phone to get the obligatory picture I take and share on my social media.

In years past, though, I did more of a social media story on the last day but since I had companions for the game this season I was a little bit too engaged for that. In fact I sort of forgot I took these until I cleaned out my cell phone photos today – luckily, the pictorial is still appropriate because today was the Shorebirds’ actual finale as they finished on the road at Salem.

So most of the rest of this goes in with my long-standing “pictures and text” format. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this fan’s perspective.

Here we are, the front entrance to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. Through those front doors awaits another episode in the continuing saga of young men living out their dream of being paid to play baseball. One thing I’ve noticed this season is that the steps have seldom been used for gates to the upper levels. That may have been a staffing shortage issue.
My first stop on this last game – which is always Fan Appreciation Day – was to drop my name into a bucket for full- and half-season ticket holders to have a chance to win prizes. It was a little different this season, probably due to the pandemic, in that winners didn’t randomly select their prizes on the dugout between innings.
This was a sampling of what all the fans, including but not limited to season ticket holders, could win. This year I kept alive my 16-season string of never getting my ticket number or name drawn, as did those who I was there with. It didn’t look like the swag was quite as valuable as it was in prior years but that’s all up to the sponsors and they’re probably feeling tough times as well.
This concession stand, which was renamed this season, is generally my first stop once I get situated at my seat. I’ll get into this aspect more when I do “picks and pans” next month, but I have no complaints about Carolyn and her helpers. A lot of times this season this was one of only 4 or 5 stands running when the park has (by my count and memory) 8 concession spaces. I’m sure that’s another staffing issue.
Back at my seat, with the teams warming up. You can see part of the 9/11 tribute they painted onto the field after the game on the 10th. I was thinking about it, and since 9/11 occurred in 2001 this is probably the first time they’ve played at home on the date – the season normally ended Labor Day and since 9/11 occurred they had not made it beyond the first round of the SAL playoffs, meaning our games was done well before the 11th of September. The delayed start this season allowed us to play that late in the summer for the first time.
He’d probably hate me for putting this up because he’s a “behind the scenes” type, but Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters always takes a few minutes before the final game to thank the fans and staff. It’s hard to believe that, in a field where staff turnover is the norm, that we’ve had Chris around for almost 15 years (and his assistant Jimmy Sweet for about as long.) This season he acknowledged what a difficult campaign it was to put together given all the uncertainty and lack of staff (like about 30 food service workers in a summer where the normal number is over 100) but was pleased the fans came out. And, most importantly to me, we actually played this summer.
I know this wasn’t the first pitch, but it was early on in the action. It was a nice afternoon for baseball but the Shorebirds were down 2-0. The FredNats got an early lead off pitcher Jean Pinto, who came on in the second inning to relieve the rehabbing Ty Blach, who pitched a scoreless first. Pinto eventually settled down to allow just the two runs in six innings.
The game progressed on a warm, sunny afternoon. One difference, though, between this and most other games was that there were no between-inning promotions because they were drawing winning numbers for the raffles at those times. So Sherman got to skip out on a couple things he was normally involved in, like the mascot race where he always figures out some way to overconfidently snatch defeat from the jaws of victory over a little kid. Yet one tradition that remained was the chicken dance that came at the end of the seventh inning, a frame where the Shorebirds finally got the lead for the first time, 3-2. They were primed to make a winner out of Pinto.
Instead, it turned out to be an exciting finish after all. The FredNats tied it in the top of the eighth but the good guys got a single by Connor Norby to lead off their half then, two outs later, Billy Cook singled him in to give the Shorebirds their winning 4-3 margin. Despite giving up the tying run in the eighth, Daniel Lloyd picked up the win.

As you can see, this one was closed out almost in record time as they finished in 2 1/2 hours. We were leaving the park at about the same time we would come in for a normal Sunday game in the summer that starts at 5:05. (In the spring months, they start at 2:05 like this one did.)

Also unlike a lot of seasons, we have not yet seen the schedule for next year. (We knew what the 2020 schedule was supposed to look like in mid-August 2019, for example.) From the schedules I have seen for the AAA level, it looks like minor league baseball will retain its six-game blocks for the most part as well as the Monday day off, with the exception of playing on Memorial Day and Independence Day. Teams will be switching venues between Sunday, July 3 and Monday, July 4 so that all teams will have a chance at a fireworks night (which was an omission on the 2021 schedule.)

It also appears we would go back to a more traditional schedule where the season begins in April and ends on the Sunday before Labor Day. Having a 22-week season (132 games) as we are now supposed to have for low-A ball would then slot the opener for us on April 5, 2022.

If so, then my count for waiting is anywhere from 198 to 205 days, depending on where we open. Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there.

As I’m finishing this, the Shorebirds are finishing as well. They held on to win the finale 9-7, knocking their opponent Salem out of the playoffs as well. We finish the season 68-52.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: August 2021

This month’s contests were a battle of attrition.

Because the position player roster had a significant upheaval in the middle of the month, I had a dilemma: the new players wouldn’t be on the roster long enough to qualify (I use 2/3 of the games as a criteria) nor would the players they were replacing. Fortunately, I had a pretty good candidate who stayed all month and that guy was Darell Hernaiz.

One of the few Shorebirds to be around for the whole month, Darell Hernaiz kept his share of playing time despite the influx of new talent.

In August Hernaiz hit .272/1/16/.667 OPS, playing in 20 games. He had a few breathers when the new kids came to town, but has settled into regular shortstop duty in the latter part of the season after splitting time between second and third while Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson were here manning short. Having just turned 20 during the season and not putting up quite the numbers the more highly-touted Westburg and Henderson have, it appears the Orioles are quite content to leave Hernaiz here for a full season and give him a chance to move up to Aberdeen for 2022. For the campaign, though, the Puerto Rico native (who was drafted out of Americas High School in El Paso, Texas) has slashed .270/5/44/.673 OPS, and has been perhaps the most consistent performer we’ve seen as his monthly average numbers have held between .256 and .281 for the season. In addition, Darell has 16 steals on the season.

Darell’s always been a contender for the position player of the month honors, but had Colton Cowser started a week earlier and stayed on pace he may well have been the honoree. Cowser was the best of a large group of (mostly) newly-drafted players to make the leap from the Complex League in August and will surely be a player with a good chance of being my first-ever September position player of the month.

As for the Pitcher of the Month, it was an easy choice for me and probably about that easy for the Low-A East League, which is also honoring Jean Pinto.

Jean Pinto was a key addition to the Shorebird pennant push as he took the Low-A East by storm in August.

Pinto, whose modest career had heretofore been three brief starts in the Dominican Summer League for the DSL Angels’ team, was half of the player haul the Orioles received in their trade of Jose Iglesias last December 2. And while Iglesias has wore out his welcome with the Angels, who released him last week (since signing with the Red Sox) Pinto is coming into his own as a 20-year-old pitcher for the Shorebirds, who received him when he was promoted from the Complex League July 27.

While Jean, who hails from Valencia, Venezuela, did not get a decision in his five August starts, he did pitch a team-leading 26 2/3 innings, allowing but 13 hits and four earned runs for a 1.35 ERA, striking out 29 and walking only 6. (That’s a WHIP of just 0.72 – mighty stingy.) His two best starts in August were matching six-inning, two-hit dominations of Down East at home and at Lynchburg where he also struck out six in each start without walking a batter. That’s the kind of consistency that will get a 20-year-old talent promoted eventually. And for the season, including his FCL stints, he’s sporting a 1-2 record with a 1.95 ERA, allowing batters an anemic .149 average along with a 65/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio overall. While newly-acquired Gregori Vasquez also had a pretty good month, Pinto was by far the cream of the crop.

I’m penciling Jean into Aberdeen’s rotation next season since he’s pretty much proven himself at this level.

It looks like, at this point, I will be doing the September Shorebirds of the Month on the 23rd since they are (as of this writing, on their off day) 5 games back of a playoff spot with 12 to play. That may sound insurmountable but the two teams directly in front of them are in the midst of playing each other and the Shorebirds play the current second-place team in their last series. So a good run may be enough depending on what else happens.

But unless they make the playoffs, I will do the Shorebird of the Year on September 30 and picks and pans on October 7. All that will be left for the year then will be the Hall of Fame induction post for my (so far) four members of the Class of 2021 in December.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: July 2021

Okay, I lied. I managed to find a little time this week to get the post in so you don’t have to wait until the 12th. Truth be told, it was a pretty easy decision insofar as the position player went, but the pitcher was a razor-thin margin between two guys.

Let’s start with the position player, who ironically came up to replace a previous Shorebird of the Month.

TT Bowens in his game preparation before a recent game against Salem.

When J.D. Mundy got his well-deserved promotion to Aberdeen, he was replaced at first base by another undrafted free agent, part of the bumper crop of 2020 UDFAs. Even better, he also goes by his initials and brought a lot of the same game, slamming 12 home runs in his first two months. While TT Bowens doesn’t quite have the same batting average, he’s done his best to carry the team in July and those offensive numbers were enough to earn him the honor of Shorebird Position Player of the Month.

As noted above, TT came as a non-drafted signee last summer, so his June 1 debut also began his professional career in games that count. A Connecticut native and product of Central Connecticut State University, he probably wasn’t going to attract a ton of notice in an area that wasn’t a baseball hotbed (although he played on a NCAA-qualifying team in 2019.) But he had a June that put him in the conversation for that month’s position player honors and continued his solid play in July, winning the month’s Triple Crown. On the season (including a game in August) Bowens is hitting .235/12/37/.806 OPS, which puts him among the Shorebirds’ leaders for the season overall and particularly the players who have been here most of the season.

Slotted in behind Mundy in the Oriole organizational pecking order, it wouldn’t shock me to see TT finish the season here and see if he can eclipse the 20 homer mark. Normally consigned to organizational player status, the crop of UDFAs signed by the Orioles last year may have contributed more to the organization so far than the six guys they actually drafted.

Now let’s look at this month’s pitcher, who definitely earned the honor.

Noah Denoyer dominated the opposition in July, and on this August night would continue by tossing three shutout innings against Down East.

Like Bowens, our pitcher is an UDFA, but unlike him this guy was passed over during the entire 40-round draft in 2019. Coming out of San Joaquin Delta College in California, Golden State native Noah Denoyer signed with the Orioles on August 5, 2019 and was soon brought cross-country to throw a few innings for the Orioles’ former Gulf Coast League squad, 4 to be exact. (In that time he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, fanning five while walking just one.) And losing a season because of the pandemic meant that Denoyer probably lost a campaign that may well have been split between the GCL and Aberdeen, with maybe a shot at the Shorebirds late in the season.

In five July starts, Noah only went 1-1 but pitched 24 1/3 innings, allowing just 5 runs on 19 hits. He did not allow a walk in his last 21 innings but struck out 27 overall (vs. 3 walks.) That’s the sort of control which makes for a successful pitcher, and thus far his lowest game score in a start has been 47. (For comparison, a minimal “quality” start where the pitcher allows 3 runs in 6 innings, with six hits allowed, six strikeouts, and three walks would net a game score of 49 in the Bill James version that Baseball Reference uses.) A little more luck and Noah may have had a couple more wins.

For all of 2021, Noah has a 5-3 record, a 3.02 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts), and just 21 runs and 43 hits allowed in 57 innings. He has struck out 67, walking 25 – although he’s on the aforementioned stretch of starts where he’s allowed no walks, which will eventually give him a solid ratio of maybe 3 walks per nine if he keeps it going. Not bad for a small college guy passed over in the draft; perhaps the Oriole scouts have found another diamond in the rough who will be ready for advancement before the season’s out.

While the position player was a fairly easy choice, I agonized between Denoyer and Houston Roth for the pitcher honors. Both had sensational months (Roth picked up four of Delmarva’s ten wins for July) but Denoyer was just a tick better overall.

Because September begins on a Wednesday again, this time I will wait until September 9 to announce my August winners. Depending on whether the Shorebirds make the playoffs or not, the September winner will be announced September 23 or 30, with the Shorebird of the Year selected the week afterward and the return of my annual picks and pans the week after that.

Scary to think we only have seven weeks left in the season, and just 15 home games after tonight!

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2021

June turned out to be quite the surprising month in the Shorebird of the Month derby, as the odds-on favorite for the honor had a pleasant problem: he was promoted with several days left in the month, leaving him short in several of the total numbers for June.

Shown in a July game against Salem, Mason Janvrin reached base in every game in June and 36 in a row overall.

However, an equally deserving contender arose from the pack, winning in a unique way: via the walk. While Mason Janvrin only hit a pedestrian .231/4/14/.826 OPS for the month, his on-base percentage of .390 led almost everyone else except for the promoted Trevor Kehe. His blend of power, speed, and a good batting eye – the combination allowing him to reach base in every June game he played in – was enough to win Janvrin the honor and make it two wins in a row for previously unheralded players.

Mason came to the Orioles from the University of Central Missouri in 2019 as a 14th round selection, despite hitting .418 his junior season. Sent down to the former Gulf Coast League Orioles like most late-round, small-college selections, Mason impressed enough people with a .341/0/12/.741 OPS start in 26 games (with 14 steals) that he earned a midseason promotion to Aberdeen, back when it was still a rookie NYPL team. In 16 Aberdeen games Mason hit .254 but without much in the way of power, compiling a less robust .567 OPS.

It’s possible Janvrin would have made it to Delmarva had the 2020 season gone on, but more likely in my opinion would have been a return to the IronBirds. Regardless, the 23-year-old Janvrin was probably destined for Delmarva this season anyway, but perhaps wasn’t expected to have significant time in left field as well as center. And Mason needed the good month, as it basically brought him to the Mendoza line overall – going into last night’s game Janvrin was only slashing .201/6/21/.684 OPS for the season and those numbers aren’t the way to become the first Janvrin to play in the majors in a century.

As you may have guessed, Gunnar Henderson was the early frontrunner for the honor but being called up with ten days left in the month denied him the opportunity to build up his numbers. Once Gunnar left, the best competition for the monthly honors was first baseman TT Bowens, who replaced my May Position Player of the Month J.D. Mundy.

Jake Lyons warms up before pitching in a June game against Salem.

We didn’t know it at the time, but 8 Oriole selections after Janvrin they drafted June’s Pitcher of the Month. Jake Lyons does not have the classic pitcher’s physique – Baseball Reference lists him at 6′-5″ and 280 pounds – but in the times I have seen him he does two things rather well: work fast and throw strikes. In June that formula was successful enough over 20 2/3 innings to give Jake both of the pitching wins he owns this season along with a 1.31 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. Jake struck out 33 batters to lead the team while allowing opposing hitters a .153 average and .450 OPS.

As noted, Jake was a 22nd round selection by the Orioles in 2019, two years after being drafted in the 22nd round by the San Diego Padres out of Weatherford College in Texas. A transfer to Oklahoma State didn’t necessarily help Jake’s draft position, but it may have allowed him to skip the Gulf Coast League and begin his career with Aberdeen in 2019, going 2-5 as a starter and bulk pitcher in 14 appearances covering 37 2/3 innings. Jake compiled a 2.87 ERA and 39/10 strikeout/walk ratio while with the IronBirds, which gave him a 1.115 WHIP.

Like most of the rest of minor league baseball, Jake saw his career put in pause mode and this season he is making up for lost time after a terrible May. Jake now has his season’s ERA down to a respectable 3.62 in 32 1/3 innings, allowing 13 earned runs and 26 hits to go with a good 40/16 strikeout/walk ratio. Unlike the revolving door we seem to have with position players, the Delmarva mound corps has stayed pretty much intact so far this season, perhaps because most of them did not pitch at all in organized fashion in 2020. We may see some bumping from below if Complex League pitchers start out well or the Orioles wish to start a draft choice here later this month, but Jake may be one of many pitchers who stay here for the season.

Unlike the position players, I had a couple good choices for Pitcher of the Month. I could have just as easily gone with Junior Feliz as well since he also had an impressive month on the hill, as did reliever Shelton Perkins (and his microscopic 0.32 WHIP, but in just 7 1/3 innings.) Lyons won this one by an eyelash.

I’m going to reserve the right to wait until August 12 to do the July winners since my first week in August is always taken up by someone’s birthday.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2021

It’s been so long I had to remember how I titled these things.

After 20 months and the season that never was, I am finally back to one of my favorite regular posts. And let me tell you: the first one back was a real barnburner.

I had four legitimate candidates for the position player honors, many of whom are highly touted prospects and two of whom were promoted this past Tuesday to Aberdeen. (It really still seems funny to talk about promotions to Aberdeen after all these years of Frederick.) Any of the combination of Hudson Haskin, Gunnar Henderson, J.D. Mundy, or Jordan Westberg (the latter two being promoted) could have easily claimed the prize based on the month they had, with Henderson and Westberg garnering player of the week honors for the Low-A East. (Henderson was named the loop’s player of the month yesterday.)

For me, it really came down to a choice between Henderson and Mundy as the month wore down. My tiebreakers in these instances are how the player is performing vs. expectations (in this case, far exceeding) and how the player is doing fielding against the rest of the league and it turns out my winner has the best fielding percentage and range factor at his position in the league. So let me present my first position player honoree in 20 months, J.D. Mundy.

J.D. Mundy was a power-hitting first baseman who assured he wouldn’t be a repeat Shorebird of the Month by being promoted to Aberdeen at month’s end.

While it’s not as unique because the 2020 draft was abbreviated to five rounds, Mundy was an undrafted free agent signed last year by the Orioles out of Radford University – a school his uncle attended and close by his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. (Perhaps Mundy would have preferred the Orioles wait until their first trip to Salem so he could play near his hometown, but certainly he’s not passing on the promotion.) Mundy transferred back to Radford after spending his first two college seasons at nearby Virginia Tech.

The now-23 year old Mundy made a splash in his first 20 professional games, slashing .324/4/20/1.038 OPS and playing a flawless first base in 17 of them. While he spent a lot of time as the DH in college and summer collegiate ball, the Orioles have been happy with his progress at first base and will challenge J.D. at Aberdeen.

As for a pitcher, one issue I’m having is the sheer number of pitchers on Delmarva’s staff. The one who statistically had the best month threw just 4 2/3 innings in May, which really isn’t much to work with. (Had he pitched in the game on Sunday instead of Tuesday, he would have been more of a contender.)

May Pitcher of the Month Xavier Moore is pictured during a June appearance against the Salem Red Sox.

Instead, the balance shifted to a pitcher who Mike Elias acquired back in March, 2019 for $750,000 in international bonus money. In return from the Minnesota Twins we got Xavier Moore – and in terms of acquisition mileage, Moore was well-traveled by the end of that day, considering the Twins had acquired him hours earlier from the Texas Rangers in exchange for OF Zach Granite. The Rangers had selected Moore two years earlier in the 16th round of the draft from Steele High School in Amherst, Ohio.

With the Rangers, Moore had reached as far as their Spokane affiliate, which at the time equated to short-season Aberdeen in ours. However, for the Orioles Moore toiled for the GCL Orioles, going 2-1 with a subpar 5.59 ERA in 19 1/3 innings, striking out 16 while walking 11 and allowing a WHIP of an even 1.5.

Thus far, though, Moore has turned things around to some extent. He’s pitched 12 2/3 innings, allowing just 8 hits with a 3.55 ERA to go with a 1-2 record. Most impressive, though, is the 22 strikeouts he’s amassed out of 38 outs. (The 7 walks is a bit of a concern, though.) Batters are hitting just .178 off Moore so far.

At just 22, Xavier is probably like most of the other Delmarva pitchers and shaking off the rust of a lost season. (He probably should have been here sometime in 2020, although he may have spent the season in Aberdeen then came here.) And while he has just one start, Moore has been a bulk pitcher in other appearances, pitching 4 innings apiece against Fredericksburg and Carolina in relief. (He got his win in the former game and a hard-luck loss on two unearned runs in the latter.) We will see what the Orioles decide to do with him and other would-be starters as the season wears on.

As for photos, I will add these once I have both players. I’m sure I have Mundy but not so much with Moore so I have to check. He was only here one game when I was and it was a late-inning appearance. Hopefully I have these May winners pictures up in time to select June’s on July 8th. (Indeed, I got Moore during his appearance on June 20, so the post is now complete.)