The Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame Class of 2017

December 7, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comment 

This is the ninth consecutive year I have added players to the SotWHoF, but this year’s crop was one of the more diverse in its history.

Last year I pleaded the case that:

I think 2017 may be a somewhat barren year. Sure, you could have the feelgood stories of longtime prospects like Garabez Rosa, Michael Ohlman, or Tim Berry finally breaking through, but if you look at the guys from 2012 and 2013 who are still hanging on no one jumps out at you.

It turned out that I was pleasantly surprised with another class of six for the Hall this year, which includes the aforementioned Michael Ohlman. I got my first player from the 2015 Shorebirds right away with Stefan Crichton, went back-to-back days for the first time with Josh Hader and Jimmy Yacabonis, circled back to one of those guys from 2012 hanging on in Nicky Delmonico, and wrapped up with the guy I was most expecting to see – my first Shorebird of the Year to make it, Chance Sisco. Two players came from the 2012 Shorebirds (Ohlman and Delmonico), two from 2014 (Yacabonis and Sisco), and one apiece from 2013 (Hader) and 2015 (Crichton.)

Of this group of six, it’s telling that only half debuted with Baltimore. Michael Ohlman was shipped off to the St, Louis organization in a cash deal in 2015 and spent two seasons there before signing with the Blue Jays this year. Josh Hader was part of the Bud Norris trade with Houston in 2013, as he was plucked out of the Shorebirds’ starting rotation in that deal, and moved on to the Milwaukee organization in another trading-deadline trade in 2015. Nicky Delmonico was also part of the Brewers at one time, but the prospect we gave up for “K-Rod” Francisco Rodriguez in 2013 didn’t stay long due to some personal issues and the White Sox signed him off the street in 2015.

While the guys who debuted for the Orioles were mainly up-and-down (although Sisco showed promise in his limited duty) and Ohlman really didn’t stick long enough to make an impact, both Hader and Delmonico put up solid numbers and stayed in the bigs once they were brought up. Hader is being discussed as a potential starter for the Brewers and certainly Delmonico should be considered as a piece of a rebuilding White Sox franchise that recently got another Oriole refugee in catcher Wellington Castillo – a move that ironically will clear the way for Chance Sisco if the Orioles don’t pick up a veteran receiver in the offseason.

As for next year’s crop, I’m again bearish on the prospect of five or six in the class, but you just never know. A lot depends on how the Orioles do in the first half of the season with a number of key expiring contracts at season’s end: if they start out well and keep the team intact, some of the guys thought to have a chance to move up may stay in the minors until 2019. On the other hand, a cold start that puts them in the position of being sellers at the trading deadline may be the impetus to move some guys up who were heretofore blocked like Ryan Mountcastle or give young pitchers such as Hunter Harvey, Luis Gonzalez, Ryan Meisinger, or Jesus Liranzo a shot. Any of them, along with outfield prospects like Cedric Mullins, Ademar Rifaela, or non-SotW players Austin Hays and DJ Stewart, among many others, could also be the trade bait to pick up that last piece for a playoff run, too, meaning they may debut with a rebuilding team and not the Orioles.

But in the meantime it’s time to congratulate my six newest members of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, and with the posting of this article I will restore the SotWHoF page to public view.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2017 season wrapup

September 14, 2017 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Year – a 2017 season wrapup 

Well, we had two good seasons in a row, anyway.

After a six-year run of losing, the Shorebirds reverted to their winning ways of old in 2015 and 2016, but that streak came crashing down this season thanks to one of the more mediocre squads the Orioles have sent us in some time. With the Orioles passing prospects like Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin, and Austin Hays – who recently made his Orioles debut – from Aberdeen straight to Frederick, we were left with a team that followed up a 29-39 first half with a nearly identical 30-39 second half. The shame of it was that Delmarva was in first place in the second half as late as July 29 with a 20-13 record after completing a perfect 7-0 road trip to Georgia. (It was their first perfect two-stop road trip in at least 12 years.) But the next day a doubleheader loss to Greensboro set the Shorebirds on a 12-game losing streak that plunged them out of contention and began an August where they went 9-20 – from the high point Delmarva lost 26 of their last 36 games.

So the 59-78 mark was their worst since a 54-82 mark in 2013 and it ended a run of improvement each year since. Overall, it was a team that wasn’t particularly great in any main category of offense, pitching, or defense.

  • A .240 team batting average was next to last in the league, with Columbia’s .234 the only team holding them up.
  • Consequently the team was only 11th in runs and hits, scoring just 544 times on 1,108 hits.
  • The 229 doubles was good for fifth in the loop, and they were eighth with 31 triples.
  • They were ninth in the league in home runs with 77.
  • We finished tied for 10th with 492 runs batted in.
  • Back to 11th we went in total bases with 1,630.
  • We drew 341 walks, which – you guessed it – ranked 11th in the SAL.
  • One dubious category was strikeouts, where their 1,243 was the most in the league by 33 over Lexington (who played one more game.)
  • In steals, we were 11th (as one might expect) with 91 stolen bases in 125 attempts. (This time, league-leading Asheville was caught more than we stole – 100 vs. 91.)
  • Our .304 on-base percentage was next-to-last in the league (Lakewood was .301) and the .353 slugging percentage was eleventh. With those numbers our OPS of .657 was only better than Columbia’s .649 mark.

Our pitching was only slightly better when compared to the rest of the league, as we finished ninth in ERA with a 3.79 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 9 shutouts was also ninth in the loop.
  • We tied for 12th in saves with 29, with Augusta last with 23.
  • We tied for seventh in innings pitched with 1,204 1/3.
  • 1,210 hits allowed was 11th. Matching the rank in ERA it follows the 613 runs and 507 earned runs we gave up were also ninth.
  • Allowing 94 home runs was tenth.
  • While we only had 71 hit batters (good for fourth) we were also fourth with 354 walks allowed.
  • While our staff had a nice, round number of 1,000 strikeouts it was the fewest in the league.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) was ninth in the league at 1.30.

With 136 errors and a .973 aggregate fielding percentage our defense was right at league average.

Help may be on the way, though. Below us in the Orioles organization Aberdeen was 41-34 (contending until the final days for a wild-card spot) and the GCL Orioles closed 28-32 while the single Dominican Summer League team (down from 2 in recent years) the Orioles provided players for wrapped up a 32-37 season. Ahead of us, Frederick made the Carolina League playoffs despite a 68-71 record and Bowie did the same in the Eastern League with a 72-68 record. (Both lost in their respective opening rounds.) Norfolk also finished below .500 with a 66-76 record. So as a whole the talent pool may be worse than average, although individual players from the lower levels may combine for a better team.

With a switch from weekly to monthly honors, going over those selected won’t take as long – so let’s review.

April player – Jake Ring

Jake began the season like he had something to prove after a somewhat bitter cup of coffee with the Shorebirds in 2016. It began by being the South Atlantic League’s first Player of the Week for the season and the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Month. Later on Ring was selected to the North’s All-Star team and a postseason All-Star despite a September promotion to Frederick. As a whole for Delmarva Ring hit .272/14/65/.785 OPS in 118 games, leading the team with 65 runs, leading the entire league with 36 doubles, and setting the pace for the Shorebirds with 212 total bases and a .457 slugging percentage. In almost every offensive category, Jake was among the team leaders.

However, the league seemed to catch up with Ring in the second half as he went from a .313 average at the All-Star break to a split of .232/5/24/.653 OPS in the latter stages. His brief callup to Frederick saw Ring go just 1-for-8, although that one hit was a home run. Ring was also the hero of the Keys’ lone playoff win, driving in the winning runs to cap off a ninth-inning comeback.

Yet the problems that led to a dearth of outfield talent in the organization to a point where the Orioles were experimenting (with varying success) with Christian Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Trey Mancini suddenly seem to have disappeared as prospects like Cedric Mullins, D.J. Stewart, and Austin Hays are names being considered for the 2018 Orioles, with 2016 Shorebird Ademar Rifaela (the Carolina League MVP) close behind. With that glut on top of the organization, a player like Ring – who was a late-round draft pick and is a little older than his league competition at the low-A level – won’t be as highly regarded as he may have been a couple years ago. Notice that a solid player from that period like Mike Yastrzemski is barely regarded as a prospect despite his elite lineage.

I would look for Ring to continue in Frederick next season, but he will need to make more contact to avoid stalling out at that level. Getting his first 15 professional home runs in one season is nice, but 141 strikeouts is not. (SAL Player of the Week April 6-16, SAL All-Star, SAL Postseason All-Star)

April pitcher – Alex Wells

You knew Alex would be something good when his first four starts netted two wins and just two earned runs allowed, but the thing about Wells was that a bad month for him (like June, where he was 3-2 with a pedestrian 4.46 ERA) was a good month for many of the other Delmarva starters. Named as an SAL All-Star, Wells turned up the heat on opposing batters in the second half by quickly embarking on what would become the stuff of legend: a 68-inning walkless streak that carried through the end of the season. (This helped the Shorebirds lead all of baseball in walkless games from a pitching staff; meanwhile, the major league record for such a streak is 84 1/3 innings by Bill Fischer of the 1962 Kansas City Athletics.)

Even without the pinpoint control of allowing 10 walks in 140 innings, Wells put together a fine season that arguably should have nabbed him the league’s Outstanding Pitcher honors – in a case of highway robbery, the award instead went to Rome’s Joey Wentz. Wells finished 11-5 (2nd in wins), with a 2.38 ERA and 0.91 WHIP (both led the SAL) and 113 strikeouts. At home Wells was unbeatable, going 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 starts. Armed with a simple, easily repeatable delivery, Wells works at a pace that would make legendary “work fast, throw strikes” purveyor Mark Buehrle proud – the Shorebirds clocked one of Wells’ 10-pitch innings under two minutes, and a 10:35 7-inning game Wells started on April 26 wrapped up at the stroke of noon. (It took Wells just 68 pitches to dispatch Lakewood in a 2-1 win. The game probably would have been done before noon had reliever Jake Bray not needed 22 pitches to retire the side in the 7th.)

It’s almost certain the Orioles are slotting Wells to be the #1 pitcher on Frederick’s staff next season, and unlike this season the Orioles would not hesitate to move him up should the performance warrant. After all, he is the reigning Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the year as he was honored before the September 5 Oriole game with the Jim Palmer Award. While a 2018 debut may seem like a bit of a reach, a good season for Wells sets him up for a date at Camden Yards sometime in 2019 – basically the only questions are whether he will fare as well against more selective batters and work on a way to give up fewer home runs. (SAL All-Star, SAL Player of the Month for July, Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month for July, Jim Palmer Award winner for Oriole Minor League Pitcher of the Year)

May player – Preston Palmiero

Preston had spots of excellent play, including a month of May that turned out to be his best month as he turned around a very slow start (.197/2/9/.608 OPS in April) to establish himself at about the overall level where he would finish the season. So far in his career, however, he’s only put up average numbers as his .253/13/77/.718 OPS run this season tracked closely with his Aberdeen numbers from 2016 with the exception of finding a decent power stroke – like Jake Ring, all 13 of Palmiero’s professional home runs came this season. Those who thought his May was going to be the norm for the rest of the season had to be disappointed, though, as he left about 30 batting average points and a corresponding number of hits, home runs, and RBI on the table. While Preston led the team with his 77 RBI, better contact would have allowed him to make a run at 100.

Invariably, there are those who will compare Preston to his father and note that the elder Palmiero was already in the majors by the end of his second pro season. On the other hand, Preston is outpacing his older brother Patrick, who washed out after three seasons in the White Sox organization and has played in the independent Atlantic League the last three seasons. (Interesting fact: the older brother played 2 games at Delmarva in 2013, going 2-for-9 with Kannapolis as their third baseman.) But taken as a player who was a 7th round draft choice – one of the few high picks on the team – it seems like the Orioles should be expecting more. Over the last ten seasons we have seen our share of first basemen with some power but mediocre average – Mark Fleisher, Anthony Martinez, Joe Mahoney, Elvin Polanco and Mike Flacco are guys who come to mind, with only Mahoney briefly making it to the Show – but Palmiero was definitely handed the first base job. (You have to go back to Fleisher in 2006 to find a first baseman who played 100 or more games at the position in a season, and Palmiero’s 123 games this season rank second behind 1998 Shorebird Franky Figueroa’s 137 at the position.) It’s doubtful Palmiero will return for 2018, but his road to the big leagues may have to involve either a position change or numbers that do a better job of knocking the socks off the top brass.

May pitcher – Francisco Jimenez

Marking his third straight season with Delmarva, Jimenez was honored in the midst of a long scoreless streak (20 2/3 innings over six appearances between April 18 and May 21) that encompassed his first-ever appearance with Frederick – that cup of coffee was May 17 as he pitched 3 2/3 scoreless at Salem. Overall, Jimenez was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA with Delmarva in 28 appearances, striking out 63 while walking 28 and allowing 68 hits. That put his WHIP at 1.24, which was right around league average.

While Jimenez made a couple spot starts – including six no-hit, shutout innings in a game against Charleston on April 27 – he seems to be transitioning into a long relief role going forward. However, his numbers really haven’t changed much in the two-plus seasons he’s been here except for an uptick in strikeout rate, which may be a result of more bullpen work. It’s most likely he will be promoted because there’s really not much reason for him to repeat this level for a fourth time. (In his career, Jimenez spent 2012-14 in the Dominican Summer League but advanced all the way to Delmarva in a little over one season through the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen. So this is his second stall, as it were.)

As slowly as he is moving, Francisco needs an impressive season at Frederick to separate himself from the “organization player” category he seems to be settling into given his propensity to keep himself close to career average each season.

June player – Alejandro Juvier

Another repeat performer from 2016, Alejandro managed to avoid demotion this season by picking up steam at the right time and putting together a good campaign with a slash line of .241/4/34/.606 OPS. No, it’s not the stuff of a Jonathan Schoop, but Juvier seems to be working his career into a Ryan Flaherty mold: he played 75 games at second base, 27 at third base, and 9 at shortstop this season after playing his first 24 at second. Moving him around the infield seemed to do his bat good as well: hitting .218/0/3/.512 OPS after that first 24 games improved to a .248 average and .632 OPS the rest of the way.

When I did his profile, I was hoping he could run his average up into the .250 or .260 range, but Juvier slumped somewhat toward the end of the season with a .194 average after August 1. It’s something that may hold him back for next season, but can be overcome with a good spring.

The issue with the utility player role Juvier seems to be moving into is that the chain is littered with them – one example is longtime Bowie player Garabez Rosa, who has been with the team for five seasons. Remember, Flaherty was handed a job as a Rule 5 draftee of the Orioles but they haven’t seen the need to bring up such as player such as Rosa. But if not for his versatility Juvier probably doesn’t impress scouts as a prospect.

June pitcher – Steven Klimek

In the middle part of the season Klimek was almost untouchable, with June and July numbers that were outstanding: a 3-1 record and 0.99 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 3 walks. The rest of the season wasn’t bad either, with Klimek going 7-3 with a 2.67 ERA. He made 37 appearances on the year, covering 70 2/3 innings with an astounding 71 strikeouts and just 12 walks. Steven was one of just three Delmarva pitchers with significant time to average a strikeout an inning, but neither of the others had a WHIP comparable to Klimek’s 1.02 mark.

Steven was yet another second-time player, having pitched 10 1/3 innings with little success at the tail end of the 2016 season. But he made the improvements and adjustments needed to advance in the system as a late-inning guy – none of his appearances this season came before the 4th inning, and most were in the 8th or 9th. Steven wasn’t the primary closer but still managed to pick up 6 saves, a valuable experience for down the line.

With numbers resembling that of a power pitcher, Klimek may move into more of a one-inning setup role as his career goes on, sort of like a Brad Brach. But there may be a time where he becomes a closer someplace, especially if he can maintain his good control while keeping hits to a minimum. Aside from the rough debut with the Shorebirds, Klimek kept most of the same numbers he had with Aberdeen last season, and the progress he made should play well in 2018 as he moves on. The only way I could see him with Delmarva is as a closer, to gain more experience in high-leverage situations rather than the guy holding down the fort (which is why he had seven wins this season.) Steven has earned a promotion, though.

July player – Ryan McKenna

McKenna had a month sort of like Preston Palmiero did in May: the type where you expect this breakout will last the rest of the season given the fact the Orioles selected him early in the draft. But after the .319 average and .824 OPS in July, Ryan slipped back to just a slightly better than average rest of the season by hitting .264 in the last month-plus (although his OPS was a robust .849 for that period.) As a whole, McKenna put up a .256/7/42/.712 OPS slash line.

But without the bloodline of Palmiero, you have to wonder how long the Orioles will wait on a 4th round pick, even if he was plucked out of the high school ranks. In his favor, though, was the improvement he had year-over-year when compared to his half-season at Aberdeen in 2016 – 15 points higher in batting average, 30 more extra base hits in slightly over twice the plate appearances, and an 83-point jump in OPS (mainly due to the improvement in extra-base hits.) His only drawback was the 129 strikeouts he amassed, and while he had 20 stolen bases, it doesn’t compare well to having 17 in half the time last year.

So Ryan did make some progress, particularly when you recall he was hitting .235 at the All-Star break but hit .280 in the second half. If he can replicate that success with the Keys next season, heads will begin to turn in considering McKenna as part of the group of young outfield prospects that includes Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and D.J. Stewart.

July pitcher – Alex Wells

This was the month Wells did not allow a walk or a run in 31 innings, leading him to be named both Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Month and SAL Player of the Month. So he became the first two-time winner.

August/September player – Daniel Fajardo

Since he was the last player of the month for the season, he didn’t improve on his .236/1/24/.554 OPS split between three teams, but predominantly with Delmarva. (He played in 67 contests here, 4 for Frederick, and a spot game for Norfolk. That should be good for the paycheck.) He turned out to be a very good defender as well in terms of catching would-be base thieves, but his question going forward may be how much longer he stays in the organization since he’s eligible for Rule 5 and one season away from free agency. Among the peer group that has played with him, though, Fajardo has gotten the most playing time both with Aberdeen and here. (With Aberdeen in 2016, as this year, Fajardo was on the same squad as Stuart Levy, who bounced around last season between Aberdeen and Delmarva and did the same this year with Frederick and the Shorebirds, the now-retired Jerry McClanahan who was with Delmarva for the first half of this season, and Chris Shaw, who missed a lot of time in 2017 with an injury.) Out of that group, Levy and Fajardo were the best performers.

Next year, though, Fajardo will have to compete with Ben Breazeale, a catcher who tore up the NY-Penn League as well as Levy and other players up the chain. However, after picking four catchers in the first 11 rounds of the draft a few years back (which has netted current Oriole Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, who had a breakout year at Bowie) the Orioles’ catching pipeline has pretty much dried out with the exception of Breazeale, who is likely going to be a cusp player between Delmarva and Frederick next spring. So Daniel may be destined for Frederick. (Much of the Keys’ catching this year was done by Armando Araiza, a six-year free agent player the Orioles acquired from the Atlanta organization in May – pointing out the lack of depth in the organization. Yermin Mercedes also did some, but he had a disappointing season and finished it on the suspended list.) It’s more than likely he will move into the ranks of catching insurance for the organization, but Fajardo now will be playing to impress others as well with the pending free agency.

August/September pitcher – Kory Groves

Kory was my one comeback story for the season, since he missed all of 2016 with an injury. But the time lost will also put him behind the eight ball as far as being too old to be considered a prospect despite a nice 3-5, 2.58 season that featured a 1.21 WHIP and a solid ratio of 41 strikeouts to 14 walks. While Groves certainly wasn’t as dominant as he was before the injury – his abbreviated 2015 campaign featured a 1.11 ERA and 0.77 WHIP between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen – he was also facing better competition this year so the statistics hold up well.

While Kory was rather effective when stretched out to 40-50 pitches (he had four appearances of four innings or more this year, including the 17th to 20th innings in the 21-inning game against Lexington July 13 and 14) his bread and butter this season was being a setup guy or the one holding the opposition in hopes for a late rally. (This would explain why Groves had but one save.) That’s not to say the Orioles wouldn’t consider him as a starter with a little more stretching out, but I think his destiny is the bullpen, and it would more than likely be the one in Frederick.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco
  • 2015 – John Means
  • 2016 – Yermin Mercedes

With my new format of monthly honorees, I had some early favorites for the honor – all they had to do was stay for the requisite 2/3 of the season to be eligible. Thus, Jake Ring and Alex Wells burst out of the gate.

But as the season went on for the hitters, Ring was like a helium balloon that slowly lost altitude. He was leading the team in pretty much everything the first half of the season, but as time went on Ring began falling down the ranks: Preston Palmiero caught and passed him in RBI, Gerrion Grim went on a power surge to outpace Ring in home runs, and eventually Cole Billingsley passed Jake with a .282 batting average to lead the squad. So Ring won none of the traditional Triple Crown categories, and one could make an argument that Billingsley (who was in the hunt for a monthly honor a couple times) was more of an offensive star despite a fairly low .715 OPS.

On the other side, while several pitchers had good months and were at times in contention for monthly honors, there was only one month where Alex Wells wasn’t in the conversation for the honor, and that subpar June was followed by an all-world July where I had no choice but to name him a second time. And when you consider just how elite he was in terms of the entire league – not just the team – I pretty much had a no-brainer for Shorebird of the Year. Even the photo I’m using is one where he gets hardware.

Alex Wells had a hardware collection going this season with the Shorebirds.

I wish I had hardware to give, but for now the pixels to officially dub Alex Wells as the Shorebird of the Year for 2017 will have to suffice. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 needs just one more to tie for largest, and it’s only a callup away.

Meanwhile, I’m already jonesing for a ballgame at the stadium. By the way, I’ve finally added the other photos I promised so now each month can be reviewed and they are how I intended them to be.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2016 season wrapup

September 8, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

Last season the Shorebirds snapped a six-year string of losing seasons by going 71-67, and with a team that had both first round picks from 2015, the Orioles’ first pick in the 2014 draft (actually selected in round 3), and key players from the 2015 season coming back in Alex Murphy, Ademar Rifaela, and eventually Yermin Mercedes, it was figured the Shorebirds would have a team to contend with. Turns out they did, coming tantalizingly close to winning the first half (falling a half-game short of Hagerstown thanks to an ill-timed rainout) and staying in contention for a playoff spot with a late-season run. In that respect they finished a game out behind Hickory and Lakewood, but with Lakewood clinching the second-half title a week ago over Hagerstown the Shorebirds were shut out – they needed to have Hagerstown win both halves and finish with the second-best record overall.

Those two late stretches of winning made June and August more exciting than usual around here, and the 73-66 overall record was their best since 2008. Unfortunately, a stretch of futility in late July and early August led to a 31-39 second half after a torrid 42-27 first half mark.

This year’s wrap-up will look quite a bit like last season’s. Next year, though, things will be different because there won’t be Shorebirds of the Week (but I will still select a Shorebird of the Year.)

This year the Delmarva nine was solid offensively, with the team being one after Earl Weaver’s heart in seeking the three-run homer.

  • A .251 team batting average was 5th in the league.
  • Yet the team was only 12th in runs, scoring just 548 times.
  • They were right in the middle (7th place) with 1,153 hits.
  • The 236 doubles was good for fourth in the loop, and they tied for fifth with 36 triples.
  • For the first time ever, Delmarva led the league in home runs with 112 – a franchise high (previous was 97.)
  • We finished 11th with 497 runs batted in.
  • We finished second in total bases with 1,797 – aided in large part by the home runs.
  • We drew 427 walks, which ranked 7th in the SAL, and struck out 1,172 times, which was sixth-most.
  • Again, team speed was not an asset. We were dead last with just 84 stolen bases in 119 attempts. (Lakewood was next with 86 of 132 – we attempted the fewest steals by far. League-leading Hickory was caught almost as much as we attempted – 116 vs. 119.)
  • Our .320 on-base percentage was sixth in the league, but the .391 slugging percentage was third. This meant our OPS of .711 was 4th of 14.

Our pitching was even better when compared to the rest of the league, as we finished second in ERA with a 3.32 mark. Charleston was an easy first at 3.03.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 13 shutouts tied for third in the loop.
  • We also tied for third in saves with 43.
  • Once again we were near the bottom in innings pitched, finishing 12th with 1,204.
  • 1,088 hits allowed was fifth. Being second in ERA it follows the 534 runs and 444 earned runs we gave up were also second behind Charleston.
  • Allowing only 76 home runs was fifth fewest.
  • While we only had 55 hit batters (good for third) we were in the middle of the pack with 417 walks allowed.
  • We ranked ninth by collecting 1,095 strikeouts.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) was fifth in the league at 1.25.

With 121 errors and a .976 aggregate fielding percentage only West Virginia had a tighter defense than the Shorebirds.

Unfortunately, the Orioles organization was not good in winning percentage: Delmarva was their only team to finish with a winning record, while Aberdeen was 32-43 and GCL Orioles closed 27-32. The two Dominican Summer League teams the Orioles provide players for combined for a 38-53 record. So as a whole the talent pool may be worse than average, although individual players from these lower levels may combine for a better team.

The question before us now is how this year’s crop of Shorebirds of the Week fared, so let’s review.

April 7 – Francisco Jiminez

Jiminez bounced in and out of the starting rotation during the second half, but finished with four straight strong starts to close with a 9-9 record and 4.27 ERA. It wasn’t quite to the level that he closed last season with the Shorebirds, but the 1.26 WHIP and 96:45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 2/3 innings seems to me to be good enough to get a look from the Orioles insofar as advancement is concerned. He will only be 22 next season, so it may begin with a handful of starts here, too.

April 14 – Alex Murphy

For the second time in as many seasons, Alex was my second SotW. But 2016 was a far better campaign in terms of health for Murphy, who tied for the team lead by getting into 124 games. His slash of .252/16/63/.759 OPS was improved from his stint here in 2015, and Alex was here long enough to lead the team in both home runs and RBI. With nearly as many games at first base (42) as behind the plate (57) the question isn’t really that of whether he will move up, but what role the Orioles see for him. (SAL All-Star)

April 21 – Alejandro Juvier

Juvier never really got his footing at Delmarva, hitting just .198 in 30 games before being demoted to Aberdeen and slashing just .228/3/28/.586 OPS in 58 games there. He’s only 21 going into next season, though, and he had a fairly good pedigree coming into this season, so we may see him back for 2017.

April 28 – Yermin Mercedes

Returning to Delmarva for a second stint, Yermin hung around just long enough to qualify for the SAL batting crown he won by a whopping 40 points with a .353 mark, also hitting 14 home runs and collecting 60 RBI in just 91 games. The .990 OPS was also a league best (by 104 points) among qualifiers. Promoted to Frederick in August, Mercedes hit just .318/6/17/.923 OPS there. The Orioles definitely have Mercedes on their radar, but feel he needs to improve his defensive skills in order to advance through the system. He turns 24 just before spring training gets underway, so he still has time to develop and have a long career. (SAL All-Star, SAL Post-Season All-Star, SAL July Player of the Month, SAL Player of the Week – April 18-24 and June 13-19)

May 5 – Christian Turnipseed

In most of his appearances, Turnipseed was the Shorebirds’ closer, gathering a team-leading 17 saves in 40 appearances (in saves he tied for third in the SAL, and his 35 games finished tied for second, one off the leader.) However, while he won the season finale Christian struggled down the stretch, pitching to a 5.25 ERA after August 1 with a 12-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the last 12 innings he pitched. Overall he finished 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out 57 and walking 25 in 52 innings. He’ll be 25 next season so it’s likely Christian sinks or swims at Frederick.

May 12 – Ryan Mountcastle

One of the two 2015 1st round picks to open with the team, they allowed Ryan to spend his season here developing. He got off to a terrible start in April (just .162 for the month) but caught fire as the weather warmed and turned in a solid full-year campaign: .281/10/51/.745 OPS in 115 games. Mountcastle will have to work on cutting down his 95 strikeouts and improving a modest .319 on-base percentage, but he has plenty of time to improve since he won’t turn 20 until just before spring training next season. As my Prospect of the Year, I think he follows fellow first-rounder DJ Stewart to Frederick for 2017. (SAL Player of the Week – June 6-12)

May 19 – Garrett Cleavinger

One of several pitchers who were promoted during the season, Garrett was here for the first half and delivered some eye-popping numbers: a 5-0 record and 1.38 ERA in 39 innings here, with 53 strikeouts vs. just 11 walks, producing an exceptional WHIP of 0.92 On the other hand, Cleavinger was more pedestrian with Frederick in the second half, going just 2-3 with a 4.82 ERA and 49-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.55 WHIP with the Keys. Garrett will turn 23 early next season, so the Orioles may decide to keep him challenged at the advanced-A level to start the year – he really has nothing to prove here. (SAL All-Star, Organization Pitcher of the Month – April)

May 26 – Cedric Mullins

Considering he came from a more unheralded background and was a lower draft choice, you could make an argument for Cedric being the Prospect of the Year – or for that matter, Shorebird of the Year. He had the type of season scouts like to see as he improved the entire way, finishing among the team leaders in almost every offensive category and near the top of the league in some as well. Mullins hit .273 overall with 14 home runs and 55 RBI (from the leadoff spot), scored 79 runs, and stole 30 bases in 36 tries. Mullins and Murphy tied for the lead with 124 games played. Considering he began with a .214 mark in April, Mullins came a long way and he’s going to be just 22 next month. Improvement like this next year might get him to Bowie by season’s end. (SAL Player of the Week,  August 29 – September 5)

June 2 – Reid Love

In his first full season, Reid put together a solid but not spectacular effort – maybe the best word is workmanlike. On the topline he finished 9-10 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 139 1/3 innings, striking out 106 while walking just 33. It’s the kind of year that should get him to Frederick, but since he turns 25 next season it may not put him at the top of the prospect list. The question for Love is whether his stuff will advance to the next level as he allowed 134 hits during the season. One sign in his favor, though, is that he allowed fewer hits than innings pitched this year as opposed to his 2015 stint in Aberdeen where he did the opposite. Pitchers can be effective giving up contact and Love may be one of those.

June 9 – Gerrion Grim

Gerrion was the Shorebirds’ fourth outfielder – appearing in just 68 games – but he was selected as a team player who came on to save an important win on the mound. At the halfway point it looked like Grim was pointed in the right direction with a .258 batting mark but in the second half he hit just .149 to finish under the Mendoza line for the season. (Strange split: Grim hit just .136 at the unfriendly confines of Perdue Stadum and a respectable .248 everywhere else.) A .193/5/25/.574 OPS slash line isn’t going to get it done, though. In his age-23 season coming into spring training – and much as he is the type of player one can root for – the unfortunate reality is he may be looking for a job elsewhere before then.

June 16 – Ryan Meisinger

Like Garrett Cleavinger, Ryan had tremendous numbers with Delmarva (only a 3-2 record but an 0.78 ERA, 48 strikeouts and just 9 walks in 34 1/3 innings, and 24 hits allowed for an 0.95 WHIP) but he did reasonably well in Frederick after his June promotion. There he matched the 3-2 Delmarva record but had a 2.25 ERA in 40 innings with a 46-to-12 ratio of strikeouts to walks with a 1.15 WHIP there. So the Maryland native may have an outside shot of reaching Bowie’s bullpen to start 2017 – good stuff for his age-23 season. (SAL All-Star)

June 23 – Jesus Liranzo

Speaking of Bowie’s bullpen, that’s exactly where Liranzo finished the season, skipping Frederick after posting 46 strikeouts and allowing a whopping 12 hits in 34 1/3 innings here with the Shorebirds. (That was a .109 average against, not to mention a 0.79 WHIP.) So jumping two levels only dented Liranzo’s numbers to the tune of allowing just 8 hits (but walking 12) in 18 2/3 innings there. For the season Liranzo allowed a ridiculous .116 average against him in 53 innings – not bad for a player signed (and released) twice by the Atlanta Braves for their Dominican League team. It’s not out of the question to contemplate the 21 year old, who will be 22 about the time minor league spring training begins, getting a cup of coffee with the big club at the end of next season.

June 30 – Drew Turbin

Drew never really got untracked this season – he was hitting .212 at the end of April and finished the campaign with a .211/6/31/.626 OPS slash line. It was certainly a regression from his season with Aberdeen last year, and as he goes into his age-24 season he may get another shot here. A strike against him, though, is that he wasn’t particularly versatile, playing all but one of his games at second base. Fortunately for him, Aberdeen wasn’t well-stocked at second this season (in fact, most of the games were played by the aforementioned Alejandro Juvier) so he may be in the mix despite his tough 2016 season.

July 7 – Christian Alvarado

Christian finished second in the SAL with 148 strikeouts in exactly 148 innings pitched, compiling a 10-9 record and 3.41 ERA to go with them. His 1.16 WHIP also placed him in the top 10 of league qualifiers, so the argument can be made whether he or Brian Gonzalez will be considered the ace of the Frederick staff next season. While Alvarado’s 143 hits allowed was relatively high, the fact he only gave up 29 walks is a plus. Alvarado turns 22 later this month so he has time to develop. (Organization Pitcher of the Month – June, SAL Pitcher of the Week – June 27-July 3)

July 14 – Ofelky Peralta

More of a raw talent (and a year or two younger than Gonzalez or Alvarado at age 19), Peralta’s numbers weren’t as stellar – 8-5 with a 4.01 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 103 1/3 innings – but he was considered a prospect nonetheless. Yes, he gave up 60 walks this year and that was the most on the team, but over his three-season pro career he’s steadily decreased his walk rate and considering he jumped from the GCL to full-season this year it wouldn’t hurt him to repeat this level, at least for the first half. Peralta threw a five-inning no-hitter the start after a six-inning one-hitter, but sandwiching those starts were three where he was shelled for 15 runs in 13 2/3 innings. The key word for him in 2017 will be consistency. (Organization Pitcher of the Month – July, SAL Pitcher of the Week – July 4-10. )

July 21 – Natanael Delgado

Delgado was considered a fringe prospect for the Los Angeles Angels when the Orioles acquired him in a late spring training trade, so they are probably disappointed with his injury-marred 2016 season. In 88 games Delgado hit just .250/8/36/.680 OPS, and considering he was essentially repeating at this level after hitting .241/6/46/.631 OPS in the Midwest League last year one has to wonder what his future holds. However, Delgado is young for this level (turns 21 next month) so he may get a third try at full-season A ball in the hope he can stay healthy and bring the average closer to the .280 or so he had in rookie ball between two teams.

July 28 – Jay Flaa

He didn’t dominate this level as he did with Aberdeen last season, but Jay put up a decent year with a 3.50 ERA in 46 1/3 relief innings. One cause for concern, though, would be allowing 21 walks in that stretch after giving up only 5 in 20 2/3 innings last season. With a 1.34 WHIP Flaa could be one of those guys who’s on the brink between advancing and staying put out of spring training next season. Jay is old for this level (25 next June) but the Orioles spent a 6th round pick last year on a college pitcher about to turn 23 so we may be able to throw age out the window in this case.

August 4 – Randolph Gassaway

With all but 5 of his 55 games this season played with Delmarva, the thought has to be: where did this guy come from? Granted, he hit .273 with Aberdeen last season but to hit .340/7/21/.919 OPS for the year either Gassaway is legit or a flash in the pan as we have seen many times over the years from players who washed out a season or two later. It’s hard to imagine him jumping a level with just 50 games under his belt, so I would expect Randolph to be counted on to lead the Shorebirds next season – at least for the first half when he turns 22. (Organization Player of the Month – August)

August 11 – Brian Gonzalez

The Brian Gonzalez we got this year was the one the Orioles hoped for last year. But he was a raw rookie only a year removed from high school, so his second time here proved to be much better with a 10-8 record and 2.50 ERA that was third best in the league overall. Since his WHIP was a more or less average 1.31, the reason his ERA stayed low had to be the recognition of how to avoid a lot of damage when an inning begins with a baserunner. Worrisome among his numbers was 58 walks allowed, although it was in 147 2/3 innings so the rate is only a shade above average. If he has the ability to continue working around them he should move up the system quickly. (SAL Post-Season All-Star, Organization Pitcher of the Month – August)

August 18 – Ricardo Andujar

Ricardo was the steady utility player every team needs, quietly hitting .251/3/24/.620 OPS while splitting time between second base, third base, and shortstop seemingly on a daily basis. Aside from an 11-game stretch when he spelled an injured Ryan Mountcastle at shortstop, he didn’t play more than five games in a row at any one position. For a bench player to get into 101 games while not playing more than 43 at any position proves your worth, and it may lead to advancement and opportunity for Ricardo down the line. He turned 24 this season, so I think the Orioles will give him a chance at the next level – even if he only hits .250 the versatility makes Andujar useful. He just needs to pick up the outfield somewhere down the line.

August 25 – Jake Bray

Between Delmarva and Aberdeen Bray threw just 30 innings this season; however, that is only one off his career high of 31 last year. Bray did well as a whole (1-1 with an even 3.00 ERA and 1.1 WHIP, 29 strikeouts and 6 walks, mostly with the Shorebirds) but needs to get a full year in to prove himself. 2017 could be that year – while Jake at 24 would be old for A ball, a successful first half could put him in the more age-appropriate advanced-A level with Frederick. 60 innings in a season would be a major accomplishment and a body of work Bray can be judged by – especially if he can hold to single-digits in walks allowed.

September 1 – Mike Burke

Mike finished the season with Delmarva, but he split the 2016 schedule among three teams – debuting in June with Frederick, sent down to Aberdeen when their season began, and returning to Delmarva to play the second half here. Overall Burke was 1-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 52 innings, posting an outstanding 1.06 WHIP based on a 60-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. (My question is why he didn’t stay at Frederick considering he pitched eight superb innings there in three appearances, allowing one run on two hits while striking out 10. That is a microscopic 0.25 WHIP. Sure, he’s a 30th round draft pick, but come on.) If there is justice in the world, Mike gets the shot to pitch a full season for the Keys and see whether he can keep that string going.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco
  • 2015 – John Means

This is a year where I have three or four guys who could have easily been Shorebird of the Year in some of those leaner years around the turn of the decade. You could easily plug in Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Brian Gonzalez, or Christian Alvarado for those lost seasons.

But sometimes you get a situation where one player just stands above the rest, a no-doubter. I think the moment that sealed this year’s selection was watching some hapless team put on a shift against this batter and watching him calmly rip a double and a triple the other way in consecutive at-bats. You didn’t see that shift anymore.

I wouldn’t imagine there are many teams in baseball history who have two league batting champions that were both catchers, but Delmarva is one. And they both share something else in common: the Shorebird of the Year award.

He barely made the requisite 2/3 of the season on the Shorebirds roster, but then Yermin Mercedes barely made the number of at-bats required for qualification for the SAL batting crown as well. Yet it should be noted that after his promotion to Frederick on August 1, the Shorebirds went into a 5-18 funk that all but eliminated them from playoff contention. It seemed like they couldn’t function offensively without Mercedes and his potent bat, which solidified his claim on the SotY honor.

So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2016. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. The Class of 2016 is another large one on the heels of a five-pitcher class in 2015.

But while I’m dialing back on my Shorebirds coverage in 2017, you can rest assured they won’t be completely out of sight and out of mind. As I think I’ve said on a couple occasions, the biggest problem I had in doing Shorebird of the Week was the fact I only get to about 15 games a year now so I don’t have the photo stock I believe I need to make it a great feature. Give me the photos and maybe I bring it back, perhaps even as a semi-weekly or monthly thing – writing the copy is the easy part.

Thus, you have the offer on the table. I like covering the Shorebirds but it has to be more than me doing it.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2015 season wrapup

September 10, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Year – a 2015 season wrapup 

After six straight seasons of losing and the perception that most of the Orioles’ prospects were going to be playing at higher levels in the system, surely the experts had Delmarva penciled in for a regression from last year’s 66-73 record. And if the crystal ball had foretold that over a dozen players would be parked on the team’s disabled list for the latter half of the season one might expect a dreadful record such as those we had earlier this decade.

You may have never heard of most of this year’s Shorebirds before and in a couple years they may return to obscurity. But in the season’s second half they were the little team that could, turning around a 33-35 first half to go 38-32. Too bad this was the year West Virginia had the team to win 50 games of 70; still, by finishing 71-67 overall Delmarva snapped its six-year slide and perhaps made a few prospects out of guys thought to be suspects when 2015 began.

By the way, if you liked last year’s format you’re in luck because I’m recycling it.

With a batting champion and barrage of .300 hitters pacing last year’s lineup, a repeat of their franchise-best batting wasn’t in the cards. This year the team was around league average in a number of categories, finishing close to the middle of the 14-team SAL.

  • A .249 team batting average was only 11th in the league.
  • Yet they outscored last year’s squad, as 621 runs was enough for 7th in the league. That was actually fairly efficient since they ranked 12th in hits with 1,122.
  • The 257 doubles tied for fourth, which was also their rank with 44 triples.
  • 67 home runs was good for ninth position.
  • We finished fifth with 571 runs batted in.
  • We finished ninth in total bases with 1,668.
  • We drew 458 walks, which ranked 3rd in the SAL. (We were leading the league for a good part of the season, too.) On the other hand, 1,084 strikeouts was third-most.
  • Team speed was not an asset. We were dead last with just 69 stolen bases in 100 attempts. By comparison, Hickory was next-to-last with 95 steals.
  • Our .325 on-base percentage was seventh in the league, with a slugging percentage of .370 ranking eighth. This meant our OPS of .695 was 8th of 14.

The average numbers continued with the pitching staff. We ended up eighth in the league for ERA with a 3.75 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 12 shutouts tied for third in the loop.
  • We had the fifth-highest number of saves with 41.
  • It seemed like we had a lot of doubleheaders and not many extra-inning games. Combine that with being two games short of a full schedule and you figure out why we threw the fewest innings (1,177 2/3.)
  • 1,175 hits allowed was ninth. Yet the 608 runs and 491 earned runs we gave up were good for seventh.
  • Maybe it’s because Perdue Stadium is a tough home run park, but we gave up the fourth fewest with 61.
  • Control was good: we were one off the league lead with just 56 hit batters and the 364 walks we allowed were fourth-lowest.
  • Only Rome held us off the bottom in strikeouts as we collectively fanned 891 – a far cry from last season’s 1,105.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) was sixth in the league at 1.31.

Our fielding was somewhat subpar, as we finished in a tie for 10th with a .968 aggregate fielding percentage.

Around the organization, only Frederick and one of the two Oriole Dominican Summer League teams finished below the .500 mark. Bowie and Norfolk made their respective league playoffs; more importantly Aberdeen was in their league race until the final day of the season and finished 40-36. Here’s hoping their winning ways continue here next season.

The question before us now is how this year’s crop of Shorebirds of the Week fared, so let’s review.

April 9 – Nik Nowottnick

I picked Nik only to see him promptly elevated to Frederick. And while he made two April appearances with the Shorebirds, being unscored upon in 2 1/3 innings, he spent most of the year with Frederick where he went 4-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 37 appearances. One concern is a 1.67 WHIP as he walked 35 and allowed 69 hits in 62 1/3 innings. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him repeat Frederick.

April 16 – Alex Murphy

For the first month or so Alex tore up the league, collecting 28 RBI in 32 games. But an injury cost Murphy three months of the season, so his pre-injury slash of .258/2/28/.737 OPS  held up. After a brief GCL rehab stint where he went 0-for-8 in two games, Alex finished the year in Aberdeen where he hit .291/2/8/898 OPS in 15 games. He’ll be 21 next season so don’t be surprised if we see him again in the hopes of an injury-free season.

April 23 – Zeke McGranahan

Zekey had a good start to the campaign, but ended up on the disabled list by Memorial Day and lost the rest of the year. He finished 0-3 but with a 2.53 ERA. The 1.59 WHIP raised some eyebrows, though, as he walked 20 in 21 1/3 innings. The injury also came at a bad time because Zeke was on the older side of league average and turns 25 in January. If he’s back in time next season he may be pressed to succeed quickly.

April 30 – Jomar Reyes

One of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League this year will likely be one of the youngest in the Carolina League next season, if he can stay on the field. Various injuries limited Jomar to 84 games with the Shorebirds and forced him out of the SAL All-Star Game, but he hit .278/5/44/.774 OPS here. Add in the 5 rehab games he played in a brief return to the Gulf Coast League (4-for-16 there) and it was a great season for an 18-year-old. Reyes is my Prospect of the Year.

May 7 – Jared Breen

In his second tour of duty with the Shorebirds, Breen was showing improvement at the plate until a serious collision with the stadium wall ended his season after just 62 games. He had a .242/1/22/.677 OPS slash line at the time, which put him on pace for his best offensive season thus far. He may be on the cusp of a promotion to Frederick, although in his case he may need extended spring to recover from his collision.

May 14 – Bennett Parry

Parry was an effective starter until his season came to a premature end in May. In 9 starts, Parry was 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. His strikeout/walk ratio was 35 to 11, which is also good. Assuming he can recover in time, there’s no reason he shouldn’t move up.

May 21 – Conor Bierfeldt

In his second season with Delmarva, Conor did well enough (.247/7/56/.780 OPS) to merit being both a league All-Star and second-half promotion to Frederick. With the Keys, though, Conor regressed to just a .202/5/29/.654 OPS. It fit with the pattern Bierfeldt established the year before where he hit only .196 with Delmarva, so the question is whether the Orioles will give him another shot with Frederick.

May 28 – Matthew Grimes

Grimes led the team in starts (24) and innings pitched (126) but also gave up 148 hits and 58 earned runs. A 10-7 record and 4.14 ERA went with a 1.45 WHIP. Matthew had a campaign which merits promotion to the next level and will probably get it.

June 4Jay Gonzalez

The one person who could bring speed to the Shorebird lineup, Jay amassed 24 stolen bases in 72 games with Delmarva before being promoted to Frederick where he added 10 more. Naturally he had a transition at the plate, where a .294/0/21/.792 OPS slash with Delmarva slipped to .234/0/21/.591 OPS with the Keys. More telling, a 72/61 strikeout/walk ratio with the Shorebirds fell to 61/26 there. It’s probable he gets another shot there, though.

June 11 – Steve Wilkerson

Due to injuries, Steve only played in 92 games with the Shorebirds. But the league All-Star put together a solid season, hitting .287/2/30/.747 OPS. When you consider that Wilkerson raised his average 97 points from 2014 to 2015, you have to think he may have placed himself on the prospect list.

June 18 – Stefan Crichton

Stefan pitched well enough (4-4, 3.27 ERA and 1.15 WHIP) to merit a late-season promotion to Frederick. With the Keys, Crichton pitched is 7 games to a 4.05 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. More impressive was the 50 to 12 strikeout to walk ratio he had with Delmarva that became 18 to 1 in Frederick, in 13 1/3 innings. That’s a good resume for Frederick in 2016.

June 25 – Garrett Cortright

It was a shutdown season here for the SAL All-Star, who pitched to an 0.96 ERA and WHIP with the Shorebirds. But he found a little more difficulty with Frederick, allowing eight earned runs in 14 2/3 innings with the Keys. His strikeout to walk ratio went from 34 to 7 to 8 to 4 with the promotion. Still, Cortright should be a part of the Keys pitching staff next year.

July 2 – Logan Uxa

When I picked Logan, he had just returned from Frederick where he hit .265 in 13 games. With a late-season slump, Uxa finished with a .243/7/37/.736 OPS slash for the Shorebirds. He’ll be 25 by next spring and came as a minor league free agent, so the chances are he either makes Frederick or gets released.

July 9 – Elier Leyva

Leyva made his American professional debut with Delmarva, hitting .238/3/43/.636 OPS at the age of 24. It was a lengthy trial run, as Leyva played 118 games to lead the team. Whether these numbers merit promotion will be up to the Orioles, who gave him a bonus equivalent to that of a 9th or 10th round pick. Likely he gets another season.

July 16 – TJ Olesczuk

Demoted from Frederick after just 7 games where he hit .158 (3-for-19), Oleschuk hit .251/4/46/.741 OPS with the Shorebirds in 73 games. It seemed appropriate that he played with Delmarva, considering Frederick was a large leap from the Gulf Coast League where he played in 2014.

July 23 – Yermin Mercedes

Coming up at the tail end of the first half, Mercedes developed a reputation as a hard swinger and ended up leading the team with 8 home runs in only 64 games. Add in 42 RBI and a .272 average, and there’s a good case for advancing him ahead of the two catching prospects originally assigned to Delmarva, Jonah Heim and Alex Murphy.

July 30 – Nick Cunningham

The 4-3, 3.23 ERA numbers Nick put up before being selected as Shorebird of the Week ended up being his final numbers as he was placed on the suspended list. After the disaster of his 2014 season, Nick redeemed himself with a good season where he controlled his walks and gave up fewer hits than innings pitched. But will his suspension damage his career? That’s the question as Nick won’t be eligible to start the 2016 season.

August 6 – Josh Walker

Making 16 starts for Delmarva, Josh went 8-4 with a 3.20 ERA and a 59/15 K/BB ratio for a 1.16 WHIP. Those stats allowed Walker a late-season promotion to Frederick, where he struggled in 14 innings with an 0-2 record and 7.07 ERA. He still had good control, but allowed 20 hits in those 3 appearances. He’s likely ticketed for a spot on Frederick’s staff, though.

August 13 – Cam Kneeland

With the players placed on the Shorebirds, who would have thought a refugee from independent baseball would lead the team in RBI? But Cam’s total of 63 topped the team, to go with 6 home runs and a .267 average for a guy who played 49 games at third, 27 at second, 25 at first, 12 at short, and a couple in left. Hopefully the Orioles will see what he can do at the next level.

August 20 – Max Schuh

Another mid-season addition to the staff, Schuh was outstanding in 24 relief appearances despite the fact his peripheral numbers (39 hits allowed and a 1.34 WHIP in 40 1/3 innings) weren’t spectacular. He lost his only decision but picked up 3 saves overall, finishing in 15 of 24 appearances with a paltry 1.79 ERA.

August 27 – Ademar Rifaela

Although he started the 2015 season with a brief 7-game stint at Aberdeen (where he went 6-for-30), Rifaela found a home in left field for Delmarva. With a slash of .262/5/20/.740 OPS in 59 games here, the question surrounding him is whether that was a long enough audition for the next level or if another half-season is required. My thinking leans toward the latter, which means we would see him again in April.

September 3 – Dariel Delgado

As the last pick, Delgado finished pretty much true to his stats when selected, going 8-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 93 1/3 innings. This was after a brutal nine-inning stretch in Frederick where he allowed 12 runs; however, the nine runs given up in one single-inning appearance skewed the numbers significantly. Since this was his second round with Delmarva, I would think Dariel moves up next season.

*********

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst
  • 2014 – Chance Sisco

One thing they all have in common is that they were selected as a Shorebird of the Week.

But in compiling this list, I realized to my horror that my memory failed me. There is a significant omission of a deserving player who played here all season and put up good numbers on a team which frankly didn’t have any outstanding talents that had enough time here to qualify. Perhaps the closest were Jomar Reyes and Steve Wilkerson, but neither made it into 100 games.

So I looked at the mound and realized that some of those players had good but not great seasons. You’ll notice that just two pitchers have been Shorebird of the Year, and they had to either be flat-out dominant for a whole season (Sean Gleason) or lead the league in saves (David Walters.)

It would not be such a big deal to skip this player, except John Means did something unique: the first Shorebird no-hitter in 17 years. So I’m going to be unique and for the first time name a non-Shorebird of the Week, John Means, as my Shorebird of the Year. Just because I thought in August that I already picked him shouldn’t keep John from his due.

So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2015. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will certainly update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. The Class of 2015 is my largest in several years, and as of this writing is an all-pitcher class.

Then sometime around the start of spring training I’m going to try and predict the 2015 roster. As it turned out, 15 of my 25 picks were in Delmarva at some point in the season so I didn’t do half-bad I guess. Next year, if the creek don’t rise, will be the tenth season of Shorebird of the Week. But you can rest assured I won’t put the Shorebirds on the shelf for seven months.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2014 season wrapup

September 4, 2014 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · Comments Off on Shorebird of the Year – a 2014 season wrapup 

One has to shake their head and ponder what might have been.

In the season’s first half the Shorebirds had their best half since 2008, finishing with a 38-31 record and contending until the final days of the half before Greensboro and Hagerstown proved to be too strong of adversaries. Those two teams will tangle for the right to be this year’s Northern Division champion by virtue of winning one of the two season halves, but Delmarva went in the opposite direction after the break, staggering home with a 28-42 second half record. Still, the 66-73 overall mark broke a string of four straight seasons where we couldn’t even manage to win 60 games and was the team’s best finish since their 66-70 record in 2009.

Unlike the last few years as well, the team actually had some semblance of offense. Instead of being mired among the bottom-feeders, the 2014 Shorebirds had some decent overall numbers, to wit:

  • A .267 team batting average was 4th in the league. This is the highest the Shorebirds have ever ranked in team batting and set the record for best overall average in franchise history.
  • Yet 592 runs was just good for 8th in the league. One scratches their head about this when it’s noted their 1,267 hits was also fourth in the loop (and another franchise record.)
  • The 230 doubles ranked ninth overall, while 39 triples were good for fourth once again.
  • Perhaps the reason for the slow run production was the fact their 53 home runs were dead last, with West Virginia next up with 62.
  • We finished seventh with 538 runs batted in.
  • We also finished eighth in total bases with 1,734.
  • We only drew 369 walks, which ranked 12th in the SAL. On the other hand, 1,129 strikeouts was third-most.
  • We finished 10th in stolen bases with 118 and were caught 51 times, which tied for ninth.
  • Our .327 on-base percentage was ninth in the league, with a slugging percentage of .365 ranking tenth. This meant our OPS of .691 (thanks to rounding) was 10th.

As opposed to 2013 where just one player even batted .300 in limited action, a full half-dozen regular players reached that mark. (As it turned out, all six were Shorebirds of the Week so details to follow.) Indeed, as a whole the offense belied my preseason prediction:

It doesn’t appear the Shorebirds will be an offensive juggernaut, but their pitching should be very good. We may see a lot of 3-2, 2-1 style games at the ballyard.

So about that pitching. If there was a culprit in their second-half decline, it was from the mound. For most of the first half the team ERA was in the top three or four, but the pitching numbers went south by season’s end thanks to injuries and callups. We ended up eighth in the league for ERA with a 3.80 mark.

Some other pitching numbers:

  • Our 10 shutouts were good for fifth in the loop.
  • We had the fifth-highest number of saves with 37.
  • With 1,210 1/3 innings pitched, we were sixth in the SAL.
  • 1,173 hits allowed was fourth-lowest. Yet the 606 runs we gave up was only good for seventh and the 511 earned runs tied for sixth. (We had the fifth-fewest errors with 146, leading to 95 unearned runs, which was sixth fewest.)
  • Maybe it’s because Perdue Stadium is a tough home run park, but we gave up the fourth fewest with 70.
  • Nor were we afraid to pitch inside, hitting the second-most batters with 83 (West Virginia had 95.) It had to be that, because the 394 walks we allowed were fourth-lowest.
  • 1,105 times opposing batters walked away muttering to themselves because they struck out, making us fifth in the league. One of my Shorebirds of the Week was the league leader in that category.
  • Finally, our WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) was third in the league at 1.29.

So the pitching wasn’t exactly the strength and the hitting wasn’t as bad as I thought it may be. As a sum of its parts, the season had its moments but a team that saw several of its record seven league All-Stars leave as the second half began and progressed found its depth left something to be desired.

Unfortunately, the help we received this year from an Aberdeen team which made the playoffs in 2013 won’t be as likely next year. The IronBirds flopped in their defense of a division title, going a league worst 27-48 after starting the season 1-16. At the Gulf Coast League level, those Orioles went 29-31 but the Dominican League teams did well, with the two Orioles teams going a combined 77-63 and one making the playoffs. It usually takes a couple seasons for those players who even make the jump to the States to get to Delmarva.

On the levels above, only AA Bowie finished above .500 with a 72-70 record. Frederick ended up barely missing the playoffs despite a 65-72 record, while Norfolk was well out of the running at 65-79.

The question before us now is how this year’s crop of Shorebirds of the Week fared, so let’s review.

April 3Drew Dosch

When I selected Drew, he was the ultimate pig in a poke – as a 2013 draft choice and having missed all of the 2013 rookie league season with an injury, I had no idea how he would perform with Delmarva. For all I knew, he could have been consigned to extended spring or Aberdeen after a tough start. Instead, all Dosch did was make the SAL All-Star Game and set a new Shorebird record for hits with 157. Overall in 128 games Drew hit .314/5/50/.783 OPS in exactly 500 at-bats. It’s unfortunate he missed the last handful of games because he was a prime candidate to get a cup of coffee with Frederick. Drew also led the team with 76 runs scored, walks with 47, and total bases with 202, and was in the hunt for the batting title until the last couple weeks. He was also one of the seven All-Stars to come from the Shorebirds, and is likely to be manning third base for Frederick next season.

April 10David Richardson

Unfortunately, David’s second tour of duty with the Shorebirds was cut short by an injury at the midway point. Up until then, Richardson was putting together some good numbers: a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, with just 24 hits allowed, a 24/11 K/BB ratio, and 1.08 WHIP. He was a candidate for promotion to Frederick if not for the injury, but if he can begin the season on time should have a legitimate shot at moving up.

April 17 – Hunter Harvey

We knew he was a top prospect coming in, and he didn’t fail us in that regard. Until a strained flexor mass in his elbow shut him down in late July, Hunter was one of the league’s ace pitchers, representing Delmarva at the league’s All-Star Game as well as in the Futures Game just before his shutdown. So while his 7-5 record wasn’t ace material, the 19-year-old fanned 106 in just 87 1/3 innings while walking just 33 and allowing only 66 hits (for a WHIP of 1.13.) While only six of his 17 starts were considered “quality” starts, it was oftentimes because he didn’t complete the requisite six innings to qualify – ask Lakewood about the quality of his May 12 start where Harvey mowed them down for seven innings with just one hit, striking out 10. Fortunately, the only issue which should arise from that injury he suffered in July down the road is that Frederick’s coaching staff may have to watch Harvey’s innings in 2015.

April 24 – Jeff Kemp

Jeff put in a workmanlike season for Delmarva, mainly splitting his time between shortstop (61 games) and second base (40 games.) While a .254/4/42/.653 OPS slash line wasn’t the greatest, the average improved over his 2013 season with Aberdeen as did his fielding overall. Yet he also regressed in both slugging percentage and on-base percentage, so his OPS dropped about 30 points between seasons despite the higher average (.254 this year vs. .240 at Aberdeen in 2013.) But Kemp will probably go into spring training as one of those players fighting for a position within the organization given his somewhat pedestrian numbers, low draft status as a 33rd rounder, and age as he will turn 25 next March. If Kemp doesn’t make the Frederick roster, it’s not likely he’ll return here.

May 1 – Conor Bierfeldt

Conor led the team in home runs with 12 and RBI with 67. Unfortunately, at the plate that’s about all the good news for Bierfeldt as he struggled all year to stay above the Mendoza line and finished hitting just .196 for the season. After pushing for a respectable average through the middle of the season, Conor staggered home in an 11-for-81 slump after August 1st and hitting .136 for an extended period like that isn’t good for professional longevity, especially after a strong rookie campaign in Aberdeen where he hit .264/12/36/.862 OPS. Amazingly, the right-handed hitter hit .093 this season against left-handers, without a home run. When the OPS drops like a stone from .862 to .635 in a second season of pro ball, it’s not likely there will be a third. Like Kemp, Conor is an older player (turns 24 next April) who was a relatively low draft pick so he may not get another chance – if he does, it would probably be repeating here.

May 8 – Dylan Rheault

Dylan was often the guy in the right place at the right time in the season’s first half and led the team in victories for a large portion of the season (he was finally overtaken by Steven Brault.) Sort of an overlooked member of the staff thanks to a generally solid starting corps, he got his due as a late addition to the SAL All-Star Game roster. Overall for the Shorebirds, Rheault went 8-4 with a 2.82 ERA in 67 innings, stemming from a team-leading 34 appearances. Dylan allowed 60 hits, struck out 50 and walked 25 for the Shorebirds, resulting in a solid 1.27 WHIP. In terms of record, the reverse seemed to be true upon his mid-August promotion to Frederick, as he went 0-3 but had a respectable 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings pitched among four appearances. One issue there was walking 5 while striking out just 2, but I suspect he will have the opportunity to iron out those problems with Frederick next season.

May 15 – Mike Yastrzemski

Mike was a man on the move this season. After playing the first half of the season in Delmarva and making the SAL All-Star team thanks to a .306/10/44/.919 OPS slash line here, he moved up to Frederick and eventually Bowie. His impact on the Shorebirds and the SAL was quite dramatic – even in just a half-season here Mike’s 10 triples still tied for the league lead for the entire season. (Note above the team only had 39 total.) After just 23 games at Frederick, where Yastrzemski put together an impressive .312/1/19/.827 OPS mark, the Orioles sent him to Bowie to finish out the year. There he looked more average, wrapping up with a .250/3/12/.723 OPS line in 43 games. I would imagine he should begin next year with the Baysox, which is an appropriate level given his age and baseball pedigree.

May 22Jimmy Yacabonis

Another player who made an outsized impact in just one half, the SAL All-Star closer finished the season third in the league in saves with 14 while playing  just half the year here. Had he stayed it’s likely Jimmy would have been the runaway leader. But Yacabonis wasn’t staying after a dominant half where he struck out 31 in 25 1/3 innings. His 15 walks would have been more of a concern had he allowed more than 9 hits over that span – for the Shorebirds Jimmy’s WHIP was 0.95 because hitters only batted .113 against him. In the second half, though, he found out walks can come back to haunt him as Carolina League hitters were far more patient. In 28 1/3 innings at Frederick, Jimmy went 0-4 with an 8.58 ERA, walking 28 while striking out 23. Batters hit .301 against Jimmy at the higher level. Yacabonis may be one of those guys who stays in extended spring to work on his control if it doesn’t come around right away, but likely would be ticketed for a repeat at Frederick.

May 29 – Trey Mancini

Another late addition to the SAL All-Star Game, Mancini repeated his success at Aberdeen in 2013 for the half-season he was here, hitting .317/3/42/.779 OPS for the Shorebirds. But while the .251 average may not have been where he would have liked it, Mancini had a successful second half for Frederick as he hit seven home runs and knocked in 41, with a .691 OPS. He also maintained a good glove at first base. I’m not sure Mancini did enough to merit another promotion quite yet, but he’s got a good chance of following 2013 Shorebird Christian Walker up the organizational ladder as a would-be successor to Chris Davis in Baltimore.

June 5 – Chance Sisco

It’s apparent Chance was upset at not being picked to the league’s All-Star team, because all he did in the second half was hit .361 to become the first Shorebird to win the SAL batting crown with a team-record .340 mark. (Actually, the snub may have been from missing a handful of games to an injury.) In any case, the league made up for it by selecting Sisco as a post-season All-Star. Moreover, Chance hit five home runs and knocked in 63, collecting a .854 OPS in the process. There are some things Sisco needs to work on behind the plate – for example, he allowed 95 stolen bases in 74 games and only threw out 20% of would-be base stealers, while allowing 16 passed balls (compared to just 8 for Austin Wynns, who caught 62 games) – but the offense appears to be there. Chance may actually follow a similar career path to current Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph, who spent several years at Bowie while his defense caught up to his offensive talents, but also remember Sisco doesn’t turn 20 until the opening days of spring training next season.

June 12 – Sebastian Vader

Somehow I managed to pick all seven SAL All-Stars before the break, with Vader being the final piece. Sebastian briefly stayed for the second half but there was no denying that an 8-4 record with a 3.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 13 starts was enough to move Vader up. He was the most durable Shorebird pitcher as the only one to average over 6 innings per outing, and most of them were very good. The numbers weren’t quite there with Frederick, as Sebastian went 3-4, 4.60 in 9 starts covering 47 innings. Most tellingly, the 55/15 K/BB ratio Sebastian had here was narrowed to 34/26 with Frederick, and the WHIP increased to 1.55. Vader has repeated levels in the past, as he spent two seasons in the Gulf Coast League and two seasons with Aberdeen before making his full-season debut this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t repeat Frederick as well.

June 19 – Anthony Caronia

While Caronia was up and down between Frederick and Delmarva last season, and played here the final week of the 2012 season, too, this was the first time he was picked as a SotW. It’s too bad he only played in 53 games – missing several weeks after being beaned early on – because he did serious hitting all season while he was in the lineup, hitting .364/1/18/.848 OPS. Yes, he was repeating a level for the third time, and he’s predominantly a singles hitter with just 10 extra base hits among his 64 total. But the guy can steal a base (he had 12) and played a decent if not outstanding second base this season. You have to root for this type of player to get an honest shot at Frederick, even if he’s one of those lower-round draft picks who turns 24 next season – if he hits .179 as he did last time after 150-200 at-bats (as opposed to the 28 he got the first time there) then at least he got a fair shake.

June 26 – Steven Brault

Steven quietly ended up leading the team in wins with 9 and tied for fifth in the loop with 115 strikeouts in 130 innings pitched. Two other numbers jump out at you, though – he walked only 28 and allowed just 107 hits, so among all qualifiers (a minimum of about 112 innings required) Brault led the league in WHIP with a 1.04 mark. His 3.05 ERA was fifth as well. So Steven got the August call to complete the season in Frederick and pitched even better, going 2-0 in three starts (16 1/3 innings) and matching his ERA and WHIP as both were a sparkling 0.55. Perhaps the one knock was that he only struck out nine in that limited audition, but I would expect him to stay and anchor Frederick’s rotation for a time in 2015.

July 3 – Jon Keller

An outstanding reliever for Delmarva this season (3-0, 1.59 ERA and 0.94 WHIP thanks to a 66/14 K/BB ratio and 39 hits allowed in 56 2/3 innings), Keller’s promotion to Frederick was cut short by injury in late July after just two appearances where he walked seven and struck out five in 4 1/3 innings, allowing 4 earned runs and 8 hits. So the 8.31 ERA may not be representative of ability, but the severity of his injury may determine where he ends up next season. Jon certainly has nothing to prove at Delmarva but it may be a step on his comeback trail.

July 10 – Austin Wynns

As the flip side to the catching rotation of Sisco and Wynns, Austin held his own offensively most of the way before fading in August with a .181 mark to finish his Delmarva portion of the season with a slash line of .252/1/33/.619 OPS. Not great compared to his catching counterpart, but we’ve done far worse behind the dish offensively in recent years. Wynns even got to Frederick for a brief 5-game tryout, going 3-for-14 there with a double and 4 RBI. I noted above that Austin was the better defender of the duo, and he nabbed 37% of would-be base thieves with Delmarva. It very well could be the same combination in Frederick next season.

July 17 – Austin Urban

Urban was the first pitcher I saw this year for Delmarva because I recall he started the SU exhibition game April 1. He stayed in the rotation for the first few weeks, but eventually moved to the bullpen and was more effective – as a starter, Urban was 1-3 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.68 WHIP and 13/13 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings, but in relief he was 2-1, 3.09 with a 1.54 WHIP and 25/19 K/BB ratio in 35 innings. It all added up to 3-4, 4.01 until he went on the disabled list in early August. Given the fact he’s playing with house money as a free agent signee after being released by the Chicago Cubs organization, I would have to say his chances of getting back here are remote but not impossible, depending on how long it takes for the injury situation to be resolved.

July 24 – Josh Hart

Another guy who missed a chunk of the season to injury, Josh put in a decent campaign for Delmarva. Out for about a month and sent to the Gulf Coast League to rehab (where he hit just .167 in 24 at-bats) his 85 games with the Shorebirds resulted in a .255/1/28/.586 OPS stat sheet. But Hart showed a little speed with 11 stolen bases and a little power as he hit his first pro home run at Hickory August 15. When you consider the fact he doesn’t turn 20 until next month and only hit .218 in 36 games in his first taste of pro ball last season, it’s not out of the question for Hart to begin here next year and the Orioles to be just fine with that slow development.

July 31 – Creede Simpson

My lone repeater from 2013, Creede traded places with Trey Mancini at mid-season after batting just .214/7/22/.693 OPS at Frederick. Here he did far better in 64 games, putting up a .302/4/29/.779 OPS mark, which was a vast improvement on the .248 he hit here last season. But instead of versatility, Creede exclusively played first base on his Delmarva return and wasn’t quite up to Mancini’s standard in the field. His biggest enemy, though, is time. Creede turns 25 next week and that’s old for this level, so his may be another case where he has to latch on with Frederick next season or draw his release – problem is first base is getting to be a crowded position in the organization, with several solid prospects.

August 7 – Luis Gonzalez

Right about the time I selected Luis, the Orioles named him their organizational pitcher of the month for July. I’m not sure if that was a jinx, but after that designation Gonzalez fell apart and allowed 26 earned runs over his last 15 innings – it was a brutal August that saw him go 0-4 with a 15.60 ERA, allowing no fewer than six runs in any start. So the 6-0, 2.20 mark on July 31 morphed into a 6-4, 4.83 final mark in 17 games (16 starts) covering 76 1/3 innings. Still, a 72/29 K/BB ratio is impressive and all that August damage only pushed his WHIP up to 1.34, so he’s still in contention for a job someplace in 2015. It may be Frederick or it may be here, which wouldn’t be the end of the world considering Gonzalez will be 23 and hadn’t pitched above rookie ball until this season.

August 14 – Donnie Hart

Another mid-season addition to the staff, Donnie put up solid numbers during the time he was here, coming from extended spring. A 1-3 record was coupled with a 3.68 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24 appearances. He struck out 31 and walked 11, allowing 25 hits in 29 1/3 innings, while lefthanders hit just .200 off him. Overall, the numbers translated well from what Hart did at Aberdeen last season, but he runs into the same problem some of the other guys who played for the Shorebirds face – advancing age and low draft status. That’s not to say he couldn’t make it with Delmarva (or Frederick) next year, but in either case Donnie needs to get in a full season as he turns 24 later this month.

August 21 – Mitch Horacek

I noted this when I picked Mitch, but with 151 strikeouts he both led the SAL and joined a fairly exclusive club of Shorebird hurlers who struck out 150 or more in a season – all but one made it to the major leagues, if only briefly. For Delmarva, Mitch went 6-10 with a 3.80 ERA, pitching 137 1/3 innings, allowing 139 hits, and walking just 35 to go with the 151 Ks. The 1.27 WHIP was good. But Mitch achieved his high strikeout total by generally piling up 6 to 9 strikeouts a start, although he fanned a season-high 10 on August 19 at Lexington. Horacek also made one last start at Frederick, pitching 6 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks, taking the loss. I’d still figure him for Frederick, though.

August 28 – Garrett Courtright

The last SotW finished up on a sour note, roughed up for five runs in his last 1 2/3 innings and increasing his ERA to 3.94 as a Shorebird. For Delmarva he pitched 32 innings in 19 appearances, going 1-3 with a 1.44 WHIP. He allowed 35 hits, walked 11 and struck out 22. Garrett began the season with Aberdeen but pitched 9 2/3 innings with an 0.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, meriting the promotion despite a 5/5 K/BB ratio there. I noted he was the last 2013 Oriole draft pick, but he probably can latch on back here in the bullpen and try to improve on his numbers in some respects.

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Each year I have a difficult time picking a Shorebird of the Year, but one observation I have about this year’s crop is that there’s truly the potential for it to have six, seven, or perhaps even eight of its members get into the SotW Hall of Fame by making it to The Show. Although I hold out hope for a few players, the most I’ve ever had from a particular season to date is five, and a couple seasons have been all but barren – 2010, for example.

Just look at the All-Stars which were selected. Had Mike Yastrzemski played here in the second half, there’s no telling how much better the already-solid offense could have been and he could have put up some monster numbers. The same goes for fellow callup Trey Mancini, who had potential to be in a pitched battle with Yastrzemski for the team’s RBI lead. Meanwhile, Jimmy Yacabonis was on his way to leading the league in saves, and a few years back I picked a Shorebird of the Year for doing just that.

But I have an unwritten rule for Shorebird of the Year that a player has to be here for about 2/3 of the season, which eliminated those three All-Stars as well as Sebastian Vader, who was having a fine season as well. I believe that, given his position as a middling draft choice, Mike Yastrzemski has worked his way into being my Prospect of the Year.

The South Atlantic League did a pretty good job of establishing contenders for the SotY prize, as one can argue a case for most of those they selected.

A strong starting staff also made for some very good contenders for the honor. As I noted above, Mitch Horacek led the league in strikeouts, Steven Brault was the leader in WHIP, and Hunter Harvey had the potential to flat-out dominate. I would have liked to have seen what he would have done in August, with perhaps 5 to 6 more starts. He may have led the team in wins and finished a strong second to Horacek in strikeouts.

On the position player side, though, it clearly became a two-man race between Drew Dosch and Chance Sisco.

When I began to think about this a month or so ago, I had pretty much decided it was a three-person race based on what was going on at the time, although the month Luis Gonzalez was having was putting him in as the dark horse. Brault and Horacek were having good seasons, but not to the extent others were on the offensive side; meanwhile, I thought Harvey’s injury sort of put his chances on the back burner. It depended on how my other two contenders did in August.

Dosch and Sisco both made the case for themselves in the last month. It’s not like neither was an unknown quantity as they were both high draft choices, but both had a little adversity coming into this season as well. As I pointed out above, this was Dosch’s professional debut. Meanwhile, the question on Sisco was how well he could play against guys a couple years older yet handle the duties that come along with catching.

Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006:

  • 2006 – Ryan Finan
  • 2007 – Danny Figueroa
  • 2008 – Sean Gleason
  • 2009 – Ron Welty
  • 2010 – Brian Conley
  • 2011 – David Walters
  • 2012 – Brenden Webb
  • 2013 – Lucas Herbst

In looking back, my runner-up would have easily garnered the crown in most of those other years. But what separated Dosch and Sisco to me was the fact that, while both had consistently good seasons, one was doing it a year removed from high school and handling the most defensively challenging position on the diamond.

Only one Shorebird has ever won a South Atlantic League batting title, and that guy is your Shorebird of the Year, Chance Sisco.

So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2014. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, and then in December I will certainly update my Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. It was oh-so-close to having another addition this year when Tim Berry was recalled by the Orioles in June, but alas it was for one day and he didn’t play. There are a few guys on the Orioles “taxi squad” in Sarasota who could become the Class of 2014, though, so I still hold out hope.

Then sometime around the start of spring training I’m going to try and predict the 2015 roster. As it turned out, 15 of my 25 picks were in Delmarva at some point in the season so I didn’t do half-bad I guess. Next year, if the creek don’t rise, will be the tenth season of Shorebird of the Week. But you can rest assured I won’t put the Shorebirds on the shelf for seven months.

A monoblogue year in review

Having a holiday schedule based on Wednesday holidays seems to play havoc with the news cycle, as there’s not much going on with Maryland politics right now. By the time the holiday hangover is done, it’s the weekend.

So over the next four days I’m going to provide for you a look back and look forward. As part of that, tonight’s post will be the look back, with some of the highlights of my political coverage – and a couple other items tossed in for fun as well. This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’ll see how it goes.

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The year began, as it always does, in January. As will be the case even moreso this year, political fundraising was in the news as there was a surprise leader in the gubernatorial money race on the GOP side. Another highlight of the month was a spirited and enlightening discussion of state issues at the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting – something all too infrequent this year, unfortunately.

But the highlight of the month was my two-part coverage of the Turning the Tides conference in Annapolis. which had a plethora of good speakers and discussion. It was so good I had to post separately on the morning and afternoon events.

In February my attention was turned to several topics, particularly providing coverage of the financing and the events surrounding the Salisbury municipal elections, for which the primary was February 26th. A key issue brought up was a state mandate for the city to help pay for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, to the tune of $19 million a year.

Another state mandate took center stage in February, as the Wicomico County Council held a Tier Map forum to find out citizens weren’t exactly enamored with the idea. As part of that I read from my written testimony on a Tier Map repeal bill, which wasn’t the only testimony I wrote – I also put in my two cents on the gun grab bill.

We also found out that month that the Maryland GOP would get new leadership following the resignation of Chair Alex Mooney.

March found me continuing my coverage of the Salisbury city elections, but only backing one candidate. More important were local developments on the state level, where the Second Amendment was a hot topic for a local townhall meeting and our county’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

But the highlight for me, by far, was my day at CPAC. That turned out to be a two-part set of posts.

As the area began to wake up from a winter slumber in April, so did the political world as it turned from the General Assembly session to the 2014 campaign. The Salisbury city elections went as expected, so I turned my attention to the race for state party chair. Interim Chair Diana Waterman ran a campaign which was at times embroiled in some controversy, but prevailed on enough supporters to make it through the lengthy grind of campaign forums (including one in Cambridge on the eve of the state convention) and win the remainder of Alex Mooney’s unexpired term. But even the convention itself had its share of ups and downs, particularly a chaotic ending and a rebuff to new media.

While that was happening, the 2014 election was beginning to take shape, with familiar names both trying their luck again and trying for a promotion. Others had interesting endorsements as feathers in the cap.

But it wasn’t all political in April. The outdoor season began with two local mainstays: Pork in the Park and the Salisbury Festival. I also found out I was immortalized on video thanks to Peter Ingemi, better known as DaTechGuy.

Those things political slowed down in May, with just a little reactionary cleanup to the state convention to begin the month, along with other reaction to the recently-completed General Assembly session. In its wake we also had turnover in Maryland House of Delegates GOP leadership.

But one prospective candidate for governor announced other intentions, leaving another to confirm what we knew all along.

On the fun side, I enjoyed Salisbury’s Third Friday celebration with some friends and stopped by to see them at another barbecue festival, too.

June began with a visit from gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who stopped by Salisbury and in the process gave me an interview. And while he didn’t make a formal tour, fellow Republican Ron George made sure to fill me in on his announcement and establish tax cutting bonafides. We also picked up a Republican candidate for an important local seat and found out political correctness pays in the Maryland business world.

A local doctor gave us his perspective on Obamacare and our area celebrated the chicken in June, too. I also learned of a special honor only a handful of political websites received.

As is often the case, our wallets became a little lighter in July. In the aftermath, we found out who David Craig picked as a running mate and welcomed both of them to our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. I also talked about another who was amassing a support base but hadn’t made definite 2014 plans at the time.

On the other side of the coin, we found the Democratic field was pressing farther away from the center, a place the GOP was trying to court with the carrot of primary voting. Meanwhile, the political event of the summer occurred in Crisfield, and I was there.

There were some interesting developments in the new media world as well – a plea for help, a shakeup in local internet radio, and my annual monoblogue Accountability Project all came down in July.

The big news in August was the resignation of State Senator E.J. Pipkin, and the battle to succeed him. And while one gubernatorial candidate dropped out, another made his intentions formal and stopped by our Wicomico County Republican Club meeting as well. Even Ron George stopped by our fair county, although I missed him.

It seemed like the gubernatorial campaign got into full swing in September – Charles Lollar announced in an unusual location, the Brown/Ulman Democratic team came here looking for money, Ron George tangled with Texas governor Rick Perry and showed up to make it three Wicomico County Republican Club meetings in a row with a gubernatorial candidate, and Doug Gansler decided to drop by, too. On the other side, Michael Steele took a pass. I also talked about what Larry Hogan might do to fill out the puzzle.

Those up the Shore made news, too. Steve Hershey was the survivor who was appointed State Senator, and I attended the First District Bull Roast for the first time. I’ve been to many Wicomico County Republican Club Crab Feasts, but this year’s was very successful indeed.

September also brought the close of our local baseball season. As is tradition I reviewed the season, both to select a Shorebird of the Year and hopefully improve the fan experience.

October was a month I began considering my choice in the gubernatorial race. That became more difficult as Larry Hogan took an unusual trip for a businessman and Charles Lollar’s campaign worked on self-immolation, while Doug Gansler needed his own damage control.

I also had the thought of going back to the future in Maryland, but a heavy dose of my political involvement came with the tradtional closing events to our tourist season, the Good Beer Festival and Autumn Wine Festival.

Most of November was spent anticipating the Maryland GOP Fall Convention; in fact, many were sure of an impending announcement. Honestly, both may have fallen into the category of “dud.” But all was not lost, as the month gave me the chance to expound on manufacturing and share some interesting polling data.

Finally we come to December. While the month is a long runup to the Christmas holiday, I got the chance to again expound on manufacturing and come up with another radical idea for change. We also got more proof that our state government is up for sale and those who are running for governor place too much stock in internet polling. My choice is still up in the air, even after compiling an 11-part dossier on the Republicans currently in the race.

Locally, we found a good candidate to unseat a long-time incumbent who has long ago outlived his political usefulness. And the incumbent will need to watch his back because Maryland Legislative Watch will be back again to keep an eye on him and his cohorts. I’ll be volunteering for a second year,

And while I weighed in on the latest national diversion from the dreary record of our President and his party, I maintained two December traditions, remarking on eight years of monoblogue and days later inducting two new players into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame.

You know, it was fun going down memory lane for 2013. But tomorrow it will be time to look forward, beginning with the local level.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2013 season wrapup

September 5, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 2 Comments 

Well, at least the Shorebirds weren’t dead last in the league this year. Thanks to the Greenville Drive for holding our team up in the standings because of the Drive’s absolutely putrid first half.

Still, by finishing 54-82, the Shorebirds eclipsed the 80-loss mark overall for the fourth straight year – but they at least won 2 more games than they did in 2012, so there’s that. And once again, it seemed like the culprit was an offense which rarely fired on all cylinders despite a .248 team average which was eighth-best out of the 14-team league, to wit:

  • 532 runs made them 12th in the league. Oddly enough, they were ninth in hits with 1126, but those hits didn’t always convert.
  • They finished 11th in the loop with 209 doubles, but tied for third with 33 triples.
  • Their 57 homers ranked 11th in the league. By comparison, Joey Gallo of Hickory hit 38 by himself, including five in the final rain-shortened three-game series against the Shorebirds.
  • They finished tied for 11th in RBI with 484.
  • Delmarva ranked 11th in total bases with 1572, over 300 behind league-leading Hickory.
  • They drew the second-fewest walks in the league with 390, although adding a few rainouts back to our schedule would have bumped us up to our seemingly common 11th or 12th rank.
  • One somewhat bright spot: the Shorebirds struck out 1,067 times and that was fifth-best.
  • They were second to the bottom with 102 steals, and only Lakewood had a worse success rate than our 66.2% clip.
  • In on-base percentage and slugging percentage, they were – you guessed it – 11th and 12th respectively.

In short, our hometown team was offensively challenged once again. Only one player finished with a batting average over .300 and Christian Walker was in Bowie by season’s end, having played in just 31 games here early on.

Throughout the year, the pitching seemed to decline in league ranking, and you’ll never guess where the team ended up in ERA. Their 4.27 collective mark was…12th of 14.

  • Just six shutouts pitched was second-least in the league (Greensboro had five.)
  • Greenville held the Shorebirds off the bottom in saves; they had just 24 to the Drive’s 23. Of course, that has a lot to do with winning only 54 games.
  • They allowed the third-most hits in the loop, giving up 1,162 while getting only 1,126. That wasn’t as bad as being outscored 649-532. (Surprisingly, the Shorebirds were 10th in runs allowed but twelfth in earned runs, or third-most if you prefer.) They only allowed 95 unearned runs, which put them in the middle of the pack. Overall, fielding was around league average.
  • Delmarva also allowed the fifth-fewest home runs, which seems to be a function of playing at Perdue Stadium. They were just four off the lead (Lexington gave up 62, we allowed 66.)
  • Ranking eighth in hit batsmen belied finishing 11th in walks allowed. Had the Shorebirds played a full schedule they may have been worst, finishing with 494 in 136 games vs. Greenville’s 508 in 138 games. There were a couple guys who could have easily put the team over the top.
  • The Shorebirds were one of just three teams to not strike out 1,000 batters, finishing 12th with 995, just 8 ahead of Lakewood. If not for Parker Bridwell and his 144 punchouts (second in the SAL) they would have been deep in last.
  • Lastly, and predictably, the team’s WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) total was 12th best.

It all fits a team which really didn’t have a lot going for it this season – few really hot prospects or high draft choices, and for the first time in my memory no June draft pick made it to Delmarva.

But there is help on the way, hopefully. After enduring a similarly wretched string of last-place finishes over the last half-dozen years, Aberdeen secured only its second winning season in twelve seasons of existence, clinching its first-ever division title in the process. Seeing how mediocre IronBird teams tend to become equally pathetic Shorebird squads in many cases, the hope for the reverse being true for Delmarva in 2014 is there. Even the Gulf Coast League Orioles were decent, finishing a square 30-30 on the season.

On the other hand, the next level up is suffering from our ills. Frederick also finished second-to-last in the Carolina League at 61-78; however, Bowie wrapped up a level season at 71-71 while Norfolk just missed the International League playoffs with a 77-67 mark, losing the tiebreaker to Rochester. It appears the Orioles’ system may be beginning to stabilize after a number of down years and hopefully it will reflect in an improved record next season.

Of course, the question for my 22 Shorebirds of the Week is how they will impact the organization going forward. It’s time to review their 2013 exploits.

April 4Mychal Givens

The grand experiment in placing Mychal on the mound seemed to work relatively well. After a very promising beginning, it looked bleak for a time as Mychal missed a month of the season early on and again on his return when Givens was hammered in Greensboro for 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning. But on the whole Mychal improved as the season went along, finishing 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA overall with a very respectable WHIP of 1.21 in 28 appearances. And after having a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio in the first half, Mychal cut down on the free passes to the extent that his ratio ended up 36 strikeouts to 19 walks in 43 2/3 innings. After three seasons as a shortstop who only hit .225 with Delmarva overall, his route up the Orioles ladder will be that of a bullpen mainstay.

April 11Adrian Marin

The 19 year old shortstop played well in his first full professional campaign, settling in at Delmarva and getting into 108 games. Marin put together a nice season, hitting .265/4/48/.667 OPS overall; however, Marin got off to a slow start (.214 in April) and tired out in the end (.205 in August and September.) In the middle he hit close to .300, giving Shorebird fans an exciting glimpse of what the Orioles thought they saw when he was drafted in the 3rd round. It’s pretty likely that Marin will be given every opportunity to win the starting shortstop job in Frederick next spring, and I decided he was my Prospect of the Year.

April 18Christian Walker

Of all the players who played at Delmarva this year, Walker did the best job of moving up the system. Until a late-season injury sidelined him, Christian was using his bat to speed through three stops on the docket, hitting .353/3/20/.894 OPS here with Delmarva in 31 early-season games before being promoted to Frederick and putting up .288/8/35/.822 OPS numbers there in 55 games. The move to Bowie was a little more difficult on Christian, as he hit only .242 with just one RBI in 17 games with a more pedestrian .641 OPS. While there’s a chance he could stick at AA, I think he’ll be sent back to Frederick to begin the 2014 season, particularly since he’s not a versatile player (all of his fielding appearances came at first base) and the Orioles are fairly set at that spot for a few years. In the end, Walker could be auditioning for other teams to give him the big break.

April 25Creede Simpson

For Creede, the 2013 season was a mixed bag, punctuated with a trip to the disabled list which cost him a month – not so good when you’re hitting well over .300 as he was. After a solid first half with a .295/4/21/.828 slash line, Simpson tailed off as the season went along to finish with marks of .248/9/49/.719 OPS – however, the home run and RBI numbers were still both good enough to be tops on the team. One asset Creede brought to the table, though, was the ability to play all around the diamond as he played 35 games at first base, two at second, three at third, 35 in left field, and 11 in right. That versatility will likely allow him to move up next year and perform many of the same roles at the next level.

May 2Torsten Boss

The .238/7/45/.690 OPS batting line is probably not what Boss was looking for as his 2013 showing with Delmarva, but he was really heading in the wrong direction at the end of July when his average was a puny .219. Returning after a few days out, Boss finished strong, hitting .305 in his last 23 contests to push his average back up. He was also quietly one of the top power producers on the team, finishing fourth in home runs and third in runs batted in. However, one drawback on Torsten’s record is that of being one of just two players to strike out over 100 times this season as he fanned 106 times in 106 games. Boss may move up for 2014, but thus far the Orioles can’t be all that pleased with a .244 career batting mark.

May 9Branden Kline

Shortly after Kline was selected as a SotW, his season was ended by a broken ankle. In seven starts, Branden went 1-2 with a fairly pedestrian 5.86 ERA which belied his second-round selection and attendant prospect status. However, there were a few encouraging signs such as the solid 32:14 strikeout:walk ratio in 35 1/3 innings and two quality starts he put together, one being his season debut against Hagerstown where Kline pitched six innings of two-hit shutout ball, and an amazing 13-strikeout performance he managed in just 5 2/3 innings in his final start against Hickory. Branden is healthy enough now, though, to be a representative for the Orioles in the Arizona Fall League, where he will make up some of the innings and experience he lost this season due to the injury. Branden will be the only current Shorebird on that roster, which is mainly made up of players from high-A and AA.

May 16Nik Balog

Serving mainly as the designated hitter, Nik hit well enough to have one of the better offensive seasons from a Shorebird player. His .266/3/32/.684 OPS was fairly solid and he paced the team with 29 doubles. There was a reason he served as the DH, though – 8 errors in just 24 games in the field, mostly at first base, led the Shorebirds to exclusively DH Balog after July 6. This was a definite regression considering Balog made just two errors in roughly the same number of chances in 2012 with the GCL Orioles. Unfortunately, Nik is one who could get caught up in a numbers game as a non-drafted free agent who will be 24 by the time next season rolls around. It will be interesting to see if Balog lands in instructional league this fall to work on his fielding, since the bat was at least league average and he could serve as an organizational player down the line.

May 23Matt Hobgood

One of the comeback stories this year was the return of Hobgood to a league where he struggled in his first full professional season three years ago. Several procedures later, the results for Matt were good enough (7-3, 3.71 in 63 innings, featuring a 1.41 WHIP) that he was promoted to Frederick for the first time in mid-July. Appearing almost exclusively in relief (one start and loss for Delmarva), Hobgood still managed to pitch 63 innings here and an additional 30 2/3 at Frederick. His numbers for the Keys weren’t quite as sound, as he went 2-1 but had an elevated 5.58 ERA despite a lower 1.30 WHIP in the Carolina League. Matt will probably begin next year at that same level; although he’s certainly fallen behind a number of brighter prospects in the Orioles’ organizational pitching ranks, there’s still a pretty good possibility he could make it all the way up someday.

May 30Josh Hader

One of those brighter prospects threatening to pass Matt Hobgood was Josh Hader, a mid-round draft pick from 2012 and local Maryland product who still managed to be the team’s lone All-Star selection this season. In 17 starts, Hader went just 3-6 but had a low 2.65 ERA in 85 innings. All three of his Shorebird victories easily came within the definition of a “quality start”: six or more innings, three or fewer earned runs. Perhaps the only two quibbles were an inordinately high number of unearned runs pushing down his ERA and the fact he walked 42 in 85 innings, which is on the high side. But those flaws didn’t stop the Houston Astros from taking Hader as part of their booty for the services of Bud Norris (along with Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame member L.J. Hoes), and Hader didn’t disappoint his new teammates on the Quad Cities River Bandits, pitching a one-hit gem over six innings in his debut. It’s likely Hader will have at least one more start as the River Bandits made the Midwest League playoffs.

June 6Tucker Nathans

One of two undrafted domestic free agents to make the ranks of Shorebird of the Week (the other being Nik Balog), Nathans took advantage of the opportunity presented to him after two seasons in the independent baseball ranks to first get a contract with a major league organization and then play well enough for a mid-season promotion to Frederick. Tucker’s 63-game stint with Delmarva featured a .271/9/38/.804 slash line, so when he advanced to Fredrick he kept the average over the last 45 games (hitting a robust .277) but only getting one homer, 18 knocked in, and a .699 OPS. Nathans was another player whose calling card was his versatility, as he played five different positions in a Delmarva uniform but went one batter at Frederick, adding center field to his repertoire for one game. Considering he’s a little older than his SAL peers – Nathans turns 25 in Novenber – it’s likely Frederick or bust next year.

June 13Lucas Herbst

Among those Shorebirds who would qualify for the league batting title, Lucas was the top hitter and put together a solid, consistent line of .276/5/41/.696 OPS for the Shorebirds. Aside from the anomaly of one September game where he was 0-for-5, the only “bad” month Lucas had was hitting .241 in July, and there are several of his peers who didn’t match that for the full season. While he slowed down some after a hot start, coming up May 4 and hitting .303 in that month, with 2 homers and 12 RBI, overall the season was a good positive step for Herbst and it should be enough to maintain his progress up the organizational ladder.

June 20Parker Bridwell

Parker was the typical Forrest Gump “box of chocolates” player, because you never knew what you would get. It could be the smooth 14-strikeout, no walk, two hit dismantling of Lakewood he put up August 16, which earned his SAL Pitcher of the Week honors a few days later, or it could be the bitter 10-hit, 9-run 3 2/3 inning outing against the same team May 21. But as the season went on the great performances became more prevalent – six of his eight quality starts occurred in the second half of the season, where he was 4-3, 4.07 compared to 4-6, 5.57 beforehand. The occasion of his SotW selection was immediately after his second-best start, when he eliminated Hickory from the first half title by giving up one run in eight innings, fanning 10. I would be surprised if he wasn’t a #1 or #2 starter for Frederick next season.

June 27Steel Russell

I thought we would see more of Steel in the second half, but instead he stuck to his usual diet of about 10 games a month in the lineup. Russell appeared in 42 games, hitting .236 in 140 at-bats with 14 RBI. While that doesn’t seem like much, it was a vest improvement from his 2012 season and showed he could hit a little bit. It may not get him much more than a backup role, either here or with Frederick, but Russell should be playing next year. Having Dad coaching at the big league level doesn’t hurt, either.

July 4Matt Taylor

Matt is the player one can point to and say that won-lost records for pitchers can be deceiving. While Matt was one of four pitchers in the SAL to have 13 losses (against only 4 wins) he was by far the best pitcher in the group in terms of ERA at 3.77 and WHIP at 1.41. Granted, he had a high number of unearned runs which held his ERA under 4 runs a game but a lot of those likely contributed to his record. In his second season with the Shorebirds, Matt improved on his ERA (3.77 vs. 4.33), his hits per 9 innings ratio (9.7 to 8.7) and pitched an eight-inning gem over Lexington on July 12, allowing but one hit. I can see Matt being placed in Frederick, although it was surprising a fifth-round pick repeated a level for a full year.

July 11Lex Rutledge

Given that Rutledge had a 4-3, 1.45 topline with a 45:16 strikeout:walk ratio in 43 1/3 innings (leading to a WHIP of 1.02) it was no surprise that he was promoted to Frederick shortly after being selected. What was surprising was the subpar numbers Lex turned in there, ballooning to a 7.82 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, allowing 18 hits and walking seven (although he fanned 15.) His Frederick WHIP was almost double that of Delmarva at 1.97. He went from being scored on in just six of 18 Delmarva appearances to giving up runs in five of nine at Frederick. But I don’t think Lex will be back; my inclination is to believe that he will stay with Frederick unless there’s a real numbers game among the staff there.

July 18George Barber

Aside from a brief two days at Bowie, Barber bounced between Aberdeen and Delmarva for the 2013 campaign – ironically, he was sent down immediately after I selected him and only played one more game with the Shorebirds the rest of the season. Unfortunately, his numbers were the opposite of what one might expect as Barber went 3-for-9 at Bowie (.333), 15-for-64 with Delmarva (.234), and 12-for-75 at Aberdeen (.160). As a composite, George hit .203/1/6/.531 with the one home run at Aberdeen. While George has a compelling comeback story, I suspect his playing days may be numbered based on age and performance. His 60-game trial I referred to ended up being 46 all told.

July 25Roderick Bernadina

As I pointed out in my feature about him, this season has seen Bernadina revert to more of his career means at the plate: the .238/2/29/.615 OPS was around the numbers he’s featured over his pro career. But this was a lost season in the sense that Roderick missed two significant portions of it and his injury at the end of July came at a time where he had hit .278 on the month – by far his best. Had that streak continued into and through August, Bernadina would have finished with a more respectable average in the .250 range; still, that would have been disappointing considering his splashy Shorebird debut month in August 2012 where he hit close to .300 for the period. He just might be one of those guys who repeats here to see if he reverses some other alarming trends, like a worse strikeout:walk ratio for 2013.

August 2Dennis Torres

In what was essentially his professional debut, I just missed on my prediction that Torres would pitch between 45 and 50 innings because he closed with 44 2/3. Many of them were pretty good, as Dennis wrapped up 2013 with a 1-3, 3.22 topline and 1.55 WHIP based on 41 hits and 28 walks allowed. That’s the key thing for Torres to work on, particularly as he allowed at least one free pass in his last eight appearances (11 in 15 total innings.) Because of his low-round status and a pretty good crop of pitchers coming up behind him, I think the range of possibilities for 2014 ranges from a release at the end of spring training to a repeat performance in our bullpen.

August 9Wynston Sawyer

Behind the plate, Sawyer ended up being the first Shorebirds catcher to actually catch in 80 or more games since Luis Bernardo caught in 81 back in 2009. At the plate Sawyer has a career-high .238 average and set career standards in at-bats, hits, and hit more home runs this season (8) than his first three pro seasons combined (6). And unlike previous seasons, Wynston only played a handful of games at first, allowing him to concentrate on the backstop position basically full-time. He may not yet have the bat for higher levels – although there were promising signs of development there with the .238/8/38/.720 OPS line – but I think Wynston will replace Michael Ohlman as the Keys’ predominant catcher next year.

August 16Mark Blackmar

When you go from 1-5, 6.84 as a starter to 3-4, 3.58 as a reliever, it’s clear the trend is toward the bullpen. Declining from a 1.92 WHIP and .357 average against as a starter to a 1.14 WHIP and .241 average given up out of the bullpen is clue number 2. With the drastic splits, one may as well toss out the overall numbers of 4-9, 5.53 with 110 hits allowed in 86 1/3 innings and focus on the bullpen figures, for that’s where Mark figures to toil hereafter. My guess is that Mark will be a repeater here, most likely given the role of pitching 2 to 3 innings per appearance.

August 23Bennett Parry

Bennett came all the way from being a late addition to the staff from extended spring training to reliever to pretty solid starter. It was a nice evolution from the lefty, who turned in a 2-2, 3.49 season with a WHIP of 1.30 and a very solid 52:22 strikeout:walk ratio in 59 1/3 innings with Delmarva. You knew he arrived when he twirled back-to-back 6 1/3 inning shutout performances against Kannapolis and Lakewood August 11 and 17, respectively. Since he’s not pitched a full season yet, Parry may start here in April and move up by midseason if his results are similar to this year’s.

August 30Greg Lorenzo

The last Shorebird of the Week is often the hardest to pick out. When he set the bar by hitting over .300 across three levels last season, we expected a better season than the .241/2/41/.604 one we received from Greg. Aside from a worse mark as a raw 18-year-old rookie in the Dominican League in 2009, the OPS was by far the worst in Greg’s career. Imagine how many he could have added to the 40 stolen bases he attained with an OBP of .350 instead of .281. He may not have threatened the 68 total which led the league, but 50 would have been in sight. He might be here for another season, at least to start, because he didn’t seize the opportunity to gain on the players ahead of him at the next level.

**********

As is often the case, I had a hard time deciding my Shorebird of the Year – the choice came down to three players. But I went with the one who had the lowest expectations coming into the season because he wasn’t even on the roster at that point.

This year’s Shorebird of the Year is outfielder Lucas Herbst, who beat out Adrian Marin and Parker Bridwell for the honor. It was the consistency I noted above that gave him the nod – Marin tailed off significantly in the last month of the season and Parker (who had some backing from readers of this site) had overall numbers which weren’t all that great. Yet Bridwell was second in the league in strikeouts, and I was fairly torn between giving it to him or Herbst before finally deciding on Lucas.

So that’s a wrap on the player side for 2013. Next week will be my picks and pans feature speaking as a fan, in December will be an expanding Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame which should have a class of at least two players for 2013 (as Jonathan Schoop was called up for the September roster expansion) and sometime around the start of spring training I’m going to follow through on a suggestion from a comment and pick out 10 players I think may be new to Delmarva in 2014.

Just because it’s the off-season doesn’t mean the Shorebirds stuff is forgotten until April!

Shorebird of the Year – a 2012 season wrapup

September 6, 2012 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

For the third season in a row the Delmarva Shorebirds were the worst team record-wise in the South Atlantic League. Just as we thought it couldn’t get worse after last season’s 55-85 debacle (which left us tied for the basement with Charleston) we plummeted even further to a 52-86 record. That’s three years in a row we’ve exceeded 80 losses, which had only happened once prior in the Shorebirds’ 17-season history (1999.) At least after that disastrous campaign, the Shorebirds won the league title in 2000 – but no such good fortune has more recently found its way to a team which has gone 7 seasons without even a playoff berth.

Once again, we can pretty much point to an offense which finished last in the league in batting average at .240, along with scouring the bottom in several other categories:

  • The .240 overall average was last, although it was only so by a fraction of a point behind Augusta, which also hit .240 as a club.
  • We were 12th of 14 in runs, scoring 567 times. Bear in mind the league’s best team scored 812, although only three teams exceeded 700 (or 5 runs per game.)
  • We were also 12th in hits, but stayed out of the basement by just three base knocks.
  • In doubles, we ranked 12th once again – but we were some distance ahead of the last-place Augusta team in that department.
  • We were six behind the league’s next-worst team, finishing last with just 18 triples.
  • Augusta also held us up in home runs; otherwise our 67 taters were only good for 13th place.
  • The same goes for total bases, where we were 13th.
  • The one offensive category where we performed well was drawing walks, where our 507 free passes ranked fourth in the league (and only one was intentional, which was last.)
  • We were in the middle of the pack in striking out, finishing with the 8th most Ks.
  • The Shorebirds were 11th in steals with 130 bags swiped, but I would argue they were the shrewdest baserunners since they were caught just 39 times. That was among the best ratios in the league.
  • Mainly due to walks, our on-base percentage ranked 10th of 14.
  • On the other hand, our slugging percentage and OPS were next-to-last as Augusta held us up again.

All in all, the numbers and rankings were very similar to last year’s punchless offense.

Pitching was better but still pedestrian, with an ERA ranked ninth among the 14 SAL squads. If not for the Dylan Bundy effect of 30 shutout innings, we would have slipped a spot or two. But a 4.36 overall ERA placed us ninth.

Other team pitching numbers reflect an average to slightly below staff overall:

  • While we had the third-most complete games in the league (just 4) we had the fewest shutouts with two.
  • Without a true closer in the bullpen (or many leads to protect) we were last in the league with 27 saves. One pitcher from 2011 (David Walters) had more than this year’s team did.
  • We allowed the eighth-fewest hits, with 1184.
  • Unfortunately, those people seemed to score more as we gave up the fifth-most runs with an even 700. (That’s just over five per game.) We allowed only the 7th highest number of earned runs, though – that differential of 125 runs was second-worst in the league, one behind West Virginia.
  • It follows, by the way, that we committed the second-most errors in the league, ahead of only West Virginia.
  • While we were near the bottom in home runs hit, we allowed the ninth-most with 89.
  • We plunked the third-highest number of batters and allowed the fourth-highest number of walks. But we had the third-fewest strikeouts in the league, even with Dylan Bundy.
  • With all that, our WHIP of 1.43 was just 12th.

While a successful crop of Shorebirds moved up in 2011 to Frederick and won a league title (and now have Bowie in the Eastern League playoffs) we’re not seeing a lot of help from the lower levels of the Orioles system. Like Delmarva, Aberdeen finished with their league’s worst record (28-48) and the Gulf Coast League Orioles were last in their division at 25-35. Even the Dominican Summer League Orioles team was under .500 at 34-36.

The trend of poor records continues with Frederick, which ended up missing the Carolina League playoffs and finishing with the loop’s worst record at 62-77. Better news was found with Bowie, a playoff team at 78-64, and Norfolk, which finished just 5 games off the International League wildcard at 74-70. Both of those teams struggled early but found their stride later on with help from some former Shorebirds.

But the other purpose of this post is to provide the wrap on how the 22 players who were selected as Shorebird of the Week fared for the year and pick a Shorebird of the Year. We start way back on what was supposed to be Opening Day in April, but turned out to be a pre-season pick by one day as Game 1 was rained out.

April 5: Glynn Davis

My first SotW pick of the year was a mainstay in center field throughout the first 2/3 of the year before bouncing back and forth between Frederick and Delmarva at season’s end. For the Shorebirds, Davis ended up playing in 101 games, hitting .252/0/25/.644 OPS here while in Frederick his numbers were very similar: .256/0/4/.651 OPS in 22 games. Between the two teams he stole 37 bases as well. I see no reason why Glynn couldn’t start at Frederick next year since it seems he adjusted well to that level; obviously the question for him going forward is whether he can tack on enough points to the batting average and on-base percentage to make up for the lack of power. But there is a role for a speed guy in center field that Davis can fill.

April 12: Sammie Starr

A fan favorite, Sammie set out to prove you don’t need to be an imposing physical specimen to play solid baseball. While the batting average was a little bit lacking, Sammie showed a little bit of power and certainly was a versatile player for Delmarva; he played 56 games at second base, 39 at shortstop, and 10 at third base during 2012. With all that moving around, perhaps it’s not surprising that Sammie hit .238/4/41/.673 OPS for the season here. At season’s end Starr was rewarded with two cups of coffee: two games at Frederick where he went 1-for-4 and one game with the Norfolk Tides where Starr was hitless in four at-bats. He also earned the distinction of setting an International League record by being the 75th player used by Norfolk during the season (and was given uniform #75).

Unfortunately, that seems to be the type of move the Orioles make with a player who’s nearing the end of his playing career. Sammie was one of the older Shorebirds, turning 24 at the end of May, and he’s competing for space with a number of more highly-heralded players up the chain as a 34th round pick. I would be pleasantly surprised to see him make Frederick next year but unless he has a breakout .270 or .280 type season I think that may be all for him, if he even gets that far. Then again, Sammie has already defied a lot of odds so why not?

Other honors: Sammie was selected by the Shorebirds Fan Club as their second-half Player of the Half.

April 19: Dylan Bundy

If you were to point out a possible factor in the Shorebirds having their best attendance since 2002 I would say it was the extra hundreds who attended every time Dylan made a home start. And he rarely failed to amaze, whether it was retiring the first 26 SAL batters he faced until Hagerstown’s Billy Burns drew a walk off him in his home debut, or going 30 innings over 8 starts without allowing an earned run. It was inevitable Bundy would be promoted, and he was after his May 20th start.

Between all three levels Dylan was 9-3 in 23 starts, allowing just 67 hits in 103 2/3 innings, striking out 119 and walking just 28. While he couldn’t keep up the microscopic 0.23 WHIP he compiled here at Delmarva, he has a 1.32 WHIP in his 3 Bowie starts. That’s perhaps a little better than league average, and bear in mind here’s a 19-year-old who is in his first professional season pitching against guys who may have tasted the big leagues. It would shock me more if Dylan didn’t make an Orioles debut in 2013 than it would to find him as the #3 or #4 starter next season out of spring training. Dylan is easily my Prospect of the Year.

April 26: John Ruettiger

Here was a Shorebird who made his debut late in the 2011 season and played well enough to get on the map insofar as Orioles’ prospects are concerned. John parlayed that good finish into an even more sensational start and was gone to Frederick after hitting .305 while swiping 10 bases in 26 games here. Although he also played briefly at Bowie (.240/0/1/.585 OPS in 9 games) Ruettiger was also impressive with Frederick, getting that first pro home run out of the way and hitting .274 with the Keys. With 16 steals in his 64 games there, John ended up with 28 on the season.

Depending on how he does in spring training, Ruettiger could break camp with the Baysox or – similarly to this year – play briefly at Frederick before departing for the Eastern League on a more long-term basis. The .284 lifetime hitter should continue to move up the ladder, although the competition will be more difficult considering the Orioles have a surplus of good, young outfielders at the high end of the chain.

May 3: Trent Howard

I picked Trent just in time, as he was off to Frederick before his week as SotW was up. A good 2-0, 1.93 start in 6 games here, though, turned into more pedestrian numbers with the Keys: 4-10 with a 4.83 ERA in 21 games, 18 of them starts. In particular, Howard became prone to giving up the longball, allowing 15 home runs with the Keys. Otherwise, his numbers were relatively comparable, with a good strikeout:walk ratio of 16:7 here becoming 70:26 with Frederick. More hits allowed raised his WHIP from 1.20 here to 1.35 in the Carolina League.

Still, it’s not a stretch to believe that Trent will be part of an 2013 Frederick rotation which will likely sport several others from Delmarva.

May 10: Nicky Delmonico

Perhaps the most highly-touted prospect on the Shorebirds not named Bundy, Nicky was the team’s lone All-Star selection and earned it over the first half. But the wear and tear of an entire season of pro ball along with a balky knee may have sapped him toward the end, as he faded from a .262/6/43/.778 OPS at the All-Star break to a .249/11/54/.762 OPS final mark in 95 games. He only hit .218 after the All-Star Game.

Assuming he’s healthy, though, it’s possible the Orioles could push him ahead to Frederick. While the average wasn’t there, Nicky was beginning to find more of a power stroke toward the end and he could be a force to be reckoned with for either the Shorebirds or Keys – or both.

Other honors: Nicky was an SAL All-Star, the Shorebird Fan Club’s first half Player of the Half, and Mountaire’s Most Valuable Player.

May 17: Gabriel Lino

Obviously it was a tale of two cities for Lino: after he played 56 games for us, hitting .218/4/18/.622 OPS, Gabriel was involved in the trade with the Philadelphia Phillies for DH Jim Thome. Starting in July, he was now part of the enemy Lakewood BlueClaws, where he hit .227/3/14/.682 OPS in 37 games.

Given the fact I don’t know the catching depth of the Philadelphia organization, I can’t say for sure whether we will see Gabriel or not when Lakewood comes to town in 2013. If he were still with the Orioles, I would say another season at this level wouldn’t hurt since Lino will still be 19 on Opening Day next year. Then again, perhaps that’s why the Phillies wanted him.

May 24: Mychal Givens

After playing overseas last offseason, the former 2nd round draft pick may have felt he had something to prove this year with the Shorebirds. Givens hit .243/2/27/.635 OPS in 100 games, but came on toward the end of the year to salvage a decent campaign – he was only hitting .231 at the end of July. One area where he showed vast improvement was his batting eye, as Givens walked 39 times while striking out 49 – compare that to 35 Ks and 11 walks in 210 at-bats last season (when he hit .195 with Delmarva.)

There are some guys who have things click into place two to three years into their pro career. Considering this was Mychal’s third chance at Delmarva (7 games in 2010 and 57 in 2011) perhaps he should have done better. The Orioles will have a longer leash for Givens considering their investment, but if he does no better with the Shorebirds next year that may be the end. But if Mychal does like John Ruettiger did and carries a fine finish over into 2013, he may finally break through and look like a player who warranted a second-round pick.

May 31: Eduardo Rodriguez

One of several fine young (under 20) starting pitchers to grace the Shorebirds’ staff this season, Eduardo’s 5-7 record belied a solid campaign. In 22 games and starts, Rodriguez had a nice 3.70 ERA and a 73:30 strikeout:walk ratio, leading to a 1.24 WHIP. (His final start was a poor one; it actually jumped his ERA from 3.23 to 3.70.)

They took things quite easy with Eduardo, never pushing him past 5 innings. And with the six-man rotation the Shorebirds used it kept his arm relatively fresh and set him up for something closer to 120-140 innings next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t debut with Frederick, but he may be ticketed for there after a few starts with the Shorebirds as well. He was actually promoted to Frederick in the waning days of the season but didn’t appear with the Keys.

June 7: Connor Narron

Connor spent the entire season with Delmarva, and while his batting line of .232/10/58/.633 OPS may not be all that impressive, it still represents his best professional season by far. As a regular player Narron has gone from .164 to .211 to .232 over three seasons, and he’s a former fifth-round pick who’s the son of a big leaguer. He’ll get chances.

Besides the fact he drew the team’s lone intentional walk this year, it’s worth noting that Narron was the team RBI leader with 58 and finished behind Brendan Webb and Nicky Delmonico for the team home run lead (each had 11.) Since Narron essentially repeated a level between 2010 and 2011 I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t do the same next year here. It would be nice to have a threat to hit 20 or more home runs and as Connor develops that’s in the realm of possibility.

June 14: Matt Bywater

Matt wasn’t here long in this tour of duty with Delmarva, but what he did in that month was impressive – 17 1/3 innings of 8-hit ball, walking five while fanning nine for an 0.75 WHIP. We were the sandwich stop for Matt between two stints with Frederick, where he finished 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 46 innings. But the garnish was a late-season start with Bowie where Bywater shut out Harrisburg on 2 hits over 5 innings. So I would guess Matt is beyond Delmarva; he’ll sink or swim as a pitcher with Frederick considering he turns 24 next season.

June 21: Devin Jones

It turned out to be a season almost neatly split in half for Jones, who was promoted in mid-July to Frederick after posting a 2.65 ERA, 51 strikeouts, and a 1.10 WHIP in 54 1/3 Delmarva innings exclusively as a reliever. The only bad stat: a 1-6 record.

But when Devin went to Frederick he was inserted into their starting rotation and spun a fine 7-1 record in 9 starts, with an equally fine 2.80 ERA – but only 29 punchouts in 54 2/3 innings. All told it was an excellent season for Devin, who showed his versatility on the mound and probably gave to Orioles no reason to send him back here. Presumably he will be back in Frederick, although there’s the outside chance he could see Bowie. It would be quite a jump, but guys who walk only 23 in 109 innings have a fair chance of making it.

June 28: Miguel Chalas

Miguel was one of the few pitchers who spent the entire season at Delmarva, and he led the team in victories with nine. But he had seven shots at that elusive tenth win and went 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA in those starts – that led him to his final pitching line of 9-8 with a 5.02 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Perhaps his worst enemy was hits allowed, as he allowed a team-most 128 hits in 113 innings. I can see him being on the cusp of either promotion or retention with Delmarva, because he faded in the stretch and at just 20 years of age another year of SAL experience wouldn’t hurt him.

July 5: Brenden Webb

In his second tour of duty with the Shorebirds (after a full season here in 2011) Brenden improved in every meaningful offensive category despite missing the last month of the season due to his promotion to Frederick. For the Shorebirds he hit .251/11/48 with an outstanding .878 OPS fueled by a team-leading .422 on-base percentage. (The .457 slugging percentage also led the team among qualifiers.) His 87 walks were second in the SAL, with only league MVP Matthew Skole of Hagerstown having more.

Nor did Webb really slow down at Frederick, hitting .270/3/13 with a stellar .882 OPS in 23 games. Combined with the fact he’s compiled 30 outfield assists over the last two seasons, Brendan has the chance to be an up-and-coming outfield prospect in the Orioles system if he continues this trend.

July 12: Zach Davies

Another in the stable of good-looking young pitchers, Zach was one of three Shorebirds to make their pro debut with the team this year (Dylan Bundy and Nicky Delmonico were the others.) While he was by far the most unheralded of the trio, Zach put together a nice season: 5-7 with a 3.86 ERA in a co-team leading 114 1/3 innings. Considering he wasn’t among the starters at the beginning of the season, though, the fact he led the team in innings pitched meant he gave the team more innings per start – often Davies would put together a quality six- or even seven-inning start. Zach also led the team with 91 strikeouts.

Maybe the only worrisome stat is allowing 46 walks, but Davies had fairly consistent numbers whether starting or in relief, and throughout the year. He was a steady presence on the staff and probably deserves a promotion despite his young age (he’ll be 20 next February.)

July 19: Zach Fowler

While the 2012 Shorebirds didn’t possess a true closer, Fowler tied for the team lead in games finished with 14 and picked up 2 saves. He pitched well enough here (a 3.18 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 42:13 strikeout to walk ratio in 45 1/3 innings) to get a chance to pitch for both Frederick and Norfolk – ironically both of his pitching victories came out of his three appearances with the Tides, where he allowed four earned runs and nine hits in eight innings.

Fowler didn’t fare as well with the Keys, going 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA in seven appearances covering 11 innings. He biggest problem there was allowing 17 hits in those 11 innings. But because it was a small sample size, he may get another shot at Frederick to begin 2013. Another factor is his age: at 24 next spring, he would probably be a little old for Delmarva, so Zach is one of those guys who may be an odd man out at the end of spring with a poor performance.

July 26: Wynston Sawyer

Sawyer hit 10 points below his career average coming into 2012 – it was easy to calculate because Wynston hit .231 in both his previous professional seasons. But considering Sawyer nearly evenly split duties between catcher (40 games) and first base (35 games) his versatility somewhat makes up for his subpar offensive numbers (.221/2/49/.608 OPS.)

It would almost certainly be to his benefit for Wynston to repeat at Delmarva since he was the easiest catcher of those who played the position regularly to steal on. It may be that playing behind the dish isn’t Sawyer’s destiny but if it’s not he will have to improve on his offensive performance. Delmarva will probably be the place Wynston sorts it out.

August 2: Michael Ohlman

Michael made lemonade out of the lemons he was presented this season. After a car accident sidelined him out of spring training, Ohlman got back into action in mid-June by opening with the Gulf Coast League Orioles and hitting .276 in 8 games. On his return to Delmarva, Ohlman gave the team some much-needed offensive punch by hitting .304/2/28/.868 OPS in 51 games.

Meanwhile, after serving as strictly a designated hitter for his first month back, Ohlman worked his way back into the backstop rotation and played 14 games behind the plate. Overall, it was a successful return from adversity for Michael and something to build on for 2013. My guess is that he’s ticketed for Frederick.

August 9: Roderick Bernadina

At first Roderick skipped over Delmarva because he was promoted from Aberdeen (where he hit .259/0/14/.631 OPS in 30 games) to Frederick, where he struggled to finish 1-for-13 in four games. That short detour may have eliminated a future slump, though, because upon his arrival in Delmarva Roderick started hot and parlayed that beginning into hitting .298/2/12/ .765 OPS in 31 Delmarva games. Bernadina slumped at the end, though, breaking an 0-for-13 string with a pair of hits in the season finale.

Still, this was Roderick’s best season as a professional and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him as a player counted on to provide offense for the 2013 Shorebirds based on his month of playing here.

August 16: Eric Wooten

Eric came out of nowhere (well, two weeks in the Gulf Coast League where he wasn’t scored upon in 14 innings) to be a valuable pitcher for Delmarva down the stretch. Amassing 39 innings for the Shorebirds as a long reliever and spot starter (two starts), Eric gave up 37 hits but only 6 walks while striking out 30. By the numbers, he finished 2-3 with a 3.46 ERA.

I think there’s a chance Wooten starts at Frederick but more likely he will make his full-season debut here next year.

August 23: Greg Lorenzo

Another player who started the season in the Gulf Coast League, Greg managed to hit .300 across three levels: .316 in 25 games at the GCL level, .317 in 9 games at Aberdeen, and .333 in 19 games with the Shorebirds (24-for-72.) That’s a vast improvement from the .232 mark he posted in 48 GCL contests last season.

While he doesn’t have a great deal of power (15 extra-base hits in 189 at-bats overall) he can steal a base (16 this season, including six with the Shorebirds.) I would anticipate Greg also making his full-season debut here next year.

August 30: Bobby Wilkins

My comeback kid of the year, Bobby was out of baseball in 2011 and bounced around a lot this season. Beginning with Aberdeen on June 21, he jumped to make one appearance with Delmarva June 24, found time to go to Frederick for one game on July 3, returned to Aberdeen until July 27, then finally settled in with the Shorebirds for the last month.

After all that, he pitched well for the Shorebirds, only allowing earned runs in one of his nine appearances (he allowed one unearned run on three occasions.) Overall with Delmarva Bobby pitched 11 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three walks while striking out four for a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.

It’s fair to say that Bobby is in the same category as an undrafted free agent, and as I said in my SotW profile he’s probably looked at as organizational depth moreso than anything. Since he’s already turned 23 and been waived by one organization, the chances are he either has to make Delmarva next year or find another team. Even if he makes it there will be a pretty short leash on Bobby.

So now I have reviewed the 22 Shorebirds of the Week and have to pick a Shorebird of the Year.

As it was last year, there were guys who could have easily won had they stayed all year – Dylan Bundy is a no-brainer, but had John Ruettiger, Justin Dalles, or Trent Howard continued on their starts and not been promoted they had a chance. The opposite is true for end-of-season guys like Michael Ohlman, Roderick Bernadina, or Greg Lorenzo – an earlier promotion to Delmarva may have given them the honor. Mikey Planeta also could have won, but he was injured before I could give him an unprecedented third Shorebird of the Week title.

In reality, though, the decision boiled down to five players. Two pitchers – Eduardo Rodriguez and Zach Davies – overshadowed the rest by having solid and consistent seasons. Among position players, the most solid cases could be made for Glynn Davis, Nicky Delmonico, and Brenden Webb.

With a lot of good – but not great – players to choose from, one has to look at intangibles. Delmonico was the team’s lone All-Star but he really didn’t have a good second half and then was injured.

Both pitchers had good seasons, with Rodriguez having just a little bit better of a campaign than Davies overall. But neither were near the top of the league in any particular category.

Glynn Davis is a good story as a Maryland native and undrafted free agent, but he tailed off near the end as well.

On the other hand, Brendan Webb had a season where he improved as time went on, played solid defense in right field, and was a catalyst for the team’s offense in a number of different and varied ways, whether through the power of a team-leading 11 home runs, speed of 18 stolen bases (second to Davis’s 29), or guile of simply getting on base. As I noted above, Webb was second in the league in walks to the league’s MVP and it’s worth pointing out he got on base a team-leading 42.2% of the time.

Because of all those areas where he excelled, I decided Brendan Webb was the best choice for Shorebird of the Year.

So there you have it, another year in the books. It took me a lot longer to put this together than I thought (so I missed my usual 7 p.m. deadline) but that’s a lot of information to relate from a 138-game season.

On April 4 I start worrying about the 2013 version. Enjoy the rest of baseball season, and remember: football season doesn’t begin until the World Series is over.

Shorebird of the Year – a 2011 season wrapup

September 8, 2011 · Posted in Delmarva items, Delmarva Shorebirds, Sports · 1 Comment 

Ooooooooh, did it get ugly at the end.

You know, when the Shorebirds began the season 16-9 I figured we’d have at least one half of playoff contention. But the Orioles minor league geniuses decided to promote most of our best players to Frederick, allowing them to have a playoff squad and, well, as you can see by a 55-85 final record we got the crumbs. It was even worse than last year’s 59-81 mark, which we managed in much the same fashion: a poor second half.

At one point, we had a reasonably good offensive team, but in the end the batting was offensive.

  • Our overall team average was dead last in the league at .242, a full six points behind the next-worst team.
  • We scored 582 runs, which was 12th of 14. Bear in mind that the two teams behind us played one and three fewer games, respectively.
  • We had just 217 doubles – again, last in the league by 12.
  • We also had just 20 triples, which trailed the 13th place team by one.
  • Our 60 home runs were – surprise! – last in the league. The next worst team had 63.
  • One bright spot was drawing 500 walks, third best in the loop.
  • Our 1,051 strikeouts were sixth most in the SAL.
  • We stole 108 bases, good for 11th place.
  • Given the poor power numbers it’s no shock that our OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was dead last at .659 – next worst was a .682 mark.

It goes without saying our offense was one of the most punchless in memory – remember, when the season started we had Kipp Schutz (who hit .381 with Delmarva,) Jonathan Schoop (.316) and Manny Machado (who was hitting .333 before injuring his knee) to anchor the lineup. By the end of August, the team as a whole barely exceeded the Mendoza line for the month.

Likewise, the pitching was in shambles too. Our 4.74 team ERA was second-to-last in the loop, topping only Asheville (which plays in a hitter’s park.)

  • Our five shutouts tied us for 12th place.
  • We tied for fourth-best with 38 saves.
  • We allowed the second most hits with 1,318 (Asheville allowed the most.)
  • It follows that we tied for second with Rome in allowing the most runs, 760 (Asheville gave up the most.) We had second all to ourselves with 648 earned runs, though.
  • We were 7th out of 14 in allowing 106 home runs.
  • Allowing 516 walks was fourth most in the league.
  • On the flip side, striking out 988 batters was second-fewest (Augusta fanned 962 as a staff.)
  • Leading only Asheville, our 1.49 WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) was 13th.

On top of all that, our fielding percentage ranked just 10th of 14 teams and we committed the third-most errors. Add it all up and it’s not hard to see why we finished 30 games under break-even.

So will we get any help next year? It’s not too likely since Aberdeen finished at the bottom of the New York-Penn League with a 24-51 record. But the Gulf Coast League rookie affiliate won its division with a 38-22 record, which may help us for later in 2012 or even 2013 – they had exceptionally good pitching.

On the other hand, the aforementioned Frederick Keys made the playoffs with a league-best 80-59 record and AA Bowie just missed their playoffs with a 75-66 record. (Norfolk was like us, resting among the International League bottom feeders with a 56-87 mark.)

But the other purpose of this post is to provide the wrap on how the 22 players who were selected as Shorebird of the Week fared for the year and pick a Shorebird of the Year. We start way back on Opening Day in April.

April 7: Brian Conley

Brian, we hardly knew ya. After playing just four games for Delmarva this year and hitting .250 on 2-for-8 and 6 walks, the 2010 Shorebird of the Year was promoted to Frederick. Sadly, he played just 7 games for the Keys, going 2-for-15 (.133) before being released by the Orioles in late April. I couldn’t find any indication Brian tried the independent league route later in the summer, so it’s likely he’s called it a career.

April 14: Manny Machado

Most of the preseason buzz about the Shorebirds centered on the fact Machado was making his full-season debut here. Over the first month of the season Machado lived up to it, but an early May knee injury sidelined Manny for a month and robbed local fans of a number of chances to watch the Orioles’ newest sensation. After Manny hit .276/6/24/.859 OPS in 38 games with Delmarva (one of those six home runs being a memorable monster shot over the Arthur W. Perdue Stadium scoreboard) he was promoted to Frederick for the second half and hit .245/5/26/.692 with the Keys in 63 games – not exactly world-beating numbers but that and his prospect status are probably good enough to allow him to be on the cusp next spring of a promotion to Bowie.

Other honors: Manny was SAL Player of the Week on May 2, an SAL All-Star, and played in the Futures Game.

April 21: Jonathan Schoop

Lost in the preseason hype over Machado was another talented young player who outperformed Manny while he was here. Before being promoted in early June, Schoop was putting up a solid .316/8/34/.890 line in 51 games and he continued to outdo Machado with Frederick, hitting .271/5/37/.704 with the Keys in 77 contests. (It’s also worthy to note that in just 51 games Schoop ended up being our team home run leader with those 8.) I think he’s just as capable of having a sound major league career as Machado, so I’m selecting Jonathan as my Prospect of the Year. Like Manny, he could start in Frederick but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Schoop’s in Bowie’s opening day lineup.

Other honors: Jonathan also played in the Futures Game and was Carolina League Player of the Week August 15.

April 28: David Walters

The first pitcher I selected, David also had the distinction of playing the entire season here. At first glance, his numbers weren’t much to write home about (1-6 record, 3.93 ERA, 35 strikeouts vs. 12 walks in 50 1/3 innings) except for that 30 saves, which led the South Atlantic League. One concern was that he allowed 62 hits, giving him a rather high 1.47 WHIP. Still, he succeeded more often than not in nailing down the save and was thus involved in over half of our 55 wins. He’s probably on track to take the job to the next level.

Other honors: David was an SAL All-Star.

May 5: Scott Copeland

It was a tale of two seasons for Scott. He actually struggled with Delmarva, making 20 starts and compiling a 5-9 record with a lofty 6.58 ERA, fanning 55, walking 46, and allowing 136 hits in 108 innings. But given the opportunity at Frederick Scott seized it, making his last 6 starts there after an early August promotion, going 3-2, 2.14 in 33 2/3 innings and giving up just 25 hits. It balanced out his overall numbers and most likely makes Scott an early candidate for continuing in his role with the Keys next season.

May 12: Kipp Schutz

Kipp’s departure shortly after his SotW selection began the exodus of the heart of Delmarva’s batting lineup. In 38 games here, Schutz achieved the gaudy batting line of .381/4/36/.997, leading many to ask where the heck did this guy come from? Unfortunately, his season turned around in Frederick and not in the way one would want – Kipp hit just .212/7/36/.612 with the Keys in 87 games there. My best guess is that he’ll repeat at Frederick next season since he doesn’t have a lot to prove at this level.

May 19: Ty Kelly

In his second season with Delmarva, Ty had a better overall stint and eventually led the team in a number of offensive categories. Kelly paced the team in at-bats, runs, hits, and total bases, also being near the top in several other hitting areas. As a whole, his .274/4/46/.697 line is rather good, particularly when you note he walked 67 times and struck out only 63. But he did lose a lot in the power categories of doubles and triples, going from 40 extra-base hits in 2010 to just 17 this year – an alarming and precipitous drop for just 15 extra batting average points. Having repeated at the same level this season and played a relatively identical amount overall, that could portend a player who’s reached his ceiling.

Other honors: Kelly was named an SAL All-Star and selected by both Mountaire and the Shorebirds Fan Club as their Player of the Year.

May 26: Mike Flacco

Mike extended a solid finish to the 2010 season with Delmarva through the first 2/3 or so of the 2011 season before finally being promoted to Frederick in mid-July. With the Shorebirds Flacco hit .273/5/41/.790 and led the team in doubles with 20 despite only playing 72 games – or about a half-season – here. His Frederick numbers weren’t shameful either as he batted .250/5/22/.773 in 50 contests there. That’s probably enough to keep him playing there in 2012 as Mike slowly advances up the Orioles’ system.

Other honors: Mike was the SAL Player of the Week May 23.

June 2: Jacob Pettit

Like Scott Copeland, Jacob took full advantage of a promotion to vastly improve his numbers; however, on the surface Pettit was more deserving than Copeland. Jacob worked to a 5-4 record and 4.42 ERA in 15 starts here, with a 1.47 WHIP in 93 2/3 innings based on 108 hits and 30 walks (with 65 strikeouts.) Yet Pettit was unbeaten in 10 Frederick starts, compiling a 7-0 record and sparkling 1.62 ERA. The difference? Allowing nearly one fewer runner per two innings, with a Frederick WHIP of 1.02. It’s not outside the realm of thought that an exceptional spring couldn’t get him to Bowie, but my guess is that he begins 2012 in Frederick to begin another playoff run.

Other honors: Pettit was selected to the SAL All-Star Game.

June 9: Michael Ohlman

The primary backstop for the Shorebirds, Ohlman began the season well at the plate before fading down the stretch. Still, he ended up with a .224/4/51/.627 mark and led the team in RBI – a much better second act than a 2010 season where he began here but was demoted to Bluefield after hitting just .174 in 34 games. Given the dearth of pure hitting catchers in the Orioles system, Michael could make a move up to Frederick for 2012 but may be kept here to get another year of experience first.

Other honors: Michael was picked as the fifth representative to the All-Star Game.

June 16: Mikey Planeta

Mikey spent his second full season with the Shorebirds this year, although he joined the team a little late thanks to an injury. Once he arrived in May, Mikey started out well but tailed off to a .220/2/23/.536 mark in 102 games. Unfortunately, those numbers are pretty close to his full 2010 season marks of .226/0/33/.545 in 117 games, so there wasn’t a lot of offensive progress made between the two seasons. With 29 assists over the last two seasons, though, the outfield arm may be what keeps Mikey in the system for a third tour with Delmarva.

June 23: Michael Rooney

Rooney was a player who went in the other direction this year, as he began in Frederick but got demoted to Delmarva for two months. Yet things worked out for him as he was back with the Keys at season’s end after a one-game detour to Bowie (where he went 0-for-2, striking out twice.) His 42 games at Delmarva were most successful, as he hit .253/0/9/.677 with the Shorebirds. Meanwhile, his two separate tours of duty with Frederick (40 games total) resulted in a .192/0/3/.496 line. But Michael filled a need with both squads as a versatile backup infielder, so he may well ride the shuttle between Delmarva and Frederick next season too.

June 30: Jarret Martin

There are two schools of thought when a pitcher leads the team in losses: either he’s not very talented or the manager has a lot of confidence in him to keep running the pitcher out there. Judging by the numbers and the fact Jarret was moved into the rotation in May, my guess is the latter. Martin was 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA this season, and while he allowed only 107 hits in 110 2/3 innings the primary concern going forward has to be his walk rate – Martin walked 65 batters, which increased his WHIP to a 1.55 mark. However, his free pass rate improved from season to season (from Bluefield in 2010) which signifies progress in that area and he led the Shorebirds with 97 strikeouts. I think Jarret is one of those guys on the cusp between staying here and moving up in 2012.

Other honors: Jarret was the SAL Pitcher of the Week June 23.

July 7: Cameron Roth

Spending the full season with the Shorebirds, Roth provided effective long relief for Delmarva. His numbers weren’t overly special (going 3-2 with a 5.05 ERA, 57 strikeouts, 33 walks, and a WHIP of 1.51 in 82 innings) but he transitioned well between being a starter at Bluefield and pitching in relief with us this year. Like Jarret Martin, Roth is a pitcher who could find himself either at Frederick or Delmarva next year.

Other honors: Roth was selected by Mountaire for their Community Service Award.

July 14: Tim Berry

Tim was the one constant in Delmarva’s starting rotation, making 26 starts over the season. Set with a strict limit of 5 innings per start thanks to recent arm surgery, Berry managed to pitch through the five innings in the majority of his outings. Overall, he threw 116 2/3 innings, allowing 107 hits and 61 walks for a WHIP of 1.44. He only had a 3-7 record but was a very effective starter. Obviously the question is whether the Orioles will allow him to be stretched out more next season and let him go deeper into games – he could be a formidable starter if he’s retained here at Delmarva.

July 21: Brenden Webb

Brenden wasn’t one of the offensive stars of the team, hitting just .218/4/29/.632 in 400 at-bats. He led the team by playing in 121 games and had 16 outfield assists. He was the top Shorebird with 75 walks, but also had the most strikeouts (by far) with 152. In other words, nearly half of his 487 plate appearances ended in either a strikeout or walk. This may mean Webb is back here next year honing his pitch selection while trying to maintain his discerning batting eye.

July 28: Garabez Rosa

Another player demoted from Frederick at the season’s midpoint, Rosa came relatively close to the numbers he had in a full season here in 2010 (.262/3/32/.647 in 2011 vs. .251/5/44/.632 in 2010.) But the .212 start he had in 53 games with Frederick meant a return to Delmarva was likely, and he was the one moved aside for the progress of Manny Machado. There’s no doubt Rosa could return to the Keys next year and try to improve on his 2011 numbers, and that seems like the most likely course of action.

August 4: Joe Oliviera

Pinched for playing time in Frederick, where he gathered just 26 at-bats in a month’s time (hitting .308, though,) Joe was sent down for the second half and responded quite well. In 39 games Joe hit .252/2/20/.677, making him the best-hitting catcher on the roster. Because of that and a difference in age between him and fellow backstop Michael Ohlman he may be the one moved up to Frederick to begin 2012.

August 11: Jeremy Nowak

After spending a week with the Aberdeen IronBirds (a team he played for in 2010) Jeremy was promoted to Delmarva based on a .286 mark in 8 games (he hit just .179 there last year.) Nowak started out well here but faded down the stretch to a .234/3/21/.684 finish. Yet his promise seems to be in a gap-to-gap power hitter since he had 20 extra base hits out of 52 total. I could see him beginning next year here with a number 3, 4, or 5 spot in the batting order with his name on it because he’s a decent contact hitter with a little bit of speed (10 stolen bases in 62 games here.)

August 18: Matt Bywater

The first SotW to make his debut in 2011, Matt pitched 15 1/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League (no record but an 0.59 ERA and 0.91 WHIP) before jumping to Delmarva in late July. Yes, Matt is a little wild (32 walks in 45 1/3 innings) but he also has the sort of stuff which allowed him to strike out 68 batters in just over 60 total innings this season. His WHIP of 1.54 is pretty good considering his walk rate, and that tended to vary by start – when Matt was on he could be dominant and three times the bullpen lost his chance for that elusive first professional win. My bet would be that Matt gets that win early in 2012 as a member of the Shorebirds’ staff – since he was drafted in 2010 but didn’t debut until this season the Orioles may push him to a full-season team to start 2012, or perhaps hold him back for a few chilly April weeks. In either case, I think Bywater is ticketed here.

August 25: David Baker

To put it bluntly, had David been here all season we may have had a much better record. After 5 starts at Aberdeen (1-2, 2.45 with an 0.97 WHIP and 23/8 strikeout/walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings) it was clear Baker had earned a shot at the next level. He did well here, going 3-4 in nine starts. (From July 14 onward, that 3 wins tied him for the team lead with Luis Noel, who was pitching in relief at that point.) Baker had a 2.82 ERA for us, allowed only 40 hits in 54 1/3 innings, struck out 48 while walking just 19, and compiled a tidy 1.08 WHIP. To me, I think he deserves a chance at Frederick to begin next year as his first full-season team.

September 1: John Ruettiger

“Rudy” parlayed a 3-game, 6-for-13 stint in the Gulf Coast League into an assignment to Delmarva and became the first 2011 draftee to be selected as Shorebird of the Week. All told, for Delmarva John went 21-for-77 (.273) in 19 games, without a home run but knocking in 3. Generally he was the leadoff hitter but he only stole 1 base here, being caught 3 times. With just 90 professional at-bats, John will likely start here next season as he was an 8th round draft pick and the Orioles tend to move highly-drafted college players quickly. Don’t be surprised if he’s not moved along with a decent start to 2012.

I had a very difficult time picking a Shorebird of the Year because a number of players who excelled at this level didn’t stay long enough to really be considered part of the team. If early season SotW picks like Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kipp Schutz or a guy who I didn’t get a chance to select like Trent Mummey had stuck around into August and maintained their level of play this would be a no-brainer. The same goes for late-season arrival David Baker.

But I have to pick someone who played well and spent a significant amount of time here, and that trimmed the field to just two players: one pitcher and one position player.

To me, the top pitcher was David Walters. He didn’t have overpowering statistics, but one has to factor in that he saved 30 out of 55 victories. That’s 54.5% of our wins, and if you look at all-time save leaders for a single season they generally saved about 60 percent of a team’s wins – Walters isn’t all that far off and he was entrusted with a lot of leads.

On the other hand, the top position player was Ty Kelly. He was among the leaders in a number of offensive categories, and that’s what led him to get his player of the year honors from Mountaire and the Shorebirds Fan Club. (I voted for him in that balloting.)

But then I thought about expectations. On the one hand, Kelly is in his second year here and as I noted he regressed in some key areas. He was the real-life survivor of a number of player moves involving the names I mentioned above, meaning he’s not as highly regarded as those prospects. Kelly was a 19th round pick in 2009, so he was figured to have somewhat of an opportunity for advancement. Still, all told he had a pretty good year.

Yet David Walters was drafted – just not by the Orioles. Atlanta drafted him in the 47th round of the 2008 draft but Walters chose to return to school and was rewarded by not being picked in 2009. The Orioles signed a hometown product off the street that summer, so in essence Walters has been playing three seasons on an extended tryout. He’s found a role and seized it.

So it’s a tough call. I toyed for quite some time with the idea of having co-Shorebirds of the Year, but these intangibles finally led me to make a decision – you could say I changed my mind. Meet your 2011 Shorebird of the Year:

The 2011 Shorebird of the Year, David Walters.

Because he was usually placed in a situation where the game was on the line and did so well at it he led the league in saves (by a wide margin, I may add) I decided that David Walters is a worthy 2011 Shorebird of the Year.

I hope everyone involved with the Shorebirds organization (an award-winning one, by the way) has a great offseason. I’m already pining for 2012 to begin because we have some payback for the last two seasons to return.

And if I could give an award for best feature coverage, Ben Hill would get it for this article. I remember seeing him last Saturday night at the game doing the first pitch and being the Rally Banana. His tour saved the best for last, I guess.

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