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.