A somewhat new adage in major league baseball is that you buy the bats (through free agency) and grow the arms (in your minor league system.) In 2015, five former Shorebirds of the Week made it to The Show in the latter fashion. Just two of those five, though, did so as members of the Orioles.
Beginning on May 2nd, when Scott Copeland made his debut with Toronto, the summer brought several others in relatively rapid succession: Oliver Drake on May 23 for the Orioles, Eduardo Rodriguez on May 28 for the Boston Red Sox, and Mychal Givens on June 24 for the Orioles. Finally, after being traded there from Baltimore in a deadline deal, Zach Davies debuted September 2 for the Milwaukee Brewers, who acquired him in exchange for outfielder Gerardo Parra.
Their paths to the big leagues were as different as their debuts.
Scott Copeland was signed off the street by Toronto in 2012 after the Orioles released him at mid-season from Frederick. While it’s likely they saw him as organizational depth. Copeland continued to slowly climb the ladder all the way to the top at the ripe old age of 27. Perhaps it was a reward for loyalty since Copeland was granted free agency twice by Toronto after the 2012 and 2014 seasons.
Oliver Drake was also a late bloomer, being picked as a Shorebird of the Week way back in 2009 and debuting at the age of 28. After losing a season due to injury, Drake looked like a guy who was stuck at Bowie until they tried him as a closer in 2013. He then became a dominant ninth-inning guy for Bowie in 2014 and Norfolk this year, often making the shuttle between Norfolk and Baltimore.
Eduardo Rodriguez was the price Baltimore paid in July 2014 to rent Andrew Miller for a couple months. Miller moved on to the Yankees for 2015, but Rodriguez stayed with the Red Sox the rest of the way after his promotion. How many rookies won 10 games in barely half a season with a last-place club? I daresay not many. The Orioles might be kicking themselves for awhile about that deal.
It’s well-known that Mychal Givens began his career as a shortstop, and in his first go-rounds with Delmarva we found out he was unremarkable at the plate. The potential was seen the fourth season he appeared here, which was Mychal’s first as a pitcher in 2013. Once he worked off the rust and learned to take advantage of his rather unique delivery, Givens moved up the system quickly as a relief pitcher.
Finally, depending on what happens with Parra, Baltimore also may regret trading away Zach Davies, who looked pretty sharp in a half-dozen September starts – particularly the last two. Granted, this was with a team playing out the string in a division where they were one of the two punching bags (of the five teams Zach faced, Pittsburgh gave him by far the most trouble) but he held his own against the Cubs and beat up on the bad teams.
Those are the five going in this year, so who are good bets for 2016?
Out of the recent Shorebird crop, perhaps the best bets at an Orioles debut are a few players who were selected in 2014: Jon Keller, Trey Mancini, and Chance Sisco. Of these three, Mancini seems by far the surest selection. Another former SotW, Parker Bridwell, is now on the 40-man roster.
But there are a handful of players who now toil elsewhere who could make it to the top of the heap next year. St. Louis has onetime catching prospect Mike Ohlman, Pittsburgh has pitcher Steven Brault (also a 2014 pick), and Milwaukee picked up pitcher and Maryland native Josh Hader in a trade with Houston at the deadline. Nicky Delmonico of the Chicago White Sox and Gabriel Lino of the Phillies have longer odds, as does veteran minor leaguer Ty Kelly.
They may be joining a longer list of players, which is closing in on the size of a big league roster. Because of that, it’s going to take a few extra days to make needed changes and pare down a Hall of Fame page that’s otherwise over 10,000 words. As I lean on Baseball-Reference heavily to compile the information, it’s going to become my go-to page for statistics. Just like the real Hall of Fame, I think compiling a brief summary of the player’s career may be a better way to go, but it will take a few days to get there.
So that’s a wrap of this year’s honorees. It’s the biggest class since 2011, but the first class where more players made debuts with other teams than with Baltimore. Given Dan Duquette’s lack of fear of trading prospects at the deadline having entrants debut with other teams may become the norm.