There were a few fretful days when I wondered if I would be able to write this post.
We first had to endure the cancellation of the 2020 season thanks to the CCP virus and our reaction to it, then had to learn our fate as the powers that be at Major League Baseball sliced and diced the old minor league baseball system. Fortunately, we did not come out as Julienne fries.
Instead, we survived as the Orioles’ lowest full-season team in a hybrid regional league called the Low-A East that combined teams from the old South Atlantic League and demoted franchises from the former Carolina League and played an excessively divisional schedule where 96 of the scheduled 120 games (a season shortened by 20 games from our old format) were played against three teams: the Fredericksburg Nationals, Lynchburg Hillcats, and Salem Red Sox. (None of whom came from the old SAL. In fact, we did not play an SAL alumni team in 2021.) For long stretches of the season, the team did not emerge from the Maryland/Virginia combo and did not venture south of North Carolina all season. Before April is out next season, though, that will be rectified as the Shorebirds make a long road trip to Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina. It will be a 132-game campaign, which is slated to be the plan for the A-ball level going forward.
Once play began it was apparent we would have a successful team, but then aggressive player advancement by the Orioles meant our roll was slowed for awhile in the second half of the season, causing us to fall behind Salem in a division we led for much of the first half. The influx of (mainly) 2021 draft choices in mid-August turbocharged a team that had fallen off its early torrid pace to stand at 48-42, but even a 20-10 finish wasn’t enough to catch Salem – a team that was our nemesis all year. The Red Sox were one of two teams against whom we had a losing record (14-16) with the other being the Down East Wood Ducks (4-8). They were two of the top three teams in the league. Conversely, we were 25-11 against Fredericksburg, 17-13 against Lynchburg, and 8-4 against Carolina for a 68-52 mark overall, tied with Carolina for fourth out of the 12 teams. Had the league employed a more traditional 3 division winner + 1 wildcard format, we would have grabbed that number four slot based on the tiebreaker. As it was, we played spoiler – eliminating Salem from contention by beating them in the final game of the season and allowing the aforementioned Wood Ducks into the league championship series, where they fell in five games to Charleston.
Because I liked the team stats format I used for 2019, I’ll use pretty much the same with new numbers plugged in.
- Our .253 average was good enough for 4th out of 12 teams. We came out of a July slump to post good numbers.
- We scored a club-record 720 runs in 16 fewer games than it took the 2000 team to accomplish the old record of 700 – yet that was only third in the loop.
- The Shorebirds finished fifth in the league with 1004 hits.
- Power numbers were interesting: 187 doubles were 7th, but the 20 triples were dead last – one behind Fredericksburg. So figure out this logic: we were third in the league with a franchise record 113 home runs, beating the 2016 squad that had 112 in 139 games.
- Just like runs, we had 646 RBI and finished third overall.
- 1,570 total bases was enough for the fifth spot.
- We drew 573 walks, second only to Carolina’s 642, and struck out 1,097 times to be second lowest behind Salem’s 1020.
- The Shorebirds were sixth-best in both stolen bases (152) and getting caught (41.)
- They were third in on-base percentage at .358 and fourth in slugging with a .396 mark, leaving them fourth in OPS with .754 overall.
We had record-setting pitching two years ago. This season, though, we were bested by a couple select teams in most categories.
- In a more difficult year for pitching leaguewide, we finished second with a 4.14 collective ERA. Charleston led at 3.45.
- We finished fifth in the league with 28 saves.
- We threw the fifth-most innings at 1,028.
- 929 hits allowed was fourth-best. Our 573 runs allowed was third but our 473 earned was second behind Charleston, who allowed 494 and 403 respectively. So while our pitching was frustrating at times, so was everyone else’s.
- We again finished fifth with 95 home runs allowed.
- We led the league by hitting only 55 batters, one fewer than Salem.
- Our 1,161 strikeouts was only good for eighth, but our 432 walks was third. Strange stat of the year: one intentional walk. It was so unusual I had to see who allowed it (Jensen Elliott) and who he walked (Stephen Scott of Salem), way back on May 9. It was the one Sunday game I missed, for Mother’s Day.
- Our 1.324 WHIP was second again, miles behind Charleston’s 1.176.
We had a rough season fielding with a .965 fielding percentage that was ninth, and our 148 errors ranked even worse in tenth leaguewide. We also finished ninth in double plays turned with 205, tied for fifth with 20 passed balls, and allowed 172 stolen bases to rank ninth. The 15% caught stealing was tenth out of the twelve teams.
In terms of the Orioles’ revamped minor league system, we have an incomplete grade thanks to the extension of Norfolk’s season – however, they’re still mired near the bottom of the Triple-A East at 51-75 as of this writing.
Thanks to a fortuitous rainout affecting the Somerset Patriots, Bowie didn’t have to endure a playoff game to make the Double-A Northeast finals with a 73-47 record. But they were swept out by Akron, who also won Bowie’s division as the top two squads came from the same division.
Aberdeen also finished second in its division, but well short of the playoff mark with a 58-61 record in the High-A East.
Out of eight teams in the South Division of the Florida Complex League, the two Oriole teams finished sixth and eighth – the Black team was 18-27 while the Orange team finished a league-worst 10-33. Hopefully that’s a issue with diluted talent between two teams and not a sign to come for the 2022 Shorebirds.
Unfortunately, the story was similar in the Dominican Summer League where the Orioles 2 team was 23-27 and finished sixth in an eight-team division and the Orioles 1 team was the #1 worst at 13-34. That’s not what you would expect from a farm system deemed to be the best in baseball right now.
Now it’s time to look at how my position players of the month fared.
We begin with J.D. Mundy, who did well enough in May to both win the position player honors and a promotion to Aberdeen before the month was out, based on a .324/4/20/1.038 slash line here in 20 games. In other words, he was picking up an RBI a game. Once promoted to Aberdeen, J.D. slowed down slightly with a .278/11/37/.881 OPS in 52 Aberdeen games before an injury ended his campaign a month early. Because he missed some time at the end of the season, it’s not known if he would have made the jump to Bowie like some others did but he may do so early on in 2022. He’s not going to be old (24) for the level he’s at, though.
June’s top position player was Mason Janvrin, who also eventually made it to Aberdeen despite a paltry batting line of .203/10/33/.664 OPS in 82 games here. In the season’s last two weeks Mason went 2-for-17 in 6 Aberdeen games, picking up a couple RBI along the way. Perhaps helping Mason was his being far and away the leader in drawing walks while with Delmarva, picking up a team-leading 47 free passes (second was 28.) Janvrin also led in runs with 68 and stolen bases with 25. Great speed and good batting eye, but not likely to advance much farther without another 60 points on his batting average. He will also be 24 next season.
He came here to succeed J.D. Mundy as primary first baseman, but TT Bowens had his own stellar month in July and soon advanced to Aberdeen himself after Mundy went down. Getting his first taste of pro ball this season, Bowens slashed .237/13/46/.786 OPS in 64 Delmarva games before doing even better in Aberdeen with a .259 average, 5 home runs, and 9 RBI to go with a .772 OPS. With another week or so on the team, Bowens could have been a serious contender for Shorebird of the Year but finished just short of the 2/3 of the season on the roster required. A popular guy here, but sort of a fringe prospect given his NDFA status – however, the improvement from level to level and appropriate age (another 24 year old next season) are plus marks for Bowens.
The only position player to play for the team start-to-finish, Darell Hernaiz won the Shorebird Position Player of the Month honor in August. Because he was here the whole time, Hernaiz led the team in numerous categories: 94 games played, 410 plate appearances, 372 at-bats, 103 hits, 52 RBI, a .277 batting average (as the top qualifier), and 133 total bases. For the season his numbers were .277/6/52/.690 OPS. Hernaiz won’t turn 21 until later on next season so he’s a guy who could make the Aberdeen squad in 2022 but may end up here for a couple months to see if he can get to elite level, like a .300 average with just a bit more pop.
The best of a late-season recharge of 15 players that came for the final 30 games, Coby Mayo won the September position player honors. Starting out in the Complex League, Coby tore the league up to the tune of .329/4/15/1.005 OPS in 26 games before 27 games of .311/5/26/.964 OPS hitting here. He turns 20 over the winter, and is in a similar situation as Hernaiz in that his numbers merit a promotion but his lack of experience may hold him back here until midseason.
Now let’s see how the pitchers did.
I began with Xavier Moore, who parlayed a good month-and-a-half with Delmarva (1-2, but with a 2.89 ERA, 1.232 WHIP, and a 27/11 K/BB ratio in just 18 2/3 innings spread over 7 appearances) into being my May Pitcher of the Month and to a promotion to Aberdeen, where he had the same won-lost record but blew up to a 9.00 ERA in 14 appearances covering 19 innings, where he allowed only 15 hits but a 23/14 K/BB ratio and 5 home runs. He was on a starter’s schedule but only threw an inning or two in each appearance. Moore may come back here to begin next season because he really didn’t show much at Aberdeen. He may be ticketed to be a late-inning guy for us next season; if so, he needs to pitch more frequently. Moore turns 23 over the winter.
June’s Pitcher of the Month was the “work fast, throw strikes” guy Jake Lyons. After putting together a good campaign for Delmarva [4-3, 3.69 ERA, 1.361 WHIP, and 85/34 K/BB ratio in 68 1/3 innings (11 starts in 19 appearances)] he got to pitch 3 games with Aberdeen where he went 0-1, 3.18 in 11 1/3 innings with a 0.971 WHIP and 17/3 K/BB ratio – sort of like he found another gear. He was a consistently good pitcher with Delmarva and should be the same for Aberdeen next season. In fact, Jake led the team in strikeouts but was only 3rd in innings pitched so that should tell you he has good stuff. He won’t be 23 until deep into next season, by which time he could be knocking on Bowie’s door with continued improvement. He could surprise some folks as a 22nd round choice.
In July I selected Noah Denoyer as the Pitcher of the Month. Out of those pitchers who would be closest to qualifying for league honors, Denoyer led in ERA with a 2.87 mark to go with a 5-3 record in 15 appearances (11 starts.) In just 59 2/3 innings Noah allowed but 45 hits and had a 71/25 K/BB ratio. Noah got another 12 innings in 5 appearances with Aberdeen and pitched to a 2.25 ERA and only bumping his WHIP up from 1.173 at Delmarva to an even 1.25 at Aberdeen. Denoyer will turn 24 just before spring training next season but he looks like he belongs with Aberdeen, too. Very good for a guy passed over in the 2019 draft.
Part of a two-player return in the Jose Iglesias trade, my August Pitcher of the Month had the most dominant stretch of the year during his run. Jean Pinto is a pitcher on the rise, moving up after 20 innings of 1.80 ERA, 0.75 WHIP ball in the Complex League to put up good numbers here. No, he didn’t match the almost absurd 28/4 K/BB ratio he had in Florida, but 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA, 56/13 K/BB ratio, and just 29 hits allowed in 46 1/3 innings here may give the 20-year-old (21 in January) Venezuelan a new challenge in Aberdeen to begin next season. He might elbow some older guys out of the way in doing so.
On the other hand, my September Pitcher of the Month may be auditioning to keep his career going. It’s not that Rickey Ramirez did a bad job during his time here, going 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.214 WHIP in 28 innings with a 39/12 K/BB ratio in 18 appearances (16 as closer with 4 saves) but the fact that he’s old for this level (turns 25 next month) and was a Rule 5 pick from the Twins – the sort of guy who gets lumped into the “organization player” category. To keep up, Rickey basically has to make it to Bowie at the end of next season. (To be fair, though, the rebuilding Orioles have given a number of older pitchers their first crack at the Show this season, so there’s still hope for a guy like him.) After all, he endured a disastrous 5 appearances in the Complex League, where his ERA was 8.44, just to get to Delmarva.
Here is a list of my Shorebirds of the Year, going back to the award’s inception in 2006. I’m also adding the Prospect of the Year, in parentheses. Some of these guys are now (or will be come December) in the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame, in bold.
- 2006 – Ryan Finan (Brandon Erbe)
- 2007 – Danny Figueroa (Brad Bergesen)
- 2008 – Sean Gleason (Zack Britton)
- 2009 – Ron Welty (L.J. Hoes)
- 2010 – Brian Conley (Tyler Townsend)
- 2011 – David Walters (Jonathan Schoop)
- 2012 – Brenden Webb (Dylan Bundy)
- 2013 – Lucas Herbst (Adrian Marin)
- 2014 – Chance Sisco (Mike Yastrzemski)
- 2015 – John Means (Jomar Reyes)
- 2016 – Yermin Mercedes (Ryan Mountcastle)
- 2017 – Alex Wells (no prospect award)
- 2018 – Brenan Hanifee (DL Hall)
- 2019 – Adam Hall (Grayson Rodriguez)
- 2021 – keep reading (Jordan Westburg)
The biggest problem I had with selecting a 2021 Shorebird of the Year was finding an eligible player. I’ve had a longstanding rule that the player I select as Shorebird of the Year has to spend at least 2/3 of the season here, which would have been 80 games this year. (They did not necessarily have to play all 80 – in the case of a starting pitcher that would have only been 16 starts.)
We cycled through a team-record 74 players this season, and when I say record I mean they smashed the sucker – per Baseball Reference, the highest previous total of Shorebird players in a season I found was 61 back in 2012, the midst of an era of otherwise forgettable 50-odd win teams. But now that Aberdeen isn’t a buffer team below us I suspect this high total will be the rule and my selections will be limited.
Only two position players actually played more than 80 games here this season: Darell Hernaiz, who led the team with 94, and Mason Janvrin with 82. Christopher Cespedes was also on the active roster long enough to qualify, although he only played in 70 games. On the other hand, most of the pitchers who made 15 or more appearances qualified – I think my three exceptions were Gregori Vasquez, Rickey Ramirez, and Jake Zebron. That left a field of 10.
Out of that group, there were really four pitchers and a position player who separated themselves from the field: Noah Denoyer, Jake Lyons, Houston Roth, and Adam Stauffer among the pitchers, and Darell Hernaiz as the position player. Unfortunately, the pitchers didn’t interest me for various reasons:
- Stauffer threw just 39 innings before his promotion, which isn’t much of an impact.
- Roth led the team in wins with 8 but faded noticeably at the end of the season to finish with 4.54 ERA, highest among the group.
- Lyons was perhaps the most consistent in the field but didn’t dominate in any one category.
Out of the group, the best pitcher was Noah Denoyer, whose 2.87 ERA easily led my cadre of qualifiers. Noah put together a great season for an undrafted free agent, but it’s hard to justify giving the award to a guy who threw less than 60 innings this season (and wasn’t a closer.) Compare that to my aforementioned 2012 campaign where, even with all those players, four pitchers exceeded 100 innings (and three of them are SotW Hall of Famers.) In a sign of the times, Roth led this season with 81 1/3.
Fortunately, we had a good, solid qualifying position player, a kid who improved himself most of the year and turned out to be a well above average performer when all was said and done.
It was that constant improvement and, quite frankly, the fact that the Orioles left him here to develop which tipped the scales toward Darell Hernaiz. There were a number of guys who, if they had stayed for a few more weeks, would have been contenders but going forward this award may be for the team turtles who advance slowly and steadily.
So all I have left for the 2021 Shorebird season is picks and pans next week, as well as some updates as required to the SotW Tracker before the Hall of Fame induction post scheduled for December 2. All this before we crank up another season with a home debut on April 8, 2022.