It may now be a misnomer because three of this year’s four inductees were Shorebirds of the Month, but I also have a couple Shorebirds of the Year who were never a weekly/monthly honoree here, so I can be fast and loose.
Back when I decided to go to the monthly format, I made this honor more of a performance-based award than it had been previously. Sure, there have been players who were one-month flashes in the pan, but by and large the talent has come through and it’s beginning to show now that we’re four seasons into this new format. Two of the four inducted this year were selected in the first SotM season of 2017 and one comes from 2018. Only one holdout is from 2016, and, for the first time in six seasons we do not have a player from 2014 as they have finally cycled out after sending eight players to the Hall of Fame. I don’t foresee ever having that sort of success out of a single year again.
Given the big club’s era of rebuilding and lack of interest in trading away prospects, it’s no surprise that all four in my Class of 2021 debuted with the Orioles, although one didn’t stay long afterward.
I was a little shocked that Ryan McKenna would be my first honoree this season as he debuted April 5, in part because he was a position player at a time when the Orioles needed pitching. They would get it with my other three players: Zac Lowther on April 25, Jay Flaa two days later on April 27, and finally Alex Wells on June 26. It was so fast I thought I would have a huge class of six or seven, especially with the revolving door of pitcher tryouts the Orioles were having – 14 of their 16 major league debuts this season were pitchers. And while it’s true none of these guys made a great impact, they still gained the valuable experience that could make them better – I don’t see this as a repeat of the Class of 2011 where the majority of the guys only made the Show for that one season.
As we transition into the Elias era and players he drafted from 2019 on begin to close in on the brass ring, we still see a number of late Duquette-era players on the cusp of perhaps making up the Class of 2022 – assuming a full non-lockout season, of course.
Believe it or not, though, that Shorebird of the Week crop in 2014 still has a couple guys out there playing who have not debuted yet. But I would be shocked if the agate type featured David Richardson, Luis Gonzalez, or Mitch Horacek – teams may be desperate for pitching, but I don’t think they are that desperate to use journeymen pushing 30 if they’re not already there. Similarly, you have 2016 Shorebirds of the Week Jesus Liranzo, Ofelky Peralta, and Brian Gonzalez toiling in the AAA ranks last season. None are on 40-man rosters.
More realistically, we look at those who are still standing from 2017-19. Only Preston Palmiero and Steven Klimek are non-major leaguers still active from the 2017 honorees, and while Palmiero made it to AAA this season and hit well, he’s a long shot to make the Angels. Klimek is now a minor league free agent.
The odds are much better for the 2018 Shorebirds. DL Hall was the only Shorebird of anything placed on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, making him the safest bet of anyone who’s still waiting for his debut. The next most likely in this group is infielder Mason McCoy, but others with outside shots are outfielder Zach Jarrett and pitchers Tim Naughton and Brenan Hanifee. Brenan may be more of a 2023 candidate since he’s missed two seasons to injury – but the Orioles still like him and have waited on him since 2019, when he was at Frederick.
Even more so, the Shorebirds of 2019 were a loaded class. After Hall, the two best prospects to be potentially featured in the Class of 2022 are pitcher Grayson Rodriguez and outfielder Robert Neustrom. Also lurking in the wings from making it to Bowie are pitchers Drew Rom and Grey Fenter, who was picked in last year’s Rule 5 Draft by the Cubs and returned in spring training. Less likely to make the jump are infielder Cadyn Grenier, outfielder Johnny Rizer, and pitcher Ryan Wilson. They are coming into make-or-break seasons, with Grenier also available for the Rule 5 draft.
Missing 2020 means we have a big gap, and none of the Shorebirds I selected in 2021 made it past Aberdeen this season. It will be interesting to see how they fare as their success (or lack thereof) will determine what the classes of 2024 and 2025 look like.
With the publication of this post, I’ll bring the newly updated SotWHoF back live and allow you to read and enjoy.