It’s been well over a year since I previewed what would become the 2021 Low-A East season by pontificating just what the talent level stacked up against our Shorebirds would be in the newly revamped league. As it turned out, my crystal ball wasn’t perfectly clear but it was polished enough to get most of the trends correct. (One thing I didn’t forecast was how aggressively the Orioles would move some of our prospects up. Our 68-52 record could have been 75 to 80 wins at least if some of our initial hot prospects stuck around.)
Now that we have a full season of minor league ball behind us after the 2020 hiatus, we can further see the trends and which teams should be the best. Even better, we already have a schedule in place so I can take things a step further and predict the overall records based on their schedule. (Hint: the southern teams that have to play a Charleston squad benefitting from a loaded Tampa Bay system 24 times apiece ain’t looking too good.)
That Charleston team looks to be the class of the now-resurrected Carolina League at this juncture. (Since more of the former SAL teams were moved up to High-A ball, they and the Carolina League switched spots on the minor league totem pole and the Shorebirds – who stayed in low-A – are now members of the CL. It’s nothing new: the former SAL lost two teams to the Midwest League a dozen years ago because of franchise relocations.)
Here are the predicted standings in each division:
- Charleston (Tampa Bay) 84-48
- Columbia (Kansas City) 67-65
- Myrtle Beach (Chicago Cubs) 60-72
- Augusta (Atlanta) 57-75
- Carolina (Milwaukee) 76-56
- Down East (Texas) 75-57
- Fayetteville (Houston) 57-75
- Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox) 47-85
- Salem (Boston) 82-50
- Lynchburg (Cleveland) 67-65
- Delmarva (Baltimore) 66-66
- Fredericksburg (Washington) 54-78
I can already see people asking me, “Why are the Shorebirds picked so low when the Orioles have the #1 (or #3, or #8, depending on source) minor league system?”
It’s not like I wouldn’t like to see the Shorebirds succeed but to me their system is top-heavy as most of the key prospects are at the Aberdeen level or above. And if you look at the lower levels of the system as I did to compile this prediction you’ll notice those teams were mediocre at best last season compared to the competition.
However, if the Orioles have indeed truly struck gold with their international prospects signed over the last couple years they could quickly vault into contention in what should be a division that’s relatively competitive. The Shorebirds have to solve their issue from last season with beating Salem on a consistent basis, though, and right now the Red Sox seem to have a very good system at the Low-A level. (The
Indians – oops, Guardians – always seem to be good at this level, too.) It appears each will take their turns beating up on Fredericksburg, and this year no divisional team has the advantage of playing the FredNats more than another, as we did last season.
There is also an argument that suggests that our 2021 draft class – which will make up a significant portion of the Shorebirds – carried the team to a 20-10 record after being called up en masse in mid-August so the team will be better than I’m predicting. But I had to consider that 12 of those 30 were against the aforementioned FredNats.
All in all, though, ours is a team definitely on the upswing. It should be a much more competitive summer than some of those I endured a decade ago so I wouldn’t mind being a little bearish on our prospects.