I’d like to take a second here to say how much I love watching minor league baseball at this level and I do it with the understanding that this is a process. Education and learning things right matter more than wins and losses. Adversity is a part of the daily grind in Florida and the ones who succeed learn from it and move on.
It’s simply not like regular baseball. I never knew how much I could appreciate the learning aspect of it but Alan Mills changed and opened my mind to what happens in the rookie leagues. Now that the news is out that changes have been made I can use this space to echo something I’ve said before.
As a player he was so silent and focused that it seemed he had a force field around him. #75 had a routine and if you watched the bullpen happenings you’d see it was the same pattern every time.
That consistency served him so well as a teacher but he surprised me by how well he communicated with everyone. Even umps that he disagreed with were not scolded, just questioned.
‘Where was that up?
I know a good teacher when I see and hear one. Mills followed up his summer lessons from a chair immediately behind the backstop at Twin Lakes, the O’s minor league HQ across town around late February. No Ayudar is his command at the plate to the Latin American hitters (Mills’ Spanish is excellent). Ironically it means ‘don’t help them out’
He didn’t practice what he preached in that regard. Now is also a time to remind Birdland supporters that Mills anchored a championship team pre-Covid with the best record in 2019.
His encouragement and lessons will be missed despite the extremely capable hands that the FCL program will be passed on to. I wouldn’t write it if didn’t truly believe it. The younger coaches who will take the reins are future greats, much like the some of the players I saw. Millsy did a lot (I’d prefer to curse to emphasize it but like kids reading this stuff) and I appreciated it so much from where I was sitting. Good luck in the future to an O’s extended family member.
With that being said, please understand that the standards for my grades are not conventional. I’m looking for performance in front of me and grading on that chiefly. Potential is a very small part of the equation but was considered. I’m open to discussion and opinion. Here are the grades for the season I was lucky enough to see in 2021.
I’ve watched Hammer mow through high-ranking O’s prospects in the past but this summer he had to work his way back from injury. It wasn’t always pretty. Stamina and effort will never be an issue for him, but when he looks back at 2021 he’ll want to think of the years ahead. I can’t grade someone so skilled on this time around, just trying to reach a higher level of health. He’s an INC for me, but a big victory for him and the training staff to get him back to where he can build up again.
Really hard to get a read on him, only saw a few ABs as he was down on a rehab assignment. INC
Was rehabbing until the season’s final game when he was active and threw a perfect inning in a suspended contest. Edmond has been out since 2019 and made it back with seconds left in the season. I can’t grade him but I can give him credit, that’s a difficult road to navigate. In the inning, the breaking ball looked right on schedule.
D Grades – Needs Improvement
Angel is a righty reliever who had his 1st taste of pro ball in America. The results were mixed and inconsistent. His successful appearances still had long counts and walks so he’s got some work to do at 19. The Venezuelan arm will be back but for 2021 he gets a D.
A strong and sturdy righty reliever, Berroa did not find his footing here in 2021 and returned to the Dominican Republic after seven appearances in rookie ball. I’d say his area of deficiency was location and avoiding the middle of the strike zone. Berroa has an equal amount of movement and work to do. He gets a D. His seven appearances simply had too many pitches and too many walks.
A big broad righty reliever with an over the top delivery, Mendez got hit pretty hard this summer trying to get his natural run to hit the corners of the strike zone. He can bring some heat out of the pen, but his appearances didn’t improve so he’ll have to start from scratch in ‘22. More k’s than IP by 2 but had a 1.75 WHIP. That’s a D summer.
Another RHP used as a reliever who didn’t perform well on paper. Showed good body language and confidence through adversity which raises his grade a bit, but the 13.50 ERA is what it is. Fulgencio was on the mound for wins going 3-4 in save chances, but his movement wasn’t always sharp and he wasn’t always in control of it. A pitching coach would probably like to work with his skill set, but 2021 earned big O a D+. I’d estimate we’ll see better from him.
Harol definitely has good stuff. But his problem was location and doing better in three-ball counts. In 2021 he didn’t improve in those areas. His numbers and splits were rough except for the age one, he’s 18 and growing stronger. I’ll bet on him and his delivery but he’s got a ways to go. Arias gets a D.
Righty. Reliever. Consistency issues. Sorry if this is boring you at this point. I liked Alcantara’s body language, attitude and stuff but that doesn’t mean any of them worked well. The adjustment to better hitters in the US didn’t go well for the 20 year old where he was giving up hard contact without mitigating with grounders and K’s. I only saw one real pitch to try and finish ABs and it looked like an in-between breaking ball…. with potential. His warmups gave me more hope than his pitches did so a D for Darlin.
C Grades – Average
A fast CF type who can both accelerate and sprint at high speed. Didn’t get a ton of opportunities, always at max effort when he did. Played the role of pinch runner well. Angel gets a C, but I didn’t see as much as I wanted to.
A tall rookie righty from Washington. Long uses his legs very well and was up and down in his pro debut. When he was in rhythm he really controlled his ABs and was ready to deal quickly. His innings were minimized so I only saw a little. I’ll give Ryan a C.
Mante filled in at both 1st and catcher and even 3rd base this summer. You wouldn’t notice the lack of experience at any spot. He’s 19 and has been utilized at High A and AAA for his backstop skills. C+
This guy can accelerate! His 1st step on the bases is lethal but he needs to back it up with a dependable bat. Range in the OF us better than solid, I’m open to a future mind change but Berroa got a C-.
Another player I did not see as much as I wanted. The tools looks to be at their earliest stage, but the makeup and demeanor seem closer to decent. James is a big guy and his size doesn’t inhibit his movements. He has a bit of uppercut in his swing, I’d like to see more legs in it. He’s wide so there’s a lot of room for muscle in his core. James gets a C.
A little up and down but he’s yet to turn 19 and can get guys swinging with good gas. Out pitches seem to be adequate and delivery is short, powerful. I’m not sure of the Arsenal specifically so I’m comfortable with a C.
This guy pops up throwing lasers from the crouch. If you’re going to throw behind runners in the FCL brand new to this league, there’s also a confidence in that arm that’ll make me think twice. I loved that mentality. Bat needs to catch up (not a catching pun). C+
Lots of upside and lots of offerings. A very young performer in this league he was not consistent but when he was on he flashed a wicked slider cutting across the top of the zone. Chace will require some time and coaching. Fortunately the FCL O’s have plenty of both. C+ for Chace but a pretty good intro to being a pro. 32k/22IP
Wilky looks like the kind of teammate and veteran that can be of value to a young and mostly Latin roster. He’s not too good on pop flies near the plate w the equipment on. Bat speed and power have come around for the backstop. He’s a catcher in every sense of the word. C for Grullon.
I don’t have data or a speed gun but I’d bet his heater is the fastest or the second fastest on either team. It doesn’t come with a lot of spin or tail on it but he can locate it well. He’s best in the role of a clean-up guy coming in out of the pen. Was probably more dependable in the past then this year but he got stronger and didn’t hurt the team in his appearances. C+ for Lleras.
All the skills have been present. Good mover in the OF, can make contact cleanly. Not enough consistency and I’ve got plenty of looks at him starting in 2019. I’m thinking when he’s at his best he can provide competition to an affiliate level OF group. Frank gets a C.
A backup lefty hitting catcher with mixed results batting in his debut stateside. Defensively it seems that the speed was too much for him and his throwing mechanics getting cleaned up would assist the process. Herrera gets a C-.
Big, broad-shouldered arm with good run on the heater. Issues without pitch crispness marked his appearances. I’m thinking he needs to deepen the arsenal or get better at changing speeds or changing planes. I saw his motion as inconsistent so he’s got some strides to make. A loud and outgoing personality who showed more than once that he has his teammates backs. Cesar can throw, I wouldn’t close the book on him, C across the board.
A lefty pitcher used mostly in relief, FCL hitters got him to the tune of a .309 average. Monroy has a pair of out pitches in his cutter and breaking ball so he had his k/9 in a good spot all year. Consistency in delivery and performance are what he’ll need going forward. Some of Monroy’s appearances were clean and efficient so he’s got something to build on despite the stats not favoring his 2021. C+ for Monroy.
Taller RHP used as a reliever didn’t throw too much in-game this year. Bad August squeezed in between a solid July and better September. He can get it going in the mid 90’s with a higher effort buildup/delivery. Portes gets a C-.
Kelvin is a compact righty reliever who doesn’t get Ks. His windup is complicated and uses every inch of his frame but I’d bet he’s one of the hardest throwers on the team. His fastball looks like 98 and when thrown with accuracy can be a dynamite foundation. But he needs more movement on it, and another offering to make hitters think. Up in the air if we’ll see that but KLR is a C- for 2021.
I liked him immediately the first time I saw him. His windup is funky and complicated but ends up with a balanced release. The ball gets out of his hand fast due to arm action, and gets on the hitter quick too. Big positives for me. He didn’t exactly get guys out here but it was less than 6 IP and felt like a warmup to bigger things. That was correct as he went to A and showed out (.241 avg against/45 k’s in 33 IP). His heat seems kind of straight but I’d be more interested in the other pitches that set it up going forward. I’m giving him a C- for Sarasota but his season overall is very close to a B+ and I almost felt an INC would be better. He’s solid and a pain in the butt to righties.
B Grades – Solid but Unspectacular
This big catcher impressed me with his arm and pop-up combo, a good foundation. But the muscle worked even better into his swing, & he can really drive the baseball. His potential to add to a strong organizational depth chart at catcher is completely legit. B
A slim but strong middle infielder who never backed down from velocity. He’s young so I do have to squint to see it, but I like this guy. His throws have snap on them and he can move in the field. Levelheaded and learning, I’m giving him a B+ for making the most of his opportunities.
An Aruban lefty pitcher with decent deception. Kind of calm and quiet which he carried on to the mound where it helped him. Success with pickoffs was a pleasant surprise. Solid B.
Showed major improvements in range. He can play several positions and do it well with the glove and an arm that’s becoming trustworthy. I like his bat development but am convinced he can bring more to the table offensively w/pop and on-base. Yorky gets a B-.
Lopez is a righty reliever from Panama who got his 1st taste of pro ball this year. I saw a pair of fastballs, an off-speed and a breaking ball. He had more Ks than IP and finished on a high note so I’ll give him a B+, but another player I just didn’t see enough of.
Another extremely young yet uber-versatile infielder. I like his arm and think his bat is the kind that gets better with regular use. His athleticism is made for baseball so when he clicks it could be big. B based on upside, B based on progress this summer. He’s a B.
Only saw a small amount of games but skills stood out. One cut of his inside out swing and I was hooked (not a swing pun). Even on his 1st day he looked and acted like he belonged. When he made contact the ball flew off the barrel. Looks like a tough AB, which I love. B for Trimble.
Gonzo has been refining that lefty cut with mixed results. The more he plays the more comfortable he is and it’s easy to pick up on. That tells me he’s still in 1st gear. He’s still young enough where he’s growing to catch up to his limbs. The Orioles made a wise choice with him, the athleticism transfers over easily. Gonzo gets a B-, but that’s only for this summer. His future is one breakthrough from being spectacular.
My impression of him starts with clutch as I recall him winning a game with his bat one day and making a difficult defensive play late to preserve a lead. Nothing stood out as far as skill set or specific, but he always demonstrated good posture fielding and a few tough hips were handled well. Not a guy with regular playing time, B- for EP.
The guy is so young and so inexperienced with pro ball but the times he got in he held his own quite well. I was pleasantly surprised at the arm but the hands and the explosion that comes from the hands is what got him paid, and I saw some evidence of them more than once. When this guy puts on muscle he’s going to be a terror. The contact skills are present today. Creed gets a B- but could get bumped up much higher if he emerges as a solid backstop helping an already strong group.
Only got to see him once but was quite nasty. Deception looked to be a positive. Ball landed in the corners of the zone, hitters were frustrated. I like that. B-
Got to more than a few fly balls that were out of his range and I only saw him in 6 games! Hitting against the pitchers in the FCL didn’t seem a cinch, but he has a plan in the box and works to execute it. The limited sample size impressed me, the time at Delmarva doesn’t influence what I saw. I’ll give him a B-.
Yet another draftee this year I didn’t see a ton of but elements of his game left an impression. Lateral movement in the field is very good. Transfer speed and grounder skills are also high level. He’s a glove guy who can move well and make contact. Head was always up and fundamentals were crispy clean. Burns earns a B+ and reminded me of Brian Roberts in build and game.
Drafted this year in the 4th round, Williams, who I saw play one game, looked the part. Good glove and above avg arm combo means he’s prob a better OF than I got to see. Showed a good eye the day I saw him. Not a lot to go on, I’ll give him a B.
This righty has several breaking balls that flashed plus, and he can move their landing spots horizontally across the zone. The heat to play off of the movement pitches needs to catch up. There are positive intangibles and a great deal of passion in this player. Bullpen, starter or closer has yet to be decided. If he can attack improvement like he goes after hitters, the next step in his progression could be a big one. I’m confident it will be. Miggy is right in the range for a B.
Not a big guy but a big swing and a little bit of pop. Didn’t have tremendous range but def got the job done and seems a high order type hitter who can do a little bit of a lot of good things and show versatility. He was only down for a short time but I’ll give him a B- because he did well and it appears got healthier.
A player who grew with experience and used his opportunities to show a profile. It is one of a power hitter. Bellony is big, not huge but he can channel his body into the right position to absolutely club baseballs. He hit the large black square above the digital scoreboard in extremely deep center. He showed good breaks on the ball as an outfielder and an adequate arm. Also noticed several instances where he provided backup and was in the right place at the right time. I bet someone is going to like the package of all those parts turning into something good. Isaac gets a solid B.
Tall, long-limbed righty who can utilize delivery mechanics and generate good velocity and repeatable fundamentals. Good leg leverage into power. Showed out pitch ability and sequencing improved w/ somewhat regular use. His season included stops at higher levels and a return trip but he grew overall and is better today than he was in April. B for Carlos.
This RHP struggled w/consistency (noticing a trend?) but had one standout split in addition to some sharper arm side run mixed with deception. Righties couldn’t see or couldn’t square up his stuff and only hit .191 off Joel. I see him as a long guy and one with a bit of a future as his stuff tunnels over the plate with movement. He can hit a target and can quiet an out of control inning. That’ll get him a B-.
In his brief time in FL, Cook showed some good skill offensively. Eye at the plate looked good and not intimidated by good stuff starters. Definitely stronger than he looks and you can tell by the contact/ball in the air. Can handle himself on the bases and has good acceleration too, I see a base stealer. In no way surprised that slightly better pitchers meant slightly better numbers. More if that will come. BC gets a B+.
Another arm to absolutely dream on despite the 2021 inconsistencies. Multiple grips/pitches releases were on display in his few (14) innings. He has great natural stuff and his pitches can be turned into finishers. Ortiz is a big kid and has a powerful lower body mixed with a smoother delivery. Think Cadillac more than Porsche. He’s lefty and only faced 8 same-handed hitters on the year but they only got him for a .200 avg. I see very big things in his future. He gets a B for 2021 and didn’t throw much in the season’s 2nd half.
A Grades – Top of the Class
The most consistent pitcher for me as far as location. He can pound the zone and locate a breaking ball. Finishing pitches are sharp but could be filthy as he gains strength and confidence. Raul gets an A.
I’ll tell you the grade first. A+. The way to impress me is defensive ability and specifically 1st step skills. TC guessed wrong once this summer, in a windy RF, so I’ll give him a pass, but otherwise was on the ball’s path the second it left the bat. These skills are difficult to develop; he’s a natural. In year one of pro ball he hit and ran well, but that glove puts him at the very top of the class.
This one’s pretty easy. A superstar in the making, Mayo had no trouble with rookie league pitching and in the field carried himself with the confidence and swagger of a seasoned vet. One more huge jump is forthcoming and then two years from now this franchise will have another cornerstone player. A+
I only saw a few games/ABs involving the O’s 1st round pick but got the chance to see him do everything in the OF so I’m comfortable with grading him. The throwing, catching, running and especially the strike zone judgement are top notch. But the bat skills are elite. Solid A. I see this guy in Camden Yards making All-Star games.
A guy I love to watch play. A skill and hustle combo will get you a high grade every time. The O’s let Lewis go during the season which might affect their grade but when he was here he was doubling off Chris Sale and knocking the ball around Ed Smith Stadium. Craig gets an A and he earned it.
Seeing him play defense at multiple infield spots it was easy to trust him. Nothing flashy about his range or arm, but the pace and rhythm were enough to get him an A. His transfer is sharp and he’ll make a great double play pairing one day at either 2nd or short. Some lbs will mean more pop but he’s 19 and cleared the fences three times. I’ll take it.
Taking the athletic pieces and fitting then into a profile dripping with potential, this guy grew in every way. He can lead off. He can steal a bag. He can run down a fly ball, turn and fire a strike into the infield. He can hit for power and place the ball with accuracy. Definitely a treat to see a player come into his own. Deson’s a cinch A+.
A left handed swing to dream on, a big guy getting stronger by the day. He’s a 1B so his bat needs to be at its slugging pct best all the time which means AB maximizing. Solid A. He can hit and the potential for a run production role is what I’d go for. Consistency stands between him and an impressive resume’.
I’ve been watching him closely for a while. This guy can catch and throw with extreme athleticism. His eye at the plate is high level, maybe his best asset. I’ve seen him spit on plenty of close pitches, all balls. I’m biased but despite my lack of objectivity this is a fine baseball player. He has been up and down trying to find optimal health, but skill and a team first mentality means he’ll get an A each time.
Sometimes it was tough to remember that he’s so young because his approach and demeanor are really veteran. The body and skill set are nowhere near fully formed but when he has it all rolling he’s a well-oiled machine operating at full go in the shortstop hole. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table next year, but his game is on the rise today and he demonstrated consistent, across the board development this summer. Happy to give him an A, but I feel he earned it.
Another player with a bright future and had lots of chances to show lots of skills this summer. 3/4 hitter who fits well at 3rd base and has a big league frame, Moises can knock the ball over the fence and start a double play with way too much ease for someone so young. Vocal and introspective, O’s fans have a developing talent from pre-Elias to follow on an already impressive track. Easy A also earned.
The one guy who is starting to put it all together as the season ends. Saw him 1st in 2019 swinging wildly from an awkward stance. The growth from then until now as far as maturing his game and being a leader is as much as an organization could ask for. On top of that he’s unquestionably the loudest supporter from the dugout. Above average arm, way above average passion and support, enough hustle to make up ground in a hurry and a cleaner swing where he now incorporates a strong lower half. This guy has forced me to change the B I gave him to an A. I love it when that happens.
I saw one start worth of innings for Loeprich (7 inn) and he didn’t look outstanding but he showed good corner hitting ability and pace. The rhythm stands out in a league where that’s not common. He’s taller and older and looks like a pro. The stuff doesn’t have that slick movement but he’s got off-speed to work with too and some positive intangibles. I give Conner an A. He did his job well down in FL.
Big slugger went 6-for-23 in FL but showed enormous power on one booming double. Teter is tall and the swing plane is jumbo sized too so Ks and location could be an issue. Didn’t see it though in my limited looks and BB/K numbers look regular after his call up. Moved well around the bag and showed athleticism. When he gains weight he’ll be zoned for residential, the guy is large. I saw elements of strike zone control mixed with a swing process that needs explosion to maximize power. Nice guy, but a really intriguing blend of baseball stuff. I like the draft pick and his future. Giving Teter an A. The defense gets him to that tier.