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IronBirds Mash, Tides Deal, & More Baby Bird Observations

Colton Cowser
Colton Cowser (Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports)
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The Major League Baltimore Orioles are struggling out of the gate. They have only won one game while dropping five. While it isn’t surprising, facing the Rays and Brewers with their elite pitching staffs, watching losses is never fun, especially considering the way some of these losses have gone down. The Orioles have had chance after chance to break games wide open, yet they fall on their face time after time. The pitching hasn’t been awful, yet how long can some of these pitchers survive? Add in a John Means injury, and the hope for this team seems to be gone. It only took six games into the season for the Orioles to have a genuinely horrific loss. When a team loads the bases with no one out, and they follow it up by striking out three times in a row with some of the ugliest swings imaginable, it can break their spirit…not to mention ours.

Yes, the Orioles are struggling right now, and there isn’t any way around it. So continuing to focus on how bad the team has been this last week is something that just isn’t in the cards for me. It isn’t healthy to constantly focus on the negative while continually rejecting the positives in life. Unfortunately, the Orioles don’t have many positives on the Major League roster, so the only place to turn is the minors.

Luckily, the Minors are full of positives, so finding something to be positive about isn’t that hard. So let’s talk about what stood out in the first week of Minor League Baseball.

Delmarva Shorebirds

The Shorebirds are the most unique team of the four affiliates. The age of the players is the first thing that stands out. Out of the starters on the Shorebirds, the oldest is Davis Tavarez, who is 23. The offense has been productive in the small sample size this past week, with the standout being Darell Hernaiz. Hernaiz spent most of last season with the Shorebirds but didn’t get a promotion to Aberdeen to start the year. Hernaiz is hitting, .429/.429/.619 with a home run. He is seen as more of a defensive Shortstop, so the fact he seems to be figuring out how to hit is a good sign.

On the pitching side, there haven’t been a lot of big performances yet. However, it would be disrespectful not to mention Moises Chace. Chase was one of the 2019 International signings, made his first full season appearance, and was great, going four innings and struck out seven while only giving up one hit. I mention Chace because this is what the Shorebirds are going to showcase this year. 2022 will be when these international signees start to show up, the Shorebirds will feature a lot of them, and stories like Chace will happen a lot. This roster is just interesting because of the age of the players and the emergence of young international talent that is going to fill this pipeline.

While I think that winning games could be a struggle due to just how young the team is, they will be fun to watch regardless.

Aberdeen IronBirds

Out of all the affiliates, the Ironbirds are probably my favorite to watch on a night-to-night basis. If you enjoyed watching the offensive explosion from the second part of the Shorebirds from last year, you would enjoy the Ironbirds, as all the offensive players who carried that second-half surge are on the Aberdeen roster. This core consists of Colton Cowser, John Rhodes, Connor Norby, and Coby Mayo. Cowser, Norby, and Rhodes are all high upside college hitters, so they should be expected to succeed. Successful doesn’t even begin to describe how good these three hitters have been. Cowser is slashing .333/.440/.571, with three doubles and a triple. Norby is hitting .381/.440/.619, with one home run and two doubles, while Rhodes is hitting, .636/.714/1.000. That alone should be a nightmare for any opposing pitchers, but this offense is just taken to another level when Mayo is added. While Mayo’s .238/.292/.524 slash line isn’t as impressive, he still manages to crush the baseball and is showing signs of coming alive in these last couple of games.

The offense with these four hitters is loaded, and I haven’t even mentioned Donta’ Williams, Cesar Prieto, or TT Bowens. The pitching isn’t nearly as good, but it does have some interesting names. Jean Pinto got hit around in his first start, but he still has that gross Change-up; he just needs consistency. Carlos Tavera was a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft and has shown decent potential. The offense is the reason to watch the IronBirds every night. They have scored 34 runs in the first five games this season. That would make them tied for third-most in the MLB.

If you haven’t checked out the IronBirds yet, I can’t recommend them enough as they are probably the most fun Birds affiliate to watch.

Bowie Baysox

Bowie has gotten off to a little bit of a slow start, yet there are still positives. Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson, and Hudson Haskin are the stars on offense. Westburg shows off his hit tool and versatility early on by hitting .286/.375/.714, with three home runs. Henderson doesn’t have elite production yet, but he is still hitting .278/.364/.389 with two doubles. Meanwhile, Haskin has gotten off to a scorching hot start, hitting .563/.588/1.313 with three home runs. Unfortunately, Haskin got hurt on Wednesday night. It is unclear how much time he will miss or if he has to go on the IL.

An interesting point is that Westburg and Henderson have been playing second and third instead of short. This is probably because the Baysox want the slick-fielding Joey Ortiz at short. While this did change on Thursday night, it is interesting to see Westburg playing second and Henderson playing third most of the time.

The pitching side is led by Drew Rom and Zack Peek. Neither pitched that well in their first starts, but I think they will be better as the season goes on.  The Baysox may be off to a slow start, but they have a lot of talent, and will be better if they can get some reinforcement from Aberdeen later in the season.

Norfolk Tides

The Tides have a fun team that both pitches and hits well. Orioles Twitter Legend, Jahmai Jones, leads the offense along with Kyle Stowers and Robert Neustrom. Jones is hitting .360/.529/.640 with four doubles and one home run. Stowers got hit on his hand with a pitch on opening night for the Tides but returned to the lineup to continue to mash and show his underrated defense with diving catches. Neustrom is batting .235/.316/.471 with two doubles and home runs. Nothing groundbreaking, but that power is still more prevalent with him than ever. He also robbed a home run the other night, so this Norfolk outfield is sick. One prospect I didn’t mention was Yusniel Diaz. Diaz was off to a hot start but got hurt again with a pulled hamstring, and at this point, it isn’t surprising. The guy cannot stay healthy, and there isn’t anything to add to this conversation.

I didn’t even mention Terrin Vavra, Rylan Bannon, or Tyler Nevin. Some of these offensive pieces could be starters on the Orioles. The Tides can hit, but can they pitch? Yes, yes, they can. Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish lead the staff. Both of them had great first starts, putting up nearly identical stat lines. While both only went four innings, GrayRod had seven strikeouts while Bradish had six. The staff also has Kevin Smith, Kyle Brnovich, and Alexander Wells, all solid. The Tides are an entertaining team to watch now and could be getting better if Adley Rutschman and DL Hall make stops in Norfolk when they are ready.

The Orioles don’t have much to offer at the Major League level; however, the Minors give fans something exciting to watch every night, filled with nasty pitchers and devastating lineups all across the board. I can’t wait to see how these prospects progress.

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