Written by Chris Slade
In case you haven't been following Stef's AFL thread in the minors forum, here's the lowdown on the several Orioles prospects currently playing in the Arizona Fall League.
As a refresher, the Orioles sent outfielder Dariel Alvarez (2013 Cuban signee), Left handed starting pitchers Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez, catcher Michael Ohlman, Right handed starting pitcher Branden Kline, Left handed reliever Jason Gurka, and top infield prospect, Jonathan Schoop. They are playing alongside prospects from the Indians, Red Sox, and Brewers organizations for the Surprise Saguaros. Baysox manager Gary Kendall is managing the team. Ironbirds pitching coach Alan Mills serves as the pitching coach for the Saguaros as well.
How the team is doing:
For what it's worth, the Surprise Sagauros are 11-6 and in first place of the Western division.
We also learned yesterday that Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez made the cut for the AFL "Fall Stars Game" which according to Eduardo Encina, will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 EST this Saturday, November 2. So, there's your chance to see the young lefties in action.
For all you prospect junkies out there, here's a complete list of the prospects participating in the Stars Game.
How the players are doing:
Eduardo Rodriguez - LHP
Eddie's prospect shine hasn't lost any luster. The quality of his changeup, particularly it's tailing action and overall deceptiveness, drew rave reviews from Keith Law in an insider article on ESPN.com, who also noted that he looked more polished than what he'd seen in previous outings. Bernie Pleskoff also came away impressed by what he's seen in this article for Orioles.com, projecting him as a No. 3 Starter, noting he has the "stuff, confidence to succeed". Let's hope so.
He's pitched to a 4.63 ERA in 11.2 AFL innings, with 9 hits, 1 home run, and 5 walks allowed while notching 12 strikeouts and limiting opposing hitters to a .205 AVG.
Tim Berry - LHP
Surprise. Surprise. Berry was expected to pitch in relief but an injury to Brewers righthander Taylor Jungmann opened a spot for him in the Saguaros rotation. As mentioned in this MLB.com article, he has thrown back-to-back 4 scoreless inning starts, an impressive feat in the hitter's haven that traditionally exists in Arizona ballparks.
Overall, Berry has pitched to a 1.64 ERA inn 11 innings, with 10 hits, no home runs, and 2 walks allowed while recording 10 strikeouts and holding opposing batters to a .250 AVG. I'm anxious to get a look at him, assuming makes an appearance in the Stars Game this Saturday.
Henry Urrutia - OF
Halfway through the season, Urrutia carries a .417/.475/.583 slash line in 40 plate appearances. His .417 AVG is good for second in the AFL and leads the Saguaros. (Cubs blue chip prospect Kris Bryant leads the league with a .422 AVG).
Big Hank is known to showcase impressive batting practice power but his ability to translate said power consistently to games has been questioned. He recently hit his first home run in the AFL, a grand slam which traveled a monstrous distance. I'd like to see more wherever this came from with the Orioles next year.
Michael Ohlman - C
Granted it's six games, but Ohlman has made the most of his six game sample, going 7-for-17 (.412) with five of those hits going for extra bases (two home runs and three doubles). He's also shown an impressive batting eye with a 8/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The organization has clearly taken notice of his breakout year as Roch Kubatko mentioned that Buck Showalter brought up Ohlman's name without any prompting during a recent conversation.
Dariel Alvarez - OF
According to manager Gary Kendall, Alvarez has showed off a plus caliber arm in right field both in strength and accuracy for the Saguaros. Kendall has also been impressed with the quailty of his at bats, noting "he's a good fastball hitter" in this article on Masnsports.com.
In 11 games, Alvarez has batted .231/.279/.351 over 41 plate appearances. However, he has struck out just three times in 39 at bats, so I suspect that average will rise if he continues to put the ball in play frequently.
Jason Gurka - LHP
The 25 year old reliever flies under the radar but pitched well at Bowie this season and has held his own in the AFL as well. With a low 90's sinking fastball and slurve, Gurka has pitched to a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings, allowing 11 hits, no home runs or walks, while striking out two.
Nine of those eleven hits have come off the bat of right handed hitters which backs up a claim that his profile may be limited to a LOOGY at the next level.
Branden Kline - RHP
Simply put, Kline has has a rough go at it this year. He made just seven starts for the Shorebirds before an ankle injury cut his season short. Returning to action in the AFL, he has been roughed up to the tune of a 14.09 ERA in 7.2 innings, with 13 hits, 2 home runs, and 5 walks allowed.
Control clearly seems to be the issue and perhaps some rust due to the layoff from pitching. The only good news about this small sample is that he has struck out a little over a batter per inning.
Jonathan Schoop - INF
Schoop has struggled to get into a rhythm at the plate, slashing just .159/.245/.295 in 49 plate appearances. He's also wiffed 12 times in 44 at bats which is not what we like to see.
Schoop has admitted himself that he has been pressing a bit at the plate and needs to be more patient. Last night's 2-for-3 performance could be a sign of a better second half in the AFL.
Overall, I'd say this a better collection of talent than what we have sent to the AFL in previous seasons. Most of the players save for Kline and Schoop have performed well and impressed evaluators. Obviously, Schoop's showing is dissapointing but I don't think a small AFL sample should diminish his prospect stock. I do think its fair to raise question over whether he needs another half season (at least) down in the minors before handing him a regular job with the Orioles.
I'll be back at the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League season to wrap up how the Orioles prospects finish up.
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