As the Minor League season draws to a close this weekend and the Major League rosters prepare for expansion the Orioles farm teams are finishing out their seasons and continue to collect accolades in the process.
ARRIETA NAMED CAROLINA LEAGUE PITCHER OF THE YEAR
It’s been quite a year for Keys’ pitcher Jake Arrieta who followed up selections as the Keys’ opening day starter, the Carolina League All-Star game starter, an appearance in the Minor League futures game and a victory for the U.S. Olympic bronze medal-winning team, Arrieta was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.
On Wednesday, Arrieta became just the second Keys pitcher to earn such an honor, following Orioles reliever Jim Johnson who was given the prestigious award in 2005. The 22-year-old right-hander went 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA in 20 starts for the Keys this season. Arrieta collected 120 strikeouts over 113 1/3 innings.
Arrieta joins quite a lengthy list of successful pitchers who have won the award including: Dwight Gooden (1983), Randy Myers (1984), Kent Mercker (1988), Charles Nagy (1989), Julian Tavares (1993), Bartolo Colon (1995), Rick Ankiel (1998), Zack Greinke (2003), and Zach Duke (2004) and Keys’ pitching coach Blaine Beatty won the award as an Orioles prospect in 1987 with the Hagerstown Suns two years before the Keys existence.
Arrieta was a third-round draft choice of the Orioles in 2007 and performed very well in the Arizona Fall League last year, tossing 14 consecutive scoreless innings.
DOUBLE-A BOWIE HEADED TO FIRST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE SINCE 1997
With newly named Eastern League Manager of the Year Brad Komminsk at the helm, the Baysox secured their first playoff berth in over 10 years after an 82-55 season and will open the Eastern League Playoffs on September 3 in a best of five series with Akron.
The Playoff Schedule is as follows:
September 3: Akron @ Bowie
September 4: Akron @ Bowie
September 5: Bowie @ Akron
September 6: (if necessary) Bowie @ Akron
September 7: (if necessary) Akron @ Bowie
Should the Baysox advance, the Eastern League Championship Series will take place September 9-13 against the Northern Division Champion.
But the playoffs are really just the icing on the cake for a highly successful season for the Baysox. To go along with Komminsk’s Manager of the Year accolades, the Baysox also list the Eastern League MVP (Lou Montanez) and Pitcher of the Year (Brad Bergesen) on their roster.
Montanez, who was called up to the Orioles on August 5 when centerfielder Adam Jones went in the disabled list with a broken left foot, hit a homerun in his first Major League at-bat and has been making his presence felt with the bat ever since that debut (.356, 7 RBIs). And prior to his call-up, Montanez was having an outstanding year for the Baysox, hitting .335 with 26 homers, 97 RBIs and 90 runs scored in 116 games. Despite not playing for the Baysox since August 4, Montanez is still in the running to win the Triple Crown.
Bergesen, who is giving the Orioles a lot of thought as far as September call-ups are concerned, went 15-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 23 appearances for the Baysox this season. Bergesen began the season with Frederick where he was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA but stepped in as the ace in Bowie after his April 21st promotion.
The Orioles have already announced that reliever Kam Mickolio and recently optioned starter Radhames Liz will return to the Major League roster on Tuesday, September 2. Baltimore has not yet said who else they expect to call-up, but the announcement is expected to be imminent.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE SELECTIONS
The Orioles announced on Friday that they will be sending Bowie right-fielder Nolan Reimold, catcher and top prospect Matt Wieters and shortstop Blake Davis to the Arizona Fall League. Joining them will be Frederick Keys first baseman Brandon Snyder.
The Orioles have still not reached a deal with their first-round draft choice, Brian Matusz, leaving them less than two days to get the deal done before the deadline at midnight on August 15.
Struggles signing their top pick are nothing new for the Orioles — last year’s first-round choice Matt Wieters signed his record-breaking deal just minutes before the deadline. Matusz reached out to local media via e-mail on Monday night, as the Baltimore Sun reported, stating that both sides were working hard to get a deal done and thanking Orioles fans for their support.
The Orioles are not alone — only three of this year’s top-10 picks have signed. (No. 1 — Rays’ Tim Beckham, No. 6 — Marlins’ Kyle Skipworth, No. 10 — Astros’ Jason Castro)
Wieters’ deal did get done in time and the catcher has been nothing short of impressive this season. Wieters is batting .353 this season (.345 with Class-A Frederick and .366 with Double-A Bowie) and has a combined 24 homers and 82 RBIs.
Penn Could be Getting Back on Track
Hayden Penn, the Orioles pitching prospect who has been on the verge of a call-up several times this season but suffered injuries or setbacks prior to each official promotion, got some good news on Wednesday.
After his last start was skipped due to shoulder soreness, Penn is tentatively scheduled to start Monday night for Triple-A Norfolk.
— Amanda Comak
THREE KEYS PITCHERS COMBINE FOR NO-HITTER IN FREDERICK
Brandon Erbe, Ryan Ouellette and Fredy Deza each turned in no-hit performances on Tuesday night against the Salem Avalanche, resulting in the Keys’ first combined no-hitter since 2006. It was the fifth no-hitter in club history, the last one coming by way of a combination of Radhames Liz, Russ Patrick, Jeff Montsani and Casey Cahill.
Erbe, a local prospect from nearby Owings Mills, Md., threw six innings, walking three and striking out seven. Ouellette, who came in after Erbe, was unable to make it out of the seventh — struggling but not allowing a hit — leaving having hit a batter, walked two and gotten a ground ball out. Deza came on to induce an inning-ending double play and then retired Salem’s final six batters all via the ground ball to seal the no-hitter.
Erbe improved to 9-2 with a 4.29 ERA
If the Orioles were expecting their top prospect to hit any stumbling blocks at all this season they’ve been sorely disappointed as the headlines continue to pour in on the outstanding performances being turned in by catcher Matt Wieters.
Wieters, the Orioles 2007 first-round draft pick, turned in another stellar performance in Bowie Friday night as the switch-hitting catcher homered twice and knocked in a career-high six runs in Bowie’s 10-1 victory over the New Britain Rock Cats.
Wieters impressed everyone in Class-A Frederick, where he began this season — his first full professional season — and has yet to make it look any harder after being promoted to Double-A in late June. Since joining the Baysox, Wieters is hitting a team-best .368 in 41 games and has driven in 39 runs with 9 homers.
With so many of their prospects making headlines with their impressive play in the Minor Leagues the Orioles will likely be faced with some tough decisions come September when the rosters expand.
Prior to the Orioles 9-1 victory over the Rangers Friday night manager Dave Trembley echoed those sentiments but reiterated the point that the team has not yet decided who will be rewarded for their play with a September call-up.
“We have not gotten to a point where we’ve decided who’s coming up here in September and what’s going to happen in September,” Trembley said, attempting to put to rest questioning on the subject.
— Amanda Comak
There isn’t much good news going around Camden Yards lately with the current losing streak tying a season-high five games heading into Sunday’s finale with the Major League-best Angels. Fortunately for the Orioles there is a lot to be happy about down on the farm with some of the Orioles top prospects continuing to impress in the Minor Leagues.
Three quarters of the way into his first full professional season and Orioles catching prospect Matt Wieters has yet to hit any hurdles in his rise through the Orioles farm system. Baltimore’s 2007 first round draft pick, Wieters blew through the Carolina League with Class-A Frederick — where he began the season — and has continued his hot hitting and prowess behind the plate in Double-A Bowie.
Voted a Carolina League All-Star for his performance at Frederick, Wieters absolutely destroyed Class-A pitching, hitting .345 in 69 games with 15 homers, 40 RBIs and a .576 slugging percentage. Wieters was so impressive in Frederick, referred to by hitting coach J.J. Cannon as a “complete player,” that he was promoted to Bowie on June 26, spending just under three months at Class-A.
And the usual adjustment that one would assume comes with being promoted, facing better pitching and things like that had little to no impact on Wieters. Since joining the Baysox the catcher has hit .333 with five homers and 20 RBIs in just 28 games. Wieters hasn’t seemed to suffer any setbacks in dealing with a higher level of pitching.
July was a pretty good month for Jake Arrieta. Four days after pitching a scoreless sixth inning in the Future’s Game in Yankee Stadium, Arrieta was named to the U.S. Olympic Team and will travel to Beijing in August to compete.
“I was contacted by Paul Siler and he told me that I was in the running [for the Olympic Team],” Arrieta said prior to his start in Yankee Stadium. “He told me that I was in the running. I really didn’t know how good my chances were but over the past couple of years things have really changed for me and opportunities that I’ve had opened up a lot of eyes.”
Arrieta suffered with an abdominal strain early in the season that led to him being less effective during the first few months. But fully healthy, Arrieta has truly dazzled with Frederick. In two of his last three starts Arrieta has gone seven full innings allowing three-runs or less.
“He’s got a good fastball,” said Key’s manager Richie Hebner. “To me, a changeup gets you to the big leagues pretty quick so he’s got to work on his off-speed pitch…I like him. A lot of scouts I’ve talked to this year, a lot of visiting managers I’ve seen, they all love this kid. He’s got great potential and he’s very focused…He knows what he has to do so if he stays on that course there’s no reason why he’s not pitching in the big leagues in a couple of years.”
Snyder, originally a catching prospect who switched to first base after suffering a shoulder injury last season, has made tremendous strides this season at Frederick. Snyder has not only learned a new position and been able to perform well there but he has also regained the offensive prowess that he lost after hurting his shoulder.
Snyder is currently batting .294 this season with nine homers and 54 RBIs, taking over the team’s top offensive slot after Wieters was promoted to Double-A.
“I think right now it’s just about reducing the little mistakes,” Snyder said of his focus at first base. “Being in the right place at the right time, the instinctual things about knowing when to do this and when to do that…I think I’ve progressed leaps and bounds since last year. In my mind I thought I was pretty good last year, but looking back on it I think I’m a lot better this year.”
Not having to focus on perfecting his catching and working with pitchers has allowed Snyder to focus more on his offense. The focus has been certainly paying off, evidenced by his numbers as he continues to perform for the Keys.
— Amanda Comak