There are a few players who didnt have the 2021 season they wanted in Orange and Black. Here I’ll highlight them and what they need to do to get back on track in the improved and still improving Orioles minor league system.
Toby Welk 3B
Welk’s development has been non-linear since being selected #618 out of Penn State Berks in an outstanding 2019 draft. The broad shouldered 3rd baseman has changed his body for the better and reached AA Bowie in 2021. His splits show a hitter who is making the adjustments to better pitching and doing so with some elements of success despite lower counting stats. One thing that stands out from his spray chart is his propensity to pull, it’s significant. Any semblance of going to deep RF w his strength would make pitchers have to set him up a bit differently.
Having seen Welk in the cage, I know he can make the adjustment. 2022 will have to be where he shows some consistency. He’s had the equivalent of one MLB season (163 games) spread over his 2 pro years and there’s lots of good to build on; 17 HR/80 RBI. 155k/64BB has contributed to an overall on-base of .342, that’s an area where he’ll have to sharpen some skills too. Knowing his approach and which instructors will be guiding him, I’m confident that 2022 will show some of the better aspects of Toby’s game.
Adam Hall 2B
Hall can move in the field and certainly on the bases. In his draft year of 2017 he barely saw the field but since then he’s swiped 82. The power has yet to show up, as he’s totaled 9 home runs in that 267 game career so his SLG (.379) and On-base mirror each other (.368).
That’s not the profile of a successful offensive performer and leads to the reason why Hall is labeled as an under-performer in dynasty chats. Some list makers put him in the Orioles top 15 prospects and others leave him off entirely. Hall’s athleticism leads to enough bat-to-ball ability that contact can get him to 1st more than a sharp eye (277k/86BB)but High A pitching held him to a .248 average in 2021 shocking instructors and fans alike. Hall dealt with some injuries and is still only 22 years old.
However the team has drafted several dynamic infielders since Hall’s 2017 class and he needs to show he’s developed enough to hold off the Norby’s and Hernaiz’s who have begun to elevate in the system.
TT Bowens – 23 years old.
6-4 235 and lifting. This is a power corner all the way around. Bowens was signed after the abbreviated draft in 2020 and he along w/JD Mundy have impressed as corners w/varied offensive skill sets. Bowens’ game is pop. 18 homers and 37XBH in his 93 game debut were very positive for those who scouted the small mountain of a man, but another K/BB ratio in need of improvement shows here, and a bit drastic if it doesn’t face an adjustment. 114/34 vs A level arms is not good enough so that’s where he’ll have to make some fixes.
Bowens is a true large framed slugger so maintaining control over the holes in his swing will have to be something he manages all the way up. Talking to some organizational instructors, getting Bowens to make better decisions and cut down on swings and misses is a priority in 2022. There’s some good to build on here-maybe even enough to call TT a sleeper.
JC Escarra 1B
Different from those listed above him, Escarra has shown an expert eye since joining the O’s in the 2017 draft. His 155BB/220k ratio is excellent and he’s shown outstanding on-base skills to match his impressive power. He uses the whole field well after contact but his homers seem to favor his pull side and they go out to right/right center.
The improvement that big JC needs to make are with touching the ball. His career average is .245 but last year it dipped to .225. Simply put he’s more skilled hitter than that and he’ll have the chance to prove it. At 26 and being on the cusp on the big league club, this improvement could be the key to finding his way to the top of the organization. The team likes him, he shows a great attitude and he’s even had success as a spring training extra. One more tweak and he’s where he belongs, in Baltimore.
Kevin Smith LHP
Never profiling as a low WHIP starter even at his best as a Mets farmhand, Smith got punished last year by letting a few too many guys get on base. Bad timing brought his AAA ERA above 6 despite displaying his signature strikeout stuff with an 11 k/9. The good part is he’s now experienced at that final pre-MLB level making 15 starts there at age 24.
The team gave him rule 5 protection over other thought-to-be-closer candidates so it’s logical to assume he’ll be given lots of opportunities to build on his foundation and improve. Miguel Castro appears to be a usable piece on a contender. Will Smith be an arm that helps fuel a rebuild and help the Birds win that trade?
Yusniel Diaz – RF
Speaking of winning trades that matter to O’s fans what’s up with Yusniel?
The deal that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers way back when is now to the point where we’d like anything at all on our end. Dean Kremer took his lumps and may bounce back but we have no way to predict anything positive for this player. Is he a power hitter?
Is he better at defense than offense? What about his strengths? Base-running? It’s been a while since the system has had a player this polarizing. A reminder that before he got hurt (injury prone too?)he had 82 strikeouts and less than 20 walks. 13 XBH in 65 games says the Dodgers knew what they were doing. Anything at all would be really nice, the bar he’s setting is a low one. I’m not ready to count him out, but a positive series of events as opposed to what’s happened so far would be a nice cherry on top of the team’s top-ranked minor league overall improvement.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images