• Jun

    Aberdeen Roster has several players to watch

    Looking over the initial Aberdeen Ironbirds roster shows several interesting players to keep an eye on this season, even before the 2011 draft picks start to arrive.

    With the Orioles decision to drop their Appalachian League team (Bluefield) for the 2011 season, the Ironbirds received several younger players that normally would not have made the jump to the traditionally college-age heavy league. It will be interesting to see which ones step up to higher level of competition and which ones are overmatched, but in the end it gives you an opportunity to see how the organization feels about some of their younger player.

    The Orioles have sent three 19-year olds to the league highlighted by top pitching prospect Parker Bridwell. Coming into the year Bridwell was named our eighth best prospect despite pitching in just five and two-thirds of an inning, but it was clear after seeing him in Aberdeen last year as an 18-year old that he had a huge ceiling. A top high school quarterback, Bridwell never fully focused on baseball and his body size, arm speed, and mechanics suggested there was a lot more velocity then the high 80’s, low 90’s he threw in high school. Sure enough by the end of last season he was sitting 91-93 MPH and this spring he was reportedly getting it into the mid-90s. The Orioles promoted him to Delmarva for one start and although he allowed five runs on six hits and a walk over four and two-third innings, he struck out five and reportedly sat 93-96 MPH while touching 100 MPH on the stadium gun once. Regardless of whether that was a true 100 MPH or not, Bridwell is going to be an exciting prospect to follow this summer.

    Another 19-year old is third baseman Connor Narron, a 2010 5th round pick who signed for overslot money. Narron’s father is former major league catcher and former Orioles minor league coach/manager Jerry Narron. He struggled mightily last year between the Gulf Coast League and an ill-fated trip to the Ironbirds at the end of the year, but he’s worked hard to reshape his hitting mechanics and looks to put up some decent numbers this year. He’s considered a hard worker and there were several reports on his improvements even during last fall’s prospect camp at Camden Yards. He’s the kind of player that most likely would have started at Bluefield this season so it will be interesting to see how he does in the New York Penn League.

    The other 19-year is catcher Wynston Sawyer, an 8th round selection last year out of Scripps Ranch High School in California. Sawyer impressed some people in the organization at the prospect camp last fall and played well enough in extended spring to earn him a place on the Aberdeen roster. Sawyer should be the main starter, but he could share some time if the Orioles send recently signed college catcher Adam Davis to Aberdeen. It’s asking a lot of a 19-year old catcher with 26 professional at bats to play in the New York Penn League, so he could also end up back with the GCL Orioles if Davis is assigned to Aberdeen. He’s another player that would have probably benefitted from a year at Bluefield.

    Just turned 20-year old outfielder Kyle Hoppy will get a promotion to Aberdeen despite struggling mightily at Bluefield last year (.498 OPS) and 21-year old switch-hitter outfielder Austin Knight will return to Aberdeen while hoping to improve on his numbers for a year ago (.530 OPS).

    Besides Parker, the Ironbirds pitching staff boosts a few other young pitches to keep an eye on.  20-year old left-hander Aaron Wirsch is finally healthy and ready to start for the Ironbirds. The 6-foot-5 southpaw has missed bats over his career, but various ailments have limited him to just 28 professional innings over his two years in pro ball. It will be interesting to see if this is the season he starts to fulfill his great promise.

    Another young hurler to watch will be just turned 20-year old David Baker. Baker has just 29 and a third professional innings but was seen as a projection pick when he was selected in the 14th round of the 2009 draft. According to manager Leo Gomez he will be used as a starter which suggests the organization is very high on him.

    Twenty-two year old left-hander Enrico Jimenez, left-hander Matthew Drummond and right-handers Jake Cowen and Zach Petersime are also some pitchers to keep an eye on this season.

    Several 2011 draft picks could be part of the Aberdeen roster soon. Left-handed pitchers Matthew Taylor (5th round) and Trent Howard (7th) are both candidates to join the Aberdeen squad along with recently signed LHP Zachary Fowler (33rd), 2B Jermone Pena (38th) and C Cameron Edmon (29th).

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.