Triple-A Trickledown: Norfolk
Chiefs fans will get to know the Norfolk Tides quite well over the next week. Syracuse and Norfolk play the second of eight straight games today, with the two teams heading to Virginia on Monday morning for a four-game set. Our own Daniel Comisi took a look at the Triple-A Orioles in our next edition of Triple-A Trickledown…
Catcher: Steve Clevenger, Brian Ward
29 year-old Clevenger is a major-league veteran after playing 107 games in four years with both the Cubs and the Orioles. His best year was in 2012, when he batting .201 with 13 extra base hits in 69 games with Chicago. 28 year-old Ward is the primary backstop and is in his first year with Norfolk. In 21 games this year, Ward has hit .284 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts, which shows his plate discipline. Clevenger is on the 40-man roster and would only be called up if something would happen to Nick Hundley, who is only starting behind the plate because All-Star Matt Wieters is on the DL with a right elbow strain.
First Base: Chris Marrero, Brett Wallace
Chiefs fans will remember 25 year-old Marrero, who spent 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Syracuse after being drafted 15th overall in the 2006 draft by Washington. In his 275 games in Syracuse, Marrero batted .281 with 25 home runs and 34 doubles. Marrero has played 39 games in Washington, 31 in 2011 and eight in 2013. 27 year-old Wallace was the starting first baseman for the Houston Astros from 2010-2013, playing in 311 games. Two main reasons why Wallace continued to lose playing time each year after starting 115 games in 2011 are his high strikeout rates and a batting average that continued to plummet each year. Neither player is on the 40-man roster and even though Wallace is hitting well, (.278 BA, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 60 games at first), All-Star Chris Davis is occupying first base with the Orioles and Delmon Young at designated hitter, there is no room for him in Baltimore.
Second Base: Alexi Casilla, Steve Lombardozzi, Jemile Weeks
Casilla (29), Lombardozzi (25), and Weeks (27) all have spent time in the major leagues. Casilla spent seven years with the Twins before spending last year in Baltimore. After playing 577 games in the majors in eight years, Casilla owns a .302 OBP with 103 extra-base hits and 80 stolen bases in 91 attempts. 2011 Chiefs fans will remember Lombardozzi from when he played 69 games with Syracuse. He was fantastic in Central NY, batting .310 with 19 extra-base hits before being called up to Washington. Lombardozzi spent 257 games with Washington before being sent to Detroit this offseason in the Doug Fister deal, and finally landing in Baltimore after traded to the Orioles for Alex Gonzalez. He’s played 20 games in Baltimore this year and was hitting .288 before being sent down to Norfolk on May 1st.
Weeks, the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, has played 226 games in the majors, most of them with the Oakland Athletics. After a fantastic rookie year in 2011, batting .303 with 22 stolen bases and eight triples in 97 games, Weeks’ numbers have gone down. He’s now looking for a second chance in Baltimore. This year in Norfolk, Weeks is batting .288 with six steals and four triples in 31 games. It appears that Lombardozzi will be the first guy to called up to the majors because he has normally been used as a utility guy to give any of the middle infielders a day off and if someone got injured, I’d expect Lombardozzi to be called up again.
Third Base: Buck Britton, Cord Phelps
27-year-old Phelps was a third round pick in the 2008 draft by Cleveland after playing though Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in a year-and-a-half before being promoted to Columbus in 2010. Now in his fifth year in Triple-A, Phelps is with Baltimore after being claimed off waivers this offseason and is looking to make the jump to the majors again after playing 53 Major League games with Cleveland. Britton has been bouncing between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk each year since 2012 and has had trouble with Triple-A pitching. In Double-A, Britton is hitting well with a .296 BA, .350 OBP and 17 stolen bases in 271 games. But in Triple-A, Britton is only hitting .232 with a .282 OBP and only two steals in 98 games. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, and even though starter Manny Machado has struggled, Lombardozzi would likely be the next man up.
Shortstop: Ivan DeJesus
Once a second-round draft pick in 2005 by the Dodgers, DeJesus (27 years old) has been bouncing around teams the past couple years. He was a part of that massive Boston-Los Angeles trade in 2012 that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to LA for prospects and salary cap relief for Boston. Then, in the 2012 offseason, he was traded by Boston with Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt and spent 2013 with Triple-A Indianapolis. In Indy, DeJesus batted well in 103 games with a .319 BA, .380 OBP and 27 doubles. This year, he’s continued his contact hitting and extra base hits with Baltimore’s Triple-A squad, batting .308 with a .398 OBP and 13 doubles in 51 games. However, since DeJesus is behind All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy, it’s unlikely that he’d see time in Baltimore without a few injuries.
Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul, Francisco Peguero, Henry Urrutia
The only top-10 prospect in the Baltimore organization in Triple-A is roaming the Norfolk outfield. 27 year-old Urrutia (#7 prospect according to Baseball America) from Cuba made his major league debut on July 20, 2013 and played 24 games last year in Baltimore, batting .276 with a triple. Urrutia is in his second year of playing in American baseball after playing in Cuba from 2005-2009. In 2010, Urrutia tried to defect from Cuba but failed to do so and was suspended from Cuban baseball for the entire season. In September of 2011, he successfully defected to Haiti and attempted to get a work visa to come to America. After having trouble acquiring a visa for a year, Urrutia was in America and played his first game in April of 2013 with Double-A Bowie.
29-year-old Berry is in his ninth professional season and now with his seventh team as he bounces around the minor leagues. He has played 107 games in the majors, 94 of them in 2012 with the Tigers, where he batted .258 with 18 extra base hits and 21 steals. Borbon (28) was a first round pick by Texas in 2007 and has played 288 games with the Rangers and the Cubs. In 2010, Borbon played 137 games and batted .276 with 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases. 29-year-old Xavier Paul – a Chiefs outfielder in 2012 – is the oldest and most tenured outfielder with 335 games played with the Dodgers, Pirates and Reds. 26-year-old Peguero has been in the Giants organization since he was 18, but signed with Baltimore as a free agent this offseason. Peguero played 35 games between 2012-2013 and is currently rehabbing with Norfolk after being on the disabled list since March 21 with a strained right wrist.
The Orioles’ outfield currently holds Adam Jones, one of the majors’ best outfielders, MLB home run leader Nelson Cruz and .305-batting Nick Markakis. Reserve David Lough’s hitting below .200 this year, so a hot spurt from one of Norfolk’s outfielders could send a Tide to take his place.
Starting Pitchers: Nick Additon, Eddie Gamboa, Mike Wright, Suk-min Yoon
Despite yesterday’s start, 24-year-old Mike Wright has been a bright spot in the Oriole organization. Wright was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft and is in his first full season with Norfolk. In 12 starts this year, however, Wright has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 57.1 innings. 27 year-old Suk-min Yoon is in his first year in America after spending the first nine years in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 303 games (136 starts) in Korea, Yoon is 73-59 with a 3.19 ERA and a fantastic 1.20 WHIP. He’s also on the 40-man roster and most likely will be a September call-up. Gamboa, a converted knuckleballer, will start for the Tides tonight in his third Norfolk season. He’s a 29-year-old in his seventh season in the Orioles’ minor leagues.
Relief Pitchers: Tim Alderson, Kelvin De La Cruz, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Evan Meek, Anthony Vasquez
As I look at this group of relievers, none of them are having a spectacular 2014 season. Norfolk’s team ERA is 4.77, which is third-worst in the International League, and every reliever has an ERA over 3.20. 26 year-old Guilmet leads the team in saves with four, and has been up in Baltimore for nine appearances, allowing six runs in 9.1 innings while striking out 11. Former Pittsburgh Pirate Meek (31) is second on the team with three saves in 13.2 innings. Heath Bell recently opted out of his minor-league contract, as well, taking away another possible arm for the Orioles. Guilmet and Meek are the only ones on the 40-man roster and will most likely continue to be called up and sent down based on how the bullpen is used and if a fresh arm is needed.