The Ironbirds (28-48) had a tough 2012 season. There is simply no other way of putting it. Coming into the year, it was known that they had a very raw team. The Ironbirds’ hitters were primarily older players just drafted in 2012 (21.7 Average Batting Age). The pitchers on the other hand, were one of the younger groups in the NYPL (21.0 Average Pitching Age).
It showed this season, as the pitching was very inconsistent and took their road bumps along the way. The hitters also went on cold-streaks and games without scoring runs. Overall it was a frustrating season for this short-season club, but there were plenty of good things that happened as well.
Below are some observations and thoughts on the year, as I was able to see many of these players multiple times in my trips to Ripken Stadium. I could not fit everyone on here, but I would welcome any discussion on the players not listed on the forums.
Tommy probably was the most surprising guy in the entire system this season. He started the year as a utility player shuttling from Aberdeen and Delmarva. By the end of the year, he had become the closer for the Ironbirds and had an ERA below 1.00. I was actually in attendance for his first appearance out of the bullpen, but thought nothing of it since the game was a blowout at the time. However, Winegardner continued to pitch this season and raise some eyebrows. His final line this season was 20.0 innings with 21 strikeouts, 4 walks and a 0.90 ERA. Truly a terrific start to his pitching career. Winegardner was sitting mostly in the 88-92 mph range the three times I saw him. He touched 93 on two occasions. He throws from a funky looking 3/4th arm slot and has a decent slider to go along with his fastball. The slider sits around the 76-79 mph range and is absolutely his strikeout pitch. I am excited to see him progress next season pitching full time. His arm was just average in the field, so count me as surprised this year seeing him hit 93 mph.
The 6′ 4” RHP had a nice season this year. As one of the more athletic pitchers in the system, I was impressed with how Vader handled himself on the mound this year. The delivery is very smooth and I think there is some potential if he can continue repeating his delivery. Vader was pegged as very raw talent-wise before the season, and I feel he definitely improved in 2012 at Aberdeen. The fastball is deceptive enough where I think he can probably get away for a while with only throwing in the 90-92 mph range. His change-up and slider are definitely a step behind the fastball (as with most players in the NYPL). They will essentially dictate how far he goes down the road, as it is nearly impossible to rely solely on the fastball unless it is a cannon. He should be at Delmarva full-time next season. I wrote a game scouting report on Vader back in July.
Nivar is my favorite guy to dream on. I’ve probably made it well known by now, but I am obsessed with his cannon arm. He clocks it in the mid to upper 90’s at times, and truly has a lightning rod attached to his body. He also extremely struggles with location. That is what the entire 2012 season essentially was with Nivar; trying to find a medium between velocity and location. While he had spurts where success was noticeable, he ultimately reverted back to wildness and obscurity. He had more walks than strikeouts (30 to 27). But the most important thing is that he showed flashes! He’s only been pitching for a year or so full-time, so I’ll go easy on him for now. It will be interesting to see what the Orioles do with him next season. He realistically is way too old for even Delmarva next year, but the late arrival to the pitching scene obviously puts him on a different timeline than others. I labeled him a sleeper prospect back in August.
I think the most important aspect of the 2012 season for Coffey was the lack of velocity. He still is not touching 90 mph, and that truly is worrisome. Coffey was a very talented arm in the past, and one does have to question whether he ever regains that velocity back. His secondary arsenal is actually impressive, and it primarily kept him above water this year. With the fastball only sitting 85-88 mph mostly, the secondary arsenal was a must. In the long run, I think Coffey learned quite a bit this season. I hope to see him regain form for next season, as he could really rocket if he ever does. As of now, he is one of those enigma’s that will go on to make us wonder what happened.
Blackmar had a solid ERA in his debut with the Ironbirds this season. He made seven starts and appeared in 14 games with a 3.57 ERA in 63.0 innings pitched. However, he simply was not missing enough bats. He only struck out 29 while walking 23. He still is sitting primarily around 88-91 mph, with a developing change and slider. I was able to catch Blackmar twice this year, once as a reliever and the other as a starter. While not missing entirely too many bats, he was getting an inordinate amount of ground balls, which is encouraging. While he may not blow away anyone, he could provide something out of the bullpen down the road. I just do not like him in the rotation because at the higher levels I see him having a hard time getting people to chase on the change and really think they will be able to pick up on him a second time through the lineup. Blackmar should start at Delmarva next year, and could be in their rotation for the simple fact of getting more work in.
Parry is a little stiff on his release but the talent is evident.. He has some nice movement on his two-seam fastball and he was working when I saw him at Aberdeen. Depending on how he fills out down the road, I could see a tick or two in velocity, which would obviously make him better. Right now he is sitting in the 88-90 mph range although I saw him touch 92 a couple times. It’s more about working out the mechanics with Parry (which is usually always the case with young pitchers). He is fairly tall, and he may take more time to iron out all the kinks before true results are seen. He did take a huge step forward this season. It should be curious to see where they start him at and whether in the pen or rotation. I think he works either way. Delmarva is the most likely destination but he could also be jumped to Frederick and work out of the pen.
I was originally going to leave this review for players that were with the team primarily all year, but Hader was too impressive to leave off. I saw him pitch one inning, and came away thinking that I need to find a spot in my top 30 prospects list this off-season. That is how impressed I was. Hader is a lanky player with a ton of room to fill out down the road. As a LHP, he simply looks like he could be death on LHH down the road. It is downright scary to see the arm angle in which he attacks hitters with, and he hides the balls extremely well. He was sitting primarily 88-91 with his fastball and showed off a devastating curve and slider against the two lefties he faced. Jordan mentioned that a scout said they think he could start down the road. I can totally see that, and hope that it happens next year. I think he could start in the Delmarva rotation next year, although they could ease him in like Devin Jones was this year.
Guzman had the best results of any pitcher for the Ironbirds this season. He was a steamroller in the rotation until his promotion to Delmarva. I am only going to touch on Aberdeen though. The RHP has touched 95 MPH with his fastball, although it generally sits around 91-93. He finished his time at Aberdeen with a 1.66 ERA with 43 K’s in 38.0 innings. Guzman made strides this season with the secondary arsenal, although it was clear he was above the level of the NYPL. The promotion was easily warranted. In fact, Guzman never had an ERA over 3.00 in his first three seasons in the GCL, DSL, and NYPL. I wrote in more detail about him in August, as I labeled him a sleeper prospect.
Creede is a nice little utility player. I do not know how far he will go, but there is always use for a nice glove and a versatile player. He has a little pop and it is surprising how hard he can hit the ball when he makes contact. Of course, that is his main problem. The contact troubles are definitely a concern, and will dictate how far he goes down the road. At the very least, he can serve as a guy who comes off the bench in the minors and fills a bunch of holes for a team. He simply is not making enough contact right now, as the swing is a little long and has some holes in it. The report on Creede is that he can catch fire at times. I look for him to start at Delmarva off the bench next year. He could fill the role that Sammie Starr had in 2012.
Hutter was the 2012 Aberdeen Ironbird MVP. He has gap-to-gap hitting ability, and can drive the ball when on his game. The power is not HR power by any means, and he did not have one this season. He tailed off in the last month of the season at the plate, only hitting .083 in his last 10 games. Hutter has a good bat when considering he was signed for only $10,000. Defensively, he has minimal range and I do not think he sticks at SS beyond this year. It’s not to say he is an awful defender, but he is just a little too stiff and big for the position. I think a move to second base is probably ideal, although he may also be a little stiff there too. The bat does not work at third or the corner outfield. There is certainly some growth left in the hitting mechanics, and he does have a good approach at the plate for the most part. It will be interesting to see what the Orioles do with him next season. With Adrian Marin starting at Delmarva most likely, I am not sure where they place him.
Boss and Vader could go head to head in a battle for best name ever. Boss probably could also battle for the best hitter on the Ironbirds this season. He finished with a .257/.360/.414 batting line, which is relatively solid. As a big-time college guy, he was realistically well above the NYPL level of play, and could have been challenged more. However, I understand the getting-the-feet-wet process. Before the season, Boss showed a more elongated swing and the report out of the Cape Cod League was that he really struggled. He absolutely shortened the swing at Aberdeen, and looked better at the plate. There is still work to be done, but it bodes well for the future that progression was achieved. His swing is not violent, and he does make solid contact. I think the college level approach was very evident in the NYPL. He also primarily played third base, although I think that has more to do with the shallowness of the position in the Orioles system. I think he could play practically anywhere on the diamond. He is that talented of an athlete. For the time being, I am completely fine with him at third. Truth be told, we need to see him at higher levels before truly making a educated analysis on him. It sure does not hurt playing well though. He should easily start at Frederick next season, although I’m not sure what they do with Jason Esposito possibly getting moved up too.
It’s tough to write much on Walker, as he only had 93 plate appearances. In his short time playing, he showed off above average contact, an above average approach, and some decent skills at first defensively. He is a guy that the Orioles are probably hoping can move quickly through the system, and hopefully develop some more power. As of now he still is not a big-time bat at the position, but there is certainly potential. He does get on base at an exceptional rate, and that does make one intrigued by him. He probably should start in Frederick next season, and that will give us a much better idea as to where he stands.
I was able to catch him at the rear-end of the season a few times. He has above-average bat speed and looks the part at the plate. He expanded the zone a ton though, and that is worrisome down the road against better pitching. I saw him crush a few mistakes this season though, and he certainly shows some pop in the bat. This is a guy who probably should have been at Aberdeen all year, although he has not entirely blown the cover off the ball at any level yet. It all depends on his discipline at the plate down the road, and he probably will start the year back at Aberdeen in 2013.