Life down on the farm is tough. If you don’t consistently perform at a high level, you can expect a demotion. If another player within the system gets a promotion and you’re currently in a slump, you could get a demotion.
Nothing is set in stone when it comes to Minor League Baseball, which could make for a rough summer for some players.
Perhaps that’s why it’s impressive when players stick around and consistently play great baseball on a day-to-day basis.
Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox, finished the 2013 season at .500 (71-71), narrowly missing out on the Eastern League playoffs. But there were still plenty of bright spots on Manager Gary Kendall’s squad throughout the spring and summer.
I’ve compiled a list of the top five Bowie Baysox from the past season, and based my selections off a variety of different factors. Longevity, consistency and, of course, there has to be top-notch productiveness coming from that player. You could even say a few of these players showed pure dominance while on the baseball diamond.
Normally at the catcher position all you’re really getting is defense and the ability to manage the pitchers. And maybe throwing out a couple of potential base-runners. But the ‘Sox got a little bonus from Joseph in his 135 games. Joseph flirted with .300 for most of the season (ended the season at .299) and led Bowie in runs batted in, with 97. Add in his power surge of 22 homers, one behind the team leader Brandon Waring, and you have your most successful hitter all season long.
Joseph, 27, wasn’t their strongest defensive catcher, but he’s very versatile. He played just 64 of his 135 games behind the plate, and split the rest of his 71 games between first base (12), left field (16) and designated hitter (44).
Kyle Hudson, OF: .292 BA/.386 OBP, 0 HRs, 33 RBI, 26 SB in 103 games
Selected in the fourth round of the 2008 Amateur Draft by the O’s, Hudson has been a long-time journeyman at the age of 26. He’s jumped from organization to organization––switching between the Rays and Phillies all last season––before returning to Baltimore prior to this season. This summer was a bounce-back year for Hudson, as he had to re-adjust to the Double-A level after spending stints in Triple-A.
His last stint in Bowie, 28 games back in 2011, was the only time Hudson had hit .300+ in his six-year minor league career. Though he failed to hit .300 for Bowie this time around, he consistently got on base for the ‘Sox and scored the second-most runs on the team (66), just eight behind Joseph, who played 32 games more than Hudson. His speed on the base-paths was a huge boost, too, of course.
Henry Urrutia, OF: .365 BA/.433 OBP, 7 HRs, 37 RBI, 1 SB in 52 games
Spending 24 games in the big leagues during the second half of the season, the 26-year old Cuban rookie started out in Bowie in April where he played 52 games. At the end of June he was sent up to Triple-A Norfolk, playing 15 games there before being promoted to Baltimore for the first of two times. So his time in Double-A was limited, but boy was he productive at the plate during his stint in Bowie. Urrutia was a hitting-machine, tallying 73 in his 200 at bats (good enough for a .365 average), and slapping down 16 doubles. Playing 49 games in the outfield, Urrutia didn’t commit a single error and earned himself a quick promotion.
Oliver Drake, RP: 3-0 record, 1.74 ERA, 38 Ks, 8 Saves in 19 appearances
Drake, a Naval Academy product, started three games for Bowie in 2012 before undergoing shoulder surgery in August ’12. The 26-year old prospect appears to have recovered well from the surgery, as he made the move from the rotation to the bullpen for the ‘Sox in 2013. Prior to the surgery, Drake had made three very productive starts (in May 2012), and had a 1.50 ERA in 18.0 innings pitched. After undergoing an intense off-season workout, Drake entered the 2013 season poised to bounce back.
And that’s exactly what he did. As a reliever, Drake made 19 appearances, he finished the game in 13 of those appearances. As a part-time reliever, he recorded eight saves and struck-out 38 batters over 31.0 innings pitched. Given his backstory heading into the season, this could be one of the more interesting story lines surrounding the 2013 Baysox.
Mike Wright, SP: 11-3 record, 3.26 ERA, 136 Ks in 26 starts
Throughout the season, 10 different pitchers made single-digit starts for the Baysox. Mike Wright may have been the lone mainstay in the ‘Sox rotation, having made 26 starts and posting a team-high (among pitchers with at least 10 starts) 3.26 earned run average. He made a solid adjustment from his rough 2012 outing in Bowie, and his performance this past season should get the 23-year old an opening day rotation spot with Triple-A Norfolk.
Leaving power-hitting Brandon Waring off the list may come as a shock to some, but I don’t feel that his all-or-nothing approach at the plate was enough to warrant a spot on the team’s Top 5 list. Waring led the team in homers, with 23, and was named by MiLB as the top third baseman in Baltimore’s farm system this past season. But I don’t feel as though his atrocious .213 average and team-high 129 whiffs looks good. Especially when you compare him to the other hitters on the list.
Given that Waring is a career .254 hitter, hitting for contact has never been his strong point in his game. But if he can start putting the bat on the ball a little more often starting in 2014, perhaps he could make the list down the road and help lead the ‘Sox back to the Eastern League playoffs.