A glance over the players that the Baltimore Orioles have in Winter Leagues reveals that there aren’t a lot of highly ranked prospects playing but they definitely have a large contingent.
Julio Borbon, who has 863 career plate appearances in the majors over four seasons, became an Oriole when he was selected in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Borbon played in 25 games with the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League, hitting only .182/.308/.295 with one stolen base in 44 at bats. Borbon is a light-hitting speedster who will help provide outfield depth for the Orioles in 2014, if not in the majors, then certainly in the minors.
27-year-old second baseman Buck Britton posted a .226/.294/.226 line in 31 at bats with La Guaira in Venezuela. Britton had a solid season split between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, serving as a super-utility player, playing six different positions over the course of the season.
26-year-old infielder Ivan De Jesus signed on with the Orioles on December 16 and has been playing well with Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican Leauge. He’s hit .277/.415/.330 in 112 at bats with 28 walks and 23 strikeouts, hitting four doubles and one triple. De Jesus had a very strong season with Indianapolis (Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate), hititng .319/.380/.457 and will likely serve as insurance in the Orioles system on the infield.
First baseman Caleb Joseph, after a strong season with the Orioles’ Double-A affilate in Bowie, headed down to Venezuela where he hit .231/.268/.374 with three home runs and four doubles in 91 at bats. He hasn’t played since November 24 and the 27 year old likely to have returned to the US.
Chris Marrero, 25, was signed to a minor league deal by the Orioles this offseason and also headed down to the Dominican in November, posting a .127/.188/.238 line in just 63 at bats. He hasn’t played in a month and is likely done until Spring Training.
27-year-old catcher Johnny Monell was acquired from the San Francisco Giants at the end of November and he headed to Puerto Rico to brush up on some skills after making his major league debut in 2013 thanks to a strong season, hitting 20 HRs in Triple-A Fresno. Monell hit .265/.354/.439 with five doubles and four home runs in 98 at bats in Puerto Rico and has played fairly recently (up to December 23). It looks like he’s heading back to PR after Christmas, thanks to this tweet from earlier today:
✈️✈️ back to work
— Johnny Monell Jr. (@JMoE220) December 26, 2013
25-year-old second baseman Tucker Nathans has made the trip to Australia to play for the Perth Heat where he’s hitting .311/.377/.437 with seven doubles and two home runs in 103 at bats. Another positive for Nathans is his 11 walks to 15 strikeouts ratio. Nathans was signed out of independent ball after the 2012 season and had a solid 2013 season with the Orioles farm club, reaching High-A Frederick.
25-year-old Dominican outfielder Francisco Peguero is playing in his native land, hitting .380/.400/.620 with five home runs in 71 at bats. Peguero had 46 plate appearances in parts of two seasons with the Giants in 2012 and 2013 and signed a major league deal worth $550,000 with the Orioles after being non-tendered by the Giants.
Garabez Rosa, a 24-year-old outfielder who played 2012 in Double-A Bowie has also been playing in his home country, the Dominican Republic. He’s hit .270/.308/.297 in a part-time role. He’s only had one extra-base hit (a double) and has walked once with five strikeouts in 37 at bats.
On the pitching side, Matt Bischoff, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, has thrown 12 innings in the Mexican Winter League with a 3.00 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and an outstanding 11:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bischoff has reached Double-A Bowie with the Orioles.
Pitching in the Dominican Winter League, 24 year old Fabio Castillo is having a good season throwing out of the Toros del Este bullpen. He’s logged 17 1/3 innings with a 3.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, nine walks and nine strikeouts. Castillo is another player that the Orioles have pilfered from the Giants’ organization, signing a minor league contract with the O’s after becoming a minor league free agent this season.
The Orioles signed Edgmer Escalona to a major league contract this offseason after he made 37 appearances for the Colorado Rockies in 2013. Escalona has made ten starts with the Tiburones de La Guaira in his home country of Venezuela and has logged 56 2/3 innings with a 3.34 ERA, 1.34 ERA, 19 walks and 34 strikeouts. Apparently, the righty has added a “split-fingered changeup” that the team believes will help him be a starting pitcher if necessary.
The youngest player that we’re keeping tabs on, 20-year-old lefty Kevin Grendell, has been pitching for Perth in the Australian Baseball League and has done well, racking up 13 2/3 innings with a 2.63 ERA and 16 strikeouts. On the negative side of the ledger are his 12 walks which the highest ratio that he’s allowed since starting his pro career in 2012. Grendell still hasn’t pitched above Rookie ball and could get a full-season assignment in 2014 thanks to some extra work Down Under.
Right-handed reliever Brock Huntzinger, 25, signed a minor-league deal with Baltimore after a very good season pitching for the Red Sox’ top two farm clubs. Huntzinger has been lights out down in the Dominican Republic, throwing 15 2/3 innings out of the bullpen with a 1.15 ERA, eight hits and seven walks against with 11 strikeouts.
25-year-old left-handed reliever Chris Jones hasn’t had a great time in Venezuela, giving up 17 hits and five runs in just nine innings of work, walking three and striking out five batters. Jones had a very good season mostly spent with Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk posting a 2.67 ERA but he appears to be very hittable, giving up 72 hits in 70 2/3 innings while walking a very high 34 batters with only 47 strikeouts.
Another lefty, T.J. McFarland, made his MLB debut in 2013 with 74 2/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Orioles. He made eight appearances (starting seven) in Venezuela, posting a 2.97 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 10 walks and 16 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.
26-year-old Venezuelan Marcel Prado closed out games for the Orioles’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this year, just one year removed from being signed out of independent ball. Prado was dominant, striking out 60 batters in a combined 56 2/3 innings while walking just 17. Things have been rougher in the Venezuelan Winter League where he’s posted a 5.89 ERA and a 2.13 WHIP while walking 14 with only 10 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.
Right-handed knuckleballer Zach Staniewicz ended up in the Orioles organization after joining the U.S. Military All-Star team (as an Air Force reservist) and getting a tryout for Baltimore GM Dan Duquette. Staniewicz, 27, ended up throwing 32 innings with the Rookie League GCL Orioles this season, putting up decent numbers (3.94 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 16 walks and 21 strikeouts). He has since gone to Australia where he’s thrown only five and a third innings with just one hit and one run against but three walks and four strikeouts. With Staniewicz, it looks like he still has a way to go before truly mastering the knuckleball but the Orioles seem to be willing to give him the chance.