Urrutia breaks out for the Orioles

Baltimore outfielder transforms from unknown to big leaguer

Henry Urrutia was selected to the Futures Game in his first pro season. (Danny Wild/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | October 4, 2013 6:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

With a combined .483 winning percentage throughout the system, the Baltimore Orioles ranked 20th among the 30 Major League teams.

While Triple-A Norfolk (77-67) and short-season Aberdeen (40-32) posted winning records and Double-A Bowie played .500 ball (71-71), Class A Advanced Frederick (61-78) and Class A Delmarva (54-82) each recorded losing seasons.

The IronBirds won the New York-Penn League McNamara Division, but fell to eventual champion Tri-City in the first round of the playoffs. The Tides almost advanced to the postseason, but they lost their head-to-head season series -- and with it the tiebreaker for the final Wild Card spot -- to Rochester, which finished second in the IL North.

No silverware ended up in the trophy cabinet in 2013, but there were plenty of standout performances in the system from Brandon Waring and Connor Bierfeldt to Henry Urrutia and Mike Wright.

Catcher -- Caleb Joseph, Bowie (135 games): Joseph led all Orioles catchers in RBIs (97), runs scored (74), homers (22), and doubles (31). He batted .299 over 135 games, the majority of which were spent behind the plate. Joseph also saw some time as a designated hitter, and his position flexibility allowed him to play first base and left field when called upon.

His 97 RBIs were the most of any O's Minor Leaguer, regardless of level or position, while his 22 homers ranked third in the affiliation. The numbers represent a solid jump from 2012 when the then-26-year-old hit 12 homers and plated 55 runs (both season highs for Baltimore backstops) between two levels.

"He had a tremendous season," Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said. "He swung the bat very well, he hit for average, drove in runs and hit home runs. More importantly, he had quality at-bats, so offensively he was very good. He will always do a solid job catching. He's going to receive and block and he's going to call a good game. Caleb has played to a level where he deserves an opportunity."

First base -- Christian Walker, Frederick (55 games), Delmarva (31 games), Bowie (17 games): Walker led all Orioles first basemen with 118 hits and 56 RBIs. His 11 long balls tied for first among regulars at the position with Russ Canzler, and his .300 average between three levels was 16 points higher than what he hit as a rookie in his introduction to professional baseball with Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League last year.

Walker's 27 doubles ranked fourth in the organization, while his 178 total bases stood fifth.

Second base -- Buck Britton, Norfolk (62 games), Bowie (61 games): Britton was the ultimate utilityman, but he played more games at second base than at any other position. You could certainly make a legitimate case for Jonathan Schoop's inclusion here too, but while many of his statistics were comparable, Britton played 123 games to Schoop's 81. Schoop missed more than two months with a back injury.

Britton led all O's second basemen with 128 hits, 79 RBIs, 195 total bases and 38 extra-base hits. He struck out 66 times in 467 at-bats, the best ratio of any Baltimore Minor Leaguer with more than 350 at-bats.

"His value is as a utility guy, he can play second, play third, play left field, play right field and he's a left-hander batter," Graham said. "Buck's a guy that helps a club from a utility standpoint and he can help a club in the big leagues. He did a good job."

Third base -- Brandon Waring, Bowie (99 games) Norfolk (10 games): While making contact remained Waring's biggest problem, when he did square up the ball, it traveled a long, long way. His 25 homers ranked first in the organization, while his 69 RBIs were the most of any third baseman. His 53 walks tied with Delmarva's Joel Hutter for the most among third baseman, but his 148 whiffs topped all O's infielders and ranked second in the entire system only to Gregory Lorenzo (152) of the Shorebirds.

Between two levels, 2007 seventh-rounder Waring hit .214 with 49 runs scored, but 40 of his 82 total hits went for extra bases.

"He has raw power definitely," Graham said of the 27-year-old South Carolina native. "He's going to be a free agent this year, so he will probably look for opportunities at other places. But he definitely has raw power and power's something you can't teach. He was solid-average defensively at first and third base. He would catch the ball and throw it across the diamond and he made the routine plays."

Shortstop -- Yamaico Navarro, Norfolk (107 games) Baltimore (eight games): Navarro gave the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate a little of everything in 2013. His 12 homers, 59 runs scored and 53 RBIs ranked first among shortstop prospects, while his .267 average was second among those in full-season leagues. In addition, his 21 doubles co-led the system and his nine stolen bases tied for third.

Navarro's solid season allowed him to have a cup of coffee in the Majors for the fourth time in as many years. He batted .286 in eight big league contests.

Graham also singled out Adrian Marin, who hit .265 in 108 games for Delmarva.


Conor Bierfeldt, Aberdeen (62 games): Bierfeldt arguably accomplished more in 231 at-bats than several Orioles outfielders did in an entire season. The 22-year-old, selected in the 29th round of June's Draft, hit 12 homers with 36 RBIs in 62 games for the IronBirds. Only two players in the system -- Danny Valencia (14 in 65 games for Norfolk) and Steve Bumbry (10 in 52 appearances over two levels) -- went deep at a more prodigious rate.

The corner outfielder batted .264 with 38 runs scored, 15 doubles and three triples. Jason Pridie led O's outfielders with 15 long balls, and he had more than twice as many at-bats (479).

"He has tremendous raw power and the ball comes off the bat well," Graham said of the 220-pound, 6-foot-2 right-hander. "Defensively, he's raw at this point, but [offensively], when he squares the ball up, it travels. He's going to be an average outfielder, slightly below average runner, but you're buying the bat -- that's what you're looking for from an offensive-minded guy. Certainly he'll be at the next level next year."

Jason Pridie, Norfolk (118 games), Baltimore (four games): Pridie smacked a career-best 15 homers and plated 57 runs -- both highs among Baltimore outfielders -- for the Tides this season. His 44 extra-base hits (24 doubles and five triples) ranked third among all O's farmhands.

He hit .269 average with a .333 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage, which were right in line with his career marks. His walk rate and strikeout tally rose from the past couple seasons.

The veteran outfielder saw 89 games in center field and 16 in right. He also made 14 appearances as a designated hitter and -- memorably -- one pitching appearance in relief.

"There wasn't really a need for him this year because luckily we didn't have any injuries, but Pridie is certainly a guy that can play in the big leagues and give you productive left-handed at-bats and help a big league team," Graham said. "The way he prepares and goes about his business and plays the game, it's great for the young guys like Jonathan Schoop to watch Jason Pridie play every day."

Henry Urrutia, Bowie (52 games), Norfolk (29 games), Baltimore (24 games):

Urrutia went from being an unknown entity to the Major Leagues in a whirlwind rookie season. He hit .347 with nine homers and 50 RBIs in 81 games between two levels and he batted .276 in 24 big league appearances. Only Pridie had more RBIs as an outfielder than the Cuban prospect, who also ranked first among outfielders in the system with a .506 slugging percentage and a .406 on-base percentage. No Baltimore farmhand with more than 200 at-bats had a better batting average in 2013.

"He has one of those swings where the bat stays in the hitting zone and on the ball for a good period of time," Graham said. "He shows you the ability to hit the ball to all fields, he shows you the ability to stay on pitches, he shows you command of the strike zone and I think Urrutia will hit at the big league level. I think he's going to be a guy that hits some home runs, but more importantly he'll hit for average and get on base and score some runs and drive in runs."

Designated hitter -- Michael Ohlman, Frederick (100 games): Ohlman served as the Keys' designated hitter in 53 contests and as catcher in 46 more in 2013. He batted .313 with 13 homers, 29 doubles and 53 RBIs and he was one of only three full-time Orioles farmhands -- with Urrutia and Travis Ishikawa -- to have a .500 slugging percentage (.524) and a .400 on-base percentage (.410).

"He's really matured as a hitter," Graham said. "He stayed in the middle of the field, he showed the ability to drive the ball and he learned to get a good pitch to hit. His command of the strike zone has improved and he's really matured as a hitter. We have to exhaust all possibilities with him as a catcher. If you have a catcher who can hit, that's a commodity. We need to find out whether he's an everyday catcher."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Mike Wright, Bowie (26 games), Norfolk (one game): Wright tied for the Eastern League lead with a 3.26 ERA, while his 11 victories fell one shy of matching the circuit lead. He also struck out 136 batters over 143 2/3 innings, giving him 8.5 whiffs per nine innings to rank fifth among qualifying Eastern League starters. His 11 wins tied for first in the organization with Tim Berry (11-7) and his 138 overall Ks were six fewer than leader Parker Bridwell.

"When you look at some of the pitches he threw through the first 10 games he pitched this year, he had a high number of pitches through five innings, like the 90-95 pitches mark," Graham said. "His next 10 starts in Bowie, he was close to seven innings pitched at the 90-pitch mark. Tall guys have difficulty repeating their delivery and Mike's a tall guy. He's done a much better job in that area."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Eduardo Rodriguez, Frederick (14 games), Bowie (11 games): Rodriguez led all Baltimore southpaw starters in wins (10-7), ERA (3.41) and strikeouts (125). His 1.24 WHIP ranked second in the organization among starting pitchers behind only Zach Davies (1.23), who went 7-9 with Frederick. The O's No. 2 prospect held hitters to a combined .241 average across the two levels.

"He showed tremendous maturity over the past year," Graham said. "He went to the Futures Game and pitched in Double-A and he threw strikes and changed speeds. The maturity part came mentally as well as with all the little things like holding runners and fielding his position. He made tremendous strides."

Relief pitcher -- Jairo Asencio, Norfolk (47 games), Baltimore (four games):

Back in the Minors with his third Triple-A team in three years, Asencio continued to show an affinity for the late innings. He led O's affiliates -- and matched a career high -- with 28 saves (nobody else had more than 16) while going 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 50 2/3 frames.

"He threw well and challenged hitters," Graham said. "He goes right after hitters, he doesn't try to trick them, he goes right after them and challenged them. He has good stuff and he keeps it in the strike zone. I think he fits in around the seventh or eighth inning at the Major League level. I think somebody will give him that chance."

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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