Aberdeen Ironbirds: A Review of the 2017 Season

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 08: The cap and glove of starting pitcher Chris Tillman
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 08: The cap and glove of starting pitcher Chris Tillman /

The 2017 Aberdeen Ironbirds will be marked as having one of the most successful seasons in the organization’s history. Let’s take a look at the team.

The 2017 Aberdeen Ironbirds will be marked as having one of the most successful seasons in the organization’s history. Over their 16 year history in Aberdeen,  their 41-34 record ties a high in wins.  The season came to an unfortunate end as a cancellation due to rain forced an automatic playoff spot for the Hudson Valley Renegades.  Nonetheless, the Aberdeen Ironbirds had one of their best season’s to date as seven Ironbirds were selected as mid-season all-stars, a league best.

The team consists of mostly college players drafted needing to get in some work at the professional level.  Few high school players make the jump to Aberdeen.  It is here where we are given a glimpse at the talent of incoming draft and a door to future orioles  in two to four years time.

Players to Watch: Pitchers

1. Zac Lowther (LHP): The second round (74th) overall pick jumped onto the radar after having the highest whiff rate in the Cape Cod league at 13.6 K/9.  Lowther possesses a fastball around 87-93 mph, a change-up, but a plus curve ball that has helped generate a lot of strikeouts.  In his first full year, he has lived up to his reputation as a strike out machine generating 75 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings.  Additionally, He posted a 1.66 ERA with a WHIP of 0.85.  Along with making the mid-season all star team for the New York Penn League, he was listed by Baseball America as an all-star for the short season affiliate.  Lowther shows great promise and will likely be a fast track candidate to start in Frederick next year.

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2. Michael Baumann (RHP):  The third round (98th) overall pick joins his fellow collegiate teammate Austin Hays as selections in the third round by the Baltimore Orioles from Jacksonville University.  Baumann is a 6 foot 4 inch right hander that possesses a fastball that touches 95 along with good slider.  The other secondary pitches are a work in progress.  Baumann in 41 1/3 innings with the Aberdeen Ironbirds posted a 1.31 ERA along with 41 strikeouts.  The righty will have to work on limiting his walks as he gave up 19 free passes to a 4.2 BB /9 innings.  He along with Lowther should be considered as a fast track candidate to start the year at Frederick.

3. Brenan Hanifee (RHP): The fourth round selection in the 2016 draft did not participate with any orioles affiliate that year but that did not stop him from showcasing why he was picked so high.  The 19 year old had a solid first season posting a 2.75 ERA over 68.2 innings.  In his 12 starts,  nine of them went six complete innings and eight of those starts were quality starts.  Hanifee issued only 12 BB’s with only 44 strikeouts.  While the strikeouts are low, his limited walks show his advanced control.  His first season is very comparable to Alexander Wells in 2016 for the Aberdeen Ironbirds.  While his fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range, one can imagine that as he grows into his 6 foot 5 frame he should be able to generate more heat over time.  Hanifee should start next season with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

4. Cameron Bishop (LHP):  The 26th rounder was a last minute addition in terms of signing draft picks due to a late submission of paperwork by the Orioles.  Thankfully, the Orioles were able to sign him.  Bishop, while statistically did not standout in college, is a lefty with a fastball that touches 95.  He will have to work on his secondary offerings and control as he allowed 16 BB’s over 34 2/3 innings but has an overall of 0.78 ERA and 38 strikeouts.  Bishop is a candidate to start at Delmarva but do not be surprised if he is moved up to Frederick if his numbers keep up.

5. James Teague (RHP):  The 37th round selection from Arkansas has jumped onto the Orioles radar with his plus fastball touching between 97-99 mph.  Teague’s season started at Delmarva but was sent down to Aberdeen.  His fastball was unmatched at short season which allowed him to make the all star team posting a 1.02 ERA in 17 2/3 innings and 29 strikeouts.  If Teague can harness his secondary pitches and improve his control, he has bullpen/closer potential.  He will likely repeat Delmarva and potentially move to Frederick later in the year.

Honorable Mentions:

Scott Burke (RHP): The 20th round selection from UCLA had 43 strikeouts in 40 innings to an ERA of 1.35 while walking only 6 batters.

Cameron Ming (LHP): The 14th round pick from Arizona generated a 2.92 ERA in 37 innings with the Aberdeen Ironbirds while issuing only 4 walks.

Players to Watch: Position Players

1. Ben Breazeale (C) – The seventh round draft pick from Wake Forest kept his hot bat going from the NCAA post season.  The catcher hit .318 with 5 home runs, 14 doubles, and was one of the leaders in the entire league in on base percentage with 0.428.  Breazeale, along with Lowther, were both recognized by Baseball America as part of the New York Penn League Post Season All-Stars.  While Breazeale’s bat is certainly worth fast tracking to Frederick, he will need to work on his defense considering he had 13 passed balls and was 7 for 42 when attempting to catch runners stealing.

2. Mason McCoy (SS) – The sixth round shortstop from Iowa picked up where he left off in school showcasing his disciplined approach at the plate.  After hitting .301 in his first professional season, his 0.382 OBP was indicative of the fact that he generated 26 walks to 28 strikeouts.  While he is not a power hitter, he does certainly get one base.  Defensively, McCoy was very impressive with a .962 fielding percentage in 48 starts at short stop.  McCoy will most likely start at Delmarva but a case could be made for him to start at Frederick this year given what he provides offensively and defensively.

3. Trevor Craport (3B) – The 11th round draft pick from Georgia Tech has a reputation as an advanced hitter.  After completing two years of college, he decided to join the Aberdeen Ironbirds and hit .302 with an on base percentage of .388.  Craport also displays good power with his 3 home runs, 15 doubles, and 30 RBI’s.  While his fielding percentage of .930 at third base can certainly be improved, Craport’s disciplined bat may allow him to spend time and Delmarva next year and move up to Frederick by the second half.

4. Kirvin Moesquit (2B)– In his third year with Aberdeen, Moesquit showed why his plus speed on the bases is a valuable asset to any team and projects as a potential leadoff type of hitter.  The native of Willemstad, Curacao hit .276 for the season with an improved OBP of 0.361 and stole 29 bases.  As a switch hitter, it will be interesting to see if he can improve his splits given the fact he hits for a better average from the left side (.292) versus right (.232). His exciting electric speed will be fun to see at Delmarva next year.

5. T.J. Nichting (OF) –  The ninth round draft pick from Charlotte made a strong impression this season with his highlight real catches in the outfield.  Nichting batted .271 with 3 home runs, 12 doubles, and 3 RBI’s in 62 games for the Ironbirds.  The young outfielder will need to improve his numbers as a switch hitter as he is better from the left side (.283) than the right (.239).  With his experience this season playing all outfield positions, Nichting will be a valueless asset for Delmarva next year.

Honorable Mention:

Ryan Ripken: The first basemen hit .287 with an OBP of 0.324 along with 3 home runs and 24 RBI’s.

Next: Orioles Add Tanner Scott to Major League Roster

Garrett Copeland: The switch hitting second/third basemen hit .274 with an on base percentage of 0.374 and even made a start with the Frederick Keys by seasons end.