If you've ever been to an Ironbirds game, you know that the terrible pun in the title is not my own. Seemingly, every facet of Ripken Stadium is somehow related to its benefactor. You can grab some Caldogs for yourself if you don't believe me. I think they're available at the Irongrill. It's certainly crafty marketing, especially in an area where Cal Ripken is still more marketable than Vinny Chase.
Anyway, the actual game was quite an attraction itself. Hudson Valley lefthander Ryan Owen had a perfect game through six innings. He lost it on a bloop double from David Cash before surrendering a two-run blast to Chris Vinyard. Aberdeen starter Jason Berken pitched five up and down innings and surrendered all three runs to the opposition. Aberdeen mounted another attack after Vinyard's home run, loading the bases with two outs, but HV reliever Brett Nagy escaped unscathed.
Enough about the game, let's get right to what you want to hear about- the prospects.
As previously stated, Berken had an uneven performance. He got hit hard on a few occasions; once by LF Ryan Royster and twice more for doubles. Those at-bats aside, however, he looked really good. Berken works between 88-92 MPH with his fastball. He has a hard curve, a slider and a changeup. The best of those off-speed offerings is probably his slider, which is impressive considering he only started throwing it this year. He registered eight strikeouts and walked no one, bringing his K:BB ratio to a sparkling 30:3 on the season.
Berken also impressed with his poise, surrendering all of his runs in the fourth inning but coming back strong in the fifth. This should be no surprise, considering he was a coach's favorite at perennial powerhouse Clemson. There, he served as the staff ace while leading his team to the College World Series. He even served as team captain in 2005 and 2006, the former of which he missed to Tommy John surgery. Considering this is his first full season back and his well-regarded work ethic, I'm confident he'll continue to emerge as a potential bargain in the sixth round.
Keefer's control abandoned him Tuesday night as he continued his rehab assignment. He walked two and surrendered a single in two innings of work. He did, however, touch 94 MPH on the stadium gun a few times.
Bordes is listed at 6' even, but I have my doubts. Despite looking out of place on a field of professional athletes, he touched 90 MPH and looked impressive striking out the only batter he faced.
Abreu was drafted in the 28th round in 2005 as a second baseman. This year at Aberdeen, he's served mostly as their third baseman. He's a good athlete with a strong arm, but his inexperience shows. He looks rigid and backs up on his heels when the ball is hit directly at him. Abreu is hitting .286 with some pop, but his four unintentional walks in 170 at-bats are simply not going to fly.
Pope was promoted to Aberdeen after he was leading the Appalachian league in slugging percentage. However, he did have 36 K's in 132 at-bats and, thus far, his unrefined approach has left him overmatched against college competition. Tonight he struck out looking once, swinging twice and grounded out weakly to the pitcher. He has two singles and seven strikeouts in twenty Aberdeen at bats.
Vinyard was a draft and follow out of a community college that played in a wooden bat league. Though drafted as a catcher, Aberdeen has been using him at first base, but he really has no position that makes him a real asset with a glove on.
His bat is another story. After a .395/.465/.711 June, a lot of O's fans got excited about finally having a legitimate first base prospect in the system. He then slumped miserably in July and the beginning of this month. The organization decided to give him an off-day to work with roving hitting instructor Denny Walling on Sunday and it appears to have paid immediate dividends. Vinyard hit a home run over the left field wall that left little doubt as to the legitimacy of his power.
After the O's failed to sign 10th round pick and defensive wizard Emeel Salem, they inserted Tripp as the CF for the Ironbirds. He strikes out a lot and hasn't displayed much power, but he has done two things this season; get hit by pitches (8) and smoke lefties (albeit in 15 at-bats). HBP's actually have a moderate year to year correlation, so this could be a genuine skill. It's certainly something worth tracking.
If you've been to an Ironbirds game, you know that the announcer absolutely loves to say his name. I was sitting two seats over from the guy and if you can imagine an excited Christopher Walken announcing Jedi-DIE-yuhh... then you might get the picture. Anyway, when the O's drafted Stephen in the 8th round out of Ohio St., I wrote:
Most of the criticism surrounding Stephen centers around his inconsistent play. For a senior drafted in the 9th round, he actually has an intriguing toolset; combining a strong arm, speed, and even a little power. He might be a little more of a project than most 22 year olds out of major college programs.
O's fans are going to have to hope that he indeed does have some projection left in him, because the current version has been thoroughly unimpressive. He has solid skills at shortstop, but he has failed to display any of the offensive attributes that got him drafted in the single digits. Tonight, he even managed to pop a bunt in the air back to the pitcher. That's the kind of thing that people hitting .186 through 130 at-bats can't afford to do.