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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

Flying to Other Opportunities

Updated: Apr 3

A number of former Orioles farmhands are participating in Spring Training with new teams

*Cover Photo Credit: John Topoleski

There are thousands of players, prospects, and non-roster invites participating in Spring Training for one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Some of them you might remember from their time with the Orioles. Beloved slugger and cancer survivor Trey Mancini got a Minor League deal with the Marlins and is a non-roster invite at their camp. Jack Flaherty got a 1-year deal with the Tigers this winter after being on the Orioles’ playoff roster last fall. How could you forget former 1st rounder, 4x Oriole All-Star, and now millionaire Manny Machado who is a Padre now?

However, there are a ton of other former members of the Orioles’ organization participating in Spring Training, though not in Oriole orange and black. A lot of them had great runs in the Orioles’ farm system, and some of them were ranked amongst the Orioles’ best prospects at one point. You surely know that southpaw DL Hall and infield prospect Joey Ortiz are at Milwaukee Brewers camp, but here is a quick look at other players who spent time with one or more of the Orioles’ affiliates that are with another big league team at camp right now. Do you remember these guys?

Former Orioles farmhand Cesar Prieto is at Cardinals camp as one of their top prospects. Photo: John Topoleski

The Orioles nabbed Prieto, who defected from Cuba, when he was 22, signing him to a $650,000 bonus before the 2022 season. He was a lifetime .361 hitter in the Cuban professional league and got off to a hot start with High-A Aberdeen upon arrival, hitting .340 with the Ironbirds in just 25 games. This led to a very quick promotion to Double-A Bowie, and he finished the season batting .323 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs, and a .718 OPS. As he showed great bat-to-ball skills, great bat control, and defensive durability and skill, he rose as one of Baltimore’s top infield prospects. Midway through the season, MLB Pipeline ranked him the 12th best Orioles prospect.

Prieto split the first half of 2023 between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He was hitting .317 with the Tides before being flipped to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Jack Flaherty deal. He currently remains in the Cardinals organization as both a non-roster invite and the Cardinals’ 14th best prospect. As well as he hits professional pitching and given his defensive durability all over the infield (minus first base), Prieto, now 24, will give many campers and current Cardinals infielders a run for their money as he tries to find a way on their infield plans in 2024. He is certainly capable of doing so, and he is severely overlooked in a land of opportunities.

Rom went to the Cardinals with Prieto last summer in the Flaherty trade. Prior to that trade, many thought that Rom would break into the Orioles’ starting rotation and be a main stay there. Rom was a 4th round pick of the Orioles in 2018 out of Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. In his first full season of pro ball, he demonstrated his promise on the 2019 Shorebirds playoff team. He went 6-3 with a 2.93 ERA, striking out 122 batters in 95.1 innings.

His 2020 season was cancelled as no Minor League ball was played during the COVID-19 pandemic. That did not derail Rom though, as between 2021 and 2022, he struck out 264 batters in 49 starts. Rom found himself in the Flaherty trade at the trade deadline, though he only needed two starts with Triple-A Memphis (where he posted a n 0.82 ERA) before making his Major League debut. Rom struggled to a 1-4 record an a 8.04 ERA in his first sample of big league action, but is in camp with the Red Birds looking to make the starting rotation and live up to be the left-handed strikeout machine that the Orioles initially created.

The O’s selected Hanifee in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of Turner Ashbey High School in Bridgewater, Virginia. Like Rom, many thought that Hanifee would turn into a frontline starter for the Orioles one day. He had a great start to his MiLB career, putting up ERAs of 2.75 and 2.86 in 2017 (Aberdeen) and 2018 (respectively) while only walking 34 batters in 200.2 innings during that time. Hanifee did not see action for two years as COVID cancelled his 2020 season and injuries ruined his 2021 season. He only made 13 starts in 2022, putting up a 3.92 ERA with Aberdeen and Bowie.

Hanifee elected free agency after the season. He latched on with the Tigers prior to 2023, eventually making his big-league debut on September 21. He re-signed with the Tigers this offseason and is in their camp as a non-roster invite, hoping to rise again and dominate in AJ Hinch’s rotation this year.

Bannon was one of the five players acquired by the Orioles in 2018 in the Manny Machado trade. At the time, the Orioles saw Bannon as a potential power-hitting middle-infield candidate. He never lost touch with his power, as he slugged 11 home runs in 130 Minor League games in 2019 and 16 home runs in just 90 games in 2021. That 2021 season came with a concerning .648 OPS, however.

Still looking to compete for an infield job with the Orioles, Bannon made his big league debut with the Orioles in 2022. He collected 2 hits in 14 at-bats before being designated for assignment and lost to the Braves on a waiver claim. Since then, he has caught on with the Astros, having a solid 2023 with their Triple-A affiliate (.241 BA, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .810 OPS) and squeezing in 2 big league games for them along the way. He is currently in camp with the Astros in hopes of returning to their 40-man roster.

Roberts was selected by the Orioles in the 11th round of the 2018 draft out of the University of North Carolina. As he developed, he found himself in a mix of up and rising catching talent that included Maverick Handley and now-MLB All-Star Adley Rutschman. He demonstrated excellent defense, but was most recognized for his absolute canon for an arm.

Roberts had his best season in the Orioles’ organization in 2022, when he split the campaign with Bowie and Norfolk. He hit .271 with a .776 OPS and a .429 SLG. Unfortunately, he was lost after the season when the Philadelphia Phillies claimed him in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 draft. He spent the entire 2023 season with their Double-A affiliate in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he is in the Phillies’ camp as a non-roster invite.

Lefty Easton Lucas is in camp with the Oakland Athletics this spring. Photo: John Topoleski

The 6’4” southpaw arrived in the Orioles’ organization prior to 2020 when he was acquired from the Marlins for veteran infielder Jonathan Villar. Lucas looked as if he could have been a dark horse candidate to crack into the Orioles’ bullpen in 2023. He put up tremendous numbers at Double-A Bowie, participating in a combined no-hitter and posting a 1.59 ERA and a 0.765 WHIP before getting bumped to Triple-A Norfolk. Lucas was then sent to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Japanese reliever Shintaro Fujinami, where he eventually made his Major League debut. He appeared in 6 games for the Athletics, striking out 7 batters. He was outrighted after the season but looks to return to the A’s bullpen this year.

OF Daz Cameron's lone season in Birdland was a productive one, and now he has moved onto the Oakland Athletics. Photo: John Topoleski

Cameron spent one lone season in the Orioles’ organization, and that was last year. A former top prospect for the Tigers and the son of former All-Star Mike Cameron, Daz signed a Minor League deal with the O’s prior to the 2023 season. He spent the entire season with Triple-A Norfolk, though it was a productive one. In 110 games, he showed signs of power with 16 home runs and a .452 SLG. He was a .268 hitter and he also stole 23 bases. Cameron, who was with the Tides to win the Triple-A championship, elected free agency after the season and is with the Oakland Athletics on a Minor League deal. He is a non-roster invite for the A’s at camp.

Former Orioles farmhand JC Escarra and I caught up while he was with Gastonia last summer.

Escarra was last in the Orioles’ organization in 2021. Though he was never considered a top prospect, he flew through the Orioles system, raising eyebrows with his left-handed power bat. The 15th rounder from Florida International University showed his power potential in 2019 with the Class-A Frederick Keys, smashing 13 home runs in 127 games. He reached as high as Triple-A Norfolk in 2021 before being released and spending the past two seasons in the independent and Mexican leagues. He hit .348 with 15 home runs in 41 games for the Gastonia Honey Hunters last year before landing in the Mexican league. He is currently in camp with the New York Yankees as a non-roster invite.

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