Best Player: Righthander Dylan Bundy sparked a huge debate within the baseball industry, and he wasn't even trying. Were the Orioles being too conservative with him by keeping him at low Class A Delmarva for eight starts? Bundy dominated the South Atlantic League, allowing two unearned runs and five hits, walking two and striking out 40 in 30 innings.
Bundy, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, finally was challenged after moving up to high Class A Frederick. In his first four starts, the 19-year-old allowed nine runs and 18 hits in 19 innings, including three home runs. He walked six and struck out 23. He was chosen to the Carolina League's all-star team and struck out two in a perfect inning.
Biggest Leap Forward: Speaking of debates, a few people in baseball questioned the Orioles' decision to start outfielder Xavier Avery at Triple-A Norfolk this season after he batted .259/.324/.343 in 557 at-bats at Double-A Bowie last year and didn't always take the proper routes on fly balls in center. He was deemed a project of sorts—brimming with athletic ability, but still raw.
However, the 22-year-old Avery earned a promotion to the Orioles this season and hit his first big league homer before returning to Norfolk. That's quite a leap for the 50th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He struggled upon his return, but was hitting .264/.398/.776 with 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts over 54 games.
Biggest Disappointment: Brian Ward earned the label of best defensive catcher in the farm system last year after throwing out 52 percent of basestealers and helping Frederick win both the ERA title and Carolina League championship. The Orioles invited him to spring training, but news broke late in camp that he had been suspended 50 games for a second violation of a drug of abuse.
The 26-year-old Ward eventually was assigned to Bowie, where he was batting .259/.375/.296 in his first eight games. He has a lot of catching up to do, so to speak, and that's unfortunate considering that the Orioles aren't exactly stocked with prospects at the position. They also lost catcher Luis Exposito to a broken hamate bone, which led to Caleb Joseph's promotion to Norfolk.
• Righty reliever Stu Pomeranz was scheduled to begin an rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in the middle of July. On the disabled list with a torn oblique muscle, Pomeranz didn't allow an earned run in 10 games split between Norfolk and Bowie.
• Bowie shortstop Manny Machado was chosen to the Futures Game for the second consecutive year. Machado, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, was hitting .266/.348/.414 in his first 82 games.