Robert Neustrom has shaken off a slow start and is back to pounding the ball for Triple-A Norfolk. The 25-year-old outfielder slashed .275/.359/.488 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in April. Neustrom already has six hits and another homer in six games in May.
“I’ve just been seeing the ball, trusting my swing, and when the ball is in the zone, pulling the trigger,” Neustrom said. “I keep it pretty simple up there … I had a good first week. The weeks following that were a little tougher as far as getting hits. I still trusted myself. I had like five walks in week two, and four walks in week three. For me, getting on base any way I can is huge.”
Neustrom was selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. Last season, he appeared in a career-high 126 games between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk, the most games by any Oriole minor leaguer. He hit .258 (117-for-453) with 16 home runs and 83 RBI; his 83 RBIs were the second most among all Oriole minor leaguers, and his 117 hits ranked fourth.
“In Triple-A, the game moves a lot faster,” Neustrom said. “The biggest adjustment I had to make when I got to Triple-A was to make sure my defense was on point. I’m still continuing to learn as a hitter, but defense up here moves so much faster and you have to make plays for your pitcher.”
This past offseason, the left-handed hitting Neustrom focused on improving his athleticism and speed. His goal this season is to lay off pitches that are out of the zone.
“I’m pretty comfortable out there,” Neustrom said. ”Last year was the first year playing left a lot. And now I’m playing left primarily, which is fine with me. I’d love to play a little center, but I’ll leave that up [to them].”
Neustrom can play both corner outfield positions. If he continues to improve, Neustrom could earn a promotion to the big-league club this summer.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Neustrom said. “At the end of the day, we are minor league baseball players and we want to play in The Show. That’s the ultimate goal. There’s only one place to be and that’s The Show. For me, I’m going to let time run its course. If I stay consistent on a day-to-day basis and stay prepared, I believe it will happen. As far as that decision goes, it’s out of my control.”
Neustrom is excited to be surrounded by the talent in the Orioles’ farm system, which is ranked No. 1 by MLB Pipeline. He thinks the competition for playing time and to stay in the lineup has made him a better player.
“I came in 2018 when things weren’t so hot with the Orioles, and we had an older team,” Neustrom said. “Then the new leadership came in and they did a complete 180. The organization is flooded with talent — talent in the infield, talent in the outfield, talent in the pitching staff. Just to be around it, it’s made me so much of a better player.
“It’s made me understand the importance of competing and cheering on your teammates to do well. You play your best when you want to win. To be surrounded by this type of talent, to learn from these guys on a day-to-day basis, I think it’s imperative to have a successful career in baseball.”
Dream battery: The Orioles’ top prospects got together for the Tides when right-hander Grayson Rodriguez threw to Adley Rutschman at First Horizon Park in Nashville on Saturday night. Rodriguez allowed two hits and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings in a 1-0 loss. Rodriguez has struck five or more batters in 14 consecutive starts. Rutschman went 1-for-4 and is slashing 406/.500/.563 in nine minor-league games as he rehabs from a right triceps injury.
Bowie no-hitter: Double-A Bowie’s Garrett Stallings and Morgan McSweeney combined on the 11th no-hitter in Baysox history in a 4-0 win over Harrisburg in the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader. It’s also Bowie’s first no-hitter since Mike Baumann blanked Harrisburg in July of 2019. Stallings threw six innings with five strikeouts and two walks. McSweeney closed out the game with a perfect seventh. Shortstop Gunnar Henderson went 2-for-3 with two runs.
Valdez shows versatility: Luis Valdez slashed.324/.419/.405 with his first homer of the season plus 11 stolen bases in Single-A Delmarva’s recent two-week road trip. He scored eight runs while playing second base, third base, left field, and center field during the trip. Valdez is also third in the league with 13 stolen bases.