There's just something about first-year managers in the Orioles' minor-league system.
Double-A Bowie manager Buck Britton was recently named Eastern League Manager of the Year, while GCL Orioles manager Alan Mills was named Gulf Coast League Manager of the Year. Both are in their first year managing at the minor-league level.
Under Mills' leadership, the GCL Orioles won the Gulf Coast League's southern division this year with the best record in the league (38-15). Unfortunately, they were not able to compete in the playoffs due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian.
Mills was a pitching coach in the Orioles' minor-league system from 2012-2016. He was then bumped up to the big leagues, where he served as Buck Showalter's bullpen coach from 2017-2018. Mills has been building up his baseball resume for years and when there was an opening to be the manager of the GCL Orioles, he was ready.
"... It was a very good experience and I loved every minute of it," Mills said on
The Ross Grimsley Show
Sept. 3. "I couldn't have asked for a better assignment and better group of guys."
Mills, who pitched for the Orioles from 1992-1998 and 2000-2001, was very pleased with the talent and upside the club brought in through the 2019 MLB Draft. After the draft, it did not take long for players to report to Sarasota, Fla., where the GCL Orioles are based.
"It was a condensed spring training for the newly-drafted guys," Mills said. "We really wanted to primarily introduce them to the way that our organization is going to approach the game."
This season, the GCL Orioles led the league in earned run average (2.54), allowed the third-fewest walks (171) and were sixth in the league in strikeouts (443). Among the pitchers who helped the GCL O's post those numbers were:
- Jake Prizina, 22, was drafted in the 31st round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Seattle University. He went 4-1 with a 1.15 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 39 innings.
- Garrett Farmer, 22, went to Jacksonville State University and was drafted in the 25th round of the 2019 draft. He posted a 3-2 record with a 1.21 ERA and 31 punchouts in 22.1 innings.
- Jensen Elliot, 22, was drafted in the 19th round of the 2019 draft out of Oklahoma State. He recorded a 1.40 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched.
"Elliot, he's a monster. Farmer, another great guy," Mills said. "This year, we had some guys who could do some decent things on the mound. For me, I never look at velocity, I always look at how the hitter reacts to the baseball."
Along with the pitching prospects, Mills was sure to touch on Oregon State catching phenom and first overall pick Adley Rutschman, who hit .254/.351/.423 with 33 hits, four home runs and 26 RBIs in 37 minor-league games. He also praised shortstop Gunnar Henderson, a second-round pick out of John T. Morgan Academy in Alabama. Henderson hit .259/.331/.370 with 28 hits, one home run and 11 RBIs in 29 games with the GCL Orioles.
"Rutschman, he is a switch-hitter. [I] love the way he swings the bat, he was an outstanding pick who is just way beyond this team in skill," Mills said. "Henderson, he's a young kid with a huge upside; he needs to make some adjustments to his game, but he will."
For more from Mills, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles