Injuries and struggles: A rough week on the Orioles' farm - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dean Jones Report

Injuries and struggles: A rough week on the Orioles’ farm

08 OCT 2015:      Chris Lee of the Orioles during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Red Sox and the FIL Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

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The Orioles continue to lead the American League East as we creep closer to August, but things aren’t going as smoothly down on the farm at the moment.

Right-hander Hunter Harvey hurt his arm over the weekend. Left-hander Chris Lee had a setback in his rehab. Infielder Jomar Reyes has been dealing with wrist discomfort. And the club’s top two affiliates – Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie – remain a combined 37 games below .500.

That’s a lot of bad news to start this week’s update, so we’ll move on quickly.

As regular readers know, each Tuesday in “The Dean Jones Report,” I share the latest news and notes about the Orioles’ top prospects, according to Baseball America. Right-handers Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens aren’t included since they’re currently in the majors. Right-hander Mike Wright returned to the list this week since he pitched for Norfolk on Thursday.

I rate each player as bullish (rising stock) or bearish (falling stock), based on his recent performance. For each prospect, I also list notable statistics and a link to his MILB.com Player Page in case you want to look deeper into the numbers.

I also share a handful of players who are either surging or falling in the Orioles’ minor league system over the past week or longer. And at the bottom of the post, I provide the upcoming schedules for the club’s affiliates.

Here we go:

TOP PROSPECTS
No. 2: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Aberdeen
BEARISH
Statistics: 0-1, 3.52 ERA, 7 Ks, 9 hits, 6 BBs in 7 2/3 innings (at Aberdeen)
MILB.com Player Page

Five games. 12 2/3 innings. That’s how much the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) pitched this season before suffering another injury over the weekend. Harvey, 21, left Aberdeen’s 9-0 win at Batavia on Saturday night after 1 1/3 innings with a sore right flexor mass, something he has dealt with previously. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, but the results weren’t immediately available. However, MASNSports.com reported Monday that Harvey is scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews for an examination. You never want to hear that man’s name involved in a conversation about one of your top pitching prospects. Maybe the Orioles and Harvey will dodge a bullet again, but regardless of what Andrews says, this setback obviously isn’t good news.

No. 3: Chance Sisco, C, Bowie
BULLISH
Statistics: 327 average, 1 HR, 31 RBIs, 19 2Bs, 38 runs in 75 games
MILB.com Player Page

After hitting a home run in the All-Star Futures Game, the 2013 second-round selection has continued to hit well to start the second half of the season. Sisco, 21, is batting .667 (10-for-15) with three RBIs, three runs scored and three walks in four games since the Eastern League All-Star break. In Bowie’s 13-11 loss to Richmond on Friday, he singled in his final four at-bats and had two RBIs. Two days later, Sisco was 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI single and a walk. On Monday, in a 5-2 loss at Binghamton, he had two more singles. With his recent surge, Sisco now ranks second in the Eastern League in hitting (.327) and first in on-base percentage (.415). The left-handed-hitting catcher has a .358 average (77-for-215) against right-handers, but he is only batting .196 (10-for-51) versus lefties.

No. 4: Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick
BEARISH
Statistics: .230 average, 8 HRs, 39 RBIs, 36 runs, 70 Ks in 84 games
MILB.com Player Page

For the past month, Reyes’ average has never been above .234. And it hasn’t been below .228 in that stretch. That’s consistency. Since my last update, he’s batting just .217 (5-for-23) with six strikeouts. Sure, you’d like to see those numbers be a lot better, especially considering that he’s the fourth-ranked prospect in the organization. But he has been dealing with wrist discomfort — no structural damage was found — that sidelined him a couple games. Plus, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound third baseman won’t turn 20 until next February. There’s still plenty of time for him to mature. One concerning statistic is that he has just 12 doubles in 309 at-bats this season after hitting 27 in 309 at-bats for Delmarva in 2015.

No. 6: Chris Lee, LHP, Bowie
BEARISH
Statistics: 5-0, 2.98 ERA, 19 Ks, 1.05 WHIP in 51 1/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page

On Friday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Lee has been shut down again. More than a week ago, the 23-year-old left-hander experienced some continued discomfort during the throwing program that was part of his rehab from a lat-muscle strain. Lee, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two months, went on the disabled list in early June because of the injury. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a timetable for his return to action because the Orioles don’t want to rush him back. The setback is obviously not good news – especially since he seemed to be close to returning a few weeks ago. Still, the organization doesn’t appear to be concerned about any structural damage, so that’s a plus.

No. 7: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Delmarva
BEARISH
Statistics: .281 average, 5 HRs, 30 RBIs, 18 2Bs, 36 runs, 67 Ks in 77 games
MILB.com Player Page

The 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) received the night off Monday as he struggles through a slump. Mountcastle, 19, has only one hit in his past 25 at-bats (.040). He has struck out nine times in that six-game span, including all three times at the plate in the Shorebirds’ 1-0 loss in the second game of a doubleheader at Augusta on Sunday. Mountcastle hasn’t had an extra-base hit since he hit an RBI double in the second inning of Delmarva’s 14-2 victory over Lakewood on July 5. The growing pains are to be expected, but he’s still batting .281 overall after hitting .337 through May and June.

No. 8: Trey Mancini, 1B, Norfolk
BULLISH
Statistics: .302 average, 10 HRs, 34 RBIs, 15 2Bs, 72 Ks in 78 games (at Norfolk)
MILB.com Player Page

Mancini, 24, went 1-for-5 in the Tides’ 11-8 victory at Buffalo on Monday night to increase his current hitting streak to five games. The 2013 eighth-round pick is batting .429 (9-for-21) with three multihit performances and four RBIs in that stretch. Mancini had three hits, including a two-run triple, in Norfolk’s 8-6 loss at Rochester on Friday night. Through 95 games this season, he has 17 home runs – four less than his career high (in 136 games between Frederick and Bowie last year). But he hasn’t hit one since July 1. That 14-game span is Mancini’s second-longest homerless streak of the season (15 from June 4-20).

No. 9: DJ Stewart, OF, Frederick
BEARISH
Statistics: .272 average, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 18 runs, 21 Ks in 22 games (at Frederick)
MILB.com Player Page

If I would have written this piece before the weekend, the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) would have received a lot of praise. But then he went 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in three games over the past two days. Stewart, 22, was hitless in seven at-bats Sunday as the Keys split a doubleheader at Carolina. He had an RBI single and an RBI groundout Monday as Frederick routed the Mudcats, 10-3, in the third game of the series. Before the recent mini slump, Stewart had hit safely in nine straight games. He has been in the Carolina League for about a month. Before going 0-for-4 in the first game of the doubleheader Sunday, he had reached base in every game.

No. 10: Mike Wright, RHP, Norfolk
BEARISH
Statistics: 1-1, 2.10 ERA, 17 Ks, 23 hits, 5 BBs in 25 2/3 innings (at Norfolk)
MILB.com Player Page

For the first time in four starts at Norfolk this season, the 2011 third-round pick struggled in the Tides’ 6-2 loss at Rochester on Thursday night. Wright, 26, gave up six runs (four earned) and nine hits in five innings. He also allowed a pair of home runs in the defeat. Wright has been back and forth between Norfolk and the major leagues a few times over the past month and a half. One poor outing isn’t going to change that if the Orioles need him again to fill a role in the coming months. But in order for Wright – who has a 6.00 ERA in 26 career games in the major leagues – to be considered for another lengthy chance, he’s going to need to dominate in Triple-A and avoid starts like the one he had Thursday.

SURGING

Keegan Akin, LHP, Aberdeen: In his second professional start, the Orioles’ 2016 second-round selection tossed three scoreless innings in the IronBirds’ 3-0 loss to Staten Island on Monday night. Akin, 21, struck out one batter and allowed two hits in the game. Overall, he has a 1.80 ERA and five strikeouts in five innings through his first two starts.

Donnie Hart, LHP, Bowie: Hart attended the Eastern League All Star Game, but that wasn’t his highlight from last week. The 25-year-old sidearmer had his contract purchased by the Orioles on Friday and he made his big-league debut Sunday, retiring both Tampa Bay Rays he faced. The 27th-rounder out of Texas State in 2013, Hart was 2-0 with  a 2.31 ERA for Bowie and was particularly tough against lefties (.158 average).

Cam Kneeland, OF, Frederick: The Orioles signed Kneeland, 26, out of the independent Can-Am League in November 2013. He played all of last season in Delmarva before joining the Keys this year. In 17 games this month, Kneeland is batting .350 (21-for-60) with five home runs and 19 RBIs. He has nine multihit performances in his past 12 games.

Jason Stoffel, RHP, Norfolk: Signed to a minor league deal in December, the 27-year-old right-hander has been dominant since his promotion to the Tides on June 23. In 10 appearances, Stoffel has struck out 16 batters and allowed only four hits in 11 1/3 innings. On Monday, he pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his fourth save in as many chances.

Gui Yuan Xu, 1B/OF/DH, GCL Orioles: The Orioles signed “Itchy” to a minor league deal almost exactly one year ago. Through 12 games this season, the China-born left-handed hitter is batting .441 (15-for-34) with three doubles and nine RBIs. Xu, 20, doesn’t have enough at-bats to officially qualify, but that average would lead the Gulf Coast League.

FALLING

Brandon Barker, RHP, Bowie: Barker, 23, is 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA in three starts this month. In Bowie’s 13-11 loss to Richmond on Friday, he was charged with seven runs, eight hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings. Acquired by the Orioles when they traded away left-hander Brian Matusz in May, Barker is 4-4 with a 4.17 ERA in nine starts for the Baysox.

Paul Janish, SS, Norfolk: The veteran shortstop broke an 0-for-14 stretch with a single in the eighth inning of the Tides’ 11-8 win at Buffalo on Monday night. His average has dropped from .325 to .295 in that span. Janish, 33, is batting .254 (15-for-59) with four doubles and six RBIs in 18 games since returning to Norfolk in late June.

Markel Jones, OF, GCL Orioles: In his professional debut Wednesday, the Orioles’ 2016 33rd-round selection had a single in the eighth inning of a 7-3 win over the GCL Twins. But Jones, 21, is hitless in his other 21 at-bats (.045) this season with 10 strikeouts – including eight in his past 14 at-bats – while serving as the GCL Orioles’ leadoff hitter.

Franderlin Romero, RHP, Frederick: Romero, 23, was 4-1 with a 2.96 ERA through his first five starts with the Keys. Since then, he is 0-1 with a 9.18 ERA in four starts. Romero, who came to the Orioles from Cincinnati in late May, gave up 15 runs (14 earned) and 20 hits in 7 2/3 innings in two starts on July 6 and July 11.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Norfolk (36-60)
July 19 – at Buffalo, 7:05 p.m.
July 20 – at Buffalo, 1:05 p.m.
July 21 – vs. Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
July 22 – vs. Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
July 23 – vs. Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
July 24 – vs. Toledo, 6:05 p.m.
July 25 – OFF

Bowie (40-53)
July 19 – at Binghamton, 6:35 p.m.
July 20 – at Binghamton, 1:05 p.m.
July 21 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 22 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 23 – vs. Erie, 6:35 p.m.
July 24 – vs. Erie, 2:05 p.m.
July 25 – vs. Hartford, 7:05 p.m.

Frederick (50-44)
July 19 – at Carolina, 10:30 a.m.
July 20 – OFF
July 21 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
July 22 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
July 23 – vs. Salem, 6 p.m.
July 24 – vs. Salem, 2 p.m.
July 25 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

Delmarva (53-41)
July 19 – OFF
July 20 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
July 21 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
July 22 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
July 23 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
July 24 – vs. Kannapolis, 5:05 p.m.
July 25 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.

Aberdeen (14-17)
July 19 – vs. Staten Island, 7:05 p.m.
July 20 – OFF
July 21 – at Brooklyn, 7 p.m.
July 22 – at Brooklyn, 7 p.m.
July 23 – at Brooklyn, 6 p.m.
July 24 – at Hudson Valley, 5:05 p.m.
July 25 – at Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.

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