Dean Jones Report: Bullish on Keys' hitters; bearish on Stewart, some upper-level arms - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dean Jones Report

Dean Jones Report: Bullish on Keys’ hitters; bearish on Stewart, some upper-level arms

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles never stray too far away from their plans.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and the rest of the club’s decision-makers are always looking to add optionable pieces to their 40-man roster.

It’s not a secret. Everyone who follows the organization – from fans to the media to scouts with other teams – knows it. And it’s something successful teams should always do.

With a handful of moves over the past few weeks – all involving the pitching staff – the Orioles have continued to bolster their flexibility and depth.

In roughly two weeks since Opening Day, the club has added four pitchers to its 40-man roster – right-handers Miguel Castro and Damien Magnifico, as well as left-handers Andrew Faulkner and Paul Fry. The Orioles also added Edwin Jackson to the mix when the veteran right-hander signed a minor league deal; he isn’t on the 40-man roster.

Don’t forget, the Orioles also picked up right-hander Alec Asher – who held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings Saturday – in late March from the Philadelphia Phillies for cash or a player to be named later.

As part of the pitching carousel, the Orioles have traded right-hander Joe Gunkel to the Los Angeles Dodgers, right-hander Oliver Drake to the Milwaukee Brewers and right-hander Parker Bridwell to the Los Angeles Angels.

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Right-hander Jason Garcia was designated for assignment Thursday, but the former Rule 5 selection cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Bowie on Monday.

Whether any of these pitchers makes an impact in the major leagues in 2017 or beyond remains to be seen. But, if nothing else, the Orioles have improved their roster flexibility. That could be crucial if the team continues to rely so heavily on its bullpen.

Now, let’s dive into the second “Dean Jones Report” of the 2017 season.

As regular readers know, I’ll provide a weekly update about the Orioles minor leaguers on my “Dean’s Dozen” list every Tuesday throughout the year. I’ll categorize each of the players as a rising stock (“bullish”) or a falling stock (“bearish”), based on recent play.

I also will highlight some additional players divided into two categories – surging and falling. These players could change from week to week, depending on who’s hot and who’s not in the organization. And finally, I’ll provide the upcoming schedule for the organization’s affiliates.

 

DEAN’S DOZEN

No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk

BULLISH

Statistics: .276, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 11 Ks in eight games

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As I wrote last week, the 2013 second-round pick struck out four times for the first time in his five-year professional career during the Tides’ 3-0 win over Gwinnett on April 10. Sisco, 22, has started to turn things around since then. He hit safely in three of the four games he played in during the past week, batting .400 (6-for-15) in that span. Sisco’s biggest game so far in 2017 came Saturday, when he went 3-for-3 with a walk in Norfolk’s 5-0 victory over Charlotte. He had a double, an RBI single and scored three times.

No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: .289, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs, 4 2Bs, 6 Ks in 11 games

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Through 11 games with Frederick, the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) is batting 127 points better than he did with Delmarva during the first month of the season in 2016. Mountcastle, 20, currently has a seven-game hitting streak in which he has batted .310 (9-for-29) with one home run, three doubles and five RBIs. In the Keys’ 5-1 victory over Carolina on Saturday, Mountcastle went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs scored.

No. 3: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 17 Ks, 6 BBs in 10 innings

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The 2016 second-round pick appears to have put an abysmal High-A debut in the rearview mirror, but he still hasn’t matched the dominance from last summer at Aberdeen. Akin, 22, made two starts for the Keys in the past week. He allowed three runs and 10 hits in five innings Wednesday against Potomac. That’s not great, but Akin flashed some of his potential upside with 10 strikeouts and no walks in Frederick’s 5-3 loss. And then Monday, he gave up two runs (one earned) and two hits in 4 1/3 innings versus Winston-Salem.

No. 4: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 1-0, 2.45 ERA, 7 Ks, 4 BBs in 11 innings

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Sedlock, 21, took a small step back in his second start after an impressive High-A debut in which he pitched six scoreless innings on April 8. The 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) held Carolina to three hits in five innings during the Keys’ 5-3 win on Thursday, but he walked three batters. He also threw two wild pitches – one that allowed a run to score and another that set up a sacrifice fly. Overall, though, Sedlock’s performance remains respectable. He’ll look to get back under control tonight when he pitches at Winston-Salem.

No. 5: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-1, 9.72 ERA, 6 Ks, 5 BBs in 8 1/3 innings

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The second start of the season went much better for Lee than the first one did. He held Gwinnett to one run and five hits in five innings during a 3-2 loss at Harbor Park on Thursday afternoon. Still, the 24-year-old left-hander has plenty of room to improve. Lee walked three batters and threw just 46 of his 77 pitches for strikes. And although it’s an extremely small sample size, left-handers are hitting .500 (3-for-6) against him. He hasn’t fared much better against righties, though. They’re batting .355 (11-for-31) versus Lee.

No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: .417, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 15 runs in 11 games

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The Eastern League jinxed the 2015 13th-round pick. On Monday afternoon, the league named Mullins, 22, as its first Player of the Week in 2017. Hours later, his 10-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance in Bowie’s 3-2 win over Richmond. After his second consecutive three-hit game last Tuesday, Mullins’ average rose to .577. Since then, he has cooled off a bit. In his past five games, Mullins is only batting .227 (5-for-22) with three doubles and no RBIs. But it’s going to take a lot more for me to get bearish.

No. 7: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie

BEARISH

Statistics: 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 7 Ks, 8 BBs in five innings

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Liranzo, 22, blew his first save opportunity Thursday night against Harrisburg. With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, the Dominican Republic native surrendered a two-run, game-tying home run to right field before recording the final out. But he still picked up the win after Aderlin Rodriguez’s RBI single lifted the Baysox to a 5-4 walk-off victory. Overall, Liranzo has struggled with his command. He has walked more batters than he has recorded strikeouts through his first four appearances in 2017. Last year, he struck out 66 hitters and issued 27 walks in 53 innings between Delmarva and Bowie.

No. 8: Stefan Crichton, RHP, Orioles

BULLISH

Statistics: 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 4 Ks, 1 BB in 4 2/3 innings (Norfolk); 0-0, 10.80 ERA, 2 Ks in 1 2/3 innings (Orioles)

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Well, that was quick. Before the minor league season started, I said: “If Crichton keeps pitching well, you can expect him to get a call from the O’s at some point in 2017.” The 2013 23rd-round selection has now been brought up from Norfolk twice in one week. Of course, a lot of Orioles fans would probably prefer if he didn’t get the second promotion – when closer Zach Britton landed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday with left forearm soreness. Crichton, 25, gave up two runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings during the Orioles’ 11-4 blowout win over the Toronto Blue Jays in his major league debut later that day.

No. 9: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 0-0, 1.00 ERA, 14 Ks, 9 BBs in nine innings

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Peralta, who will turn 20 on Thursday, held Potomac and Carolina to one total run and four hits in nine innings across two starts over the past week. He struck out 14 batters in the two starts, including nine (one fewer than his career high) in the Keys’ 9-3 loss to the Mudcats on Sunday afternoon. The Dominican Republic native has had some trouble with his command, though, walking one batter per inning so far in 2017. It took Peralta 86 pitches to get through four innings in his season debut versus Potomac last Tuesday, and things weren’t much better Sunday. In that game, he threw 90 pitches in five innings.

No. 10: Austin Hays, OF, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: .340, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 3 3Bs in 11 games

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The 2016 third-round pick has hit safely in 10 of the Keys’ 11 games, including five multi-hit performances. Hays, 21, hit his first home run of 2017 in Frederick’s 5-3 loss to Potomac on Wednesday afternoon. A day later, he went 3-for-4 with two triples and an RBI in Frederick’s 5-3 win at Carolina. As a team, the Keys rank among the Carolina League leaders in several offensive categories. Hays has played a big role in that.

No. 11: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie

BEARISH

Statistics: .147, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 1 2B, 8 Ks in 10 games

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Stewart, 23, continues to slump through the first two weeks of the 2017 season, but he’s showing some signs of breaking out of it. Although the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) has yet to have a multi-hit game this year, he has hit safely in three of his past five games after a 2-for-20 start. Stewart (pictured above) reached base in three of his four plate appearances during Bowie’s 7-4 loss to Harrisburg on Saturday. He was hit twice and walked once.

No. 12: Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Norfolk

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-2, 9.39 ERA, 7 Ks, 1 BB in 7 2/3 innings

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The Dominican Republic native hasn’t been able to carry his momentum from the Grapefruit League into the International League. After going 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings during spring training, Ynoa has struggled through his first two starts for Norfolk in the regular season. On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander gave up four runs (three earned) and six hits in five innings during the Tides’ 8-2 loss to Gwinnett at Harbor Park. One bright spot: Ynoa has only walked one batter in 7 2/3 innings.

 

SURGING

Randolph Gassaway, OF, Frederick: The 2013 16th-round pick emerged in the second half of last season with a .340 average, 24 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs in 55 games between Aberdeen and Delmarva. This year, Gassaway made the jump to the Keys. Despite going 0-for-4 on Monday, he’s currently hitting .302 and leads the team with eight RBIs.

Johnny Giavotella, DH/2B, Norfolk: The veteran infielder, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in February, has soared out of the gate for the Tides. Giavotella, 29, is batting .333 with a team-high 15 hits and five doubles through 11 games. He won Sunday’s game for Norfolk with a walk-off, two-run triple into left-center field.

Zach Muckenhirn, LHP, Delmarva: In his first two starts for the Shorebirds, the 2016 11th-round selection struck out 14 batters and gave up only one earned run in 10 innings. Muckenhirn, 22, allowed three runs (two earned), six hits and two walks in five innings Monday against Greensboro, but he still has a 1.72 ERA this season.

Jake Ring, OF, Delmarva: Unlike Mullins, the 2016 31st-round pick shined on the day he earned his league’s Player of the Week award. Ring, 22, went 2-for-3 with two walks in the Shorebirds’ 9-5 win over Greensboro on Monday night. He hit his second home run of the year and scored a career-high four times. Ring is batting .439 in 10 games this year.

 

FALLING

Matthias Dietz, RHP, Delmarva: Three of the Orioles’ first four picks in the 2016 draft – Sedlock, Akin and Hays – have received a ton of attention over the past 10 months. The other player? Dietz, 21, has struggled through much of his first nine professional starts. He’s 0-4 with a 7.40 ERA in that span, including 0-1 with a 15.88 ERA for Delmarva in 2017.

Jason Garcia, RHP, Bowie: The former Rule 5 selection remains in the organization, but he’s now facing an even steeper uphill battle back to the major leagues. Garcia, 24, was outrighted to the Baysox on Monday, so he’s no longer on the 40-man roster. In one appearance this season, Garcia gave up five runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings.

Yermin Mercedes, C/DH, Frederick: The 24-year-old Dominican Republic native hit .345 with 20 home runs, 31 doubles and 77 RBIs while splitting last year between Delmarva and Frederick. But Mercedes hasn’t been able to build on that success in 2017. He’s batting .184 with eight strikeouts and two extra-base hits in 10 games.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

Norfolk (4-7)

April 18 – at Buffalo, 6:05 p.m.

April 19 – at Buffalo, 6:05 p.m.

April 20 – at Buffalo, 1:05 p.m.

April 21 – at Syracuse, 6:35 p.m.

April 22 – at Syracuse, 1:05 p.m.

April 23 – at Syracuse, 1:05 p.m.

April 24 – OFF

Bowie (7-4)

April 18 – vs. Richmond, 6:35 p.m.

April 19 – vs. Richmond, 6:35 p.m.

April 20 – vs. Richmond, 6:35 p.m.

April 21 – at Harrisburg, 7 p.m.

April 22 – at Harrisburg, 6 p.m.

April 23 – at Harrisburg, 1:30 p.m.

April 24 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.

Frederick (4-7)

April 18 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

April 19 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

April 20 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.

April 21 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.

April 22 – vs. Salem, 2 p.m.

April 23 – vs. Salem, 2 p.m.

April 24 – OFF

Delmarva (5-7)

April 18 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.

April 19 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.

April 20 – at Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.

April 21 – at Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.

April 22 – at Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.

April 23 – at Hagerstown, 2:05 p.m.

April 24 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.

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