After a two-week hiatus to make room for our coverage of the 2017 Major League Baseball first-year-player draft, the “Dean Jones Report” has returned to its spot in the lineup.
And as you’ll see, I’ve made some midseason upgrades to my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings.
I’ve taken two players out who have pitched for the Orioles this season – right-handers Stefan Crichton and Gabriel Ynoa. And to replace them in the top 12 list I’ve added two left-handers – Double-A Bowie’s Tanner Scott and Low-A Delmarva’s Alex Wells.
You’ll find more on Scott and Wells in their write-ups below, but I wanted to quickly explain why I’m putting them both into the mix – and removing Crichton and Ynoa – right now.
First, I’ve decided to delete Crichton from the list because he has essentially “graduated” to the next level. While I’m sure the 2013 23rd-round pick will continue to ride the Norfolk-Baltimore Transit Line this summer, he has spent a good chunk of the year in the Orioles’ bullpen. In order to highlight someone else, I won’t feature him regularly. With that said, if Crichton heads back to Triple-A Norfolk again, I’ll keep you updated if he’s surging or falling.
While Ynoa, 24, hasn’t spent as much time as Crichton in the majors, he has pitched poorly in nine starts for the Tides. With a 1-5 record and 6.93 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, the Dominican Republic native hasn’t earned a spot in my current “Dean’s Dozen.” That doesn’t mean he’s not in the Orioles’ plans. He could also continue to bounce back and forth. In my eyes, though, someone else could better use his spot in my regular updates.
That brings us to Scott and Wells.
Last November, when I unveiled my inaugural “Dean’s Dozen” list, I noted that a wise baseball man once told me: “It doesn’t matter if you throw really hard if you don’t have a compass to help you find out where it’s going.”
Scott, 22, has apparently found the compass in his backpack. The Orioles’ decision to use the overpowering left-hander as a starter in order to regulate his work has paid off. Because of that, I’m willing to get on board with providing weekly updates on how he pitches.
Meanwhile, Wells fell just short of inclusion in the “Dean’s Dozen” last fall – and once again when I updated the rankings before the season started. Wells, 20, debuted with a 4-5 record and 2.15 ERA in 13 starts for short-season Single-A Aberdeen last summer. In 62 2/3 innings, he allowed less than one baserunner per inning. Now, he’s in my rankings.
In addition to the new names, you’ll also notice that some of the previous prospects have switched spots. Thanks to his promotion to Double-A Bowie, outfielder Austin Hays now occupies the No. 2 ranking in the “Dean’s Dozen” ahead of shortstop Ryan Mountcastle.
To be honest, you could probably flip a coin at this point between Hays and Mountcastle. But since Hays, 21, is now a level higher, he’s also in front at this moment in my rankings. It’ll be fun to watch these two players develop over the next couple years in the system.
If you’re new to the “Dean Jones Report” this week, I also discuss a handful of players beyond the Top 12 who are either “surging” or “falling” with their recent play. This week, you’ll learn more about a veteran infielder who’s hitting above .300 at Norfolk, a 2016 draft pick who pitched well in his professional debut for Aberdeen, and other key performances.
Finally, I’ll also include the upcoming schedules for the Orioles’ top five affiliates in case you’re interested in heading out to the ballpark to see these guys in action.
THE NEW ‘DEAN’S DOZEN’
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk
Statistics: .273, 3 HRs, 27 RBIs, 16 2Bs, 65 Ks in 59 games
In the three weeks since my last update, the 2013 second-round selection has seven multi-hit performances in 14 games for the Tides. Sisco, 22, is hitting .327 (18-for-55) in that span. However, the one criticism that I have is one that I’ve mentioned a lot about Sisco over the past year and a half: 13 of those 18 hits were singles and he had only five RBIs in that stretch. Still, after batting .243 over the first two months, Sisco appears to have made the needed adjustments to thrive with the bat at Triple-A. His average climbed to a season-high .285 in Norfolk’s 3-2 loss at Durham last Tuesday.
No. 2: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .300, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 2 2Bs in 5 games at Bowie; .328, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 15 2Bs in 64 games at Frederick
After a monstrous first half with the Keys, the Orioles rewarded the 2016 third-round pick with a promotion to the Baysox on Thursday. Hays, who will turn 22 next Wednesday, won back-to-back Carolina League Player of the Week awards before moving up. He batted .364 (28-for-77) with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 18 games this month for Frederick. In five games since joining Bowie, Hays (pictured above, while with Frederick) is hitting .300 (6-for-20) with a home run – a solo shot in the opener of a doubleheader Sunday at Erie. I’m going to go out on a big limb here – insert sarcasm – and say that Hays will be the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month for June.
No. 3: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Frederick
Statistics: .315, 13 HRs, 43 RBIs, 27 2Bs, 49 runs in 71 games
Mountcastle, 20, has cooled off a bit this month after batting .330 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in 50 games through the end of May. Although the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) only has a .281 average (25-for-89) and eight RBIs through 21 games in June, he still has 11 doubles in the month. Overall, Mountcastle leads the Carolina League with 27 doubles. He’s also among the league leaders in most other offensive categories – even when you factor in the “down” month. The Orioles didn’t promote Mountcastle to start the second half like they did with Hays, but there’s no reason to turn “bearish” on him right now.
No. 4: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 5-5, 4.26 ERA, 70 Ks, 30 BBs in 61 1/3 innings
The 2016 second-round pick appears to have figured things out after putting in some extra work about a month ago. Akin, 22, is 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA in four starts since he skipped a turn to throw some extra bullpen sessions in late May. Last Thursday, in his most recent start, he suffered the loss at Lynchburg despite holding the Hillcats to one run and four hits in six innings. Akin struck out nine batters and issued four walks in Frederick’s 3-0 defeat. A week before that, he pitched five shutout innings against Lynchburg in the Keys’ 3-1 win. Akin is scheduled to pitch again tonight for Frederick vs. Wilmington at Nymeo Field.
No. 5: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 4-4, 6.46 ERA, 53 Ks, 26 BBs in 62 2/3 innings
Sedlock, 22, just can’t seem to get on the right track with the Keys. The club skipped his turn in the rotation and gave the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) an extended rest coming out of the Carolina League All-Star break, but it didn’t help. In 3 2/3 innings against Wilmington on Monday night, Sedlock gave up five runs, 11 hits and two walks. With that performance, he finished June with an 0-1 record and a 7.43 ERA in 13 1/3 innings over three starts. Through April 23, Sedlock was 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings. Since then, he is 1-4 with a 9.07 ERA in 40 2/3 innings.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .307, 8 HRs, 23 RBIs, 8 2Bs, 26 runs in 33 games
Although the 2015 13th-round pick is hitless in his past six at-bats, he has at least one RBI in six of his past seven starts. Mullins, 22, led off Saturday’s game at Erie with a solo home run – his eighth of the year – and added three singles in Bowie’s 7-3 loss. He also hit a three-run, go-ahead home run Thursday as the Baysox held on to beat Binghamton, 5-4. While Mullins is only batting .260 (20-for-77) in 19 games since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, he continues to be a threat with speed and power atop the lineup.
No. 7: Tanner Scott, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 54 Ks, 26 BBs in 42 innings
As I mentioned earlier, the 2014 sixth-round selection has done enough over the past few months to earn a spot in my weekly rankings. Scott, who will turn 23 next month, has pitched his maximum three innings in all 14 starts for the Baysox. Scott gave up a run at Binghamton last Wednesday, but that’s the first run he has allowed since May 23. And, more important, the hard-throwing left-hander seems to have harnessed his stuff. In four of his past five starts, Scott has walked one batter or fewer. He has 15 strikeouts in that span. Overall, his WHIP is down to 1.19 – much lower than his career mark of 1.43.
No. 8: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 3-4, 6.35 ERA, 50 Ks, 32 BBs in 68 innings
Lee, 24, continues to struggle for the Tides. In his latest start, the 2011 fourth-round pick was charged with eight runs (seven earned) and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings during Norfolk’s 9-8 win at Gwinnett on Sunday afternoon. Lee has made 15 starts and he has turned in a scoreless outing only once – six innings against Buffalo on April 26. He is 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA in five starts this month. And that’s a major improvement over his 7.46 ERA in May. Still, despite all the poor statistics, I’m not writing off Lee. He’s left-handed and it’s not like others are pushing him out of the way. For now, he’ll remain in my Top 10.
No. 9: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-3, 5.40 ERA, 33 Ks, 21 BBs in 28 1/3 innings
The Orioles’ approach to pitch Scott at the start of games has worked so well that the club is now doing something similar with the hard-throwing Dominican Republic native. Liranzo, 22, has made two starts for the Baysox and will do so again Thursday morning vs. Altoona. He pitched three scoreless innings in each outing, dropping his ERA to its lowest point since April 23. However, in Bowie’s 7-3 loss at Erie on Saturday night, Liranzo walked a season-high four batters and threw only 35 of his 64 pitches for strikes. It’s mostly speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear his name come up in trade rumors in the coming weeks.
No. 10: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .251, 8 HRs, 32 RBIs, 13 2Bs, 40 runs, 12 SBs in 67 games
While the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) has shown flashes of success for the Baysox this year, he’s now the third-best outfielder on the team after Hays’ promotion. Stewart, 23, has slumped for much of June. In 19 games this month, he is hitting .236 (17-for-72) with only four RBIs and two extra-base hits (one double and one triple). It has been all or nothing for Stewart since June 14. In that 10-game stretch, he has five multi-hit performances and five hitless outings. Meanwhile, he has only had multiple RBIs in a game once since April 30 – in Bowie’s 7-2 win at Akron on May 27.
No. 11: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 1-6, 6.37 ERA, 59 Ks, 45 BBs in 53 2/3 innings
Like Lee, the Dominican Republic native has been abysmal through the first half of 2017. But I’m also not going to write Peralta, 20, off and kick him out of my rankings yet. On Sunday at Lynchburg, Peralta matched the shortest outing of his four-year minor league career. He was chased from the game with two outs in the first inning after allowing four runs, four walks and three singles. But a week before that, Peralta struck out eight batters and held the Hillcats to one run and five hits in five innings during the Keys’ 11-5 win. The biggest thing for Peralta is consistency. He needs to find it in the second half.
No. 12: Alex Wells, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 5-4, 3.04 ERA, 58 Ks, 10 BBs in 77 innings
Although the Australia native has tailed off a bit in his past four starts – 5.68 ERA in 25 1/3 innings – he earned a spot in my rankings because of his overall performance in the first half. Wells went 4-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 13 starts before the break. Perhaps most impressive, the South Atlantic League All-Star only walked nine batters in that stretch. Last summer, he issued nine walks in 62 2/3 innings at Aberdeen. Wells’ control is near the top of the charts, but we’ll see how it translates as he moves up the organizational ladder.
Johnny Giavotella, 2B/3B/LF, Norfolk: As Paul Janish and Ruben Tejada keep scuffling, the veteran remains with the Tides. Giavotella, who will turn 30 on July 10, is hitting .324 with 14 RBIs and 14 runs in 25 games this month. But he’s had troubles defensively at times in his career and has almost no experience at shortstop, so the club would likely need to shift Manny Machado there for Giavotella to get a shot.
Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Aberdeen: The 2016 fourth-round selection showed that the long wait before his professional debut was worth it. Hanifee, 19, earned the win with six scoreless innings in the IronBirds’ 3-0 victory at Connecticut on Thursday. He struck out five batters, scattered five singles and threw 48 strikes out of 61 pitches.
Ademar Rifaela, OF, Frederick: At the beginning of this month, I noted that it’d be easy to overlook the left-handed-hitting Curacao native because of all the other prospects with the Keys. Rifaela, 22, has a little more room to shine now that Hays has moved up to Bowie. He is batting .300 with eight home runs and 16 RBIs in 23 games for Frederick in June.
Adam Brett Walker, OF/DH, Norfolk: The Orioles initially claimed Walker, 25, off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason before losing him to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves released Walker in May, and he joined the Baysox. After a quick start – a .426 average, six home runs and 12 RBIs in 12 games – he was sent to the Tides on Monday.
Matthias Dietz, RHP, Delmarva: In 21 professional starts, the 2016 second-round pick has a grand total of zero victories. Dietz, 21, is 0-6 with a 5.32 ERA in 14 games for the Shorebirds. In May, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27 2/3 innings. But that momentum was halted this month. Dietz is 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA and only 10 strikeouts in 21 innings in June.
John Means, LHP, Bowie: The Orioles’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April hasn’t lived up to that standing over the past two months. Means, 24, is 3-6 with a 6.66 ERA in 10 starts for the Baysox through May and June. One positive: He struck out a season-high eight batters in Bowie’s 5-3 win over Erie in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday.
T.J. Nichting, OF, Aberdeen: Professional baseball hasn’t been kind to the 2017 ninth-round selection so far. Nichting, 22, went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in his debut with the IronBirds on Thursday. He followed that up with a pair of 0-for-5 performances over the weekend and an 0-for-4 game Monday. The switch-hitter hit .373 in 58 games at UNC Charlotte in 2017.
Irving Ortega, SS, Aberdeen: Like Nichting, the Dominican Republic native started off hitless in his first 13 at-bats for the IronBirds. But Ortega, 20, also failed to impress during a 17-game stint at Delmarva earlier this season. In that span, he batted .167 with 22 strikeouts in 54 at-bats. He also made eight errors at shortstop for the Shorebirds.
THE WEEK AHEAD
June 28 – vs. Louisville, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Louisville, 12:05 p.m.
June 30 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
July 2 – vs. Durham, 4:05 p.m.
July 3 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
June 28 – vs. Altoona, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Altoona, 11:05 a.m.
June 30 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
July 2 – at Akron, 2:05 p.m.
July 3 – at Akron, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – vs. Hartford, 6:35 p.m.
June 28 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
June 30 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.
July 1 – vs. Lynchburg, 6 p.m.
July 2 – vs. Lynchburg, 6 p.m.
July 3 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.
July 4 – at Potomac, 6:35 p.m.
June 28 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
June 30 – at Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – at Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
July 2 – at Kannapolis, 5:05 p.m.
July 3 – at Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – vs. Lakewood, 6:05 p.m.
June 28 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
June 30 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – at Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
July 2 – at Hudson Valley, 5:05 p.m.
July 3 – at Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – vs. Lowell, 6:05 p.m.