Unfortunately for fans of the Orioles’ minor-league teams, the 2017 season is officially over.
Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick both lost in the first round of their respective playoffs, so this will be the final “Dean Jones Report” of the year. Where has the time gone?
In the Eastern League, the Baysox lost all three games of the Western Division Championship Series to Altoona. Bowie was shut out, 2-0, and had only one hit in Game 1. The Baysox suffered an 8-4 loss in the second game, and fell, 6-1, in the clincher.
Meanwhile, the Carolina League adjusted its postseason due to Hurricane Irma’s looming effects. If the Keys would have beaten Lynchburg in the Northern Division, they would have been deemed “co-champions” along with the Southern Division winner.
The Keys rallied to win an exciting Game 1, 10-9, over the Hillcats. The teams combined for 14 runs in the final three innings – including four by Frederick in the bottom of the ninth to earn the walk-off victory. Needing just one more win to take the best-of-three series, the Keys dropped the last two at Lynchburg – 4-0 and 7-1, respectively.
In the coming weeks, I’ll post my second annual BaltimoreBaseball.com Orioles Minor League All-Star Squad. Then, at some point later in the offseason, I’ll update the “Dean’s Dozen” collection of the Top 12 players in the organization. Big changes are coming.
For now, let’s put a bow on the 2017 season with the final “Dean Jones Report” of the year. As you’ll see, it’s an abbreviated version. I’ve only included the players in my Top 12 who played in the minor-league postseason or received a September call-up to the Orioles.
That means you won’t find any updates on Triple-A Norfolk left-hander Chris Lee (No. 8) and Low-A Delmarva left-hander Alex Wells (No. 12) because their teams didn’t make the playoffs. You also won’t see anything new on a trio of Frederick pitchers – left-hander Keegan Akin (No. 4) and right-handers Cody Sedlock (No. 5) and Ofelky Peralta (No. 11). Akin and Sedlock were shut down in August, while Peralta didn’t pitch in the playoffs.
None of the Bowie or Frederick players who aren’t in my Top 12 had notable performances during the playoffs, so I’m also bypassing the “surging” and “falling” categories this week.
The Keys’ Ademar Rifaela – the Carolina League Most Valuable Player – went 1-for-10 with an RBI and a run scored in three games, while Jake Ring and Randolph Gassaway each had three hits in 11 at-bats. Ring had four RBIs in Game 1, including the walk-off RBI single.
I’ll be back on BaltimoreBaseball.com next spring with the weekly updates – and the occasional post this winter. Meanwhile, feel free to send me your thoughts on the organization to [email protected].
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Orioles
Statistics: .000, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 1 K in 3 games with Orioles; .267, 7 HRs, 47 RBIs, 23 2Bs, 99 Ks in 97 games at Norfolk
Although the 2013 second-round pick has only appeared in three games – and received only one at-bat – since his Sept. 1 promotion from Norfolk, I’m staying “bullish” in the final Dean Jones Report of the year. Sisco, 22, has entered in the eighth inning or later of all three games in which he played. In his latest appearance, he struck out looking against the Cleveland Indians’ Bryan Shaw during a 5-0 loss last Friday. Still, as I said last week, it’s good that Sisco is learning at the major-league level. We’ll have to see what 2018 brings.
No. 2: Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
Statistics: .000, 0 HRs, 0 RBIs, 0 Ks in 3 games with Orioles; .330, 16 HRs, 54 RBIs, 17 2Bs in 64 games at Bowie; .328, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 15 2Bs in 64 games at Frederick
Like Sisco, the 2016 third-round selection is still seeking his first major-league hit. Hays, 22, received a somewhat-surprising promotion just before last week’s update – and the beginning of the Eastern League playoffs for the Baysox. Since then, he has appeared in three games, including one start last Saturday in a 4-2 defeat at Cleveland. Hays is 0-for-3 in his limited action, but that lack of regular playing time is the biggest head-scratcher to me. If you’re going to promote one of your hottest prospects, shouldn’t you see what he has to offer? Sure, Hays can soak in things just from being in the clubhouse, like Sisco is doing, but – as several fans noted on Twitter on Tuesday night – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start fellow right-hander Joey Rickard over him. I’d like to see more of Hays in the Orioles’ final 17 games.
No. 3: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Bowie
Statistics: .218, 3 HRs, 16 RBIs, 13 2Bs in 42 games at Bowie (including playoffs); .314, 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 63 runs in 88 games
In Altoona’s three-game sweep over the Baysox, the 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) had a series to forget. Mountcastle, 20, was 0-for-11 with an RBI while batting second in all three games. His only RBI came on a groundout in the third inning of Bowie’s 8-4 loss in Game 2. Despite the rough performance in the playoffs, I’m remaining “bullish” on Mountcastle because of his overall numbers. He finished the season with 48 doubles and won the Carolina League batting title with a .314 average despite not playing in the league since July 18. Next, Mountcastle will play in the Arizona Fall League. We’ll see how much time – if any – he spends in the outfield. That could boost his value heading into next year.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .272, 14 HRs, 38 RBIs, 20 2Bs, 55 runs in 79 games (including playoffs)
After struggling for the final month of the regular season, the 2015 13th-round pick bounced back as one of the only bright spots for the Baysox in the playoffs. Mullins, 22, was 5-for-11 during Bowie’s three losses. In Game 2 last Friday, he went 3-for-4 with a solo home run, a double and scored two of Bowie’s four runs. He had a single in the other two games, including Bowie’s only hit in Game 1. Thanks to significant time spent on the disabled list, Mullins finished with almost 200 at-bats fewer than he had in 2016 at Delmarva. Still, he had the same amount of home runs and a similar average (.272 at Bowie, including the playoffs, compared with .273 at Delmarva) despite jumping two levels. As a leadoff hitter, I’d like to see Mullins improve his on-base percentage (.323 in three career seasons).
No. 7: Tanner Scott, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-2, 2.52 ERA, 89 Ks, 49 BBs in 71 2/3 innings (including playoffs)
Scott, 23, started Game 2 of Bowie’s playoff series against Altoona. The 2014 sixth-round pick didn’t factor in the decision after giving up three runs, three hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings. While one game in the Double-A postseason won’t make or break Scott’s career, I’m flipping to “bearish” to wrap up the year because of the way things started to unravel after the All-Star break. During 17 starts in the first half, Scott pitched to a 1.84 ERA (10 earned runs) and struck out 62 batters in 49 innings. Meanwhile, he had a 5.63 ERA in three starts in August, and including the playoff outing, he allowed as many runs in 22 2/3 innings during the second half. The statistics won’t matter if the Orioles believe Scott can help them by getting major-league hitters out – and he struck out 89 in 71 2/3 innings this year – but I’m not fully convinced that he’s ready to make the leap to the top level yet.
No. 9: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 3-4, 4.97 ERA, 76 Ks, 46 BBs in 67 innings (including playoffs)
In last week’s update, I noted that the Dominican Republic native finished the regular season with a little bit of momentum – and more important, more control. That went out the door in his lone postseason appearance. Liranzo, 22, entered Game 2 with one out in the fifth inning and runners on second and third. He allowed one of the inherited runners to score before getting a double play to end the inning. In the sixth, Liranzo walked one batter and hit another but didn’t allow a run. Then, in the seventh, he gave up a single, a two-run homer and issued two walks while getting only one out. The inconsistency perfectly sums up Liranzo’s season. He can be a shutdown reliever, but he’s just not reliable right now. One concerning statistic: Liranzo has surrendered 16 home runs in 85 2/3 innings at Double-A, including the playoffs. He didn’t give up any in 34 1/3 innings last season at Delmarva.
No. 10: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .278, 22 HRs, 80 RBIs, 27 2Bs, 81 runs, 20 SBs in 129 games (including playoffs)
The 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) played a pivotal part in getting the Baysox to the playoffs. But Stewart, 23, couldn’t keep them from an early exit. He was 2-for-11 in the three losses – though both hits were for extra bases. In Game 2, Stewart had a ground-rule double down the right-field line with one out in the eighth inning. And in the final game, he drove in Bowie’s only run with a solo homer to right-center field to lead off the fourth. Although Stewart batted just .182 in the playoffs, I’m finishing with a “bullish” rating. With 22 home runs, 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases, Stewart showed what he’s capable of – and why the Orioles made him their top draft choice two years ago. With his play, Stewart has re-entered the picture as a potential contributor with the Orioles at some point in 2018.