Minor league outfielders - Rickard, Mullins, McKenna, Hays, Rifaela, Stewart - all hitting stride - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dean Jones Report

Minor league outfielders — Rickard, Mullins, McKenna, Hays, Rifaela, Stewart — all hitting stride

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

That’s what all of our parents taught us. And it’s crucial when dealing with the 2018 Orioles.

I noted in last week’s “Dean Jones Report” that watching baseball wasn’t too much fun. But, if you were already frustrated then, you’re probably ready to claw your eyes out right now.

I won’t make you relive any of the pain today, though. Well, maybe one small thing …

Through three starts, Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb is 0-3 with a 13.11 ERA. During his rocky four years in Baltimore, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez never had an ERA that high.

In 2014, Jimenez was 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA after three starts. His ERA never went higher that year, and he finished 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 25 games (22 starts). Jimenez had a 10.38 ERA after two starts last season, but he threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his third game to lower it to 5.51. He ended the year at 6-11 with a 6.81 ERA.

You can argue that it’s still early, but the calendar will soon turn to May. It’s getting later.

Regardless, it’s time for the third “Dean Jones Report” of the year. As longtime readers know, each Friday throughout the year, I’ll discuss what’s happening in the minor leagues.

Each player in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings will be categorized as a rising stock (“bullish”) or a falling stock (“bearish”). Then, I’ll discuss a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” with their recent performance. Finally, I’ll wrap up with a look at the upcoming schedule for all the affiliates. Be sure to share your thoughts in the “comments” section.

DEAN’S DOZEN

No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: .247, 3 HRs, 7 RBIs, 8 runs in 18 games

MILB.com Player Page

Hays, 22, has hit safely in six of his past seven games. In that span, the 2016 third-round selection is batting .296 (8-for-27). And he walked three times in the only game in which he didn’t get a hit during that stretch – Bowie’s 5-3 win over Akron last Friday. So, while Hays hasn’t driven in many runs yet, he appears to be slowly starting to heat up at the plate. Of course, I also thought that a couple of weeks ago. And he went on to get just two hits in his next 16 at-bats. In short, it’s still early. I’m still optimistic about Hays. You should be, too.

No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie

NEUTRAL

Statistics: NONE

MILB.com Player Page

The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) continues to recover from a hairline fracture in his right hand. Mountcastle, 21, has started to ramp up baseball activities this week. He’s been fielding, throwing and running and is now taking batting practice against coaches. When he was hit by a pitch in a minor-league game during spring training, the initial timetable was four to six weeks. We just passed six weeks, so he’s now slightly behind schedule. Still, the Orioles won’t rush Mountcastle back into action. They’ve seen what he can do with the bat. For now, the priority should be to make sure he’s completely healthy before his 2018 debut.

No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: 0-0, 2.08 ERA, 2 Ks, 2 BBs in 4 innings

MILB.com Player Page

In his first start at home this season, the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings last Friday as the Baysox beat Akron, 5-3. Harvey, 23, allowed a two-out single in the first and a one-out walk in the second. In the third, he put two runners on base before right-hander Matthew Grimes relieved him with one out. Harvey hasn’t dominated through his first two appearances – he has allowed seven baserunners in 4 1/3 innings – but I’m still “bullish” because Orioles fans should be optimistic now that he’s healthy. Harvey is scheduled to pitch tonight at Akron in the opener of a six-game road trip.

No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: .278, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 1 3B, 12 runs in 17 games

MILB.com Player Page

It’s always fun to see the 2015 13th-round pick playing at his best. And Mullins, 23, is pretty close to that right now. During his current six-game hitting streak, Mullins is batting .357 (10-for-28) with four doubles, a home run and two RBIs. In Bowie’s 3-2 win over Richmond on Wednesday, he doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, walked in the third and hit a solo homer in the fifth. Mullins currently leads the Eastern League in total bases (40) and ranks among the leaders in several other offensive categories. If Mullins keeps going at the current rate, we might get to see his major-league debut later this year.

No. 5: Tanner Scott, LHP, Norfolk

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 Ks, 3 BBs in 6 innings (at Norfolk); 0-0, 5.79 ERA, 5 Ks, 1 BB in 4 2/3 innings (with Orioles)

MILB.com Player Page

I’m conflicted about how to grade Scott, 23, this week. On one hand, the 2014 sixth-round selection received his second promotion to the Orioles and pitched two scoreless innings Saturday against the Cleveland Indians. On the other, he gave up two runs and three hits in one inning during the Orioles’ 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. Despite that, he did strike out the side in the seventh. As I wrote last week, Scott’s 0.00 ERA at Norfolk is a little bit misleading due to the inherited runners that he has allowed to score. Overall, I think it’s going to be an up-and-down year for Scott – both with his pitching and between the majors and Triple-A. For now, I’m staying “bearish” due to the rocky outing.

No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva

BULLISH

Statistics: 0-0, 1.13 ERA, 6 Ks, 6 BBs in 8 innings

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I’m back to “bullish” on the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) this week. Hall, 19, tossed three scoreless innings in the Shorebirds’ 3-0 loss to Kannapolis on Monday night. After throwing more balls than strikes while walking four batters in his previous start, Hall showed more control in this outing. He threw 30 of his 43 pitches for strikes and only issued one walk. Opponents are only hitting .192 against him overall, but he’s doing even better at Perdue Stadium. In two starts at home, he has given up just two hits (.111 average against). Hall is scheduled to make his next start for Delmarva on Sunday at Hickory.

No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk

BULLISH

Statistics: .275, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 10 runs in 14 games

MILB.com Player Page

In four games since last week’s update, the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) went 5-for-13 with three walks, four RBIs and three runs scored. Stewart, 24, has only hit one homer this season – his walk-off blast April 8 against Gwinnett – but he has scored at least once in eight of the 14 games in which he has appeared. Plus, Stewart has reached base safely in all but two games. Although he’s not flashing much power yet (.353 slugging percentage), he’s still getting on base. The doubles and homers will come. Mark my words.

No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: 2-2, 3.43 ERA, 19 Ks, 9 BBs in 21 innings

MILB.com Player Page

If you’re keeping track like I am, that’s back-to-back impressive performances for the 2016 second-round pick. Akin, 23, pitched six shutout innings for the Baysox on Wednesday against Richmond to pick up his second straight victory. He retired the first eight batters and only gave up three hits – two singles and a double. It’s worth noting that his last two starts were both against the Flying Squirrels. He fared much worse in two starts against Harrisburg to begin the year (0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in nine innings). So, we’ll see how he does when he faces a third opponent – Erie – next week in his fifth start of the season.

No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-2, 3.60 ERA, 15 Ks, 8 BBs in 20 innings

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For the first time in forever, I’m “bearish” on the Australia native. That’s because Wells, 21, made history – in a bad way – during the Keys’ 6-0 loss to Salem in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday. He walked four batters for the first time in his three-year career. In 20 innings this season, Wells has issued eight walks. That’s not terrible until you realize that he walked 10 in 140 innings last year with Delmarva. And in 62 2/3 innings for Aberdeen in 2016, he only allowed nine free passes. With all that said, his ERA still sits at a respectable 3.60 through four starts. He hasn’t pitched at home yet in 2018.

No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Delmarva

BULLISH

Statistics: 2-0, 2.37 ERA, 27 Ks, 9 BBs in 19 innings

MILB.com Player Page

The 2017 third-round pick only lasted three innings in the Shorebirds’ 3-2 rain-shortened loss to Kannapolis on Wednesday night. Baumann, 22, threw 76 pitches in the game, including 38 in the third inning. He gave up two runs and four hits in the no-decision. Although Baumann had a difficult outing, I’m remaining “bullish” for now. Keep in mind: Delmarva was the only Orioles affiliate to play Wednesday night as poor weather invaded the East Coast. Conditions were far from ideal for Baumann’s start. I’m not going to hold one game in poor weather against him. We’ll see how he does in his next turn.

No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Delmarva

BULLISH

Statistics: 2-1, 0.56 ERA, 31 Ks, 2 BBs in 16 innings

MILB.com Player Page

Talk about tough luck. The 2017 competitive balance round B selection took the loss in the Shorebirds’ 2-1 defeat against Lakewood on Sunday despite only giving up one run and two hits in five innings. Lowther, who will turn 22 on Monday, struck out 11 hitters – his second double-digit performance in that category in three starts – and walked just one. He leads the South Atlantic League in ERA (0.56), strikeouts (31) and WHIP (0.44). As a result, Lowther earned the league’s Pitcher of the Week award Monday. I don’t think he’ll be this dominant all year, but it’s an incredible start. He’s scheduled to pitch Saturday at Hickory.

No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 6 Ks, 9 BBs in 9 1/3 innings

MILB.com Player Page

A day after his previous start – in which he was charged with six runs in 1 1/3 innings – the 2016 first-round pick (27th overall) went on the seven-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. Sedlock, 22, underwent an MRI that didn’t reveal any structural damage, but he did get a PRP injection. He’s been temporarily shut down and will head to Sarasota, Fla., to begin strength and conditioning work on the shoulder. In tandem with the elbow issues that he had last summer, this is obviously not an encouraging sign. Overall, Sedlock has a 2.68 WHIP and 13.50 ERA after three starts with Frederick.

SURGING

Martin Cervenka, C, Bowie: In December, the Orioles selected the Czech Republic native from the San Francisco Giants in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft. Cervenka, 25, is batting .345 with five doubles and 10 runs scored. Last Saturday, he had three hits – including a walkoff single in the 12th. On Monday, Cervenka hit his first homer of the year.

Ryan McKenna, OF, Frederick: The 2015 fourth-round pick had an eight-game hitting streak snapped when he went hitless in both games of a doubleheader Wednesday at Salem. McKenna, 21, still ranks third in the Carolina League in hitting (.342) and second in hits (27) and runs scored (17).

Joey Rickard, OF, Norfolk: Rickard, 26, batted .478 (11-for-23) with three doubles, five RBIs and six runs scored in six games over the past week. He also walked four times in that stretch. I’m not saying Rickard is the definitive answer to the Orioles’ offensive struggles, but he’s third in the International League in on-base percentage (.460) and fifth in average (.353) and is again knocking on the door of the majors.

Ademar Rifaela, OF/DH, Bowie: The Curacao native won the 2017 Carolina League Most Valuable Player award after a breakthrough season with Frederick that included 24 home runs and 23 doubles. Rifaela, 23, has remained hot with the Baysox to begin this season. He’s batting .357 with six multi-hit performances in 15 games.

FALLING

Lucas Long, RHP, Bowie: The 2014 24th-round pick turned heads in 2017 while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen with the Baysox. Long, 25, went 9-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 31 games (14 starts). But, thanks to two bad outings in his first five appearances, he’s 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA for Bowie this year. That could change quickly, though.

Mason McCoy, SS, Delmarva: McCoy, 23, has heated up slightly over the past week and a half – boosting his average from .133 on April 17 to .208 before an 0-for-4 dropped him below .200 again (.193). The 2017 sixth-round selection remains a long way from the .301 average that he had as a New York-Penn League All-Star at Aberdeen last summer. Will his momentum continue?

Alex Murphy, 1B, Frederick: Rough news for the Calvert Hall graduate and former sixth-round pick in 2013. The converted catcher was playing first base earlier this month when he collided with a teammate while pursuing a pop-up. He tore the ACL in his left knee. He’ll have surgery once swelling subsides and is out for the season. He’ll finish the year with one hit in 21 at-bats.

James Teague, RHP, Frederick: Last year, the 2016 37th-round pick struggled in five appearances with Delmarva in April before posting a 1.02 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings at Aberdeen. Teague, 23, had back-to-back scoreless outings with Frederick this season before giving up nine runs in four innings over his next three appearances.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Norfolk (10-7)

April 27 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.

April 28 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.

April 29 – at Charlotte, 2:05 p.m.

April 30 – vs. Durham, 6:35 p.m.

May 1 – vs. Durham, 6:35 p.m.

May 2 – vs. Durham, 6:35 p.m.

May 3 – vs. Louisville, 6:35 p.m.

Bowie (11-7)

April 27 – at Akron, 6:35 p.m.

April 28 – at Akron, 2:05 p.m.

April 29 – at Akron, 2:05 p.m.

April 30 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.

May 1 – at Erie, 6:05 p.m.

May 2 – at Erie, 11:05 a.m.

May 3 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.

Frederick (7-14)

April 27 – at Buies Creek, 7 p.m.

April 28 – at Buies Creek, 6 p.m.

April 29 – at Buies Creek, 2 p.m.

April 30 – OFF

May 1 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.

May 2 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.

May 3 – vs. Salem, 11 a.m.

Delmarva (14-7)

April 27 – at Hickory, 7 p.m.

April 28 – at Hickory, 5 p.m.

April 29 – at Hickory, 3 p.m.

April 30 – OFF

May 1 – vs. Greenville, 7:05 p.m.

May 2 – vs. Greenville, 7:05 p.m.

May 3 – vs. Greenville, 10:35 a.m.

 

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Dblack2508

    April 27, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    When will they move up DL Hall to Frederick? I see Hays moving up after Santanders 44 days is up. Glad to read that Aiken is pitching better.

    • Dean Jones

      April 27, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Dblack — Thanks for the comment. Yes, it’s good to see Akin doing well. I don’t believe they’ll rush DL Hall. He’s still only 19. (He’ll be 20 in September.) I could be wrong, but I think they’ll take it slow with him this year. We’ll see. As for Hays/Santander, we’ll have to see there, too. I think it makes sense to send Santander back to the minors when his needed “Rule 5” time is up, but I don’t know that Hays will be the move.

  2. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 27, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Do you see the Orioles gradually increasing Hunter Harvey his innings per start? They prevously held Bundy to 3 innings of work per start. Harvey has been working 2 innings. Do you see Rickard being recalled before Hayes? Once Santander meets the 44 days on rule 5 requirements that is.

  3. Orial

    April 27, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Ok explain to me why Rifaela gets no love or recognition? Is he defensive liability?

    • Disco Stupid

      April 28, 2018 at 9:19 am

      I’m no expert, but it looks to me that Ademar isn’t very toolsy. He had an .858 OPS at Frederick but wasn’t young for that level. So despite a solid start with the bat this season, it’s hard to project the bat maintaining all the way to the major leagues to the point where it justifies subpar defense and base running.

  4. jkneps63

    April 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    So they can’t send Lowther to Frederick because he looks too much like Wells?

    I agree about the incredible start, almost two strikeouts per inning and 0.44 WHIP. Ridiculous numbers!

    Hope to see Lowther promoted soon, would love to catch a game he starts at Frederick!

    What does Susac have to do to make your surging list?

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