As I’m sure you know by now, the Orioles parted ways with Brian Matusz on Monday night.
The club dealt the struggling left-handed reliever and a compensatory draft pick (76th overall in this year’s draft) to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league pitchers – right-hander Brandon Barker and left-hander Trevor Belicek.
They also shipped two international bonus slots to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for minor league right-hander Franderlin Romero, who will be assigned to High-A Frederick. And they officially announced a minor league deal with former Minnesota Twins left-hander Brian Duensing, who pitched for the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A affiliate this season and is headed to Triple-A Norfolk.
In one night, they added a whole lot of pitching depth.
So, what do these four pitchers have to offer?
Barker, 23, will report to Double-A Bowie. He was 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in nine games (eight starts) for Double-A Mississippi this season. The 2014 16th-round selection had 40 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP in 45 innings. Barker split last year between three different levels. Overall, he was 12-10 with a 3.25 ERA in 27 starts, including 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in two spot starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. His fastball sits at about 91 mph, but he can reach 94 and his slurve can be an out pitch.
Belicek, 23, is scheduled to join High-A Frederick. He had pitched primarily at Low-A Rome this season, compiling a 3-0 record and 2.49 ERA in 11 appearances. The 2015 16th-round pick struck out 29 hitters and walked just one in 25 1/3 innings. All seven earned runs that he allowed came in two games – five in three innings against Asheville on April 16 and two in three innings against West Virginia on April 26. With a slight sidearm action, he hits 86 to 90 mph with his fastball, but its late life induces strikeouts.
Romero, 23, had been with the Reds since he was signed out of Venezuela in 2010. Before this year, he had only made one appearance above Rookie level. Romero was 1-4 with a 2.87 ERA in eight starts at Low-A Dayton. He was second on the team with 42 strikeouts and had walked just nine batters in 47 innings. His sinker is his out pitch and he’s had a 58 percent groundball rate in his career.
Duensing, 33, opted out of his deal with the Royals earlier this month. Before that, he was 1-0 with a 3.10 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings over 12 appearances for Triple-A Omaha. Left-handed hitters were batting .219 against him, while righties were actually hitting slightly worse (.209). Duensing was 41-37 with a 4.13 ERA in seven major league seasons with the Twins.
If any of the four pitchers are going to make an impact for the Orioles this year, it’ll probably be Duensing. But for now, he’ll be insurance at Triple-A.
For the time being, the Orioles have added four more pitchers – including two lefties – to their organizational depth. And all are strike-throwers. That’s something executive vice president Dan Duquette loves.
If you’re new to “The Dean Jones Report” this week, I provide an update every Tuesday on how the Orioles minor leaguers on Baseball America’s Top 10 prospect list have played over the previous seven days.
Right-handers Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens and Mike Wright are excluded since they’re in the major leagues. The remaining seven prospects each receive a bullish (rising stock) or bearish (falling stock) rating, based on their recent performances. For each player, I’ve also listed some notable statistics and a link to his MILB.com Player Page.
I’ve also selected a handful of players who are either surging or falling in the Orioles’ minor league system. And, at the bottom of the post, I’ve listed the upcoming schedules for the club’s affiliates.
Now, let’s get to this week’s update…
No. 2: Hunter Harvey, RHP, extended spring training
MILB.com Player Page
The 21-year-old right-hander was set to begin a throwing program Tuesday as he continues his rehabilitation from sports hernia surgery earlier this month. The initial timetable put Harvey’s return to action sometime in early to mid-June, so we’ll have to see how he progresses this week as he starts throwing to see whether any adjustments will need to be made to that projection. Remember, the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game in almost two years. Harvey is officially on the disabled list at High-A Frederick right now, so that’s a logical starting point once he’s healthy and ready to pitch again. But the Orioles will obviously take things slowly. I’ll keep you posted.
No. 3: Chance Sisco, C, Bowie
Statistics: .317 average, 0 HRs, 15 RBIs, 8 2Bs, 16 runs in 35 games
MILB.com Player Page
Sisco, 21, still leads the Eastern League in hitting, but he has entered a miniature slump over the past week. Although the 2013 second-round selection hit safely in six of his seven games since my last report, he batted .259 (7-for-27) with one extra-base hit – a double in Bowie’s 5-1 loss to Reading on Thursday – in that span. And since his average climbed to a season-high .354 on May 10, Sisco is batting only .244 (10-for-41) with nine singles and just one multi-hit performance. Plus, 11 of his 19 strikeouts this year have come during that 11-game stretch. It’s hard to downgrade a player who is still hitting above .300 in May, but I’m listing Sisco as bearish this week due to the recent average and lack of extra-base hits.
No. 4: Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick
Statistics: .221 average, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs, 20 runs in 38 games
MILB.com Player Page
Reyes returned to the lineup for both games of the Keys’ doubleheader against Potomac on Monday after not playing in a week. The 19-year-old third baseman was 1-for-6 with a single and two strikeouts as Frederick split the two games. Reyes is hitting .207 (12-for-58) with only three extra-base hits (one double, one triple, one home run) this month. And he is only batting .159 (7-for-44) with runners in scoring position this year. As I’ve said nearly every week, the growing pains are to be expected considering Reyes’ age. After striking out 22 times in 22 games last month, he only has 10 in 16 games so far in May. That’s a plus.
No. 6: Chris Lee, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 5-0, 2.98 ERA, 19 Ks, 1.05 WHIP in 51 1/3 innings
MILB.com Player Page
For the first time this season, Lee gave up more than three runs in a start Wednesday against Reading. But after allowing six runs in the first two innings, he settled in and faced the minimum over the next four innings with the help of three double plays. Despite matching a season high with four walks and surrendering the six runs, the 23-year-old left-hander kept the Baysox in the game and they were able to rally for a 7-6 walk-off victory. And what’s even more impressive is that Lee bounced back Monday with a season-high eight innings at Hartford. Although he didn’t factor in the decision as Bowie eventually suffered a 2-1 loss in 12 innings, Lee allowed only one run for the fourth time this year.
No. 7: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Delmarva
Statistics: .264 average, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 7 2Bs, 2 3Bs in 34 games
MILB.com Player Page
The 19-year-old shortstop hasn’t played for the Shorebirds since leaving Thursday’s game in the seventh inning. A source said Mountcastle has a bruised knee and is considered day-to-day. The timing of the injury is unfortunate for the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall), who is hitting .386 with five doubles, one triple and seven RBIs in 16 games this month. He hit the triple – his second of the year – in Delmarva’s 10-1 rout of West Virginia on Wednesday. And before coming out of Thursday’s 4-0 victory at Lakewood, Mountcastle singled and scored a run in the sixth inning. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious; he hasn’t been put on the DL and is expected back in a few days. But the situation is worth monitoring; the Shorebirds transferred him off their roster and temporarily to dormant Aberdeen on Monday.
No. 8: Trey Mancini, 1B, Norfolk
Statistics: .241 average, 3 HRs, 7 RBIs, 7 2Bs, 26 Ks in 28 games (at Norfolk)
MILB.com Player Page
Mancini, 24, has only one hit in his past 14 at-bats for the Tides. The 2013 eighth-round pick hasn’t homered in his last 11 games and has just two RBIs in that stretch. Before going 1-for-4 with a walk in Norfolk’s 6-0 victory over Syracuse on Sunday, Mancini had struck out at least once in eight consecutive games and nine of his past 10. He has just five hits in 27 at-bats (.179) with runners in scoring position since being promoted to Triple-A. Still, it’s important to remember that he did have seven home runs in his first 16 games for Bowie this year. And, overall, he has 22 extra-base hits (11 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs) in 45 games across the two levels so far this season.
No. 9: D.J. Stewart, OF, Delmarva
Statistics: .190 average, 2 HRs, 14 RBIs, 30 BBs, 36 Ks in 39 games
MILB.com Player Page
The 22-year-old outfielder continues to struggle for Delmarva. Stewart has three hits in 22 at-bats (.136) since my last report. And two of them – a single and a double – came in the Shorebirds’ 2-1 victory at Lakewood on Saturday. The 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) is only hitting .161 in May and has gone hitless in 13 of the 19 games this month. Plus, the left-handed hitter is 3-for-36 (.083) versus lefties this year. There’s one bright spot: He’s third in the South Atlantic League with 30 walks.
Cristian Alvarado, RHP, Delmarva: Alvarado is only 2-3 with a 4.04 ERA in eight starts for the Shorebirds this season, but the 21-year-old native of Venezuela is tied for the South Atlantic League lead with 52 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He has struck out at least seven hitters in six different games this year, including a season-high 10 in six innings in a 7-4 win at Lexington on May 4.
Ryan Meisinger, RHP, Delmarva: In 18 1/3 innings over 10 appearances, the 2015 11th-round pick is 3-1 with a 0.49 ERA, two saves and 30 strikeouts. His best performance of the season was Thursday in the Shorebirds’ 4-0 win over Lakewood. Meisinger, 22, pitched the final three innings, striking out seven batters and allowing just two hits.
Cedric Mullins, OF, Delmarva: Mullins, 21, is batting .321 with 12 extra-base hits (seven doubles, three triples, two home runs) in 19 games this month. And the 2015 13th-round selection is tied for sixth in the South Atlantic League with 12 stolen bases (in 14 attempts). In a four-game stretch from May 16 through Thursday, he hit .647 (11-for-17).
Andy Oliver, LHP, Norfolk: The 28-year-old left-hander has only allowed three runs in 26 2/3 innings this season (1.01 ERA). Oliver, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in January, has struck out 27 batters in his 11 appearances (including two starts). But he won’t get the nod to replace Matusz.
Ashur Tolliver, LHP, Bowie: The 2009 fifth-round selection is expected to finally receive his shot in the major leagues despite not pitching above Double-A yet in his professional career. Tolliver, 28, has actually given up a run in four of his past five appearances. In that span, his ERA has climbed from 1.37 to 2.42. But he’s getting the call, so he’s on this list.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Norfolk: So far, Triple-A doesn’t seem to be any harder than Double-A was for the 25-year-old outfielder. Yastrzemski is batting .370 with six extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple, one home run) and six RBIs in seven games since receiving a promotion. In his past two games, the 2013 14th-round pick had five hits in seven at-bats, including four doubles.
Parker Bridwell, RHP, Bowie: The 2010 ninth-round selection has given up 11 runs and 16 hits in 9 1/3 innings over his last two starts. In that span, Bridwell’s ERA has jumped from 3.48 to 5.13. After striking out about one batter per inning in the past three seasons, the 24-year-old right-hander has only 20 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings this year.
Josh Hart, OF, Frederick: After going hitless in both games of a doubleheader Monday, the 21-year-old outfielder is batting just .168 in 30 games for the Keys this year. The Orioles selected Hart with the 37th overall pick in the 2013 draft. But so far this season – his second straight in Frederick – he has more strikeouts (29) than total bases (28).
L.J. Hoes, OF, Norfolk: The 26-year-old outfielder has hit safely in seven of his past eight games, but he has only four extra-base hits (three doubles, one home run) in 31 games this year. Hoes, who was reacquired by the Orioles in November from the Houston Astros, is batting .179 (10-for-56) with one RBI in 15 games this month.
Henry Urrutia, OF, Bowie: After he received a disappointing demotion to the Baysox last week, the 29-year-old outfielder didn’t report until Friday. In four games since joining Bowie, Urrutia is 2-for-17 (.118) with six strikeouts. Both of his hits were singles Sunday as the Baysox lost to Harrisburg, 5-4, in 13 innings. Before coming to Bowie, Urrutia had only five hits in 37 at-bats (.135) this month for Norfolk.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 24 – vs. Gwinnett (doubleheader), 5:05 p.m.
May 25 – vs. Gwinnett, 12:05 p.m.
May 26 – OFF
May 27 – vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 7:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 7:05 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 1:05 p.m.
May 30 – at Lehigh Valley, 1:35 p.m.
May 24 – at Hartford (doubleheader), 4:05 p.m.
May 25 – OFF
May 26 – OFF
May 27 – vs. Altoona, 7:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Altoona, 6:35 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Altoona, 2:05 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Altoona, 2:05 p.m.
May 24 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.
May 25 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.
May 26 – at Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.
May 27 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
May 28 – at Carolina, 5 p.m.
May 29 – at Carolina, 6 p.m.
May 30 – at Carolina, noon
May 24 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
May 25 – at Greensboro, 12:30 p.m.
May 26 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 27 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Lakewood, 2:05 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Hickory, 5:05 p.m.