Dean Jones Report: Recent minor league acquisitions starting strong
The four pitchers acquired by the Orioles earlier this month all made their organizational debuts during the past week.
The veteran of the bunch, 33-year-old left-hander Brian Duensing (pictured above), retired all three batters he faced – including the first two on strikeouts – in the eighth inning of Triple-A Norfolk’s 9-2 loss to Gwinnett on Wednesday. Duensing, who signed a minor league deal with the club after opting out of his contract with the Kansas City Royals earlier this month, also tossed a scoreless frame Friday against Scranton Wilkes-Barre and another Monday at Lehigh Valley.
On Thursday, 23-year-old left-hander Trevor Belicek – one of the two pitchers received from the Atlanta Braves in the deal for left-hander Brian Matusz – started for High-A Frederick in a 9-4 win at Winston-Salem. It was Belicek’s first start of the season. He allowed two runs and five hits in three innings, striking out two batters and walking none.
Two nights later, right-hander Franderlin Romero – who came to the Orioles from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for international bonus slots – started for the Keys in their 4-1 victory over Carolina. Romero, 23, earned the win after holding the Mudcats to one run and four hits in six innings. He had five strikeouts and walked just one hitter.
And, finally, 23-year-old right-hander Brandon Barker gave up three runs and five hits in five innings Sunday for Double-A Bowie against Altoona. Barker, who was also acquired from the Braves in the trade for Matusz, walked a season-high four batters, hit another and threw just 52 of his 97 pitches for strikes. But he was still the winning pitcher as the Baysox beat the Curve, 8-3, in a rain-shortened, seven-inning game.
As regular readers know, “The Dean Jones Report” is my way to keep Orioles fans updated every Tuesday on how the club’s 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 not included because they’re currently 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 see how the prospects have fared in the past week…
No. 2: Hunter Harvey, RHP, extended spring training
MILB.com Player Page
The 21-year-old right-hander continues to rehab from the sports hernia surgery that he underwent at the beginning of this month. Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon that Harvey, who hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game in 22 months, is throwing from 90 feet and doing conditioning drills in the pool. The initial recovery timetable for the May 3 surgery was four to six weeks, so it’s good to see the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) continuing to progress and not suffering any more setbacks.
No. 3: Chance Sisco, C, Bowie
Statistics: .306 average, 0 HRs, 15 RBIs, 9 2Bs, 16 runs in 39 games
MILB.com Player Page
Sisco, 21, has hit safely in 18 of his 22 games this month, but he only has one multi-hit performance since May 10. In that span of 15 games, the 2013 second-round selection has just two extra-base hits (both doubles) and two RBIs. Sisco, who typically bats fourth or fifth for the Baysox, has only scored five times and driven in five runs in 22 games in May. The left-handed-hitting catcher is batting .330 (36-for-109) against right-handed pitchers this season, but only .200 (5-for-25) in limited action against southpaws. Because his average has tumbled from a season-high .354 on May 10 to his current .306, Sisco has fallen to third place in the Eastern League in hitting.
No. 4: Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick
Statistics: .207 average, 4 HRs, 19 RBIs, 22 runs, 42 Ks in 45 games
MILB.com Player Page
The offensive struggles continue for the 19-year-old third baseman in his third professional season. Reyes is batting just .183 (15-for-82) with 20 strikeouts and only eight RBIs in 23 games this month. He is currently hitless in his past 11 at-bats with six strikeouts in that span. All four of Reyes’ home runs this year have come at Frederick’s Harry Grove Stadium, but he has no extra-base hits since he last went deep May 15. In that stretch, he only has five singles in 38 at-bats (.132). As I’ve said all year, growing pains are to be expected for the youngest player in the eight-team Carolina League. Of course, it would make a lot of people in the organization feel better if he was tearing the cover off the ball.
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
The 23-year-old left-hander was skipped in his most recent turn through the rotation due to what’s being officially called fatigue. Lee, who was initially scheduled to start Monday in the series finale against Altoona, pitched a season-high eight innings in Bowie’s 2-1, 12-inning victory at Hartford on May 23. He threw 99 pitches in the game and has thrown more than 92 in each of his past three starts (but hasn’t surpassed 100 yet this year). In his previous start – a 7-6, come-from-behind win over Reading on May 18 – Lee gave up six earned runs and six hits. That’s the most he has allowed in a start since he was roughed up for six runs and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings in his second start for Frederick on May 28, 2015. For now, the organization just seems to be taking precautions with its highest-rated left-hander. But it’s obviously a situation to monitor.
No. 7: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Delmarva
Statistics: .265 average, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 7 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 15 runs in 36 games
MILB.com Player Page
Mountcastle, 19, returned to the lineup Saturday for Low-A Delmarva after missing eight games with a bruised knee. The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) walked to lead off the second inning in his first plate appearance. He later singled with two outs in the sixth inning and scored on right fielder Ademar Rifaela’s triple in the Shorebirds’ 7-1 victory over Lakewood. The following day, Mountcastle extended his hitting streak to five games with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Since his average fell to a season-low .132 on April 18, Mountcastle has either reached base via a hit or a walk in 24 of his 26 games. His average has doubled in that stretch to his current .265.
No. 8: Trey Mancini, 1B, Norfolk
Statistics: .252 average, 4 HRs, 10 RBIs, 7 2Bs, 35 Ks in 34 games (at Norfolk)
MILB.com Player Page
The one bright spot in the Tides’ 9-2 loss to Gwinnett on Wednesday was the 2013 eighth-round pick’s two-run shot in the bottom of the third inning at Harbor Park. Before that, Mancini, 24, hadn’t homered since going deep in back-to-back games May 10 and 11. He has now hit safely in six of his past seven games – and reached base in all of them – raising his average since joining Norfolk to .252. Mancini continues to strike out about once per game (35 in 34 games at Triple-A), but he has 11 home runs, 11 doubles and two triples in 51 games overall this year. It hasn’t been as easy in Norfolk for Mancini as it was in Double-A, but he’s continuing to do what he needs to do to earn a major league call-up.
No. 9: D.J. Stewart, OF, Delmarva
Statistics: .215 average, 4 HRs, 18 RBIs, 35 BBs, 41 Ks in 45 games
MILB.com Player Page
The up-and-down season continues for the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall). After having only three hits in his last 22 at-bats (.136) before my last report, Stewart raised his season average back to .215 by going 8-for-23 (.348) in his past six games. In that stretch, he had two home runs and four RBIs. Stewart has also walked eight times in his past eight games, raising his season total to 35 (tied for third in the South Atlantic League). Since last week, the left-handed-hitting outfielder also has three hits in four at-bats against lefties, doubling his season total. There’s still a lot of room for improvement – and finding consistency is crucial – but Stewart should be commended for his recent success.
Matthew Grimes, RHP, Frederick: Grimes, 24, continues to get Carolina League hitters out. The 2014 18th-round pick allowed just two hits in a career-high, eight scoreless innings Sunday as the Keys topped Carolina, 2-0. Over his past four starts, Grimes has given up only one run in 28 2/3 innings (0.32 ERA). He leads the league with seven wins.
John Means, LHP, Bowie: The 2014 11th-round selection earned a promotion Thursday after excelling in his first nine starts for Frederick. Means, 23, was 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 50 innings for the Keys. He hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a game this season before giving up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings during his Double-A debut Saturday against Altoona.
Ryan Meisinger, RHP, Delmarva: Meisinger, 22, has only allowed one run in 23 2/3 innings over 12 appearances this year (0.38 ERA). This month, the 11th-round choice in last year’s draft has struck out 20 batters and given up only nine base runners (seven hits, two walks) in 12 innings. If he keeps dominating South Atlantic League hitters, the Calvert County native could likely head to Frederick before long.
Alex Murphy, C/1B, Delmarva: The Calvert Hall graduate and 2013 sixth-round pick has demonstrated some power potential in the past week. Murphy, 21, hit two solo home runs in the Shorebirds’ 11-4 loss to Greensboro on Wednesday. He then homered in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday against Lakewood, giving him a team-leading seven this year.
Dariel Alvarez, OF, Norfolk: The hot streak is over for the 27-year-old outfielder. In his past six games, Alvarez is only hitting .095 (2-for-21) with six strikeouts. His single in the top of the fifth inning Monday broke a streak of 13 consecutive at-bats without a hit. Despite the recent slump, Alvarez is still batting .295 with 19 RBIs in 27 games in May.
Donnie Hart, LHP, Bowie: The 2013 27th-round selection didn’t allow an earned run through his first eight appearances this season and had a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings in April. But Hart, who was named to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars team last year, gave up three runs, three hits and two walks while failing to get an out Monday.
Joey Terdoslavich, OF/1B, Bowie: Things have gone from bad to worse for Terdoslavich. After beginning the season as Norfolk’s starting first baseman ahead of Mancini, he was demoted when the prospect was sent up to the Tides last month. Now, Terdoslavich is not playing every day and is batting just .157 in 25 games for the Baysox.
Christian Walker, OF, Norfolk: Since going 3-for-4 with a double in Norfolk’s 6-0 win at Syracuse in May 22, Walker is only batting .136 (3-for-22) with three singles and 10 strikeouts. The 2012 fourth-round pick struck out all four times at the plate Saturday in a 2-0 loss to Scranton Wilkes-Barre and now ranks third in the International League with 61 in 50 games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 31 – at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
June 1 – at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
June 2 – vs. Pawtucket, 7:05 p.m.
June 3 – vs. Pawtucket, 7:05 p.m.
June 4 – vs. Pawtucket, 7:05 p.m.
June 5 – vs. Pawtucket, 1:05 p.m.
June 6 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
May 31 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
June 1 – at Richmond (doubleheader), 5:05 p.m.
June 2 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
June 3 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.
June 4 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.
June 5 – vs. Akron (doubleheader), 1:05 p.m.
June 6 – OFF
May 31 – OFF
June 1 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
June 2 – vs. Potomac (doubleheader), 5 p.m.
June 3 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
June 4 – vs. Carolina, 6 p.m.
June 5 – vs. Carolina, 2 p.m.
June 6 – vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
May 31 – vs. Hickory (doubleheader), 6:05 p.m.
June 1 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
June 2 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
June 3 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
June 4 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
June 5 – OFF
June 6 – at West Virginia, 7:05 p.m.
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