It’s Tebow Time for Low-A Delmarva.
The Shorebirds begin a three-game series tonight at Columbia, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. The South Carolina capital also happens to be the current home of 2007 Heisman Trophy winner turned baseball player Tim Tebow.
Tebow, 29, is batting .237 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games this season. The left-handed hitter has done much better at home through the first month. He’s hitting .302 in 12 games at Columbia’s Spirit Communications Park and just .152 on the road.
Because of the quirks of the minor league schedule, the Shorebirds will only play six games against the Fireflies this year – the three this week in Columbia and then three from May 10-12 at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury.
So, if you’d like to see Tebow in action against Orioles minor leaguers this year, you’ll want to head to the Eastern Shore toward the end of next week. Even if Tebow earns a promotion to High-A later this year, he won’t play against an Orioles affiliate. The Mets’ High-A squad plays in the Florida State League. And I doubt he’ll make it to Double-A in 2017.
Meanwhile, I’d like to apologize to Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Stefan Crichton. I wrote last week that I would no longer include him in the “Dean Jones Report” as long as he stayed in the major leagues. Hours later, he was optioned to the Tides.
As you’ll see, I’ve put Crichton back in the list below. But he’ll likely continue to have a reserved seat on the Norfolk-Baltimore Transit Line through the rest of this season.
If you’re new to the “Dean Jones Report” this week, welcome to the club.
Every Tuesday, I update Orioles fans on the players in the club’s minor league system who have earned a spot on my “Dean’s Dozen” list. I categorize each player as a rising stock (“bullish”) or a falling stock (“bearish”), depending on how they’re playing.
In addition to that, I’ll highlight a handful of other players – divided into two categories (surging and falling) – from within the organization. This week, a seemingly forgotten former top pick is on a hot streak, while the son of a former major leaguer isn’t.
And finally, you’ll see the upcoming schedule for each of the Orioles’ four full-season affiliates. You’ll notice that most of the games are on the road over the next week.
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk
Statistics: .246, 0 HRs, 11 RBIs, 7 2Bs, 18 Ks in 17 games
Sisco, 22, had two hits, including a double, in the Tides’ 4-0 victory over Buffalo on Wednesday night during the first game of a doubleheader. But the 2013 second-round selection is 1-for-11 in four games since then – including a walk in a pinch-hit appearance Sunday. The left-handed-hitting catcher is just 1-for-12 against left-handed pitchers through the first month of the season. In 17 games for Bowie last April, Sisco batted .321 with five doubles, 10 RBIs and a .876 OPS. This year, his OPS is only .707.
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Frederick
Statistics: .323, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 17 Ks in 24 games
The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) completed a red-hot April with a bang Sunday. Mountcastle, 20, went 4-for-5 with his fifth home run of the year and four RBIs in the Keys’ 10-8 loss to Carolina in 12 innings. He’s currently among the Carolina League leaders in several offensive categories, including total bases (50), hits (30), runs (16), and home runs. That’s a big difference from the first month of the 2016 season, when Mountcastle batted .162 with 22 strikeouts in 18 games for Delmarva.
No. 3: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 1-2, 5.85 ERA, 30 Ks, 11 BBs in 20 innings
Don’t look at the overall numbers. Akin, 22, was rocked for six runs in two-thirds of an inning against Carolina in the season opener. In his second start, the 2016 second-round selection gave up three runs and 10 hits in five innings versus Potomac. However, in three starts since then, Akin has a 2.51 ERA in 14 1/3 innings. That’s obviously not near his dominant performance for short-season Single-A Aberdeen in 2016 – 1.04 ERA in 26 innings, including a 20-inning scoreless streak to end the season. But it’s enough to calm any worries that fans might have had after the first start or two this year.
No. 4: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 3-0, 3.71 ERA, 21 Ks, 8 BBs in 26 2/3 innings
I know what you’re thinking: How can I be bullish on Akin and his 5.85 ERA and bearish on Sedlock, 21, and his 3-0 record and 3.71 ERA? Well, with the 2016 first-round pick (27th overall), it’s strictly because his ERA jumped more than two runs Sunday. In that start, Sedlock surrendered seven runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings as Frederick lost to Carolina. It was the first time this year that he didn’t make it through five innings. He’ll look to bounce back this weekend when he faces the same Mudcats team on the road in his next start.
No. 5: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 1-1, 5.94 ERA, 13 Ks, 9 BBs in 16 2/3 innings
Lee, 24, pitched six scoreless innings in Norfolk’s 4-0 win over Buffalo on Wednesday in the first game of a doubleheader. It was the first time that he had pitched at least six innings without giving up a run since August 16, 2015 in his third start for Bowie after a midseason promotion from Frederick. The Orioles acquired the 2011 fourth-round selection from the Houston Astros in May of that year. It’s an encouraging sign to see Lee make his longest start of the young season. He’s scheduled to pitch again Wednesday at Charlotte.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .367, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs, 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 17 runs in 14 games
The 2015 13th-round pick remains on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Mullins, 22, suffered the injury April 20 while running to first base. At the time, Orioles player development director Brian Graham told my colleague Dan Connolly that Mullins would likely be sidelined for about two weeks. But now it looks like it will be another 10 to 14 days before Mullins returns to action. The Orioles aren’t going to rush him back if he’s not completely healthy. For now, be patient.
No. 7: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-1, 8.68 ERA, 10 Ks, 10 BBs in 9 1/3 innings
Yikes. In one-third of an inning Sunday, the Dominican Republic native was charged with five runs and three hits. Liranzo, 22, replaced rehabbing Orioles closer Zach Britton to start the seventh inning of Bowie’s 11-2 loss to Akron. After striking out the first hitter, he put two runners on with a walk and a hit batter. Then, Liranzo allowed an RBI double and back-to-back home runs before left-hander Jed Bradley relieved him. In 53 innings last season between Delmarva and Bowie, Liranzo only allowed three home runs (all in 18 2/3 innings with the Baysox). He has already allowed that many in 9 1/3 innings this year.
No. 8: Stefan Crichton, RHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 2-0, 2.89 ERA, 9 Ks, 1 BB in 9 1/3 innings at Norfolk; 0-0. 9.00 ERA, 2 Ks, 0 BBs in three innings for Orioles
The 2013 23rd-round pick returned to the Tides after two appearances with the Orioles. Fans may have seen Crichton pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 16 and the Boston Red Sox on April 23. Overall, he gave up three runs and nine hits in three innings across the two appearances. Since Crichton’s return to Norfolk, he has pitched in two games. He threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday against Buffalo. And, in the Tides’ 7-6 loss to Syracuse on Sunday, Crichton gave up one run and three hits in three innings. I’m bearish this week because of his demotion, but Crichton remains on the radar.
No. 9: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-0, 7.07 ERA, 18 Ks, 15 BBs in 14 innings
In his past two starts, the Dominican Republic native has an 18.00 ERA in five innings. Peralta, 20, failed to make it out of the second inning Friday. He allowed five runs, four walks and two hits in 1 2/3 innings, but the Keys rallied with eight runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to stun Carolina, 11-9, and get Peralta off the hook for the loss. The biggest issue for Peralta has been his control. Opponents are only batting .231 against him, but he has walked 15 batters in 14 innings. Peralta has also hit four batters.
No. 10: Austin Hays, OF, Frederick
Statistics: .341, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1 2B, 3 3Bs in 21 games
Hays, 21, hasn’t played since Randolph Gassaway pinch ran for him in the eighth inning Friday. He is dealing with hamstring discomfort and is listed as day-to-day. Before the injury, the 2016 third-round selection had hit safely in 12 straight games. Hays’ batting average has actually dropped from .359 to .341 in that span, but it’s encouraging to see the hitting streak. He’s currently second on the Keys in total bases (45) behind Mountcastle. Assuming the injury won’t sideline Hays for long, and we’ve been told it shouldn’t, I’m staying bullish on him for now.
No. 11: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .259, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 17 Ks in 22 games
What is going on with Bowie’s leadoff spot? In the first two weeks of the season, Mullins thrashed through Eastern League pitching in that role before he injured his hamstring. And Stewart, 23, has made sure the Baysox offense hasn’t missed a beat since then. The 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) was batting .424 (14-for-33) with three home runs, three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs in eight games atop the order before going hitless in five at-bats Tuesday in a 6-5 win over Erie. Perhaps the most important stat: the left-handed-hitting Stewart has a .308 average versus lefties in 2017 entering Tuesday. Once Mullins returns, it’ll be interesting to see where Stewart hits in the lineup.
No. 12: Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 1-4, 6.55 ERA, 14 Ks, 6 BBs in 21 2/3 innings
On Saturday against Syracuse, the Dominican Republic native pitched his first quality start and picked up his first win of the year. Ynoa, 23, held the Chiefs to two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings during the Tides’ 4-3 victory at Harbor Park. Overall, though, his stats remain unattractive – 6.55 ERA, .361 opponents’ batting average, 1.89 WHIP. It’s going to take more than one good performance to erase his dismal start to the 2017 season. Ynoa will pitch at home again this weekend against Durham.
Richard Bleier, LHP, Norfolk: The veteran left-hander gets a mention here because the Orioles called him up Sunday before the series finale against the New York Yankees. Bleier, 30, had a 1.96 ERA in 23 games for the Yankees in 2016. Before his promotion, he had a 1.00 ERA in nine innings for the Tides, including 7 1/3 straight scoreless frames.
Josh Hart, OF, Frederick: Hart, 22, was a consensus Top 60 prospect when the Orioles selected him with a competitive-balance pick in the 2013 draft. But he’s now in his third season with the Keys and already missed roughly two weeks with a left ankle injury. Since returning to the lineup, though, Hart has hit safely in six games and doubled in five straight.
John Means, LHP, Bowie: After five starts, the 2011 14th-round selection is second in the Eastern League with a 1.40 ERA. His 1.05 WHIP also ranks among the league leaders. Means, 24, had a scoreless streak of 12 2/3 innings snapped Sunday when he gave up three runs (one earned), two hits and three walks in five innings against Akron.
Alex Wells, LHP, Delmarva: Through four starts with the Shorebirds, the Australian left-hander is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings. Wells, 20, has given up 16 hits, but he has only walked two batters. In 17 starts as a professional (including 13 with Aberdeen last year), Wells has struck out 65 hitters and walked only 11 in 80 2/3 innings.
Alex Murphy, 1B, Frederick: After hitting 16 home runs for Delmarva last season, the 2013 sixth-round selection out of Calvert Hall has struggled out of the gate this year. He is batting .217 with a team-leading 26 strikeouts in 21 games. Murphy, 22, was drafted as a catcher, but he has played exclusively at first base for the Keys in 2017.
Preston Palmeiro, 1B, Delmarva: Although the 2016 seventh-round pick – and son of former star Rafael Palmeiro — has hit safely in three of his past four games, he’s still batting below .200 this year. Palmeiro, 22, only has two multi-hit performances in 21 games in 2017. And his 32 strikeouts rank third in the South Atlantic League – and second on the team behind outfielder Ryan McKenna.
Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick: The 20-year-old was hitting well in his second year at Frederick – batting .321 in his first 21 games — but he halted his season temporarily with a dumb move: Punching a wall with his right hand last week. He underwent surgery this week to repair a fractured finger. He’ll be out six-to-eight weeks.
Franderlin Romero, RHP, Frederick: The Orioles acquired Romero, 24, from the Cincinnati Reds last May in exchange for two international signing bonus slots. After the deal, the Venezuela native joined Frederick’s rotation and went 6-4 with a 6.16 ERA. This year, he has mostly worked out of the bullpen. He’s 0-3 with an 11.08 ERA in five games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 2 – at Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
May 3 – at Charlotte, 11:05 a.m.
May 4 – at Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
May 5 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
May 6 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
May 7 – vs. Durham, 1:05 p.m.
May 8 – at Louisville, 6:35 p.m.
May 3 – vs. Erie, 11:05 a.m.
May 4 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
May 5 – at Richmond (doubleheader), 5:35 p.m.
May 6 – at Richmond, 6:05 p.m.
May 7 – at Richmond, 12:05 p.m.
May 8 – at Reading, 6:35 p.m.
May 2 – vs. Myrtle Beach (doubleheader), 5 p.m.
May 3 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 11 a.m.
May 4 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
May 5 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
May 6 – at Carolina, 5 p.m.
May 7 – at Carolina, 2 p.m.
May 8 – OFF
May 2 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 3 – at Columbia, 11:05 a.m.
May 4 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 5 – at Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
May 6 – at Charleston, 6:05 p.m.
May 7 – at Charleston, 5:05 p.m.
May 8 – at Charleston, 7:05 p.m.