We’re approaching the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
This is the last “Dean Jones Report” before the annual wheeling-and-dealing tradition.
The past five seasons have spoiled Orioles fans after more than a decade of darkness. Since 2012, the club has routinely been in the hunt as the calendar turns to August.
In that span, the Orioles have made several moves at the deadline in an attempt to improve their chances of making the postseason. Some worked. Some didn’t.
Frankly, I’m not sure what the Orioles are going to do this year. I don’t know that anyone outside of the Warehouse really knows what’s going to happen. In fact, some people making the decisions in the Warehouse probably don’t know what’s going to happen yet.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette still believes the club can make a run at a playoff berth. And with six wins in their past eight games, the Orioles are certainly trying to get hot at the right time – and with tough decisions to be made.
Next week, I could be sharing information about a bunch of new prospects that the Orioles have acquired. But there’s also a chance that I’ll be removing some names from below because the club dealt them away.
Because of that, we’re going to push next week’s Dean Jones Report back one day. That will give us a little more time to process what the Orioles did (or didn’t do), and how it affects the minors. Look for my report Wednesday next week, instead of the usual Tuesday.
For now, let’s dive into this week’s update.
As regular BaltimoreBaseball.com readers know, I provide a weekly look at what’s going on in the Orioles’ minor league system. Every Tuesday, I share the latest updates on the Top 12 players in the organization (according to my “Dean’s Dozen” list).
Then, I also mention a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” because of their recent play. Finally, I list the upcoming schedules for the top five affiliates in case you’re looking to get out to the ballpark to see some of these players with your own eyes.
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk
Statistics: .284, 3 HRs, 36 RBIs, 20 2Bs, 76 Ks in 72 games
Since June 1, the 2013 second-round selection is hitting .333 (39-for-117) in 32 games for the Tides. Sisco, 22, has raised his overall average from .243 to .284 in that span. In the first game of a doubleheader last Tuesday, Sisco had three doubles – a career high – and four RBIs as Norfolk routed Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 10-2, in seven innings. With the performance, Sisco (pictured above) now has 20 doubles for the third time in four full professional seasons. Somewhat remarkably, despite hitting 28 doubles for Bowie in 2016, Sisco never had more than one in a game. I remain “bullish” on Sisco. I’d like to see him get a September call-up.
No. 2: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .319, 8 HRs, 24 RBIs, 8 2Bs in 28 games at Bowie; .328, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 15 2Bs in 64 games at Frederick
If you ever doubted the 2016 third-round pick’s toughness, you probably won’t anymore. Hays, 22, fouled a ball off his left eye Sunday in Bowie’s 5-3 loss to Altoona. As he said on Twitter after the game: “Baseball is such a crazy game but I’m grateful it was just a minor injury and walked away with 10 stitches.” If you’d like to see a picture of what his face looked like after the play, Hays has your back on that one, too. Although Hays is expected to miss a few days, he’s not going to be placed on the disabled list. Did I mention that he had 10 stitches put in his face after Sunday’s game? Gamer. In all seriousness, once Hays returns to the lineup, I’m curious to see if the injury affects him in the short term.
No. 3: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Bowie
Statistics: .158, 0 HRs, 3 RBIs, 1 2B in 5 games at Bowie; .314, 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 63 runs in 88 games
In case you missed it, the Orioles promoted the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) to the Baysox last Thursday. The club also made it clear that Mountcastle, 20, is going to play third base for Bowie. That’s something the Orioles hadn’t seemed willing to do with him in the past. Of course, they made a similar move with Manny Machado in 2012 at Bowie. That worked out, so we’ll see what Mountcastle’s future holds. Although Mountcastle singled in his first Double-A at-bat, he has struggled offensively in his first five games with the Baysox. He is 3-for-19 with six strikeouts. However, with a double and two RBIs for Bowie on Monday, maybe Mountcastle is getting settled in. Regardless, it’s all “bullish” right now.
No. 4: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 7-7, 3.76 ERA, 104 Ks, 42 BBs in 93 1/3 innings
It was a mixed bag for the 2016 second-round pick in two starts over the past week. Akin, 22, went 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA in nine innings. But he tied a career high with 10 strikeouts last Tuesday in the Keys’ 5-3 win at Down East. On Monday, Akin suffered the loss at Lynchburg after he gave up four runs (three earned) and five hits in four innings. Although Akin wasn’t dominant this week, I’m remaining “bullish” because he leads all Orioles minor leaguers in strikeouts (104) and has a 2.61 ERA in seven starts after the All-Star break.
No. 5: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 4-4, 6.58 ERA, 54 Ks, 28 BBs in 64 1/3 innings
After spending more than three weeks on the disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain, the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) returned to the Keys rotation Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader. Sedlock, 22, only threw 21 of his 41 pitches for strikes in his first action since June 26. He gave up two runs, six hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. Frederick scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh of a 4-3 win to get Sedlock off the hook. After his struggles Sunday, opponents are now batting .310 against him.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .317, 8 HRs, 24 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 36 runs in 44 games
The 2015 13th-round pick returned Sunday from his second stint on the disabled list this season due to a strained hamstring. Mullins, 22, went 1-for-5 as the Baysox fell, 5-3, to Altoona in the series finale at Prince George’s Stadium. In Bowie’s 5-1 victory at Erie on Monday night, Mullins went 2-for-5 with a double in the sixth inning and a single in the ninth. Now that Mullins appears to be healthy once again, I’d like to see him finish the year strong. I’ve made it clear over the past year that I think he’s a force at the top of the order.
No. 7: Tanner Scott, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-1, 1.94 ERA, 72 Ks, 38 BBs in 55 2/3 innings
Last week, I noted that the 2014 sixth-round selection had walked three batters in four of his previous six starts. Make that five out of seven now. Scott, 23, issued three free passes and hit a batter Saturday against Altoona. However, he limited the damage by only giving up one hit and striking out five batters in three scoreless innings during Bowie’s 5-2 win. Scott continues to dominate opposing hitters – with a .183 batting average against – but his WHIP has creeped up from 1.08 on June 8 to 1.31 today. It’s not a secret: Scott needs to harness his big-league stuff in order to play an integral role in the big leagues.
No. 8: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 3-5, 6.21 ERA, 58 Ks, 42 BBs in 87 innings
Lee, 24, pitched 4 1/3 innings Saturday in the Tides’ 6-4 victory at Pawtucket. Coincidentally, it was the 2011 fourth-round pick’s third straight start of 4 1/3 innings. Against the Red Sox, Lee was charged with four runs (three earned) and six hits. He had five strikeouts and didn’t walk anyone for only the second time in 19 starts. I know a lot of Orioles fans had high hopes for Lee before the season – even though he hadn’t pitched after last May 23 because of trouble with his throwing shoulder. Lee hasn’t lived up to those expectations, so we’ll have to see if he can turn things around down the stretch.
No. 9: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-3, 4.79 ERA, 48 Ks, 26 BBs in 41 1/3 innings
For the first time in four starts, the Dominican Republic native didn’t allow a home run Thursday as the Baysox edged Altoona, 7-6, at Prince George’s Stadium. Liranzo, 22, had two strikeouts in three scoreless innings, but it wasn’t a completely dominant performance. In the first inning, the Curve loaded the bases with two outs on a hit batter, a single and a walk. However, Liranzo got a fly out to end the inning. Then, in the second, he gave up a one-out double to Altoona’s Anderson Feliz, who was caught stealing a batter later. I’m “bullish” because Liranzo has a 2.37 ERA in seven starts. But as I noted last week, he needs to cut down on the home runs allowed if he expects to have a future at Camden Yards.
No. 10: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .264, 12 HRs, 51 RBIs, 15 2Bs, 58 runs, 16 SBs in 90 games
On Thursday, the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) played a pivotal role as the Baysox came from behind for a 7-6 walk-off win over Altoona. Stewart, 23, walked with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and Bowie trailing, 6-5. He stole second base and moved to third on a throwing error by Curve catcher Jin-De Jhang. Then, after Bowie second baseman Adrian Marin worked a walk with two outs, Stewart came home for the tying run as part of a double steal. Although Stewart has set a career high with 12 home runs this year, I’m more impressed with his ability to get on base and make things happen. He has scored a run in six consecutive games heading into tonight’s game at Erie.
No. 11: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 2-8, 6.28 ERA, 76 Ks, 62 BBs in 71 2/3 innings
Peralta, 20, hasn’t pitched since he held Down East to one run and six hits in six innings last Monday night. In that game, the Dominican Republic native threw a career-high 102 pitches (61 strikes). Peralta is still allowing nearly two batters to reach base per inning (1.95 WHIP), which is significantly higher than the 1.42 WHIP he had in 23 starts for Delmarva in 2016. The Dominican Republic native is scheduled to take the mound tonight at Lynchburg.
No. 12: Alex Wells, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 9-4, 2.42 ERA, 84 Ks, 10 BBs in 108 innings
The streak marches on. Actually, make that two streaks. Wells, 20, has thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings. He hasn’t walked anyone since June 25 – a span of 36 innings. On Sunday, the Australia native retired the first 14 hitters in the Shorebirds’ 8-0 rout at Rome. With the win, Wells now leads all Orioles minor leaguers with nine victories this season. During the Orioles’ midseason “State of the Orioles” address over the weekend, Duquette said he had heard from a team asking about Wells’ availability in a trade. While his value is extremely high right now and you don’t know what the future holds, 20-year-old left-handers with impeccable control don’t grow on trees. I hope he said, “No, thanks.”
Hunter Harvey, RHP, GCL Orioles: The 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) only threw an inning, but it was a big step in the right direction. Harvey, 22, allowed two singles last Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox affiliate in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. But with two runners on, he got a clutch strikeout to end the inning without giving up a run. As part of his recovery from elbow surgery, the plan is for Harvey to pitch in one game per week through August, moving up to at least Delmarva, and then take the winter off in preparation for a full spring training.
Zac Lowther, LHP, Aberdeen: Lowther, 21, remains hot for the IronBirds. The 2017 competitive balance round B pick tossed five shutout innings and threw 78 pitches – both highs through his first four starts – to earn his first professional victory in Aberdeen’s 9-1 win at Lowell last Wednesday. He has 19 strikeouts and a 0.63 ERA in 14 1/3 innings.
Alex Murphy, 1B/C, Frederick: For the most part, the 2013 sixth-round selection and Calvert Hall graduate has struggled through a down year with the Keys. Murphy, 22, is only batting .231 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 82 games overall. But in 16 games this month, Murphy has a .304 average (17-for-56) with two home runs and nine RBIs.
Jake Ring, OF, Delmarva: The 2016 31st-round pick earned the club’s Minor League Player of the Month award in April with a .359 average. Ring, 22, has cooled off since then. He’s only batting .244 with 11 RBIs in 29 games since the All-Star break. Still, I’m putting Ring here because of a five-hit game Sunday. We’ll see if it sparks a turnaround.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Norfolk: The Orioles demoted the grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski from the Tides to Bowie on June 27. Yastrzemski, 26, hit .386 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 20 games with the Baysox. On Monday night, he returned to the Tides and went 2-for-2 with a double, a triple, two walks and three runs scored.
Jason Garcia, RHP, Bowie: I haven’t picked on the Orioles’ 2014 Rule 5 pick in a long time. Garcia, 24, has pitched exclusively out of the Baysox bullpen this year and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the Orioles’ long-term plans. He’s 5-3 with a 6.53 ERA in 24 appearances. In seven games this month, Garcia is 1-1 with an 8.53 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.
Jordan Kipper, RHP, Bowie: Speaking of right-handed pitchers who seem to have fallen out of favor, Kipper was demoted to the Baysox from Norfolk on Thursday. Kipper, 24, was 3-5 with a 5.07 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) for the Tides after the Orioles acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels in May. He pitched five innings Saturday in his Bowie debut.
Alexis Torres, SS/2B, GCL Orioles: The 2016 fifth-round pick out of Puerto Rico hasn’t adjusted well to professional baseball. Torres, 19, batted .183 with 21 hits and 30 strikeouts in 37 games for the GCL Orioles last summer. He has done worse so far this year. In 14 games at the same level, Torres is batting .174 (8-for-46) with 16 strikeouts.
THE WEEK AHEAD
July 26 – vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 7:05 p.m.
July 27 – vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 12:05 p.m.
July 28 – vs. Columbus, 7:05 p.m.
July 29 – vs. Columbus, 7:05 p.m.
July 30 – vs. Columbus, 4:05 p.m.
July 31 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
August 1 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
July 26 – at Erie, 12:05 p.m.
July 27 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.
July 28 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.
July 29 – vs. Akron, 6:35 p.m.
July 30 – vs. Akron, 2:05 p.m.
July 31 – OFF
August 1 – at New Hampshire, 7:05 p.m.
July 26 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
July 27 – at Salem, 7:05 p.m.
July 28 – at Salem, 7:05 p.m.
July 29 – at Salem, 6:05 p.m.
July 30 – at Salem, 1:05 p.m.
July 31 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
August 1 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
July 26 – OFF
July 27 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
July 28 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
July 29 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
July 30 – vs. Greensboro, 5:05 p.m.
July 31 – at Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
August 1 – at Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.
July 26 – OFF
July 27 – vs. Hudson Valley (doubleheader), 5:35 p.m.
July 28 – vs. Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
July 29 – vs. Hudson Valley, 6:05 p.m.
July 30 – vs. Brooklyn, 5:35 p.m.
July 31 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
August 1 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
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