Can I have a mulligan?
Two weeks ago, I mentioned here that I didn’t like the Orioles’ move to acquire infielder Tim Beckham from the Tampa Bay Rays. As I wrote then…
“Acquiring Beckham isn’t a game-changing move. It’s not going to make the Orioles into instant playoff contenders. Sure, they’re still technically in contention, but how many fans believe they’re going to be playing baseball deep into October?”
While it can be debated whether the Orioles are playoff contenders, they’re still within striking distance with a little more than 40 games to go. And Beckham is a big part of why they are hanging around. In his first 14 games with the Orioles (through Monday), the 2008 top overall pick has hit .500 with 13 extra-base hits, four homers, 10 RBIs and 16 runs.
Meanwhile, Short-A right-hander Tobias Myers – the player traded from the Orioles to Tampa Bay in the Beckham deal – is 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two starts for Hudson Valley. He could face his former team – Aberdeen — during a three-game series later this week.
While the Orioles are unquestionably the short-term winner in this deal, everyone knows it could take years for the trade’s true success to play out. Beckham could come crashing back to earth and Myers could develop into a reliable major-league starter.
But, for now, the Orioles appear to have at least found a solid contributor atop the lineup and at shortstop who is under control for the next several years. So, they’ve won me over.
Switching gears, we’re coming down the stretch of another year of minor league baseball. The regular season will wrap up in about three weeks.
Triple-A Norfolk (56-65), High-A Frederick (56-62) and Low-A Delmarva (51-66) aren’t close to the playoff hunt. But Double-A Bowie (62-57) and Aberdeen (30-23) are fighting for postseason berths heading into the final weeks.
Heading into Tuesday, the Baysox are tied with Altoona atop the Eastern League’s Western Division. The IronBirds, meanwhile, are 3 1/2 games behind Staten Island in the New York-Penn League’s McNamara Division. They’re in the lead for the league’s wild-card spot.
Now, let’s turn our attention to this week’s update.
Every Tuesday, I provide readers with a glimpse into what’s going on in the Orioles’ minor league system. I share the latest updates on the Top 12 players in the organization (according to my “Dean’s Dozen”).
After that, I mention a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” with their recent play. Finally, you’ll see the upcoming schedules for the top five affiliates in case you’re interested in heading to the ballpark to see some of these players in action.
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk
Statistics: .282, 4 HRs, 41 RBIs, 23 2Bs, 90 Ks in 86 games
In the Tides’ 4-3 win over Durham on Aug. 4, the 2013 second-round pick went deep for the first time since June 19. Sisco, 22, went 3-for-4 with three doubles and four RBIs on July 18. Since then, he is only batting .262 (17-for-65) with four extra-base hits and five RBIs. He also has 16 strikeouts in 17 games in that span. Compared with Austin Hays – more on him next – that’s not a lot of pop. However, Sisco has three multi-hit performances in his last five games. Because he’s still hitting a respectable .282, I’m staying “bullish.” But I’m foreseeing a change atop my “Dean’s Dozen” during the offseason.
No. 2: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .350, 12 HRs, 42 RBIs, 13 2Bs in 43 games at Bowie; .328, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 15 2Bs in 64 games at Frederick
It’s pretty simple to see why I’m willing to make that change. Hays, 22, has obliterated Double-A pitching since his promotion from Frederick in late June. So far this month, the 2016 third-round selection is hitting .413 (19-for-46) with five doubles, a triple, two home runs and 13 RBIs. That’s after he batted .306 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 24 games in July. Hays has six multi-hit performances in his past eight games. While Sisco has slowly climbed the organizational ladder and is on the cusp of a September call-up, Hays (pictured above) has rocketed his way into consideration for the same opportunity. We’ll see what happens.
No. 3: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Bowie
Statistics: .181, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 5 2Bs in 19 games at Bowie; .314, 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 63 runs in 88 games
The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) continues to struggle in his introduction to Double-A. Mountcastle, 20, is only batting .181 (13-for-72) in 19 games with the Baysox. And defensively, he has committed four errors in 18 games at third base. However, in Bowie’s 6-3 loss to Harrisburg on Thursday, Mountcastle did hit his first home run since his promotion. It’s important to remember that he’s extremely young for the league. He’s getting some Double-A experience this year, and the hope is he can be ready to excel there in 2018.
No. 4: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 7-8, 4.14 ERA, 111 Ks, 46 BBs in 100 innings
On Aug. 4, the 2016 second-round pick pitched four scoreless innings in the Keys’ 5-0 win at Wilmington. But Akin, 22, went on the disabled list four days later with a right oblique injury. He played catch Monday, his first baseball activities since the injury. As I mentioned in my last update, Akin struggled in July. He was 1-3 with a 5.74 ERA in six starts. Even though he started strong in August, the injury is the latest setback in a season that has had more negatives than positives. Still, his 3-1 record and 0.90 ERA in June is encouraging.
No. 5: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 4-5, 6.05 ERA, 63 Ks, 32 BBs in 80 1/3 innings
The vaunted Keys rotation to begin the year hasn’t panned out. Sedlock, 22, has been a big reason why Frederick hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations. In five starts since the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) returned from the disabled list in late July, he is 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Despite those mediocre numbers, Sedlock’s season ERA has dropped from 6.46 to 6.05 in that span. Opponents are batting .308 against him. None of those numbers are impressive, but I’m still hopeful about Sedlock’s future as long as he can get completely healthy heading into the start of next season.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .314, 11 HRs, 33 RBIs, 17 2Bs, 45 runs in 55 games
Although a bug going through Bowie’s clubhouse sidelined the 2015 13th-round pick over the weekend, he continues to put up impressive numbers. Mullins, 22, led off Wednesday’s 14-2 rout over Harrisburg with a solo home run. He also singled to load the bases in the sixth inning and scored two batters later on Hays’ grand slam. On Aug. 5, Mullins went 2-for-4 with a double, two walks and two runs as Bowie won, 13-7, at Portland. After batting .409 (18-for-44) in July, he’s only hitting .226 (7-for-31) so far this month. Still, I’m all-systems-go on Mullins. I’m not going to change that because of a brief slump.
No. 7: Tanner Scott, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-1, 1.83 ERA, 74 Ks, 40 BBs in 59 innings
The 2014 sixth-round pick went on the disabled list July 29 because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Scott, 23, will return to action Friday; he’s scheduled to start and throw three innings against Erie. Although Scott has been sidelined as the Baysox battle for a playoff spot, the blister allowed the Orioles to unintentionally limit his innings. Between Frederick and Bowie last season, Scott threw a career-high 64 1/3 innings. Before the blister, he had pitched 59 innings in his new role at the start of games. Scott should set a new career high with two more starts.
No. 8: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 4-6, 5.42 ERA, 71 Ks, 49 BBs in 101 1/3 innings
Speaking of new roles, the 2011 fourth-round selection has pitched much better in four appearances as a reliever after he went 3-5 with a 6.21 ERA in 19 starts for the Tides. Lee, who will turn 25 on Thursday, has only allowed one earned run (five overall) in 14 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Last Thursday, Lee gave up two unearned runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings as Norfolk won, 6-4, in 12 innings at Rochester. Even though he has shown some progress, I’m still “bearish” on Lee after a disappointing first four months of 2017.
No. 9: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-4, 5.37 ERA, 63 Ks, 40 BBs in 52 innings
The good news? In his past four starts, the Dominican Republic native has struck out 15 batters in 10 2/3 innings. The bad news? Liranzo, 22, has walked 14 hitters in that span. He is 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA during that stretch. Liranzo suffered the loss Thursday after giving up three runs on only one hit in three innings during Bowie’s 6-3 setback against Harrisburg. The one hit was a three-run homer by the Senators’ Yadiel Hernandez after Liranzo walked two of the first three batters in the second inning. He needs to do better at limiting damage.
No. 10: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .264, 17 HRs, 68 RBIs, 18 2Bs, 66 runs, 17 SBs in 106 games
Stewart, 23, is Exhibit A on why you shouldn’t write a player off because he’s not producing early in his career. The 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) is going to finish the season with some notable offensive numbers. With his recent power surge – four home runs in 10 games this month – Stewart now has a realistic shot at reaching 20 for the year. Plus, he’s only three stolen bases away from 20 in that category. Although his walks are down significantly from 2016 (49 in 106 games compared with 78 in 121 games), his aggressiveness has paid off in other ways. I’m curious to see what 2018 brings for Stewart.
No. 11: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 2-9, 5.48 ERA, 87 Ks, 75 BBs in 92 innings
Since June 25, the Dominican Republic native has issued 34 walks in 39 innings. Peralta, 20, struggled to work around the walks in the beginning of that stretch, but he has limited the damage over his past five starts. In that span, he is 0-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. Peralta has given up only seven runs in that stretch despite allowing 25 hits, 16 walks and four hit batters. I’m really not sure how that has happened. It defies logic. And I doubt the good luck will last forever. He needs to cut down on the baserunners.
No. 12: Alex Wells, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 10-5, 2.45 ERA, 102 Ks, 10 BBs in 125 innings
Wells, 20, finally gave up a run – actually, five of them (four earned) – in five innings during the Shorebirds’ 5-1 loss at West Virginia on Aug. 4. In his next start Thursday, the Australia native earned his 10th win after holding Lakewood to one run and three hits in six innings. Although Wells’ scoreless-innings streak is in the rearview mirror, he still hasn’t walked anyone since June 25 – a span of eight starts. Left-handers are hitting .237 against Wells this season, while right-handed hitters are batting only .216. However, 14 of the 15 home runs that he has allowed have come against right-handers.
DL Hall, LHP, GCL Orioles: In his debut Aug. 4, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) struck out two batters in two scoreless innings against the Rays’ affiliate. Hall, 18, walked one batter and gave up one hit. On Thursday, he pitched two more shutout frames against the GCL Twins. But Hall issued three walks and allowed an unearned run.
Zac Lowther, LHP, Aberdeen: The 2017 competitive balance round B selection is one of seven IronBirds set to play in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game tonight. Lowther, 21, is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in eight starts for Aberdeen. He has struck out 41 batters and only issued four walks. Lowther already has three, six-strikeout games.
Mason McCoy, SS, Aberdeen: Another New-York Penn League All-Star, the 2017 sixth-round pick is batting .310 with 22 RBIs in 35 games. McCoy, 22, has an impressive .415 on-base percentage this season, including .452 in 21 games in July. After going undrafted following his junior year at the University of Iowa in 2016, he’s off to a strong start as a pro.
Anthony Santander, OF, Frederick: Expected to join the Orioles later this week, the Rule 5 selection continues to tear through his injury-rehabilitation assignment. Santander, 22, batted .380 (19-for-50) with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games with the Baysox. On Monday, he moved to the Keys. In his first game with Frederick, he went 2-for-5.
Matthew Grimes, RHP, Frederick: The 2014 18th-round selection exceeded expectations in the first half of 2016. Grimes, 25, earned a promotion to Bowie last July after he went 8-4 with a 1.45 ERA in 14 games with the Keys. But he was 7-13 with a 5.11 ERA in 28 games across parts of two seasons with the Baysox. He was sidelined by a strained neck this season, and once he got healthy, there was no open spot at Bowie. So, on Saturday, he was sent back to Frederick, where the organization wants him to pitch regularly as the season wanes.
Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick: The Keys activated the Dominican Republic native Aug. 4 after he spent more than three months on the disabled list with a broken right hand. Reyes, 20, had two hits in his return to the lineup. But then he went 3-for-26 (.115) in his next seven games before going 2-for-5 with a double and two runs Monday at Wilmington.
Lamar Sparks, OF, GCL Orioles: In 14 games last month, the 2017 fifth-round pick batted .278 (15-for-54) with 13 runs while hitting mostly in the top two spots. But Sparks, 18, hasn’t had as much success in August. He is only hitting .147 (5-for-34) with 13 strikeouts in 11 games. Two of those hits came Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the GCL Rays.
THE WEEK AHEAD
August 16 – vs. Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
August 17 – vs. Lehigh Valley, 12:05 p.m.
August 18 – vs. Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
August 19 – vs. Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
August 20 – vs. Toledo, 4:05 p.m.
August 21 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
August 22 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
August 16 – at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
August 17 – at Reading, 7:05 p.m.
August 18 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
August 19 – vs. Erie, 6:35 p.m.
August 20 – vs. Erie, 2:05 p.m.
August 21 – vs. Reading, 7:05 p.m.
August 22 – vs. Reading, 7:05 p.m.
August 16 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
August 17 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
August 18 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
August 19 – at Carolina, 5 p.m.
August 20 – at Carolina, 2 p.m.
August 21 – OFF
August 22 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
August 16 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
August 17 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
August 18 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
August 19 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
August 20 – at Lakewood, 1:05 p.m.
August 21 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
August 22 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 16 – at Brooklyn, 7 p.m.
August 17 – at Brooklyn, 7 p.m.
August 18 – at Brooklyn, 6:40 p.m.
August 19 – at Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
August 20 – at Hudson Valley, 5:05 p.m.
August 21 – at Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
August 22 – vs. Staten Island, 7:05 p.m.