As they always say, time flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost through the second season of BaltimoreBaseball.com. Hopefully, we’ll have many more.
The Orioles’ minor league affiliates will wrap up play in the next few weeks.
The Rookie-level Dominican Summer League squad is set to end its season with a doubleheader Saturday. The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles will follow Sept. 2.
Then, on Labor Day, the Orioles’ four full-season affiliates – Triple-A Norfolk, Double-A Bowie, High-A Frederick and Low-A Delmarva – are scheduled for their final regular-season games. Finally, Short-A Aberdeen will conclude the regular season Sept. 7 at Hudson Valley.
Heading into the final couple of weeks, the Orioles have three potential playoff teams – Bowie, Frederick and Aberdeen. Norfolk and Delmarva aren’t close to qualifying.
With a 66-60 record, the Baysox are tied atop the Eastern League’s Western Division with Altoona. The IronBirds (33-26) are in third place in the New York-Penn League’s McNamara Division, but they’re only a half-game out of the three-division league’s wild-card spot.
The Keys’ (58-66 overall, 27-28 second half) quest for a playoff berth in the Carolina League is a little bit more complicated. They have the worst overall record in the Northern Division this year. And they’re nine games behind division-leading Lynchburg right now.
But, because the Hillcats won the first half, the team that finishes with the best record behind them in the second half will get a wild-card spot. The Keys are currently tied with Salem.
I’ll try to keep you updated on the playoff races over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m sure the Baysox and IronBirds would love your support at the ballpark. As always, you can find the upcoming schedules at the bottom of this post.
Now, let’s get into this week’s update. As longtime BaltimoreBaseball.com readers know, every Tuesday, I offer a glimpse into what’s going on in the Orioles’ minor-league system.
First, I share updates on the Top 12 players in the organization (according to my “Dean’s Dozen”). Then, I throw out a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” recently. Finally, as I mentioned, you can see the next week’s schedule for each team.
No. 1: Chance Sisco, C, Norfolk
Statistics: .271, 5 HRs, 42 RBIs, 23 2Bs, 94 Ks in 91 games
I’m temporarily switching to “bearish” on the 2013 second-round pick because of a short-term slump. Sisco, 22, only hit .105 (2-for-19) in five games since my last update. However, one of those hits was his fifth homer of the year – a solo shot to the opposite field for the left-handed-hitting catcher in Norfolk’s 5-2 loss to Toledo on Friday. With about two weeks to go, Sisco is five doubles shy of his career high (28 last season). Sisco remains the Orioles’ catcher of the future. However, with an on-base percentage that’s 50 points lower than his career average (.334 compared with .389), he showed he’s human in 2017.
No. 2: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .333, 14 HRs, 45 RBIs, 14 2Bs in 50 games at Bowie; .328, 16 HRs, 41 RBIs, 15 2Bs in 64 games at Frederick
Like Sisco, the 2016 third-round selection endured a miniature slump over the past week. Hays, 22, batted .208 (5-for-24) in that span. However, he still hit his 29th and 30th home runs of the season since my last update. Last Tuesday, Hays hit a two-run, game-tying homer at Reading in the sixth inning of Bowie’s eventual 4-3 loss in 15 innings. On Sunday afternoon, he blasted a solo shot as the Baysox edged Erie, 6-5. Hays also had a three-hit game Saturday against the SeaWolves. Although his average in Double-A has dropped from .350 to .333 in the past week, I’m sticking “bullish” on Hays. Barring a huge upset, he’ll be the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year. There’s no reason to doubt him now.
No. 3: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B/SS, Bowie
Statistics: .192, 1 HR, 10 RBIs, 9 2Bs in 26 games at Bowie; .314, 15 HRs, 47 RBIs, 35 2Bs, 63 runs in 88 games
We could be seeing a little bit of a Double-A awakening for the 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) as the season inches to a close. Mountcastle, 20, went 3-for-4 with three doubles and two runs in Bowie’s 9-0 shutout over Erie on Saturday. A day later, he hit his ninth double in 26 games since joining the Baysox about a month ago. Although Mountcastle has certainly struggled in that time, he’s batting .286 (6-for-21) in the past week. If he can continue to turn things around over the next two weeks, it’ll be a good sign for 2018.
No. 4: Keegan Akin, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 7-8, 4.14 ERA, 111 Ks, 46 BBs in 100 innings
Akin, 22, remains on the disabled list because of a right oblique injury. As I mentioned last week, the 2016 second-round selection played catch Aug. 14 for the first time since landing on the disabled list five days before that. Akin hasn’t pitched since he threw four scoreless innings Aug. 4 at Wilmington. Admittedly, I expected to see more from the Western Michigan alum this season – especially after he went 3-1 with a 0.90 ERA in five starts in June. Still, despite the missed time, he’s tied for eighth in the Carolina League in strikeouts (111). And he’s right at the 100-inning mark. That’s a good stepping stone.
No. 5: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 4-5, 5.82 ERA, 66 Ks, 34 BBs in 85 innings
On the surface, the 2016 first-round pick (27th overall) turned in a solid outing Friday in the Keys’ 6-2 loss at Carolina. Sedlock, 22, held the Mudcats to one run in 4 2/3 innings. However, he gave up eight hits and two walks – more than two baserunners per inning. Sedlock has a 4.03 ERA in six starts since returning from the disabled list. That’s much better than his season ERA, but it’s still not the dominant mark that you’d like to see from a top prospect. In hindsight, maybe the Orioles shouldn’t have skipped Sedlock over Delmarva this year. But if he can get healthy in 2018, none of this will matter.
No. 6: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .292, 11 HRs, 33 RBIs, 18 2Bs, 46 runs in 62 games
The 2015 13th-round selection joined Sisco and Hays in the “rough week” category since my last update. Mullins, 22, went 0-for-7 with a strikeout in Bowie’s 4-3 loss in 15 innings at Reading last Tuesday. He was also caught stealing to end the top of the 15th. Including that game, Mullins (pictured above) is only hitting .133 (4-for-30) with eight strikeouts in his last seven games. It’s not enough to change my mind about Mullins’ long-term potential, but it is enough to make me “bearish” on him this week. We’ll see if he can turn things around.
No. 7: Tanner Scott, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-2, 2.21 ERA, 76 Ks, 42 BBs in 61 innings
The good news? Scott, 23, returned from the disabled list Friday as expected. The bad news? The 2014 sixth-round pick didn’t survive the scheduled three innings. Scott was roughed up for three runs in the first inning as the Baysox lost, 5-2, to Erie. All three runs scored on a three-run shot from the SeaWolves’ Grayson Greiner with one out. Scott also allowed Erie to load the bases in the second before he escaped with an inning-ending double play. It was arguably his worst outing of the season. If you’re looking for a silver lining, though, Greiner’s home run was only the second allowed by Scott in 61 innings this year.
No. 8: Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 4-6, 5.26 ERA, 73 Ks, 49 BBs in 104 1/3 innings
Lee, 25, has continued to pitch well in his new role out of the bullpen. In five appearances since shifting to relief, he is 1-1 with a 0.52 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. That breaks down to one earned run in that span. At first glance, that’s remarkable – especially considering Lee was 3-5 with a 6.21 ERA in 19 starts this year. However, it’s important to note that he has also given up five unearned runs out of the bullpen. While Lee can’t control what the defense does behind him, he has still allowed 24 baserunners as a reliever. Sure, the numbers show that he has been better recently. But it’ll need to last a lot longer to change my mind.
No. 9: Jesus Liranzo, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-4, 5.40 ERA, 64 Ks, 40 BBs in 55 innings
Back in April, the BaltimoreBaseball.com staff made our season predictions. I’d like you to take a look at my picks for the various division winners. Don’t pay attention to who I predicted would be the “biggest surprise” for the Orioles in 2017. It’s not going to happen. As you can tell, I had big expectations for the Dominican Republic native. But Liranzo, 22, hasn’t lived up to them. In his most recent outing, Liranzo gave up two runs and two hits in three innings at Reading last Wednesday. He has an 8.44 ERA in his past four starts.
No. 10: DJ Stewart, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .271, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, 22 2Bs, 70 runs, 18 SBs in 113 games
If you would have told me before the season that a Baysox player would be leading the Eastern League in runs in late August, I would have assumed you were talking about Mullins. Instead, it’s the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) in the front of the line. Stewart, 23, is headed for a strong finish. In 17 games this month, he is batting .323 (20-for-62) with four home runs, five doubles and 14 RBIs. He has an impressive .434 on-base percentage in August. Best of all is Stewart’s work against left-handers. He is batting .283 in 127 at-bats against them (compared with .266 in 282 at-bats versus righties).
No. 11: Ofelky Peralta, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 2-10, 5.67 ERA, 88 Ks, 80 BBs in 93 2/3 innings
The Dominican Republic native has walked at least four batters in 13 starts this year. Peralta, 20, has only made 23 starts. That’s 57% of the time. He only has one start without any walks – a 3 2/3-inning stint on June 8 at Lynchburg. In his most recent start, Peralta walked five Wilmington hitters in 1 2/3 innings. He allowed four runs (three earned) and no hits. None. I’m not ready to write Peralta off entirely. He’s still young. He still has a lot of potential. But for now, the walks are out of control. Obviously, he leads the Carolina League in that category. Second place is 17 walks behind him (and in almost 15 more innings).
No. 12: Alex Wells, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 11-5, 2.45 ERA, 109 Ks, 10 BBs in 136 innings
The breakout season continues for the Australia native. Wells, 20, held Lakewood to two runs and five hits in six innings on the road Monday to pick up his 11th win of the season. Last Wednesday, he allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits in five innings during a no-decision at Greensboro. Wells is 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 starts after the All-Star break. He ranks sixth in the South Atlantic League with 109 strikeouts. And of course, he hasn’t walked anyone since June 25. That’s 10 starts and counting.
Alec Asher, RHP, Orioles: You know by now that the Orioles recalled Asher, 25, from Norfolk. He couldn’t finish the ninth inning Monday in the club’s 7-3 win over the Athletics, but he did pitch much better last Tuesday for the Tides. With seven shutout innings against Lehigh Valley, Asher earned the International League Pitcher of the Week award.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Aberdeen: In a season of struggles for most of the Orioles’ pitching prospects, the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) offers a bright spot. Harvey, 22, has tossed 10 scoreless innings over five appearances during his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. In three innings for Aberdeen last Wednesday, he had seven strikeouts.
Lucas Humpal, RHP, Delmarva: Speaking of weekly awards, the 2016 ninth-round pick was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week on Monday. Humpal, 23, had 10 strikeouts in six scoreless innings during Delmarva’s 1-0 win at Greensboro on Thursday. Overall, he is 7-10 with a 3.92 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) for the Shorebirds.
Yefry Ramirez, RHP, Bowie: Acquired from the New York Yankees on July 31, the Dominican Republic native is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in three starts for the Baysox. Ramirez, 23, struck out six batters and allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings during Bowie’s 3-0 win at Reading on Thursday. Overall, he is 13-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 21 starts.
DL Hall, LHP, GCL Orioles: OK, so one less-than-dominant start in the Rookie level isn’t going to make or break the career of the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall). But it’s my duty to keep you updated on the names you want to hear about. Hall, 18, gave up two runs and threw two wild pitches in the first inning of his most recent start last Wednesday.
Randolph Gassaway, OF, Frederick: The 2013 16th-round pick caught my eye with a respectable .294 average for the Keys in the first half. Gassaway, 22, even earned a brief promotion to Bowie in late May. But he has struggled over the past two months. After hitting .253 (24-for-95) in July, Gassaway only has nine hits in 61 at-bats in August (.148).
Adrian Marin, 2B-SS, Bowie: Since the Orioles picked the infielder in the third round of the 2012 draft, he has moved methodically through the system. Marin, 23, is finishing his second full season with the Baysox after two years at Frederick. He hit .337 (31-for-92) in June. But through 14 games this month, Marin has a .196 average (10-for-51).
THE WEEK AHEAD
August 23 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Charlotte, 12:05 p.m.
August 25 – at Durham, 7:05 p.m.
August 26 – at Durham, 6:35 p.m.
August 27 – at Durham, 5:05 p.m.
August 28 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
August 23 – vs. Reading, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
August 25 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
August 26 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
August 27 – at Altoona, 6 p.m.
August 28 – vs. Trenton, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – vs. Trenton, 7:05 p.m.
August 23 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
August 25 – at Potomac (doubleheader), 5 p.m.
August 26 – at Potomac (doubleheader), 5:15 p.m.
August 27 – at Potomac, 1:05 p.m.
August 28 – OFF
August 29 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
August 23 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
August 25 – vs. Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
August 26 – vs. Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
August 27 – vs. Charleston, 5:05 p.m.
August 28 – OFF
August 29 – at Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
August 23 – vs. Staten Island, 7:05 p.m.
August 24 – vs. Staten Island, 7:05 p.m.
August 25 – at Vermont, 7:05 p.m.
August 26 – at Vermont, 6:05 p.m.
August 27 – at Vermont, 5:05 p.m.
August 28 – vs. Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.
August 29 – vs. Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.