No matter what happens in 2018, Double-A Bowie can say that it made history this year.
For the first time ever, Minor League Baseball’s new extra-innings rule came into play during the club’s season opener against Harrisburg on April 5. In case you missed it, the new “pace of play” changes were announced in mid-March. Essentially, if a game heads into extra innings, the teams will start with a runner on second base to try to speed things up.
One problem: The plan failed miserably in the game between the Baysox and Harrisburg Senators.
Through nine innings, the two teams played to a 4-4 tie that took about two and a half hours. Then, they combined for 11 runs on just nine hits in four extra innings – including seven runs in the 13th. The extra innings took an hour and a half to play, according to Baysox play-by-play announcer – and BaltimoreBaseball.com contributor – Adam Pohl.
“This is a measure to try to speed up the game and save bullpens… But when runners are on base, baseball slows down,” Pohl told me last weekend. “You just don’t have a quick inning. The extra individual innings take more time than a standard 1-2-3 inning would.”
Plus, the rule change aims to limit overuse of pitchers – and cut down on position players being forced into action when teams run out of options in their bullpens. But as Pohl noted, the extended game Thursday forced Bowie and Harrisburg to use six pitchers each.
“Stats are so important in the game,” Pohl said. “And this taints that a bit. [Baysox center fielder] Cedric Mullins tied a career high in RBIs, driving home three [in extra innings] in the opener. But one of those three was a runner just placed aboard.”
Sure, in the long run, this rule will likely be tremendous for fans who like scoring. After all, most people don’t go to a minor league baseball game for wins and losses. It’s about the fun atmosphere, the goofy promotions, being close to future stars, and stuff like that.
But for me, a baseball purist who hates change, it’s something that Old Man Dean will rant to his grandkids about one day. I know I’m being overly dramatic, but if the initial four-hour marathon is any indication, it doesn’t appear the new rule will work as intended.
“I’ll tell you that it was exciting in a college-football-overtime type of way,” Pohl said. “But I would much rather we just kept playing regular baseball. I am one that likes the NFL overtime much better than college because it is real football.”
OK, that’s enough about that. I know everyone who clicked on this post just wants to find out how the Orioles’ top prospects fared during the first week of the regular season. And it has been a pretty interesting start to the minor league year, especially in Salisbury, where the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds won their first seven before losing Thursday at Lakewood, 2-0. The 7-0 record to begin the season was the Shorebirds’ best start in franchise history.
Before we get to the first “Dean Jones Report” of the 2018 season, let’s quickly go over what you’ll be reading. As regular readers know, I’ll provide a weekly update about the Orioles minor leaguers on my “Dean’s Dozen” list every Friday throughout the year. Please note that we’ve switched the regular posting day from Tuesday to Friday this season.
I’ll categorize each of the players as a rising stock (“bullish”) or a falling stock (“bearish”), based on recent play. I also will highlight some additional players divided into two categories – surging and falling. These players could change from week to week, depending on who’s hot and who’s not across all levels of the organization.
And, finally, I’ll provide the upcoming schedule for the organization’s affiliates. It’s critical for fans to go out and see these players in action. If you head to any games this summer, please share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of these posts.
With all that out of the way, let’s start at the top of the Dean’s Dozen.
No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .207, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 3 runs in 7 games
Through the first seven games last season, the 2016 third-round pick was batting .406 with five multi-hit performances at Frederick. Hays, 22, hasn’t been anywhere near as dominating with the Baysox so far this year. He has struck out at least twice in four of his first seven games for Bowie – and 10 times overall. However, in a 5-4 win over Erie on Wednesday night, Hays hit a solo home run and picked up his first multi-hit game of the year. He also hit a two-run shot as the Baysox beat Harrisburg, 7-1, last Friday. So even though he’s not off to a blazing start like he was in 2017, I’m still “bullish.”
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
For now, I’m “neutral” on the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall). Mountcastle, 21, started the season on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in his right hand. When he was hit by a pitch about a month ago, the initial timetable was four to six weeks. He’s currently fielding and doing conditioning drills, but hasn’t been permitted to swing a bat or throw a ball yet. He’ll be back with the Baysox soon enough. For now, we’ll just be patient and wait for his return.
No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
Like Mountcastle, the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) hasn’t appeared in a game in 2018. But I’m “bullish” on Harvey, 23, because he received a brief call-up to the majors earlier this week in case the Orioles needed some help in the bullpen. As I’m sure you’re aware, he didn’t pitch before returning to the Baysox on Thursday. So, his major-league debut will need to wait. He’ll start Saturday for Bowie at Harrisburg, Pa., and throw two or three innings.
No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .250, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 runs in 7 games
Mullins, 23, is tied for second in the Eastern League with eight RBIs through Bowie’s first seven games. The 2015 13th-round selection is also tied for fifth in the league in total bases (16). He has three games with at least two RBIs, but only one multi-hit performance. It’s early, but Mullins also hasn’t stolen any bases yet. With 47 stolen bases through his first two seasons, Mullins’ speed helped to boost his game to another level. Injuries limited him to only nine stolen bases in 16 attempts with the Baysox in 2017, so I’ll be watching to see how he bounces back in that category this year. I’m “bullish” on Mullins’ ability to do that.
No. 5: Tanner Scott, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 Ks, 1 BB in 4 innings (at Norfolk); 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 1 K, 1 BB in 1 2/3 innings (with Orioles)
The Orioles promoted Scott, 23, on Sunday for the finale of the four-game series against the New York Yankees. In that game, the 2014 sixth-round pick took part in a six-reliever train that followed starter Mike Wright, who couldn’t get out of the first inning. Scott gave up one run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings during the Orioles’ 8-7 comeback win. On Monday, he returned to the Tides. Overall, through Wednesday, Scott has thrown four scoreless innings with Norfolk. He has struck out five batters, allowed three hits and issued one walk. If I’m betting, Scott will likely take a few trips on the Norfolk-Baltimore Shuttle this year.
No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 Ks, 1 BB in 3 innings
Hall, 19, kicked off his first full professional season Tuesday night as Delmarva won its sixth straight game to start the year. The 2017 first-round selection (21st overall) faced the minimum through three shutout innings against Hickory. He allowed a single to Crawdads designated hitter Yohel Pozo in the second and walked third baseman Ryan Dorow in the third, but both runners were erased with double plays. Overall, Hall threw 18 of his 30 pitches for strikes. We’ll see if he can keep the momentum going in his next start. Assuming the weather cooperates, that should come sometime early next week at Hagerstown. (Incidentally, the Orioles other high-drafted Hall, last year’s second-round pick, shortstop Adam Hall, is still working out in extended spring in Sarasota.)
No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .316, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 4 runs in 5 games
It seemed like the highlight of the week for the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) would be Sunday afternoon. Stewart, 24, connected for a two-run, walkoff homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Tides a 3-1 victory over Gwinnett. But on Thursday, in a 9-8, 10-inning loss at Syracuse, Stewart collected four hits — all singles– in five at-bats. Heading into Thursday night’s game, Stewart was 2-for-14 on the young season. His average jumped from .143 to .316 in one game. I guess that surge isn’t too surprising; Stewart was only batting .143 through the first 12 games with Bowie in 2017 before he heated up and became the first player in Baysox history to finish a season with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Maybe he is ready to go on a tear.
No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 6 Ks, 3 BBs in 4 innings
The 2016 second-round selection ran into trouble with two outs in the first inning against Harrisburg on Saturday afternoon. Akin, who turned 23 earlier this month, allowed back-to-back-to-back doubles that drove in two runs before he recorded the final out. In the second, Akin walked two batters and gave up a two-run homer to Senators No. 9 hitter Khayyan Norfork. But he settled down after that. Akin retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced. I’m listing him as “bearish” for now. We’ll see if he can bounce back tonight at Harrisburg.
No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-0, 1.74 ERA, 11 Ks, 2 BBs in 10 1/3 innings
Sadly, the streak has ended. At the end of the 2017 season with Delmarva, the Australia native went 11 consecutive starts – and 68 straight innings – without walking a batter. But Wells, 21, has issued one walk in each of his first two games with the Keys. I’m not sure what the Orioles should do about his lack of control in 2018. (I’m kidding, of course.) Wells struck out six batters and gave up two runs in 4 1/3 innings during Frederick’s season-opening 6-2 win at Myrtle Beach on April 5. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, he dominated Carolina on the way to a second straight no-decision in the Keys’ 3-2 loss at Carolina. In that game, Wells only allowed two hits and one unearned run in six innings. He had five strikeouts.
No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 2-0, 0.82 ERA, 19 Ks, 3 BBs in 11 innings
Among an intriguing group of starters with the Shorebirds, the 2017 third-round selection earned the Opening Day start against Asheville on April 5. Baumann, 22, reached double digits in strikeouts – 10 in five scoreless innings – for the first time in his brief professional career. He picked up the win after holding the Tourists to four hits and one walk in Delmarva’s 2-0 victory. On Wednesday morning, Baumann kept the Shorebirds rolling with nine strikeouts in six innings during a 5-1 win over Hickory. He gave up one run and four hits in the game. It’s early, but opponents are only batting .189 against Baumann.
No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 Ks, 1 BB in 6 innings
Phew, I’m glad I added the 2017 competitive balance round B pick to the “Dean’s Dozen” last week. Lowther, who will turn 22 on April 30, shined in his full-season debut with the Shorebirds on Monday. He struck out 13 hitters and issued one walk in six hitless innings during Delmarva’s 1-0 win over Hickory. In September, Lowther (pictured above) had 12 strikeouts in his second-to-last start for Short-A Aberdeen. Overall, he struck out 75 batters in 54 1/3 innings with the IronBirds in 2017. It’s clear that Lowther can miss bats.
No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 2 Ks, 3 BBs in 4 innings
Unlike Lowther, the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) didn’t make me look good for putting him in the “Dean’s Dozen” last week. Sedlock, 22, allowed four runs (three earned) and four hits in four innings during the Keys’ 6-4 win over Myrtle Beach in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday. He also issued three walks and hit a batter. With two outs in the third, Sedlock surrendered a solo home run to Pelicans first baseman Tyler Alamo. After struggling to a 4-5 record and 5.90 ERA in 20 starts at Frederick in 2017, Sedlock is attempting to rebound at the same level this year. It’s still early, but he’s “bearish” for now.
Cameron Bishop, LHP, Delmarva: Despite being charged with the Shorebirds’ first loss Thursday, Bishop continued Delmarva’s impressive run of starting pitching, lasting seven innings and allowing two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out six. Last year’s 26th-round pick out of UC Irvine, Bishop, 22, has struck out 12 batters and walked three in 13 innings. His ERA in two starts is 2.08.
David Hess, RHP, Norfolk: In his Triple-A debut Sunday, the 2014 fifth-round pick held Gwinnett to one run and three hits in five innings. Hess, 24, struck out seven Stripers hitters in the Tides’ 3-1 win. It was a bittersweet performance; if he hadn’t pitched Sunday, Hess likely would have been called up to Baltimore to provide relief help Monday instead of Harvey. Dating back to last season, he has allowed three runs or less in seven straight starts. Hess was initially scheduled to take the mound again this afternoon, but now he’s listed as Norfolk’s starter for Saturday.
Kirvin Moesquit, 2B, Delmarva: A big part of why the Shorebirds are one of the minors’ last undefeated teams, the 2015 24th-round selection led the South Atlantic League with six stolen bases through Wednesday. Moesquit, 23, was batting .423 (11-for-26) with an inside-the-park homer, four RBIs and seven runs through Delmarva’s first seven games.
Erick Salcedo, SS, Bowie: The Baysox No. 9 hitter came up clutch in back-to-back games earlier this week. Salcedo, 24, hit a walkoff RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to lift Bowie over Erie, 5-4, on Tuesday. A day later, he hit an RBI single with one out in the ninth to give the Baysox another 5-4 win over the SeaWolves in the series finale.
Drew Dosch, 3B, Norfolk: Dosch, 25, was only batting .125 (1-for-8) with three strikeouts in two games with the Tides. Sure, that’s a small sample size. The 2013 seventh-round pick lands in the “falling” category because he went on the disabled list Wednesday (retroactive to Tuesday) with a left hamstring injury. He’s expected to be sidelined seven-to-ten days. That’s obviously not what you want to see to start the year.
Alex Murphy, 1B, Frederick: In his second straight season with the Keys, the Calvert Hall graduate is off to a horrendous start, one that took a painful turn Wednesday. While fielding a pop-up in the seventh inning, Murphy collided with a teammate and had to be removed from the game. He was placed on the disabled Thursday with a left knee injury and will undergo an MRI today. Murphy, 23, only had one hit in his first 21 at-bats (.048). The 2013 sixth-round selection knocked an RBI single into left field in the third inning of Frederick’s season-opening 6-2 win April 5 for his only hit.
Jake Ring, OF, Frederick: The good news? The 2016 31st-round pick was hitting slightly better than Murphy through Wednesday. The bad news? He was 2-for-21 (.095) with seven strikeouts through the Keys’ first eight games. Ring’s only hit before a single Thursday was a double in the third inning of Frederick’s opener – one batter before Murphy’s RBI single.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Bowie: Once a fan favorite because of his family name, the 2013 14th-round selection finds himself back with the Baysox this year. Yastrzemski, 27, had a double, a three-run homer and two runs in Bowie’s 5-4 win over Erie on Wednesday. Despite that, he’s only hitting .115 (3-for-26) with 10 strikeouts in six games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
April 13 – at Syracuse, 1:05 p.m.
April 14 – at Syracuse, 1:05 p.m.
April 15 – at Syracuse, 1:05 p.m.
April 16 – at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
April 17 – at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
April 18 – at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
April 19 – OFF
April 13 – at Harrisburg, 7 p.m.
April 14 – at Harrisburg, 6 p.m.
April 15 – at Harrisburg, 1:30 p.m.
April 16 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
April 17 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
April 18 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
April 19 – at Richmond, 10:35 a.m.
April 13 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
April 14 – vs. Potomac, 2 p.m.
April 15 – vs. Potomac, 2 p.m.
April 16 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
April 17 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
April 18 – at Lynchburg, 11 a.m.
April 19 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
April 13 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
April 14 – at Lakewood, 4:05 p.m.
April 15 – at Lakewood, 1:05 p.m.
April 16 – at Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.
April 17 – at Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.
April 18 – at Hagerstown, 10:35 a.m.
April 19 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.