I know it’s Friday, but I want you to use your brain a little bit before the weekend begins.
Despite mercifully snapping a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards, the Orioles remain far away from playoff contention.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox continue to duke it out for the American League East division lead, as well as the best record in the major leagues. Meanwhile, the Orioles’ biggest competition remains the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox at the opposite end.
We’re just 37 games into the season, though. With more than three-quarters of the games still to be played, what would you do if you were sitting in the B&O Warehouse right now?
Let’s pretend the Orioles just hired you as “Trade Deadline Extraordinaire” this morning. What would you do with the power? Share your thoughts in the “comments” section below.
Would you do whatever it took to unload anyone with value from the current roster as soon as possible and build toward 2019 and beyond? Or would you take a more meticulous approach, biding your time until your potential trade partners get more desperate?
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be the person deciding what to do. You couldn’t pay me enough to have 35 years of World Series-less frustration from fans riding on my actions.
On one hand, it makes sense to “blow it up” now to make sure you can do it at all. The longer you hold shortstop Manny Machado and others, the more you risk something going wrong – a long slump, an injury, etc. – to hurt their trade value. (Side note: Instinctively, I wrote “third baseman Manny Machado” at first. I miss watching him at the hot corner.)
But on the other hand, the same thing could happen to other teams around the league, too. If clubs in playoff contention lose key pieces or believe that the Orioles’ players could be the missing links they need, they’d be willing to pay a greater price later in the summer.
Or maybe, you don’t want the Orioles to sell at all. Maybe you’re clinging to that last glimmer of Oriole Magic that would help the team make up the current double-digit deficit to sneak into the second wild-card spot. If that’s the case, I want you to tell me that, too.
Now, it’s time for the fifth “Dean Jones Report” of the year. As longtime readers know, I use these updates to pass along what’s happening across the Orioles’ minor-league system.
Directly below, you’ll find each of the 12 players in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings categorized as either a rising stock (“bullish”) or a falling stock (“bearish”), based on recent performance. Beneath that, you’ll see a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” lately. And, at the end, you’ll notice the upcoming schedule for all the Orioles’ full-season affiliates.
No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .233, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, 18 runs in 31 games
Hays, 22, still hasn’t gone on an offensive tear yet. Last Friday, the 2016 third-round pick had two hits – his third double and fifth homer of the year – to raise his average to .243 in Bowie’s lopsided, 18-2 loss to Akron. But in five games between Saturday and Wednesday, Hays went 3-for-22 (.136) with no extra-base hits and nine strikeouts. When the Baysox lost, 2-1, to Altoona on Tuesday, Hays picked up a “golden sombrero” with four strikeouts in four at-bats. He also struck out four times at Richmond April 16. For some context, Hays only had three strikeouts in a game four times in 166 professional games before 2018. I’m still confident that Hays will heat up soon – and he did hit his sixth homer Thursday – but for now, I’m remaining “bearish” since he can’t find any consistency at the plate.
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
Statistics: .750 (3-for-4), 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 1 run in 1 game
The 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) finally made his 2018 debut Thursday night for the Baysox – exactly eight weeks after he initially suffered a hairline fracture in his right hand. Although he took longer to return to the lineup than the initially expected four to six weeks, patient fans were rewarded with quite a show. Mountcastle, 21, went 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth during Bowie’s 7-6 victory over Hartford at Prince George’s Stadium. Despite the three-hit night, it could still take Mountcastle (pictured above) a week or two to fully get his timing down at the plate. We’ll see how he plays in the next few games.
No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-1, 3.63 ERA, 12 Ks, 5 BBs in 17 1/3 innings
For the first time in almost four years, the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) earned a win as the Baysox beat Altoona, 8-2, on Wednesday. Harvey, 23, held the Curve to two runs and five hits in five innings. It was his first victory since July 18, 2014 while with Low-A Delmarva. According to Wednesday’s boxscore, Harvey threw 81 pitches (51 strikes). It’s good to see the Orioles stretching him out. That means they must be comfortable with how he’s doing. Since they’re already miles away from contention, I’m curious to see whether the Orioles give Harvey a shot later in the year. For now, he’s in line to start for Bowie in next week’s series against Harrisburg.
No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .260, 5 HRs, 7 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 17 RBIs, 19 runs in 31 games
Like his outfield counterpart Hays, the 2015 13th-round selection has struggled to remain consistent through the first month of the season. But I’m back to “bullish” on Mullins, 23, this week because he put together four multi-hit games since last week’s update. Although he only had two extra-base hits in that stretch – a solo homer in Bowie’s 4-2 loss to Akron on Saturday and a triple Thursday – I’m optimistic that Mullins can go on a run from here. He also stole his second base of the year Wednesday as the Baysox beat Altoona, 8-2. I’d like to see Mullins’ speed become a bigger part of his game once again before the end of the season. In the meantime, it’s nice to see signs of Mullins heating up in the short term.
No. 5: Tanner Scott, LHP, Norfolk
Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 Ks, 6 BBs in 10 innings (at Norfolk); 0-0, 4.05 ERA, 9 Ks, 1 BB in 6 2/3 innings (with Orioles)
On Wednesday, the Orioles recalled the 2014 sixth-round pick from Norfolk for the third time already this year. Scott, 23, struck out four batters in two scoreless innings in the series finale Thursday against the Royals. Longtime BaltimoreBaseball.com readers know I haven’t always thought highly of Scott. He’s one of the hardest throwers in baseball, but he hasn’t been able to harness it effectively yet – especially in limited time at the major-league level. With that said, the club clearly hopes he’ll put it all together soon. So, with the Orioles seemingly already out of the playoff hunt, why not keep Scott here for the rest of the year? That’s assuming he pitches well enough to earn that responsibility, of course. The Orioles’ bullpen ERA ranks in the bottom third of the majors, so why not give Scott a longer chance to help?
No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 0-1, 3.07 ERA, 17 Ks, 11 BBs in 14 2/3 innings
Hall, 19, made his longest professional start in the Shorebirds’ 10-0 loss to Augusta on Sunday afternoon. The 2018 first-round selection (21st overall) pitched four innings and threw 74 pitches – which is also his most so far this year, according to MILB.com’s tracker. It wasn’t a memorable performance, though. Hall gave up three runs and three hits in the game. You’ll remember that I touched on some of Hall’s control issues in last week’s update. Well, he walked four batters in the start against the GreenJackets, bringing his season total to 11 in 14 2/3 innings. Hall also surrendered his first homer of the year in the defeat. Because of that, I’m flipping to “bearish” this week. His next start is Sunday at Columbia.
No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .271, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs, 17 runs in 27 games
In the Tides’ 13-0 rout over Durham on Tuesday, the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) cleared the bases in the top of the ninth with a grand slam. Stewart, 24, also had a single, two walks and two stolen bases in Norfolk’s win. A day later, he reached base three more times – with two singles and a walk – as the Tides lost, 5-2, to the Bulls. Although Stewart is often overshadowed within the organization by Hays and Mullins, I’d love to see him get a chance to show if he can handle the jump to the majors later this year. A couple of seasons ago, I would’ve never typed those words. But right now, or later this year anyway, what do the Orioles have to lose?
No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 3-3, 3.31 ERA, 36 Ks, 14 BBs in 32 2/3 innings
The 2016 second-round selection’s streak of consecutive wins ended at three as he took the defeat in Bowie’s 4-1 loss to Akron on Sunday afternoon. Akin, 23, was charged with three runs (two earned) and five hits in 5 2/3 innings against the RubberDucks. Through six starts, he has pitched much better against left-handed hitters. They’re only batting .152 (5-for-33) against Akin, while righties are hitting .244 (21-for-86). Although he suffered the loss in his only start this week, I’m remaining “bullish” because he’s trending in the right direction. Akin is scheduled to pitch tonight against Hartford at Prince George’s Stadium.
No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-3, 4.22 ERA, 27 Ks, 10 BBs in 32 innings
In 32 innings, the Australia native has walked 10 batters. That’s a little less than three walks per nine innings. It could be much worse. But it stands out because Wells, 21, issued the same number of free passes in 140 innings with Delmarva in 2017. One thing I noticed: When pitching ahead in the count during his first two seasons, Wells held opponents to a .216 average (32-for-148). But so far this year, they’re batting .333 (10-for-30) in similar situations. It’s clear that Wells is having more trouble in the Carolina League than he had in the South Atlantic League last year. We’ll see how he adjusts as the season progresses. Wells will make his next start for the Keys tonight against Potomac at Nymeo Field.
No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 4-0, 1.74 ERA, 39 Ks, 13 BBs in 31 innings
The 2017 third-round selection continues to roll for the Shorebirds. Baumann, 22, had nine strikeouts as Delmarva beat Augusta, 4-3, on Monday. It’s the third time in six starts that he has struck out at least nine batters. Baumann allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits in six innings in his latest start. He hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of his first 17 professional appearances (16 starts). I can’t stress it enough: Make sure you get down to Salisbury to see the Shorebirds’ young pitchers in action this summer. Baumann is in line to pitch again Monday night at Columbia. That’s the city in South Carolina, not the one in Howard County. I needed to stress that because after five home games and an outing at Hagerstown, it’ll be Baumann’s first start outside the state of Maryland this year.
No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 2-1, 1.23 ERA, 39 Ks, 3 BBs in 22 innings
Well, if nothing else, at least my jinxing abilities still work. In last week’s update, I labeled Lowther, 22, as my early favorite to win the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Just hours after I wrote that post, the 2017 competitive balance round B pick earned the organization’s Pitcher of the Month honors for April. But then, right-hander Gray Fenter mysteriously replaced Lowther for his scheduled start Saturday. That’s because Lowther experienced some oblique tightness. The organization doesn’t think it’s serious, but they’re taking a cautious approach. The Shorebirds’ starter for Lowther’s next turn through the rotation – Saturday at Columbia – is currently listed as TBA, so we’ll see if he returns then or if he’ll spend a little more time out of action. Stay tuned.
No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 6 Ks, 9 BBs in 9 1/3 innings
Nothing new to report with the 2016 first-round selection (27th overall). Sedlock, 22, remains on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain after he made three starts to begin the year. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but he had a PRP injection in late April.
Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Frederick: The 2014 third-round selection – the Orioles’ top choice that year – has pitched much better through six starts in his second season with the Keys than he did in the first. Gonzalez, 22, is 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings. On Tuesday, he threw seven no-hit innings against Lynchburg.
David Hess, RHP, Norfolk: Speaking of no-hit bids, the 2014 fifth-round pick carried one into the seventh for the Tides against Durham on Tuesday. Hess, 24, gave up a single to begin the frame before retiring the next three batters. He could join the Orioles for Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays as a reliever/26th man, but he will not make an MLB start on three days’ rest. He’s currently scheduled to start again Sunday for Norfolk if he’s not recalled (and used Saturday).
Tim Melville, RHP, Norfolk: Melville, 28, went 0-2 with an 11.05 ERA in six major-league appearances (three starts) for three different teams in 2016 and 2017. That’s not good. But in six games (five starts) with the Tides this year, the Royals’ 2008 fourth-round selection is 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA. He has allowed two runs or less in four of his five starts. Melville will start tonight at Gwinnett.
Andrew Susac, C, Norfolk: The Orioles announced last Friday that Susac, 28, and Delmarva outfielder Zach Jarrett shared Minor League Player of the Month honors for April. Susac missed two weeks with an ankle injury, but he returned Wednesday. Despite striking out 19 times in 13 games, he’s hitting .349 with two homers and 12 RBIs.
Jayson Aquino, LHP, Bowie: You won’t usually find a guy in this category after he holds an opponent to one hit in seven innings. That’s what Aquino, 25, did for the Baysox in a 2-0 win at Altoona on Monday. But he’s here because the Orioles demoted him last Friday from Norfolk to make room for left-hander Chris Lee. That’s never the direction you want to go in the minors.
Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk: Last week, I received some complaints for putting Lee, 25, in the “surging” category before he made his 2018 debut. As I said at the time, I included Lee simply to see if he could take the needed steps to return to the conversation about a potential major-league call-up. So far, Lee hasn’t done that. He’s 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA through two starts.
Michael Saunders, DH/OF, Norfolk: In 44 career games against the Orioles, the nine-year major-league veteran has batted .297 with 14 homers and 33 RBIs. It’s a shame he can’t face the club’s pitching staff while playing for the Tides. Signed to a minor-league deal just before the season, he’s hitting he’s hitting .161 with 23 strikeouts in 25 games. That’s rough.
Engelb Vielma, INF, Norfolk: In his first game back with the Tides after being demoted by the Orioles, Vielma hustled from his shortstop position to try and track down a foul pop on Wednesday. But he tripped over the bullpen mound, slammed his knee into the unpadded part of the wall and broke his kneecap. He’ll have surgery and will be lost for all or most of the remainder of the season.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 11 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
May 12 – at Gwinnett, 6:05 p.m.
May 13 – at Gwinnett, 1:05 p.m.
May 14 – OFF
May 15 – vs. Indianapolis, 6:35 p.m.
May 16 – vs. Indianapolis, 6:35 p.m.
May 17 – vs. Indianapolis, 12:05 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Hartford, 7:05 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Hartford, 6:35 p.m.
May 13 – vs. Hartford, 1:35 p.m.
May 14 – vs. Harrisburg, 6:35 p.m.
May 15 – vs. Harrisburg, 6:35 p.m.
May 16 – vs. Harrisburg, 11:05 a.m.
May 17 – at Trenton, 7 p.m.
May 11 – vs. Potomac, 7 p.m.
May 12 – vs. Potomac, 6 p.m.
May 13 – vs. Potomac, 2 p.m.
May 14 – OFF
May 15 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
May 16 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
May 17 – at Lynchburg, 6:30 p.m.
May 11 – at Lexington, 7:05 p.m.
May 12 – at Columbia, 6:05 p.m.
May 13 – at Columbia, 2:05 p.m.
May 14 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 15 – at Columbia, 7:05 p.m.
May 16 – OFF
May 17 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
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