It’s always tough to see the good guys sent from “The Show” down to the minors.
That certainly applies to Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, who headed back to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday afternoon. In his place, the Orioles recalled catcher Andrew Susac, who started and batted ninth in the series opener against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Back in 2009, in one of my first years covering the Orioles’ minor-league system, Joseph played at High-A Frederick. I remember going to Nymeo Field – then known simply as Harry Grove Stadium – for a weekend game. Walking through the concourse hours before first pitch, another reporter and I noticed Joseph relaxing at a table on the first-base side.
Our conversation didn’t last long, but I’ll never forget the first impression that he left. You could tell Joseph would talk with anyone he met as if he had known them for years. From that point, he became one of the guys who I looked for each night in the boxscore.
It was great to see Joseph finally get a shot in 2014 when he was promoted to the Orioles after seven seasons in the minors. Since then, Orioles fans have gotten a chance to know the guy who I chatted with for the first time almost a decade ago. (Man, time flies.) He’s someone you can really root for.
You can look at the overall numbers and understand the Orioles’ reasoning for demoting the 31-year-old Joseph. He hit .182 with 24 strikeouts in 24 games and gradually lost playing time to rookie Chance Sisco. What is strange, though, is the timing. Joseph batted .137 with seven hits in 51 at-bats in April and then .269 with seven hits in 26 at-bats in May. His defense also seemed to improve after a rough patch early. Still, Joseph now will head to Norfolk, where he’ll get regular at-bats. We’ll see if that gets him going; he’s always been known as a self-motivator.
Meanwhile, the club will get a look at Susac after acquiring him in February from the Milwaukee Brewers. Susac, 28, missed two weeks earlier this year because of an ankle injury, but he still managed to share Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Month honors in April. Overall, he batted .296 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games with the Tides.
With the Orioles still buried in last place in the American League East, it’ll be interesting to see what other moves happen in the coming weeks and months.
Outfielder Joey Rickard joined the club last weekend. Right-hander David Hess pitched well in his first major-league start and figures to be back at some point – perhaps as soon as Sunday against the Red Sox.
And there was plenty of movement Thursday night within the pitching staffs of several minor league teams.
The big news is that right-hander Michael Baumann, the club’s third-round pick out of Jacksonville University last year, is being promoted from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Frederick and will start for the Keys on Saturday – weather permitting.
Baumann, 22, has excelled as a pro, going 4-2 with a 1.31 ERA in 10 games last year at Short-A Aberdeen and then dominating for the Shorebirds this year, posting a 5-0 record, a 1.42 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 38 innings through seven games for Delmarva.
Also being promoted with Baumann from Delmarva to Frederick are relievers Zach Muckenhirn and Travis Seabrooke.
In turn, Frederick’s projected starter for Saturday, lefty Brian Gonzalez, is moving up to Double-A Bowie and will start Saturday for the Baysox. The 22-year-old Gonzalez, the club’s third-round pick in 2014, was 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in seven starts with the Keys.
Also moving from Frederick to Bowie is 26-year-old right-hander and Frederick native Branden Kline. The former 2nd-rounder in 2012 who has been beset by injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2015, allowed just three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings as a reliever for the Keys this season.
Making the jump from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk are relievers Paul Fry and Ryan Meisinger and starter John Means, who was 1-4 with a 4.30 ERA in eight games (seven starts) for Bowie so far in 2018. The 25-year-old Means, who was an 11th-round pick in 2014, will join the Tides’ rotation.
Norfolk was down two spots on its pitching staff after Josh Edgin opted out of his contract and Jason Gurka pulled a hamstring. There may still be another move made at Triple-A in the next day or so to make the math work.
In fact, I’m sure there will continue to be moves made throughout the system and all the way up to the majors, perhaps on a daily basis.
It’s probably time in this piece to highlight what’s been happening on the field, but that’s been limited due to the rain that has messed with both the major league and minor league schedules.
Heavy rain forced Double-A Bowie’s game Monday against Harrisburg to be suspended in the bottom of the third inning. The teams finished that game Tuesday before the regularly scheduled game – shortened to seven innings, per Minor League Baseball rules – was halted at the start of the seventh. Bowie won that game Wednesday morning.
The second game of High-A Frederick’s doubleheader Thursday was rained out – after another rainout the day before. Low-A Delmarva’s game Thursday was postponed, too.
It could get worse: The forecast looks miserable for the Mid-Atlantic region this weekend. It’s possible that we could see multiple rainouts for each of the Orioles’ four affiliates.
Things might get better by Sunday, so keep your fingers crossed that we’ll see the sun.
Normally in my write-ups, I like to include a sentence about the next start for each of the starting pitchers in the “Dean’s Dozen.” But this week, you’ll see that I’m sort of hedging because of all the uncertainty. Just know that they’ll be starting at some point in the next week.
As a baseball fan, I hate rain. But as a father of two boys, it’s worse. In all likelihood, the White Marsh Diamondbacks’ big T-ball game will be washed out tomorrow morning.
Who wants to volunteer to tell my 4-year-old son why we won’t be going to the field?
This week, we’re sharing the sixth “Dean Jones Report” of the season. As always, you’ll get the latest news about each of the 12 players in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings. Beyond that, you’ll see a group of players who are either “surging” or “falling” in recent weeks.
Finally, I include the upcoming schedule for all the Orioles’ full-season affiliates. But again, I’m not optimistic that all of those games will be played as scheduled this weekend.
No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .226, 6 HRs, 15 RBIs, 19 runs in 38 games
The 2016 third-round selection’s up-and-down season – more “down” than “up” – continued for another week. Hays, 22, had consecutive two-hit performances last Thursday and Friday. But then he went hitless in 16 at-bats over the next four games. Hays had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning Wednesday as the Baysox lost the series finale to Harrisburg, 5-2. In Thursday’s game at Trenton, he had two singles, an RBI and a walk. I’m still “bearish” this week. The calendar will turn to June soon, so when will Hays heat up?
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
Statistics: .367, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs, 4 runs in 8 games
It doesn’t seem like Mountcastle, 21, missed anything while he was on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in his right hand. Through Thursday, the 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) has hit safely in seven of his first eight games – including two three-hit performances. Mountcastle went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in Bowie’s 5-4 win over Harrisburg in a game that started Tuesday and ended Wednesday. The quick start is encouraging, but let’s see how he’s hitting in a month. It’s all “bullish” today, though.
No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-1, 4.22 ERA, 17 Ks, 7 BBs in 21 1/3 innings
In three starts in April, the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) posted a 1.08 ERA in 8 1/3 innings. Harvey, 23, recently picked up his first win in almost four years. But overall, he has run into some trouble in three starts this month. He’s 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in that span. On Tuesday, Harvey worked through a lot of the nasty weather to complete four innings against Harrisburg. He allowed three runs and four hits, throwing 36 of his 59 pitches for strikes. Depending on whether rain forces any other Bowie games to be postponed, Harvey will likely take the mound again early next week.
No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .267, 5 HRs, 10 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 19 RBIs, 24 runs in 37 games
Mullins, 23, went 2-for-4 with a double, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs in Bowie’s 9-4 loss to Hartford on Sunday afternoon. The 2015 13th-round pick also had two hits and scored twice as the Baysox beat Harrisburg, 5-4, in one of the suspended games this week. In 16 games this month, Mullins is batting .302 (19-for-63) with six extra-base hits – four doubles, a triple and a homer – and five RBIs. Mullins had two hits Thursday, but he didn’t really dominate this week. Still, he continues to pose a threat atop Bowie’s lineup. That’s enough for me to stay “bullish” for now. I’ll keep saying it: He’s just a fun player to watch.
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)
The 2014 sixth-round selection appears to be building some momentum in the major leagues. Scott, 23, hasn’t allowed a run since rejoining the Orioles earlier this month. In three appearances, he has struck out five batters and only given up three hits in 4 1/3 innings. Longtime readers know I haven’t been completely sold on Scott. But I have to admit: He’s slowly winning me over with what he has done on the big league mound. Of course, you never know what the future holds. But it’s a refreshing bright spot on a last-place squad.
No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 0-1, 2.29 ERA, 20 Ks, 12 BBs in 19 2/3 innings
For the second straight start, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) tossed the longest outing of his short career. Hall, 19, held Columbia to only one hit and one walk in five innings Sunday – eclipsing the four innings he pitched May 6 against Augusta. He struck out three Fireflies hitters in the Shorebirds’ 5-4 loss in 10 innings. Through six starts, Hall has held opposing hitters to a .182 average. While he has given up at least one walk in every game, he also has three one-hit performances in that stretch – all three innings or more. I’m back to “bullish” this week. Because of the rain, it’s not clear when he’ll start next.
No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .267, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs in 33 games
Overall, it was a ho-hum week for the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall). Stewart, 25, had a pair of two-hit games since last week’s update. However, he also went hitless three times and only had one RBI in that span. Still, I’m staying “bullish” because Stewart is batting .280 with eight RBIs in 15 games in May. He’s also 3-for-3 in stolen bases this month. Even though Stewart didn’t do much at the plate over the past week, he still walked five times in six games. An interesting split to keep an eye on: In 17 games at Harbor Park, Stewart is only hitting .228. But in 16 games on the road, he has a .305 average.
No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 4-4, 3.22 ERA, 46 Ks, 17 BBs in 44 2/3 innings
The 2016 second-round pick made two starts since our last update. Akin, 23, pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings last Friday as the Baysox routed Hartford, 13-0, at Prince George’s Stadium. He had six strikeouts and scattered four hits in 103 pitches (68 strikes). It marked the first time this season that Akin threw more than 100 pitches. On Wednesday, Akin wasn’t as successful. He suffered the loss after giving up four runs and seven hits to Harrisburg in 5 1/3 innings. Nevertheless, I’m staying “bullish” on Akin this week. In my opinion, the long-term trend outweighs the one not-so-great outing. For now, he’ll next pitch at home against Altoona early next week.
No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 1-3, 4.10 ERA, 34 Ks, 13 BBs in 41 2/3 innings
He’s back. I’m talking about the “walk free” version of the Australia native. Wells, 21, didn’t walk anyone for the first time this season as the Keys beat Lynchburg, 3-1, in the scheduled first game of a doubleheader Thursday. He struck out six batters and only gave up one run in five innings. I considered switching to “bullish” this week, but I want to see a string of two or three good starts before doing that. In his outing last Saturday against Potomac, Wells surrendered a career-high 10 hits, three runs and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. The consistency just isn’t there yet, but we’ll see if he can carry momentum into next week.
No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 5-0, 1.42 ERA, 47 Ks, 13 BBs in 38 innings
We’re only a little more than halfway through May, but the 2017 third-round pick appears headed toward becoming the Orioles’ Pitcher of the Month. If it happens, it’ll be because of his play at the next level. Baumann, 22, moves to Frederick to start Saturday against Myrtle Beach. He went 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three starts for the Shorebirds in May, striking out 20 batters and giving up only nine hits in 19 innings. In Delmarva’s 1-0 win at Columbia on Monday, Baumann pitched a career-high seven innings. Baumann’s 1.42 ERA had ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League among qualifying pitchers.
No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 2-1, 1.44 ERA, 41 Ks, 6 BBs in 25 innings
During my most recent update, I hinted that Lowther, 22, could return to the mound last Saturday. That didn’t happen. It took a few more days, but the 2017 competitive balance round B selection came back Tuesday at Columbia. Lowther gave up one run and two hits in three innings as the Shorebirds lost, 9-8, in 10 innings. He only threw 60 pitches, so it seems there might’ve been a restriction in place as he recovers from oblique soreness. I’ll keep a close eye on how Lowther pitches in his next couple of starts. I’ve returned to “bullish” since he’s back on the mound. Let’s see if he can continue his hot start.
No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 6 Ks, 9 BBs in 9 1/3 innings
Sedlock, 22, hasn’t pitched since April 19 because of a right shoulder strain. Although an MRI revealed no structural damage, the 2016 first-round pick (27th overall) remains out of action. Opponents went 16-for-41 (.390) against Sedlock in his first three starts.
Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Bowie: The 2014 third-round pick will move up and start for the Baysox on Saturday at Trenton. Gonzalez, 22, earned the promotion after going 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in seven starts at Frederick. He had 33 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. In his last start, Gonzalez allowed two runs and five hits Sunday in an 8-6 win over Potomac.
Corban Joseph, UTIL, Bowie: At age 29, the younger brother of Caleb isn’t a prospect anymore. But he’s still hitting the cover off the ball with the Baysox. Joseph is second in the Eastern League with 13 doubles and sixth in the league with a .348 average. He also has a triple and six homers, including a walkoff shot against Harrisburg this week.
Ryan McKenna, OF, Frederick: The 2015 fourth-round pick continues to shine with the Keys. McKenna, 21, leads the Carolina League in on-base percentage (.420) and runs (34). He also ranks among the league leaders in doubles (11), hits (50) and total bases (73). On Saturday, McKenna had two homers and four RBIs in Frederick’s 7-4 loss to Potomac.
T.J. Nichting, OF, Frederick: Nichting, 23, moved up to the Keys from Delmarva when outfielders Jake Ring and Randolph Gassaway went on the disabled list Tuesday. In 36 games with the Shorebirds, the 2017 ninth-round selection batted .326 with 10 doubles and 20 RBIs. In his first game with Frederick, Nichting had two singles and one RBI.
Jomar Reyes, 3B, Frederick: The Dominican Republic native – who signed with the Orioles at age 16 in 2014 – appears to be heating up. Reyes, 21, is batting .298 with six extra-base hits (five doubles, one homer) and 13 RBIs in 13 games in May. He has hit safely in 14 of his past 15 games. Earlier this month, he had at least one RBI in six straight games.
Gray Fenter, RHP, Delmarva: After the Orioles picked Fenter, 22, in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, they gave him a $1 million deal – well above “slot value” – to sign. Since then, he hasn’t done much. With Lowther sidelined, Fenter made two starts this month. In those games, he went 0-1 with a 33.75 ERA in 2 2/3 innings (10 runs, 10 hits, four walks).
Michael Kelly, RHP, Bowie: Signed as a free agent in December and initially placed on the 40-man roster, the former San Diego Padres farmhand has an 0-3 record and a 7.76 ERA in eight games (six starts) with the Baysox. Kelly, 25, allowed 10 runs, five hits and six walks – recording only two total outs – in his past two starts. On Thursday, he gave up three runs in two innings out of the bullpen.
Chris Lee, LHP, Norfolk: I don’t want to pile on Lee, 25, but he has been horrible since returning from the disabled list earlier this month. In three starts, the Houston Astros’ 2011 fourth-round pick is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in eight innings. Lee gave up seven runs (four earned), six hits and three walks Tuesday as the Tides lost, 10-8, to Indianapolis.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 18 – vs. Louisville, 7:05 p.m.
May 19 – vs. Louisville, 7:05 p.m.
May 20 – vs. Louisville, 1:05 p.m.
May 21 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.
May 22 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.
May 23 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.
May 24 – at Charlotte, 7:04 p.m.
May 18 – at Trenton, 7 p.m.
May 19 – at Trenton, 7 p.m.
May 20 – at Trenton, 1 p.m.
May 21 – OFF
May 22 – vs. Altoona, 6:35 p.m.
May 23 – vs. Altoona, 6:35 p.m.
May 24 – vs. Altoona, 11:05 a.m.
May 18 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 7 p.m.
May 19 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 6 p.m.
May 20 – vs. Myrtle Beach, 2 p.m.
May 21 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
May 22 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
May 23 – vs. Salem, 7 p.m.
May 24 – vs. Salem, 11 a.m.
May 18 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 19 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
May 20 – vs. Hagerstown, 2:05 p.m.
May 21 – at Hickory, 6 p.m.
May 22 – at Hickory, 6 p.m.
May 23 – at Hickory, 6 p.m.
May 24 – at Hickory, 7 p.m.