It’s hard to believe, but we’re almost two months into the 2018 season.
We’re quickly approaching the All-Star break for High-A Frederick and Low-A Delmarva. Both games will be played Tuesday, June 19 – about three-and-a-half weeks from now.
Meanwhile, Short-A Aberdeen opens its season in three weeks. The IronBirds will host Hudson Valley on Friday, June 15 at Ripken Stadium. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.
As always, Aberdeen’s roster will feature a lot of players who will enter the organization during Major League Baseball’s first-year-player draft. That’ll take place Monday, June 4 through Wednesday, June 6. We’ll have full coverage here on BaltimoreBaseball.com.
Let’s not waste any time diving into the seventh “Dean Jones Report” of the year.
Longtime readers know these updates feature the latest news about the 12 minor leaguers in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings, as well as players who are “surging” or “falling.” Finally, you’ll find the upcoming schedule for all the Orioles’ affiliates at the bottom of the post.
No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .226, 6 HRs, 15 RBIs, 19 runs in 38 games
We saw more of the same from the 2016 third-round pick over the past week. Hays, 22, hit safely in three of the five games in which he played since last week’s update. However, he only batted .211 (4-for-19) with a double and three RBIs in that stretch. When you look at Hays’ splits, you can see that he has been horrendous against right-handed pitchers this year. He’s only hitting .194 (27-for-139), compared with .343 (12-for-35) in a much smaller sample size against left-handers. In comparison, Hays batted .289 against righties and an incredible .432 against lefties in 64 games at the Double-A level during his breakout year in 2017. Hays’ lengthy struggles have just added to the frustration of Orioles fans this year.
No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
Statistics: .308, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 7 runs in 14 games
The 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) went hitless in four of his six games over the past week. Mountcastle, 21, had a particularly rough night in Bowie’s 9-3 win over Altoona on Wednesday, when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He did have a sacrifice fly in the game, though. And in the two games before that, he had five hits and four RBIs – including a two-run homer Tuesday as the Baysox beat the Curve, 8-5. Despite the hint of a slump coming on recently, I’m staying “bullish” this week since Mountcastle remains above .300. However, I’d like to see some more extra-base hits from him before next week’s update.
No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-1, 4.62 ERA, 23 Ks, 7 BBs in 25 1/3 innings
Harvey, 23, continues to run into trouble in May. The 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) gave up three runs and five hits in four innings during Bowie’s 10-5 win at Trenton on Sunday. With two outs in the first inning, Thunder shortstop Gosuke Katoh hit a solo shot off Harvey. That was the first homer he allowed since June 29, 2014 – a span of 69 1/3 innings. Overall, Harvey is 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA in four starts this month. While the primary focus with Harvey remains his health, it’s still a little jarring to see the ERA creep higher. He’s scheduled to make his next start Saturday evening at Binghamton.
No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .293, 6 HRs, 11 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 26 RBIs, 30 runs in 43 games
The 2015 13th-round selection has hit safely in nine consecutive games. Mullins, 23, is batting .444 (16-for-36) with a homer, three doubles and seven RBIs in that span. He also has six walks, three stolen bases and 11 runs since the streak started on May 15. Because of Mullins’ recent success, his average climbed to a season-high .294 after Wednesday’s game. Beyond that, his on-base percentage spiked 50 percentage points – from .297 the day before his recent hitting streak started to its current mark at .347. Overall, Mullins is hitting .345 in 22 games this month after he batted just .241 in 21 games in April.
No. 5: Tanner Scott, LHP, Orioles
Statistics: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 Ks, 6 BBs in 10 innings (Norfolk); 0-0, 5.56 ERA, 14 Ks, 5 BBs in 11 1/3 innings (Orioles)
Last week, I noted that the 2014 sixth-round pick had started to slowly win me over with what he had done on a major-league mound. I also called Scott, 23, “a refreshing bright spot on a last-place squad.” Well, a week later, part of that statement remains true. He’s still on a team that’s in the bottom of the American League East. Scott allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings over two appearances since my previous update, including a two-run homer to Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jose Rondon in the seventh inning Wednesday. That was just the fourth longball allowed by Scott in 221 2/3 professional innings. Since Scott has struggled lately, I’m switching to “bearish” even though he’s still in the majors.
No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 0-2, 3.04 ERA, 23 Ks, 14 BBs in 23 2/3 innings
The 2017 first-round selection (21st overall) suffered his second defeat of the season after giving up three runs and five hits in four innings at Hickory on Tuesday night. Hall, 19, struck out three batters and issued two walks in the Shorebirds’ 5-1 loss to the Crawdads. Remember that we’re talking about a teenager who was finishing up his high school career this time last year. Now, he’s pitching – and for the most part, succeeding – at the Low-A level. It’s expected that he’ll have a few hiccups along the way. Hall is scheduled to make his next start in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon against Lakewood.
No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .262, 5 HRs, 23 RBIs, 22 runs in 40 games
Stewart, 24, lost a five-game hitting streak when he went 0-for-4 at Charlotte on Wednesday night. Although the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) went hitless, he still contributed to the Tides’ 6-3 win with an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly. He followed that up with a solo homer Thursday night in a 5-4, 10-inning victory against the Knights. It was his fifth homer of 2018. Last Friday, Stewart connected for his fourth homer in Norfolk’s 4-2 loss to Louisville at Harbor Park. He also had an RBI double in the second inning Tuesday. Since Stewart didn’t stand out too much this week – either positively or negatively – I’ll remain “bullish” today.
No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 4-4, 3.38 ERA, 53 Ks, 20 BBs in 50 2/3 innings
The Baysox rallied Tuesday against Altoona at Prince George’s Stadium to get the 2016 second-round selection off the hook for the loss. Akin, 23, earned his fifth quality start in nine outings after allowing the Curve to score three runs on five hits and three walks in six innings. Bowie scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and five more in the seventh to pull away for an 8-5 win. When looking at things on a monthly basis, Akin has been consistent so far – a 3.43 ERA in four starts in April and a 3.34 ERA in five starts in May. He’ll likely start one more game this month – next week in Bowie’s series at Binghamton.
No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 2-3, 3.99 ERA, 36 Ks, 14 BBs in 47 1/3 innings
Just like that, the Australia native lowered his ERA below 4.00 and won for the second straight start. Wells, 21, limited the damage in the Keys’ 16-5 rout over Salem on Wednesday night. He gave up two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. The most notable part: It was Wells’ best start in three attempts at Nymeo Field so far this year. In his previous two starts, Wells was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. Wells appears to be pitching much better over the past couple of weeks, so I’m back to “bullish” today. He’ll likely make his next start on the road sometime next week, but it’ll be just up Interstate 95 at Wilmington.
No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 5-0, 1.42 ERA, 47 Ks, 13 BBs in 38 innings (Delmarva); 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 2 Ks, 1 BB in 7 innings (Frederick)
As I told you last week, the Orioles promoted the 2017 third-round selection from Delmarva to Frederick after his strong start with the Shorebirds. Baumann, 22, kept his momentum going in his first start with the Keys. He earned the win after holding Myrtle Beach to one run and four hits in a seven-inning complete game to open a doubleheader Sunday afternoon. Baumann (pictured above in Sunday’s game) struck out two hitters and walked one in Frederick’s 6-1 victory, throwing a season-high 94 pitches (63 strikes). In 19 career games (18 starts) dating back to last year, he is 10-2 with a 1.34 ERA. Baumann will start tonight at Down East.
No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings
The Shorebirds lost Baumann to a promotion last week, but they still have the 2017 competitive balance round B selection – at least for the time being. And Lowther, 22, seems to be fully recovered from an oblique injury that caused him to miss about two and a half weeks recently. On Wednesday, he made his second start since returning to the active roster. Lowther struck out 10 batters – his third double-digit strikeout game in 2018 – and allowed just one hit in six shutout innings as Delmarva beat Hickory, 7-0. He ranks in the Top 10 in strikeouts in the South Atlantic League despite throwing 15-20 fewer innings than the others on the list. Lowther will start again for Delmarva next week, likely at Kannapolis.
No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick
Statistics: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 6 Ks, 9 BBs in 9 1/3 innings
Nothing to report here. Sedlock, who will turn 23 on June 19, remains on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. The 2016 first-round selection (27th overall) hasn’t pitched in a game since April 19, but he has started a throwing program in Sarasota, Fla. That’s progress, though there is no set timetable for his return.
Matthias Dietz, RHP, Delmarva: The 2016 second-round pick went an abysmal 3-10 with a 4.93 ERA in 26 starts for the Shorebirds last year. And Dietz, 22, hasn’t received much attention this year because of Delmarva’s dominant rotation. But in his past two starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. Overall, Dietz is 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA.
Wilson Garcia, 1B, Frederick: Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the beginning of May, the Venezuela native has been on a tear since he joined the Keys. Garcia, 24, is batting .370 with five home runs, eight doubles, 19 RBIs and 15 runs in 20 games at Frederick. The Carolina League named Garcia as its Player of the Week on Monday.
Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Delmarva: Speaking of overlooked Delmarva pitchers, the 2016 fourth-round selection has stayed under the radar while going 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA. Hanifee, who will turn 20 on May 29, tossed six scoreless innings at Hickory on Monday. Hanifee has pitched at least six innings in all but one start (5 2/3 innings at Lexington on May 11).
Preston Palmeiro, 2B/1B, Frederick: The 2016 seventh-round pick is on an incredible run right now. Palmeiro, 23, currently has a 16-game hitting streak, and he has homered in three of his past five games. During his streak, the son of former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is batting .323 with the three homers, four doubles and 13 RBIs.
Cole Billingsley, OF, Frederick: Although the 2016 19th-round pick had two hits Wednesday against Salem, he has been stuck in a slump. Billingsley, who will turn 24 on May 29, is only batting .183 (19-for-104) in 29 games since he last had back-to-back two-hit performances about a month ago. Overall, he has a .218 average through 45 games.
Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Bowie: The 2014 third-round pick probably wishes he could have another shot at his debut with the Baysox. Gonzalez, 22, was charged with eight runs (six earned), seven hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings at Trenton on Saturday. Although Gonzalez won’t get a mulligan, he’ll look to bounce back tonight at Binghamton.
Jhon Peluffo, RHP, Frederick: Last season, the Colombia native went 6-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 23 games (14 starts) at Delmarva. But this year has been simply disastrous for Peluffo, 20. He has a 2-2 record and a 6.93 ERA in eight games. In his past three starts, Peluffo is 0-2 with an 11.45 ERA. He has walked 10 batters and allowed three homers in that span.
Ademar Rifaela, OF, Bowie: Rifaela, 23, batted .347 with 11 strikeouts in 19 games last month. Through his first 19 games in May, the Curacao native is only hitting .200 with 20 strikeouts. And the difference between the two months was even worse before Rifaela went 5-for-8 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs in a two-game stretch earlier this week.
THE WEEK AHEAD
May 25 – at Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
May 26 – at Toledo, 7:05 p.m.
May 27 – at Toledo, 6:05 p.m.
May 28 – at Toledo, 5:05 p.m.
May 29 – vs. Pawtucket, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – vs. Pawtucket, 6:35 p.m.
May 31 – vs. Pawtucket, 6:35 p.m.
May 25 – at Binghamton, 7:05 p.m.
May 26 – at Binghamton, 6:05 p.m.
May 27 – at Binghamton, 6:35 p.m.
May 28 – at Binghamton, 2:05 p.m.
May 29 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
May 31 – at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
May 25 – at Down East, 7 p.m.
May 26 – at Down East, 6 p.m.
May 27 – at Down East, 2 p.m.
May 28 – at Down East, 4 p.m.
May 29 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 31 – at Wilmington, 6:35 p.m.
May 25 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 26 – vs. Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
May 27 – vs. Lakewood (doubleheader), 1:05 p.m.
May 28 – vs. Lakewood, 2:05 p.m.
May 29 – at Kannapolis, 6:35 p.m.
May 30 – at Kannapolis, 6:35 p.m.
May 31 – at Kannapolis, 6:35 p.m.
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