Dean Jones Report: McKenna promoted; Akin and Lowther continue dominance - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dean Jones Report

Dean Jones Report: McKenna promoted; Akin and Lowther continue dominance

Photo credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

It’s officially summer.

That doesn’t mean much to the Orioles, who will likely finish in last place in the American League East when this season comes to a merciful end about a week after fall officially arrives in late September. But for fans who follow BaltimoreBaseball.com, it’s great news.

That’s because it’s almost time for the midseason update of my “Dean’s Dozen.” As regular readers know, that’s what I call my rankings of the top 12 Orioles minor leaguers.

Next week, I’ll reorganize the names on my list. Most of the players will stay in the top 12, but some newcomers will enter the fray after turning heads during the first three months of the year. (Can you believe we’re almost three months into the season? Time flies.)

Anyway, I just wanted to give you an early “heads up” on what I’m planning for next Friday. With that out of the way, let’s jump right into the 10th “Dean Jones Report” of the season.

In addition to the latest news and notes about the players in my “Dean’s Dozen,” you’ll also find a list of players who are “surging” or “falling” recently. And, at the bottom, you’ll see the upcoming schedule for the affiliates from Triple-A Norfolk through Short-A Aberdeen.

DEAN’S DOZEN

No. 1: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie

BEARISH

Statistics: .224, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 22 runs in 43 games

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The 2016 third-round pick remains out of the lineup because of a right ankle injury. Hays, who will turn 23 on July 5, hasn’t played for the Baysox since May 24. Initially, the injury was believed to be minor. However, he’s not been cleared to ditch his walking boot. While it doesn’t appear that the ankle injury will have any long-term effects on Hays’ career, it’s just another black mark on a disappointing season. But the year isn’t over. We’ll see if Hays can make a return in the second half and carry some momentum heading into 2019.

No. 2: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: .279, 6 HRs, 26 RBIs, 20 runs in 39 games

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Heading into Thursday’s game at Harrisburg, the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) had hit safely in eight of his past 10 games. That’s a little misleading, though. Mountcastle, 21, only had a .237 average (9-for-38) and one multi-hit performance in that stretch. As a result, his average has dipped more than 30 percentage points from my last update (June 8) – when he was batting .297 – to .265 through Wednesday. Mountcastle did hit a solo homer – his sixth of the season – in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday. And then, he had three hits Thursday to raise his average back to .279. Maybe that’s the spark that he needs to get going. For now, I’m going to ride the momentum and stay “bullish.”

No. 3: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie

BEARISH

Statistics: 1-2, 5.57 ERA, 30 Ks, 9 BBs in 32 1/3 innings

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When it rains, it pours. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the Orioles this season, the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall) was shut down indefinitely earlier this month because of “posterior shoulder instability” in his throwing arm, as my colleague Dan Connolly reported. Harvey, 23, has already dealt with a long list of injuries and medical procedures in his professional career – including Tommy John elbow-ligament-reconstruction surgery in July 2016. He also didn’t pitch at all in the 2015 season due to arm trouble. It’s too soon to speculate on what Harvey’s future holds, but this obviously isn’t good news.

No. 4: Cedric Mullins, OF, Norfolk

BULLISH

Statistics: .313, 6 HRs, 12 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs in 49 games (Bowie); .225, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 2Bs, 9 runs in 18 games (Norfolk)

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If you’ve read my updates the past couple of seasons, you know I’m long-term bullish on the 2015 13th-round selection. Although Mullins, 23, was only hitting .206 in 17 games with Norfolk through Wednesday, he already had six doubles since his promotion from Bowie – including five in a four-game stretch from June 10 to June 13. He had two more hits on Thursday, including his second home run – a two-run shot – at Triple-A. Mullins was also successful in his first three stolen-base attempts with the Tides and is 12-for-13 between the two levels this year. If he can start hitting more consistently, the Orioles could promote him later this summer.

No. 5: Tanner Scott, LHP, Orioles

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-1, 0.75 ERA, 13 Ks, 9 BBs in 12 innings (Norfolk); 0-1, 6.11 ERA, 24 Ks, 6 BBs in 17 2/3 innings (Orioles)

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For some reason, the 2014 sixth-round pick took a quick road trip south on the Norfolk-Baltimore Express earlier this month. Scott, 23, went down to the Tides for less than a week before he returned to the majors. In that time, he was charged with his first earned run in 12 innings at the Triple-A level. Scott suffered the loss after giving up two walks, a single and a sacrifice fly in second game of a doubleheader against Gwinnett on June 12. He has made three more appearances since returning to the Orioles on June 15. On Tuesday, Scott was roughed up in the Orioles’ 9-7 loss to the Washington Nationals. He surrendered three straight hits to start the seventh and ultimately was charged with three runs in one-third of an inning. Regardless, Scott doesn’t have anything else to prove in the minors. With the Orioles floundering in last place, he should stay in the majors.

No. 6: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva

BULLISH

Statistics: 0-5, 3.76 ERA, 36 Ks, 22 BBs in 40 2/3 innings

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Although the 2017 first-round selection (21st overall) continues to search for his first professional win, he held opponents in check during two starts since my last update. Hall, 19, gave up two hits and two walks in three scoreless innings in Delmarva’s 4-3 loss in 11 innings to Hagerstown on June 10. Five days later, he allowed one run and four hits as the Shorebirds lost, 8-2, at West Virginia. Hall struck out five batters and issued two walks in four innings. Although Hall has been rather average over the past two months (4.50 ERA in 30 innings) after posting an impressive 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings in April, he lowered his season ERA to 3.76 to close the first half. Nevertheless, his 1.43 WHIP – including a 1.85 WHIP in June – needs to improve. We’ll see if Hall can do that in the second half.

No. 7: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk

BULLISH

Statistics: .269, 6 HRs, 28 RBIs, 28 runs in 50 games

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On June 12, the 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) returned from the disabled list after missing a little more than two weeks with an injured right hamstring. Stewart, 24, had four doubles, but he had only driven in two runs since his return. In the Tides’ 11-4 rout over Charlotte on Sunday, Stewart went 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. He also had a two-hit game against the Knights on June 15. With the Orioles out of contention, I’d love to see Stewart get a call-up this year. Of course, since I write about these guys so much, I’d enjoy seeing them all in the majors as soon as possible.

No. 8: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie

BULLISH

Statistics: 8-5, 2.53 ERA, 87 Ks, 32 BBs in 81 2/3 innings

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In four starts this month, the 2016 second-round selection is 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA. Akin, 23, had 24 strikeouts and only gave up only 16 hits in 24 innings during that stretch. Opponents are batting .190 against Akin in June after posting a .192 average in 36 2/3 innings versus him last month. On Thursday, Akin picked up the victory for the fourth time in his past five starts. He held Harrisburg to one run and five hits while tying a season high with seven innings as the Baysox won, 2-1. Akin struck out nine hitters and walked three.

No. 9: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 3-4, 3.57 ERA, 53 Ks, 19 BBs in 70 2/3 innings

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Wells, 21, has yet to pick up a win in three starts this month. However, the Australia native has posted a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings in that stretch. In the Keys’ 1-0 win in 10 innings over Lynchburg on June 11, Wells struck out nine Hillcats batters in eight scoreless frames. He only allowed three hits in his longest professional start. Five days later, Wells didn’t factor in the decision for the second straight game as Frederick beat Down East, 9-5. He surrendered two runs and seven hits – including a home run – in four innings. Overall, Wells keeps finding ways to minimize the damage. As a result, I’m staying “bullish” this week. Wells is scheduled to make his first start of the second half Sunday in the series finale at Salem.

No. 10: Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 5-0, 1.42 ERA, 47 Ks, 13 BBs in 38 innings (Delmarva); 4-0, 2.34 ERA, 22 Ks, 12 BBs in 34 2/3 innings (Frederick)

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In the Keys’ final game of the first half, the 2017 third-round selection gave up a career-high three earned runs in five innings against Down East on Sunday. That should tell you something about how well Baumann, 22, has pitched in his first calendar year in the organization. He surrendered five unearned runs in four innings during one start for Aberdeen last August. Other than that, Baumann hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a game before last weekend. The bright side of that outing? He threw 43 of his 63 pitches for strikes. Between Delmarva and Frederick, Baumann is 9-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 13 starts. He’ll look to remain perfect when he takes the mound Saturday night for the Keys at Salem.

No. 11: Zac Lowther, LHP, Frederick

BULLISH

Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings (Delmarva); 3-0, 0.44 ERA, 19 Ks, 6 BBs in 20 1/3 innings (Frederick)

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Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better, the 2017 competitive balance round B pick does. Lowther, 22, has pitched to a miniscule 0.44 ERA in four starts since moving up to the Keys at the end of last month. He threw five innings Thursday night at Salem, holding the Red Sox to one unearned run and four hits. Lowther struck out four and issued two walks. In his two starts before Thursday, Lowther had pitched 11 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts, 10 hits and only one walk. In other words, since moving up to Frederick, Lowther has made his 1.16 ERA in six starts at Delmarva look rather pedestrian.

No. 12: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Frederick

BEARISH

Statistics: 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 6 Ks, 9 BBs in 9 1/3 innings

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Spoiler alert: You won’t see Sedlock, who turned 23 on Tuesday, featured regularly in my weekly updates for the rest of the season. That doesn’t mean the first-round selection (27th overall) will disappear entirely from the “Dean Jones Report.” I’ll still pass along necessary updates, but he’ll fall out of my “Dean’s Dozen” next week for another deserving – and healthy — player.

SURGING

Drew Dosch, 3B, Norfolk: The Orioles called up utility player Steve Wilkerson this week, but I’ve often wondered why they don’t give a shot to the 2013 seventh-round pick. Dosch, who will turn 26 on Sunday, is hitting .294 with 16 doubles in 50 games and picked up his 22nd RBI Thursday. But he had 23 errors in 104 games at third base in 2017. That might be why, though he has just four errors in 29 starts at third this year.

Branden Kline, RHP, Bowie: The feel-good story continues for the 2012 second-round selection and Thomas Johnson High school alum. Kline, 26, has been nearly untouchable since moving up to the Baysox a little more than a month ago. In 10 appearances for Bowie, he is 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Kline has 17 strikeouts in 19 innings at Double-A.

Ryan McKenna, OF, Bowie: Finally, the Orioles made the right move Thursday and promoted the 2015 fourth-round pick to the Baysox. McKenna, 21, finished the first half with a .377 average, eight homers, 37 RBIs, 60 runs and 17 doubles in 67 games at Frederick. If McKenna (pictured above) can keep it going at Bowie, he’ll keep flying up the prospect charts.

Yefry Ramirez, RHP, Norfolk: Officially, the Dominican Republic native recorded the loss and a 6.23 ERA in 4 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on June 13. But Ramirez, 24, flashed some promise with six strikeouts in the Orioles’ 5-1 defeat. In his first game back with the Tides, Ramirez pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings at Indianapolis on Tuesday.

FALLING

Gray Fenter, RHP, Aberdeen: After posting a 3-3 record and 6.75 ERA in 14 appearances (two starts) for the Shorebirds earlier this year, the 2015 seventh-round pick was sent back to the IronBirds when their season began last week. Fenter, 22, surrendered four runs, four hits and four walks in four innings during Aberdeen’s 6-1 loss to Tri-City on Monday.

Adam Hall, SS, Aberdeen: The 2017 second-round selection hit safely in four of his first six games with the IronBirds. But Hall, 19, is only batting .185 (3-for-22) with one extra-base hit. On Tuesday, he struck out three times and walked once in five plate appearances. Aberdeen is just getting started, so don’t be concerned yet. We’ll see how he finishes.

Chris Tillman, RHP, Aberdeen (for now): Tillman, 30, didn’t do much in his first injury-rehab assignment to quell the doubters. He gave up three runs, two hits and two walks in the first inning Wednesday for the IronBirds against Tri-City. Tillman (lower back strain) bounced back with a 1-2-3 second. He’ll pitch next for Delmarva on Monday.

Doran Turchin, OF, Aberdeen: Yikes. It hasn’t been a good introduction to pro baseball for the 2018 14th-round selection. Turchin, who will turn 21 on July 7, is hitting .143 (3-for-21) with 10 strikeouts through his first six games. He had four multi-strikeout games before notching two doubles and two walks Thursday. We’ll see if that gets him going.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Norfolk (36-33)

June 22 – at Louisville, 7 p.m.

June 23 – at Louisville, 6:30 p.m.

June 24 – at Louisville, 6 p.m.

June 25 – vs. Gwinnett (doubleheader), 5:05 p.m.

June 26 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.

June 27 – vs. Gwinnett, 12:05 p.m.

June 28 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.

Bowie (31-39)

June 22 – at Richmond, 7:05 p.m.

June 23 – at Richmond (doubleheader), 5:05 p.m.

June 24 – at Richmond, 1:05 p.m.

June 25 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.

June 26 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.

June 27 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.

June 28 – vs. Akron, 7:05 p.m.

Frederick (36-34)

June 22 – at Salem, 7:05 p.m.

June 23 – at Salem, 6:05 p.m.

June 24 – at Salem, 4:05 p.m.

June 25 – vs. Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

June 26 – vs. Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

June 27 – vs. Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

June 28 – vs. Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.

Delmarva (35-33)

June 22 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.

June 23 – vs. Kannapolis, 7:05 p.m.

June 24 – vs. Hagerstown, 5:05 p.m.

June 25 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.

June 26 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.

June 27 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.

June 28 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.

Aberdeen (3-4)

June 22 – at Staten Island, 7 p.m.

June 23 – at Staten Island, 7 p.m.

June 24 – vs. Vermont, 4:05 p.m.

June 25 – vs. Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

June 26 – vs. Vermont, 7:05 p.m.

June 27 – OFF

June 28 – at Lowell, 6:35 p.m.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Bancells Moustache

    June 22, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I was excited about this McKenna guy potentially rocketing through the bush leagues. Then I saw the above photo, my first time clapping eyes on the young man and changed my mind. You can try al you want with the facial hair but, dude, but your like 14.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2018 at 11:18 pm

      That was a ST shot. Mustache may be thicker by now (or gone).

  2. Gregblick

    June 22, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Hey Dean,
    I was hoping to get a little insight from you on an aspect of baseball organizations I know little about. From a scouting standpoint how does it work. I guess what I mean more or less is how is it structured. I’ve been searching for some insight into baseball scouting but there is very limited resources available the average fan.

    With the orioles season being the way it is, the only thing I look forward to is the imminent trades that need to be made. I am also not very optimistic about our ability to garner the best deals based off previous trades this FO has done.

    So how many scouts do we have, and what do they scout. (I.E. Other major league teams for upcoming series, minor league, next years draft prospects) also how does it stack up against other teams. Do they scout one league, one team, one organization?

    Finally is there anyway to check on previous history of those said scouts, such as this the guy who scouts this region? Reason I ask is that I hope we are telling our best scouts to scout the minors to get the best prospects.

    Any insight would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Greg

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      I’ll take this one. Really complex question that’s hard to answer on this forum. The Orioles have three types of “scouts.” One is the pro scout, the guy who watches minor league and major league games. The Orioles have not filled several of these positions in the past few years. This is where they could use more numbers. They have done away with their advance scouting (upcoming teams) and that responsibility is picked up by video scouting, which is what it sounds like. They also have amateur scouts that prepare for the draft. And then an analytic department that crunches numbers and trends and provides analysis of other teams that way.

  3. Dblack2508

    June 22, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    What is the cap on innings with the minor league pitcher’s? I see Aiken is over 80plus innings.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 22, 2018 at 11:25 pm

      None has been mentioned specifically. But I’m sure they will back off as the season progresses, maybe per outing to keep the overall numbers down.

  4. centralscrutinizer

    June 23, 2018 at 7:30 am

    It is nice that someone finally acknowledges Drew Dosch’s existence. This young man deserves a shot. So he should be promoted or traded.

    • Jbigle1

      June 24, 2018 at 11:00 pm

      Dosch was rule 5 eligible this offseason so any number of teams could’ve grabbed him there. Not many teams out there that will have a more wide open field for playing time. Save the marlins and Royals. I’m sure we’ll see Dosch before long.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 25, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Ive asked scouts about him and the answer is always that he’s just another guy. That he is fine but nothing stands out. Sometimes those guys just ride the shuttle and go away and sometimes they thrive when they get a shot. We will see.

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