With July just around the corner, it’s time to revamp the “Dean’s Dozen.”
Today, you’ll notice a different order to my rankings of the top 12 Orioles minor leaguers. Most of the names are the same. But you’ll also see a couple new players on the list – and, more important, there’s a fresh name at the top.
Before I get into the details, though, I wanted to touch on a few points.
First, left-handed reliever Tanner Scott has “graduated” from the list. The 2014 sixth-round pick is 0-1 with a 6.41 ERA in 19 games with the Orioles. Scott, who will be 24 on July 22, has struck out 28 batters and issued 10 walks in 19 2/3 innings. With the Orioles out of contention, I’d like to see him stick in the majors for good. We’ll see if that happens.
It’s sort of the same thing for catcher Chance Sisco, who is back in the majors as of Thursday and, as a “graduate,” will remain off my prospects’ list for now.
Also, you’ll notice that I haven’t included 2018 first-round selection Grayson Rodriguez – or any of this year’s picks. I considered putting Rodriguez, 18, on the list, but I’d like to see how he pitches this summer before deciding on his spot in the rankings.
Finally, outfielder Anthony Santander was on my initial 2018 list before the season. But since the Rule 5 pick started the season in the majors, I replaced him in my April update. After the Venezuela native struggled in 33 games, the Orioles sent him down to Double-A Bowie. Santander is doing well there, but I just couldn’t find a spot in my updated top 12.
Let’s get to the latest “Dean Jones Report.” As regular readers know, it’s my way to share updated news about the players in my “Dean’s Dozen.” You’ll also see which other players are “surging” and “falling” with their recent play. And, finally, I’ll post the upcoming schedule for the affiliates from Triple-A Norfolk through Short-A Aberdeen.
No. 1: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
(Previous: No. 2)
Statistics: .306, 7 HRs, 30 RBIs, 25 runs in 47 games
With Austin Hays’ struggles at the plate, as well as the concerns with his ankle, I moved the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) to the No. 1 spot. Mountcastle, 21, has really heated up in the past week. His average fell to a season-low .265 after a June 20 doubleheader. But in his past nine games, Mountcastle has hit .471 (16-for-34) with five multi-hit performances. In a doubleheader at Richmond last Saturday, Mountcastle (pictured above) went 6-for-7 with a double, a triple and two RBIs. He tied a season high with three strikeouts in Bowie’s 13-3 loss to Akron on Wednesday night. That’s not enough for me to sour on Mountcastle at this point. I’m remaining “bullish” again this week.
No. 2: Cedric Mullins, OF, Norfolk
(Previous: No. 4)
Statistics: .313, 6 HRs, 12 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs in 49 games (Bowie); .243, 2 HRs, 11 RBIs, 9 2Bs, 19 runs in 26 games (Norfolk)
Mullins, 23, earned the bump higher in my rankings because of his play at Bowie, as well as the injuries to Hays and right-hander Hunter Harvey. The 2015 13th-round selection hasn’t dominated at Norfolk yet, but he does have nine doubles in 26 games and hit his second Triple-A triple Thursday as part of a multi-hit effort, his third in Norfolk’s last four contests. In the second game of a doubleheader Monday, Mullins went 2-for-4 with two runs scored as the Tides beat Gwinnett, 7-4. He also had two hits – including an RBI double – and scored twice in Norfolk’s 6-5 win over the Stripers on Wednesday. While Mullins has some things to work on, I still believe the Orioles should give him a shot later this summer.
No. 3: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
(Previous: No. 1)
Statistics: .224, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 22 runs in 43 games
A lost season – so far, at least – for the 2016 third-round pick continues. Hays, who will turn 23 next Thursday, has been sidelined since May 24 because of a right ankle injury. For now, he remains in a walking boot. After hitting .329 with 32 homers, 32 doubles and 95 RBIs in 128 games between Frederick and Bowie last year, Hays is only batting .224 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 43 games for the Baysox in 2018. Due to his struggles, I bumped Hays down a bit in my midseason update. We’ll see if he can work his way back.
No. 4: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 3)
Statistics: 1-2, 5.57 ERA, 30 Ks, 9 BBs in 32 1/3 innings
It’s usually not a good sign if you need to see Dr. James Andrews – as the 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) had to do this week. But for now, the Orioles remain cautiously optimistic that Harvey, 23, won’t face an extensive rehabilitation process (again) as he deals with instability in his throwing shoulder. Nevertheless, the latest injury forces me to drop Harvey down a notch in my updated rankings. With a 1-2 record and 5.57 ERA in nine starts, he wasn’t dominating Double-A competition anyway. If Harvey can ever get fully healthy, he could be a top-of-the-rotation anchor. But that’s a big “if” again today.
No. 5: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
(Previous: No. 6)
Statistics: 0-5, 3.43 ERA, 39 Ks, 23 BBs in 44 2/3 innings
In his latest appearance, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) pitched four innings out of the bullpen Monday in relief of right-hander Chris Tillman (and left-handed reliever Max Knutson, who finished the fourth inning for Tillman). Hall, 19, allowed three unearned runs and three hits – including a two-run homer in the sixth – during the Shorebirds’ 5-0 loss to Hagerstown. He had three strikeouts and also issued one walk. Despite giving up three runs, I’m still “bullish” on Hall. In his past three outings, he has a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings. In case you were wondering, Hall continues to throw between 70 and 80 pitches per game. He is scheduled to pitch for the Shorebirds at Lakewood on Saturday night.
No. 6: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
(Previous: No. 7)
Statistics: .268, 8 HRs, 34 RBIs, 39 runs in 58 games
I know some people don’t believe Stewart, 24, can have a successful career in the majors. But as the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) moves up the ladder, he just keeps proving the doubters wrong. Earlier this week, Stewart was picked as an International League All-Star – along with two other Tides, infielder Drew Dosch and right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis. Last Friday, Stewart went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer, an RBI single and four runs scored as the Tides routed Louisville, 16-1. I’ll say it again: Despite the criticisms about Stewart, the Orioles have no excuse not to give him a shot this summer.
No. 7: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 8)
Statistics: 8-5, 2.63 ERA, 92 Ks, 38 BBs in 85 2/3 innings
Truthfully, I wanted to put the 2016 second-round pick higher in my “Dean’s Dozen” this week. But I couldn’t justify moving anyone else below him. Akin, 23, has pitched extremely well through the first three months of the season. He is 8-5 with a 2.63 ERA (second in the Eastern League) and 92 strikeouts (first in the league) in 85 2/3 innings. Akin had a bit of a scare in his most recent start against Akron on Tuesday. After walking six batters and giving up two runs in four innings, he left the game with groin tightness. At this point, it doesn’t seem to be a big concern. Still, it’s a situation that we’ll have to monitor. For now, though, I’m firmly in the “bullish” camp on Akin.
No. 8: Ryan McKenna, OF, Bowie
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: .377, 8 HRs, 18 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 37 RBIs, 60 runs in 67 games (Frederick); .241, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, 0 2Bs, 5 runs in 8 games (Bowie)
Thankfully, I’m not the only writer who failed to account for the 2015 fourth-round selection in the preseason rankings. But I’m fixing that now with McKenna, 21, after his thunderous start with the Keys. In 67 games, he batted an incredible .377 with 28 extra-base hits (eight homers, 18 doubles, two triples) and 60 runs. So far with the Baysox, McKenna hasn’t been as hot. He is only hitting .240 (7-for-29) with no extra-base hits and five runs in eight games. It’s worth noting that he does have two multi-hit performances and a .353 on-base percentage in that span. So, I’m going to give him a little bit more time to adjust to the higher level before making any judgment. For now, I’m still “bullish.”
No. 9: Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 10)
Statistics: 5-0, 1.42 ERA, 47 Ks, 13 BBs in 38 innings (Delmarva); 4-1, 3.55 ERA, 30 Ks, 16 BBs in 45 2/3 innings (Frederick)
Talk about bad timing for Baumann, 22, to have his worst professional start. I moved the 2017 third-round pick up a spot to No. 9 this week, fully expecting to talk about his continued dominance of the Carolina League. Instead, Baumann gave up seven runs and 10 hits – including two homers to Gilman School graduate Gavin Sheets – in five innings Thursday in the Keys’ 10-8 loss to Winston-Salem. With the outing, his ERA after eight starts at Frederick jumped more than a full run to 3.55. Still, one bad start isn’t going to spin me to “bearish” on Baumann. It’s a minor setback, but don’t be worried yet.
No. 10: Zac Lowther, LHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 11)
Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings (Delmarva); 3-0, 0.71 ERA, 25 Ks, 8 BBs in 25 1/3 innings (Frederick)
Again, I wish I could put Lowther, 22, higher than No. 10 on this list. But if you were me, who would you bump down to make room for the 2017 competitive balance round B selection? Since moving up to Frederick, Lowther is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in five starts. He has 25 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings – which looks poor when you compare it with the 51 strikeouts he had in 31 innings at Delmarva before his promotion. In his latest start, Lowther held Winston-Salem to one run and four hits in five innings Tuesday. He struck out six batters and walked two. Right now, Lowther still gets my vote as the Orioles’ “Minor League Pitcher of the Year.” But Akin and Baumann also have made great cases. The next two months will be key.
No. 11: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 9)
Statistics: 3-4, 3.29 ERA, 53 Ks, 22 BBs in 76 2/3 innings
If there’s an innocent victim in my midseason reshuffling, it’s the Australia native. Wells, 21, has pitched decently for the Keys, but he has simply been overshadowed by other pitchers like Baumann and Lowther. In 14 starts, Wells is 3-4 with a respectable 3.29 ERA. In the Keys’ 7-1 loss at Salem on Sunday, Wells held the Red Sox to one unearned run and four hits in six innings. The one thing to watch – as I’ve alluded to many times before – is that Wells has walked 22 batters in 76 2/3 innings this year. In 202 2/3 innings over his first two professional seasons, he issued only 19 total walks. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s worth monitoring. Wells will start tonight for the Keys in the series finale against Winston-Salem.
No. 12: Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Delmarva
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: 7-3, 2.63 ERA, 56 Ks, 15 BBs in 82 innings
Hanifee, 20, makes his debut in my “Dean’s Dozen” this week. The 2016 fourth-round selection tossed his third straight quality start Thursday in the Shorebirds’ 8-3 win at Greensboro. Hanifee held the Grasshoppers to two runs and seven hits in six innings. In his past three starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings. With Baumann and Lowther moved up to Frederick, Hanifee is the biggest draw left in Delmarva’s rotation. While right-hander Matthias Dietz has had a nice bounceback year, Hanifee has greater upside. I’m excited to track his progress on a weekly basis throughout the rest of the season.
2018 DRAFT SPOTLIGHT
John Ham, SS, GCL Orioles: The 31st-round pick out of Tennessee Tech University started his professional career with six straight hits. Ham, 21, went 4-for-4 with a double and a two-run homer in the GCL Orioles’ 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays’ affiliate last Saturday. He went 0-for-5 Thursday, but his average sits at a robust .458 with eight runs scored in six games.
Trevor Craport, 1B-3B, Delmarva: If you just look at his average, you might think the 2017 11th-round pick has had a rough June. Craport, who will turn 22 in August, is only batting .222 this month. But he has started hitting well again lately – nearly .300 in his past 10 games — including two homers and five RBIs in Delmarva’s 20-2 win at Greensboro on Wednesday and two more hits and two more RBIs Thursday in an 8-3 win against the Grasshoppers.
Zach Jarrett, OF, Delmarva: The son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett has shined this month. Jarrett, 23, is hitting .363 with 10 doubles and 17 RBIs in 24 June games. Overall, the 2017 28th-round selection has a .309 average, 10 homers and 43 RBIs in 72 games. He had back-to-back, two-hit games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Zach Muckenhirn, LHP, Bowie: I haven’t written about the 2016 11th-round pick in a while, but longtime readers know I loved his move to relief. Muckenhirn, 23, seems to have found a home in the bullpen. The Orioles promoted him to Bowie on Wednesday – his third level this year. Overall, Muckenhirn is 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.
Seamus Curran, 1B, Delmarva: Fresh off the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, the 2015 eighth-round selection landed on the disabled list Monday with a strained intercostal muscle. Curran, 20, hadn’t played since going 0-for-3 last Thursday in the Shorebirds’ 9-0 loss to Kannapolis. He is hitting .245 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 59 games this year.
Brian Gonzalez, LHP, Bowie: Through seven starts since moving to the Baysox, the 2014 third-round pick is 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA. Gonzalez, 22, has allowed 30 runs (26 earned) while striking out only 23 batters in 28 2/3 innings. It’s unfortunate because he seemed to be turning the corner with a 2-2 record and 3.18 ERA at Frederick through mid-May.
Lucas Long, RHP, Bowie: Last year, the 2014 24th-round selection went 9-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 31 games (14 starts) for the Baysox. But this year has been a disaster for Long, 25. He was touched up for eight runs, seven hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings as Bowie lost, 13-3, to Akron on Wednesday. Long is now 1-9 with a 6.40 ERA in 18 games (10 starts).
Ryan Ripken, 1B-DH, Delmarva: With the Shorebirds, the son of “Iron Man” Cal Ripken Jr., batted an impressive .303 with eight RBIs in 19 games in April. But Ripken, who will turn 25 on July 26, has slumped over the past two months. He is hitting .201 in 39 games in May and June. Since June 5, he only has one multi-hit game.
THE WEEK AHEAD
June 29 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
June 30 – vs. Durham, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – vs. Durham, 1:05 p.m.
July 2 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
July 3 – vs. Charlotte, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
July 5 – at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
June 30 – at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 2 – at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 3 – at Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – vs. Harrisburg, 6:35 p.m.
July 5 – vs. Harrisburg, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – vs. Winston-Salem, 7 p.m.
June 30 – vs. Lynchburg, 6 p.m.
July 1 – vs. Lynchburg, 2 p.m.
July 2 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.
July 3 – vs. Lynchburg, 7 p.m.
July 4 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
July 5 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
June 29 – at Greensboro, 7 p.m.
June 30 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
July 1 – at Lakewood, 1:05 p.m.
July 2 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
July 3 – at Lakewood, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – vs. Hagerstown, 6:05 p.m.
July 5 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
June 29 – at Lowell, 6:35 p.m.
June 30 – at Lowell, 5:35 p.m.
July 1 – vs. Hudson Valley, 4:05 p.m.
July 2 – vs. Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
July 3 – vs. Hudson Valley, 7:05 p.m.
July 4 – at Brooklyn, 6 p.m.
July 5 – at Brooklyn, 7 p.m.