We’re just more than three weeks away from the most important day in the Orioles’ season.
You know, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
In this nightmare season, Orioles fans don’t have much left to watch except which new prospects will (hopefully) enter the organization between now and then. As always, I’ll do my best to break down the trades that happen in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, we’ll still focus on the players who are already in the organization.
As loyal readers know, the “Dean Jones Report” includes the latest news and notes about the 12 players in my “Dean’s Dozen” rankings. Plus, each week, I provide a handful of players who are either “surging” or “falling” in my eyes. Finally, you’ll see the upcoming schedule for the affiliates from Triple-A Norfolk down through Short-A Aberdeen.
Here is this week’s update:
No. 1: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
(Previous: No. 2)
Statistics: .313, 7 HRs, 32 RBIs, 28 runs in 54 games
With two hits Thursday, the 2015 first-round selection (36th overall) extended his hitting streak to nine games. Mountcastle, 21, has hit safely in 22 of his past 26 games. In that span, he was batting .350 (36-for-103). Mountcastle finished June with a .324 average, 10 extra-base hits (three doubles, three triples and four homers), 14 RBIs and 15 runs in 29 games. At the end of last week, the Eastern League honored him as an All-Star. He’ll represent the Western Division in the game Wednesday.
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); .277, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs, 12 2Bs, 25 runs in 32 games (Norfolk)
Surging. That’s the simple way to (again) describe the 2015 13th-round pick. Mullins, 23, appears to have adjusted to Triple-A pitching after a slow start with the Tides. In a nine-game stretch through Thursday, he was hitting .395 (17-for-43) with six multi-hit performances. In Norfolk’s 10-5 win at Gwinnett on Wednesday, the leadoff hitter went 3-for-6 with a pair of doubles, one RBI and a run scored. He also stole his fifth base in as many attempts since joining the Tides to begin June. Overall, Mullins has 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts this season. That’s what I want to see. His speed appears to be coming back after leg injuries slowed him to just nine stolen bases in 16 attempts in 2017. If Mullins continues to shine, I don’t see any reason for the Orioles to hold him back much longer.
No. 3: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
(Previous: No. 1)
Statistics: .224, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 22 runs in 43 games
Not much action to report about Hays, who turned 23 on Thursday. The 2016 third-round pick remains sidelined due to a right ankle injury, but the organization is hopeful that he will be cleared to have his walking boot removed Monday. That would be a major positive in a rough season for Hays. Although it’s disappointing to see Hays’ struggles this year, it’s still way too early to write him off. He’s still part of the future.
No. 4: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 3)
Statistics: 1-2, 5.57 ERA, 30 Ks, 9 BBs in 32 1/3 innings
Harvey, 23, remains out of action due to instability in his throwing shoulder. But it’s not all bad news for the 2013 first-round pick (22nd overall). After Harvey saw Dr. James Andrews last week, he was cleared to begin a throwing program. And so he has begun throwing – meaning 2018 isn’t completely lost yet. I’m staying “bearish” now, but we’ll see how quickly he can return to the mound.
No. 5: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
(Previous: No. 6)
Statistics: 0-5, 2.82 ERA, 49 Ks, 29 BBs in 54 1/3 innings
In the Shorebirds’ 1-0 loss in 10 innings to Hagerstown on Thursday night, the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) matched a career high with 5 2/3 innings. But it gets better: Hall, 19, didn’t allow any hits in the game. He walked two batters and had seven strikeouts. Last Saturday, Hall pitched four shutout innings as Delmarva beat Lakewood, 7-2. He hasn’t allowed an earned run since the first inning of the Shorebirds’ game at West Virginia on June 15. That’s a span of 16 2/3 innings, which has allowed Hall to lower his ERA to 2.82. With a lot of his former teammates now in Frederick, it’s nice to see Hall stepping up.
No. 6: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
(Previous: No. 7)
Statistics: .260, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs, 41 runs, 16 doubles in 65 games
Stewart, 24, has quietly entered a bit of an offensive funk. The 2015 first-round pick (25th overall) boosted his season average to .278 with three hits in the Tides’ 16-1 rout at Louisville on June 22. In 14 games since he has only batted .196 (10-for-51) with no multi-hit performances. On Wednesday, Stewart went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts at Gwinnett. That’s the first time he struck out four times in a game since he did it with Aberdeen on Aug. 14, 2015, in his first season. So, for now, I’m flipping to “bearish.”
No. 7: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
(Previous: No. 8)
Statistics: 8-5, 2.63 ERA, 92 Ks, 38 BBs in 85 2/3 innings
As I told you last week, the 2016 second-round selection left his start against Akron on June 26 with groin tightness. Akin, 23, missed one turn through the rotation, but he is now scheduled to pitch tonight as the Baysox host Harrisburg. He finished 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five starts in June. The Eastern League named Akin as an All-Star last Friday. He’ll play for the Western Division team in the July 11 game in Trenton, N.J. Although Akin hasn’t pitched in more than a week, I’m still “bullish” because one lost start isn’t going to hurt him.
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); .250, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 2B, 8 runs in 15 games (Bowie)
Believe it or not, I considered turning temporarily “bearish” on McKenna, 21, this week. That’s because he hasn’t hit .377 for the Baysox like he did at Frederick earlier this year. OK, I’m slightly kidding, but one thing to watch: The 2015 fourth-round pick struck out 19 times through his first 1 5games at Bowie. He struck out at least one time in every game except two during that stretch. However, McKenna still hit safely in 11 of those games, including his first double for Bowie on Thursday night. Plus, the Orioles just honored him as the Minor League Player of the Month for the second straight time. Once he’s adjusted, McKenna should be fine at Bowie.
No. 9: Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 10)
Statistics: 5-0, 1.42 ERA, 47 Ks, 13 BBs in 38 innings (Delmarva); 4-2, 4.09 ERA, 34 Ks, 20 BBs in 50 2/3 innings (Frederick)
I’m finally “bearish” on the 2017 third-round selection. Baumann, 22, has been rocked in back-to-back outings for the first time in his career. In his past two starts, Baumann is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in 10 innings. He allowed 17 hits and five walks in that span. After allowing just two homers in his first 78 2/3 innings this season, Baumann gave up four in the last two games. He appears to be in a little bit of a slump. Although I’m flipping in the short term, I’m still optimistic about Baumann’s long-term potential.
No. 10: Zac Lowther, LHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 11)
Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings (Delmarva); 3-1, 1.67 ERA, 30 Ks, 8 BBs in 32 1/3 innings (Frederick)
In his first 11 starts, the 2017 competitive balance round B pick allowed six earned runs. When you compare his last start with those numbers, it looks terrible. But in reality, it wasn’t that bad. Lowther, 22, gave up four runs and five hits – including three homers – in seven innings as the Keys lost, 7-6, to Lynchburg on July 1. Overall, he has surrendered five longballs this year, and they all came in two games. The other two happened April 28, when Lowther was pitching for Delmarva at Hickory. In June, the Orioles named Lowther as their Pitcher of the Month for the second time in 2018. He’ll pitch for the Keys tonight at Carolina.
No. 11: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
(Previous: No. 9)
Statistics: 3-5, 3.90 ERA, 53 Ks, 24 BBs in 80 2/3 innings
In the Keys’ 12-10 loss to Winston-Salem last Friday, the Australia native turned in arguably his worst performance as a professional. Wells, 21, was charged with seven runs and a career-worst 12 hits in four innings. He walked two batters and didn’t strike out anyone for the second straight start. After that game, Wells didn’t make his regular turn through the rotation Wednesday. The Orioles are monitoring his innings, and he’s scheduled to pitch Sunday at Carolina. And it’s important to note that Wells’ ERA remains below 4.00 even with the bad outing. Nevertheless, I’m “bearish” this week.
No. 12: Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Delmarva
(Previous: Not Ranked)
Statistics: 7-3, 2.63 ERA, 62 Ks, 15 BBs in 89 innings
The 2016 fourth-round pick pitched to a no-decision Tuesday as the Shorebirds rallied in the ninth for a 5-2 win at Lakewood. Hanifee, 20, allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings. He struck out six batters and didn’t walk anyone. In fact, Hanifee has only issued three walks in his past 44 1/3 innings. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in a game. Hanifee’s 1.04 WHIP leads the Shorebirds and ranks ninth in the South Atlantic League. In three starts since the All-Star break, Hanifee is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings.
2018 DRAFT SPOTLIGHT
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, GCL Orioles: The club’s first pick (11th overall) made his pro debut Thursday, starting and throwing one scoreless inning for the Gulf Coast League Orioles. The 18-year-old from Texas walked two and struck out one batter versus the GCL Twins. He threw a wild pitch and didn’t allow a hit. His fastball reportedly was clocked between 93 and 95 mph. The other two outs he recorded were via groundballs.
Drew Rom, LHP, GCL Orioles: The fourth-round selection out of a Kentucky high school debuted with four scoreless innings against the GCL Red Sox on June 26. Rom, 18, struck out four batters and allowed only one hit. In his second start, Rom gave up four runs (one earned) and six hits in four innings against the Twins’ affiliate Monday.
Matthias Dietz, RHP, Frederick: On Wednesday, the 2016 second-round pick moved up to the Keys. Dietz, 22, went 6-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 13 starts at Delmarva. He had 67 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings with the Shorebirds. In his Frederick debut, Dietz allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings against Carolina. Still, it’s good to see him on the rise.
Drew Dosch, 3B, Norfolk: Dosch, 26, will join Stewart on the International League All-Star squad next week. The 2013 seventh-round pick is hitting .290 with four homers, 29 RBIs and 18 doubles in 60 games. In June, Dosch batted .320 with 22 RBIs in 22 games. I’m still campaigning for the Orioles to give him a shot at some point.
Wilson Garcia, 1B, Frederick: It doesn’t do the Venezuela native justice to simply say he’s on fire. Through Wednesday, Garcia – who came over from the Philadelphia Phillies on May 1 – was batting .400 with 10 homers and 20 RBIs in 14 games in the second half. He had back-to-back, two-homer games June 28-29 – and then again Tuesday and Wednesday. He stumbled ever-so-slightly Thursday, going 0-for-3 with a walk.
Luis Gonzalez, LHP, Bowie: Speaking of All-Star nods, the Dominican Republic native will represent the Baysox in the Eastern League game July 11. Along with Mountcastle and Akin, he’ll be joined by Bowie catcher Martin Cervenka and infielder Corban Joseph. Gonzalez, 26, was 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 26 appearances (41 innings).
Jimmy Yacabonis, RHP, Norfolk: Like Stewart and Dosch, the 2013 13th-round pick made the International League All-Star team. Yacabonis, 26, is 3-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 14 starts for the Tides. He also has an 8.53 ERA in three games (one start) with the Orioles. In his last outing, Yacabonis held Charlotte to one hit in four scoreless innings Tuesday.
Cole Billingsley, OF, Frederick: Three months into the season, the 2016 19th-round pick continues to hover around the Mendoza line. Billingsley, 24, is hitting .195 in 76 games. He batted slightly better in June – .212 average in 22 games – but had just one hit in his first 13 at-bats this month. He’s sliding down the chart.
Mason McCoy, SS, Delmarva: By most accounts, the 2017 sixth-round selection has held his own at shortstop for the Shorebirds. He is batting .247 with 12 doubles, nine triples and 27 RBIs in 75 games. But McCoy, 23, looks like he may be changing positions – at least temporarily — because Cadyn Grenier, the club’s second-round pick this year, has joined Delmarva. On Thursday, McCoy played second as Grenier, a star at national champion Oregon State University, played shortstop (and went hitless in four at-bats in his pro debut).
Preston Palmeiro, 2B-1B, Frederick: Since the beginning of June, the 2016 seventh-round pick has slumped. Palmeiro, 23, batted .242 with only four extra-base hits (two doubles, two homers) in 26 games last month. He also had just eight RBIs and five walks. In Palmeiro’s first five games in July, he went 3-for-20 (.150) with five strikeouts.
Chris Tillman, RHP, Norfolk: The former top pitcher for the Orioles made his second start at Triple-A on Thursday as part of his injury rehab assignment. On a positive note, Tillman lasted six innings – his longest since hitting the DL with a lower back injury – throwing 84 pitches and giving up four runs. That’s a step in the right direction, results-wise. The negative: He allowed nine hits, two walks, and hit a batter and didn’t strike out anyone. In his four starts in the minors at three levels, Tillman has allowed 18 earned runs in 21 innings (7.71 ERA).
THE WEEK AHEAD
July 6 – at Durham, 7:05 p.m.
July 7 – at Durham, 6:35 p.m.
July 8 – at Durham, 5:05 p.m.
July 9 – OFF
July 10 – OFF
July 11 – Triple-A All-Star Game, 7 p.m.
July 12 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
July 6 – vs. Harrisburg, 7:05 p.m.
July 7 – vs. Harrisburg, 6:35 p.m.
July 8 – vs. Harrisburg, 1:35 p.m.
July 9 – OFF
July 10 – OFF
July 11 – Eastern League All-Star Game, 7 p.m.
July 12 – at Reading, 7:15 p.m.
July 6 – at Carolina, 7 p.m.
July 7 – at Carolina, 5 p.m.
July 8 – at Carolina, 2 p.m.
July 9 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
July 10 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
July 11 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
July 12 – vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.
July 6 – vs. Hagerstown, 7:05 p.m.
July 7 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
July 8 – vs. Hickory, 5:05 p.m.
July 9 – vs. Hickory, 7:05 p.m.
July 10 – OFF
July 11 – at Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
July 12 – at Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
July 6 – at Brooklyn, 6:40 p.m.
July 7 – at Tri-City, 7 p.m.
July 8 – at Tri-City, 5 p.m.
July 9 – at Tri-City, 11 a.m.
July 10 – OFF
July 11 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
July 12 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.