As a professional ballplayer, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez still hasn’t allowed a hit.
The Orioles’ first-round pick (11th overall) last month tossed two hitless innings Wednesday afternoon for the Gulf Coast League Orioles against Boston’s rookie level affiliate. Rodriguez, 18, struck out two hitters and walked one in the GCL Orioles’ 11-1 loss.
In his professional debut last Thursday, Rodriguez issued two walks and had one strikeout in one inning as the GCL Orioles lost, 2-1, to the Minnesota Twins’ affiliate. So, we’re obviously talking about a small sample size. But it’s still encouraging to see Rodriguez getting off on the right foot. We’ll see what happens as he keeps making brief appearances this year.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ second pick in this year’s draft – competitive balance round A selection Cadyn Grenier out of Oregon State University – has had mixed results so far.
Grenier, 21, debuted last Thursday with Low-A Delmarva. The shortstop earned his first three RBIs as a professional in the Shorebirds’ 6-0 win at Charleston on Wednesday. He hit a bases-clearing double with no outs in the top of the third against the RiverDogs. He added two more doubles Thursday and has quickly boosted his average to .269 with four doubles and a triple in seven pro games.
That’s a nice rebound after going hitless in three of his first five games for the Shorebirds.
You might have noticed that I’ve added a “2018 Draft Spotlight” section to my weekly update. I’m planning to cycle through some of these players for the rest of the year, but I’ll also try to write additional updates on the more notable names in the coming weeks.
Let’s get into this week’s “Dean Jones Report.”
No. 1: Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, Bowie
Statistics (through Wednesday): .316, 8 HRs, 36 RBIs, 30 runs in 57 games
The 2015 first-round pick (36th overall) will represent the Orioles as a member of the U.S. team in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Nationals Park. That means Mountcastle, 21, will briefly leave the Baysox this weekend. He also participated in the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday. Mountcastle entered the game in the sixth inning and went 0-for-2 with one strikeout. Meanwhile, he has remained hot in the games that count. In nine games this month, Mountcastle is hitting .371 (15-for-40) with six doubles, one homer and seven RBIs. He went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer, a walk and two runs in Bowie’s 8-4 win over Harrisburg on Sunday. On Thursday, Mountcastle had two-hits to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest for a Baysox player this season. His two-run, two-out double in the ninth inning Thursday paced a six-run rally that gave Bowie a 7-5 victory over Reading.
No. 2: Cedric Mullins, OF, Norfolk
Statistics (through Wednesday): .313, 6 HRs, 12 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs in 49 games (Bowie); .279, 4 HRs, 15 RBIs, 13 2Bs, 29 runs in 36 games (Norfolk)
I’m anxiously awaiting the 2015 13th-round selection’s big-league debut. I know the Orioles likely want Mullins, 23, to play every day once he gets the call. But I’d still like it to happen sooner rather than later. Mullins went 4-for-12 (.333) in the Tides’ three-game series at Durham to wrap up the first half. He hit a solo homer to lead off Friday’s game, which wound up being the only run in Norfolk’s 1-0 win over the Bulls. On Saturday, Mullins went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs as the Tides blanked Durham for the second straight game, 5-0. Then, on Sunday, he had a single and a walk as Norfolk fell, 7-4. He had a double and a run scored Thursday in a 4-1 loss to Gwinnett.
No. 3: Austin Hays, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .224, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs, 22 runs in 43 games
A little bit of news came out Thursday about the 2016 third-round pick who has been sidelined with an ankle injury for seven weeks. He received an injection in the ankle Monday and will be able to resume baseball activities in a week, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. If you’re looking for more optimism, you should check out Hays’ Twitter page. In the 23-year-old’s words, he’s “hungry to get back on that grind.” I’m sure Orioles fans reading this post are ready for that, too.
No. 4: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Bowie
Statistics: 1-2, 5.57 ERA, 30 Ks, 9 BBs in 32 1/3 innings
The 2013 first-round selection (22nd overall) still doesn’t have a set date to return to the mound with the Baysox as he continues to work his way back from instability in his throwing shoulder. But Harvey, 23, started throwing last week. We’ll monitor his progress as the summer moves along. It’d be a big step to see Harvey finish strong in 2018. Stay tuned.
No. 5: DL Hall, LHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 1-5, 2.54 ERA, 57 Ks, 29 BBs in 60 1/3 innings
A couple of decades from now, as we all settle in to witness the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the 2017 first-round pick (21st overall), we’ll probably look back on July 11, 2018 as a landmark day. OK, that’s taking a leap over the Grand Canyon at this point. After all, Hall, 19, can’t even legally drink yet and he’s in Low-A ball. Nevertheless, Wednesday marked a major milestone as he picked up his first professional win. Hall pitched a career-high six innings in the Shorebirds’ 6-0 victory at Charleston. He struck out eight batters and held the RiverDogs to just two hits. In his past six starts, he has a 0.34 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. That’s just one earned run in that span.
No. 6: DJ Stewart, OF, Norfolk
Statistics: .253, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs, 41 runs, 16 doubles in 67 games
Stewart, 24, went 0-for-6 with three walks in two starts during the Tides’ series at Durham to end the first half. Overall, the 2015 first-round selection (25th overall) is only hitting .125 (3-for-24) with two RBIs and seven strikeouts in seven games this month. And Stewart’s struggles actually extend back to June 22. As I mentioned last week, he had three hits in Norfolk’s 16-1 lopsided win over Louisville that day. But since then, Stewart doesn’t have any multi-hit performances. So why am I back to “bullish” again this week? It’s simple. Stewart went 3-for-3 with one RBI and two runs in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday. Only one other player had three hits in the game, even though the Pacific Coast League and International League teams combined for 29 hits. We’ll see if Stewart can carry the momentum over into the second half. If not, I’ll have to go back to “bearish.”
No. 7: Keegan Akin, LHP, Bowie
Statistics: 8-6, 2.98 ERA, 95 Ks, 42 BBs in 87 2/3 innings
In the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, the 2016 second-round pick tossed a scoreless inning for the Western Division team in the 4-4 tie. But it wasn’t exactly pretty. Akin, 23, allowed a leadoff double to Hartford’s Brendan Rodgers before throwing a wild pitch to allow him to move to third base. After walking New Hampshire’s Cavan Biggio, though, Akin recovered to retire the next three hitters – including two with strikeouts. In Bowie’s 11-0 loss to Harrisburg last Friday, Akin surrendered four runs, three hits and four walks in two innings. He also hit a batter. Overall, Akin has walked 10 batters in six innings over his past two starts. That’s a little unsettling, but he has also dealt with some groin tightness. So, for now, I’m willing to write it off and remain “bullish.” But it’s definitely a situation that we’ll want to monitor as the second half begins this week.
No. 8: Ryan McKenna, OF, Bowie
Statistics: .377, 8 HRs, 18 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 37 RBIs, 60 runs in 67 games (Frederick); .274, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 3 2Bs, 10 runs in 19 games (Bowie)
Heading into the opener of the second half Thursday, the 2015 fourth-round selection was riding a nine-game hitting streak. He extended it to 10 games with two singles. McKenna, 21, has hit safely in 15 of his previous 17 games. In Bowie’s 11-0 loss to Harrisburg last Friday, McKenna was one of the team’s few bright spots as he went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. He also had a triple last Saturday against the Senators. While McKenna has struck out a lot – 24 times through the first 19 games with the Baysox – you can’t deny that he has had a breakthrough year.
No. 9: Michael Baumann, RHP, Frederick
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)
Baumann, 22, hasn’t pitched since he gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings as the Keys lost, 10-5, to Lynchburg on July 3. Because the 2017 third-round pick has surrendered 12 runs and 17 hits in 10 innings over his past two starts, Frederick skipped his spot in the rotation. However, you don’t need to panic. Baumann is scheduled to take the mound tonight at Potomac. We’ll see if he can shake off his recent struggles. Obviously, it would be nice if Baumann could finish the year strong after such a phenomenal start to 2018.
No. 10: Zac Lowther, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 3-1, 1.16 ERA, 51 Ks, 9 BBs in 31 innings (Delmarva); 3-1, 2.40 ERA, 45 Ks, 12 BBs in 41 1/3 innings (Frederick)
The 2017 competitive balance round B selection didn’t factor in the decision in a wild game between Frederick and Wilmington on Wednesday. The two teams combined for 23 runs and 34 hits in 12 innings – including 11 runs in extras – as the Blue Rocks outlasted the Keys, 12-11. Lowther, 22, allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. Although his season ERA between the two levels remains at 1.87, Lowther hasn’t been as dominant in his past few outings. He is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in three starts this month. Nevertheless, I can’t turn negative now. In my mind, Lowther remains the favorite to be the Orioles’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. But he might need to hold off the hard-charging Hall down the stretch.
No. 11: Alex Wells, LHP, Frederick
Statistics: 3-6, 4.13 ERA, 59 Ks, 26 BBs in 85 innings
I’m keeping the Australia native as “bearish” this week with a small caveat. Wells, 21, didn’t pitch well in his past two starts. He surrendered 11 runs and 18 hits in 8 1/3 innings in that stretch. That works out to an 11.88 ERA, which has brought Wells’ season ERA to more than 4.00 for the first time in nearly two months. But here’s the thing: He also picked up a pretty prestigious honor with his selection for the All-Star Futures Game. Wells will be a member of the World squad Sunday at Nationals Park. That’s a big deal, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he performs on the big stage. So for now, I’m not flipping to “bullish” because he simply hasn’t been good lately. But by next week’s update, that may change.
No. 12: Brenan Hanifee, RHP, Delmarva
Statistics: 7-3, 2.41 ERA, 63 Ks, 15 BBs in 97 innings
For the second time in four starts, the 2016 fourth-round selection pitched eight innings. Hanifee, 20, only gave up one unearned run and seven hits in the Shorebirds’ 2-1 win over Hickory on Sunday. In his past five starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 36 innings. If you’re doing the math on your couch, that’s more than seven innings per start. That’s impressive. But even better, he has only needed an average of 86 pitches in those games. So, it’s not like the Orioles are running him into the ground. With 97 innings so far, Hanifee will likely surpass 100 innings for the season when he takes the mound Saturday at West Virginia.
2018 DRAFT SPOTLIGHT
Andrew Jayne, OF, GCL Orioles: Because he’s a twin who also saw the Arizona Diamondbacks draft his brother, Christian, in the 27th round, the 19th-round selection was one of my favorite picks in this year’s draft. But Jayne, who will turn 19 on Aug. 11, has struggled through his first eight games. He’s only hitting .130 (3-for-23) with 11 strikeouts.
Cameron Bishop, LHP, Delmarva: The 2017 26th-round pick has outpitched his draft position. Bishop, 22, went 1-1 with a 0.78 ERA in eight starts at Aberdeen last summer. And he has continued that success with the Shorebirds. Overall, Bishop is 7-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 15 starts. He has a 0.66 ERA (one earned run) and 13 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings in July.
Wilson Garcia, 1B, Frederick: I just wrote about the Garcia, 24, last week. But I’m including the Venezuela native again because he hasn’t slowed down much. On Thursday, he hit a solo homer against Wilmington, and how has a hit in 15 of his past 16 games. In that stretch, he was batting .391 (25-for-64) with 10 homers and 19 RBIs.
John Means, LHP, Norfolk: If the Orioles need a starter in the second half, they should take a hard look at the 2014 11th-round pick. Means, 25, has pitched well lately for the Tides. In seven starts since June 1, he is 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA. Means (pictured above) has struck out 48 hitters and only issued three walks in that span. That’s incredible control. The Orioles could use that — if it can carry over.
Renato Núñez, 1B-3B, Norfolk: Two months ago, the Orioles claimed the Venezuela native off waivers from the Texas Rangers. Núñez, 24, batted .167 in 36 at-bats for the Rangers this year. With the Tides, he was hitting .298 with four homers and 14 doubles in 50 games through Thursday. Last Saturday, Núñez went 3-for-4 with a solo shot and three RBIs.
Adam Hall, SS, Aberdeen: Recently, the 2017 second-round selection has shown a little bit of life. Hall, 19, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in the IronBirds’ 7-3 loss at Tri-City on Sunday. Then, on Wednesday, he had three hits and two RBIs as Aberdeen beat Brooklyn, 6-1 and he added a double Thursday in a 6-0 loss. But overall, Hall was still only hitting .228 with 31 strikeouts in 24 games through Wednesday.
Anthony Santander, OF, Bowie: I’ve received a lot of comments about the 2016 Rule 5 pick, so I figured I’d pass along an update. Santander, 23, has entered a bit of a slump to start July. In his eight games this month, he was batting .171 (6-for-35). That’s a small sample size, but it has driven his overall average down to .266. He did have a two-hit game Thursday, however.
Chris Tillman, RHP, Frederick: Another week, another minor-league location, another underwhelming start for the pitcher who has won 74 games in 10 seasons with the Orioles. Tillman, 30, was charged with six runs (four earned), five hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings Tuesday as the Keys lost, 8-3, to Wilmington. He also made two errors.
Austin Wynns, C, Norfolk: Since the 2013 10th-round pick headed back to the Tides on June 28, he hasn’t done much offensively. Wynns, 27, was only batting .154 (4-for-26) with eight strikeouts in his previous eight games through Thursday. As a result, his average has tumbled to .237.
THE WEEK AHEAD
July 13 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
July 14 – vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
July 15 – vs. Gwinnett, 4:05 p.m.
July 16 – at Buffalo, 7:05 p.m.
July 17 – at Buffalo, 7:05 p.m.
July 18 – at Buffalo, 1:05 p.m.
July 19 – at Rochester (doubleheader), 5:05 p.m.
July 13 – at Reading, 7:15 p.m.
July 14 – at Reading, 6:45 p.m.
July 15 – at Reading, 2:15 p.m.
July 16 – at Altoona, 7 p.m.
July 17 – at Altoona, 7 p.m.
July 18 – at Altoona, 12 p.m.
July 19 – vs. Erie, 7:05 p.m.
July 13 – at Potomac, 7:05 p.m.
July 14 – at Potomac, 6:35 p.m.
July 15 – at Potomac, 1:05 p.m.
July 16 – at Potomac, 12:05 p.m.
July 17 – OFF
July 18 – vs. Down East, 7 p.m.
July 19 – vs. Down East, 7 p.m.
July 13 – at Charleston, 7:05 p.m.
July 14 – at West Virginia, 6:05 p.m.
July 15 – at West Virginia, 2:05 p.m.
July 16 – at West Virginia, 7:05 p.m.
July 17 – at West Virginia, 12:05 p.m.
July 18 – OFF
July 19 – vs. Greensboro, 7:05 p.m.
July 13 – vs. Brooklyn, 7:05 p.m.
July 14 – vs. Auburn, 6:05 p.m.
July 15 – vs. Auburn, 4:05 p.m.
July 16 – vs. Auburn, 11:05 a.m.
July 17 – at Lowell, 6:35 p.m.
July 18 – at Lowell, 11:05 a.m.
July 19 – at Lowell, 6:35 p.m.